Visit to the Condor Park, Otavalo
Many travellers visit Otavalo mainly for the Saturday market. However, besides the daily market on the Plaza de Ponchos, there are many more things to do in and around this cozy Andean town.
In earlier posts I gave Tips & Recommendations on a visit to the Mojanda lake area above Otavalo. Primarily focused on a hike to the top of the Fuya Fuya (4263m/ 13986 ft) volcano. Another popular visit is to the Cuicocha Crater lake, only 20 minutes from Otavalo in a taxi.
Nearer to Otavalo – just a few kilometers – you’ll find the Parque Cóndor/ Condor Park. Lying on the top of a hill between the market town and the San Pablo lake (Imbakucha en Quichua) it’s like a little zoo, dedicated specifically to Birds of prey.
In the park you’ll find all sorts of birds, like eagles, hawks, owls & others. The main attraction though is one of the largest birds in the world, the Andean Condor (member of the genus Vultur).
Main objectives of the Condor Park
Although the symbolic bird of the República del Ecuador, there are only around 60 condors still living in the wild. One of the objectives of the Condor Park is to rescue the Condor & other wild birds.
None of the birds in the Parque Condor has been taken directly from its natural habitat. In other words, many birds are rescued from illegal captivity or trafficking.
Others were brought in by local people after they were found – mostly injured – in or near their communities. If it’s possible to keep them alive and teach them how to fly again, they are set loose as soon as possible. Every time a special moment for the park’s employees.
Another main task for the non-profit Condor Park Foundation is to educate people. In other words, to create awareness in their visitors – national & foreign – of the importance of our natural habitat for us, human beings. Logically, especially the importance of the Birds or prey.
Unfortunately it’s still the case that many Ecuadorians, mostly farmers, kill wild birds & other animals. Mainly because they are afraid of them and think they’ll kill their domestic animals or destroy their crops.
For that reason it’s important to make the local people aware of the real role Birds of prey perform in the natural world. For example, when we talk about the Condors, one of its main utilities is that they clean nature, feeding on dead animals. Good for them, good for us.
The Condor Park: A little history
The Condor park opened its gates in 2007. Literally and figuratively under the wings of its founder Joep Hendriks. Joep was born in the Netherlands, but is living in Ecuador & among his birds for many years now.
The park is partially financed by donations from institutions all over the world. Another important income for the project are the entrance fees (as well as individual donations from visitors).
Besides a permanent staff, the Condor Park Foundation works with local volunteers.
All in all, a steady project in a Natural environment near Otavalo that deserves your visit. Not only for the park itself, but also for the beautiful views around.
To the west you have views of the Valle del Amanecer/ the Awakening Valley of Otavalo. Behind this valley you can spot Mt. Cotacachi (4944m/ 16220f), with the town of the same name nearby.
To the east you can enjoy the sight of the San Pablo lake with the Mt. Imbabura (4621m/ 15161ft) standing proud on its northern shore.
A visit to the Condor park of Otavalo serves everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old.
It’s a perfect place for families with children. For the little ones there’s much to enjoy. Besides a flight show (twice daily, see below), in which they can actively participate, our young ones can look out for the legendary Harry Potter owl. Besides that, there is a little playground.
Tips & recommendations for your visit to the Condor Park, Otavalo:
- The park opens Wednesday – Sunday and on holidays. Opening hours: 09:30 – 17:00.
- The general entrance price is $6 and $3 for children (3-11 years old).
- There are two flight shows a day, at 11:30 and 15:30. The show lasts about 45 minutes. Besides witnessing the spectacular flight of different birds of prey above the Awakening Valley of Otavalo – like the impressive Bald Eagle – you’ll get an explanation from the guide/guides of the show (mostly in Spanish though).
- Depending on your interest & energy I would reserve at least an hour to explore the park (before or after the show).
- In the Condor park you’ll find a cafeteria with a terrace. It sells typical snacks from the area, as well as coffee & drinks. At the entrance there’s a small shop with souvenirs.
- Be prepared for every type of weather: cold, warm, sun, rain, windy. Bring something warm!
- Protect yourself from the sun (at least Protector 50). Always…even when the day starts cloudy.
Condor Park: How to get there?
- There is no public transport up the hill, but it’s easy to get there.
- A taxi uphill costs $4 (at least from our Hotel Doña Esther in the middle of town). The ride from Otavalo’s city center takes 15 minutes.
- If you want, the taxi driver can pick you up in a few hours. (I would recommend you NOT to pay the whole price in advance. The best is to pay the total when you’re back in Otavalo. Most drivers are trustworthy, but you never know.)
- An alternative way to get there is to hike up the hill (1 hour – 1,5 hour). Or rent a bike in Otavalo, which will take you up in 30-40minutes.
- On your way up you pass the famous Lechero tree (recently seriously damaged by fire, but with plans to rescue it somehow). For the indigenous people the tree was & is Holy. There are several beautiful old legends connected to it, such as the Following story.
Include it in a self-made Tour
Another possibility is to hire a taxi & include it on a (half-a-)day touring the area around Otavalo. Visiting – besides the Parque Condor – other attractions (see below).
What else to do in the area?
- A lot of Hikers & Bikers combine a trip to the Condor park with a visit to the Peguche waterfall nearby. It’s an easy walk downhill from the park (at the entrance they can give you directions to continue on to the waterfall).
- Other visitors plan a bigger tour from Otavalo. A tour that not only includes a visit to the Condor park, but other attractions near Otavalo as well. Besides the mentioned waterfall of Peguche & and the remains of the Lechero tree, you can visit many workshops, where they make hats, musical instruments, tapestries and other handmade artwork & souvenirs.
- If you plan well, it’s even possible to combine a visit to the Condor Park in Otavalo with a visit to the Cuicocha crater lake & the Cotacachi village (known for its beautiful leather works). (Note: I personally would recommend you to start early and spend a few hours at the lake, before heading to Cotacachi for some shopping & a bite, and visit the park in the afternoon (including the flight show at 15:30).
In a few words, you can organise your own tour. And whatever you decide, I highly recommend you to include a few hours for a visit to the Condor Park on the hill above Otavalo.
- Furthermore, if you like we can prepare a take-away box lunch ($6.00 each) for you at our Hotel.
IMPORTANT: We can only provide this service to our hotel guests.
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For other Things to do in & around Otavalo, go to: Otavalo Attractions
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