Markets in Ecuador

Otavalo market

Home to what may be the largest and most visited indigenous craft market in all South America, Otavalo on a Saturday morning is an unforgettable experience. The cornucopia of crafts fills the streets: paintings, jewellery, weavings, baskets, leather goods, hats, wood carvings, ceramics, antiques and almost anything else you can think of. Market traders come from all over Ecuador, and beyond. It’s
worth arriving early, so consider staying in Otavalo on Friday night.

Saquisilí market

Fewer visitors make it to Saquisilí than to Otavalo, and the Thursday market here is primarily for the indigenous locals. The streets throng with colourfully dressed highlanders from surrounding communities, with their red ponchos and felt hats. In addition to produce, most goods for sale here are utilitarian but you can also find shigras (crocheted shoulder bags), shawls, blankets and other textiles and ornamental crafts.

Guamote market

The Thursday market in the central highlands town of Guamote is even farther off the beaten path and sees few outside visitors. Animals and local produce, including an impressive selection of local potatoes, are the main items here. The indigenous highland atmosphere is thoroughly authentic.

Sombreros de paja toquilla

These most typical of Ecuadorean crafts are ironically known around the world as Panama hats. Montecristi, near Manta, is famous for the outstanding quality of its hats. They are also woven in the highlands, especially the provinces of Azuay and Cañar, near Cuenca, which is the main site of factories producing the hats and home to numerous shops selling them.


The tagua or ivory nut is a palm which grows below 1200 m on both the eastern and western slopes of the Andes. During the late 1800s, its very hard creamy white seeds, known as vegetable ivory, were used to make buttons and toys. Toward the end of the 20th century, the tagua tradition was revived and Ecuador produces a wonderful variety of tagua crafts.

Bread figurines

Calderón, just north of Quito, is the place where figurines are made of bread dough. The original edible guaguas de pán ('bread kids') were placed in cemeteries on Finados (Day of the Dead) as offerings to hungry souls of the departed. Today they include a variety of themes, the Nativity collection is especially popular and attractive.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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