Otavalo Off the Beaten Path
This in-depth exploration of the scenic area north of Quito, including a trip to the famous Otavalo market, as well as visits to some of the smaller towns known for a variety of crafts.
Day 1 Quito / Chachimbiro
Traveling north from Quito, you reach Guayllabamba Valley, which is known for its tropical fruits, chirimoyas, and avocados. Further down the road, you will make a stop in Cayambe for biscuits and string cheese. From here, take the old road to Ibarra, which is close to the snow-capped mountain known as Cayambe. Here, you can begin to observe the local people’s way of life. This journey pays special attention to the towns of Olmedo, Pecillo, and Zuleta, where the native women have mastered the art of hand embroidery. After you arrive in Ibarra, the capital city of this province, descend to the Chota Valley, a warmer place inhabited by Afro-Ecuadorian people, who still practice their ancestral traditions as well as ancient construction techniques. Stay overnight in a typical hacienda in the nearby town of Chachimbiro.
Day 2 Chota Valley / Otavalo Market
Today, head toward San Antonio de Ibarra, a woodcarving center. From here, take a drive to the “Awakening Valley,” which is the home of the Otavalo Indians. You will have time to explore their famous Indian market with its wonderful textiles, native paintings, ceramics, jewelry, tapestries, and more, all being sold at bargain prices. Next, travel into higher terrain to Cuicocha Lake and hike around this flooded volcanic crater with its twin islets in the search for a particular species of orchid that grows at this altitude (10,562 feet). Later on, visit Cotacachi, a leather goods center, famous for its handmade designs. In Cotacachi you can buy leather crafts and clothing directly from local artisans at very low prices. Stay overnight in a typical hacienda.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 3 Iluman/Peguche / Quito
Visit the village of Iluman,famous for its hat workshops. Later, drive to Peguche, where wool tapestries are produced, and then continue to Agato, where the locals make Indian sandals out of agave fiber (alpargatas). In the afternoon, visit the archeological reserve of Cochasquí, where the Caranqui people built adobe pyramids from the X to the XVI centuries, and see Calderón, famous for its handmade bread-dough figures. Return to Quito this evening.
What to Expect
Duration 3 days
Anytime, best market day is Saturday
Match the trip’s intensity to your ability and motivation.
Easy walking, with opportunities for low-key physical activity.
Energetic exploration with optional day hikes, leisurely cycling, or light canoeing.
Day-long active excursions and options for demanding activity in varied environments.
Strenuous hiking or other intense activity that may be at high altitude or over rough terrain.
Multi-day trekking and other activities requiring endurance or strength. Steep trails. No technical expertise necessary.