Category Archives: Ecuador

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Cajas National Park (near Cuenca, Ecuador)

For those visiting Cuenca, I highly recommend Cajas national park. Its just outside Cuenca, but offers excellent hiking and takes you a world apart. At the park entrance, you pay the fee and the park ranger will give you an excellent map and show you what hikes are available. The trails are very well marked and the scenery is simply beautiful.

Getting there

Get on a bus going to Guayaquil. It costs $2 per ride, even though its only 1/2 hour per ride (its roughly $1 for every one hour of bus rides) to get off at the entrance to the park. $2 entrance fee for maps and trash bag. Restroom facilities can be used here.
We walked the pink route which is clearly marked. This is a scenic and easy route. We packed our lunches at the hostel and stopped for lunch. Eventually you will hit the road back to Cuenca – flag any bus heading back and climb on. As easy as that!
El Cajas is beautiful and has a surprising mix of landscapes. Gentle meadows with creeks flowing through and stark mountain vistas abound. 
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Cuenca – Ecuador’s suave colonial city

Cuenca in southern Ecuador seems to have it all – cute colonial streets, a bustling plaza, good cultural scene, great restaurants and excellent weather. It was our last big city stop in Ecuador.

Cuenca is the sort of place to put on some comfortable walking shoes and just wander around. If you get bored and crave the outdoors, a 1/2 hour bus ride is Cajas National Park, which offers excellent and safe hiking. The towns of Chordeleg, Sigsig and Gualaceo are a convenient day trip to get in some small town culture. We were accompanied by our Chinese friend Bones while we were in Cuenca and we even managed to celebrate Pongal together.

A small photo tour of Cuenca:

Local sweet stall

at the plaza

Cajas NP

Waiting for the sun to rise at the bus station

Local snacks

We were just walking and saw this performance at the plaza as we passed by. No idea why.

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Visiting Mt. Chimborazo in Ecuador

Visiting Mt. Chimborazo is an unusual tourist activity. It didnt take us too long to realize that it is not typically done by most tourists. The only folks who want to visit it are serious hikers or people who have hired a car to hike some distance up the mountain and be back by evening.


Construction ongoing at park entrance, mist because of 4500+ m altitude


Getting To Riobamba:

The nearest town to Mt. Chimborazo is Riobamba, Ecuador. It is a 2 hour bus ride from Baños to Riobamba. Its very easy to find $1 taxis here, so we took one to our hotel. It is a 5 to 5.5 hour bus ride from Cuenca. 

Stay in Riombamba:

We stayed at Hostal Oasis – a nice place with pretty rooms, friendly staff and a nice courtyard. 

Eat at Riobamba:

Be wary of finding decent food in the evenings at Riobamba. All restaurants were closed. We finally stumbled upon a lady selling empañadas outside a door and on enquiry, she led us into a family run small restaurant. We quickly found ourselves being approached a friendly group of three young siblings who spoke flawless english. Daniel, the youngest, simply walked up to us and asked “Do you speak english?”

Getting to Chimborazo:

To go to Chimborazo mountain, take a bus going to Guarande from Terminal Terrestre. Buses take about 1 hour up (and 45 minutes back). The bus drops you off in the middle of nowhere, but exposes you to magnificent views of Ecuador’s tallest mountain.
From the road, you can see the entrance to the national park. In 2011, this entrance area was seeing some new construction, probably a new park entrance office with waiting area and a ranger. There are two ‘refugios’ on the mountain – refuge hut. 
  • The first hut is 8 kms from the main road, on a very steady incline. The refuge hut is a well maintained structure, with a friendly ranger who lives there several days a month and takes turns with other park rangers. He sells soup, noodles and other simple foods.
  • The second refuge hut is 200 meters higher than the first hut and is a 40-60 minute walk.
  • Both refuge huts have flush toilets. The first one also has a kitchen with snacks and hot soup for sale.
First refuge hut

Second refuge hut

Inside the refuge hut. What a haven for hikers!

Tips for Chimborazo:

Leave after a heavy breakfast. Pack lunches, snacks and water to last the day. Hike if possible, the altitude is really really high and you feel every bit of it.

What To Do in Baños, Ecuador

Baños is located on the slopes of a volcano. People here are used to volcanic activity and treat it like just another part of life. Its very common to see signs of escape routes along the town. BUT – with all that volcanic activity comes rich soil, incredible verdant scenary, great produce and a cool climate. While you enjoy that, there are all these adventure activities to try out that cost a fraction of what they cost elsewhere. Paragliding for $60? Yes!
 
