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Otavalo tourism

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The beautiful and green valley of Otavalo is located in Northern Ecuador at an altitude of 2,565 metres.

Surrounded by picturesque Andean landscapes and inhabited by creative people, Otavalo is one of the most important destinations in Ecuador.

During your visit you can enjoy a great variety of cultural activities, go shopping and relax in the beautiful surroundings.

Handicrafts Market

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Otavalo is famous worldwide for its handicrafts market, that offers you an infinite variety of products, created by the hands of expert artisans.

Otavalo has been a very important commercial center with its textile production since prehispanic times. It has become a meeting point for the different cultural groups from the various regions of Ecuador.

In this market you can find a great variety of textile products, woodcrafts, carvings, jewelry, antiques, blankets, tapestries, traditional musical instruments, ponchos and much more. You can also find products from neighboring countries such as Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Colombia. The handicraft market is open every day but Saturday is the main market day.

San Pablo Lake

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The beautiful San Pablo Lake is located 3km from Otavalo at the foot of Volcano Imbabura inhabited by local indigenous groups, Kichwa Otavalo and Kichwa Cayambi. The water temperature is 8°C and a depth of 48 meters.

Around the lake grows the ´totora´ plant, a natural fibre used locally to build boats for transport on the lake; this material is also used to make mats, baskets and different types of handicrafts. You can do different activities such as aquatic sports like swimming, water skiing, rowing, windsurfing, kayaking and fishing.

´Totora´ handicrafts of San Rafael

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In this small village, located near to San Pablo Lake, since ancient times local people have built special boats to navigate the lake, later they started to produce useful handicrafts like fans and mats. This development was useful to provide flooring for their homes against the cold but as well as having a domestic use for fanning fires and matting, it became used for decoration too.

Pucara de Rey Loma

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Is a cultural, historical and archaeological attraction, 4km from Otavalo and located at the highest point between San Pablo Lake and Otavalo.

There is a view point where you can see San Pablo Lake and the Otavalo valley. At the highest point you can find a manmade mound built from stones and earth where various rituals took place many years ago. On the mound you will find the ancient tree called ´El Lechero´. The ancient terraces that still exist were used at times of war as strategic observation posts from where they used to throw huge stones against the enemy and at times of peace they were used as agricultural terraces.

From Puertolago you can reach here by car in 15 minutes on the west side of San Pablo Lake.

Condor Park

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Located very close to Pucara de Rey Loma, the Condor Park is an interesting refuge for Andean birds that have been rescued or donated by different zoos.

Amongst this collection, the majestic Condor stands out, which you can appreciate up close. There are two daily flying demonstrations of specially trained eagles where you can see its incredible ability as a hunting bird.

Mojanda lakes

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Located 17km south of Otavalo, this beautiful volcanic crater is at the top of the mountain area called Mojanda Cajas. There are three lakes at an altitude of 3,715 meters surrounded by natural grassland.

The stunning landscape is the main attraction of this place. You can climb to the highest point that is around the lake called Fuya-Fuya (4,263 meters) and from there you can see all the northern mountains of Ecuador. Bird watching is especially good here and you can occasionally see the Condor in its natural environment.

Peguche waterfall

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Peguche Waterfall is located between the indigenous communities of Agato and Peguche and a small distance from Otavalo, surrounded by 40 hectares of Eucalyptus forest. The area is a special recreation area for locals and an important tourist attraction.

This protected forest is surrounded by beautiful landscape and is a great place to take a walk on its many trails or bicycle to the nearby San Pablo Lake. 
At the season of the Inti Raymi festivities in June, this is a very important place for the local indigenous communities in the area where they perform their important rituals on the banks of the waterfall.

During Carnaval in February it is a very popular place for locals and foreigners to play the national game of throwing water at each other and relax. At this time thousands of people gather at this place.

Imbabura volcano

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This important attraction is the centerpiece of the magnificent local landscape between the west and eastern ranges of the Andes. It is a great attraction that can be viewed from afar and from many different angles, such as when you are climbing to the summit or from the various walks around, on mountain bikes and on horseback. The climb to the summit attracts climbers with little experience or for those wishing to acclimatize to high altitudes.

Imbabura Volcano, also has important cultural value for the people who are settled in the local area. In prehispanic times it was known as ´Apukkuna´ by the local population who considered it as the ´taita´ or ´father´ and has given the idea to many legends and beliefs.

URBAN ATTRACTIONS

San Luis church

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This cultural historical attraction of religious architecture is located in the town of Otavalo, on the main city square. It was the first church to be built and baptized for the Franciscanos; it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1868 and rebuilt in 1890, nowadays it is the main church in the town and was restored again after a tremor in 1987. The style of the church is Renaissance with a central tower and three bodies, it uses roman arches.

El Jordan church

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The main façade has been conserved and the naves have been reconstructed while around the church has been modernized with modern buildings. The church was built in 1925 with the convent of San Francisco but in the foundations stones from Inca buildings have also been found.

CULTURAL FESTIVITIES

Pawkar Raymi, Peguche

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This is a key event that has become an important cultural tradition for the indigenous communities in the rural area and is celebrated around the time of Carnaval (February).

It is organized annually with a cultural events programme highlighting the traditions of Otavalo, together with the Indigenous Football Championships which attracts a great number of people, both national and foreigners.

Inti Raymi

This is a cultural festival that is celebrated in all the indigenous communities of Ecuador, Peru and parts of Bolivia that are found in the Andes. On the 24 June, this cultural celebration in Otavalo, has conserved its very traditional features. It celebrates the summer solstice and forthcoming good times; on the 24 June, local indigenous groups come together in various costumes, with masks, Aya-huma disguises, huge hats, military helmets, etc. and others come dressed as women!

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The leader of the group is always dressed as Aya-huma (head of the natural spirits). Every group has musicians with them and they leave their communities dancing to Otavalo singing all the way in Quichua.

They pass through the streets and plazas of Otavalo to the San Juan church; the festivities continue for three days and nights and then they return to their communities where they go on for more than ten more days. The most important character is ´Aya-huma´ who on the night before the 24 June takes a bath in the waterfall or hot springs, to acquire power and energy from nature and to clean the spirit.

Yamor festival

This is celebrated annually in Otavalo during the first two weeks of September. It is an event to celebrate the local ´mestizo´ (Spanish descendants) culture which is promoted and known nationally and internationally. A key feature of the festivities is ´la chichi del Yamor´, a traditional drink made from five different types of corn. The municipality of Otavalo leads and manages the festivities and organizes a number of cultural and sporting events that attract thousands of tourists, national and international.

The most important events of interest are:

  • The night parade
  • 4x4 driving competition
  • Swimming race across the San Pablo Lake
  • The election and coronation of the Queen of Yamor
  • Cultural activities
  • Other special programmes
  • Traditional cuisine
 
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