A unique visit to the finest haciendas in the Andes of Ecuador, we spend a few days visiting each of the most famous estates in the highlands of this small country. These farm houses where the homes to Ecuadorian presidents, today their families or inheritants have turned them into boutique hotels. The haciendas we visit, some still work as farms and offer great horseback riding opportunities, or just enjoying some of the finest destinations around Ecuador in the style of being a guest at an "Andean Castle" and sharing time with the most important families in the Andean history of Ecuador. Below is a sample itinerary.
Arrival on international flight into Quito. Transfer in from the airport to a colonial style hacienda transformed into a boutique hotel and ecolodge with its own private botanical reserve. Located just 20 min. from the airport. Formerly known as Singuna Farm, San Jorge was Once owned by General Flavio Alfaro and illustrious 19th Century President Eloy Alfaro, leader of the Liberal Revolution in 1912 and originator of the Panama Hat.
We enjoy the a full day at the botanical reserve. San Jorge Eco-Lodge & Botanical Reserve is an 18th century Ecuadorian farm, situated on 200 acres of untouched, protected land, preserving the wild & natural habitat of the many endemic plants, animals and over 100 different species of exotic birds, native only to the Andes region.
Over 250 native species of medicinal plants can be found at San Jorge, and tours are given to explain their uses, for both ancient shamanic and modern medical applications. There are two large canyons located at San Jorge, Poroyumi and Singuna, containing two small rivers, fed by Andes Mountain springs which in turn, feed various smaller streams as well as 15 natural and sacred waterfalls. 3 internal roads and numerous smaller trails have been constructed for eco-education and eco-adventure tours, as well as maintenance of the reserve.
San Jorge Eco-Lodge & Botanical Reserve offers the following activities:
• Hiking & Archeological tours on the Last Incan Emperor's Trail
• Horseback Riding to the Highland Rainforest
• Medicinal Plant Hiking tours, featuring spectacular views of the Andes Mountains
• Birdwatching tours covering the 4 climate zones.
• Mountain Biking tours on endless back roads and pre-Inca trails
• Andean Shamanism Practices
• Eco-Adventure, Cultural tours and Multi-Sport Excursions
After a full day of your choice of activities you get to wind down at ecolodge´s in-house spa. Enjoy our indoor tempered swimming pool, sauna, Turkish bath and Jacuzzi. Other amenities include a game room, lounges, library and museum.
Today we will have another fun array of activities, we will start out by visiting the middle of the world monument located at the Equator line. After a short visit we will continue on north through the highlands and visit small artisan villages and enjoy typical snacks like leaf cheese and biscuits at the town of Cayambe. We will then go off the beaten path and reach hacienda Zuleta.
Upon stepping through the gates of Hacienda Zuleta, one enters into a historical legacy dating back thousands of years. Surrounded by the natural beauty of the Andes Mountains, the fertile valley still bountifully supports its inhabitants and is sited as a model for farming and land use in Ecuador and all of the Andes.
Today the working farm thrives under the supervision of former Ecuador President Galo Plaza’s descendants. the farm produces a wide range of products including: milk (5000 liters per day), cheese, barley, quinoa, potatoes, wheat, organic vegetables and compost and also boasts a wide variety of livestock, dairy cows, sheep and horses.
Recently, Zuleta was opened to a limited number of guests so that the public may enjoy the many wonders it holds.
Of special interest to many guests are the hand-embroidery workshop, condor rehabilitation project, trout farm and cheese factory. Tours of the entire farm are a typical part of every guest’s stay. You are usually privately escorted by a Plaza family member, another gesture of Zuleta’s renown hospitality.
Zuleta is as famous for its horses and riding program as it is for its history and hospitality. Riding has been a Plaza family tradition for over one hundred years, and today Zuleta reflects this equestrian affinity by boasting one of the most exclusive stables in Ecuador. Zuleta is also known for its Zuleteño horse which is a unique mixture of Spanish-Andalusian, English and Quarter horses. The outcome of this cross-breeding is a robust Andean horse with a good disposition for riding
Today we will enjoy a full day of activities at hacienda Zuleta. You will enjoy the hospitality and activities in company of the owners of the farm.
Today we depart Zuleta heading further north passing the small village of La Esperanza under the imposing beauty of landscapes provided by snow-capped Cayambe volcano and Imbabura volcano. We will the have a short stop at Ibarra for some traditional ice cream, we will continue on to the wood-carving village at San Antonio where we will visit workshops and visit master artisan shops. We will continue on to Illuman where we will visit a Shaman, if anybody volunteers they will have a full spiritual cleansing sesion (optional).
