13 Things To Do In Otavalo For An Unforgettable Experience.

things to do otavalo

Nestled in the heart of the Andean mountains, Otavalo is a picturesque town in Ecuador that draws travelers from all over the world. With its vibrant indigenous culture, postcard-worthy landscapes, and rich history, Otavalo is a destination that promises an unforgettable experience. Whether you're a nature lover, a history buff, or an adventure seeker, there's something for everyone in this charming town. In this article, we've compiled a list of 13 things to do in Otavalo that will make your trip truly unforgettable!


Visit the Otavalo Market

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If you're planning a trip to Ecuador, a visit to Otavalo is a must-do activity. This small town, located about two hours north of Quito, is famous for its vibrant market, which attracts tourists from all over the world. Here's everything you need to know about visiting the Otavalo market:

When to Go: The market is open every day, but the busiest day is Saturday when vendors come from all over the region to display their wares. If you're looking for the most authentic experience, aim to arrive early in the morning when the market is less crowded.

What to Buy: The Otavalo market is famous for its textiles, including woven blankets, scarves, and ponchos. You'll also find handmade jewelry, ceramics, and wood carvings. If you're looking for souvenirs to take home, this is the perfect place to stock up.

Navigating the Market: The market is spread out over several blocks, and it can be overwhelming to navigate. Start at Plaza de los Ponchos, which is the central square, and work your way out from there. Be prepared to haggle with the vendors - it's expected!

Other Things to Do in Otavalo: While the market is the main attraction in Otavalo, there are plenty of other things to see and do in the area. You can visit the nearby Peguche Waterfall, hike around the Cuicocha crater lake, or take a day trip to the nearby town of Cotacachi, known for its leather goods.

Getting to Otavalo. You can take a bus from Quito to Otavalo, which takes about two hours. If you prefer, you can also hire a taxi for the day or book a guided tour.

Overall, visiting the Otavalo market is an unforgettable experience that gives visitors a glimpse into the vibrant indigenous culture of Ecuador. With its colorful textiles and lively atmosphere, it's no wonder that the market has become one of the top tourist destinations in the country.

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Take a tour of Peguche Waterfall

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Otavalo is known for its vibrant indigenous culture and beautiful landscapes, making it a popular destination for visitors to Ecuador. While there are many things to see and do in the area, one activity that should definitely be on your list is taking a tour of the stunning Peguche Waterfall.

Located just outside of town, the Peguche Waterfall is a popular spot for tourists and locals alike. The falls are around 18 meters high and surrounded by lush green forests, creating a picturesque backdrop for your visit. The waterfall is also considered a sacred place for the indigenous Otavaleños and is often used for traditional ceremonies and spiritual gatherings.

To visit the waterfall, it's best to take a guided tour with a local operator. This will ensure that you get to see all the best viewpoints and learn about the history and cultural significance of the site. Many tour companies offer half-day or full-day trips to the falls, which can include activities like hiking, swimming, and picnicking.

One of the most popular things to do at Peguche Waterfall is to take a refreshing dip in the pools at the base of the falls. The water is crystal clear and chilly, but the experience is exhilarating and invigorating. If you're feeling adventurous, you can also try your hand at rappelling down the cliffs beside the waterfall. This is a thrilling activity that is sure to get your heart racing.

For those who prefer a more leisurely pace, there are plenty of picnic areas and hiking trails around the falls. The trails lead through the surrounding forests, allowing you to get up close and personal with the natural beauty of the area. You'll see a variety of native plants and animals, and may even encounter some of the local wildlife such as hummingbirds and butterflies.

Overall, a visit to Peguche Waterfall is a must-do activity in Otavalo. Whether you're interested in the cultural significance of the site or just looking for a fun adventure, there's something for everyone at this beautiful natural wonder. So don't miss out on the chance to experience all the beauty and excitement of Peguche Waterfall on your next trip to Ecuador.


