is an Indian town located in a beautiful mountain region, north of
Quito on the Pan-American Highway. Traveling from Quito to Otavalo
will take around 2 hours. The city of Otavalo is a mix of history,
customs, culture and folklore. Here you find beautiful scenery, wide
ethnic diversity, ancestral customs, and the ingenious skill of the
art and handicrafts of the "Otavaleños".
This small town is justly famous for its friendly
people and their Saturday market. The market dates back to pre-Inca
times, when jungle products were brought up from the eastern lowlands
and traded for highland goods. Today's market serves two different
groups: locals who buy and barter animals, food and other essentials;
and tourists looking for crafts that can be bought here are numerous-
wool woven sweaters, ponchos, Panama hats (an Ecuadorian creation,
despite it's name), hammocks, woven tapestries that depict scenes from
the Ecuadorian countryside, purses, jewelry, clothing, to name a few.
A truer measure of their success is their
continuing sense of tribal identity and tradition. One of the most
evident features of the Otavaleños' cultural integrity is their dress.
Traditional attire is worn on normal workdays in homes, villages and
fields what you see them wearing is not just for tourists at the
Saturday market. Otavaleño men are immediately distinctive with
their long ponytails, calf-length white pants, rope sandals,
reversible gray or blue ponchos and dark felt hats. The women, too.
are very striking in their beautifully embroidered blouses, long black
skirts and shawls and interesting folded head cloths. The women also
wear bright jewels, the most obvious being the many strings of golden
blown-glass beads around their necks and the long strands of red beads
around their wrists and arms.
Most of the inhabitants of Otavalo are
whites or Mestizos (persons
of mixed Spanish and indigenous descent). Of the 40,000 Indians in the
area, most live in the many nearby villages and come into Otavalo for
market day. However, quite a few Indians own stores in Otavalo, where
you can buy most items if you are unable to come for the market.
In addition to a nearby waterfall, "Las Cascadas de Peguche", there
are a number of pleasant lakes just outside Otavalo by which you can
pass a lazy Sunday afternoon. The larger Imbabura region, sprinkled
with mountain lakes. One of the most impressive lakes is Cuicocha
located at 3200m at the foot of Cotacachi, a 4939 m high volcano. continues...