Introduction to your planned visit to Ecuador, Otavalo and our Hotel Doña Esther & Restaurant Árbol de Montalvo.
Let’s start with the latest news. Good news! FANTASTIC news actually. And we we’re honored …
Ecuador, a very diverse country
If you have chosen Ecuador as your next destination let me start by congratulating you. Ecuador is really one of the best choices you can make nowadays.
- It’s foremost a spectacular beautiful country. Blessed with a unique diversity in landscapes, flora & fauna, people and cultures.
In Ecuador it’s possible – in only one day – to wake up in the tropical Amazon jungle, crossover snow-covered mountains to see the sun go down in the warm Pacific Ocean. Exactly, … in the direction of the wonderful Galápagos Islands (about 1000km/ 600 miles out of the coast) that belong to Ecuador as well.
I wouldn’t recommend you to travel this fast, but I’m basically underlining the enormous diversity you’ll find within the borders of this small Andean country.
- Ecuador is easy to travel. Overall the roads are in a good state. Public transport is cheap and can lead you to the tinniest villages.
An alternative is to hire a car, but that’s relatively expensive. A taxi though is affordable – even over larger distances.
- Note: A taxi ride to & from the airport (1,5 to 2 hours) to our hotel in the center of Otavalo only costs $60.)
In the jungle and around the islands you travel by boat of course.
- Ecuador is relatively cheap compared to other Latin-American countries. Foremost, costs for transport – as mentioned – but also for lodging and dining out.
The fact that Ecuador in 1999 lost it own currency – the Sucre – and took on the US dollar, brought stability in prices. Also in exchange rates.
- Tip: Bring smaller US banknotes $1-$5-$10-$20. Sellers on the market & smaller shops generally don’t accept banknotes of $50 or $100.
In a few words, Ecuador is a safe & easygoing country, with friendly, helpful people everywhere.
Diversity to choose from
In short, an ideal country for travel. The only problem you probably going to encounter when Ecuador is your next destination, is which places you choose to visit?
Where to go? What to do? Where to stay & eat?
The answers to these essential questions are different for every traveler. Everyone has his or her own wishes, preferences & budget of course.
Having said that, there are places & areas in Ecuador you simply can’t miss during your visit. To name a few MUST VISIT’s: the Cotopaxi National Park, the Quilotoa Crater lake & places like relaxing Baños, subtropical Mindo, colonial Cuenca or the rural area around Riobamba, like Guamote & Alausí.
And then there’s of course is the town of Otavalo.
The magical market town of Otavalo…
Another place you can’t miss on your journey through Ecuador is the small Andean market town of Otavalo. Located in the northern highlands.
Otavalo is mainly known for its world–famous indigenous market (daily, but spectacular BIG on Saturdays). A market full of locally produced handicrafts.
The best spot for the best and cheapest handicrafts in Ecuador, bought directly from the people who produce them. Friendly people, who of course want to sell something, but don’t bother you if you don’t.
The market is a must for all those who like to buy the best souvenirs, for themselves or for family and friends. And for the best prices.
At the same time you meet the Otavalos that for centuries have been selling their handicrafts here & everywhere. All around the world actually. Take a look at their beautiful embroidered traditional clothing, especially the women. A people proud of their heritage, culture and traditions.
But – Be warned – Otavalo has much more to offer.
The beautiful surroundings of Otavalo
Besides the market the area around Otavalo is blessed with a lot of easy accessible Natural attractions. To name a few (Click on name or foto to learn more).
- The Cuicocha Crater lake underneath the Cotacachi Mountain. A hike of 4-5 hours leads you around this beautiful lake (La Laguna de Cuicocha).
- The Mojando lake area with the double headed Fuya Fuya volcano. Waiting to get conquered (Lagunas de Mojanda).
- The Condor Park, (El Parque Cóndor) a rescue center for Birds of Prey. With flight shows twice a day.
- The Peguche Waterfall, (La Cascada de Peguche) a 30-40 minute hike from Otavalo.
Other things to do around Otavalo
Other attractions, besides the illustrated ones:
- A village tour, to visit the local artisans at their workshops
- The town of Cotacachi (recently honored with the title Magical Village, Pueglo Mágico in spanish), known for it’s fine leather work.
- The thermal springs of Chachimbiro. To chill out!
- The colonial city of Ibarra, capital of Imbabura province.
- An alternative visit to the Mitad del Mundo (not the famous one near Quito, but an alternative one, just as interesting).
The real hikers & climbers use Otavalo as a base to conquer the summit of the highest mountains of the North, like the Imbabura, the Cotacachi or the Cayambe. Sometimes even as warming up for the highest volcanoes in de central part of Ecuador: the Cotopaxi & the Chimborazo.
All in all, the surrounding area of Otavalo and the province of Imbabura is considered one of the greenest & healthiest regions of Ecuador. GREEN & HEALTHY enough to be proclaimed GeoPark in Ecuador by UNESCO just recently. The first in the country.
