Cute, tiny Otavalo. It’s a gorgeous little town in the North of Ecuador – about halfway between the border of Colombia and Quito. We spent 1 night here, but made a full 2 days of it.
See the photos here, or keep reading!
This really begins the night before, in Cali. We took a night bus (8 hours) to the south of Colombia, a boarder town called Ipiales. Once off the night bus, we grabbed cheap breakfast at the terminal, then hopped in a ‘collectivo’, a cheap group taxi. This took us to the Colombian customs office at the boarder, where we stood in line to have our passports stamped. It was then a simple matter of walking across a bridge and entering the Ecuadorian customs office, waiting in another line and getting our Ecuador entry stamps. This was all fairly painless and took about 30mins all up. Next, we shared a taxi with an elderly Colombian couple to the Tulcan bus station, and hopped on a 3 hour bus to Otavalo.
The bus was playing a 70s disco mix, rather loud. It complemented the rolling hills and cows and small towns beautifully (???).
The bus drops and picks people up off the side of the highway while barely stopping. We hopped off and walked the 10mins to our hostel, Hostel Chasqui. Really lovely place with great friendly staff. We had a private room and bathroom for about $10 each.
Day 1 in Otavalo, we walked around trying to find food (it was a Sunday, and not so many things are open on Sundays in the whole continent). Next up we headed to the market. Otavalo is known for its massive Saturday markets when whole blocks and streets turn into a giant open air market. We missed this, but there is still plenty to be perused and purchases any day of the week. This tiny town had free wifi in the town square. Modern!
I fell in love with the amazing textiles made locally (no longer handmade though). I found out from a stall holder that down Calle Salinas I could find a shop that sells all different lengths and colours of textiles. All I bought was a bag made of colourful fabric strips, so I could post all my purchased fabric back in it. $10. Amazing!
We relaxed a bit, hunted down dinner, and slept very very well.
The next morning we grabbed cheese croissants and coffee in the town square, and walked to the bus station to catch a bus to the town of Quiroga. The mission was to walk around a volcanic lake, Laguna Cuicocha. We had 2.5 hours to an out-and-back route on the path around the lake. It was a really stunning area to walk around in, but it was fairly challenging simply because of the altitude! Our walk started at around 3100m above sea level and took us to about 3300m. Uphills and up stairs felt hard! There were loads of stunning brightly coloured flowers along the path.
On our return, I stopped by one of the main fabric shops in town – they sell locally made (machine made) fabric in stunning colours and complex patterns. I ended up buying 5 different colours, 1.5m each. I can’t wait to sew with them!
Overall, our 1 night 2 days in tiny Otavalo was magnificent! I would absolutely recommend that anyone stays there if passing through Ecuador.