Among Crafties, Otavalo is already famous as one of the world’s best indigenous crafts markets. Among Sabbaticalies, it is (along with its satellite community, Cotacachi) second only to Cuenca as the choice retirement spot for North American gringos.
And we like Otavalo. It’s a quiet and clean town, the people are wonderful, the food is good and inexpensive (compared to Cuenca, for example), and we were kinda sold after a night out when we accidentally crashed a fiesta that wasn’t.
It was innocent enough. In the daytime, the plaza where the market is held is a sea of tents. Every day each vendor puts up an entire retail store’s worth of merchandise in their space then pulls it all down again at night. We were strolling through after dinner and noticed a little festival on one side of the plaza and went to check it out. There were chairs set up and a band playing the local Andean music with pipes and chulango and accordian. And they were handing out a free warm fruit drink and bread. We began to notice that the only people at this festival were the local indigenous people who are usually hawking their wares in the plaza. Though they were very welcoming to us, we realized when the slideshow started that we had crashed a funeral.
So we now have three good candidates for our new Ecuadorian home: Cuenca, Vilcabamba, and Otavalo.