Ecuador’s stunning scenery, colorful culture, friendly local people and temperate climate combine to make it one of the most rewarding destinations in South America. The Hacienda to Hacienda Ride follows a stunning route through two distinct areas of the Andean cordillera with the ride taking place between the elevations of 8,000 and 14,000 feet. In view of Cayambe and Cotopaxi, the ride crosses vast plains and passes through pastoral valleys, following the “Avenue of Volcanoes.” See the local people working the fields in much the same manner as their ancestors and relish the chance to take ancient Inca trails and visit Inca ruins as you ride in Ecuador.
Along the way you will have the remarkable experience of staying in several very distinct historical haciendas (colonial manor farms) in Ecuador. The Hacienda Ride is a spectacular way to experience the beautiful scenery, and colorful culture Ecuador has to offer. Two sets of horses in different locations make it possible to see a larger part of the area and there are opportunities to shop for a wide range of ethnic handicrafts.
Nearly all breakfasts and dinners will be at the haciendas; the majority of the lunches will be picnics. Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice, please be sure to note considerations on your reservation forms.
The horses are European imports (mostly English, Andalucian, Arab and Pasos) crossed with local ‘Criollo’ breeds. These fine horses are responsive and ideally suited for the terrain. There will normally be two changes to fresh horses during the ride. The McClellan saddle is used and the riding is mainly western style with neck reining, however, some horses do respond better to direct reining.
The saddles have a deep seat but are much lighter than American western tack to allow riders to ride either English or Western style. Some English saddles are available upon request, but due to the long hours in the saddle and steep terrain they are not advised.
Riding helmets are not required but strongly recommended. We encourage you to bring your own. You are not expected to groom or feed your horses. Grooms will accompany the ride.
After being picked up from Quito airport, you’ll be driven north. Stop as you cross the equator line south to north, followed by a visit to Cayambe market to marvel at the variety of fruit and vegetables on offer. Meet the horses and, once everyone is comfortable, enjoy a gentle introductory ride. Ride over a ridge affording stunning views of verdant valleys and descend into the next valley to a working dairy and Andalusian stud farm in the middle of this tranquil setting. This incomparable six roomed Hacienda, with such gracious hosts, is perfect to unwind and drift into the relaxing Andean atmosphere. Dinner & Overnight at the small, family-run working Hacienda. (approx. 3-4 hours horse riding)
Andean Condors & The Beautiful, Pastoral Zuleta Valley
Heading out between the meadows to explore this sleepy valley, you’ll pass ladies in their brightly colored full skirts busy embroidering as they watch their sheep and pigs grazing. Traversing a landscape frequently described by guests as the most picturesque they have ever seen, you will enjoy dramatic views of the hanging valleys and rocky ridges as we ascend between patchwork fields. Stop to see the pre-Inca earthworks dotted around this valley – one of the first highland areas ever settled – you can also pause in awe at the sight of a mighty Andean condor overhead, before circling back round to the Hacienda for a second night. (approx. 6 hours horse riding)
Opening the curtains, there is a wonderful sight of the cows being milked and the Andalusian stallions leaving their stables for the pastures. After breakfast, where you can enjoy Hacienda-made milk, cream and also homemade jam, you ride out of this verdant valley southwards. Emerging from the forests after some canters through the eucalyptus, the snow-capped Cayambe Volcano, which straddles the equator line, comes into view. You leave the horses and are driven a short way for lunch at a very important old Jesuit Hacienda. The Cayambe Valley is recognized as producing the best quality roses in the world and guests can judge for themselves – the Hacienda is adorned with hundreds of magnificent roses. Bypassing Quito to the East, we arrive at a country hotel on the slopes of Pasachoa with spectacular views of Cotopaxi Volcano, Antisana and other major Andean peaks. A quick trip to the hot tub and sauna is now in order, then a delicious dinner. Dinner & Overnight at this hill top hotel with outstanding views. (approx. 4 hours horse riding)
Montane Bamboo, Orchids & Paramo Grasslands
The lush narrow valley below you confines a rushing river making its way to the Pacific coast, the banks lined with mountain bamboo, ferns and the alder trees dripping with orchids and bromelia. The ride starts in this humid microclimate in the depths of this valley, but as you ascend above the tree line into the ‘paramo’ above the cultivated land, the change in vegetation is astounding. The luxuriant foliage makes way for plants adapted to colder and more arid conditions. Traversing the sea of paramo grasses, you are once again treated to remarkable Andean views; raptors soar above, and lower to the ground hillstars fly past you, wings beating so fast they are a blur. Arriving back at the hotel, you may spot another hummingbird, the swordbill. (approx. 5-6 hours horse riding)
The Wild Andes, Five Magnificent Volcanoes
A spectacular ride awaits: across the Sincholagua foothills to the northern edge of the Cotopaxi National Park. River crossings, canters through dramatic Andean scenery and riding across the remote wilderness amidst fascinating volcanic and glacial features await. There are few places in the world providing such perfect terrain for long canters coupled with a stunning backdrop – with not a fence in sight. A very good chance occurs here to see the immense Andean condors with a wingspan reaching 320cm (10ft6in)! Avoiding the feisty fighting bulls, arrive at an idyllic location surrounded by five breathtaking Andean peaks. From this modern Hacienda, remarkable views of the marvelous Andean landscape encircle you, dominated by the perfectly conical shape of the snow-capped Cotopaxi Volcano. Dinner & Overnight at this new Hacienda (approx. 5 hours horse riding)
Open Plains & Wild Horses In Cotopaxi National Park
Ride into Cotopaxi national park on the adorable sure-footed Criollo horses for some exhilarating canters across the wide, arid plains at the base of the Cotopaxi Volcano. The horses enjoy the open spaces but have such a calm temperament that they settle into a rhythm without trying to rush. 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, after which you will turn eastwards to follow the Inca route leading down to the Amazon. Pause to visit the remains of an Inca fort before continuing on through the gently undulating grassy hills, passing drumlins and moraine, crossing lahas and old lava flows, before eventually returning to the Hacienda. (approx. 6 hours horse riding)
Rugged Peaks And Hidden Valley
Head up the slopes of Rumiñahui Volcano (‘stoneface’) with an excellent chance of close encounters with the Andean condor, fox and deer. Pass polylepis trees (‘paperbark trees’) alisos and other native plants such as chuquiragua and valeriana, as well as a host of colorful native flowers hugging the hillsides. Climb above 4,000 metres (13,123 ft) then drop down into a hidden valley, cantering across pumice stone to arrive at the base of impressive vertical cliffs for another delicious picnic. Emerging from the valley, the views are unforgettable: ridges and vales as far as the eye can see – yet more indelible memories to take home on this the last day of riding. Overnight at an historic Hacienda close to Quito Airport. (approx. 5-6 hours horse riding)
Breakfast and Farewell
Following breakfast, you are transferred to the airport in time for your departing flights.
This itinerary is flexible and may be changed at the guide's discretion due to weather or other unforeseen circumstances.
Trip Dates & Pricing
Custom rides can be arranged upon request.
Additional Pricing Information:
Ride price is set, guaranteed, and final at the time the deposit is paid.
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The horses get an A+ for being nice, solid, nontemperamental mounts that were fantastically physically fit. I didn't see a single horse I would not have willingly ridden and been happy with. The entourage of helpers, both horse helpers and people helpers, were also super. Courtesy and attentiveness were the norm. The... Read more