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Horse Riding into the Heart of Colonial Ecuador

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Horse Riding Travel Experience

Ecuador - Colonial Haciendas

Ecuador, Americas
7 days
€ 2,200 combadi price

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Save €20 to €50 when booking via Combadi

Holiday Type
Fixed date/Solo friendly
Running Period
October: 6-13, November 24-1, December: 1-8, 23-30

The Combadi Insight:

A picture postcard as you turn every corner. Hanging valleys, perfectly colonial hills, beautiful haciendas. Do you need more reasons? Ok, discover all these while horse-riding. It doesn’t get much better than that..

Holiday Code: Y2

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A journey back in time through areas made for riding including routes and lodgings exclusive to us. Canter along ancient Inca highways and Spanish colonial routes, between the best preserved ‘haciendas’ (grand colonial farming estates) of South America, 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.

A picture postcard as we turn every corner: hanging valleys, perfectly conical hills, wild flower covered grassy slopes, crater lakes and rocky summits. We follow the ‘Avenue of Volcanoes’, skirting the towering, snowcapped peaks of Cayambe and Cotopaxi (the highest active volcano in the world) and wandering through the maze of patchwork fields below.

The days are packed with rides varied in both pace and scenery and with visits along the way to local indigenous markets and craft villages where the customs and rhythm of life have changed little over the centuries. As well as seeing an array of exotic Andean fruits, we meet the very friendly locals in vibrant traditional dress going about their daily tasks, the children shepherding the unruly pigs and sheep, the farmers working the land in much the same way as their forefathers did – a fascinating insight into Andean country life.

Quito Ecuador Horse riding in South America 2 Nights are spent in haciendas – historic country houses & working farms, some dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries. Warmly greeted by the owners, guests can relax in front of open fireplaces and enjoy the fine period detail, atmospheric courtyards and flowering gardens. The prestigious haciendas that open their doors to us are unique and hold an important place in the history of Ecuador: most are still the homes of the noblest of Ecuadorian families including past presidents and one is the most important Inca site in northern 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 and many of the 17th-19th centurys’ greatest scientists and explorers (von Humboldt, Whymper, Condamine…).

Day 1

OTAVALO MARKET & INTRODUCTORY RIDE. Guests are met at Quito airport/Quito hotel by the guide and driven into the northern area of Ecuador. We drive through an arid valley with avocado orchards then into Imbabura province ‘the land of the lakes’. Visit to the famous Otavalo market on this the busiest day of the week.

As well as the bustling craft market and stalls with exotic fruit, there is a food section where the locals - dressed in their very distinctive traditional costume - come down from their tiny farms in the mountains to sell their farm produce and buy their weekly supplies. Then a short drive to a hacienda frequented by the great South American liberator, Simon Bolivar.

Members of the charming family (horse fanatics themselves!) that have owned the hacienda for several centuries greet us warmly. 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 surroundings. Introductory ride (3-4hrs) along the tracks and through the tiny fields on the slopes of the Imbabura Volcano.

Guests first try their horses in an enclosed area before we ride out and the guides and grooms are always at hand to help. 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 at this 18th century hacienda, fireplaces in most rooms.

Day 2

SACRED IMBABURA & SAN PABLO LAKE.

We leave this historic hacienda - once a very important weaving centre, on horseback and ride on to another colonial hacienda built in 1602 (5 hrs). We 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. 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, we 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: 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. And a very special visit: drive 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 favour of more modern looms. The wool is still dyed using plants and then hand spun as the family sticks rigidly to the traditional weaving processes.

Overnight at this early 17th Century (1602) hacienda adorned with local crafts and antiques. Fireplaces in most rooms. Dinner with fresh ingredients straight from the kitchen garden (a la carte).

Day 3

PASTORAL ZULETA VALLEY

A stunning ride into the beautiful pastoral Zuleta Valley (6-7hrs). Along country lanes then through eucalyptus forests, we rise out of San Pablo Valley enjoying wonderful views across the lake and also of Imbabura volcano, riding onto the plains beyond for some fast-pace riding. Views of Zuleta valley, the verdant gorges and the ‘paramo’ (the unique Andean habitat of high grasslands) as we pass dewponds and hedges of aloe vera and spikey agave (sisal) atop mud walls. Following sandy tracks, we then descend into the Zuleta valley with dramatic views across to the hanging valleys and rocky ridges above.

With 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. 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. Overnight at the Hacienda. Fireplaces in most rooms.

