Ride Overview - Colonial Haciendas Ride
Horseback riding vacations in Ecuador are journeys on landscapes made for equestrians. This ride adds exclusive routes and lodging. You will canter along ancient Inca highways and Spanish colonial routes between the best preserved ‘haciendas’ (grand colonial farming estates) of South America. Breath-taking views as your ride cross vast plains and pastoral valleys in a fascinating region sculptured by both glacial and volcanic activity. A picture postcard scene at the turn of every corner: hanging valleys, perfectly conical hills, wildflower-covered grassy slopes, crater lakes and rocky summits. Your trail will follow the ‘Avenue of Volcanoes’, skirting the towering, snow-capped peaks of Cayambe and Cotopaxi (the highest active volcano in the world). The days are packed with rides varied in both pace and scenery and with visits to local indigenous markets and craft villages. The customs and rhythm of life have changed little over the centuries. Nights are spent in idyllic haciendas – 17th and 18th century country houses and working farms. Warmly greeted by the owners, you can relax in front of open fireplaces and enjoy the fine period detail, atmospheric courtyards, and flowering gardens. The colonial haciendas that open their doors to you are unique and hold an important place in the history of Ecuador. Hundreds of years after they were first built, the haciendas continue to welcome visitors to Ecuador as they once did to such famous guests as Simon Bolivar. RIDING IN ECUADOR
“Just three days ago I returned from your Ecuador Colonial Hacienda Tour and would like to say a few comments about it: fantastic, fantastic, fantastic!!!!!! The whole trip was well organized … nothing was too much trouble. The horses were in superb condition, every day was very well planned with a great variety of sights. My favorite day; I couldn’t possibly say they were all excellent…” Y.W.
Ride Itinerary - Colonial Haciendas Ride
You will be met at Quito airport/Quito hotel by the guide and driven into the northern highlands of Ecuador. As you are driven through an arid valley with avocado orchards then into Imbabura province ‘the land of the lakes’, you will visit the famous, very colorful Otavalo market. Then you will check in to your historic hacienda frequented by the great South American liberator, Simon Bolivar. Members of the charming family (horse fanatics themselves!) that have owned the hacienda for many generations will warmly greet you. With its courtyards, ornate fountains, terraces and gardens graced with citrus, palm and monkey puzzle trees it is an ideal location to leisurely drift into the relaxing Andean atmosphere. There will be an introductory ride (3-4hrs) along the tracks and through the tiny fields and hamlets surrounding the hacienda. Along the way, you will often see the very friendly but dignified locals in their immaculate traditional dress working in the fields using hand tools or cattle to plow the land. These tiny fields are surrounded by stone walls and earth banks topped with sisal plants and an array of wild flowers. A bilingual guide assisted by a ‘chagra’ (expert local horseman) are on hand to help you. After a welcome drink in the cozy bar accompanied by the music of an excellent Andean band and a delicious traditional dinner (a la carte) overnight will be at this 18th-century hacienda, fireplaces in most rooms.
You ride will depart the historic hacienda – once a very important weaving centre, on horseback and ride on to another colonial hacienda built in 1602 (5 hrs). Your trail leads you past tiny hamlets of adobe huts, through woodlands, cross rocky gorges and wind our way around the patchwork fields of quinoa, potatoes, maize and tree tomato orchards. There are magnificent views of the San Pablo Lake and the jagged Mojanda summit as we ride across the slopes of the sacred Imbabura Volcano (extinct) – the focus of many Inca legends. As well as seeing a great variety of exotic Andean fruits and other crops, you will meet the locals in vibrant traditional dress going about their daily tasks, the children shepherding the unruly pigs and sheep – trying to keep them off the crops. Late PM: you can wander through the beautiful flowering gardens admiring the avocado trees, bromeliads, orchids and kitchen garden with passion fruit, tree tomato and a host of other interesting plants. Your group will then be driven through small villages with thriving cottage industries, to visit a family of local weavers. This family still produces exceptionally fine, unique rugs using the ancient pre-Inca backstrap loom that most weavers have abandoned in favor of more modern looms. The wool is still dyed using plants and then handspun as the family sticks rigidly to the traditional weaving processes. You will stay overnight at an early 17th Century (1602) hacienda adorned with local crafts and antiques. Fireplaces are in most rooms.
