Home » Travel to Ecuador » Currently Reading:

The Saquisili Market

May 9, 2014 Travel to Ecuador No Comments


Saquisilí is a medium-sized native town about two and a half hours away from Quito to the south and only a half hour away from the city of Latacunga. Most days, it’s a sleepy little place, with locals – mostly indigenous people – walking slowly through the streets, dogs scurrying about and the occasional truck rumbling through, destination elsewhere. On Thursdays, however, the town becomes a bustling center of activity as the weekly market takes over much of the city center. People come from all around to buy and sell goods, animals, food and more. This market has become popular with foreign visitors, because it is a much more authentic experience than the more famous Otavalo market.

The Market

The market covers an area of about eight blocks or so in the central part of Saquisilí. It is divided into different sections. One popular part is the animal market, which begins early and wraps up around 9:00 or so: you can go and watch the locals buy and sell sheep, pigs, llamas and more. There is a food section, where hot meals are sold to the travelers who journeyed all day to reach the market with their wares. Nearby, hundreds of vendors sell fruits and vegetables. Fresh meat and fish are also available. One large section is dedicated solely to potatoes: you will see several varieties there, including some that you most likely have never seen before. The market continues about a block away in another square: this last part has some food but also items of daily use, such as t-shirts, knock-off crocs, bars of dish soap, dried pasta, cheap plastic plates, kitchen knives and more.

SaquiMarket3Foreigners and the Saquisilí Market

In recent years, tourists have discovered the Saquisilí market, although you likely won’t see more than a few foreigners there. It has everything visitors might like: it is large, colorful and sprawling, easy to reach, relatively safe and has just enough handicrafts to interest shoppers. It’s what the highly commercial and touristy Otavalo market must have been like about 40 years ago. Most of the market stands will be of little interest to foreigners: old ladies selling peas and onions look the same just about everywhere in Ecuador, and a truck full of pineapples from the coast is the same in Saquisilí as it is in Quito or Cuenca. Likewise, the food stands will offer little to tempt foreigners: bits of pork, fish and bananas deep-fried in sizzling oil in blackened cauldrons, soups with dubious chicken parts inside, and salads washed with questionable water are snacks for only the most adventurous traveler. There are a few things that visitors may be interested in, however.

Dishes with woven reed covers: A small town not too far from Saquisilí is known for making interesting plates, bowls, pitchers, dishes, etc. These are fired clay pieces which are then wrapped in a layer of hand-woven fibers. The effect is a serving dish that looks rustic but classy. These cannot be found in Otavalo or Quito (unless you know where to look) and a handful of stalls in Saquisili will have them.

Baskets and woven reed mats: there are some skilled weavers in and around Saquisili who make fine baskets and woven reed mats. The reed mats are near the hot food vendors, and the baskets are available at the handicraft market.

Otavalo-like stuff: the Otavalo merchants, who are far too clever to miss a chance to sell their world-famous handicrafts, have set up a couple of stalls at the Saquisili market. They sell tapestries, hammocks, blankets and other stuff familiar to those who have seen their famous market. Prices are fairly good, though.

Comment on this Article: