Top Travel Days of 2019, Visiting Otavalo, Ecuador

Guest Post and Photos by Amy Perry Basseches
In mid-February, I had a terrific week in Ecuador with my daughter, Sophie. On my Dream Day, I headed approximately two hours north of Quito to Otavalo, world-famous for its indigenous population, and for the Mercado Artesanal, where locals sell their handicrafts. This is South America’s largest outdoor market: you will find a wide range of weavings, jewelry, clothes, wood and stone carvings, paintings, and more. Although Saturday is the main market day, and the whole town is filled with stalls, there is plenty open at Plaza de Ponchos any day. Also, the grilled plantains from a street vendor were delicious.

After visiting the market, I had lunch at Hacienda Pinsaqui, built in 1790. Lunch is the major meal of the day in Ecuador — usually soup, a full main plate (meat, vegetables, bread, rice), and dessert. At Pinsaqui, we enjoyed a lovely meal in an historic setting. The Hacienda contains more than three centuries of history. At one point, it was the largest in the area, essentially enslaving 1000 indigenous workers who created products for export to the US. Another time, it sheltered Simón Bolívar who prepared here for the Battle of Ibarra (1823) against the Spanish.

We also visited the traditional weaving studio of Miguel Andrago. If you are looking for handmade, traditional weaving, go directly to this home and workshop just 10 minutes outside of Otavalo. The Andrago family (four generations working together) is preserving backstrap weaving without the use of electricity or chemicals (all natural dyes), trying to save “this vanishing art.” They do not sell their beautiful items at the Otavalo market, only at their studio.

Please contact ActiveTravels if you want to explore mainland Ecuador on your way to or from the Galapagos, or as a stand-alone trip. Finally, when in Quito, don’t forget to take the Teleferico gondola. The view, from lookout point Cruz Loma, reveals a unique landscape of the city and surrounding area. Options abound: hiking to the summit of the volcano Pichincha, camping, horseback riding, mountain biking, rock climbing, and even paragliding. Of course, you could just sit with a picnic and take in the vista, including the world’s highest Catholic Church. I loved swinging on the giant swing.