Below you find a list of places of interest, walks, markets, etc. in and around Otavalo, and a brief summary of the most important festivals in Otavalo.
We can organize all activities for our students, some even with discounts. Please inquire via email and Facebook or just contact us when you are in Otavalo. All activities can be arranged on short notice.
Handicraft market at the Plaza de Ponchos
There is every day an indigenous handicrafts market on the Plaza de Ponchos. On Wednesdays it is slightly larger than on the other days, but the real highlight is the Saturday market. The stalls are spread across the Plaza de Ponchos and in all the surrounding streets. This market is the largest indigenous market in South America. In addition to the Galapagos Islands and Quito's old town, it is one of the top 3 destinations in Ecuador.
The Otavaleños sell their handicrafts, colorful woven cloths and fabrics, scarves made of alpaca wool ponchos, hammocks, selfmade jewelry, finely crafted ceramic and leather goods, handmade instruments and much more.
Of course the price must be negotiated, but this runs relatively discreet and is not comparable to oriental bazaars or markets in india.
Another highlight of Otavalo is its animal market, taking place every Saturday morning. Farmers, coming from the surrounding communities, gather to deal with livestock and domestic animals.
Market on the Copacabana
The fruit and vegetable market takes place every day. Even if you do not want to buy anything, it is definitely worth a visit. Most of the indigenous farmers offer their fresh, colorful foods in a beautifully stacked manner. For only little money you can shop delicious fruits and vegetables.
Market 24 de Mayo
Similar to the Copacabana, you can buy a lot of fruits and vegetables at this market. In addition, spices, candles, staples, flowers, clothes, shoes, backpacks, meat products etc are offered. Many locals eat their lunch here in one of the traditional food stalls.
Cascada de Peguche
A very beautiful waterfall, about 30-45 minutes walking distance from the center of Otavalo. For the indigenous, this is a sacred place of purification, in particular during the Inti Raymi festival. During the week the surroundings of the waterfall are rather quiet. However, on Sundays it's quite busy and the surrounding meadows are used for games and picnics.
Lago San Pablo
A very beautiful lake near Otavalo with a wonderful panorama. The volcano Imbabura (4.621 meters of altitude) rises behind the lake, in the northeastern direction. As the largest lake in the province of Imbabura it serves for recreational purposes and water sports.
A predaratory bird conservation park to especially protect the Andean Condor. Twice a day there is an interesting flight show on offer.
Lots of indigenous families are living in the surroundings of Otavalo. Most of them don’t live directly in Otavalo but in neighboring villages or communities such as Peguche, Agato or San Rafael. In these villages, they produce their handicrafts and textiles. It is possible to attend the production, for example traditional weaving and the manufacture of instruments.
Iluman, a village located northeast of Otavalo, is famous for shamanism. The practice of rituals is part of the indigenous culture and aims at healing people. Shamans usually use medicinal plants, eggs, candles, tobacco and sometimes guinea pigs for treatment.
The Cotacachi volcano is 4.935 meters high and extinguished long time ago. It can be climbed in a day, but you need a mountain guide and you should be experienced in mountaineering. The volcano can be seen from Otavalo and its summit is often covered in snow.
The small town of Cotacachi, situated at the foot of the volcano with the same name, is about 20 minutes bus ride away from Otavalo. Cotacachi is famous for its cheap leather goods of high quality. It's town center is very beautiful with two museums and good restaurants.
The Imbabura is another extinct volcano that can be seen from Otavalo. Its altitude is 4621 meters high and it can be climbed with a guide. There is also the opportunity to explore the mountain
In the indigenous world the Imbabura occupies an important position and many legends have developed around it. One of this is "El corazon del Imbabura", the "Heart of the Imbabura". This legend is about the big heart that looks like cut into the mountain slope.
Laguna de Mojanda and the volcano Fuya Fuya
Heading from Otavalo, these beautiful volcanic lagoons can be reached in about 30-45 minutes by car. The volcanic craters of the Mojanda lagoons are at an altitude of 3.735 meters and consist of three lakes. From the largest lagoon, it is possible to climb up the volcano Fuya Fuya (4.286 meters). From the top you have a wonderful panoramic view towards Otavalo and the surrounding mountains, including the impressing volcano Cayambe. However, there are also many beautiful trails around the lakes.