Explore Cotacachi, known for its leather goods

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Otavalo, located in northern Ecuador, is a must-visit destination for those who love traditional crafts, arts, and culture. The town is known for its vibrant indigenous markets and colorful clothing. However, there’s more to explore in the area. Just a short drive away from Otavalo, one can find Cotacachi, a small town famous for its leather goods.

Cotacachi has become popular among tourists, and there are many shops and boutiques that sell fine quality leather bags, jackets, shoes, and wallets. Whether you’re looking for a gift for a loved one or something for yourself, there’s no shortage of options to choose from. The leather products are all made by local artisans, with materials sourced from the surrounding region.

In addition to the shopping, the people of Cotacachi are friendly and welcoming, and they love sharing their traditions, customs, and gastronomy. Visitors can learn about the history and heritage of the town by visiting the museums and cultural centers. There are also several artisanal coffee shops and restaurants that serve authentic Ecuadorian cuisine, offering a chance to sample local flavors.

If you’re up for a bit of adventure, make sure to visit the nearby Cuicocha Lake. This stunning crater lake sits at the foot of Cotacachi volcano and offers spectacular views of the mountains and surrounding countryside. Visitors can hike around the lake, or rent a boat to paddle around and explore the hidden coves and inlets.

Overall, Cotacachi is the perfect destination for those looking for a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life. The town offers a charming mix of culture, nature, and shopping, and is a must-visit for those staying in Otavalo. Be prepared to fall in love with the people, traditions, and products of Cotacachi.


Hike to Mojanda Lakes

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Otavalo, located in the northern Andean region of Ecuador, is a unique destination that offers a wide array of activities for all types of travelers. Tourists can find cultural and historical attractions, natural wonders, and adventurous outdoor experiences in this vibrant city. One activity that should not be missed is hiking to the stunning Mojanda Lakes.

Mojanda is a complex of three crater lakes nestled in the Andes Mountains, surrounded by stunning scenery and Andean paramo vegetation. The lakes, known as Mojanda Grande, Mojanda Chico, and Caricocha, are located about 17 km from Otavalo and offer breathtaking views, clean air, and a peaceful environment.

The hiking trail to Mojanda Lakes is about 3 km long and has moderate difficulty. Along the way, hikers will cross streams, climb up hills, and admire the unique flora and fauna of the Andean region. The best time to embark on this adventure is during the dry season from June to September, where you can witness the blooming of colorful mountain flowers and butterflies.

Once you reach the top, the view will leave you breathless. The Mojanda complex is surrounded by high peaks, including Fuya Fuya (4,261 meters) and Maly Apak (4,320 meters). On sunny days, the reflection of the mountains on the lakes is an unforgettable sight. You can sit by the lakeside, have a picnic, and soak up the peaceful atmosphere.

Hiking to Mojanda Lakes is not only an experience that feeds your soul but also provides an opportunity to appreciate the Andean culture. Along the trail, you may encounter friendly locals, who herd llamas and sheep, and also see traditional Andean houses built using ancient techniques.

In conclusion, hiking to Mojanda Lakes is a fantastic outdoor activity that showcases the beauty of the Andean region. The adventure will take you through beautiful landscapes, reward you with stunning views, and connect you with the local culture. It is a must-do activity when visiting Otavalo.

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Visit the nearby town of San Antonio de Ibarra, known for its woodcarvings

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Otavalo is a charming Ecuadorian town that is famous for its bustling markets. But besides shopping, there are plenty of other activities and sights to explore in and around the town. One such activity is visiting the nearby town of San Antonio de Ibarra, which is renowned for its exquisite wood carvings. In this article, we'll take a closer look at what you can do and see in San Antonio de Ibarra.

About San Antonio de Ibarra

San Antonio de Ibarra is a small town located just 7 kilometers north of Otavalo. The town is known for its rich cultural heritage, especially when it comes to woodcarving. In fact, the town has become the wood-carving capital of Ecuador, with many local artisans showcasing their work in galleries and shops.

