Altitude: 2,530 meters (8,300 ft)
Phone Code: 06
Set in a valley a couple of hours north of Quito, Otavalo is at the top of any traveler's must-see list. It is famous for its weekly market, reportedly the largest of its kind in Latin America, where one can find an overwhelming variety of Andean crafts. Every Saturday from about 7 a.m., the local craftsmen pour into the town and unfold their wares along Plaza de Ponchos and in the surrounding streets. The whole area explodes into a hodgepodge of colorful rugs, clothes, paintings and other crafts. There is also a chaotic early Saturday morning animal market which is well worth a visit.
During the week Otavalo is a sleepy little town, which can be hard to believe if you've seen it during Saturday's mid-market frenzy. But rest assured you'll find something regardless, for there's always a number of market stalls in the Plaza de Ponchos.
Architecturally speaking, Otavalo is relatively modern (if you count 1960's and 70's vintage cinder block as modern), although there are a few colonial buildings left, mainly at the southern end of town around the Plaza Bol├şvar. There are also a couple of museums that are worth a peek. Nightlife is virtually nonexistent during the week, but come the weekend a healthy number of venues open up, particularly traditional Pe├▒as that play live Andean music.
Despite its quietness - or perhaps because of it - many travelers opt for an extended stay here, often to study spanish, volunteer for a few weeks, or explore the surrounding area with its lakes, waterfalls and ancient Inca trails that weave in and out of the mountains.
Neighborhoods in Otavalo: Cuicocha Lake, Around Otavalo, Iluman, Iruguincho,
Other places nearby Otavalo: Oyacachi, Mascarilla, Cahuasqui, Cayambe, Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve, Tumbabiro, Agato, Salinas Valley, San Antonio De Ibarra and Cotacachi.