The villages of Peguche, Agato, Illuman, San Roques and Carabuela are among the most distinguished in the country. Weaving is a family affair. The elder artisans pass their skills along to the younger generations, male and female alike, each with his or her own tasks based upon many generations of tradition. The types of materials, colors and patterns used often reflect the cultural identity of the weavers.
The Pre-Hispanic tradition of textile production was continued during colonial times in the form of forced labor, but today weavers from these areas are among the most successful in the country and are proud to have achieved an impressive level of prosperity and notoriety even on an international level.
You may visit the homes and workshops of the artisans and observe from start to finish the processes of brushing, dying (with natural plant based dyes), spinning and weaving of wool into exquisite tapestries, ponchos, sweaters, blankets and scarves woven on traditional back strap and Spanish looms. You may also visit the homes of skilled knitters, basket makers, and wool felt hat-makers. You will become familiar with the traditional dress of the kichwa people and it’s cultural significance which dates back to pre-Columbian times.
Excellent guided tours of the indigenous villages are available where you will learn not only about these fascinating artistic processes, but also about village life itself and how these crafts form an integral part of village life and culture. You are welcome to buy directly from the artisans. For the interested traveler, we can arrange a visit to a local shaman can participate in local rituals of healing and learn about the medicinal properties of local plants.
About a half hour away, the towns of San Antonio and Cotacachi specialize in woodcarving and leather crafts respectively. The traditional music of the Andes may be heard in the streets of Otavalo and in the countryside, as well as in restaurants, hotels and peñas (folk music clubs). Just outside of town, there are wonderful roads and paths to be hiked, biked or explored by horse. Visitors will observe traditional homes, farms and fields in a stunning patchwork along steep mountain slopes. Nearby waterfalls and two high altitude crater lakes, Mojanda and Cuicocha, provide stunning scenery and hiking opportunities as well as spectacular bird and plant life.
San Pablo Lake, visible from the Pan-American Highway, upon entering Otavalo from Quito, is surrounded by Indian villages and sits at the base of Imbabura, the mountain for which the province was named. The three highest peaks in the province, Cotacachi, Imbabura, and Fuya-Fuya, are all visible from Otavalo on a clear day, and can be climbed without technical expertise or equipment, although a guide is well advised for Cotacachi. Fuya-Fuya, the double peak above Lake Mojanda, is an enjoyable short climb with views comparable to those of the higher peaks.
Although the market is reason enough to come to Otavalo, the many and varied attractions of this area are reasons to plan to spend a week or two exploring… by foot, by bike, by vehicle and by horseback!