Otavalo is about two hours north of Quito and is well known for its famous Saturday Market which was high on my list to see in Ecuador. We also had some other stops along the way for interesting Ecuadorian food, Laguna de Cuicocha and my highlight of the day, the animal market.
Our first stop of the day was breakfast. Without a doubt the weirdest breakfast I’ve ever eaten – biscuits, cheese and dulce de leche dipping sauce… what??? How was I supposed to eat this weird concoction. I tried the cheese but ended up mainly just dipping my biscuits into the caramel sauce. The weird breakfast didnt end there. I also ordered a hot chocolate which tasted odd from the get go and after a few minutes some girls we were sitting with pointed out that if you smelled the hot chocolate, it smelt like cheese. We then found out that we were drinking chocolate con queso or chocolate with cheese. Not my favourite haha.
Next stop was the animal market which I absolutely loved. There were cows, sheep, pigs, chickens, roosters, rabbits, guinea pigs (only eaten on special ocassions) and so much more. I got to pat the sweetest little calf, best part of the day. The animal market starts at about 4:30am and we arrived at 10am a lot of the animals were already sold and gone.
After the animals, it was time to head to the artisan market. I expected it to be big, but it was so much bigger than I thought. We spent a few hours wandering through the maze of vendors and exercised much self control having only made two purchases for the day (an alpaca blend sweater and a new sun hat).
After lunch (which I’m happy to report as being uneventful after our crazy breakfast), we went up to Laguna de Cuicocha which is situated by Volcan Cotocachi. The word Cuicocha means guinea pig in the Quichua language (and Cuy in Spanish) and was named this as people believe one of the islands in the centre of the lake is shaped like a guinea pig.
Our guide shared some amazingly interesting legends from the community about the romance between volcanos. Imbabura is a male volcano and Cotocachi is female (and they are also lovers with a son). They watch over the inhabitants of the surrounding land as protectors. As the volcanos watched over everyone, the members of the community all did their respective duties so as to not be punished (wind, frost, infertile soil, etc). Fascinating.
After a bit of a wander around the lake, it was time to head home. We had such a good time visiting Otavalo. A day trip is definitely a must if you are visiting Ecuador!