Otavalo, Ecuador…. Markets and Mountains

If your looking for markets that take up multiple city squares and streets, Otavalo, Ecuador is the place to be.We got on a bus from Terminal Carcelen, the northern bus station in Quito.

From here buses run every 20 minutes. Just buy a ticket at the counter and jump on the next one to Otavalo. It’s a short 2 hour ride up through the mountains, stopping frequently to pick up and drop off passengers as well as vendors selling anything from food and drinks to jewelry. The ones selling jewelry or trinkets will always give a long speech explaining why you should purchase their items or just give a donation in the good name of Jesus. They also hand out their merchandise for everyone to fondle and look over hoping to seal the deal. And amazingly enough, most people sell something every time! It gives a whole new name to the traveling salesman. A good tip is to always hold your personal belonging close on any bus in South America as theft is common. We have been very conscious to always try and sit on the side where our luggage was stored and hold backpacks/purse on our laps or in-between our legs on the floor.

The bus terminal is small yet bustling with people. It was only five blocks to our charming accommodation, Hostel Valle del Amancer so we rolled our luggage down the streets to our new home. The hostel has a cute courtyard with hammocks for all to enjoy. The rooms are

clean and comfortable. We were happy to settle into our new spot. A private room with a shared bathroom is $24 or with a private bathroom is $30. Good value! The only downfall was the spotty wifi that rarely worked.

We arrived on Saturday afternoon, just in time to see one of the largest markets in South America. It featured all the weaving textiles, jewelry, knockoff clothing, street food, and about anything that you could ever dream of. Hungry, but mostly thirsty we sat down, ordered a couple $1.25, 22oz beers and delicious local cuisine and watched as the bargaining unfolded. The next day, still having our sea legs from the Galapagos we decided to go on a bike ride to El Lechero, the healing tree. Unfortunately, the local map didn’t show the sudden change in elevation, so we, especially me, panted heavily as we pushed our janky rental bikes up 3 miles of dirt and rocky roads. The high altitude and lack of serious exercise while traveling was a very rude and painful awakening. But the beautiful lake, mountain views, healing tree and quick downhill bike ride back to town made it all worth it.

Finding a place to eat on Sunday was a bit of a challenge. Everything closes down and the spectacular market dwindles down to a small square. We recommend going later in the week and staying for the Saturday market. Our next stop was back down south to Cotopaxi, but first we had to catch a bus back to Quito. This was easy since the moment you walk back into the bus terminal of Otavalo, you instantly hear, ‘A Quito, A Quito, A Quito’. Just hand your luggage to the fare collector, get on the bus and pay once your on the road. The beauty of northern Ecuador is that all buses are $1/hour, so you always know the cost or can figure out how long it will take.

Otavalo, Ecuador…. Markets and Mountains

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