24.5 hours in Otavalo, Ecuador

You know those places that make you want to elope or quit your job? Those cities where you find yourself thinking “I wish I had one more day”? Yeah, Ecuador is filled with them. On our travels, we met a few people who had either visited once and returned to live in the country or just never left. 

It’s easy to see why. 

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For our last weekend in Ecuador, a few of the girls and I decided to take a trip to the quaint little city of Otavalo.

E3050312-1647-49E3-A33B-F8AB1231D50B.JPGWe had a little over 24hrs to spend in the city so we left home at 8 am on Sunday morning for an approximately 4-hr journey.

Our travel itinerary. 

Bus from Sangolqui to Playon de Marin, Quito 45c | Bus to Ofelia 25c | Taxi to Carcelen Terminal $2.50 or Bus 25c | Bus to Otavalo $2.75

If you’re already in Quito, this trip should be about 2hrs from the Carcelen Terminal. 

If you can, stay awake for the bus ride from Carcelen to Otavalo, so you don’t miss this.7645D19D-F502-43CE-B941-9F0172914D67.JPG2B5F425F-CFE7-4EAC-A7D3-93E9D19CBFF8.JPGAs we approached the city, its mountains and volcanoes created a view that was so stunning, I couldn’t peel myself or my iPhone away from the window. If you had told me I was looking at a green screen, I may have been quick to believe you.

A short 10-minute walk from the bus stop brought us to our charming hotel -La Posada del Quinde- owned by a U.S citizen who (like many before her) fell in love with Ecuador while on a college trip. Now, she lives there and runs the hotel which contributes to the economy by employing Ecuadorians and giving travelers an incredible place to come back to.IMG_8780.JPG7ED4B952-673E-4BAB-87F6-644ECE68B8BB.JPGTip: Travel in a group to take advantage of the large suites. The suite we stayed in goes for $200 a night but can fit 6-7 people. This price includes a free breakfast!

After marveling at the impressive outdoor view and sheer beauty of our room, we took a 10-minute stroll to the outdoor market.

Often called the most famous market in South America, the square in the heart of the city was a kaleidoscope of colors. Clothing and tapestries with intricate designs hung from tightly packed vendor stalls. Each one of them was overflowing with artisanal goods. I noticed that the most popular items were textiles – from alpaca sweaters and scarves to beautifully designed handmade rugs. My father would have been in home decor heaven!IMG_8778.JPGVSCO Cam-1-3.jpg267E9FEE-B238-475B-9EF2-96A9FB1A369A.JPGI wasn’t as excited for the textiles as I was for jewelry because 1) carrying a rug/ blanket back home seemed like a hassle and 2) I had heard that some of the most uniquely crafted pieces of jewelry could be found in Otavalo. Initially, my search seemed hopeless until I found the entire row of jewelry artisans and stopped short of begging them to take my money. That’s how beautiful some of the pieces were.

Like most travelers, we were excited to shop at the market, but we didn’t sit on buses for 4 hours simply to shop. So, shortly after leaving the market, we hopped in a cab headed to El Lechero.

Legend has it that two lovers from feuding families who were caught trying to elope, turned themselves into a tree and a lake to remain by each other’s side forever. The lake (Lago San Pablo) is at the base of a mountain, and the tree (El Lechero), -said to have healing powers- faces that lake.

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El Lechero
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Lago San Pablo

The view of Imbabura volcano from El Lechero is one of the most magnificent things I have ever seen. It was cold and windy where we stood but as the sunset cast bright golden rays on the landscape, I couldn’t help thinking in that moment that my shivers were worth it.

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Imbabura Volcano

Tip: If you’re going up to higher elevation, take a warm jacket. I thought my long sleeve would suffice. It didn’t. 

On our last morning, we visited the Laguna de Mojanda. There’s no legend that I know of behind this one but it didn’t need a storyline to be breathtaking.

B2029D67-BD76-4757-8FF5-7F7280DC94E3.JPG9F296FAC-E7A6-4BE1-BBE8-BDCC90247D24.JPG04562157-A2AD-45AE-94BB-24B45C7F6CA9.JPG

It may have been the brief stay, or the unhurried, relaxed vibe of the city, or all the above; but the only thought in my mind as we drove back home through the mountains was “I wish we had one more day”.

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Of all the cities I’ve written about in Ecuador –Baños, Canoa, Mindo– which one is your favorite + seems most like your vibe? Leave me a comment to let me know!

As always, 

thank you for reading. 

All photos shot by Kayla + Myself and edited on iPhone 6S+


same footprints, different sands

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