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 fabric. In keeping with 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 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 do the best fruit and granola salad for breakfast. They have also invented something called ‘Magic Bars’ which tastes like 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 so don’t be afraid to challenge the market sellers. Also to test whether something is truly alpaca or not, put at a few of the fibres and if they’re long and wavy you can be sure you’ve got your hands on some genuine alpaca. 👕