Up in the Ecuadorian highlands sits Otavalo, a relatively small and peaceful town that houses one of the largest hand-made markets in the world. While the main stalls of the plaza run every day of the week, Saturday is the day to visit as the market almost quadruples in size, flooding the famous ‘Plaza los Ponchos’ and its surrounding streets with people selling woven textile gifts, hand-made jewellery and every item of clothing known to man made entirely from luxuriously soft alpaca. In keeping with the vibrant South America’s textile aesthetic, the colours are bright, the patterns are bold and everything is beautiful. Your bank balance and baggage allowance will certainly take a hit. We recommend spending a whole weekend here, giving you the time to wander round the immense Saturday market in ease and spend the evening attempting to play Tetris with your bag to make all your presents fit 💁🏼 Otavalo is also home to a few stunning highland treks and several waterfall sightings, so an extra day will give you the chance to visit these too.
Where we stayed: Hotel Flores Los Ponchos (my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️)
What to eat: Make sure you pay a visit to La Cosecha Coffee shop, it’s beautifully decorated, reasonably priced and they do the BEST fruit salad with granola and yoghurt for breakfast. They have also invented something incredible called ‘Magic Bars’ – a cake combination of cookie dough meets brownie (AMAZING).
What to do: You can easily spend the whole day wandering round the markets, trust me, they’re enormous.
Top tip: Bartering is expected in the markets so don’t be afraid to challenge the sellers. Also, to test whether something is truly alpaca or not, pull at a few of the fibres in the jumper and if they come out long and wavy you can be sure you’ve got your hands on some genuine alpaca. 👕