Then there are the baths the town is named after. These are baths fed by thermal springs due to the volcano, but we did not get to try it out. I did go for a massage and a pedicure – massage centers and spas are plentiful, do try them out.
 
 
 
Getting there:

From Latacunga to Baños, take a bus to Ambato and then to Baños. ~2hrs and $2

To see/to do:
  • Hiked up to bellavista and back. Go straight on Av. Maldonado toward the mountain and keep going up the trail. ~40 minutes to go up. Incredible views.
  • Downhill biking. $4-$7/day. Go up to Cascada Pailon and get a truck ride back with bike for $1.50. Do not use tunnels while biking. There are paths on the side.
  • Two ways to enter cascada – When coming from Baños, enter the way after the bridge. Not before. Lot of restaurants near the restaurant for a meal before the truck ride back.
  • Canopy or bridge jumping – no need to go through a tour operator. Just go to the spot where the activity takes place and pay and do it right there. You can see all this while biking to Puyo.
To Eat:
  • Helado de Paila. Very cheap and sin leche. Ambato y Maldonado.
  • Meeting point coffee shop – owned by German (yes, no article – thats the owners name). Many veg choices. German is great to talk to. He has been all over the world. Alfaro entre Ambato y Oriente
  • Casa Hood – Great variety of vegetarian food, vegan friendly. Has a small library in the store which offers book exchange. While Swami went rafting and I didnt feel like going, I got a leisurely lunch here and then went to the spa for a massage.
  • El Paisano – Highly rated vegetarian restaurant on Tripadvisor. Offers wholesome and unprocessed meals. The friendly owner is also an artist and sells some of his artwork in the premises.
  • Cafe Good – Like casa hood and veg friendly, but we didnt eat here.
  • I saw a lot of street stalls selling jugo de caña.
  • Check out the indoor market – tons of cute stalls selling produce, juice and snacks.
MTS adventures (av 16 de deciembre y Luis A Martinez)
Rafting – $20
Ziplining – $17
Parapente/paragliging – $55
Bridgejumping – $10 while downhill biking
Downhill biking – $4/pp
 
To Stay:
 
Maria Princessa. $7 per person per room. A typical dinner at El Paisano costs $13 for two.
This is a really cool hostel – its a bit of an uphill walk from the main plaza, but Baños is so perfect, you wont mind it. The owner is Ecuadorian, but studied in Ukraine and hence fluent in Russian, English and German for some reason. Really smart and enterprising fellow. He will give you very good travel tips. Look for the wall that has greetings in all languages from past travelers. I left my mark in Tamil and Sanskrit. :)
 

Quilotoa Loop, Ecuador

Every now and then during our sojourn in South America, we’d go on a multi-day trip that leaves us disconnected from the rest of the world. When we ’emerge’ from such trips, for lack of a better word, our perspectives about life in general changes a lot – there is something about being unplugged. One such trip was the Quilotoa loop in central Ecuador.
For almost a day, Swami and I part ways where he goes trekking from one village to another and I choose to take the bus. Both of us end up having a very good experience, but I’ll mainly write about mine.

Lake Quilotoa

The loop can be anything you want – a trek, a walk, a bunch of loosely connected bumpy rides – all through the rugged countryside of central Ecuador, in Cotopaxi county. During the time we went, we saw only a handful of travelers after day one, and even those folks had hired a car for a day trip.

If you are ever in Ecuador, forget about time, go the full loop – either by road transport or by walk (if you have company) and it will show you an unforgettable side of Ecuador and travel in general. I have so much to say about these few days that I hope you will bear with me and read the entire bit.

What is the Quilotoa Loop?

It is a path that travelers take that mostly originates in Latacunga, Ecuador and winds eastward towards Laguna Quilotoa (lake Quilotoa) and after an overnight stay there, leads to the village of Chugchillan. From Chugchillan, one can go to the tiny town of Sigchos. From Sigchos there are regular buses back to Latacunga.

Laguna Quilotoa is a beautiful crater lake. The transportation in the entire circuit is very infrequent, so its best to carry warm clothing, rain proof clothes and snacks (dried fruit, bocadillo etc.).

