The last days before Galapagos we spent in Otavalo, it is more or less 2 hours up North from Quito. From Latacunga which is South from Quito it takes 5 to 6 hours. The distance is only 200km, but the roads aren’t in great condition and mountains will be mountains and therefore make your bus slow. At least if you are lucky the bus will go slow 🙂
The bus ride from Latacunga shouldn’t cost more than 5$. As always you will have to negotiate, pay attention to what locals are paying and you will be able to not get ripped off completely. But don’t expect you are ever gonna pay as much (less) as a local, you are a tourist and even if you are fluent in Spanish your backpacks will expose you.
We loved Otavalo and highly recommend you to go. Not only because the city hosts two times a week the biggest artisanal market in Ecuador, but also because the nature and landscape around Otavalo is so inviting. We hiked, saw more lagoons, visited neighbouring towns, rented bikes and purchased colourful wool sweaters. The weather was great and sunny, completely different to Baños or Latacunga. The only downside of being in nature are the mosquitos. In Otavalo we got to know even a new kind of mosquitos. They looked like European fruit flies and we therefore thought them harmless, but damn, they eat you alive. No exaggeration, their bites were itchy for weeks. Even if you are prepared, we cannot promise that your mosquito spray will keep them away for long.
The towns close to Otavalo are very interesting, as each one of them is famous for a different type of artisan product. One town focuses purely on leather, while other towns are known for their hand-weaving techniques. Visiting those towns gives you a great inside into Ecuadorian culture. The thing we liked the most is that Otavalo was really not that crowded.
Eating out in Otavalo will cost you between 2-5$ a meal, depending on the spot you choose. The quality or diversity of the food is pretty basic everywhere. Expect rice, beans, a tiny bit of salad and meat for non-vegetarians. Most hostels in Otavalo are rather tiny hotels, we weren’t able to find any place with a kitchen, but the prices seemed overall pretty fair. We paid 15$ a night for a private room in a hotel.