Travel Guide South America Ecuador Otavalo



Otavalo Market 6

Otavalo Market 6

© Flav-Greg

Otavalo is a small town in Ecuador. It has about 50,000 inhabitants and is the capital of the canton of the same name. Otavalo is world-famous for its indigenous population, the Otavalos, many of which are travelling around the world to sell their famous handicrafts or play in Andean Folk music groups. The Otavalos are considered the economically most successful indigenous group of Latin America, and many of the grandest houses and largest pick-up trucks in Otavalo are owned by Otavalos. However, a great percentage of the Otavalos, especially in the surrounding villages, live in poverty and are victims of racial discrimination. Otavalos are easily recognized by their traditional dress: white pants and a dark poncho for men; a dark skirt and a white blouse with colourful embroidery and colourful waisteband for women. Both sexes wear their hair long (the men usually platted).



Sights and Activities

Laguna Quicocha

The Laguna Quicocha is 3-kilometre-wide caldera and crater lake at the foot of the Cotacachi Volcano in the Cordillera Occidental of the Ecuadorian Andes. At the main entrance of the park one can access the hike around the lagoon. It offers great views of the lagoon but as well of the surrounding mountains and volcanoes. A complete walk takes about 4 hours or a bit more and is not very crowded, so a perfect place to enjoy nature. Getting there is easy. Catch a bus at the terminal in Otavalo to Quiroga - not Cotacachi as the way from there is way longer and more expensive by taxi - and take a taxi or a camioneta from there to the park. It is recommended to arrange a pickup with your driver as normally no taxis or buses are at the place to just hop on. Especially when going with a bunch of people a camioneta (US1$ per person) is recommended.

Otavalo Market

The market, which operates to a limited extent all week, offering textile products mostly aimed at tourists, but really comes into its own on Saturdays. The Saturday market is actually 4 different markets that slowly melt together. The 4 markets are the crafts market, food market, consumer goods market and animal market. The crafts market is by far the most popular with tourists. You can barter for colourful textiles such as cushion covers, bags and weavings, and there are also all sorts of other souvenirs available, such as jewelry.

Animal Market in Otavalo

Animal Market in Otavalo

© aarns

The animal market starts around 5:30am every Saturday morning and is a must see. This animal market feels like a step back in time with cows, pigs, goats and lamas everywhere! It is a photographers dream come true.

Other Sights and Activities

  • Peguche Waterfall
  • Imbabura Mountain
  • San Pablo Lake
  • Museo del Pueblo Kichwa



Getting There

By Bus

Otavalo is approximately 2 hours north of Quito on the Panamerican Highway. Buses to Otavalo leave from the "Terminal Carcelen" in the North of Quito and disembark at a small bus terminal in Otavalo along Calle Atahualpa & Jacinto Collahuazo. The busride is US$2. If you come from Tulcan near the Colombian border, buses will probably drop you off at the Pan American highway. From there, it's only a 10-minute walk to the center. The "Otavalo" and "Las Lagos" bus companies running between Quito and Ibarra in the north of Otavalo will drop you off at the bus terminal in Otavalo. Outbound buses for Quito and Ibarra leave from the same terminal about every 15 minutes.



Getting Around

Taxis will take you anywhere within town for $1. Negotiate with the driver if you want to go to places outside town. To Peguche waterfall, the rate is about $2,50, to Mojanda Lake, you will pay about $10. There are also plenty of buses going to nearby communities and towns, most of them leaving from the main terminal.




You will find restaurants with national and international cuisine all over town. However, restaurant locations, names and owners change quickly and it is best to ask fellow travellers and locals for their latest recommendations. Prices range from $1.50 for a set lunch with soup and main course, to $7-9 for a dinner in one of the nicer restaurants. There are also a few purely vegetarian restaurants in town, and some restaurants have a range of vegetarian options available. However, vegetarians are not common, so you do run the risk of just having chicken pieces being taken out of the 'caldo de gallina', and served as vegetable soup. More adventurous diners may want to try one of the many food stalls around the handicraft market, at the market "24 de Mayo", or at the "Feria Imbabio". The roast pork and the fried tilapia offered there look delicious (and they really are), but make sure that the stalls fulfill basic hygiene requirements. You might also find the traditional roast guinea-pig ("cuy asado") there. Give it a try, its really yummy, although it doesn't have much meat on it.

For those with a sweet tooth, try the "Pie Shop" at the southern corner of the Plaza de Ponchos, or the café on the third floor of the cinema "Sisa" on Calle Calderon between Calle Bolivar and Sucre, which also serves excellent espresso-style coffees.




Popular drinking spots in the center of town include "The Red Pub" on Calle Morales between Calle Sucre and Jaramillo, and "El Fauno" just opposite. On weekends you will find a quite lively nightlife along the northern end of Calle "31 de Octubre", with an array of clubs, peñas, and bars.




Finding accommodation in Otavalo is no problem at all, even on busy weekends. All over Otavalo and in neighbouring town and villages there are some 50 establishments offering accommodation for all budgets, from simple dorm beds in backpacker hostels, to luxury-style suites in centuries-old haciendas. The only time of year when you should consider booking at least a week in advance is the time of the Inti Raymi (Sun Festival) around 21 June and during the Yamor-festivities in early September.

