Olga Fisch Folklore (Quito; tel. 02/2541-315; www.olgafisch.com): Olga Fisch was a pioneer in recognizing and promoting the artistry of Ecuador's artisans and craftspeople. She helped them refine and improve some of their designs. Today her shop/gallery remains the top place to go for the best selection of high-end products. You'll find everything here, from clothing to ceramics to paintings. You can get chess sets with pieces carved from tagua nuts, or fine original silver and gemstone jewelry.
Tianguez (Quito; tel. 02/2570-233; www.sinchisacha.org): Housed in a mazelike series of rooms that feel like catacombs under the San Francisco church, this is my favorite place to shop for handicrafts. Just about every corner and region of the country is represented here, with pieces from the various Amazon basin indigenous tribes, as well as primitive paintings from artisans of the central Sierra. You can buy trinkets for next to nothing, or fine works that will make a dent in your wallet.
Otavalo Market (Otavalo): This is the most famous market in Ecuador, and perhaps in all of South America. Indeed, it's the place to come for all sorts of locally made crafts, including alpaca sweaters, rugs, and wall hangings, as well as a wide range of wood work, primitive paintings, and jewelry. Musicians can pick up some pan pipes or a charango.
San Antonio de Ibarra: It seems as if everyone in this little town in Imbabura province is a woodcarver. Many of the works produced here are religious in theme, and often of monumental proportion. Still, you can get plenty of decorative and functional pieces, and some that are easy enough to carry home with you (the others can be shipped).
Cuenca: From Panama hats to locally produced handicrafts, fine art works to unique jewelry pieces, Cuenca holds its own against Quito and Otavalo as one of the top shopping cities in the country. Of particular interest are visits to the actual Panama-hat factories and the studio of renowned ceramic artist Eduardo Vega.
Galápagos Jewelry (Puerto Ayora; tel. 05/2526-044; www.galapagosjewelry.com): These folks have excellent distinctive pieces, many in the shape and image of local flora and fauna. Cast silver is their strong suit, but they also work with stones and other metals. They also have a couple of outlets in Quito, and in Guayaquil and Cuenca.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.