Day 4

THE SNOWS OF CAYAMBE & THE EQUATOR LINE

A chance to get to know about the Andalucian breed, the farm owners 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. A different experience to the previous rides - cantering along the shady tracks between the rows of tall eucalyptus. We often meet the locals with small herds of sheep, goats, pigs and cattle. Emerging from the forest onto the plains, snow-capped Cayambe comes into view. We ride onto the Pesillo plains and arriving in the Cayambe Valley dominated by this Volcano, which straddles the Equator Line we leave the horses at a typical village square complete with ornate gardens, church and school. A short drive brings us to a beautiful old hacienda for a delicious home cooked 3 course lunch traditional dishes.

The hacienda, as well as the fine furniture is packed with arrangements of fresh roses – 1000s of roses: we also visit a nearby rose plantation (tiem permitting). We then cross the Equator Line, and travel (3hrs), bypassing Quito, and continue on by vehicle to a very ornate and historically important 17th Century hacienda. Arriving by way of a very impressive avenue of eucalyptus trees, the portico of the magnificent hacienda where we spend the night leads us into a building that holds a very special place in history: the scene of several independence battles and used as a base by many early explorers and scientists such as Condamine and von Humboldt during their expeditions to the ‘new world’. Overnight at the Hacienda (dinner a la carte).

Day 5

COTOPAXI NATIONAL PARK,

The high plains & lake. The day can start with an early morning shop - the hacienda has an excellent shop providing another opportunity to purchase the lovely local crafts. A short drive to the main Cotopaxi national park entrance where we meet the horses, on the way, guests visit the fascinating Agustin hacienda built on an Inca site. Fine examples of Inca stonework – including complete walls, are on view. A spectacular ride awaits (6-7hrs), up into the National Park to canter across the wide, barren plains at the base of the Cotopaxi Volcano (the highest active volcano in the world).

Several herds of wild horses inhabit the park and to ride along side these longmaned horses galloping freely across the rugged terrain is an exhilarating experience. Part of this ride follows the main Inca highway which linked Quito with Cusco, Peru. The ground is covered with tiny pumice stones and lichen on this arid plain created by lava and ash from the mighty Cotopaxi volcano. Passing a shallow lake on the high plains we then ride across a very surprising ‘luna landscape’ – huge boulders and hard baked ocrecoloured mud and onto rolling grassy hills for some more fast paced riding. We arrive at a ‘hosteria’ in an absolutely stunning location – mid-point between four volcanoes - for an overnight stay.

Day 6

INCA RUINS & WILD HORSES

A ride into another part of the Cotopaxi national park. We will ride alongside the wild horses as we meet several herds on our way across the plains and old lava flow. Cantering through pasturelands we arrive at an old Inca fort that guarded the route down to the Amazon. A day riding in the wild open expanses of the Andean highlands enjoying the open terrain, no sign of habitation and spectacular views of the closeby Cotopaxi snowcapped volcano. After a picnic lunch, we ride out of the national park to an old Jesuit Hacienda recently converted and now a very, very comfortable highland hacienda.

Day 7

HIGH ANDES MOUNTAIN PASS/VALLEY DESCENT

Guests ride out amid the vast Andean scenery, cross a river and head up into the ‘paramo’ grasslands to enjoy this wilderness among the snowcapped peaks (7-8hrs). In these remote Andean ‘paramo’ areas the local ‘chagras’ are the only people to venture– checking their herds of cattle on their trusty horses. A local horseman will accompany our group, guiding us through a sea of grass, along paths hugging the sides of the hills, across streams of snowmelt passing native scrubland. Ride near herds of fighting bulls.

Guests really experience the remoteness of the magnificent high Andes with wonderful views of the surrounding peaks: Cotopaxi, Ruminahui. Sincholagua, Pasachoa...to name but a few. Varied terrain and pace – crossing a rocky river bed then pastures ideal for some canters we start climbing. Deer, condor, Andean foxes have been spotted regularly on this route, high altitude hummingbirds (Hillstars) are often sighted zooming between the native wildflowers as well as great swifts, hawks and other Andean species.

Overnight in a comfortable hotel in Quito. *Weather conditions may mean a lower valley route is taken, with fast paced riding across huge fields then descending along dirt and cobbled tracks.

Day 8

DEPARTURE. 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.

Everything you just read in the itinerary.

We advise arriving the day before, we can meet you at the airport and also arrange hotels in Quito for you. Tour length: 8 days, 7 days riding. Riding ability on scheduled rides: Intermediate and above.

