Otavalo is a small indigenous town in the north Andean countryside. It is located 2 hours north of Quito. It's famous for its indigenous population, artisan crafts, and textiles.
A trip to Ecuador is not complete without visiting Otavalo. Otavaleños pride themselves in their heritage and artistic talents. Their town, Otavalo, is friendly and cozy, and is mainly famous for its Saturday market, which is one of the biggest and greatest indigenous markets in Central and South America. You can buy anything from locally made handcrafts to traditional indigenous outfits.
Otavalo wins people over with the great opportunities for activities and excursions. And it is just two hours ride away from Quito.
ISE - Instituto Superior de Español in Otavalo was founded in January 1994. Our Spanish School is located in the heart of Otavalo, just a few meters from Otavalo's famous craft market in the Plaza de Ponchos.
Joining a Spanish course at ISE does not only means learning Spanish to a proficient level, but also discovering Otavalo, making new friends, and learning more about the Ecuadorian lifestyle thanks to the warm welcome of the locals.
ISE has very high teaching standards. As our teachers have several years of experience, they are able to respond to the individual needs of the students. We offer classes for every level, and the teaching method focusses on the development of speaking, listening and writing skills. Therefore, our program combines verbal and written exercises with conversation and vocabulary practice.
Spanish programs are organized according with the previous level of each student, time to stay with us, personal interests and teaching preferences. Learning processes will be reported at the end of every week, so that we can ensure that the classes are perfectly organized and well prepared.
For beginning students, we highly recommend to first take individual lessons or a combination of group and individual classes to accelerate the learning process. However, in case that you should feel uncomfortable with your group course regarding studying speed, it is always possible to change to individual lessons or switch to a combination course.
Living with a host family in Otavalo gives you a real insight into the Ecuadorian lifestyle and you will find your Spanish learning progresses to be faster, as you spend time with local people. All of the host families live within a 5-10 minutes walking distance or 5 minutes by bus from the ISE facilities. You will also get to know the culture and traditions of Otavalo through sharing everyday life with your hosts. As it is part of the Otavalo Culture, you will share two or three meals a day with the family. The meals are very important for them and are the parts of the day when the families come together. You will be integrated as a whole family member.
The host families always give their guests a warm welcome and enjoy the opportunity to share Ecuadorian life and culture with someone from a different country.
If you prefer to stay in a hostel or hotel, we are happy to offer suggestions or help you make arrangements. All of our recommended locations present a variety of accommodation and price ranges, and are within easy reach of ISE.
In Otavalo are several options to stay at a hotel or hostel: Due to our experience in teaching Spanish in Otavalo for 23 years already, we recommend to stay at Hotel Riviera Sucre. We also recommend Hotel Otavalo but right now this hotel is in a process of rebuilding.
In the area of Otavalo we also work with a few Indigenous Communities including Indigenous families.
If you agree, you are also welcome to participate in this program and stay with an Indigenous family, where you will always have full board, never half board and never only breakfast.
The indigenous family will offer you a private room with a private bathroom. If you come alone, you will stay alone and you will be part of the Indigenous family. This means that you will participate in all of their activities, including labor at the organic farm, going to the market, etc.
In the morning you will be with them and most of the time you will volunteer at the farm. After lunch from Monday to Friday, your Spanish teacher will come to the Indigenous family to teach Spanish from 2:00pm until 6:00pm.
Don't miss out on the beautiful scenery and great variety of activities the surrounding area has to offer. The majority of the Otavaleños live in separate communities outside Otavalo, like Peguche, San Jose de la Bolsa, Selva Alegre and many more.
During the week, the ISE organizes complementary trips to nearby attractions:
It is a place that seeks to protect and rescue birds
Observe and get to know a variety of birds
Enjoy a flight show
One of the most important attractions of the city, just 5 minutes from the city of Otavalo,
It is a ritual and spiritual place
It’s a sacred place for the culture of Otavalo
Mountains, lakes and lagoon view.
Complex of 3 lakes
Located at 17km from the city ??of Otavalo
Black volcanic lagoon
Great view to the hill Fuya Fuya which is 4,263 meters above sea level to which it is possible to ascend without much difficulty
During the week, the ISE organizes cooking classes, where the group cook typical Ecuadorian food. Students participate in the preparation of the dishes in the company of teachers to share, enjoy and learn more about the Otavalo culture.
Roads are packed with visitors buying wool goods such as blankets, ponchos, sweaters and hats, as well as the traditional embroidered blouses, hammocks, carvings, jewelry and paintings. Bargaining expected, don’t be shy.
Located to the west of the city of Otavalo
To reach the waterfall you have to walk down a path where we can see beautiful scenery
Otavalo is located just 2 hours by public bus from Quito. For your information, there are several buses that leave the Carcelen Bus Station in Northern Quito every 15 minutes.
If students come to study in Otavalo as a first choice, we pick them up at the airport in Quito:
If you will stay with a family, they will be expecting you at the bus terminal station and will easily take you to their homes.
Due to the fact that Otavalo is a small town, most of the hotels or hostels our students might stay at, are located in walking distance. If you don't want to walk, there are taxis available at the bus terminal which will not cost more than US $ 2.00.
Our students receive a city map as well as a phone number in case of emergency. If you need assistance buying a mobile phone card, we will help you.
Otavalo is a small, secure, peaceful and calm town in the north of Ecuador with about 50,000 inhabitants, which are called Otavaleños.
The town is located in the Andes at 2,500m above sea level.
Temperature: 16°C annual average temperature
Languages: Spanish and Kichwa
Otavalo is surrounded by the three volcanos Imbabura, Cotacachi and Mojanda. But no worries: They’re not active anymore!
The indigenous Otavaleños are famous for weaving textiles, which are sold at the famous Saturday market. You should visit Plaza de los Ponchos!