Seven unmissable things to do in Otavalo
y SachaJi is located just 15km from world-famous Otavalo Indian market, making the wellness ecolodge the perfect springboard from which to explore it. Read on to find out what you simply cannot miss during your visit.
- Go to market – don’t forget the adjacent streets
Otavalo has garnered international fame for its artisan market. Held on Saturdays, this is where Indigenous locals sell beautiful, high-quality handmade textiles, from ponchos to wall-hangings, often made from warm and cosy llama wool.But as well as the visitor-orientated craft stalls, take a peek around the live animal market, where you’ll spot Otavaleños spiritedly bartering over goats, chickens and guinea pigs.
- Pay a visit to Miguel Andrango’sTahuantinsuyo Weaving Workshop
While many of Otavalo’s textile manufacturersare now focused on production for export to Europe and the United States, Miguel Andrango has shunned the industrial power loom for the antiquated backstrap variety.Weaving with this traditional loom creates the finest, most elaborate garments, and requires Miguel to sit on the ground, moving his body to pull the threads into place using a wooden warping board. He dyes local wool with natural stains made from insects, leaves and nuts.
The expert weaver has been flown all over the United States to give weaving classes, and is known to be the best of the best. (Taller Tahuantinsuyo +593 6 269 0282)
- Check out the fashions
Otavaleños have a singularly elegant, eye-catching yet subdued style that you’ll see them wearing every day of the week. Men wear white pants, a button-down shirt, dark poncho, black, trilby-like hats, and their long hair tied in a braid down their backs.For women, white blouses that reach their ankles (doubling as petticoats) are embroidered with colourful designs, representing the spirit of Mother Nature. A dark skirt with delicate fringing symbolizes the forests or the sea. Bright-patterned belts hold it all together, with dark espadrilles on their feet.
The look is completed with myriad accessories, including loops of gold-beaded necklaces symbolizing grains of corn and the importance of the woman in her community (the more beads the higher the importance), and a shawl knotted simply around the shoulders.
All these items are available to buy at the market for you to recreate the trend in your home town!
- Take part in a minga
This is the greatest example of community life in Ecuador and central to the social structure of Otavalo.A minga is a show of social reciprocity in which every member of the community is called upon to collaborate in a task that will benefit all: plowing and harvesting fields, fixingroads and houses and cleaning up the streets.
Participation is mandatory and those who don’t show up might be fined, perhaps by having their water temporarily cut off. You can even join in if you see a minga taking place.
- Crash a Kichwa wedding
Though arranged marriages have given way to love-matches, Otavalo weddings are still traditional affairs that last up to five days.Proposals are made by a man stealing the shawl or hat from a woman: if she doesn’t ask for it back it’s a “yes”.
Marriage celebrations culminate in a ceremony called ñawymayllay in which the bride and groom wash their hands, faces and feet in rose and ivy water.
- Eat chugchucaras
One of the most traditional dishes in Otavalo, chugchucaras is not exactly healthy, but the delicious combination of deep fried pork, mote, potatoes, fried plantains, empanadas, popcorn, and pork rind is more than worth the deviation.You can find it at restaurant and street stalls around the town.
- Celebrate the god of the sun
The festival of San Juan – known as Inti Raymi in Andean countries – has been celebrated in Ecuador for centuries and is especially important in Otavalo and the surrounding area. It takes places during the June equatorial solstice and gives thanks to sun god and the harvest it brings.Just before the festivities begin, people will bathe in local waterfalls, cleansing and filling themselves with good energies. The days after are filled with costumes, dancing, music and strange local traditions.