Hi, it’s me Marimonda.
Today, I take you to Otavalo Market, one of the biggest artisanal markets in South America. Otavalo is a small town near Quito but it’s very loved place from visitors around the world. To read my previous articles about Quito, click Quito_La Ronda or Quito_Teleférico.
How to get to Otavalo
From Carcelen bus terminal to Otavalo takes about 2 hours and it costs $2.5 (one way). There is a bus from Quitumbe terminal, but it takes approximately one hour longer than the one from Carcelen. So I chose Carcelén terminal. The bus is quite small not that comfy, but it’s very doable after riding a bus for so many hours. From Quito, I paid $0.20 for issuing the ticket (it’s mandatory), but on the way back, I bought the ticket directly in the bus, so I didn’t have to pay for the service fee.
I’d read a lot before going to the market since I wasn’t sure how to get there from the bus station. Many of them said I could take a cab and it’ll be the minimum fare (about $1.4). Luckily when I was about to grab a cab I saw other tourists and they told me it was just two~ three blocks away. Thus, instead of taking a taxi, I walked to the market and it took me less than 10 mins.
Looking around the market
The market opens almost everyday, however, it is known for the Saturday market because there are more people on the weekend. It was a massive square with full of shops. You can find from clothes to home decorations. Depending on your negotiating skill, you can get some discount. Even so, I recommend you look around many shops before purchasing because most of them selling similar things but in different prices. Thus, it is wise to compare the price and then go to the cheapest store and begin to negotiate the price. Usually they gave me more than 20~30 % off from the initial price. Some stores accept the card, but cash is more welcomed.
After buying some stuffs my hands were full of shopping bags. Since night at Quito is more chilly compared to Medellin where I live in now, I wanted to have some things to warm me up at night.
Things to eat
I had an ice cream at the entrance of the market for $0.75. I think it’s typical style in Otavalo. There are some restaurants and coffee shops between the terminal and the market. Also, different types of bread are available with decent price.
I went to a coffee shop to get some coffee and to use the bathroom. I haven’t seen a toilet in the market, but at the terminal and other places usually it cost $0.25. I guess it would be similar in Otavalo, too. It seemed like the area is growing due to international visitors.
Personally I love visiting markets when I travel to other countries, because it’s the place where I can see locals and the way they live closer. Otavalo wasn’t the exception.
People recommended me to leave Quito before 9 so I could arrive at Otavalo before noon and so I could come back before night. From my experience, it wasn’t that necessary leave that early unless you have another plan for night. I had taken a bus around 11 a.m. and walked around the market for about 4 hours. I took a bus at 4 p.m. to come back to Quito around 6 p.m. It was the perfect timing to have dinner.
If you’re not a big shopper nor interested in market, you can pass this town. There are not many things to do except the market. It is a good place to buy some souvenirs for friends and family with reasonable price. I’d heard that there were many thieves on the weekend, but I felt pretty secure there. Though, if you plan to shop, bring some cash from Quito. There were not many ATMs and I think it is much safer to withdraw some cash in a big shopping mall where the securities are nearby.
Enjoy your travel with Marimonda. See you soon 🙂