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Saquisili Tours

A small town in Cotopaxi province, Saquisilí is gaining fame for its bustling local Thursday market. Only two hours south of Quito by bus an a few kilometers off the Quito-Ambato stretch of the Pan American highway, the market’s accessibility and authenticity are making it a more and more popular stop with tourists.

Each Thursday, the town is transformed by a lively, sprawling display of goods brought in by locals from surrounding village in all directions. Unlike the Otavalo market that is primarly a show for tourist, the Saquisilí market is truly a local event that has existed since Pre-Columbian times. Men an women from surrounding small village swarm in herds at the crack of dawn, toting every item imaginable from household necessities to baskets full of squeaking chicks. The market takes up eight main plazas and offers everything from reed mats to herbal remedies, meat products to the squealing livestock itself. To explore the latter,, walk for about 10mminutes past the market’s main plaza along the dirt road that leads out of town. Come early, as the animal market excitement begins to subside by about 9 a.m. As if there weren’t enough to tickle the senses into overload in the main squares, every adjoining street connecting the courts see vendors selling more randomness, from painted key rings to hot cell phones and electronics.

Like many local highland markets, the market at Saquisilí is not only for commerce: it is also a very important social and cultural affair. Indigenous men and women can be seen donning traditional dress and felt fedora hats, bartering with their neighbors and mingling over lunch.

For the traveler, much of the market is of little commercial interest. Through there is a growing artisan section with colorful local crafts and tourist items at cheaper prices than ca be found in Quito and Otavalo, the essence of the market is in its fruits and vegetables plaza, the lively animal market and the smells that come from the array o edibles sizzling on every corner. Though you’re not likely to be in the market searching for a dish rack or a new alpaca. Saquisilí provides a genuine look at native life and culture, and photographic opportunities abound.

There’s no shortage of traditional food to sample- some options are quite tasty, while others can be a bit nauseating to the unaccustomed stomach. Locals will tell you that you haven’t been to Saquisilí if you didn’t try tortillas de maiz- a sizzling hot corn pancake oozing with cheese and smothered in sauce. If you haven’t yet given cuy (guinea pig) a taste, Saquisilí is a famed place to do so. Prices are cheap and you can choose your own skewer from the charred face on offer.
Saquisili is only a few miles off the highway, so it is easy to combine with a trip to the Cotopaxi area or a on a travel day between Quito and Banos or Riobamba.

Saquicili Market full day tour

:: Only on Thursday ::
Saquisili is probably the most colorful market in the Ecuadorian Andes, an early morning drive about 90Km south of Quito through the avenue of the volcanoes will take you to this interesting cultural place where you can see the animal market and people trading their llamas, horses, sheep, etc... and its 7 plazas. Enjoy walking around just feeling the culture or have fun shopping a diverse variety of local handicrafts. Lunch at La Cienega.

Note: Over night at Hacienda can be arranged and the next day we visit Cotopaxi National Park.

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