Ecuador // The northern sierra //


A grandiose, flag-lined boulevard welcomes you to COTACACHI, west of the Panamericana and 11km from Otavalo, signalling that you’ve arrived somewhere special. As well as being a self-proclaimed “eco-city” which has successfully cut down waste and pollution, Cotacachi is a prosperous community thanks to its flourishing leather industry.

Dozens of smart boutiques selling every conceivable form of leatherware line 10 de Agosto, the main street running north–south up to the Parque San Francisco, the focus of the Sunday leather market, and the best place to pick up a bargain on a bag, belt or jacket.

To escape the smell of tanned hides, head to Casa de las Culturas, at the corner of Bolívar and 9 de Octubre, a handsome old building ingeniously reinvented after a fire, housing a small collection of paintings by Guayasamín and some pre-Columbian ceramics, as well as temporary exhibitions, internet access, a library and tourist information (t06/2915140, You could also stop in at the nearby Museo de las Culturas, García Moreno 13-41 and Bolívar, set in a cloistered colonial building and showcasing Cotacachi traditions through costumed mannequins and exhibits on craftwork and fiestas. It lies in the shadow of the white-domed La Matriz church, which stands on the grand and leafy Parque Abdón Calderón.

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