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Indigenous Markets of Ecuador

by Akhil Kalepu

Dec 14, 2014

Otavalo Market, Ecuador © Steve2000 | Dreamstime

Trends / Unique Itineraries & Tours

The lush rainforests of Ecuador are home to a number of indigenous groups, each with their own unique culture. Much of the commerce among these groups is done in colorful markets set up around the country, especially the regions of Sierra and Otavalo.



The largest indigenous market in the country is an economic hub for the locals living in the Ecuadorean highlands. In addition to local crafts, there are food stalls selling the traditional cuisine of the Andes, often made from livestock and produce bought at the same market. Visitors have the option of staying at the nearby La Cienega, a restored hacienda more than 300 years old.



Latacunga is a town sitting on a plateau, surrounded by nine volcanic cones, including Cotopaxi, one of the highest active volcanoes in the world. The town’s market is home to many fine artists who utilize the region’s light gray pumice rock. There are also many food stalls specializing in the regional favorite, chugchucaras, which is a dish made up of fried pork served over plantains.



Located in the small town of Tigua, this market offers a cross section of Ecuadorean life for sale. Artisans sell native paintings, jewelry and textiles, and you can get livestock at a good price here. An adult llama will run you $40, a little more than a handmade rug.



Known as the “Plaza de Ponchos,” Otavalo is the most famous market in all of Ecuador, selling everything from local handicrafts to spices to livestock. One particularly popular product is the Jipiiapa, more commonly known as the Panama Hat. These hats worn by workers on the Panama Canal were made by Otavalon weavers, utilizing techniques originating from the indigenous people of the Imbabura Province.



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