Top 5 haciendas in EcuadorJamie Swan - Product & Marketing
If you like your hotels to have history then a visit to Ecuador should be high up on your list. Unlike the neighbouring countries, where most of the historic haciendas are still private houses, Ecuador offers visitors the chance to experience history as a guest.
There are numerous colonial haciendas dotting the beautiful, volcano-clad countryside offering everything from an authentic Chagra (Andean cowboys) experience to a luxury retreat.
Below are my top five haciendas; some are luxurious, others are rustic but each have a unique history and offer a chance to explore the less-visited areas of Central Ecuador and experience life in the dramatic Andes.
1. Hacienda Zuleta
This is a wonderful, luxury hacienda in the northern highlands, close to the town of Otavalo, famous for its vibrant indigenous market. The hacienda itself was built in 1691 and is still in the family of two former presidents. The hacienda’s 1,000 hectares are one of the main draws and offer enough to easily occupy a few days. Whether you like walking, horse riding, experiencing the local culture or simply relaxing, this place has everything you can ask for. It is still a working farm so you can help make cheese or milk a cow. If you want to be a bit more active then you have 9 different trails to take advantage of, most of which can also be done on one of the 100 or so well-trained horses. One of the highlights is the condor sanctuary: set up as a rehabilitation and education centre, it is now one of the most important sanctuaries in the country with the aim of increasing the population of this magnificent yet endangered bird.
2. Hacienda La Alegria
Hacienda La Alegria
If you’re into horses this is the hacienda for you! Although it was only built in 1911 making it one of the younger properties on this list it is still as atmospheric as you would imagine. The original family still live here and take pride in their friendly nature and home cooking; this is obvious as soon as you sit in their sumptuous living room around a large, warming fireplace. Situated less than an hour south of Quito in the Avenue of the Volcanoes you are surrounded by 135 hectares of farmland where you will find dairy cows and llamas. The views of the surrounding mountains are spectacular and are best admired on horseback – rides from 1 hour to 14 days can be arranged. If you want a more hands-on farm experience then you can help with the horses, milk a cow or discover how to make cheese.
3. Hacienda Pinsaqui
This wonderful hacienda certainly has history. Built it 1790 as a textile mill close to the indigenous town of Otavalo, only an hour north of Quito. It has had the like of Simon Bolivar pass through its doors on the way to defeat the Spanish Empire. Over the years the house has changed but it has kept its wonderfully large rooms and warm atmosphere. The house if furnished with antiques bought over from Europe by the aristocratic family and as with most haciendas, horse riding is something of a tradition, most evident in the cosy bar adorned with numerous trophies won over the last century. Horse riding can easily be arranged as can trekking and visits to the local indigenous communities.
4. Hacienda San Agustin de Callo
San Agustin de Callo
Set in the shadows of the spectacular Cotopaxi Volcano in the heart of the Avenue of the Volcanoes, this property is one of the more luxurious and intimate properties on the list. The history is unrivalled with the hacienda being built on top of an Inca fortress, the walls of which can be seen in the dining room and the chapel. The haciendas importance doesn’t end there: it was home to Alexander von Humboldt – the German scientist was based here during his studies of the nearby volcanoes which resulted in his works on geology, geography and meteorology. The hacienda is now in the family of various former presidents who have turned it into a luxury hotel offering everything you would expect, trekking to the nearby Cotopaxi national park, horse riding, cycling and trips to the various local markets.
5. Hacienda El Porvenir
Hacienda El Porvenir
Although based in the same area as a Jesuit farm this is the newest property on this list with the oldest portion of the house having only been built in 1913 with additions incorporated over the years. The properties highlight is the area, situated just outside of the stunning Cotopaxi National Park it has a prime position to make the most of the surrounds. Families are well looked after here with horse riding a particular speciality, you even get to dress up as a local Chagra when going on rides! Of course there is also the opportunity to go mountain biking, something the area is practically suited to plus the various trails throughout the property and national park.
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