Experience the Otavalo Valley in full on this hike from hacienda to hacienda, enjoying ever-changing views of towering volcanoes, experiencing the local textile market, stopping off at a waterfall and visiting a traditional highlands weaving shop.
Begin your day by descending to Otavalo, one of the most important market towns in Latin America, and the Plaza de los Ponchos. After exploring the textile market, leave the city behind as you climb up a lush valley to the 50 foot-tall Peguche waterfall. Stop for a view of the falls, looking back to see Otavalo below and the foothills of Mojanda Volcano across the valley. Proceed to the Tahuantinsuyo Weaver's Shop, where Miguel Andrango continues to teach his kids and grandkids how to make highlands textiles using Alapaca wool, dye from surrounding vegetation and handheld looms, keeping alive traditional skills.
After a demonstration of highland's textile-making, you'll leave Miguel's town, entering more open farmland, enjoying views of the Imbabura Volcano towering over you to your left and Lago San Pablo down below to your right. Continue on through a few small outcroppings of houses before descending to the community of Araque, on the shores of the lake. You'll walk on the main street through town, bustling with buses, schoolkids and cattle before arriving at Hacienda Cusin, your destination for the evening.
Your hosts at Casa Mojanda know the area well and can point you to the start of this walk, on the other side of the organic garden. If you have any other questions about the walk or activities in the area, they are a great resource.
Make sure you have your camera out and ready on today's walk. You'll have ever-changing views of the Otavalo Valley and the surrounding volcanoes. And the Ruta Agato or "High Route" (a network of back roads) weaves between the Imbabura Volcano and Lago San Pablo offering plenty of great photo opportunities. On the high route you will also be able to catch glimpses of the Pan-American highway winding its way out of the Valley south toward Quito.
You're at a high elevation in the Otavalo Valley and the Highlands, so it's important to wear plenty of sunscreen and to maintain proper hydration and nutrition for your day's hike. Pack plenty of food, water and snacks. Weather can also change rapidly, so bring your rain jacket and pants.
Dogs are popular pets all over Ecuador. Some will approach you in a friendly manner, most will bark loudly as you pass by and others can be more aggressive. Carry a walking stick and be prepared to bend over and pretend to pick up rocks; this will often keep aggressive dogs at bay.
The weather changes rapidly in the Andean Highlands so pack accordingly, carrying with you warm layers and rain gear. Sturdy, waterproof hiking boots are also strongly recommended, as the hiking surface varies greatly from smooth asphalt roads to rough cobblestone and dirt tracks to slippery singletrack trails.
Points of Interest
Otavalo is renowned for its daily market. At its heart is the Plaza de los Ponchos, with stalls full of colorful wool textiles woven following traditional designs and, in many cases, using pre-Colombian practices passed down through the generations. While some of the wares have started to be mass-produced, the Plaza still offers insight into the local weaving culture that remains an integral part of the Otavalo Valley and its culture.
Just a few miles outside the city of Otavalo, the 50-foot Peguche waterfall is a ceremonial site used during the Festival of Sun, practiced every June in Andean villages throughout South America.
Miguel Andrango's weaver's shop is well worth the visit for the demonstration of the traditional highland's textile-making craft. Miguel and his family only speak spanish, but are warm and welcoming hosts and eager to share their beautiful handiwork with you.
Food & Drink
Offering locally-sourced coffee, baked goods and hearty sandwiches, La Cosecha is a great spot for refreshments and/or lunch after your morning walk into town. The cafe is located on the west side of Plaza de los Ponchos in a white building with a sign for "Cavacaran." Your turn-by-turn directions include directions to La Cosecha.