In isolated highland regions, village markets are the lifeblood of the local community. They are liveliest in the hours just after dawn, when indigenous farmers and traders in traditional costume arrive by the busload, laden down with fresh produce or livestock to sell and awaiting the latest gossip from neighbouring villages.
We asked our local experts on the ground, out in Ecuador, to share their knowledge and experiences of visiting seven of Ecuador’s lesser-known markets.
The feedback is as follows:
1. Latacunga: This is a very colourful market full of local people trading meat, fruits and vegetables. It is very interesting to observe the local dishes on offer in the market, and learn about the ingredients they use for their typical meals.
2. Guano: It is a small town, just a few kilometres northeast of Riobamba. The town is dominated by the manufacturing of floor carpets. On market day you will find not only fresh fruit and vegetable stalls, but also an abundance of handmade carpets.
3. Pujili: This market is very rich in history and culture. The majority inhabitants in Pujili are indigenous, and the best time to see local customs and clothing is on market days. This is a very authentic market where men and women from surrounding villages pack up their llamas and burros early in the morning and come to the market to trade their extra production. This market is also known due to the clay pottery and ceramics also sold at the market.
4. Saquisili: Similar to Pujili, this is a market rich in history and culture. Vendors arrive very early in the morning to trade anything, from pots and pans, to pigs and goats, and colourful, handmade handicrafts. The market is well known for its livestock section. Food stalls will sell a variety of local specialties, while the local butcher slaughters pigs, cattle and sheep on site to sell off piece by piece.
5. Salcedo: This is a nice craft market where you can find ponchos, hats, burros and local produce. It is not a big market. It is not indigenous in the main, but nice to visit and check out the fresh local products and observe the way Ecuadorians trade.
6. Machachi: This market is full of every variety of fresh fruit and produce which you sometimes cannot even track down in Quito! It’s very colorful as well, not as indigenous as those markets at Cotopaxi, but nonetheless very popular.
7. Salasaca: This is an authentic market. It is located in a village inhabited by about 2,000 Salasaca indigenous people. This community was almost unknown to the world until 40 years ago. It is known for beautiful hand-woven fabrics and tapestries; from carpets to alpaca sweaters. Most of the tapestries feature designs that depict different aspects of the lives of the people and so they have an artistic aspect to them as well as a functional one. Sometimes you can also listen to the local Salasacas performing, filling the air with their traditional music.
We can arrange for you to visit any or all of the markets above in which you will gain a fascinating insight into Ecuador's rural life.
Key to note which markets run on which days:
Tuesdays: Latacunga & Guano
Fridays: None - watch out!
Saturday: Latacunga & Salcedo
Sundays: Pujili, Machachi & Salcedo