The Imbabura Province is best known by tourists for the market town of Otavalo. Visit on a Saturday to visit two completely different style markets. One is the Feria de Animales where farmers come to buy and sell animals. Locals can buy everything from a well-trained horse to an edible guinea pig, from a fighting rooster to a cuddly puppy, and everything and anything needed for the farm. The second is the market that takes over the city streets of Otavalo. It is part tourist market with vendors selling local blankets, instruments, and artwork. And it is part practical, with vendors selling shoes and clothes for school kids, underwear and socks for all, chains of golden beads, embroidered blouses, and long black skirts, all worn by local women.

Otavalo has a rich cultural history and the town and surrounding area celebrate several holidays in grand style throughout the year. Día de los Difuntos is one of the most popular. The two solstice celebrations can attract big crowds. In late June through July, look for Inti Raymi celebrations and in late December through January, Pawkar Raymi festivals.

The area surrounding Otavalo is mountainous terrain dotted with farmland. It is home to high mountain lakes. The Laguna Cuicocha is one of the most famous with two islands surrounded by icy cold water in the volcanic crater turned lake.

Of all the places I have visited in Ecuador, this is both the easiest and the hardest for taking photos of people. The residents of Otavalo are used to having tourists and have become accustomed to seeing cameras snapping away. But what they have never become used to is the blatant disregard for their personal space. Many welcome photos when asked. And many do not. A simple question can make the difference between a smiling and willing subject or an angry and berating one, «Por favor, puedo sacar una foto de usted(es)?»

I hope these photos will encourage you to explore the Imbabura Province, especially around Otavalo. These photos barely scratch the surface.

Click on any photo to open a slideshow with further descriptions of each photo.

More Articles About the Imbabura Province, Otavalo

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Ecuador Por Mis Ojos

Recently, the Instituto Geografico Militar of Ecuador and I released a book of photography, Ecuador Por Mis Ojos. This post shares photos from that book.

If you would like to see other photos from the book, please check out: