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Otavalo is a small town just 3 hours from the northern border of Ecuador. If you are coming from Colombia, it is a great stop off before heading to Quito, or you can easily make it a day trip from the capital. Home to South America’s Largest street market, it is a site to see. Though there is a smaller market weeklong, when the weekend rolls around, the main square and all the streets radiating out from it fill up with stall upon stall, teeming with goods and a hustling atmosphere. There you can find just about anything, from unique spices to alpaca sweaters. The market is particularly known for its pure silver jewelry, mined and fashioned in the region.

Feel free to haggle and bargain, because the vendors generally start with a marked up price. Just remember that in the end, a dollar is worth more to the locals than to you.

Unlike other markets that tend to feel staged, Otavalo feels very authentic. You won’t just find tourists purchasing wares, and it is a great place to get beautiful hand-crafted gifts for your loved ones back home.

If you want an even more authentic experience, there is also an animal market every saturday from 8-12. Though you may catch a few tourists with cameras in hand, mostly you get to see locals from all around the region buying and selling livestock.

Otavalo is a pleasant town, so if you want to stay a few days and catch both markets it’s well worth it. You can also make an afternoon taking a taxi ($4 regardless of how many people) to the Condor sanctuary (Parque Condor) (about $4 entrance). Situated on a mountain that overlooks the town, the rescue center is home to  endangered condors, eagles, and falcons alike. Don’t miss their bird exhibits, at 11:30 and 3:30 every day, where they take the birds out to stretch their wings. From a stone amphitheater, you can watch these beautiful birds dive for food, and soar above the clouds.

If you are coming to Otavalo in the first week of August, you can catch another cultural display. Beginning at 6pm, there is a massive parade lasting 3 hours, featuring floats and talent from all around the region. This year it fell on the 4th. People line the streets early, setting up chairs to get a comfortable view of the festivities. You can generally rent a chair for $2. If they are already reserved, there are plenty of vendors walking up and down the streets selling plastic stools for the same price (they will buy it back after for $1, don’t worry you don’t have to carry it with you).

In whatever capacity you explore Otavalo, make sure you don’t miss this little known cultural gem.

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