Ecuador's Northern Craft Villages


The country’s top arts and crafts attraction is the Saturday market in the town of Otavalo. Villagers come here from throughout the region to sell their handmade wares. Otavalo also is enjoyed by hikers who come for the volcanoes and crater lakes.

Souvenirs Galore

Travelers who wish to explore beyond Otavalo can visit the villages where many of the items sold at the Otavalo crafts market are made. The first stop heading north from Quito is the town Calderon, just six miles from the capital. Calderon is famous for its handmade ornaments. Shops sell edible varieties for the country’s Day of the Dead celebration, baked into a variety of shapes, including dolls and llamas. The villagers also make inedible dough shapes mixed with glue for durability, marzipan figurines and wooden shapes that make colorful Christmas tree ornaments and popular souvenirs.

Watching Crafts Made

Arriving in the highland valley where Otavalo is located, visitors on Ecuador tours will find some seventy-five villages dotting the countryside. Some are known for a particular craft and one can oftentimes watch items being made. Peguche is a twenty-minute drive north of Otavalo. This village is known around the world for its quality of weavings and musical ensembles that tour internationally. Visitors may purchase wooden musical instruments such as panpipes. Like Otavalo, Peguche’s market is held on Saturday.

Shopping for Leather Goods

Ten miles northwest of Otavalo is the indigenous village of Cotacachi where leather goods are the specialty, from belts to briefcases. During travel to Ecuador, there is no better place to buy quality leather items, including clothing, at very affordable prices. Market day is Sunday, but goods are sold every day in the open air market and the town’s many shops.

Where To Buy a Fedora

If a fedora is on your list of must-have souvenirs during your travel to Ecuador, chances are it will have been made in the tiny village of Iluman, located between Otavalo and Cotacachi, four miles north of Otavalo. Illuman’s craftsmen make various styles of the felt wool hats seen all over Ecuador. Here it is possible to watch hats being made on wooden molds and have a custom hat made just for you. Iluman is also home to many shamans.

Twenty to thirty minutes north of Otavalo by car is San Antonio de Ibarra, known for its wood and stone carving. Visitors may watch artisans carving a wide range of items on religious and secular themes, from boxes and wooden toys that fit into a suitcase to furniture and large heavy abstract sculpture pieces that won’t. Five miles east of Otavalo, the village of Agato is known for its woven textiles made on backstrap and Spanish looms. A few miles east of Agato is Zuleta where the village women embroider blouses and tablecloths among other articles.

Travelers may choose from a number of Southern Exploration’s Ecuador tours that travel to Otavalo and some that visit other craft villages in the region too.