After a visit to an Andean musical instrument workshop at the village of Peguche we will enjoy lunch at historic hacienda Pinsaqui.
Pinsaquí’s history stretches back over three centuries. The colonial hacienda was constructed as far back as 1790, and following a disastrous earthquake that shook the region in 1867, faithfully and caringly restored. The building originally housed a textile workshop, employing nearly one thousand local weavers and spinners. During the 1800s, the hacienda hosted many important guests. Among these was Simón Bolívar, the known simply as ‘El Libertador’. Since then, the last five generations of the Freile-Larrea family have maintained ownership and care of this historic hacienda. One approaches the main house through imposing white stone gates, the front garden rolling gracefully down to a fountain at the hacienda's main entrance, which then divides into two wings. The hacienda was undeniably built to impress. Adjoining the main house, passing by the family chapel, are what were once the store rooms where the produce of the hacienda's vast lands were brought. They've now been converted into huge dining and living rooms with huge hearths and echoing ceilings. Tradition in the hacienda remains strong. Every lunch, local Indian musicians from Otavalo arrive to entertain listeners with their traditional music and warm characters, intimately sharing their culture, through verse and instruments, with the guests.
After enjoying Pinsaqui we will visit the indigenous market at the city of Otavalo. A colorful display of textiles, handcrafts and artisan goods at the Plaza of the Ponchos will give you the opportunity to bargain and even make trades for souvenirs. Amongst the most popular are the traditional ponchos and wall hangings. After exploring this unique cultural scene we will drive around picturesque San Pablo lake and vist the workshop of one of the master weavers who will show us how the backstrap loom is used to make two faced wooven rugs and other tapestries.
Our full day of cultural interaction will end at Hacienda Cusin another historic property. 17th century hacienda Cusin’s terracotta-tile roofs, winding cobblestone pathways, courtyards and perennial gardens nestle beneath a deep blue sky in a wide, pastoral lake valley. Nearby, the often snowcapped 15,000-foot Cotacachi volcano is reflected in Lago San Pablo.
An ancient lakebed, cool nights and a predictable equatorial sun have conspired with avid gardeners to create several acres of ever-blooming gardens which include belladonna, bougainvillea, agapantha, acanthas, foxgloves, orchids and palms that attract over 50 species of birds.
All individually styled guestrooms, suites and garden cottages have private bathrooms and views of perennial gardens. Most guestrooms have log-burning fireplaces, beamed ceilings, king-size beds and fine Andean craft furnishings.
Today we will enjoy a fun morning at Cusin and its gardens. Resident animals at the hacienda are: Llamas, horses, peacocks, rabbits, guinea pigs, turkeys, geese, pigs. Possibility of hiking, horseback riding or mountain biking in the surroundings of the hacienda. In the afternoon we will head back to Quito for a short visit of the colonial downtown, UNESCO heritage site, famouse for its churches full of religious art and colonial architecture. we will end our short tour of the city with a birdseye view from the Panecillo hill.
Tonight we will spend the night at another historic estate, hacienda La Carriona. Hacienda "La Carriona" is located in the beautiful Valley of Los Chillos, a brief drive south down the highway from Quito. Constructed as an hacienda more than two-hundred years ago, "La Carriona" stands as a monument to Ecuador's colonial history. Its stone courtyard and garden hint of the exuberant Spanish Colonial lifestyle, while its name reminds us that it once belonged to the renowned Carrión family, La Carriona's thick adobe walls have witnessed significant events in Ecuador's history. In the mid 1800s, the house belonged to the distinguished family, Fernández Salvador. In 1830, the patriarch of this family, Don José Fernández Salvador, was appointed president of the first Constitutional Assembly. This Assembly laid the foundation for both the Ecuadorian constitution and nation.
Today, the hacienda accommodates guests amidst tranquil surroundings. Located on the outskirts of the capital, Quito.
Today we will depart South and journey into the Avenue of the Volcanoes. We will spend a full day at Hacienda La Alegria, a full working dairy farm and is the family home of the Espinosas. Your host Gabriel comes from a long tradition of equestrian sports. His grandfather bred racing horses close to Quito and his father, Renato Espinosa was a keen polo player. Gabriel followed in the same footsteps as a young man, horse-jumping and playing competitive polo. The hacienda is full of fascinating equestrian heirlooms, including antique side-saddles, cattle brands and traditional "Chagra" (Andean cowboy) tack.