You will have a stunning ride into the beautiful pastoral Zuleta Valley (6-7hrs). The ride takes your group along country lanes through eucalyptus forests. The trail rises out of San Pablo Valley to reveal wonderful views across the lake to the hills of Mojanda and also of Imbabura volcano. Some fast past riding will be enjoyed on the ensuing plains. You will have views of Zuleta Valley, the verdant gorges and the ‘paramo’ (the unique Andean habitat of high grasslands) as your ride pass dew ponds and hedges of spiky agave (sisal) atop mud walls. Following sandy tracks, your trail then descends into the Zuleta Valley with dramatic views across to the hanging valleys and rocky ridges above. With views of the ancient tumuli and earth pyramids erected by the pre-Inca population, your trail traverses a working farm in the middle of this tranquil valley seldom visited by tourists. You will have a chance of seeing the mighty Andean Condor as well as other species such as hummingbirds and bright scarlet flycatchers. Andalusian horses, fighting bulls, and a dairy herd are among the farm inhabitants. In the evening, you can walk into the tiny village and see examples of the hand embroidery that has made the valley famous and also enjoy exploring and observing the activities on the working farm. You will stay overnight at the hacienda. Fireplaces are in most rooms.
You will have a chance to get to know about the Andalusian breed and meet the farm owners who will chat with you about their champion horses. We then ride out into another section of the farm along grass tracks, soon gaining height. Leaving the valley floor there are spectacular views north down the Zuleta Valley to three peaks on the horizon, in Columbia and west across the array of patchwork fields every imaginable shade of green to Imbabura peak. Here condors are seen close up more and more frequently. Then leaving the farm we ride up out of the valley through a large eucalyptus forest. This will be a different experience to the previous rides – cantering along the shady tracks between the rows of tall eucalyptus. You will often cross paths with the locals herding small herds of sheep, goats, pigs and cattle. Emerging from the forest onto the plains, snowcapped Cayambe comes into view. You will ride onto the Pesillo plains and arrive in the Cayambe Valley dominated by this Volcano, which straddles the Equator Line. The horses will be stables in a typical village square complete with ornate gardens, church and school. A short drive brings your group to a beautiful old hacienda for a delicious home cooked 3-course lunch of traditional dishes in beautiful surroundings. The number of visitors allowed to visit this hacienda is strictly limited and, as well as the fine antique furniture, it is packed with arrangements of fresh roses– 1000s of roses. We also visit a nearby rose plantation (time permitting). We then cross the Equator Line with time to stop for photos, and travel by vehicle (2hrs), bypassing Quito, to a hacienda with a swimming pool, Jacuzzi, sauna, Turkish bath and the possibility of massages (extra charge for massages). Overnight will be at the hacienda.
The day starts with a drive to meet the horses. Leaving the farmlands behind, a spectacular ride awaits (7hrs), across the Sincholagua foothills to the northern edge of the Cotopaxi National Park. Your ride will with some canters through dramatic Andean scenery, then traverse a series of huge gorges along tracks and riding across the remote ‘paramo’ wilderness. Your trail then descends and, once on the pasture lands, you will enjoy some exhilarating canters across the pastures and ride towards Cotopaxi National Park approaching the perfectly conical shape of the snow-capped Cotopaxi Volcano (the highest active volcano in the world). Sincholagua, a rocky summit that dominates the skyline, clearly marks the continental divide. The precipitation that falls the western side runs down and ends up on the Ecuadorian coast in the Pacific Ocean while that of the eastern sides eventually joins the Amazon and goes on to the Atlantic Ocean, via Brazil. Having avoided the fighting bulls (the hacienda we cross is famous for its feisty Spanish bulls!), your trail turns westwards, cross a river and arrive for the night at a hacienda, surrounded by mighty Andean peaks, an absolutely stunning location. The accommodation on day 5 will be at a new hacienda or a Mountain Inn. The decision will be based on the number of participants (one has too few rooms for larger groups). Both lodgings are situated in idyllic locations with stunning views, cozy rooms, and excellent food.