Things to Do in San Antonio de Ibarra

Visit Artisan Workshops

One of the best things to do in San Antonio de Ibarra is to visit the various artisan workshops. Here, you can witness the experts at work, carving intricate designs from blocks of wood. You can also shop for unique souvenirs and gifts, such as figurines, masks, and decorative objects. Be sure to haggle for the best prices.

Admire the Church of San Antonio

Another must-see in San Antonio de Ibarra is the Church of San Antonio. The colonial-style church features ornate carvings, paintings, and sculptures that depict various religious scenes and figures. It is a perfect example of the town's rich artistic and religious heritage.

Visit the Museum of Woodcarving

The town of San Antonio de Ibarra also boasts a fascinating museum dedicated to woodcarving. The Museum of Woodcarving showcases some of the most impressive works of art from local artists and features an extensive collection of antique carvings. You can learn about the history of woodcarving in the town and even take part in workshops where you can learn how to carve wood.

Enjoy the Scenery

San Antonio de Ibarra also offers visitors a chance to enjoy the natural beauty of the region. The town is surrounded by lush green hills, which make for excellent hiking and trekking adventures. You can also visit nearby waterfalls and observe the local flora and fauna.

If you're visiting Otavalo, a trip to San Antonio de Ibarra is well worth your time. The town offers a chance to witness the skilled artistry of local artisans and learn more about Ecuador's cultural and artistic heritage. Whether you're shopping for souvenirs or simply admiring the scenery, San Antonio de Ibarra is sure to leave an impression.

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Go horseback riding through the Andes

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Otavalo, a picturesque town in the northern highlands of Ecuador is known for its indigenous market that sells handicrafts like textiles, jewelry, and ceramics. While visiting the town and experiencing its culture is always a delightful experience, there's more to Otavalo than the market. Going horseback riding through the Andes is one such activity that lets visitors explore the surrounding landscape in a unique way.

From Otavalo, visitors can find many tour companies that offer horseback riding experiences. These tours usually begin with experienced guides leading visitors through the stunning countryside, with views of the Imbabura volcano's peak in the distance. The journey through the Andes is sure to be a breathtaking experience.

The horseback riding tours in Otavalo come with both short and long stretches depending on one's preference. For short rides, visitors can explore the nearby hills while long tours go deep into the Andes, providing a unique vantage point of the valleys, mountains, and waterfalls.

One of the most popular trails for horseback riding in Otavalo is the Peguche waterfall trail. This area features a serene waterfall that flows throughout the year and an expansive forest that is home to various bird species, such as tanagers, quetzals, and hummingbirds.

As visitors traverse these trails, they'll come across several local villages. These pueblos are known for their handcrafted textiles, and visitors may stop to observe and even take part in the weaving process. By participating in the creation of these textiles, visitors get to immerse themselves in the indigenous cultures of Otavalo.

When it comes to going horseback riding in Otavalo, the best time to visit is during Ecuador's dry season, from June to September. This time of the year offers moderate temperatures, clear skies, and lush green landscapes.

In conclusion, going horseback riding through the Andes is an excellent way to experience the natural beauty and rich culture of Otavalo. With tours that range from short rides to long excursions, there is an adventure for everyone. Whether visiting for its famous market or to explore its natural beauty, horseback riding in Otavalo is sure to impress and inspire all travelers who venture to Ecuador's northern highlands.

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Take a cooking class to learn how to make traditional Ecuadorian dishes

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Otavalo, Ecuador is a beautiful and bustling city filled with vibrant markets, stunning scenery and warm hospitality. While you're exploring all the city has to offer, why not try taking a cooking class to learn how to make traditional Ecuadorian dishes? Here are a few reasons why this should be at the top of your list of things to do in Otavalo.