Bus Latacunga to Quilotoa

Enroute scenery

Latacunga to Quilotoa

Latacunga is the base for this trip. Infrequent buses from Latacunga reache Quilotoa early in the afternoon – inquire at the bus stop as soon as you arrive at Latacunga. When we reached the lake, it was raining heavily. So we decided to check out one of the restaurants there. To picture the place, it really looks like the middle of nowhere with a few hotels near the entrance to the lake. The village is really small with one or two roads and a few establishments that advertise food and stay. These hotels are family owned and we stayed at Hostal Chukirawa right by the lake. The room cost includes a home cooked meal by the owners. The people here speak Quechua and are dressed in the traditional attire of a black skirt with embroidery, white blouse, colorful jewelry and long socks!

Our accommodation in Quilotoa

We walked down to the base of the lake – its about 30 minutes down and 1 hour up. The views are incredible all around – the scenery here is unparalleled. If you just want to stay here an entire day and trek the entire rim, thats possible too.

Hiking up – I am striking a pose, though in reality it is to mask my exhaustion
The path to the bus stop is on the left, the lake is on the right

Quilotoa to Chugchillan

While we were there, it rained a lot. So the following morning, amidst heavy rains, Swami spotted a couple from New Zealand who were setting out to walk to Chugchillan. We decided to part ways here. Swami continued forward by foot, while I stayed back to take only bus for the day – a 2 pm bus to Chugchillan.  But the bus can be up to one hour early! Afraid of missing the bus, I walked to the road where the bus passes, only to be met by steady rain and no place to take shelter on the isolated village road. Not even a single awning. Finally, after walking a bit more, I found a little shop, more a house really. A very small house. Two men were waiting there. After confirming that the bus is yet to pass, they invited me to share the tiny space to stay dry. Eventually, I was where I was from. (We always see wonder when we tell we are from India, and the next question invariably is how far it is to fly there.) We swapped family stories. The young Quechua man had 10 siblings! He taught me how to say a few words in Quechua. It helped pass time while the bus arrived. 
On the way during Swami’s walk

Getting stuck and unstuck in the mud

The road to Chugchillan is really bad and not a tourist in sight. The locals are mostly indigenous Quechua people living in the villages around the loop. I realized that the locals rely on this bus for so many things. It was very interesting to watch life unfold around me. Moms in their typical traditional attire cart kids around on their backs. Old men with sun ravaged skin huddle close in their jackets to stay warm. The bus is the only way to transport essentials – sacks of rice, maize, corn and even a bag of live chickens made its way to the bus. People are ever courteous – they shout “gracias” loudly to the driver when their stop comes. The gratitude comes first you see – no stop, no excuse me, just thank you.
Due to heavy rain and road building activity, the bus had to be helped out of potholes twice. Once it was helped by a forklift nearby and once all the women got out of the bus and walked ahead while the men pushed it out of the pothole. People do this all like clockwork – clearly they didnt get stuck for the first time. 
Elsewhere, such delays would be inconceivable. I cant help but marvel at how easy people take things far far away from big cities. My camera stayed inside all this time due to the rains, so my words will just have to suffice in painting the picture my mind now sees.
A $1 ride that I will never forget!
When I reach Chugchillan, I see Swami waiting for me by the road. He had secured a place to stay at the lovely Mama Hilda hostel. I was ready to wind down for the day. We settle by the fire in the common room, swap stories over hot tea and relax for the rest of the day.
mama hilda hostel

Chugchillan to Sigchos – riding in the back of a milk truck

After a beautiful, refreshing stay at Chugchillan’s Mama Hilda Hostal, we get to know that we can take the milk truck back to Sigchos. The milk truck is our only way as the bus to Sigchos goes past at 4 AM!!! Yes, 4 AM. But the milk truck goes by Chugchillan anywhere between 8.30 and 9.30 AM. After breakfast, we wait for the milk truck from 8 AM. It finally makes it way after a long wait. Turns out, the milk truck is the way all the locals sell their milk. There are huge containers in the truck and it makes frequent stops all along the way and collects milk in anything from plastic water bottles to huge metal tins. The milk is then filtered through a cloth into a tub and there are many such tubs. People huddle around the bus to catch a ride and so did we. The ride to Sigchos was an adventure by itself. At Sigchos, we found a place to eat – we had the company of the Kiwi couple, who we’d continue to meet during our travels – all the way south in Patagonia!
Milk Truck
Ecuadorian ladies and a milk truck
Milk truck!
From Sigchos, there are many buses to Latacunga. Just find the way to the bus terminal and ask!