Meeting point is Quito, where the international airport is. We meet you at the airport and can arrange hotels and city tours etc for you – take care of all your travel arrangements throughout your stay. With prior agreement, riders 85-95kg can be accepted, there may be a supplement to pay (normal weight limit 85kg). Following a confirmed booking detailed travel advice and equipment and clothing lists will be available.

Paramo Places (Ride Andes) terms and conditions apply.

Guests are strongly advised to bring and use their own riding helmets. A booking is confirmed only upon receipt of the corresponding deposit. We reserve the right to alter the itinerary due to circumstances beyond our control. Appropriate medical insurance is mandatory and the responsibility of each guest/booking agent.

It is the responsibility of the individual guest/booking agent to ensure that participants have the necessary riding skills to take part in the tour chosen.

Guests will be required to sign a responsibility release before starting a tour.

Do I need to be an experienced rider to join one of your tours?

Rides are divided into those for experienced riders and those for the less experienced (a large number of which are suitable for beginners.) Guests participating on the rides for experienced riders are expected to be able to canter comfortably and control a horse in open terrain at all paces; intermediate level and above. The rides for less experienced riders are adapted to allow for a slower pace and less time in the saddle per day. No riding experience is necessary.

Enjoyment from the rides can be greatly increased if you are physically fit and your riding muscles are toned. Guests are welcome to arrive before the start of a set date departure tour in order to do an extra ride with the guide.

If NON-RIDERS wish to accompany the tour, alternative activities can be organised for them and on most days everyone can meet up for mid-day meals. Please ask for further details.

Can I design my own riding tour with your help?

Private tours can be tailor-made to suit guests' needs (more days in the saddle, shorter daily rides, days out of the saddle added to the itinerary for bird watching, hiking, visiting local markets or craft villages.) For tailor-made tours, departures can be any day of the week.

Can you arrange other aspects of my trip to Ecuador?

Ride Andes can arrange all aspects of your trip to Ecuador and can compliment your riding holiday with other activities such as trekking, white-water rafting, mountain biking, kayaking and bird-watching. In addition, we can organise extensions to the GALAPAGOS ISLANDS and the AMAZON RAIN FOREST as well as cultural tours of Quito and visits to the mainland's many sites of interest. Extensions to other countries in South America, e.g. Peru, are also possible.

What can you tell me about the horses you use and the type of ride I can expect?

The horses are mainly warm/hot blood lines (English, Arab, Pasos) crossed with Criollo (descendants of the Spanish Conquistadors' stock) - ideal for the terrain. They are specially selected, well trained and good natured. Great attention is paid to matching horse and rider and on most rides 14.2-15.2hh horses are available.

Western tack is used, South American style (US cavalry saddles with sheepskin seats provided). English saddles are normally available upon request for shorter rides but not advisable on longer rides due to the length of time in the saddle and type of terrain.

Riders normally change to fresh horses every 3 to 5 days, depending on the ride. The pace is very varied due to the great variety of landscapes. Each day there are opportunities for fast pace riding. On the last few days of the tours, much of the ride can be fast-paced, depending on guests' wishes.

All rides of more than 2 hours include regular breaks and all-day rides normally include a lunch break of approximately one hour. On the 8-day tours we ride an average of 5-6 hours per day.

Set date group departures feature no more than 10 guests per group. Private groups feature 1-14 guests. By special request, larger groups can be catered for.

Will I be accompanied by a guide?

Guests are always accompanied by a guide (bilingual: English/Spanish) who has many years experience of riding. In addition, at least one groom is present. Both guides and grooms have excellent local knowledge of the highlands of Ecuador and are expert riders. There is also additional ground staff. Professional guides speaking other languages are available on prior request.

What can you tell me about the terrain & climate I'll experience on the ride?

Most of the riding takes place above 2500 metres (on some rides we go up to 4100m on a high pass but then descend for the night) and guests sometimes feel slightly affected by the high altitude - possible breathlessness, mild headaches etc. The rides are planned so that guests can acclimatise accordingly. While the horses will be doing most of the work, guests should check with their doctor beforehand as high altitude may be inadvisable for certain medical conditions.

The climate in the Ecuadorian highlands allows us to offer rides all year round. During the day, the temperatures can rise to 28C although most days start with a crisp 6-10C and the night-time temperature can drop to 2C. At night around the crater lakes, the temperature can drop to freezing. This temperature change is most marked from June to November. From December to May the days remain cooler (25C) and the nights not quite as cold. In the rainy season (October to May in most areas) the rain does not fall daily and is hardly every prolonged. Afternoon showers occur but by then the day's ride is over. The strong possibility of heavy afternoon rains make camping inadvisable in the months of May and October so alternative itineraries are offered. Rain ponchos are available for each guest.

