Taxies will take you anywhere within town for US$1. Negotiate with the driver if you want to go to places outside town. To Peguche waterfall, the rate is about $US2,50, to Mojanda Lake, you will pay about US$10. There are also plenty of buses going to nearby communities and towns, most of them leaving from the main terminal.
- Town Markets. Every Saturday there is aMercado Artesanal at the so-called Plaza de Ponchos between calle Sucre and Jaramillo, where indigenous and mestizo people from Otavalo and surrounding communities sell their handicrafts. You will find a wide range of weavings, jewelry, clothes, wood and stone carvings, paintings, Panama hats, and and some products from neighbouring Peru and Colombia. Rugs and shoulder bags are made of sheep wool; don’t expect many products of Lama wool, as Lamas never occured as far north as Otavalo and most products are from the Imbabura province. Table clothes are usually made of some kind of artificial fiber, woven on machines, but probably still made at someone’s home or house atelier. Although Saturday is the main market day, purchasing handicrafts on any other day is possible. Of course, vendors try to sell their products, but they are by no means as pushy as for instances in Asia. Taking photographs is usually accepted but not promoted. People merely go about their business when photographed. Some high resolution impressions of the market show the diversity of the products. When you visit the market, don’t just look at the products but observe the people selling the items as well. If you want something more authentic or just want to stock up on your groceries, try the town´s largest food market Mercado 24 de Mayo (open all week), or the little organic market Feria IMBABIO , where women from the surrounding villages sell traditional dishes and organic fruits and veggies that they harvested the same day on their farms (open on Saturday mornings only). There is also an animal market Mercado de Animales northwest of town across the Panamarican Highway, where local farmers buy and sell their livestock. This market is quite an experience, but not recommendable for people who care about animal rights (unless you are planning to protest about the way those animals are treated there).
- Peguche Waterfallis a nice 18m waterfall, situated in a small park some 3km from Otavalo. After the waterfall, the river takes the name of “Jatun Yacu” or “Big Water”. This is a sacred place for the Indians as they have a close relationship with nature, especially mountains, water and certain trees. Lagoons, springs and waterfalls are considered places full with powers, where the natives carry out ritual baths of purification or pacts with the spirits of the place. Solstice celebrations take place at the falls around the 21st of June.
- Imbabura Mountainwith its 4610mts is located 60km north of Quito, near Otavalo and San Pablo Lake. In local legend it is considered the father of the indigenous people and culture: the “Taita” (father) as they call him, is the protector of the Indians, symbol of hardness and virility; crops and good weather depend on him. During droughts, the locals carry out rituals on the mountain or in other sacred places to ask for his help. During these ceremonies, there is a “Huaccha Caray”(poor gifts), which consists in collecting food of all the families: this food is then blessed by the Yachac or shamán, and shared by all people, while they pray and ask God and the Taita Imbabura for water.
- San Pablo Lakelies 3.5 km southeast from the center of Otavalo at the feet of the volcano Imbabura. It occupies a tectonic hole that is approximately 4km long and 3km wide. It is one of the most visited lakes in Ecuador. Imbakucha and Chicapán are Kichua names for the lake. Chicapán is the oldest archaic name. The lake is worshipped by the inhabitants of the different communities in its surroundings. There are also some old legends about the origin of the lake.
- Cerro Cayambeis an imposing extinct volcano, the third highest mountain of Ecuador and the highest point on the planet crossed by the equatorial line. It is located approximately 65 km northeast of Quito and 60 km southeast of Otavalo. On clear days, its snow-covered summit is perfectly visible from several points of the northern region. For indigenous people, due to its location and its form, Cayambe constituted an important astronomical reference and an exact agricultural calendar. Local people considered the mountain as the center of the Universe and time.
- Cotacachi Mountainwith its height of 4.939mts occupies the position N° 11 on the list of Ecuador´s highest mountains. Located 18km northwest of Otavalo, it is part of the Ecological Reserve “Cotacachi Cayapas”. For the indigenous people this mountain is a woman whose full name is: Maria Isabel Nieves Cotacachi. There are many legends regarding her love with the “taita” Imbabura. The climb to its top is of medium difficulty, compound mainly of rock and in its final part of rock and snow. It is an active volcano although there is no historical records on recent eruptions. Its crater is located towards the western side. At its western flanks it joins extensive moor areas, lagoons and cloud forest.
- Cuicocha Lakeis located 14 km northwest of Otavalo, at the base of Cotacachi Mountain. It is a deep volcanic crater that is 4km long and 3km wide. In the center of this lake are three domes of volcanic rock that form two islands covered with vegetation and separated by a water channel, called “channel of dreams”. Its name derives from a pre-inca language: “Tsui cocha” meaning “lagoon of the gods.” There is a path around the lagoon that takes about 5 hours to walk. The access road to Cotacachi Mountain departs from this path.
- Chachimbirohot springs are of volcanic origin with temperatures of 45 to 55 degrees Celsius. The water has a high level of chlorides and iron, magnesium, copper, sulfur among other minerals. The water acts as a purgative stimulant of the cardiovascular system and it has anti inflammatory effects; it also has a diuretic effect and stimulates the central nervous system. And, last but not least, Chachimbiro has all the accomodities you need to stay and feel happy.
- Cotacachi Villageis a small town of 20.000 inhabitants some 20km north of Otavalo. The town is famous for its leather goods.
- Ibarrais the capital of Imbabura province. A culinary speciality of Ibarra is Helados de Paila, a type of sorbet icecream. Made of fresh fruit, it is a must for any visitor.
- Ilumànoffers amazing walking, and a much quieter pace of life at just 15 minute bus ride from touristy Otavalo. This indigenous village is truly charming and famous for the many natural healers, or shamans, using all kind of medicinal plants and traditional cleaning rituals. There are over 100 shamans in Ilumàn´s shaman´s association.
- Museo del Pueblo Kichwa(also known as Museo Vivante) is a delightful museum a 15-minute walk from town, on the other side of the Panamerican highway. Walk northwest on Morales across the river, turn right when the road stops, and ask for directions to “la vieja fabrica”. A group of locals re-opened an old textile factory and hacienda as a living history and cultural museum. The enthusiastic Kichwa guide (a former worker at the factory) will show you traditional clothing, agricultural tools, and weaving instruments and explain his people’s holidays, weddings, and burial customs. Living history area includes weavers using backstrap and frame looms, a traditional healer’s apothecary, and a midwife’s delivery area. Tours in Spanish, unclear if English is an option. Open Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. $4.
- Other VillagesThere is a large number of villages surrounding Otavalo, Ibarra, and Cotacachi. Each village tends to specialise in the manufacture of a one particular good, e.g. weavings, rugs, embroidery, wood carvings, handicrafts made of tortora reed, and others.
In Otavalo you will find a great selection of primarily Ecuadorian indigenous art products, dominated by colorful woven products. Inspired by the transition of motives of Escher, the often brightly colored designs reflect modern interpretations of indigenous Inca art found nowhere else in Latin America. You will find many vendors who sell exactly the same, so shopping around to get the best price for your desired souvenir is all too easy. Bargaining is accepted, but as most prices are a bargain anyway, pushing the price down is not as integral to the market experience as in Oriental bazaars. Also, try to buy souvenirs directly from the people that produce them, i.e. in the surrounding villages, as many people in the market are just resellers who pay pity-prices to the actual producers. Some of the surrounding towns and villages specialize on certain materials for their handicrafts, e.g. Cotacachi (leather) or San Antonio (wood), so for those products you get more choice and probably better prices there than at the Otavalo market.