First-timers and return visitors all agree–the Andes is one of the most visually stunning destinations on the planet. From the snowcapped giants of the Avenue of the Volcanoes to a countryside dotted with the bright colours of traditional indigenous attire, the Ecuadorian highlands are rich in natural and cultural diversity at every turn.
Haciendas in the region–all of which have been important players in Ecuador’s fascinating history–welcome you and invite you to journey into the past to take a glimpse into the daily lives of the people who call the Andes home. Traditions, customs and recipies handed down for generations enrich this introduction to the Andean way of life.
Haciendas Visited During the Tour
- Great introduction to the region
- Traditional Andean cuisine
- Interaction with local artisans
- Zuleta’s Andean Condor rescue centre
- Visits to diverse communities
DAY 1: Quitsato, Rose Plantation & Horseback Riding (Quito – Calderón – San Pablo)Depart from Quito north on the Pan-American Highway crossing the dry valley of Guayllabamba to the small village of Calderón to sample and learn about the tradition of the famous bread dough figures made at a local bakery. Then, continue on to the fertile valley of Cayambe where the highway crosses the equator. Here, on a clear day, it is possible to observe the snowcapped Cayambe Volcano towering in the distance. Also, Quitsato, an interesting independent project that includes a solar clock, provides an innovative view of the equinoctial line.
Continue on to the province of Imbabura to Hacienda Cusín located in the small village of San Pablo on the shores of the beautiful San Pablo Lake. After checking in, visit a neighbouring rose plantation to learn about this booming industry. Lunch will then be served at Cusín.
In the afternoon, take a leisurely horseback ride along narrow cobblestone streets and up into the hills for breathtaking views of the mountains and San Pablo Lake. Back at the hacienda, enjoy the extensive gardens and cozy fireplace before a delicious Andean dinner. (Lunch & dinner included.)
DAY 2: Imbabura Volcano & Handicraft Workshop (Zuleta Community)Today’s activities begin with a half-day hike toward the eastern flank of Imbabura Volcano crossing fertile farmlands, walking on old cobblestone roads and taking different trails to reach the Angochahua Valley Pass at 10,000 feet above sea level. To maximise the time, a box lunch will be served along the way. Later, descend into the valley and the community of Zuleta, well known for its elaborate embroidery. Visit a local workshop to learn about this handicraft tradition.
Afterwards continue on to Hacienda Zuleta, a 1,600-hectare (4,000-acre) colonial working farm that has belonged to the family of Galo Plaza Lasso, a former president of Ecuador, for more than 100 years. The hacienda produces 10,000 litres (3,000 gallons) of milk each day that is used to make the well-known varieties of Zuleta brand cheese.
Upon arrival there will be some time to relax and explore the house before a nice dinner and good night’s rest. (Breakfast, lunch & dinner included.)
DAY 3: Andean Condor Rescue Centre (Zuleta Community)After breakfast, a 20-minute walk across green pastures leads to Zuleta’s Andean Condor rescue center where a sighting of this magnificent bird–the symbol of Ecuador – is all but guaranteed. During the rare chance to take photos of the majestic birds, learn in depth about their struggle to survive in this part of the Andes. For local communities, the project also includes an educational element with regard to the conservation of the paramo (high-altitude grasslands).
Afterwards, return to the house for lunch. In the afternoon there will be time to explore more of the hacienda’s grounds and see the dairy operation before dinner. (Breakfast, lunch & dinner included.)
DAY 4: Indigenous Market & Traditional Cuisine (Otavalo – Quito)Today, the main focus is the gastronomy of the Andean region and there is no better time to visit a traditional market than early in the morning. In nearby Otavalo, visit the largest, most famous indigenous market in Latin America where vendors proudly offer a stunning variety of produce, handicrafts and other products.
While at the market the guide will help choose the ingredients needed to prepare a delicious Andean meal back at the hacienda during a cooking class offered by the hosts.
After lunch there will be some free time at the hacienda before returning to Quito later in the afternoon. (Breakfast & lunch included.)
Private English speaking guide and driver with modern vehicle, all meals as detailed in the program, accommodation in selected properties, visits, excursions, bottled water and activities. This excursion is a private-basis tour, however it might include certain shared or group visits at some locations. Guides in languages other than English (German, Italian or French) can be provided. Please inquire about the surcharge.
Beverages, tips and personal expenses.