As the capital city of Ecuador, Quito, a lively and colorful city, is set against the magnificent Andean Mountain Range - a wonderful juxtaposition of natural and man-made beauty. Quito is still deeply rooted in its history and tradition, which is reflected in its architecture, people and culture. Visit the Compañía de Jesús Church, feast on delicious hornado, admire its historical city center (it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, too!), and shop at Otavalo, the biggest open-air market in South America! When you’re done with your vacation, bring a piece of Ecuador back with you to commemorate a visit to this uniquely beautiful city! Here is a guide on what to buy in Quito, Ecuador.
1. Tagua jewelry
Tagua nut is also known as vegetable ivory, so-called because of its textural and physical appearance to elephant ivory (infamously made by hunting the tusks of elephants). Made from the tagua nut that grows from certain species of palm, these jewelry pieces are lovingly and uniquely designed - no two pieces are exactly the same. The nuts are polished and then infused with a natural dye that gives them their vibrantly shiny colors. Best of all, it’s environmentally friendly, so you can go ahead and buy a collection of tagua nut jewelry as a guilt-free souvenir to commemorate your vacation in Ecuador.
2. Galapagos coffee
The Galapagos is an archipelago of islands 1000 km (620 miles) off the coast of Ecuador. It’s famously home to a myriad of incredibly unique wildlife, but also to a special brew of coffee: Galapagos coffee, harvested in the coffee plantations on the islands. Galapagos coffee is renowned for its high quality, sweet taste, and fragrant aroma. It’s also organic and naturally produced, as pesticides and insecticides are not used on the crops. By buying locally produced Galapagos coffee, you’re also supporting local farmers - it’s a win-win situation all around. Nevertheless, it’s also famously expensive due to its small harvest. Of course, this all the more makes it a unique Ecuadorian souvenir.
3. Ecuadorian textiles
Ecuador is also known for its vibrantly colored, flamboyant textiles. Even the textile shops themselves, stuffed to the brim with beautifully woven hammocks, ponchos, blankets and more, are a spectacle to behold. If you’re looking to bring one of these back with you as a souvenir (and you definitely should!), head down to Otavalo, the biggest open-air market in South America! It doesn’t only sell textiles - head down to Otavalo to admire and purchase some local artisanal souvenirs.
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4. Ecuadorian chocolate
Home to some of the best cocoa in the world, Ecuadorian chocolate is also a must-try when you’re there. ‘Fine’ cocoa beans (known locally as 'Nacional’ or 'Arriba’ beans), that are highly coveted in top-quality chocolate products, are found mostly in Ecuador. These beans have varying flavor profiles, based on where they’re harvested (Ecuador has a very diverse terrain and climate). Some famous brands of Ecuadorian chocolate - Valdivian, Leyenda and Pacari - attribute the success of their brands to this diversity and uniqueness of flavor. What’s more, these chocolates are locally and sustainably sourced; by buying these brands, you’re supporting local farmers and contributing to their economy.
5. Alpaca-wool blanket
Hugging an alpaca, with their soft, shaggy fur, must be one of the best feelings in the world. Who doesn’t love these adorable, furry camelids? Well, now you can experience that for yourself with an alpaca wool blanket. With a variety of colorful patterns, thick insulation and a soft texture, an alpaca-wool blanket is both beautiful and useful. Don’t worry, alpaca wool is sheared ethically - no alpacas were harmed in the making of your newest favorite blanket! In fact, it’s one of the most eco-friendly and ethical products: you’re also supporting a local alpaca farmer, and alpaca rearing doesn’t harm the planet. It’s a win-win situation for all!
6. Tiguan art
Renowned for their brilliantly vivid artwork, the Tiguan is a community that’s native to the Andean mountainside. Tiguan art is an extravagantly colored depiction of their daily lives and beliefs, and have garnered much international acclaim for their style and portrayal of daily life - there are Tiguan art pieces hanging on the walls of museums all over the world. Painted on sheepskin with natural dyes, Tiguan art is truly unique, and would definitely make a striking centerpiece on your wall.
7. The Rondador
The national instrument of Ecuador, the Rondador, is a wind instrument that is able to produce two tones simultaneously. It consists of a set of pipes that are placed together according to length, and is played by blowing across the tops. It produces a lively sound that features prominently in folk dances and traditions. Bring a slice of Ecuadorian culture back home when you pick up your very own Rondador!
8. Panama hat
Although named Panama hats, they actually originated from Ecuador. Intricately woven with the toquilla palm (a palm tree found along the Ecuadorian coast), the unassuming Panama hat has a rich history - the art of weaving one was even named an activity under UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List. It’s an integral part of Ecuadorian culture, and definitely much more than a mere fashion accessory!
9. Balsa wood carvings
As the exporter of a majority of the balsa wood found on the market, it’s no surprise that balsa wood carvings are one of the best souvenirs you can get from Ecuador. Balsa wood is known and used for its impressive strength-to-weight ratio - it’s extremely sturdy for how light it is! That means you can easily tote a beautiful balsa wood carving or figurine home. These carvings are intricate and unique; much like other local handicraft products, you can be assured that the carving you’ve just bought is the only one of its kind in the world. That’s a pretty impressive souvenir!
10. Colorful backpacks
What better souvenir to get than a colorful backpack, so you can stuff more souvenirs in? Luckily for you, there is a myriad of durable and uniquely-woven backpacks available all over Ecuador. Ecuador is famous for its textile industry, with its woven handicrafts imported across South America. Snag one of these backpacks for yourself, or as a useful present for a friend, at the bustling Otavalo Market.
Bring a piece of Ecuadorian culture back with you
Remember an unforgettable visit to Quito with a uniquely Ecuadorian souvenir! What’s more, by purchasing many of these souvenirs, you’re playing a part in sustaining their distinctive culture and eco-system. It’s as the old adage goes - take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints.
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