The Otavalo Market, located about 2 hours from Quito, is one of the most famous and colorful markets in South America. The market is a hub of indigenous culture and commerce, and it offers visitors a chance to shop for unique and handmade crafts, textiles, jewelry, and souvenirs. In this article, we’ll explore the Otavalo Market in Quito and what makes it a must-visit destination.

History and culture of the Otavalo market

The Otavalo Market has a long and rich history that dates back to pre-colonial times when the indigenous Otavaleño people traded goods and exchanged information in the region. The market grew in importance during the Spanish colonial period when it became a hub for the trade of textiles, wool, and other goods. Today, the market is a celebration of the Otavaleño culture and identity, and it attracts thousands of visitors from all over the world.

What to expect at the Otavalo market

The Otavalo Market is a sprawling and vibrant space that covers several blocks of the town. The market is open every day, but the biggest and busiest day is Saturday when hundreds of vendors set up their stalls and sell their wares. Here are some of the highlights of the market:

Textiles: The Otavaleño people are famous for their exquisite textiles, and the market is filled with colorful and intricate weavings, ponchos, shawls, blankets, and bags. The textiles are made of wool, cotton, and alpaca, and they feature traditional designs and patterns that have been passed down for generations.

Jewelry: The market is also a great place to shop for unique and handmade jewelry, such as necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and rings. The jewelry is made of silver, gold, and other materials, and it often incorporates traditional symbols and motifs.

Crafts and Souvenirs: The market also offers a wide range of crafts and souvenirs, such as pottery, woodcarvings, paintings, musical instruments, and leather goods. Many of the items are made by hand using traditional techniques, and they make for great gifts and mementos.

Tips for visiting the Otavalo market

  • Bring cash in small bills, as many vendors do not accept credit cards or larger bills.
  • Bargaining is expected and encouraged, but be respectful and polite in your negotiations.
  • Try the local cuisine, such as the grilled corn, empanadas, and roasted pork.
  • Wear comfortable shoes and clothes, as the market can be crowded and busy.
  • Take your time to explore the market and interact with the vendors, as they have fascinating stories and insights to share.