We arrived in Otavalo from Mindo… I would love to say that we caught a direct express bus from Mindo to Otavalo, but alas that was not the case… instead we retraced our route back to Quito – and from there took a local bus to a different bus station so we could catch the bus to Otavalo… It wasn’t ideal – but it was the only way!
Otavalo is located in the Andes, and with a high indigenous population – the Otavalo people – it definitely had quite a different feel to it, when compared to the other places we had visited in Ecuador.
Most people visit Otavalo to check out the famous Saturday market – okay so you might not have heard of it, BUT it really is famous – the Lonely Planet even names it as one of the highlights for the whole of South America!?! Basically, every Saturday Otavalo people come to town to sell their wares – an array of locally produced and crafted items – and on Saturday it IS the place to be!?!
Our time in Otavalo didn’t quite follow the normal pattern – our 4 night stay was from a Sunday to a Thursday!?! Yep, no Saturday market for us!!!
We didn’t miss out on the market entirely though – as in reality it runs EVERY day, it’s just a much bigger affair on Saturdays! The rest of the week the market was plenty big enough in our eyes – the stalls pretty much covered Plaza de los Ponchos (the main square) – and we actually assumed it was a much nicer place to be when it wasn’t Saturday! Especially given that for us, bargaining for souvenirs – that won’t actually fit in our backpacks! – at a ‘big’ touristy market wasn’t high up on our Otavalo to do list!
Instead – our time in Otavalo was spent hanging out, and getting ready for a country swap! As always we like to have a couple of days to ‘prepare’ before a border crossing!
Hanging out in Otavalo was fun…. It was a really pleasant town with a couple of nice squares, a few nice churches and a pretty cool market – and I’m talking about the regular market for the locals as opposed to the one set up in Plaza de los Ponchos. From several places in town you could also see the pretty impressive sight of Imbabura Volcano – a nearby active volcano.
And then there was people watching to do around town – a lot of locals continue to wear traditional dress in Otavalo – something I apreciated seeing 🙂
While in Otavalo we also found a really awesome coffee shop/cafe – Muyu – which not only sold coffee from all over Ecuador, BUT they also knew how to make a good French Press coffee in their cafe :-). We also managed to find a place to try cevichochos – the only food remaining on our food to-try list 🙂 Cevichochos is a traditional food from the Andes and is basically a ceviche type snack minus the fish – YUM!!! It didn’t disappoint – our only regret was that we hadn’t discovered this awesome dish earlier.
When we weren’t hanging out, we were preparing for leaving Ecuador… Our main preparation – well apart from reading up on the border crossing and where we were actually heading – was to get haircuts!!!
Now, haircuts tend to no longer get a mention… but given the professionalism and awesome experience of Ecuadorian hairdressers/barbers in Otavalo – these haricuts can not go unmentioned!!! We were so happy with our new looks that we even took a haircut selfie 🙂
The next preparation chore was pretty unplanned – but CC’s watch broke 🙁 so she needed to get a shiny new plastic watch (only the best for CC) before we crossed into Colombia! CC had read that being out after dark was a no-no in Colombia and she wasn’t prepared to risk not knowing the time and then possibly being out after dark! We found the perfect watch at the market 🙂
Otavalo is also home to El Lechero – a tree that is sacred to the indigenous people of the area … It’s just over an hours stroll up to El Lechero – so one afternoon we went to take a look. The walk from town was pretty nice – there were great views of town on the way and it was nice to be out in the countryside… The final destination was however a little disappointing – the tree was pretty cool (even if it was looking a little worse for wear and needing two big sticks to help it stay upright!?!), but it was fenced off so you couldn’t get close to it 🙁 The view of San Pablo Lake was okay but I guess I was expecting something a little more spectacular!?!
We enjoyed our time in Otavalo, it was yet another great Ecuadorian town to hang out in 🙂