Galapagos News

  • Prev
  • 1
  • Next

Otavalo: Not just a traditional indigenous market town

We recently sent our Quito based "extensions expert" Mercedes Murgueytio on a mission to investigate the Otavalo region and to re-affirm our ties with the people of that region, approximately 2 hours north of Quito.   The typical visit to Otavalo is limited to wandering around its extensive and very colourful indigenous market, where all kinds of foods, textiles and other items are sold by a large number of small stall holders.  But Mercedes went to inspect more intimate offerings in the region.

Mercedes has been working in Ecuadorian tourism for nearly 30 years and has valuable network of contacts throughout the country that only a veteran can develop.  If you are considering a continental extension to your Galapagos trip - we'll put you in touch directly with Mercedes. The Amazon?  Andes treks by foot or horseback?  The World Heritage city of Cuenca?  There are many opportunities.   She travelled with her son, and reports on her experience below:

Last month, my son and I had the opportunity to visit Otavalo and its surroundings. It was a fantastic trip! Even-though I've been in this area several times before, this is the time was different, as I was able to know a different Otavalo, and to enjoy a unique and much more hands-on experience. 

Our adventure began when we took the Highway from Quito to the north. It was a sunny day, so we had a beautiful Highland landscape through all the trip. The Cayambe Volcano appeared, and we had the opportunity to admire its beauty and majesty during our trip to the north. 

After two hours drive, we arrived to Hotel Otavalo, which is one of the oldest buildings within the city, built more than a century ago. And when you go inside, it´s like going in a castle. Big corridors, stone walls, beautiful paints and sculptures… 

Upon arrival at the hotel, we were greeted with typical music and dances, while we enjoyed a soft drink made with local fruits. Delicious after a long journey! And then, they invited us to dance with them!



Immediately we started our explorations. Our first visit was to Claudia house to enjoy a gastronomic experience.  Claudia is an Otavalan woman, who, along with her family offer the opportunity to taste and learn about the region's ancestral gastronomy. She greets us with the “chicha”, which is the typical drink, especially for important celebrations. It is made of corn. Then we enter their house which is a typical home built with mud and terracotta. We were dressed as Otavalenos and started the cooking activities, while Claudia teaches us how to prepare a typical dish: Fritada. It combines a variety of native flavors with the richness of natural products and their various preparation methods. A very demonstrative and interactive class!

While lunch was in the oven, Claudia shows us her garden full of medicinal plants and tells us what each of the plants is for. Very interesting indeed!


After enjoying this fabulous lunch, we continue our tour, onwards to Peguche, a small town near Otavalo.  Our first visit is to “Taita Gundo” project. (Taita in Kichua means father and Gundo is a nickname of Segundo - "second").

This is a family project directed by the prestigious musician Ali Lema.  Here, we enjoyed an explanation of the different musical instruments and rhythms that identify the Kichwa peoples, and learn about very old instruments, like the bocina, which were used by the leaders to call the community when they needed to do a community work called minga, or when they needed to inform the community of important news. As an expansion to the project, they maintain a permanent school of construction and interpretation of wind and string instruments that participates regularly at local and national events.


To end this day, we visit Nayia Art Workshop, where Monica, its owner described the origin of dream catchers. It's known that the dream catchers are from North American; However, in Ecuador, objects very similar to the original dream catcher have been found hung in ancient houses.  And after the explanation it was time to do our own dream catchers! A really interesting and amazing experience!


It was time to head back to the hotel and enjoy a delicious dinner with a cup of wine.

The next day, after a very generous and tasty breakfast, we headed towards La Compañia community by San Pablo Lake, to visit a family dedicated to weaving on traditional looms. Here, they make different textiles, using their skill and creativity.

Don Manuel, the owner of this place, an Otavaleño, has some disability in his left arm, but this doesn't prevent him from making beauties on his looms, explains to us what each textile is for, and its meaning, and he teaches us to use the looms and create our own typical bracelet.

He told me that he makes a bracelet in 5 minutes. It took me more than 30 minutes, but I made it!

We couldn´t finish our trip to the Lake Province (Imbabura Province is also called the Lake Province), without having an experience in the lake. It was time to sail! We went to San Pablo Lake and board a reed boat to be able to navigate on the lake. It was a fantastic experience because, in addition to be traveling in a reed boat, the landscape is beautiful. You have the imposing Imbabura volcano in front of you! And in the middle of the lake, the guide explains that for important events in the communities of the area, all the guests bring something to eat and mix everything on a single table and then distribute it among all. And we did that on board.

In addition to learn about the customs and traditions of the region, we lived them.

Before starting our trip back to Quito, it was time to visit Otavalo city and to learn about its history, beliefs, traditions and legends. It was not a typical tourist city tour. We saw insight of iconic places in the city, which by the way, are not very touristic but are beautiful places indeed. 

After such a fabulous experience, it was time to return home. Thank a lot to Hotel Otavalo by ArtHotels for these two incredible days and for showing us Otavalo and its surroundings in a more social and interactive way.

Record-Breaking Weekend Ahead in Ecuador

Ecuador will elect its new president on Sunday, February 7

As never before in the history of this country, Ecuador will have to choose between 16 presidential candidates. 16? Yes, that´s right! A really big number of candidates.