Whether you are a total beginner or an experienced rider, a day out at La Alegria will introduce you to a side of Ecuador that few on the "tourist trail" get to see. The hacienda is surrounded by fabulous riding country, with cobbled tracks winding through lush farmland up to the rolling paramo (high grassland) and the rocky summit cones of the many extinct volcanoes that line both sides of the Machachi valley.
Today we will enjoy a gentle ride around the local farms or for the more adventurous an ascent of La Viudita ("The Widow", 3760m), our "local" peak from which you can enjoy fine views of the "Avenue of the Volcanoes".
We have horses suitable for both first-time and experienced riders. We are careful to match all riders with a horse suitable for their level of riding ability and experience. Before setting off you will be given time to get used to your horse and tack in the safety of our paddock and "round".
Non-riders have several options to participate in, a hiking trip to La Viudita, and enjoy beautiful scenery of the surrounding Andes or visit the surrounding cloudforest as one of the unique features of the environment around Hacienda La Alegria is the endangered habitat of the Ecuadorian cloud forest. These subtropical montane rain forests used to cloak much of the steep western slopes of the Andes between 1,000 and 2,500 meters, but are now classified as threatened. We are extremely fortunate to have an area of unspoilt primary forest close to La Alegria.
These luxuriant forests rank among some of the most bio-diverse habitats on the planet, with an astonishingly profusion of plant life, including orchids, epiphytes ("air plants"), tree ferns, bamboo, wax palms, podocarpus and aliso. Bird-watching is popular, with hummingbirds, nightjars, and other exotic species present in the forest.
From Hacienda La Alegria there are a number of options for mountain bikers as well. For those looking for downhill thrills, descents of Viudita and the lower slopes of Corazon and - for the ultimate adrenaline rush - Cotopaxi are possible. The countryside surrounding the hacienda is interlaced with cobbled roads lined with ancient eucalyptus trees, giving a timeless feel to trips through the local villages and farms.
In the evening we will check in at Hacienda San Agustin de Callo and enjoy the local Inca ruins. The farmhouse was built by Augustin monks on the site of an important Inca palace, today it is a working farm that offers visitors Boutique hotel accommodations with a glimpse into Ecuador´s rich and colorful past. The Hacienda is the family home of the Plaza family...and as such its individually styled rooms have been designed to reflect this atmosphere and that of the building's historical importance. The main house, refered to as the Inca House, with its Spanish courtyard built around Inca rooms, has a warm and romantic atmosphere with magnificent views of the surrounding hills and volcanoes...In both houses the rooms come with en suite bathrooms and fireplaces in the bedrooms and most bathrooms. Beds are on the generous side and extremely comfortable. The beautiful wall paintings are made by Chilean artist, Manuel Araya.
We will start the day with an English breakfast at the Hacienda's Inca dining room with its view of Cotopaxi, provides guests with the perfect setting to savour the excellent cuisine. Our hosts are the Plaza Family. In 1921 the Hacienda was purchased by General Leonidas Plaza Gutierrez, leader of the Liberal Revolution. Plaza went on to become President of Ecuador in 1901 and -again in 1912, a position which was to be held by his son Galo Plaza in 1948. The Hacienda remains in the family to this day and is currently owned by the General's granddaughter Mignon Plaza, whose father, the distinguished congressman and legendary amateur bullfighter José Maria Plaza, continued to play a pivotal role in politics.
We will start our activities by exploring the hacienda´s archaeological site:
The Hacienda has been written about by the Spanish chronicler, Cieza de Leon (1553) and is one of only two major Inca sites in Ecuador. This temple or palace was built around 1440 a.d. by one of the last Inca emperors, Huayna Cápac, and to this day the remaining rooms prevail as a magnificent sample of the unique style of Inca construction. The site is currently being investigated by Dr. David Brown of the University of Texas, the funding of which was provided by the National Geographic Society. Previously unknown portions of Inca walls and foundations have been discovered throughout the restoration process of the house.
Our activities today will be carried through in the surroundings of San Augustin which is nestled in the foothills of Cotopaxi, the highest active volcano in the world, San Agustín de Callo provides the perfect setting for those wishing to enjoy this unique countryside by horse, mountain bike or foot.
