Set off on a variety-packed full day exploration of the Andean highlands, discovering traditional villages and mountain landscapes as well as the world-famous market town Otavalo.
Cayambe is a large town overlooked by the snowy bulk of the volcano of the same name.The mountain’s icy flanks contrast with the gentle dairy cattle pastures and flower plantation below. Your route then takes you alongside the silvery waters of Lake San Pablo, the largest natural lake in the country.
Continue to Otavalo, a growing, bustling town with tourism at its core. Long celebrated for its Saturday and Tuesday market, its main square is flooded with stalls and salespeople on those days. Originally the articles sold were household goods, livestock, foodstuffs and traditional clothing for the population of the town and the villages within its hinterland, and business was done by bartering. The indigenous Otavaleños, easily identified by their striking blue and white attire, are famous for their business acumen and have for many decades travelled beyond the country’s frontiers seeking our new markets.
Nowadays the market is well absorbed into the cash (and credit card) economy, and alongside the colourful textiles, intricate jewellery, woollen bags and paintings of bucolic local landscapes you will find Manchester United football shirts and base-ball caps made in China.
Move on to Peguche, a settlement famed for the manufacture of Andean musical instruments – visit a traditional workshop here - and thence to Cotacachi, where the speciality is leather goods. You might pick up a bargain here.