N.B Due to the altitude and terrain, there is a weight restriction for riders. We are unable to accept riders of over 85KG and will apply this rule. On a few rides the weight limit is lower. Please consult the details regarding each ride.

What kind of food can I expect on the tour?

Whether staying in a hacienda, hostal or country ranch, food is hearty, filling and not over-spiced. Dishes are international with the options of choosing a traditional local dish. Delicious tropical fruit such as papaya, mango and custard apple are often available. At dinner, the starter is often a hearty highland soup made with prime local ingredients including beans, pulses and vegetables.

Picnic lunches are freshly cooked and never consist of just a sandwich. Guests are offered a mixture of traditional Western food alongside local dishes (such as empanadas - tasty savoury turnovers stuffed with meat or chicken.) Delicious local produce such as cheese from Ecuador's Zuleta Valley are also included and South American wines.

What do I need to bring with me? Do I need any special equipment? Ride Andes provide the following: riding helmets upon request (but we do recommend that you bring your own), ponchos, saddlebags, chaps (available on prior request.)

A vehicle brings on guests' belongings to the Hacienda/campsite (on some tours, pack animals are used.) Luggage storage in Quito can be organised during the ride, sometimes there is a small charge.

All bed linen and towels will be provided on the tours except when camping. On the 'adventurous' tours, guest must provide a small towel for camp and their own 4-season, mountaineering sleeping bags as overnights are spent at high altitude and temperatures are normally just above freezing (given prior notice we are able to rent sleeping bags and inner cotton liners for guests.)

Following a confirmed booking, Ride Andes will supply a full kit list and can provide further information regarding what you might want to bring with you on your visit to Ecuador.

What additional costs are involved in the price of the tour?

There are very few expenses not included in the overall price of the trip. Guests will need to bring money for:

  • Soft drinks & alcohol (juices and water are provided while riding.) Apart from at the haciendas, where the prices tend only to be slightly below European/North American prices, the cost of drink is generally speaking cheaper than at home.
  • Several meals in Quito (please see itineraries). As a general guide to prices, lunch costs around $15 and dinner around $20.
  • Sundry expenses such as telephone calls and laundry bills.
  • Discretionary tips
  • Souvenirs (Panama hats, wool jumpers, rugs and many other crafts.)
  • N.B. credit cards are only accepted in large stores and finer restaurants and can attract a surcharge.

Before departure, it is essential that guests check with the Ecuadorian embassy/consulate in their home country concerning visas and up-to-date entry requirements. (Currently, US & British citizens visiting Ecuador as tourists for less than 90 days do not require an entry visa.) Ride Andes is not responsible for ensuring guests fulfil entry requirements. Guests must check that their passports are valid for 6 months after the date of departure from Ecuador.

Guests are responsible for having an adequate, valid insurance policy including cover for all the sporting activities that they are likely to participate in. Appropriate medical insurance is obligatory.

It is understood by Ride Andes that guests are in a suitable condition to partake in a riding tour, are not riding against any medical advice and that guests know of no reason why they should not be participating in such a tour. Guests will be required to sign a waiver of liability at the start of the tour.

It is essential to consult your doctor or an appropriate vaccination/health centre for up-to-date information. No vaccines are currently required to enter Ecuador except if you have visited a country which has yellow fever, in which case a vaccination and vaccination certificate are required. Guests travelling to certain parts of the jungle or the coast will need, for example, malaria pills.

My husband and I recently travelled to Ecuador for a riding adventure through the mountains and valleys surrounding Quito. We have been on many riding trips in the past… We had no idea what a great time was in store for us! Sally Vergette and her team at Ride Andes delivered an unparalleled riding experience -- the scenery was gorgeous, the people were welcoming and friendly, the accommodations and food exceeded our expectations and the horses were well trained, responsive and clearly well cared for. And, the riding…excellent! From riding along cobblestoned valley roads to fast-paced canters and gallops on the highland grasslands, we quickly realized that this was no “nose-to-tail” pony trek. What a great experience. This trip clearly was the best riding vacation we have taken and we credit its success to Sally’s high level of professionalism and genuine love for her horses and her adopted country. This is a “must do” trip and it must be done with Ride Andes. Catherine.

I had a fantastic vacation thanks in a large part to you well managed, professional but fun-loving outfit. LE

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