Ecuador’s Zumbahua Market

Ecuador has such a varied culture! People, faces, handcrafts and more. The country has an excellent reputation for its many different indigenous markets, which are not only a draw for tourists and an important source of income for many families, but the market place is still an important part of daily life.

At virtually any market on any given day, visitors can find native paintings, jewelry, textiles, ceramics, leather, plus much more. The flavor and ambience of local vendors selling their wares cannot be copied. In fact, it’s been said that visitors could travel throughout Ecuador and have the opportunity to visit a market almost every day throughout the Andean Highlands!

Which brings us to Zumbahua. Located just 4 hours from Quito, the small Indian village of Zumbahua is perched in the mountains 65 kilometers west of Pujili and nestled in the foothills of the Andes with a population of approximately 2000 men, women and children.

The Zumbahua market is famous (well, as famous as you can get this far up) for its Saturday market. On a clear day, the snow-capped Cotapaxi can be seen from the vendor’s stalls. But it’s the activity at eye-level that is of the most interest. Zumbahua is a typical mountain market where llamas and riding horses are traded, along with woodcarvings by local artisans and other handcrafts. This market is not sought after by tourists, so you have a chance to experience a cross-section of daily life that few people ever have a chance to witness. You’ll see women transporting their goods on head and on the back of a llama. You’ll see finely crafted textiles. And you’ll walk over some of the most challenging Andean terrain ever.

And there are good deals to be had: a large llama can be had for US$40.00 or a baby one for US$20.00 (Rugs are a little cheaper)

There is a frequent bus service from Latacunga to Zumbahua. Most buses leave from Av. 5 de Junio in Latacunga with Transportes Cotopaxi, or Transportes 14 de Octubre (2 1/2 hours, US$2). Transportes 14 de Octubre continues up to Quilotoa and Chugchilan. Transportes Ilinizas has a frequent service to Saquisili (35 minutes, US$0.50), Chugchilan and Sigchos. Also, trucks can be hired especially on weekends from Zumbahua to Quilotoa for about US$15 and Chugchilan (US$35).

Zumbahua makes for a great day trip and a memorable one at that.