Laguna de Cuicocha
This beautiful lagoon is located below the Cotacachi volcano. Its name is Kichwa, in the language of the indigenous people, that means "guinea pig lake". In the middle of the lake there are two small islands, which apparently formerly inhabited wild guinea pigs. The lake is up to 200 meters deep, lies at 3.068 meters above sea level and is part of the big Nature Reserve Cotacachi-Cayabas. The lake can be surrounded on a very beautiful and impressive four-to-five-hour hike, that rises up to 3.450 meters. Furthermore, there is a museum and a panoramic restaurant to visit or you take a boat tour on the lake.
Ibarra and Laguna de Yahuarcocha
Ibarra is located about 30 minutes north of Otavalo , Ibarra is the capital of the Imbabura province. With about 120.000 inhabitants, it is bigger as Otavalo. A historical museum showing the pre-Inca history can be visited.
Directly north of Ibarra is the Laguna de Yahuarcocha located. Its name means in Kichwa "bloody sea" and comes from the bloody battles that took place here between the Spanish conquerors and the indigenous people. Today, the lagoon is a popular destination with many fish restaurants, playgrounds, a car racetrack and a go-kart track. In addition, there are very good paragliding schools here.
One hour away from Ibarra you find the thermal baths of Chachimbiro. They are located approximately 1000 meters lower than Ibarra and for this reason the climate here is a lot warmer. There are several outdoor pools and offers for spa and massage treatments.
El Chota Valley
This subtropical valley with its beautiful landscape is located 30 minutes away from Ibarra. There are many hiking trails and outdoor swimming pools to visit.
In the Chota Valley live mainly Afro-Ecuadorians, whose ancestors were brought by the Spanish conquerors as slaves to this region. The valley has become famous because several Ecuadorian football national players of the past years come from here.
Tren de la Libertad
means "train of freedom" and is a train that runs from Ibarra through the Andes to Salinas in the El Chota Valley.
In Ecuador some train routes have been restored for touristic purposes, because they lead through scenic areas. The Tren de la Libertad runs over breathtaking bridges, through tunnels and passes waterfalls on the way to Salinas. Once there, a traditional dance performance, a museum visit and restaurants for lunch are on offer. After a visit to all these attractions you can take the train back to Ibarra.
The Intag Valley is about 2 hours by bus from Otavalo. It offers a beautiful subtropical landscape with hot springs and waterfalls. The valley is known for its excellent coffee. Numeroues environmental organisation have successfully helped to protect the valley from copper exploitation and preserved its beautiful rainforests.
Cascada de Taxopamba
A very beautiful waterfall halfway to the Laguna de Mojanda. A 20-30 min. footpath leads through wonderful nature to this secluded waterfall. It is less visited than the Cascade de Peguche.
We have very good contacts to a paragliding school in Ibarra and we like to arrange for interest. A tandem flight over the Laguna de Yahuarcocha is a beautiful experience.
Pawkar Raymi – This festival takes place on February 6. It is a festival with sporting and cultural activities in the surrounding villages of Otavalo (as Peguche, Illuman or Agato).
Carnival – The ecuadorian carnival takes place at the same time as in Germany, Switzerland and Brazil. However, people do not dress up here. They rather play with water (water balloons, squirt guns), with carioca (foam spray cans) and some with flour and colors.
Inti Raymi - The solstice festival, which is very important for the indigenous people. It is celebrated in the days around June 21. At the waterfall of Peguche and in Iluman people take ritual baths for self-purification.
Fiestas del Yamor - In the first week of September festivities are hold to celebrate the sowing of maize. They are accompanied by a great parade, folklore shows, cockfights and election of the beauty queen. Yamor is a non-alcoholic beverage that is made from seven different types of maize.
Día de los Difuntos - On November 2 (All Souls' Day), people commemorate their dead relatives in the cemeteries. Familys decorate graves with flowers, listen to music, eat food (usually the favorite foods of the dead people) and drink alcoholic beverages beside the graves.