The high paramo with its unique abundance of flora, fauna is within easy reach of the Hacienda as is the Cotopaxi national park whose spectacular habitat is home
to the elusive condors, wild horses and Andean wolves.
Trails range from a few hours in length, taking you through typical high Andean villages such as Ticatilin with its whitewashed Colonial church, to longer day trips following little used Inca trails.
The Hacienda is ideally situated for off road riding in and around Cotopaxi National Park or the mountain range above the Saquisili market place. For those who wish to enjoy a spectacular down hill ride, four wheel drive transport takes you to the 'Refugio', located just below Cotopaxi's snow line at 4800 mts. Riders can then make the exciting descent to the park entrance where transport will be waiting to take you back to the hacienda and to a well-earned dinner.
Several Indian Markets are within a twenty minute drive from the hacienda
and include those of Pujilí and Saquisilí, one of the most authentic markets in Ecuador, with their colorful displays of produce, spices, fruits and hand woven ponchos.
We spend another night at our beautiful hacienda.
Today we will head towards the Eastern flank of the Andes to visit cloudforest town of Baños. Baños is the gateway to La Selva (Amazon rain forest). Here, the artisans have built their shops to sell the most amazing variety of indigenous products. You can learn how they work, the materials they use, and the way they live. Baños offers you a variety of activities, you can visit The Devil's Caldron and Inés María Waterfalls, or shop around the main plaza. The town is famous amongst local people for its thermal baths, there are several pools around town. Baños is also a Meca for adventure sports, allowing for a full day of trekking, mountain biking, canyoning, pendul jumps, motorbiking and more. Nevertheless the main attractions of the area are its natural wonders... the avenue of the waterfalls, forests teeming with orchids and exotic birds, nature trails and lots of fun.
On our way to Baños we visit the indigenous Salasaca Market, interact with the Salasaca people, learn about their traditions, culture, and language (Quichua).
After a full day exploring the area we will check in at Hacienda Manteles located in the Patate Valley by the entrance to the Llanganates (where the legends say lies the fabulous treasure of Atahualpa, the Inca ruler slain by the Spaniards). You will be in a home-style house of a family farm, charming and cousy, feeling at home. There are ten comfortable bedrooms with private bathrooms. The house is painted in browns, yellows and greens to create harmony with the surroundings.
We will have a hearty breakfast with a view, the dining room where good food is served according to your timing desires is constantly visited by several species of hummingbirds coming to the windows all the time.
On the distance you can see the snow-capped Tungurahua Volcano erupting, and if you walk down towards the garden you can enjoy many types of flowers and orchids that grow in Manteles cloud forest. Manteles owns and protects about 100 hectares of virgin cloud forest. Here, you can find endemic species of flora and fauna. When you are guest at Hacienda
Manteles, you are contributing to the care of its cloud forest.
With several options of activities listed below, you can enjoy a full day of adventure, nature or leisure. There is trekking, hiking, horseback riding , bird watching, mountain biking, mountain climbing, fishing, exploring Manteles' cloud forest and exploring the entrance to the Llanganates Cordillera (mountain chain) and Day of Agriculture.
Places to visit and things to do:
Short trip to Rio Verde where you can sit safely or get into the river waters and fish for trout. The Rio Verde, with its crystalline waters, is at the slopes of the Llanganates Cordillera and arrives, a few kilometers away at the Amazon jungle, forming The Devil's Caldron Waterfall and becoming some of the initial waters of the Amazon river (Rio Pastaza) that travels to the Atlantic Ocean.
Learn how to plant and cultivate different organic foods and products from the fields around. Harvest anything you feel like eating and the chef will prepare it for you. Also, visit farms and green houses. During this day you can plant a tree, helping Manteles' forestation program.
Today we depart our hacienda and will drive around the highest mountain in Ecuador, impossing Chimborazo. As we pass by this giant, we will be visiting the surrounding wildlife reserve and enjoy the views of several highland birds and Vicuñas (elegant part of the family of the Llama). It is optional to hike up to the climbers refuge to enjoy majestic views and walk by the snowline.
We will enjoy lunch en-route and head towards Quito, tonight we will check back in to Hacienda La Carriona and enjoy an afternoon of leisure, here you can walk around the gardens, swim in the pool or relax in the turquish bath. Overnight.
Return home or join a trip extension into the Choco rainforest a Galapagos natural history getaway or an Amazon eco-cruise
The above is a sample itinerary prepared for a Historic Farm stay program. It can be customized to fit the needs and special interests of your travellers