Markets and Shopping in Ecuador
From fresh, organic produce to Panama hats to fast fashion brands,shopping in Ecuador is as varied and colorful an experience as the country itself.
The capital of Azuay and Ecuador’s third largest city, Cuenca is buzzing with commercial activity. It has everything from local markets (aka mercados) to trendy North American-style malls.
Cuenca’s mercados are must-visits for everything from fruits and vegetables to crafts and electronics. The largest is Feria Libre, which is a feast for the senses and seems to go on for miles. Whether you’re looking for bananas, fresh goat’s milk, a quick snack, or a souvenir, you’ll find it here. A favorite shopping destination among locals, it can get rather busy, so be prepared.
The main markets near the city center are Plaza San Francisco and Plaza Rotary, which are near each other. Basketry, ceramics, ironwork, and guinea pig roasters are just some of the items for sale at the former.The latter features a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.
Sit down for lunch or a quick snack at food stalls scattered all over Cuenca’s markets. Local dishes are highly affordable.
Shopping malls are go-to places for families on weekends. For a modern shopping experience in Ecuador, come to Mall del Rio.The city’s largest mall, it features items from local and global retailers. It also has a bowling alley, multi-screen movie theater, food court, and more.
You’ll find food chains like KFC and Papa John’s at Millenium Plaza Shopping Mall. It’s a retail and service hub where you can run errands and get all your shopping done.
Monay Shopping Center houses retailers like Natural Vitality and Marathon Sports,while El Vergel Plaza boasts over 40 stores that sell clothing, home furnishings, and ornaments.
Just an hour away from Cuenca, this rural region is known for being the country escape of wealthy families, many of whom have vacation homes in the area. The Yunguilla Valley is dotted with small towns such as Lentag as well as farms. It’s as far from urban as you can get and plantations in surrounding areas grow bananas, avocados, oranges, papayas, and coffee.
This means there aren’t a ton of shopping options, but there’s plenty of fresh produce at the local markets.Sunday is market day and residents typically get their shopping done at the town of Santa Isabel.
Whether you plan to haggle at the market or spend an afternoon at the mall, you can look forward to a fun-filled shopping experience in Ecuador.
Ecuador’s largest and most legendary market takes place in the quaint town of Otavalo located about 3 hours north of Quito. Each Saturday the streets fill up with venders showing off their colorful blankets, hand-crafted jewelry, alpaca ponchos, and unique wall hangings to the many locals and visitors that attend. Street after street, stand after stand, hand crafted items are offered, each one more beautiful than the last. The sounds of Andean Flute Music and the native tongue of Quichua, the smells of roasted nuts and cotton candy, the visions of vibrant colors and shiny precious gems – all make this market a vibrant experience and great way to learn about the dynamic indigenous culture of Ecuador.
While you’re in the area, also be sure to visit the Peguche Waterfall that sits about 5 minutes outside of town. Take a bus from the market or hop in a cab and when you arrive, enjoy the 10 minute stroll to the base of the falls. Take your picture and splash in the falls then wander in the park to enjoy the natural beauty of the area.