If you’re visiting Otavalo independently, or with a flexible guide, and especially if you’re not all shopped-out (!), you might consider going on to Catacachi afterwards. We came here for lunch (which was included in our tour price) after a morning spent in the market. The town is known throughout Ecuador for its leather work, on items such as clothing, footwear, bags, belts and wallets. We strolled the length of the main street, where every shop it seemed was selling these leather goods – everything from tiny coin purses for a couple of dollars to very stylish handbags, jackets and even small pieces of furniture. Had we wanted to shop, we could have spent ages choosing, but as it was we soon tired of every shop looking the same! However a detour off the main road along Avenida Bolivar offered us a glimpse of this striking church which we were pleased to have seen, though there was no time to see if the interior was as interesting as the exterior.
Cotacachi is also considered to be a good place to get a taste of traditional Ecuadorean food. We spotted several places that looked tempting, but as lunch was included in our tour we had to go where Jose Luiz took us. I was at first disappointed to see that the large restaurant he stopped at was apparently catering just for tourists visiting with their guides, but I have to admit that the lunch we had there was excellent – a really good shrimp ceviche to start with, pork grilled outside in the garden to follow, and we could also have had desert though both Chris and I were too full and declined this. It was a pleasant, relaxing meal after the bustle of Otavalo market. Apparently Cotacachi is becoming a popular place for Americans especially to retire to, and I could see why it might appeal, set in the scenic highlands of northern Ecuador and with a good standard of living for relatively low prices. Too quiet for me though!
Coatacachi lies just off the Panamerican Highway, 11 kilometres north of Otavalo – I’m not sure about public transport options but a taxi from Otavalo shouldn’t be too expensive
Cuicocha Lake is in the crater of an extinct volcano that last erupted 3000 years ago. It fell in on itself, and the dome makes a big island in the middle of the lake. During the solstice the natives go to the middle of the lake to make offerings.
(According to our native guide, it means Lake of the Gods, NOT Guinea Pig Lake as some of the guidebooks say)
The entrance is through Reserva Ecológica Cotacachi-Cayapas and the entry fee is $5, which is waived if you're just visiting the lake.
The Reserve is a beautiful place, and you can see 5 volcanoes from here on a clear day. The road is steep, and as we continued to gain altitude we passed through a variety of climate zones. There was even life on the electric power lines—some air plants were growing there.
The Peguche Waterfall is considered to be one of the most important ritual places for the indigenous people in Northern Ecuador. This sacred waterfall is the site of an annual bathing ritual during the summer solstice festival of Inti Raymi.
A winding path with interpretive signs guides visitors through a eucalyptus forest to the Cascada de Peguche.
In Peguche we visited the Nanda Manachi musician’s workshop and watched a young man make a flute from reeds. He uses seven reeds of different lengths. He blows into each one, then compares it to the sound of that reed in a finished flute. Someone without a good ear couldn’t do it. After all 7 of them suit him, he binds them together with thin strips of fiber.
He also demonstrated different types of flutes and other instruments for us. Something called a bocina, made of bamboo, can be up to 24 ft. long. It was a communication device rather than a musical instrument and could be heard for 2 kilometers.
They also had a small stringed instrument made from an armadillo shell. It was old, so he showed it to us but didn’t play it. That same instrument is used in bands today, but the “shell” is wood. The men in this workshop also have a traditional Andean band, and CDs were available.
Peguche is about 60 miles north of Quito; near Otavalo
The Condor Park (Parque Condor) is a wildlife rehabilitation center and refuge on the outskirts of Otavalo. It brings in birds of prey from all over the Americas to help them survive and thrive. Those that can are released back into the wild; others make the park their home.
It is a wonderful opportunity to see some of these birds of prey alive and healthy, you might not get the chance elsewhere. It is run by a wonderfully friendly Dutch man, and there are falconry demonstrations almost every day at 11:30 and 4:30.
The park is easy to find, with great signage from the main road. The road is also partly paved (on the Dutch man's own financial contribution), and there are activities for kids.
Its hard to imagine that this calm peaceful beautiful place was home to a deadly and bloody battle years ago.
Apparently this was the location where two indigenous tribes fought a very bloody battle. (The Caranquis and the Incas). It was so bloody in fact that the water turned red for days because of all the blood shed.
Now this is a place where you can jetski, ride sea doos and other water craft. You can ride boats here and have picnics. Now there is a race track around this lake also and here you will see national and international car races.
It cost up .30 cents per car to get into this park.
Cotacachi is best known for its leather goods that they sell here. You can find leatherjackets, boots, hand bags, just about everything. The quality is very good and its fairly inexpensive. Alot of locals and tourist come here to find the leather products they want. There is really one main street where they sell the leather goods.
The town is about 20 to 30 minutes away from Otavalo.
If you are staying in Otavalo you might like to visit the lakes in the area. To get into Cuicocha Lake is only .50 cents for nacionals and $1 for tourists. To get to Cuicocha lake we went through the town of Cotacachi. This town is well known for its leather goods and theres alot of shopping here for good quality leather items.
