Otavalo is named after the Otavalo Indian tribe. This tribe has been successful in keeping its own culture and identity in these modern times. It is famous for its (saturday) market and the streets are colorful and filled with people dressed up in their traditional clothing. Most people visit Otavalo, booking a day trip in Quito and just visit the market. However, the surroundings are lushful and green and definitely worth a visit to.
Going from Salento in Colombia to Otavalo in Ecuador, we first had to catch a bus to Armenia Terminal (cost 4.200 Pesos p.p.) around 11:45 am. It took the bus around 1 hour to cover this small distance. Arriving at Armenia Terminal, there were several agencies providing transport to Cali. We took a bus at Expreso Trejos which costed us 20.000 Pesos p.p. and left at 1 pm. This comfortable busride of 3 hours brought us in Cali.
At Cali terminal we bought a ticket to Ipiales for 55.000 Pesos p.p. at Buscompany Bolivariano which left at 7pm. While it looks like a short distance, it still took us 11 hours to get to the town near the border Ipiales!
At Ipiales we decided to do a short side trip. And after we stored our luggage at the busterminal (2.000 Pesos per bag), we took a 10 minute taxi to the pilgrim town Las Lajas (10.000 Pesos) witch has a beautiful church called Santuario de las Lajas. We saw some pictures in advance and since we already had to go to Ipiales to cross the border there, we decided to make a short stop to see this impressive church with our own eyes.
Back at the terminal, we took a taxi to Rumichaca (8.000 Pesos) which is the town where you cross the border just 4 km from Ipiales. Arriving at 9.30 am at the border it wasn’t really busy and after 40 minutes we were stamped out of Colombia and walked to the Ecuador immigration which is a 5 minute walk. Around 11 am we got stamped in Ecuador.
There we got in a minibus to the Tulcan terminal for 75 cents p.p. and at the Tulcan Terminal we bought a busticket at Velotax Norte to the city of Otavalo for 3,75 USD p.p. which left directly at 11.30 am. Our bus dropped us a little bit outside Otavalo, so we took a taxi for 1,50 USD to our accommodation, where we arrived around 3 pm.
All around town you will find plenty of restaurants. However, we were surprised about the prices. It was much more expensive than we expected. We did go out for pizza one night but prepared our own meals the rest of the time. Which we actually like better. There is a big market and plenty of small shops where you can get all of your fresh ingredients and it is so much cheaper.
We booked a room at Hostal El Geranio and we really enjoyed our stay here. Friendly owner, comfortable bed, lots of warm blankets, warm shower and a kitchen that we could use. Breakfast was included and was a great starter of the day. We bought some coffee from the owner by which he supports the local coffee farmers which was of course a great excuse for Marije to spent money.
** You can find them on booking.com
We came to Otavalo for its market. We read that this is something you cannot miss and since Marije loves to go (souvenir) shopping and Michiel thinks markets are the ideal place to take photo of locals, we decided Otavalo would be an ideal first stop in Ecuador.
The market is held everyday but is the biggest on Saturday. So that’s the day we went. The streets are filled with stalls which sell the most colorful items like dreamcatchers, jewelry, scarfs, bags, hammocks, ponchos, blankets, hats and so much more. We loved strolling around, having short (sort of) conversations with the locals while looking for some nice souvenirs and taking beautiful pictures. We ended the day with we don’t know how many pictures and a bag filled with dreamcatchers, jewelry and a blanket. Mission accomplished.
After seeing some pictures of the Cuichocha Lake in our hostel, we decided to go there for the 6 hour hike around the lake. We took the local bus (cost 25 cents p.p.) to Quiroga from where we continued our trip in the back of a pick-up that brought us to the lake (cost 6 USD total). The path brings you all around the lake, going uphill and downhill and can be pretty exhausting, especially if you are not used to the height yet. However, the hike is worth every step. You get some incredible views and if you are (un)lucky you’ll stumble along some lama’s that won’t go out of the way.
PARQUE DE CONDOR
We heared a Dutchman started a bird sanctuary a bit outside of town and thought it would be interesting to visit the show. We were wrong. At least, it wasn’t really interesting for us since the show was completely in Spanish and ours wasn't sufficient to understand any of it. The bird man was pretty funny however because the rest of the visitors laughed a lot. It was impressive to see some of the huge birds and there even was one named Gringo since he came from our pretty little country. The entrance was 3 USD and the taxi costed 4,50 USD oneway.