Learn about the culture

Attending a cooking class in Otavalo is an excellent way to experience the local culture. Ecuadorian cuisine is infused with tradition and history, and the dishes you create will provide you with an authentic taste of Ecuador. You'll also learn about the ingredients that are commonly used in Ecuadorian cooking and the stories behind the dishes. It's a fun, interactive and educational experience that will enrich your understanding of the local culture.

Try new things

Ecuadorian cuisine is diverse and delicious. From ceviche to llapingachos, you'll have the opportunity to try new and exciting dishes that you might not have heard of before. Attend a cooking class and expand your culinary horizons. You might even be inspired to try recreating these dishes back home!

Meet new people

Cooking classes are a great way to meet new people. You'll be teamed up with other curious travelers who are eager to learn about Ecuadorian cooking. Sharing the experience of preparing a meal together is a bonding experience, and you'll come away from the class with new friends and memories that will last a lifetime.

Support local businesses

Taking a cooking class in Otavalo means you're supporting local businesses. The cooking classes are usually hosted by locals, meaning your money goes directly into the local economy. By supporting these small businesses, you're helping to preserve the unique cultural traditions of Otavalo. It's a win-win situation for everyone involved.

In summary, if you're looking for an authentic and unique experience in Otavalo, then attending a cooking class should be on your list of things to do. You'll learn about the local culture, try new and exciting dishes, make new friends and support the local economy. It's an experience that's not to be missed!

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Visit the Condor Park to see the Andean condor up close

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If you are planning a visit to the city of Otavalo, Ecuador, one of the must-see attractions is the Condor Park. As the name suggests, this park is dedicated to showcasing the majestic Andean condor, one of the largest birds in the world.

Located just outside of Otavalo, the Condor Park is a sanctuary for these amazing birds, which are celebrated in Andean mythology and revered as symbols of strength and power. At the park, you can get up close and personal with these magnificent creatures, watching them soar through the air or perch on nearby rocks or trees.

The park offers a range of educational programs and exhibits that teach visitors about the Andean condor and its role in Andean culture and history. You can also take guided tours of the park to learn about the various bird species that call it home, including eagles, owls, and hawks.

But the highlight of any visit to the Condor Park is the opportunity to witness the Andean condor in action. These birds are known for their impressive wingspan, which can reach up to 10 feet, and for their remarkable ability to glide effortlessly through the air for hours at a time.

During your visit to the park, you can watch the condors take flight or even participate in a guided flight demonstration, where trained handlers launch the birds into the air and allow them to soar gracefully overhead. This is an unforgettable experience that will leave you in awe of the breathtaking beauty of these incredible creatures.

In addition to its focus on bird conservation and education, the Condor Park is also committed to sustainable development and eco-tourism. The park is powered by solar and wind energy and features a range of eco-friendly facilities, including a greenhouse and organic vegetable gardens.

So if you are looking for a unique and unforgettable experience in Otavalo, be sure to visit the Condor Park. Whether you are a nature lover, a bird enthusiast, or simply someone who appreciates the majesty of the natural world, this park is a must-see attraction that will leave you with a newfound appreciation for the Andean condor and its vital role in Ecuadorian culture and ecology.


Take a day trip to the nearby hot springs

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If you’re planning a visit to Otavalo, I highly recommend taking a day trip to the nearby hot springs for a relaxing and rejuvenating experience. The hot springs, also known as Termas de Papallacta, are located about 1.5 hours from Otavalo in the beautiful Andean mountains.

The hot springs offer a variety of natural pools, ranging in temperature from 36°C to 42°C. The different pools are perfect for visitors who enjoy a range of temperatures. If you’re looking for a cooler dip, there are also cold pools available. The water is rich in minerals such as sulfur, arsenic, and iron, which are believed to have therapeutic benefits for the body.

In addition to the hot pools, there are also spas and treatment rooms available for visitors who want to indulge in additional treatments and massages. Visitors can also take advantage of the hotel resort accommodations and stay overnight to fully relax and unwind.

Aside from the obvious benefits of relaxation and rejuvenation, there are many other reasons to visit the hot springs. The surrounding Andean mountains are absolutely breathtaking, making for a scenic drive to the hot springs. Additionally, there are nearby hiking trails for adventurous visitors to explore.

Overall, a day trip to the nearby hot springs is a must-do activity for anyone visiting Otavalo. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing day or a therapeutic treatment, the hot springs have something for everyone. So pack your swimsuit and head out for a day of soaking in mineral-rich, natural hot water amidst stunning mountain scenery.

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Try your hand at weaving at a local workshop

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When visiting Otavalo, a must-try experience is to weave at a local workshop. Otavalo is famous for its textiles, and the traditional weaving techniques have been passed down from generation to generation.

One of the best ways to experience weaving is to sign up for a workshop at one of the local weaving cooperatives. Here, you will be able to learn traditional weaving techniques and create your own unique design. The workshop is led by a local artisan who will guide you through the weaving process, and you will be able to use the same tools and materials that have been used for centuries.

Not only is the experience interesting and fun, but you will also have the opportunity to buy traditional Otavalo textiles. The cooperatives sell a wide range of textiles, including scarves, ponchos, shawls, and blankets, all made using traditional weaving techniques and natural fibers.

In these workshops, you will learn how to use a loom, which is a tool used to weave fabrics. You will also learn how to choose the right colors and patterns that are unique to Otavalo's textile tradition to create your own designs. The loom weaving process can be slow, but it is a peaceful and meditative process that allows you to immerse yourself in the local culture and traditions.

By creating your own textile, you will also be able to take home a meaningful souvenir that not only reminds you of your trip but also supports the local community. The weaving cooperatives provide sustainable employment opportunities for many local artisans and their families.

In conclusion, trying your hand at weaving at a local workshop in Otavalo is a must-do activity. You will gain new insights into the traditional weaving techniques of the local artisans, create a unique souvenir, and support the local economy. It is an enriching and meaningful activity that will leave you with an appreciation for the cultural heritage of Otavalo.


Visit the Yana Cocha animal rescue center

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Otavalo is a town in the province of Imbabura, Ecuador. It is well-known for its indigenous market and the beautiful landscapes surrounding the area. However, there is one place that is often overlooked by many tourists: the Yana Cocha animal rescue center. If you are an animal lover, this sanctuary is an absolute must-visit.

Yana Cocha is a non-profit organization dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating animals that have been abused, exploited, abandoned or injured. The center is located on the outskirts of Otavalo, and it is home to a variety of animals, including birds, monkeys, and big cats.

The staff at Yana Cocha are incredibly passionate about animal welfare and work tirelessly to provide a safe and comfortable environment for the animals in their care. They aim to raise awareness about the importance of conservation, education, and respect towards wildlife.

On your visit to Yana Cocha, you will have the opportunity to have an up-close encounter with animals that you may have never seen before. Some of the creatures at the center are native to the region, such as the Andean condor, while others have been rescued from illegal wildlife trafficking.

The center offers guided tours, during which you can learn about the animals' history, behavior, and habitat. You will also have the chance to witness some of the animals in action, such as the monkeys swinging from tree to tree.

If you are fortunate enough to visit during feeding time, you will see how caring and dedicated the staff are towards ensuring the animals receive the nutrients they need. The experience is a great opportunity to take some breathtaking photos while supporting a worthy cause.

In conclusion, a visit to Yana Cocha animal rescue center is a must-do activity while in Otavalo. Not only do you get to witness the beauty of nature firsthand, but you also have a chance to contribute to a cause that promotes wildlife conservation, education, and rehabilitation. It is a great opportunity to support a worthwhile non-profit organization while exploring the town's beautiful surroundings.

