Colonial Haciendas, Ecuador
canter along ancient Inca highways
stay in some of the best preserved haciendas of South America
hanging valleys, perfectly conical hills, wild flower covered grassy slopes, crater lakes and rocky summits.
A horseback riding tour through spectacular scenery between Ecuador’s Historic country houses including routes and lodgings exclusive to Ride Andes. Horse riding in two stunningly beautiful, yet very distinct areas of the Andean highlands. Breath-taking views as we cross vast plains and ride through pastoral valleys in a fascinating region dramatically sculptured by both glacial and volcanic activity. We follow the ‘Avenue of Volcanoes’, skirting the towering, snow-capped peaks of Cayambe and Cotopaxi (the highest active volcano in the world) and wandering through the maze of patchwork fields below.
Guests are met in Quito by their bilingual riding guide and driven into the northern highlands of Ecuador and visit the famous, very colourful Otavalo craft market. Then a short drive to meet the horses and ride to a historic hacienda frequented by the great South American liberator, Simon Bolivar. The horse ride (4hrs) along tracks passing woodlands, tiny fields and hamlets takes us to the 18th century Hacienda. 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.
We horseback ride 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 to another colonial hacienda, built in 1602 . 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. We will visit a family of local weavers that still produce exceptionally fine, unique rugs using the ancient pre-Inca backstrap loom.
A stunning horse ride into the beautiful pastoral Zuleta Valley, along country lanes then through eucalyptus forests. With views across the lake to the hills of Mojanda and also of Imbabura volcano,we reach the plains beyond for some fast-pace riding. Following sandy tracks, we then descend into the Zuleta valley with dramatic views of the ancient tumili and earth pyramids erected by the pre-Inca population we ride on to a working farm in the middle of this tranquil valley seldom visited by tourists. Guests can walk into the tiny village and see examples of the hand embroidery that has made the valley famous.
Horse riding through the hacienda's grounds you can see down the Zuleta valley to three peaks on the horizon, in Columbia and west across the array of patchwork fields to Imbabura peak. Here, condors are seen close up more and more frequently. We ride onto the Pesillo plains and arriving in the Cayambe Valley dominated by this Volcano, which straddles the Equator Line, and visit a beautiful hacienda for a sumptuous lunch. We then cross the Equator Line with time to stop for photos, and drive to a Hacienda with a swimming pool, Jacuzzi, sauna, Turkish bath and the possibility of massages.
Leaving the farmlands behind, a spectacular horseback ride awaits, across the Sincholagua foothills to the northern edge of the Cotopaxi national park. We start with some canters through dramatic Andean scenery, then traverse a series of huge gorges along tracks and riding across the remote ‘paramo’ wilderness, approaching the perfectly conical shape of the snow-capped Cotopaxi Volcano (the highest active volcano in the world). Having avoided the fighting bulls (the hacienda we cross is famous for its feisty Spanish bulls!), we turn westwards, cross a river and arrive for the night at an Hacienda, surrounded by mighty Andean peaks.
A day horse riding in the wild open expanses of the Andean highlands enjoying the open terrain, no sign of habitation and spectacular views of the close by Cotopaxi snow-capped volcano. Several herds of wild horses inhabit the park and to ride along side these horses galloping freely is an unique experience. We then ride across a very surprising ‘luna landscape’, between fascinating glacial and volcanic features and onto rolling grassy hills for more fast paced riding. We horse ride out of the national park to a recently converted old Jesuit Hacienda seeped in history and now a very comfortable highland hacienda.
Guests horse ride out of the lodge along dirt tracks, ford, a river and head down a very scenic valley. We cross wooden bridges, ride through streams and along sandy tracks and a chance of some final canters across the pastures. Often it is possible to see Andean Condors on this route as well as eagles, hawks, kestrel, fox and deer, humming birds, finches, flycatchers and many other bird species. Guests say good bye to the horses and are driven back to Quito with a quick detour through the colonial center.
Following breakfast, guests are accompanied to the airport in time for their outward flights, or are picked up at their hotel to continue on extensions.
‘Words really can't express my feelings about this ride: the horses were top-notch the food was delicious; the haciendas beyond belief (I'm trying to figure out how I can add a fireplace to my bedroom at home); … the scenery was spectacular’ JH.
Fully inclusive horse riding tour including: horse, spare horse(s) taken, guide and local groom(s) who saddle and unsaddle the horses etc., 3 meals per day (from lunch day 1 to breakfast day 8), snacks and water on rides, 7 nights’ accommodation, national park/private reserves etc. entrance fees, transport from & back to Quito (normally from/back to your hotel, depending on hotel location), transport of bags between lodgings and all local taxes. Saddlebags and ponchos (wool & rain) provided for each guest.
Riding ability: intermediate and above – able to canter in open spaces and also be prepared to ride on steep slopes and tricky terrain. Guests need to be riding fit – long days in the saddle with some tough riding. At various points guests may be leading their horses (but not normally over long distances). Please consult with us if you have any doubts.
Guides: expert rider leading the trip, bilingual with much experience. Also at least one skilled, local horseman accompanies the group.