Top 10 markets to visit in Ecuador
Markets are great places to visit. Full of colour, noise, smells and activity, they really give you a feel of the place you are visiting and an insight into the local way of life.
Ecuador is a colourful potpourri of cultures and its markets are particularly fascinating as they are representative of the local indigenous communities. Many markets only operate on certain days. To help you plan your trip and take in some of these markets, here are Andean Trail's top 10 in no particular order.
i) Otavalo Market: A 2 hour drive North of Quito, this colourful indigenous market is one of the best known in Ecuador. Main days are Wednesdays and Saturdays but there is activity daily. Touristy but worth it. Emma Morgan, an Andean Trails representative in Quito says: " I know it’s the one everyone visits, but I like it! You can get handicrafts from all over Ecuador, it is open every day of the week (not just Wednesdays and Saturdays as some believe). The indigenous people are friendly and kind and fun to barter with (bartering is a must!!) And you can get some great bargains and souvenirs / gifts."
This market is also a favourite of Andean Trails' Tom. He says: "I spent a wonderful morning exploring the stalls and just taking in the buzz of the place."
ii) Santa Clara Market, Quito. Busy, bustling, vibrant popular market in Quito. Where the locals go to buy food and wares and also to eat. Great to visit but leave your valuables behind. Emma says: " this is one of Quito’s biggest markets - filled with fresh fruits, vegetables, spices, meats, fish - anything and everything. Great to learn about the variety of fruits and vegetables grown in the Andes and Ecuador. It’s another really colourful and traditional experience."
iii) Pujili Market: 2 hour drive south of Quito in Cotopaxi province. This is a small indigenous town where the locals hold a market on Wednesdays and Sundays. This is very much a local market where the people come in from the surrounding areas to sell their crafts or surplus produce. The town in known for its ceramics.
iv) Saquisili Market: 90 minute drive south of Quito. Thursdays. Bustling market where vendors from all over the highlands come to sell their wares. This market is Andean Trails' Kat's favourite. She says: " I remember it being very authentic and less tourist-focussed than other better known markets."
v) Zumbahua Market: 2 1/2 hour drive South of Quito. Saturdays. One of the oldest markets in Ecuador and as well as local produce they trade in horses and llamas.
vi) Guaranda Market: Of this Market Emma says: " This is a great authentic market town in the Andes (south of Riobamba). The main market days are Friday and Saturday. Indigenous people in their colourful dress come from the surrounding hills and villages to trade in everything from tools to animals to food. It’s a great experience."
vii) Guamote Market: 2 hours South of Riobamba. Thursdays. Very much a local indigenous market where bartering amongst the locals is a key factor. Andean Trails' Alan passed through on a local bus journey between Riobamba and Cuneca. He says: "The bus had been bustling with people all dressed in local costume. I hadn't know about the market and when we stopped in Guamote the bus emptied and then filled with equally colourful characters. I was busy trying to take photos out of the bus window wishing I had known about the market so to have planned a stop. Imagine my surprise when one of the passengers was a young lady with her newly purchased live piglet!"
viii) Plaza de Las Flores Flower Market, Cuenca. Emma says: " In the centre of town, just around the corner from the cathedral. Full of beautiful colours and smells, and a great place to people watch. It’s where the locals buy their flowers, a lovely, bustling part of Cuenca."
ix) Mercado 10 de Agosto, Cuenca. Alan says: " My favourite Market so far. I spent hours wandering taking photos of the food, fruit and much more. The food options were surprisingly varied from colourful sweets to fried fish and whole roasted pigs."
x) Fish Market, Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Galapagos. Alan says:" I loved it. A tiny little market with colourful fish. I was fascinated by the sea lions and pelicans squabbling to get the left over bits. Great entertainment!"
Emma also agrees as she says: " - love this market, it’s teeny, on the waterfront in Puerto Ayora. It only appears early morning and late afternoon when the fishermen come in with their wares. The best bit about it for me is watching the local wildlife hanging around hoping to get the tit bits - sea lions, pelicans and other birds."
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