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Take a scenic drive to Lagunas de Atillo

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Otavalo, Ecuador is a place that you simply cannot miss during your visit to the country. Located just two hours from Quito, Otavalo is known for its indigenous market, popularly called the Plaza de Ponchos, where you can find a plethora of textiles, handicrafts, and souvenirs that are authentic to the region. Apart from the Plaza de Ponchos, there are other exciting activities you can do while in Otavalo. One such activity is taking a scenic drive to Lagunas de Atillo.

Lagunas de Atillo is a beautiful high-altitude wetland located southeast of Otavalo within the Mojanda Ecological Reserve. The reserve is located in the Andean highlands and encompasses an area of over 12,000 hectares, including the Mojanda Volcanos, which overlook the Laguna de San Pablo. The reserve boasts diverse flora and fauna, several lagoons, gorges, and waterfalls that provide a treat for the eyes, especially for nature lovers.

To access Lagunas de Atillo, you first need to take a scenic drive through the beautiful Andean landscape, which is characterized by towering mountains, rolling hills, peaceful valleys, and traditional Ecuadorian farmland, providing you with stunning natural scenery that will take your breath away.

Once you arrive at Lagunas de Atillo, you can take a gentle walk around the two main lagoons, where you can spot a variety of animals, including llamas, alpacas, and wild rabbits that roam the area. Additionally, there is an impressive viewpoint at Lagunas de Atillo where you can observe the stunning views of the surrounding Andean mountains, valleys, and lagoons.

Visiting Lagunas de Atillo is an excellent day trip option from Otavalo, where you can spend a day exploring the magnificent Andean landscapes, stunning wetlands, and diverse fauna. The best time to visit Lagunas de Atillo is during the dry season, from June to August since the temperatures are pleasant and the weather is clear, giving you perfect views of the surrounding Andean mountains.

In conclusion, visiting Otavalo and taking a scenic drive to Lagunas de Atillo deserves a spot of the top things to do in Otavalo. The natural beauty, diverse fauna and flora, and the stunning landscapes that you'll encounter during your journey make it a trip worth taking. So, if you are planning a trip to Otavalo, make sure you add Lagunas de Atillo to your itinerary, and you won't regret it.


Attend a traditional music and dance performance

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Otavalo, a small town located in the northern Andes of Ecuador, is home to a rich cultural heritage, most notably its vibrant indigenous community. One of the best ways to immerse oneself in this culture is by attending a traditional music and dance performance.

These performances are usually held at the Plaza de los Ponchos, a famous marketplace known for its eclectic fusion of indigenous and tourist influences. Visitors can witness the centuries-old dances and music of the Otavalo people, which have been passed down from generation to generation.

The performances typically include the use of traditional instruments such as the pan flute, charango, and guitar. The dancers, adorned in colorful and intricately woven costumes, execute their routines with precision and grace, often accompanied by a live choir.

But it's not just about the music and dance. These performances provide a rare insight into the history and cultural significance of these traditions. Many of the dances have their roots in various spiritual rituals and celebrations, such as the Inti Raymi, a pre-Columbian festival celebrating the sun god.

Attending a traditional music and dance performance in Otavalo isn't just a form of entertainment; it's a way to connect with the indigenous community, to learn about their customs and beliefs, and to gain a deeper appreciation for the richness and diversity of Ecuadorian culture.

In conclusion, if you're visiting Otavalo and want to immerse yourself in the culture, attending a traditional music and dance performance is a must-do activity. You'll be treated to a feast of sights and sounds, and perhaps come away with a newfound appreciation for the traditions and customs of the indigenous community.

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Frequently asked questions

Some popular things to do in Otavalo include visiting the well-known Otavalo Market, exploring the nearby Mojanda Lakes, and hiking the Imbabura volcano.

Absolutely! Otavalo is known for its indigenous culture, and visitors can participate in activities like traditional dance performances, witnessing events like a blessing of llamas, or even visiting a local indigenous community.

Yes, there are many outdoor activities available in Otavalo! Along with hiking the Imbabura volcano, there are also opportunities to go horseback riding, mountain biking, and paragliding in the area.

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