Complete Guide to Quilotoa Loop, Ecuador

Some information about the Quilotoa Loop and how to go about doing it. There are many ways to do it. Here, with this plan, you can do it even if you do not want to trek, but just want a very different experience.

Nearest big city is Latacunga. From the terrace of Hostal Tiana, you can get a clear view of the Cotopaxi. Latacunga has a vibrant market and plenty of ‘peluquerias’. 

Quito to Latacunga:

From Quito’s Terminal Quitumba – its the last stop on the troll bus on circuits C2 and C4. Buses are color coded and 25 c a ride. Wait for empty trole. 1.50 ticket + 0.20 terminal fee. Really swanky bus terminal. Looks better than many airports sans long security lines. Ticket counter 20/21 have tickets for Latacunga. 1.5 hr bus ride. Hostal Tiana very cute place to stay. Bunks are really spacious and have reading lamps.

Quilotoa:

  • Bus from Latacunga departs at 11 AM. Terminal #16 Vivero bus.
  • Bus costs $2.50 per person and there is a bus later in the afternoon. There is also a minivan that leaves for Latacunga around 3 PM.
  • Around 1.30 PM to 2.30 PM, there is a bus that goes to Chugchillan from Quilotoa. Need to wait from 1.30 pm on the street.
  • Latacunga to Quilotoa bus timings – 10, 11.30, 2 and 3.30
  • Hostal Chukirawa @ $10/person including breakfast and dinner. Clean rooms. 

Chugchillan:

  • Mama Hilda hostel – food + stay @ $30/2 people. There are other hostels too.
  • Lovely hostel with great hosts
  • Milk truck leaves at 8.30-9.30 AM in the morning to Sigchos. Or early AM bus ~ 4.30 AM. $2/person.
  • Bus ride to Chugchillan @ $1

Sigchos:

  • Bus from Latacunga to Sigchos @ $1.80/person. Easily available from the bus terminal. 
  • We walked into a nice restaurant at Sigchos and requested them to make me a vegetarian meal. $3.60 for 2.

Ecuador-Peru Border Crossing at Zumba/San Ignacio/La Balsa

Of all the border crossings to enter Peru from Ecuador, this is probably the least traveled route. It is also the longest and quite tricky and requires a good deal of patience. Plus point though is that it is very scenic, no one fleeced us and it was like an adventure.
Highlights:
  • (all costs are for two people)
  • Overnight bus from Vilcabamba to Zumba in 6 hours – $13
  • Collectivo or taxi to La Balsa (border village) $18
  • Cross the border to Peru
  • Take a collectivo to San Ignacio 28 soles
  • Take a moto taxi in San Ignacio to the terminal for a mini bus to Jaen
  • Mini bus to Jaen costs 24 soles
  • Stay at Hotel Jaen – 40 soles for a private room with bathroom
  • Next day morning – collective to Bagua Grande – 12 soles
  • Another collective to Chachapoyas – 42 soles
  • Pack plenty of snacks. There is no food in any of the stops along the way, especially vegetarian. I recommend bread, cookies and the likes.
Vilcabamba to La Balsa, Ecuador
This border crossing was the nearest to Vilcabamba and its valley of longevity. After a really relaxing meal of locally produced Tofu at Vilcabamba, we walked to the bus stop to board our 10.30 PM overnight bus to Zumba. The trip ended up taking over 10 hours instead of the usual 6 hours because there was a road block due to landslide along the way. Since the bus couldn’t go anywhere and no one would clear the remote mountain road in the middle of the night, the driver turned off the engine and went to sleep! There were only a handful of people in the bus.
Waiting for the road block to be cleared:

Because of this delay, we reached Zumba at 8 AM and missed an earlier collective that goes to the border, La Balsa. We were tired and hungry when we got off. Finally we brokered a deal with the taxi driver to take us to a place for breakfast and then on to the border. The bus terminal at Zumba was so spanking new that restrooms were not yet open to the public. There was one restaurant, but they didn’t have any usual breakfast items. But they did have a tourist booth, where we were handed tourist maps and ostensibly made to sign the tourist register.

