Ecuador, Otavalo Market, South America

Discover Otavalo Market, Ecuador

Otavalo Market, the best acclaimed market in Ecuador. Almost a 2 hour bus ride from one of the stations in Quito to Otavalo, on a winding and scenic route. An old, overcrowded bus takes you to this bustling market town, packed with tourists and tourists alike. Food market? Animal market? Or handicrafts market? The choice is yours at Otavalo Market.


Ecuador, Otavalo Market, travelsandmore, travel blogger, markets, travel
All the amazing colours and textures from Otavalo Market
Ecuador, Otavalo Market, travelsandmore, travel blogger, markets, travel
One of the jewellery stalls
Ecuador, Otavalo Market, travelsandmore, travel blogger, markets, travel
Everything you see is colourful


Otavalo Market lives up to any and all expectations. As far as markets go Otavalo is clean, safe and has an extremely organised and routine feel, compared to others in South America. Handicrafts are well made and good value, prices are justifiable as there is a lot less rubbish than we have experienced at other markets in Central and South America.

This type of value for money market shopping unsurprisingly attracts a large crowd. Depending on what you’re looking for we found the price tags around Otavalo Market to be very reasonable. Much to Jamie’s disappointment everything I wanted was under the $5 price mark and the day became a day of purchasing.

Otavalo Market, Ecuador
Bracelets and dreams catchers – Literally my heaven

For souvenir shopping most small items such as bags, bracelets and clothing will usually only cost between $1-10 USD, most items are under the $5 mark and haggling within reason is acceptable.


If the 4/5 hour round trip to Otavalo Market puts you off visiting make an exception for this long journey from Quito. You won’t be disappointed and the bus is great value for money as Ecuador bus travel generally is.

Warning: I’d like to add about Otavalo Market is it is a very dangerous place for a person who likes to buy colourful, pretty, shiny, girly things. Money can suddenly disappear in seconds and it has zero to do with crime

Ecuador, Otavalo Market, travelsandmore, travel blogger, markets, travel
From the fruit and veg market
Ecuador, Otavalo Market, travelsandmore, travel blogger, markets, travel
Ecuador, Otavalo Market, travelsandmore, travel blogger, markets, travel
More delicious fruit from the fruit and veg market
Ecuador, Otavalo Market, travelsandmore, travel blogger, markets, travel
Meal options from the food market
Types of Markets – Otavalo, Ecuador

Handicrafts market
Food market (fruit and veg)
Animal market
Smaller artisan handicraft markets


During my time in Ecuador and at Otavalo Market in particular I got thinking about the US dollar, the international currency I have grown to know so well. For a while we’ve thought about the ‘dollarisation’ factor. It’s a generalised assumption we have for all non US countries using the dollar.

This is more of a theory Jay and I have about ‘the US dollar effect’ that we’ve come to learn after spending some time in 3 non-US countries whose official currency is the US Dollar across Central and South America.

Basically this ’roundup theory’ on how everything is rounded up to a whole number no matter what its value is. $1 this, $2 that. Taxi drivers love the round up theory.

This became even more apparent at Otavalo Market and to be perfectly honest, thinking back most markets are the same when it comes to paying in US dollars. When the price is in dollars the cost of the item automatically becomes a whole dollar even if it isn’t worth a whole dollar.

An item becomes $1 or $2 rather than the 60 cents or 95 cents it may actually be worth. I don’t know, but perhaps it’s something to do with the extreme lack of change in all of the Dollar using Central and South American countries we have visited. of these countries. I can understand how this theory of rounding up the dollar  may be really negative for these countries with regards to economics and the circulation of money.

Ecuador, Otavalo Market, travelsandmore, travel blogger, markets, travel
More vibrant colours from the market stalls
Ecuador, Otavalo Market, travelsandmore, travel blogger, markets, travel
Ecuador, Otavalo Market, travelsandmore, travel blogger, markets, travel
Cowboy hat anyone?


It’s $2 for a healthy sized meal at the food market in Otavalo, expect people fighting for your custom as often tourists prefer to sample the restaurants and bakeries in Otavalo rather than the food market.

We arrived to the food market as everything was closing up so our options were limited, but we had caught a glimpse the mad rush for food earlier in the day.

Get an early bus to Otavalo and visit the food market during early lunch time for maximum options and maximum atmosphere. If you do miss out though just pop outside for the fruit and veg market where fresh fruit is ready to be sold and consumed.

You’ll find plantains galore and all the serious vegetable contenders of South America but a serious lack of those giant avocados you find in Central America, (it’s disappointing no longer having them in my life).

If i’m brutally honest I wasn’t so fond of Quito. I found it less exciting than other major South American Cities we’ve visited. In my opinion Quito was a bit too steep, I heard the word altitude far too much and the temperature was less than desirable for a beach lover like myself. I think this is why Otavalo became my Quito highlight.

Otavalo Market was one of those day-trip excursions that really defines your stay in a destination. My time in Quito will be remembered by the worthwhile visit to Otavalo Market


A tip for visiting would be to take small change as I’ve mentioned before there’s a severe lack of change in Ecuador. Also sunscreen is always necessary when you are so close to the equator as UV rays become several times stronger and more damaging to the skin.
When leaving and arriving in Otavalo note your bus stations. There are many buses coming from many directions as this is a big attraction for tourists and locals in the area and it’s common for tourists to hop on the wrong bus. Remember Terminal Carcelen in the northern part of Quito.


Lastly, it’s important for me to remember and mention that the people selling crafts, fruit, spices and the rest at Otavalo Market are usually those who are the closest to poverty.

Often indigenous peoples or people who work in agriculture travel to sell their goods at Otavalo Market. Even though Otavalo Market is great fun and there’s a lot to see and do, try to remember the reason each person is sat there.

For us this was as simple as buying 1/2 kilo of molding strawberries from a lady with a baby when no one else would. Remember your compassion when market shopping in South America, I believe its very important.


0 thoughts on “Discover Otavalo Market, Ecuador

  1. I love markets! That is the one thing I always seek out when I travel. I'm planning a trip to Ecuador at the end of next year, and will definitely add this spot to my list. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I love your comments about rounding up – this is so true hey! The markets look like a must see – all of those beautiful hand made items and lovely colours. Stunning.

  3. I never thought about the practice of rounding up in South and Central American markets, but I bet it does have a lot to do with the use of the US dollar. In most countries in the are, currencies have denominations that are less than the value of a dollar, so I suppose I wouldn't have run into the same problem. I definitely agree that you won't likely run across people rounding down and giving you back coins though.

    The colors in the market look so vibrant! They remind me of Chichicastenango in Guatemala!

  4. I'm in South Africa and this looks alot like our African craft markets although the print designs are a bit different. I like your tip about "try to remember the reason each person is sat there". It puts things into perspective.

  5. Love love love markets. They are such a great way to experience and explore a country. Love your pictures and all the lovely crafts. One thing that I have learned is to negotiate at the markets…you are right rounding "up" is extremely common. Great post!

  6. I loved seeing all those colourful photos. It reminded me of my time in Ecuador. I never made it to the market, but Ecuador easily became one of my favourite cities! It's definitely strange going from the cooler temperatures of Quito to lower, humid altitudes!

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