Market in Otavalo

Image by Robert Hamm 500px

This is the reason everyone comes to town. For centuries, Otavalo has hosted one of the most important markets in the Andes, a weekly fiesta that celebrates the gods of commerce. Vendors hawk a dizzying array of traditional crafts as well as an ever-increasing number of slyly disguised imports. Saturday is the big day, but the market runs all week.

The market has become a must-see tourist destination. It certainly feels light years away from the tiny town backpackers visited in the early 1990s. But don't let its popularity dissuade you. Otavaleños and indígena (indigenous) people from the surrounding villages still wear traditional clothing – women in embroidered white blouses, long wool skirts, fachalinas (headcloths), woven belts, canvas sandals and strands of beads; and men in felt hats, blue ponchos and calf-length pants, hair braided in one long strand. And while certainly many struggle to profit from their crafts, Otavaleños are the most commercially successful indígena people in Ecuador.