Otavalo, capital of Otavalo Canton, has a population largely made up of the Otavalo indigenous group. It is located in Imbabura Province of Ecuador. According to the 2010 census, the town has 39,354 inhabitants and has an elevation of 2,532 metres (8,307 ft). It is surrounded by the peaks of Imbabura (4,630 metres (15,190 ft)), Cotacachi (4,995 metres (16,388 ft)), and Mojanda volcanoes.
The indigenous Otavalo people are famous for weaving textiles, usually made of wool, which are sold at the famous Saturday market. Although the largest market is on Saturday, there is a very wide range of wares available throughout the week in the Plaza de los Ponchos, and the many local shops. The shops sell textiles such as handmade blankets, tablecloths, and much more. The Otavalo market consists of mushroom-shaped concrete umbrellas with benches. The market was designed and built in 1970 by Dutch architect Tonny Zwollo.
Otavalo was an area made up principally of farming communities due to the rich volcanic soils in this area, but with the growth of tourism, the town has begun to focus more on the making of handicrafts which have made the Saturday market a popular stop with visitors to Ecuador. Tourism has become the town’s main industry and as a result there are many more hotels, hostels, and tour operators than other similarly sized Ecuadorian towns, such as nearby Cayambe. Further, Otavaleño (people from Otavalo) have had notable success selling their goods abroad.
- Town Markets. Every Saturday there is a Mercado Artesanal at the so-called Plaza de Ponchos between calle Sucre and Jaramillo, where indigenous and mestizo people from Otavalo and surrounding communities sell their handicrafts.
- Peguche Waterfall is a beautiful waterfall with a height of 18 m, situated at 3 km from Otavalo.
- Imbabura Mountain, 4610 m hgh, is 60 km north of Quito, near Otavalo and San Pablo Lake.
- San Pablo Lake lies 3.5 km southeast from the center of Otavalo at the feet of the volcano Imbabura.
- Cerro Cayambe is an imposing extinct volcano, the third highest mountain of Ecuador and the highest point on the planet crossed by the equatorial line.
- Cotacachi Village & Mountain is a small town of 20,000 inhabitants some 20km north of Otavalo. The town is famous for its leather goods.
- Cuicocha Lake is 14 km northwest of Otavalo, at the base of Cotacachi Mountain. It is a deep volcanic crater that is 4 km long and 3 km wide. In the center of this lake are three domes of volcanic rock that form two islands covered with vegetation and separated by a water channel, called “channel of dreams”.
- Chachimbiro hot springs are of volcanic origin with temperatures of 45 to 55°C. The water has a high level of chlorides and iron, magnesium, copper, sulfur among other minerals. The water acts as a purgative stimulant of the cardiovascular system and it has anti inflammatory effects; it also has a diuretic effect and stimulates the central nervous system.
- Ilumàn offers amazing walking, and a much quieter pace of life, and is a 15-minute bus ride from touristy Otavalo. This indigenous village is truly charming and famous for the many natural healers, or shamans, using all kind of medicinal plants and traditional cleaning rituals. There are over 100 shamans in Ilumàn´s shaman´s association.
2 to 3 Days: Take a few days to explore local villages, markets, lagunas & volcanoes around the historic & indigenous town of Otavalo.