The new terminal at Zumba:
Enroute from Zumba to La Balsa:
The taxi driver took us to a spotless little restaurant with an equally clean bathroom, where we got a chance to freshen up and eat. Zumba is very scenic and so untouched. The taxi ride to the border was fun and roads weren’t great, but the driver chatted with us the entire way and played his favorite music from a little pen drive. We passed a checkpoint where a cop checked out our passports and then we arrived at ‘La Balsa’. La Balsa is a street with a few shops and the immigration building. Just beyond is a bridge that goes to the Peruvian side. There are a few exchange shops, a couple of stalls to buy snacks. The immigration building is like a small store and was locked when we walked up to it. Yes, locked! After a few minutes, a guy with full army gear slowly walked up to us and gave us a cheerful grin. He said hello and proceeded to open the locked door to the office. He stamped us out and we were on our way in less than a minute. When we walked to the border-bridge, it was quite empty with no tourist in sight.
Immigration officer fully decked out in army gear:
Spotted: in the Peruvian immigration police checkpoint – Taj Mahal on the calendar
Onwards to the Peruvian Side and Jaen
The Peruvian side seemed even more relaxed. A group of people were standing and chatting. We blithely walked up to them and asked for the way to the immigration office. One guy seperated from the group and nodded his head towards a small building. We then noticed the text on his jacket “migracion”. He stamped us in and sent us to the police booth across the street about 100 meters away. This immigration guy even helped us get a cab to San Ignacio.
I had to hold this cute Peruvian baby in the collectivo while the mom sorted out her things. She just got in, placed the baby on my lap with a smile and started settling herself and then took the baby back.
Collectivo to Jaen:
  • After two collectivo rides, we finally reached Jaen. Be careful about prices you pay everywhere. Make sure you agree on a price before hand.
  • In Jaen, try Hotel Jaen or Hotel Cesar on the main road close to the bus stand. Bargain for hotel rooms.
  • Jaen has a chifa where we got vegetarian food. We also noticed a vegetarian restaurant, but it was closed.
  • After dinner, we walked to the plaza de armas in Jaen. It is very pleasantly crowded and fun to people watch.
Jaen to Chachapoyas, Peru
We needed a break from the non stop monotony of collectivos. The night stay at Jaen did the trick. After breakfast at a coffee shop in the morning, we took a collectivo from near the bus stand to Bagua Grande (6 soles per person, ~ 3 hrs). Bagua Grande was hot and dusty with nothing to eat. We found a collectivo to Chachapoyas, but had to wait for it to fill up before we could leave. 21 soles per person, ~ 2 hours. Pack food and drinks in Jaen.
Finally in Chachapoyas:

How much does backpacking in South America cost for a couple?

Whenever the topic of long term travel comes up, a lot of people are curious about how much it costs. Long term travel has the reputation of being really expensive, versus say, living at one place for the same duration of time. However, we found out that compared to living at one place, paying rent and utilities and eating out, its not that much more expensive. It could even cost the same or less, depending on your lifestyle! The big difference, however, is the fact that you are earning a steady income while at home and unless you are a really talented writer or one of those people with really flexible remote consulting jobs, your income on the road takes a hit.
CostOfSouthAmericaTravel
I thought I’d dispel some myths about how long term travel is not so far reaching after all, by sharing some real numbers about how much our four-month-south-america trip actually cost. Here is a high level overview:
We spent $13952 for 133 days of travel.
I have dissected the cost in a couple of different ways below and all figures are for two people and in USD in the year 2011-2012.
Cost By Category
Airfares (both to and fro and within South America) – 2,947
Food (includes groceries) – 2,143
Trip insurance (the best money we ever spent)  – 756
Post-Loss – replacement passports, replacement American visas, new airfares as we had to reschedule old flights – 1,575
Miscellaneous – 437
Shopping – 347
Sightseeing – (also includes the cost for 14 nights of stay due to various trips and treks) – 1,637
Stay – (Does not include stays incorporated as a part of multi day trips with stay-included fares) – 1,974
Transportation (non-plane and includes several overnight buses and one overnight train) – 1,747
Visas – 390
Grand Total – 13,952
If we hadn’t lost our backpack in Calama, Chile, we would have saved at least $1575. We also lot a lost more in sheer value of goods lost. This cost is only for TRIP INTERRUPTION, which is the extra amount we spent only for identification documents and rescheduled air fares. I am not even counting the money spent in food and shelter or transportation to two different embassies.
Cost By Country (ONLY includes categories: food, miscellaneous, shopping, sightseeing, stay and transportation)
Bolivia – 693 in 24 days @ $29/day
Chile – 2,703 in 30 days @ $90/day
Colombia – 1,630 in 26 days @ $63/day
Ecuador – 1,183 in 22 days @ $54/day
Peru – 1,886 in 31days @ $61/day
Total for basic travel expenses – 8095 in 133 days @ $61/day
Lowest Hotel rate per night – $4 for a very clean lake view basic room on the shores of Isla Del Sol, Bolivia
Highest hotel rate per night – $81 at La Casa De Mireya in San Pedro De Atacama, Chile
Average hotel rate per night – $21
Average hotel rate per night if we didn’t stay in Chile – $17
Number of ATM withdrawals – 49
Amount in ATM fees – $78 (all refunded back to us thanks to an excellent debit card)
Since we lost our stuff our morale was a bit on the lower side and we were really busy collecting documentation for replacing our belongings, we were less diligent about tracking our expenses in Bolivia. Even if I padded my expenses in Bolivia by a generous 10%, the cost per day will still only go up to ~ $33/day and thats for two people.