Cuicocha is about 25 kilometers from Otavalo ad theres an island in the middle of this lake. Its about 200m in depth and basically its a crater that has been filled with water. In this water there is very little life because the water is alkaline and the islands in the middle of the crater are lava domes.
Although i didnt hike around the crater many people do. It takes about 4 to 5 hours to get around the whole place.
I got to the hotel with the waterfront view had a few drinks and admired the lake. No one was on the lake but I did see small boats that you could rent to go around the lake. As you come in. you will also see little stands with vendors selling their crafts.
If you have kids you might want to bring them here. My three year old loved it. You can even participate with the birds as we did in these pictures.
The park is opened from 9:30am to 5pm and twice a day they have the flight exhibitions.
Another thing I have to mention is that this park is here because of the sponsorship of the Dutch embassy, a German center for Predatory birds and a few Ecuadorean corporations.
This park is about 3 miles or so from Otavalo. At first I thought whats the big deal about this place but I quickly realized that it is a pretty amazing place. It has only been open for about 2 years so theres not alot of birds but the ones you do see are unique.
First of all its located at a summit of Curiloma.This place is called Pukara Alto and it is said to have a certain energy here.There are also ruins here of a religious pre-Inca temple.
This park is 30acres and it is here to rescue endangered birds. There is a small show or flight exhibition with some the rescued birds. The trainer tells you alittle bit about the park, how they work and stories opf how the animals were rescued.
Some birds were brought here by someone who had them as pets and didnt know how to properly care for them so they had problems. Most if not all these birds are ilegal to have at home as pets.
We got to see hawks, owls, eagles and vultures. But the Condors are the biggest birds here and they are impressive. The two condors I saw were bigger than half my size and their wing span is incredible. I dont know how long it is but its huge.
In Peguche (a village around 3 kilometres from Otavalo, see my tip about the vilage), there is a nice waterfall. It isn't huge, but it is set in a nice village, and some nice nature. Here you can watch the local women wasch their cloches in a litlle creek and smell the wonderfull smell of the ecualyptus nearby.
You can even climb to the top of the waterfall, and follow a track up here to Otavalo. This way you get beautiful wievs of the landscape.
If you enter the waterfall from the village of Peguche you have to pay a litlle fee. If you have walked here from Otavalo, you can just enter the area for free.
This village is located 3 km northeast of Otavalo. Many of the inhabitants make the weavings for the big marked in Otavalo and for markets all over Ecuador. As you enter the village, you can hear the distinctive sound of the electrical weavers.
The village is really nice with small houses, where the pigs, chickens and kids run around.
On the outskirts of the town is a waterfall. It isn't that big, but it is set between aromatic eucalyptuses and sometimes you will see the local women washing the clotches in the small creek running from the falls.
One way to get here is by bus from Otavalo, but I think it is much nicer to walk along the railway track or along the dirt road above the village.
When you arrive at Otavalo, by bus, you can't miss a big lake surrounding a mountain (San Juan lake, or something like that). What you don't know is that, close to Otavalo, there are two other incredible lakes. One of them is called Cuicocha but I can't remember the other's name ! But, any local may indicate, in Quito or in Otavalo, how to do to reach them (they are both close to small villages situated at a 1 hour range from Otavalo by bus). I even took photographs, but lost the film !!! Still, I've seen some pics on other VT members' pages (filipdebont, namely): have a good look at them !!!
Quand on arrive sur Otavalo, on ne peut pas manquer de voir la splendide lagune qui entoure une montagne (San Juan, ou quelque chose dans le genre). Ce que l'on ne peut pas voir, c'est qu'il existe deux superbes lagunes pas loin. L'une d'entre elles est celle de Cuicocha, mais je ne me souviens pas du nom de l'autre. Suffit de demander aux locaux, a Quito ou a Otavalo. Elles se trouvent toutes les deux dans des villages a environ 1 heure d'Otavalo en bus. J'avais meme pris des photos, mais j'ai perdu la pellicule !! Allez tout de meme jeter un coup d'oeil sur la page de Filipdebont, je crois qu'il a des cliches.
Whenever you visit Otavalo, you should make a hike towards Peguche.
It is a small village just besides Otavalo, and is very famous for its home weavings, and there is also a waterfall.
But the most amazing were the train tracks in the middle of the street. Well . . . street. It was kind of a dust road.
Do not worry when you walk here there are no more trains passing here.
But so in the earlier days the train passed here towards Otavalo.
About one hour drive we needed to reach the old volcano Cuicocha.
Over here you can make a very beautiful hike around the Laguna de Cuicocha. Do not forget that you are walking between 3000 m and 3400 m of altitude. So it is more tiring then on sea level.
We needed about six hours to walk around the lake. Take plenty of water.
More on Cuicocha on My Cuichoca page .