There is a wide range of personalities amongst the candidates: businessmen, bankers, an indigenous representative, a Church pastor, and even a singer. 

Unfortunately, there is no electronic voting in Ecuador, and since voting is mandatory in our country, all citizens, between 18 to 65 years old, must go to vote on Sunday. However, it is estimated that there could be a lot of absences due to the pandemic.

Special advanced voting taking place at people's homes (Photo credit: CNE via El Universo newspaper)

On Thursday, the voting was carried out in prisons and on Friday some elderly people, or people with severe disabilities, voted at home. This is a special service offered to people who want to vote, but due to different circumstances, they cannot go to the voting locations on Sunday.

Due to the pandemic, the authorities have established some protocols to follow:

  • More places have been designated as voting locations. In this way, they want to avoid crowds.
  • All people must wear a mask, bring their own pen and their own hand sanitizer bottle
  • It´s not mandatory, but it´s a suggestion that people whose identity card ends in an even number, vote in the morning; those with an odd number vote in the afternoon
  • It is recommended not to bring children to the voting locations
  • Only the person who is going to vote, will be able to enter the voting location

According to the polls, the candidates with the best chance of winning are Guillermo Lasso, who represents the center-right, and Andrés Arauz, who is the candidate of the political group of the ex-president Rafael Correa – defenders of the famous socialism of the 21st century. 

So, Sunday will be a very decisive day for Ecuador. As an Ecuadorian, I can only hope that we all vote with our conscience, and thinking about the future of our beloved country.


World Albatross Day

World Albatross Day was celebrated for the first time this Friday, June 19, 2020 with the purpose of reinforcing the conservation of this species that inhabits the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador and is in danger of extinction.



"This date has been chosen by the Albatross and Petrels Conservation Agreement (ACAP), to honor these magnificent birds and highlight the current conservation crisis that threatens them," the agency said in a statement.


In the Archipelago you can find the Galapagos Albatross (Phoebastria irrorata), also known as the Waved Albatross, which unfortunately is in critical danger of extinction. According to the Charles Darwin Foundation, this bird is threatened by invasive species such as mice, rats, cats, and pigs. Also, fishing nets and hooks put albatrosses at risk, resulting in thousands of albatrosses and petrels killed each year.


The Waved Albatross gets its name from the form of waves when drawn, that depict the wings of the adult specimens. This species has a characteristic yellow or cream neck, a long bright yellow beak and blue legs.


Some interesting facts about the Galapagos Albatrosses is that they begin reproductive activity at six years of age and lay only one egg a year. This species can live up to 40 years. They live mainly on the Española Island and in the non-reproductive season, they fly to the coasts of Peru and Ecuador.



According to the Ministry of Environment of Ecuador, in Galapagos there are about 10,000 pairs of albatrosses.

The best time to see the Waved Albatross in Galapagos is during late April and May. In April, you are able to see their arrival to the Archipelago from Ecuador’s mainland coasts, and the wonderful courtships begin; while in May, they start laying their eggs. They are present on Española Island until December of each year, before they head back out to sea.


The Waved Albatross will be waiting for you!



All images have been generously provided by our friend, Peter Norvig. To access his incredible online gallery, please visit through this link.

New worldwide day of celebration -- all for the Albatross!

Quito residents come together to clean up the city

We asked our mainland extension specialist, Mercedes Murgueytio who lives in Quito, to report back to us on the day she help clean the city after the recent disturbances.   This is what she had to say:

On Sunday October 20th, I decided to join a group of Quiteños who were keen on helping clean up the city’s historic centre following the demonstrations that took place there earlier this month.   We participated in what is commonly called a minga, which is a type of grass roots community project for the common good and usually compensated with a meal. 

What happened in recent weeks in the country caused a sad situation of destruction in the most important places of our beloved Quito, a UNESCO World Heritage city.  The demonstrators may have had some valid complaints, but some of them took it out on the city, tearing up pavements, spray painting walls, destroying property and leaving a big mess behind when they all left.   They had not considered that this beautiful old city really belongs to all Ecuadorians – that they were destroying their own heritage and part of their own history.

For the residents of Quito, it was very sad to see the poor condition in which the demonstrators left it! For this reason, I decided to participate in the “Minga by Quito’s Dedicated Residents”,  organized by a group of locals in Quito who wanted to contribute something to clean up and restore our beautiful historic center, an area that was greatly affected by the protests.

It was a very special and exciting day. It started very early in the morning, and, despite being a rainy Sunday, it was a day full of enthusiasm, solidarity and a general desire to tidy up our house. The streets were filled with people dressed in white who were walking towards our cherished historic centre.  All were wearing face masks to keep out the dust, and we carried sandpaper to erase graffiti, a jar of paint and paint brushes, brooms and shovels.   We headed towards the narrow colonial streets and began the work of cleaning up the city.  There were people who swept, others painted the walls, others collected rubble ... all help was valid and little by little our beloved city regained its beautiful image.

But not everything was just cleaning and work! The small shop keepers and restaurant owners in this part of the city were so glad to see us, offering either the traditional sweets or our famous paila ice cream, which was a real treat after a hard day's work.

Tired, but with a feeling of satisfaction for the work accomplished we returned home. There is still much to do, but little by little our city is regaining its beauty and splendor.