You will have a day riding in the wild open expanses of the Andean highlands enjoying the open terrain, with no sign of habitation and spectacular views of the close by Cotopaxi snowcapped volcano. The trail leads into the Cotopaxi National Park to canter across the wide, barren plains at the base of the Cotopaxi Volcano. Several herds of wild horses inhabit the park and to ride alongside these long-maned horses galloping freely across the rugged terrain is a unique experience. Part of this ride follows the main Inca highway which linked Quito with Cusco, Peru as well as the Inca route leading down to the Amazon. You will then ride to the old Inca fort that guarded this supply route. The ground is covered with tiny pumice stones and lichen on this arid plain created by lava and ash from Cotopaxi volcano. Your horse will carry you across a very surprising ‘luna landscape’ – huge boulders and hard baked ocre-colored mud, between fascinating glacial and volcanic features and onto rolling grassy hills for more fast-paced riding. After a picnic lunch amidst this stunning scenery, your trail leads out of the national park to a recently converted old Jesuit Hacienda seeped in history and now a very comfortable highland hacienda.
You will ford a river and head down a very scenic valley northwards towards civilization and Quito (5-6hrs). Along the way, you will pass polylepis trees (‘paperbark trees’) and alisos and other native trees & plants and cross wooden bridges; ride through streams and along sandy tracks. A chance of some final canters across the pastures, avoiding encounters with the fighting bulls. Your path will often cross with the local horsemen (chagras) checking the cattle and also frequently seen Andean Condors on this route as well as eagles, hawks, kestrel, fox, and deer. Your descending trail meanders into the valley along a lane bordered with native trees & shrubs, hummingbirds, finches, flycatchers and many other bird species flitting from tree to tree in front of you. Meeting the cobbled roads guests, you will say goodbye to your horse and be driven back into Quito (75 minutes). On the way to the hotel, your group will take a quick detour through Colonial Quito. You will stay overnight in a comfortable hotel in Quito.
Following breakfast, you will be accompanied to the airport in time for your outward flights.
Ride Details - Colonial Haciendas Ride
Dates: March 9th – 16th, April 14th – 21st, June 8th – 15th, August 10th – 17th, September 7th – 14th, October 5th – 12th, December 28th – January 4th
Best Months to Ride: June – September. Peak season is October to December. Airport: Quito
Riding Days: 7
Daily Riding Hours: 5 – 6
Riding Ability: STRONG INTERMEDIATE: Confident and in control at all paces including posting trots, two point canters and gallops in open country.
Group Size: Maximum 8 riders
Weight Restrictions: 187 lbs. (extra charge over 187 lbs. for extra horse)
Health : You will reach altitudes of 9,100 feet/2800 meters. It is essential to consult your doctor or an appropriate vaccination/health centre for up-to-date information.
Horses: English, Arab, Pasos crossed with Crillo
Accommodations: Colonial Haciendas (historic country houses)
2 – 3 riders total: $4,636.00 per person, double occupancy
4+ riders total: $3,833.00 per person, double occupancy
Single Supplement: $550
Included: 7 nights’ accommodation, horse, tack, guide,
Not Included: airfare, transportation to and from the airport ($70.00 roundtrip per person)
ANNUAL TEMPERATURE AND RAINFALL:
Colonial Haciendas Ride: Gallery
Colonial Haciendas Ride