Otavalo is the city of striking colors, delicate crafts and skilled artisans. We love to visit the local fair hosted in Plaza de Ponchos. Read about our experience!
As you make your way through the Plaza de Ponchos you will be surrounded by stands decorated with colorful displays. Vivid hammocks hang from the sides of the stands and hand embroidered center pieces are exhibited in a parade of colors and textures.
At the side of each stand, either sitting on a chair working or standing next to their work, are the artisans. Men and women wear their thick black hair in a braid, and the women decorate themselves with their elegant “gualcas” -gold necklaces that symbolize the richness of corn.
An Interactive Experience
Part of the experience of visiting the Plaza de Ponchos is talking to these kind hard workers who will gladly tell you their story. This interaction from vendor to buyer helps you appreciate and recognize the effort they put into each of their pieces. We were impressed to talk to Maria, who told us she spends an entire day on a single necklace! It is impressive to notice how fast their work pace is: the necklace you got today will be replaced with a new necklace tomorrow. From beautiful necklaces to embroidered cushions you will notice the dedication and the meticulous execution of their merchandise. Their unique designs are present in all kinds of textiles: hats, blouses, pants, ponchos, scarves and alpargatas.
The artisans either have workshops on streets nearby or take the bus every morning to bring their products and mount their display. Often, they have a family business which has been passed on from generations before. It is interesting to talk about this inheritance with the artisans they are very proud of their family achievement, their talents, their culture and their craft.
Otavalo Fair: World Renowned
The indigenous market is known worldwide and fascinates tourists- both national and international. Besides from its captivating displays, placid environment and wide array of products, the ability of Otavalo locals to preserve their culture and adapt it to the present is admirable. If you pay attention when you walk through the streets, you will notice that many still dress in their distinguished embroidered shirts, which are central to their identity.
The fair is held on Saturday, when the plaza is filled with tourists who roam the streets, eating delicious chochos while they explore the artisanal fair.
However, everyday here is fair day. During the week there is a smaller scale of items exposed but don’t worry, there is always variety and you can find almost everything you would typically see at the Saturday fair. The advantage: there are fewer crowds.
Regardless of the day, do not hesitate to stop in Otavalo during your stay, as you make your way through the Imbabura province. This city has a lot to offer, including delightful coffee shops, excellent restaurants and live entertainment!