Things To Do Within 30 Minutes of Cotacachi
Cascadas de Peguche (Peguche Waterfalls)
These waterfalls are a spiritual and ritual site of the indigenous people. On ceremonial occasions, such as Inti Raymi, June’s ‘Festival of the Sun,’ Shamans perform cleansing rituals that date back centuries. Visitors are advised to stay away during times of these sacred rituals. It is a developed site, and the cobblestone street marking the entrance has stalls selling handicrafts, drinks and snacks. The Quichua community is in charge of the falls and the grounds of the park. The protected forest is said to be one of the most beautiful in northern Ecuador. Many eucalyptus trees make up the surrounding forest, with a small stream that runs from the waterfall. There is a short path from the registration desk to the hot springs, a small bridge below the main falls, or two viewpoints on either side of the river.
Peguche is one of the small, sleepy nearby weaving villages. You will hear the sound of looms throughout this small village. Alpaca wool and sheep wool is made into beautiful textiles and wall hangings. A wide selection of sweaters, scarves and hats, both knitted and crocheted, are for sale locally.
Condor Park Wildlife
This is a rehabilitation center located on the outskirts of Otavalo. Birds of prey from all over the Americas are brought here to help them recover from injuries – hawks, owls, eagles and of course, the condor. The condor is an extremely large bird, with an expansive wingspan. Here you can enjoy and learn about these birds through the short show and flight exhibition. Visitors can wear protective gloves with the trainer and try their skill in releasing and having the birds return to them from flight.
The Otavalo Indigenous Market is a world-renowned market, and makes the town famous. The locals, known as Otavalenos, have been known for their masterful craftsmanship for centuries. Otavalenos still wear traditional clothing and cling to their heritage. Men wear their long, straight, black hair in distinctive ponytails, while married women wear multi-strand gold-bead necklaces. It is one of the most important markets in all of Latin America, and the largest outdoor craft market. Traditional clothing, musical instruments, crafts, textiles, ponchos, blankets, wall-hangings, sweaters, shawls and much more are exhibited and sold here. On Sundays, the market, which is an entire city block, expands outward into neighboring streets. Be sure to bargain with the stall owners, as it is expected.
Cuicocho is a sparkling blue crater lake formed about 3,000 years ago when the crater of the lake’s namesake volcano collapsed during an eruption. The crater was covered with snow, which eventually melted and formed the lake. The name Cuicocha comes from the Quichua and means “Guinea Pig Lake” in English. The two islands in the lake look like the backs of two guinea pigs. This lake, known as the ‘Home of the Gods’, has an incomparable beauty. You can take a motorized boat ride out and around the two islands in the middle of the lake, although you can’t get off and hike on them. A 20-40 minute boat ride should cost no more than $3 or $4 per person. An area rich in flora and fauna surrounds the lake. The waters of the lake are highly alkaline, so contain little life. From the boat, along the shores and in the shallows, you will see ‘totora’, the reed used in this area for making baskets and floor coverings. Hiking around the lake is challenging, since it is over 10,000 feet above sea level. There is an 8 km. (5-mile) trail which loops around the rim of the crater, which takes about 4 hours to circle. Even if you only walk along it for 5-10 minutes, you will be able to see Otavalo, Cotacachi, Cayambe, and all the volcanoes of Imbabura Province.