If you’re visiting Ecuador, all the top-ten lists you will suggest the Otavalo Market. It is the largest outdoor market in South America located 1.5 to 3 hours north of Quito, depending how you get there. Public transportation can take a long time, so we booked a private car for two to take us on several stops for about $100, which included lunch.
San Pablo Lake
The first stop was a quick photo op at San Pablo Lake, which is one of the most visited and largest lakes in the country. You can spend a bit of time there and rent Kayaks or go on boat trips, but we just snapped a few photos.
We did stop for a little longer at the Rescua Ecological Catachi Cayapas where we hiked around another beautiful lake in the Andes about 120 miles north of Quito. It was a little overcast, but the grey-blue light made the greens and purples pop! The cool thing about Cuicocha Lake is it is a deep volcanic crater and sometimes you can even see gas emissions!. We took a $3.25 boat ride with a few dozen other people, but unfortunately the guide only spoke Spanish, so I learned all that info from a postcard.
Our next stop was Cotacachi, which is an artisan city famous for hand-made products and leather goods. It’s a good warm-up for the Otavalo Market and has even cheaper deals. Don’t be surprised if you see people in traditional clothing. It has one of the highest concentrations of indigenous people in Ecuador. While we were there, we enjoyed some lunch. I highly recommend the roasted chicken, no matter where you go. Expect rice or potatoes as a side, however, to almost everything.
Our next stop was a tiny town just a few miles from the market. This area is considered a sacred place to the people of Otavalo and from the natural beauty; it isn’t hard to figure out why. You can hear it before you could see it. The Peguche Waterfall is about 50 feet tall and what a sight! Apparently the indigenous people still perform spiritual rituals here at certain times of the year like a sun and harvest celebration on June 21st.
You can also climb up near the top of the falls and watch it splash down to the ground while enjoying the surrounding greenery. This stop is free, but there is a donation box at the entrance.
Shopaholics– if you’re heading to the Otavalo Market, make sure and save a little room in your suitcase because you never know what goodies you may find! There are great deals on scarves, leather belts, silver jewelry, and a million knickknacks. There are places to eat and entertainment, especially on the weekends. We went on a Monday, which was much quieter, but gave us plenty of space and time to shop.