How did we travel?

These numbers dont mean a lot unless they impart some sense of how we travel. For lodging, we usually chose hostels or small family run guesthouses. In expensive cities, we went with bunk beds and while mostly we had private rooms. In Bolivia and Peru, we almost always had a private room with a private/shared bathroom.

We cooked a lot at hostels, got groceries such as bread, fruit, vegetables, rice and pasta. However, whenever we spotted a vegetarian restaurant, we had at least one meal there. We heavily favored Hare Krishna restaurants in the cities for their reasonably priced, vegan friendly, set lunches. In Bolivia, we ate a lot at markets as you could coffee, bread, juice and api (corn meal porridge) at really low prices.

Transportation – almost always public buses/metros and collectivos. We took taxis when we had to go to bus stand or airport to go to a different city. Long distance buses were mostly semi cama or sometimes cama (fully reclined seats).

Sightseeing – apart from the jungle trips and treks, we mostly organized our own tours. We took public buses to places of attraction and did our own ‘sightseeing’. However, sometimes we’d book a tour from the hostel if its convenient and includes transport and fees.

Where to stay in South America

We loved most of the hostels we stayed in South America. I added a page with a list of hostels we stayed in.

Our prerequisites:

  • clean beds and bathrooms
  • wifi
  • kitchen to cook meals
  • not a party hostel with teenagers and early 20 somethings
We would choose a dorm room or a private room depending on the price. In big cities, we tended to go towards dorm rooms (4-bed dorms), while in countries like Peru and Bolivia, we almost entirely stayed in private rooms.

You can find the list of hotels/hostels here.

Otavalo’s Saturday Market

I was really looking forward to Otavalo’s saturday market. I had read somewhere that its South America’s largest outdoor market and boy, its huge. There are rows and rows of stalls spread out across the entire town on Saturdays, filled with tourists of all shapes, sizes and nationalities. Bargaining doesnt work well at all and I suspect this is due to most tourists paying whats asked for. Stalls sell really beautiful scarves, beaded jewelry, purses and bags of all shapes and sizes

Getting there:

We went to the Otavalo from Tulcan at the Colombia-Ecuador border. Cross the border at Ipiales and arrive on Ecuadorian side. Get a collective for 75 cents to Tulcan. From the Tulcan bus stop, a bus to Otavalo will cost approximately $3 for a 3 hour ride. Pay the fare after you see the bus and make sure it looks okay. As you approach the bus stop, you will be approached by bus company agents asking you if Otavalo is your destination.

Stay:

In Otavalo, we stayed at Hostal Valle Del Amanecer on Calle Roca y Quiroga. Its a nice little place with clean bathrooms, no kitchen, good breakfast and a shaded central courtyard to sit and relax. Saturday is the best day to experience the market and the animal market (which we did not get to see). Go prepared with plenty of change and will power – you’ll need it if you dont want to shop too much.

Otavalo is home to a successful indigenous community who still pride on their traditional ways. You’ll find otavalenos wearing traditional clothing, super cool bead jewelry and travelling in really modern cars. Multiple strings of golden beads are really common:

Stalls selling really beautiful and colorful art:
Not just home decor, but also incredibly fresh looking produce:

Irresistible pink cheeked babies: