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The small town of Saquisilí is gaining fame for its bustling local Thursday market. Only two hours south of Quito by bus and less than half-an-hour from Latacunga, the market’s accessibility and authenticity are making it an increasingly popular stop with tourists.

Each Thursday, the town is transformed by a lively sprawling display of goods brought in by locals from surrounding villages in all directions. Unlike the Otavalo market that is primarily a show for tourists, the Saquisilí market is truly a local event which has existed since pre-Columbian times. Men and women from surrounding villages swarm in at the crack of dawn, toting every item imaginable, from household necessities to baskets full of squawking chicks.

The market takes up eight main plazas and offers everything from reed mats and herbal remedies to the squealing livestock itself. To explore the latter, walk for about 10 minutes past the market’s main plaza along the dirt road that leads out of town. Come early, as the animal market excitement begins to subside by about 9 a.m. As well as the main squares, every adjoining street see vendors selling more random items, from painted key rings to cell phones and electronics.

Like many local highland markets, the market at Saquisilí is not only for commerce; it is also a very important social and cultural affair. Indigenous men and women can be seen donning traditional dress and felt fedora hats, bartering with their neighbors and mingling over lunch.

For the traveler, much of the market is of little interest (though there is a growing artisan section of colorful local crafts, with prices that are cheaper than in Quito and Otavalo); instead, the essence of the market is in its authenticity, as well as its food, animal market, and general lively atmosphere. Though you're not likely to be in the market searching for a dish rack or a new alpaca, Saquisilí provides a genuine look at native life and culture, and photographic opportunities abound.


Other places nearby Saquisilí: Zumbahua, Tigua, Chugchilán, Quilotoa, Pujili, Sigchos and Isinliví.

By Caroline Bennett
exploring, laughing, wanderlust, strangers. 120 film, making art, cyanotypes, vintage. scotch on the rocks & coffee, black. the unknown. the sound of...
10 Sep 2012

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