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Otavalo is famous for it's Saturday market, that's right! But did you know that the market takes place every day and that the Saturday market is just the biggest one of the week? Did you also know that the market is just one attraction and Otavalo has a lot more to offer?
A lot of people don't! Too many travelers take a one-day tour from Quito and see the highlights in a few hours time. What a way to travel! Take some time, relax, enjoy Otavalo and its surroundings during the week, in weekends, whenever you want.
Because Imbabura is the province of the lakes, there are some beautifull ones near by:
* The Mojanda lakes with its Fuya Fuya volcano. You can hike around the lakes, take horseback riding tours, or climb the volcano. With a little luck you'll see the Andean Condor.
* The Cuicocha lake with the Cotacachi volcano. You can hike around this lake in 4-5 hours, or just take a little walk, you'll find some amazing flowers and plants. On Sunday's take a boat trip to the small islands in the middle of the lake and experience what it's like floating above a working volcano (the lake is actually in a crater of the Cuicocha volcano).
* The San Pablo lake with the Imbabura volcano. Lovely views, and good hikes through a lot of villages.
And what about the Parque Cóndor, a birds rescue center of on top of a mountainhill above Otavalo. Of course including the Andean Cóndor. They have flight shows twice a day, the entrance is minimum and the views great. You can hike here or take a taxi for about $ 4,00.
The Peguche Waterfall is worth a visit too, a short cab ride or long-ish walk from the Market. It's a short hike up to a lovely waterfall, and on the way up there is an amazing little Incan 'museum'. It's hard to call it a museum, but it is an authentic (probably) Incan cave and there is a really nice guy who will tour you through the cave (by candlelight!) for a dollar or so. You actually walk through the cave and climb out at the top, via a 'ladder to the sun'. (This is a journey only for the sure-footed and if you're afraid of the dark or closed spaces, skip it.) But for others, it's an unexpected slice of Ecuadoran history.
Or Cotacachi, on a 30 minute distance, Ecuadors leather center. High quality goods for a good price. Besides that, Cotacachi is a nice place to visit: try the local typical dish: Carne colorado, but ask around for the best place.
San Antonio de Ibarra is another shopping town, here you'll find the wood carvers, and you can find some real peace of art if you look good. (30 minutes from Otavalo).
Taking a tour you can visit the indigenous villages around Otavalo, where the weavers work and you'll find the real handmade work.