Otavalo, vibrant open-air market in the Andes

Otavalo, vibrant open-air market in the Andes – Ecuador

A perfect day trip departing from Quito includes a visit to the charming town of Otavalo. It´s one of the nicest open-air markets in South America, where the friendly indigenous inhabitants called Otavalos offer diverse handicrafts.

For me, every trip to this city nestled in the heart of the Andes, 2 hours north of Quito, provides me with a myriad of opportunities to take some pictures of the stunning colorful landscapes of the people, traditions, and nature along the Andes Cordillera.

Otavalo imbabura visitecuadorandsouthamerica (1)




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Otavalo imbabura visitecuadorandsouthamerica (1)

How to get there

Want to plan a memorable road trip from Quito to Otavalo, we share all the details and tips of the road trip. 


Otavalo imbabura visitecuadorandsouthamerica (1)

Otavalo Carmen Cristina Carpio Tobartavalo Cris Carpio 01 08 (20)

Otavalo Carmen Cristina Carpio Tobar

Book a tour

A day tour to Otavalo is a wonderful way to get the most out not only of Otavalo but also of the area and avoid the hassle and stress of planning transportation and logistics. Here are some tour options for you.


About Otavalo

This town with approx. 90.000 inhabitants is located in the heart of the Andes and offers a great opportunity to learn about the traditions of this indigenous group.

The two-hour drive North from Quito will allow you to admire the gorgeous landscapes of the Highlands.

Otavalo imbabura visitecuadorandsouthamerica (1)


Plaza de Ponchos

You can even find a small market offering fresh produce.

Otavalo imbabura visitecuadorandsouthamerica (1)


Traditional costumes

The Otavalos belong to one of the main groups of indigenous people in the highlands of Ecuador and one of their characteristics is that they have been careful about preserving their traditional costume consisting of blue ponchos and white trousers for men, and long dark skirts with a faja (woven belt), worn together with beautifully embroidered blouses.  Both men and women wear alpargatas (open sandals)
Otavalo imbabura visitecuadorandsouthamerica (1)
Otavalo imbabura visitecuadorandsouthamerica (1)

Otavalo imbabura visitecuadorandsouthamerica (1)


What to do near Otavalo

If you have more than a day in the city, then hire a registered cab to bring you to the amazing Peguche waterfall, a short walk through a fragrant Eucalyptus forest will bring you to this captivating waterfall, admire beautiful handcrafts at the open-air market of Otavalo, or visit Parque Condor in Otavalo and learn about environmental conservation. You can also visit Zuleta and learn about its traditional embroidery.

You can also enjoy the activities that include some art and lots of nature in other places in Imbabura.


Where to stay

After spending a relaxing weekend at the charming Hosteria Hacienda Pinsaqui we want to make sure that you know about this option for accommodation while you visit Ibarra.

Spend the night in the charming city of Ibarra, at the Hacienda Chorlavi a renovated historical country estate known by locals and tourists alike.

If you are looking for a place offering rural accommodation in a charming farmhouse overlooking the mountains in Chachimbiro,  then Hosteria San Francisco is the option for you.

You can find some other places to stay in Otavalo or o if you want to make this a day trip from Quito, here are some options for places to stay in Quito.

What to bring

To fully enjoy your stay:

  • Sunglasses, sunblock, and a hat; remember that the equatorial sun is intense since you will be outdoors for long periods.
  • Warm or wool clothes, because it can get cold, especially at night if it is rainy season.
  • Bringing a reusable water bottle can help nature and the environment while you stay hydrated; there is bottled water in the kitchen.

Dress in layers as you will quickly get warm during the walks and when the sun is out, and remember that the weather can be pretty unpredictable. The temperature drops somewhat when the clouds block the sun.


In conclusion, Otavalo stands as a vibrant jewel nestled in the heart of the Andes, offering visitors a captivating glimpse into Ecuador’s rich cultural tapestry. Its open-air market, brimming with the intricate handiwork of the Otavalo people, invites exploration and discovery. Beyond its bustling stalls, Otavalo unveils a world of stunning landscapes and ancient traditions waiting to be captured through the lens of your camera. Whether you’re drawn by the allure of its handicrafts or the breathtaking vistas of the Andes Cordillera, a day trip to Otavalo promises to leave an indelible mark on your memories of Ecuador.


Have you been to Otavalo? What kind of souvenirs did you get?
Otavalo, vibrant open-air market in the Andes

If you want more in-depth information and also a guide that you can bring along during your trip, I recommend the travel guide Lonely Planet Ecuador & the Galapagos Islands.

This is a great source of information and tips, maps, and all you need if you plan on visiting Ecuador. I like the option of having a hard copy version where I can take notes and have them at hand.

Don´t just dream it, make it happen. Plan your South American trip with a local!

Take a look at this list of travel resources to plan your trip and travel in South America.

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You can also send an email to get help planning your trip: info(at) visitecuadorandsouthamerica(dot)com









Otavalo, vibrant open-air market in the Andes

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