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The Northern Highlands Sights

Plaza de Ponchos

  • Plaza/Square/Piazza

Fodor's Review

Otavalo's premier sight, and one of which you'll be a part, is its Saturday market. This gathering of stalls was once called the Silent Market because there was no loud bargaining or shouting to entice you to buy. Though it's still quiet compared to other markets, times have changed. Today you negotiate your way through a noisy and overwhelming conglomeration of stands crowded with tourists. Once inside the hurly-burly, you deal with the dignified and astute Otavaleños, who speak slowly and softly as they negotiate. For sale are hand-knit sweaters made from sheep or alpaca wool, colorful ponchos, patterned scarves, and Panama hats. You'll also find strings of gold-washed glass beads, worn in multiple strands by Otavalo women, lots of silver, and jewelry embedded with Andean jade. You can usually get discounts of 20% to 30% by bargaining. (Don't bargain too hard though. Prices are already reasonable, and that extra couple of dollars will mean a lot more to the vendor than to you.)

A produce market is held simultaneously at the Plaza 24 de Mayo; there's also an animal market at the Plaza San Juan. People from the surrounding countryside—many dressed in traditional clothing—come here to bargain for cows, pigs, and other livestock. The animal market begins at 5:30 am, and most sellers are packing up by 11 am. The Plaza de Ponchos market doesn't really begin until 7 or 8 and lasts until about 2 or 3. Although Saturday is the busiest market day, Wednesday runs a close second, and these days something goes on every day of the week.

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