The Best Handicraft Markets in South America

Narrow Pathway Along Market Stalls

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South America has a rich history of regional food and handicraft markets. They are often driven by the indigenous community, and visiting a market is a great opportunity to interact and learn about the culture. There are so many of these weekend markets it is impossible to visit all of them, but if you are in any of the regions below be sure to take some time to check out the local market. 

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Otavalo, Ecuador

Otavalo Market
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This Saturday market is probably one of the most famous in South America. Tourists and locals flock to the area to find great deals on handmade goods and other crafts.

Most of the woven items are indeed hand-made but much of the beaded jewelry is from outside and in some cases from China.  Regardless you can find great deals here on alpaca scarves and blankets, clothing and produce. If you are around during lunch head to the main plaza where prepared food is served and get an entire fried fish for a steal.

The market is only a two-hour bus ride from Quito but it is worthwhile to arrive the Friday night beforehand to wake up early to see the animal market where locals buy and sell farm animals. It’s an early morning start at 5 am but you can return to your hotel for breakfast before heading out to shop.​

Tip: Have a look around and ask for prices before you buy. The prices can differ dramatically from vendor to vendor for the same item.

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Pisac, Peru

Pisac Market
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Located just outside Cusco, Pisac has a very popular handicraft market each Sunday morning where the central plaza is transformed for thousands of visitors, many who have come to the area to visit Machu Picchu.

While there is some debate whether the market has evolved into no more than a tourist destination, it is a great opportunity to see locals from neighboring villages in their traditional dress and to purchase the famous Andean textiles and Alpaca goods.

Tip: Stay a few days in Pisa and head to the ruins, also created by the Inca and are considered worth traveling to Pisac on their own.

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Tarabuco Market, Bolivia

Tarabuco Market
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This Sunday morning market is located just under 50 miles outside Sucre, Bolivia and is one of the largest in the area. Here the Yampara locals come from surrounding areas to buy and sell at this weekly market. It is possible to get everything from fresh produce to many handcrafted goods such as bags, purses, and ponchos.

Tip: Due to winding roads it can take up to two hours to get to the market so plan transportation in advance. The market starts to wane in the afternoon so you want to get there bright and early.

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Buenos Aires, Argentina

San Telmo market
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The San Telmo neighborhood is one of the oldest in Buenos Aires and the architecture still reflects its history with colonial buildings and antique stores lining its cobblestone streets. It is considered by many to be one of the best markets in South America.

Don’t arrive too early as Porteños like to sleep in, but Sunday afternoon the neighborhood really comes alive with the tradition of the Antiques Market, which has now expanded beyond antiques to sell to tourists.

Artists, photographers, and craftsman present their work along with gag t-shirt and trinket salesman. Be prepared to haggle here as the price quoted is often an opening price ready for discussion.

Even if you are not in the mood to shop, it’s a great afternoon stroll to wander among the vendors and watch tango dancers interspersed with musicians and other street performers.

Tip: Keep an eye on your wallet as pickpockets are often in the area.

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