Day 1: Otavalo Market
Otavalo market is sure to be one of the highlights of your trip if you have the time and the advance-planning skills to book this extension. After arriving from Quito by way of Calderón, unique for its handmade bread-dough figures, and a stop in Cayambe for the local specialty, "bizcochos," you'll arrive in Otavalo and head to its famous indigenous market.
For more than 4,000 years, Otavalo's market has served as the social and economic heart of the region. Today, it is Ecuador's most popular destination after the Galapagos Islands. On Saturdays, the usually-sleepy town awakens to a cacophony of chickens, cows, and sheep, and trading of hemp, saddles, vegetables, grains, and textiles among the brightly-dressed Otavalenos Indian population. Although there are plenty of tourist trinkets to be had, visitors come primarily for the authentic local atmosphere. The market winds down by early- to mid-morning, so we will be sure to arrive early and well ahead of tour buses that arrive around this time.
Afterward, we will travel north to Cotacachi, a town famous for its handmade leather crafts. The town also boasts a lovely central plaza. Lunch will be served at a typical hacienda, or country inn. Afterwards, relax and enjoy the views on your way back to Quito. (L)