Saturday markets in Otavalo, Ecuador

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December 7th 2014
Published: December 7th 2014
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On Friday we came across from Mindo to Otavalo in time to visit the famous Saturday market. Actually the market is every day, but Saturday is when it really cranks up and fills the pretty colonial town of Otavalo.

It was quite an eventful drive from Mindo as the paved road was blocked for a public event, so we had to use the back roads which were dusty, narrow and steep, winding through river valleys and up over the Andes range. It was a really picturesque and enjoyably drive though a little uncertain at times (lucky we had Spanish speakers) and unsettling when at one point we traversed a densely foggy pass at 3400 metres.

The markets in Otovalo are the best known handicraft markets in the Andes and have been a weekly fiesta since pre-Inca times. The highly skilled and mostly Indigenous artisans of northern Ecuadore bring their work to sell to tourists and wholesalers and the volume of stuff is staggering.

For centuries the OtavalaƱos skills have been exploited in one way or another by ruling powers, while along they way they have become proud, prosperous and well organised communies. The tradition of weaving communities is particularly strong here, and has thus far resisted the assault from cheap mass produced imports.

Otavalan women wear beautifully embroidered white blouses, while the men wear blue ponchos, calf length pants and felt hats and wear their long hair in a single braid. It's all so cool and hip at the Otavalo Saturday markets.....

Most of the handicrafts are woven rugs, ornaments and garments from wool including alpaca and llama, but there are also lots of leather work, wooden carvings, musical instruments, lacquered plates and paintings and silver jewelry. I could have filled a truck..... Many a bargain is jagged in this huge and colourful affair which takes over the centre of Otavalo, spilling out in all directions.

Travelling light, we weren't in a position to shop, but it was a great opportunity to take photographs....

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