Hotel Doña Esther, Otavalo: A little history
A nice and comfortable base to visit all these attractions is the Dutch owned Hotel Doña Esther.
Our Hotel is located in the heart of Otavalo. Very near the central park & the market, but also very near a bus stop & a taxi stand.
For almost 150 years visitors arrive at what nowadays is Hotel Dona Esther in Otavalo. It is one of the oldest hotels in the area. Formerly named ”Pension Otavalo”.
A century and a half ago most travelers arrived on foot or on horseback. That’s why the hotel still has an inner courtyard. The place were the horses used to rest, eat & drink. When visiting us you can still see one of the stone troughs that were used to feed the horses and mules.
The riders slept in the rooms above & around the inner courtyard. As our guests still do.
We – that’s Wendy & Arthur – bought the hotel/restaurant in 2003. Coming back from Guatemala were I worked for a few years on a network of cultural & educational radiostations (For short biographies on Wendy click on: Interview with my wife Wendy (in Dutch), or on About Me: Better call me Art).
Some more background information:
- We bought the hotel from an Ecuadorian/French couple. They had renovated the hotel recently (late 90’s). We only had to make some minor adjustments. And decided to keep the name of the hotel.
- Doña Esther Paredes was the grandmother of the former owner. Someone who he wanted to honor as the previous owner/hostess.
- We renamed the restaurant though: Árbol de Montalvo. Named after the street we are located in. But also after the famous Tree of Montalvo. A national symbol for the life & times of the Ecuadorian writer/philosopher Juan Montalvo. A tree still honored in Montalvo’s place of birth Ambato, as well as in nearby Baños. The last place, being the birthplace of our daughter Lisa.
- In short, 1 + 1 makes 2.
- Note: Most travelers, planning a tour of the country, first head out to Otavalo. However, because they think the airport is near to Quito, they spend the first night in the capital. While, depending on your plans, in time & money it’s better to go directly to Otavalo from the airport. This way, gaining a day and avoiding a busy city. If you like the idea, at our Hotel we can arrange a taxi with our own trustworthy & friendly driver Don Luis for just $55.
A visit to Hotel Doña Esther, Otavalo
Our Hotel Doña Esther is relatively small but has a unique ambience. All our 12 colonial style rooms (with their own bathroom) are located around the inner–courtyard. The 4 smaller front rooms (matrimonial) have a little balcony.
In the back we have some bigger rooms for 2, 3 or 4 people.
On top there’s a small apartment. Ideal for a family with 2 or 3 small children, but also available for couples.
“Sleep, Eat, Drink, Rest, Enjoy & Remember” is the lemma of our Otavalo hotel
A big plus, is our restaurant Árbol de Montalvo. Located directly behind the inner courtyard, it has it’s own vibe & beautiful views.
In our restaurant we serve a fusion of European & Ecuadorian flavory food. Making use of products, herbs and spices bought locally.
- To give you some examples, we serve a Quinoa salad. Quinoa, being a traditional grain-like crop from the Andes.
- Another exemplary plate we prepare for you is Pollo Pintado, chicken filet in a spicy sauce with a touch of chocolate.
- Churrasco is another typical dish, traditionally for physical laborers: a large slice of fine beef with two fried eggs, rice, french fries, salad and avocado.
- A Dutch treat with a Ecuadorian touch is the Slavink. A homemade sausage wrapped in bacon, that comes with an Ecuadorian sauce of tree tomatoes (Tomate de árbol).
Besides meat, fish, salads, pastas & vegetarian dishes, we offer pizzas made in a wood burning oven. You can choose from more than 15 different pizzas, but adorn them with every extra you can think of. Pizzas made the traditional, that is Italian way.
For a complete idea of our extensive menu, go to Menu Árbol de Montalvo.
All in all, we dare say – speaking from almost 20 years experience – that a visit to our Hotel Doña Esther & Restaurant is always memorable. Something many of our visitors have taken home as an unforgettable part of their journey to Ecuador.
Something we’re very proud of.
Extra Services en Hotel Dona Esther, Otavalo
If you would like to stay in your room, we can bring your order up.
We can do the laundry for you. For reasonable prices.
Besides this information & linked blogposts we can always help you further. Information on Things to do in the area around Otavalo. As well as, general information about the country.
We know professional, trustworthy taxi drivers that can take you everywhere for a good, honest price. Travel safely, with drivers that know the area and are proud of their country.
Book exchange & sale
Most books are for exchange, some special ones (sometimes even new) go for $5.
Our shop: Unique knitwear
And then, last but not least. We have the honor to be the only place in Ecuador to sell handmade INTI knitwear. Textiles, locally knitted by hundreds of women (and some men), who get a fair income for their work.
Sweaters, jerseys, jumpers, jackets, vests, shawls, caps, gloves. Colorful, soft, made of wool, but mostly of Baby Alpaca. Garments that aren’t as cheap as garments on the market, but are actually handmade art pieces.
The prices we ask in our shop are two, sometimes three times lower then the prices on the main markets of the INTI products in Northwestern Europe & the United States.
Hope to see you soon!
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