Discovering Otavalo from Quito: Plaza de Ponchos Market, Cotacachi, and more!
Planning a trip from Quito to Otavalo? The vibrant city of Otavalo is filled with indigenous crafts, traditional markets, colorful art, and friendly locals. Located about an hour and a half north of Quito, you’ll find treasures that you won’t find anywhere else: Plaza de Ponchos Market, Cotacachi, the town of Otavalo, and Imbabura Volcano.Whether you’re looking to shop for souvenirs and handmade goods, explore ancient settlements and sacred sites, or relax and take in beautiful views, this guide covers all the must-see sights around Otavalo and everything you need to know to get the most out of your visit.
How to get to Otavalo from Quito
From Quito, getting to Otavalo is just a quick bus ride. Buses leave from Quitumbe Terminal in the south of the city and take about 1 hour and 30 minutes to reach Otavalo. If you plan to arrive outside of rush hour traffic, the journey should only take about an hour. The cost of a bus ticket depends on the bus company but typically ranges from $2 USD to $4 USD. In addition, local buses that go directly from Quito to the Plaza de Ponchos Market in Otavalo can be taken for about $4 USD. Many companies offer direct services so you can plan your trip in advance and make sure your arrival is convenient. Here are a few companies that offer direct services:
- Ecuador Bus
- Otavalo Express
- Transportes Selecto
- Expreso Turbo
Things to do in and around Otavalo
There are plenty of things to do in and around Otavalo – from shopping for artisan crafts at the famous Plaza de Ponchos Market, to exploring Cotacachi for its leather industry, to hiking up Imbabura volcano for magnificent views. Here are some of our top picks for things to do in and around Otavalo.
Plaza de Ponchos Market
The most famous attraction in Otavalo is without a doubt the Plaza de Ponchos Market. This traditional market is open six days a week (Saturdays especially draw large crowds) and runs from sunrise to sunset. Shop for artisan crafts like jewelry, hats, bags, sweaters, paintings and other handicrafts. Haggling is a must here but keep in mind prices are already quite reasonable. The market has many permanent stalls on the cobblestoned streets while vendors with temporary stands line the edges of the plaza on holidays and weekends. The market is filled with life, music, food vendors and of course lots of items up for sale! Of course you also have to take into consideration that you’re shopping in a place where ancient cultures comes together with modern-day tourism – it’s part of the charm but also means that there are some souvenirs you’ll see at the market (like macrame bags) that weren’t actually made by locals here. On the bright side – there are still many handmade goods you can find at the Plaza de Ponchos which make great gifts or souvenirs of your trip to Ecuador!
Another nearby spot worth visiting is Cotacachi, known as Ecuador’s leather capital. While in Cotacachi you can find everything from jackets to wallets and purses all made from high quality genuine leather. The prices are quite reasonable so it’s worth checking out if you’re looking for some new leather goods or even just looking to window shop or take some photos!
Otavalo Town & Imbabura Volcano
The town of Otavalo itself is also worth wandering around if you’re looking to explore a cozy Andean town. The cobbled streets are colorful and quaint and there are plenty of small cafes and restaurants where you can have lunch or dinner after a long day of exploring. Also head up Imbabura Volcano for gorgeous views all around – it’s an easy hike and worth it for the views! Once you’re done discovering ancient sites and shopping for souvenirs, you can end your day with an exciting activity for some adrenaline-pumping adventure! Popular activities include horseback riding and zip-lining at Mirador El Chasqui Adventure Park, mountain biking through cloud forests, paragliding off summits, rappelling down cliffs, white water rafting, kayaking, and much more! Here’s your chance to experience nature in all its glory and give yourself an experience to remember! In conclusion, a trip from Quito to Otavalo is filled with many magical experiences if properly explored – from Plaza de Ponchos Market filled with artisan crafts and souvenirs, to Cotacachi’s leather industry products, to lots of activities like mountain biking and zip-lining through cloud forests that you won’t find anywhere else. Whether you plan a day trip or spend a few days in Otavalo and its surrounding area, you won’t be disappointed. It’s time to go explore! If you’re excited about adventuring in Otavalo from Quito and want more details about activities you can do there, check out this link here on GetYourGuide for more information on what’s available!