Otavalo Markets

Friday 29th October we got a bus from Quito North Bus station to Otavalo. We got a yellow metro from ‘Ave America’ to the transfer station and then we took a blue bus labelled ‘Ofeila’ to the North Bus station. It cost us 25 cent each to get to the North Bus station.

As soon as we got off the bus at the North Bus Station we could hear people shouting ‘Otavalo’ Otavalo’ Otavalo’. So it was pretty straight forward finding the right ticket booth. We purchased our ticket to Otavalo which cost us $2 each for the 2 hour journey. All the buses are labelled on the front with their destination, so it is pretty straight forward.

There are no specific bus times for the journey from Quito to Otavalo, they simply wait for the buses to fill up and then leave. Friday is a busy day so the bus filled up staright away. You are given a seat number on your ticket, but just as a warning they double book their seats at times, and some people end up standing up. Luckily no one was in our seat!

The buses were very nice and comfortable. They have reclinable seats and there was even a tv on the bus. They played a film, however it was in Spanish.

We set off to Otavalo at about 3pm. When the bus left the bus station it then stops along the way to pick up more locals. A few people were even standing up for the whole journey. Also every time the bus stopped at traffic lights people would get on to sell things like, water, sweets, dvds (fake) and other food items. Sometimes there were about 5 different people walking up the isles selling. It can become quite hectic.

We got to Otavalo bus station at about 5pm. We decided to take a taxi to our hotel. We were staying in the Hostal Chasqui, which is just 10 minutes walk from the centre of Otavalo, and the markets. The hotel cost us $20 for the night. The hotel was really nice and the owners were extremely helpful. As soon as we were settled in the lady who worked there showed us where the markets were on the map and also informed us of other things to do in and around Otavalo. She was originally from Scotland, but moved to Otavalo 3 years ago and now lives there permanently.

Otavalo is a largely indigenous town in the Imbabura Province of Ecuador.Has 30,965 inhabitants. The town, which is in a valley, is surrounded by the peaks of Imbabura 4,630m, Cotacachi 4,995m, and Mojanda volcanoes.

The indigenous Otavaleños are famous for weaving textiles, usually made of wool (that is sometimes as black as a raven), which are sold at the famous Saturday market.

We took a walk around the centre of Otavalo. The town is really beautiful, surrounded by mountains and volcanoes. Tourism is becoming more and more popular here, because of the famous markets that they hold.

So Saturday morning we woke at about 6am to go to the animal market that is held every Saturday from 7am to 10am in Otavalo. It is found near the Panamerican highway. Locals come to sell their sheep, cows, goats, pigs, guinea pigs, chickens, hens ect. It is held in a big field near the town of Otavalo. Once we got closer to the location of the market, we were able to use our ears to direct us!

We found a near by bank that we sat on. We were able to see all the action up here and not have to be amongst the craziness. We had never seen anything like this before. So much was going on that we were constantly turning our heads to try and catch everything. By 7am the field was full of sellers with their animals and locals walking around the view the animals and decide which they would buy. People were also arriving all the time with new animals either in a truck or simply walking them with a string tied around them.

Otavalo Animal Market

Otavalo Animal Market

Paul at the Otavalo animal market

Paul at the Otavalo animal market


We noticed one man who bought a pig and then sold it on to someone else, he must of been good at haggling. At times the pigs would break out into a fight and some of the pigs broke free from their owners and they had to run after them. We got a short video of this.

Notice the woman at the back slapping the pig, this made me laugh!

We couldn’t seem to pull ourselves away from the animal market, it was just so fascinating, but we wanted to check out the other main market also. We decided to take a quick walk amongst the animal market before heading off. This was crazy and after just 5 minutes I wanted to get out. There were animals running all over and so many people trying to push by to buy an animal.

We noticed people were calling over taxi’s to put their animals into the boot!

Putting their hens into the taxi boot

Putting their hens into the taxi boot

We were trying to find out how much the locals were paying for these animals. We managed to catch one woman selling a pig and she got $100 for it.

Checking the money is real

Checking the money is real

If you are in Otavalo make sure you check out the animal market on a Saturday morning from 7am to 10am. Most of the selling is complete by 8am so get their as early as possible.

Next we went on to check out Otavalos main market which you will find on all the streets of Otavalo centre. It just keeps going on and on! We haven’t really bought much on our travels, as we didn’t want to be carrying it around with us, plus it gets costly. However we decided we would buy a few things as we only have 1 month left before we head home. The markets have so many things to choose from, most of which is hand made by the locals. You can get some really good deals, but you have to be prepared to haggle as they will start the prices really high. Also if you arrive in the mid afternoon when all the other tourists are around, they will be less prepared to put the prices down as other tourists will pay more!

Paul had seen some nice chess sets in Quito, so decided he would look out for one on the markets. He finally found one he wanted. The lady wanted $15 for it but we managed to get it for $10.

Chess Set

Chess Set

I also wanted to buy a musical instrument. I went to one stall where a local man was showing me how to play the different instruemnts. He had different varieties of pan pipes, and many other flute type instruments. After spending about 20 minutes playing the different intruments I settled on the Rondador which is a set of chorded bamboo pipes.

The rondador is a set of chorded bamboo panpipes that produces two tones simultaneously. It consists of pieces of cane, placed side by side in order by size and closed at one end, and is played by blowing across the top of the instrument. The rondador is considered the national instrument of Ecuador.

He had all different varieties of sizes and keys of all the instruments. He was able to play them all extremely well. It will take me a lot of practice!



He wanted $15 for it, but I managed to get it down to $10. We bought a few other small gifts for people. I could of kept buying, but I had to stop myself. We always went lower with the first price they said, and funnily enough they never hesitated, which tells me we could of gone lower!

We really enjoyed looking around the markets and wished that we’d planned to spend another day in Otavalo, but we had left our main bags in our hotel in Quito, so needed to head back.

Otavalo is a great place to meet the indigenous people of South America. You will notice that the locals here wear the traditional clothes.

Otavaleña women traditionally wear distinctive white embroidered blouses, with flared lace sleeves, and black or dark over skirts, with cream or white under skirts. Long hair is tied back with a 3cm band of woven multi coloured material, often matching the band which is wound several times round their waists. They usually have many strings of gold beads around their necks, and matching tightly wound long strings of coral beads around each wrist. Men wear white trousers, and dark blue ponchos.

Paul walking around Otavalo Market

Paul walking around Otavalo Market

We took a bus back to Quito at about 3pm. We just went to the Otavalo bus station and as soon as we got there the bus to Quito was ready to leave, which was lucky for us!

Today we are heading to Manta, along the west coast of Quito. We are looking forward to a few days of relaxation at some of the beaches along the west coast.

We will be taking a 9 hour bus journey from Quito to Manta, with a bus company called Panamericana Internacional. The bus leaves at 10.30 pm and gets us to Manta at about 7am. We will keep you up to dated about our arrival in Manta as soon as possible.

Ruth and Paul

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