There are a number of budget options, including a few backpacker style hostels. There are so many hotels in Otavalo that there is fierce competition. Prices are flexible and you should definitely haggle/negotiate your hotel price. Below are a few of the many budget options:

  • Hostal residencial la cascada, Calle Colón. Tiny rooms, not super clean, no internet, but can't beat the price. $6.
  • The Flying Donkey hostel, Calle Abdón Calderón, 510 and Simón Bolívar (on the corner), ☎ +593 62928122, e-mail: [email protected]. Check-in: 13:30, check-out: 12:00. Hostel with 3-bed dorms. Rooms have a TV, Wi-Fi, 24-hour hot water, terrace, kitchen and common area, laundry service, book exchange and travel guides, hot coffee every morning and are clean. $9 dorm.
  • Aly hostal, One block from the plaza del poncho. Centrally located, clean, wifi, rooms have TV. $8.

Below is a selection of midrange to toprange hotels that receive good reports.

8 Hotel Riviera Sucre, ☎ +593 6-2-920-241, e-mail: [email protected]. García Moreno 3-80 y Roca. This place has a nice colourful yard with a water fountain. A single room costs $15. Excellent service, beautiful rooms and gardens with hummingbirds. It's beautiful colonial architecture includes a stone water fountain and three courtyards in which to sit, read, write or enjoy the sun. It also features a library with a book exchange, and two inviting fireplaces to warm the spirit.

  • Hacienda Cusin, ☎ +593 6-291-8013. San Pablo del Lago, Imbabura. Restored 17th-century estate 20 minutes south of Otavalo by taxi ($5). Excellent service, beautiful rooms and gardens, great food. World known Hacienda Cusin offers horseback riding, massages, Spanish lessons, and lots more. Rooms start at$90.
  • Hostal Doña Esther, Juan Montalvo 4-44 and Bolívar, ☎ +593 6-2920739. Check-in: 13:00, check-out: 12:00. Near the Central Park and the Saturday market, Doña Esther is a colonial style, small and cosy hotel. All rooms are situated around a green inner court yard. The restaurant serves excellent food in Mediterranean style with a Andean touch, and probably the best pizzas in town. Double room with private bathroom $36.
  • La Posada del Quinde, Calle Quito con M. Egas (Five blocks from the Plaza de Ponchos), ☎ +593 6 2920750, e-mail: [email protected]. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. A bed and breakfast, previously known as Hotel Ali Shungu, is spoken of favourably by guests. Email reservations are accepted. $60/double.

If you want to experience a homestay with local families and learn about their culture and way of life, the following options are recommended.

  • Red de Turismo Imbakucha. Is a network of local community tourism projects, offering accommodation, transport and activities in six villages around Lake San Pablo.
  • El Rancho (Indigenous Homestay), 8 Barrio Rancho Chico, Ilumán (Get off the Iluman bus from Otavalo (25¢) at the Barrio Rancho Chico sign.), ☎ +593 979 80742, +593 6 2946 092. Check-in: any time, check-out: any time. El Rancho is a large family home in Ilumàn, a village 6km outside Otavalo, which takes 15 minutes on a bus, and buses run every 15 minutes. The family are indigenous Otavaleños who have lived here for generations and sold jewelery and weaving on the market for 15 years. Esthela is a great cook of traditional dishes, and usually prepares fresh food picked from the gardens of her nearby family. The views of volcano Cotacachi (4,961 metres) from the huge roof terasse are amazing, and volcano Imbabura (4610 m) is directly behind the house. It´s a great place for hikers, birdwatchers, or language students. USD 5-15.
  • Sumak Pacha Community Tourism Project, ☎ +593 97587263 (cell), +593 6 2918150 (landline), e-mail: [email protected]. Pijal Baja is a beautiful Andean village at the south-east shore of San Pablo Lake. A couple of years ago, the inhabitants of Pijal baja set up their own tourism project, and today nearly 20 families offer double rooms with private bathroom for visitors. Activities include hikes to nearby mountains and lakes, guided tours of their organic farms, and lessons in their traditional embroidery. $15-20 per night including all meals.

You can use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)




Keep Connected


See also International Telephone Calls

The centre of most towns, cities and villages have telephone 'shops', advertised in the street as 'cabinas'. Go in, ask for a free phone booth and call. There is usually a digital display giving the cost (per second) of your call, whether local, national or international. Some mobile phone SIM cards of various networks have problems working in Ecuador - you can purchase a local network SIM (for an unlocked phone) for a few dollars in local mobile phone shops.


Correos del Ecuador is the national postal service of Ecuador. It's fairly reliable to send postcards and letters to other countries, though count on at least 5 days up to weeks for it to arrive. In general, postal services to North America are much faster than to other western countries. Prices start at around $1 (up to 20 grams), but rise steeply after that. You can get stamps at post offices or small shops/kiosks. Post offices generally are open from 8:00am to 6:00pm Monday to Friday and 8:00am to noon on Saturdays, although there are slight variations throughout the country. If you are going to send heavier post or post which has more value, it might be better to contact private courier companies like DHL, TNT, UPS or FedEx, which are generally about the same price and much faster!


Quick Facts


  • Latitude: 0.233333
  • Longitude: -78.266667

Accommodation in Otavalo

We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Otavalo searchable right here on Travellerspoint.


as well as Lavafalls (5%), derauswanderer (2%), Peter (2%), EcuadorFan (2%)

Otavalo Travel Helpers

We don't currently have any Travel Helpers for Otavalo

This is version 20. Last edited at 9:42 on Feb 21, 18 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

Creative Commons License
Except where otherwise noted, content of this article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License