A shopping trip to the mercado in Otavalo must come at the top of the list for anyone going to Ecuador.
It requires two hours going north from Quito by bus...by car, I'm sure it's at least half the time.
San Cristobal Bus no longer operates. You now need to get the bus that goes to the Ofelia bus station. You can get it on 10 de Agosto at Ejido Park. From Ofelia bus station, you take the bus that goes to Otavalo. And you no longer have to chase after it, since it takes you to another bus station -- much more organized.
From the Otavalo bus station, you catch a taxi to the mercado or your hotel.
Saturdays transform into an actual gathering of Ecuadorians offering jewelry, scarves, sweaters, ponchos, capes, artifacts, and, of course, crafts -- a shopper's paradise. Peruvians have their space - lots of space - as do others... but mostly the market carries Ecuadorian goods.
Even the uniform the Otavalo indigenous women wear proudly sells as a product all its own in this mercado. I had to have one. I'm showered with busloads of compliments wearing it in my home town.
Colorful purses, table covers, couch covers and so much more fill their cubby hole booths, tables and stores, covering much more than the original square did.
Streets spread out into outdoor shopping malls like spider legs.
My closet contains many gorgeous ponchos, sweaters, wool and alpaca and acrylic capes from here. I never lack for scarves.
Prominent antique stores hold treasures for those who love antiques.
Then, when hunger strikes, I recommend this place for you: Restaurante Mi Otavalito -- Super!
On Good Friday a candlelight procession of the Stations of the Cross fills the streets to capacity. A very special memory etched itself for keeps in my mind for future reference as Melva and I launched on a trip to Otavalo.
-- The U.S. Embassy has issued a high crime alert for all of Ecuador (as of June 14, 2010) that includes Otavalo. --
In some villages in Ecuador - if the law doesn't take care of crime - the vigilantes will!
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