Local markets are a hive of culture – whether it’s food, textiles, crafts, or the kind of bizarre trinket that serves absolutely no purpose except to amuse/bemuse admirers – and Latin America is no exception. From Ecuador to Argentina, we’ve plucked out the most happening spots to get a taste of the destination and do some souvenir shopping to boot…
Otavalo Market, Ecuador
This tiny town a couple of hours north of Quito comes alive on Saturdays with South America’s most famous market, where indigenous locals come from the tiny surrounding villages to sell their colourful handicrafts and produce. A great place to hone your bartering skills and pick up some well-made souvenirs, it’s well worth spending a night in town to explore the surrounding countryside and enjoy Andean folkloric music. Not around on the weekend? There’s also a smaller daily market in the ‘poncho plaza’.
San Telmo Market, Argentina
Be sure to visit San Telmo market in Buenos Aires on a Sunday, when many stalls line the Calle Defensa. Treasures from cameras and records to chairs and antiques beg to be discovered along the vintage market and most days you’ll even be treated to a street performance by some of the best tango dancers in the city. Hungry? Enjoy some local food in the eateries around the Plaza Dorrego, such as a choripan, a chorizo sausage sandwich.
Pisac Market, Peru
Less than an hour’s drive from Cusco, in the beautiful Sacred Valley, is Peru’s most well-known market. On Sundays the town comes alive with colour thanks to the stacks of vibrant woven textiles; hoards of intriguing local handicrafts at bargainous prices; and crowds of locals wearing traditional costume distinct to their village. Tickle your tastebuds with traditional dishes like Aji de Gallina (Creamy Chicken) or anticuchos (grilled beefhearts) en route to nearby Ollantaytambo, the last town inhabited by Incas.
Mercado Central, Chile
With Chile’s lengthy coastline, the country has some of the finest seafood on the continent. Santiago’s Central Market is the best place to sample fish stews and other hangover cures, such as giant abalones, in the characterful local restaurants. And even if you don’t like seafood, it’s still well worth going to see the market building: an impressive wrought iron construction from the 19th century. (Top tip: the tastiest and best value are the little stalls around the edge!)
Witches’ Market, Bolivia
Also known as El Mercado de las Brujas and La Hechiceria, this odd little market finds itself in the heady heights of La Paz. Female witch-doctors, known as yatiri, in black bowler hats and many petticoats sell everything from fertility amulets and medicinal herbs, to magic potions… You can even buy dried llama foetuses to bury under your new house for good luck. Taking a guide will ensure you get the most out of this interesting slice of Latin American life.
Mercado del Puerto, Uruguay
Based in Montevideo’s port and housed in a grand 19th century building, this market is a great place to eat and people watch. Hear musicians perform while you chomp on huge portions of succulent grilled meat, washed down with fine wine; or, if you’re after a lighter lunch, pick up a freshly made empanda to snack on. Top tip: the best time to visit is Saturday afternoon.
Tarabuco Market, Bolivia
Take the early morning bus (about an hour’s journey) from Sucre to Tarabuco – one of the best places to experience Bolivian indigenous culture, where the locals wear distinctive ponchos and conquistador style helmets. At the Sunday market, you can haggle for the region’s famous textile bags, hats and sweaters; but it’s worth the trip just to people-watch. Top tip: take cash in small bills.
Mercado Adolpho Lisboa, Brazil
This beautiful market was modelled on the Les Halles market in Paris. Built in France in the late 19th century, the structure was shipped to Manaus (Gustave Eiffel pre-fabricated many iron buildings this way). The steamy port market sells everything from spices and produce, including huge Amazonian fish from the shores of the Rio Negro, to indigenous medicines. Spend at least a night in Manaus to see the famous opera house.
The Latin American Travel Association (LATA) is a membership association that aims to promote Latin America as a tourist destination and stimulate growth of travel to the region. LATA Members represent an ever growing travel community with unrivalled passion and knowledge for Latin America. The association is comprised of over 300 companies, including tourism boards, airlines, hotels, tour operators, representation companies and the travel press.
For more information visit www.lata.travel.
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