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Hiking the Haciendas of Ecuador

Trip Length 9 days

From $3,995

  • Explore the lush valleys of the spectacular Northern Sierra and stay in luxury haciendas—including world-renowned Hacienda Zuleta!
  • Take a thrilling ride on the historic Ecuadorian railroad and visit the Huasi Condor Rescue Project
  • Experience remnants of Spanish colonial influence and be dazzled by the largest handicrafts fair in South America
  • Hike through beautiful Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve amid stunning volcanic scenery

Discover the beauty and culture of Ecuador’s fertile highlands on this incredible nine-day itinerary. As you travel from one luxurious hacienda to another along the old "hacienda trail," you’ll hike through Andean grasslands and lush valleys teeming with bird life. You'll enjoy a truly memorable experience at Hacienda Zuleta and have the chance to meet endangered condors at the Condor Huasi Project—a special condor conservation program. Afterwards, take a thrilling ride on one of the world’s most spectacular railways and discover Otavalo's "La Plaza de los Ponchos," the largest handicrafts fair in South America with its extraordinary display of vibrant textiles and dazzling jewelry. Your journey ends with a full-day guided tour of colonial Quito, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Come with us on an Andean adventure that takes natural and cultural exploration to new heights.

Day 1: Arrive in Quito, Ecuador

Welcome to Quito! An MTS representative will meet you at the airport and transfer you to the Swissôtel in the colonial town of Quito (a 1½-hour drive). The evening is free to dine at your leisure.

  • Accommodation:Swissôtel

Day 2: Hike from Pesillo to Zuleta

Today we’ll head north to one of the most fertile valleys in the region and visit a sundial located precisely on the equator. From there, we'll continue our trip to the small village of Pesillo where we’ll enjoy lunch. After fuelling up, we'll begin our 3-hour hike through the high Andean grasslands (9,800ft) along an old “hacienda trail” linking Guachala with Hacienda Zuleta. There are more than eight old haciendas that lie along this route! We’ll arrive in the afternoon at Zuleta, a 4,000 acre working hacienda. Feel free to relax the remainder of the day, or visit the Hacienda’s beautiful surroundings. During the day, have your binoculars ready for sightings of hummingbirds, flycatchers, sparrows, hawks, the American kestrel and Andean condor, and the spectacled bear.

(Hiking time: 3 hours, 5.6 miles, easy to moderate)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Hacienda Zuleta

Day 3: Visit the Condor Huasi Project and the Caranqui Pyramids

Hacienda Zuleta is located between 9,400ft and 10,000ft in the Andean mountains of Northern Ecuador. The hacienda was rated as "one  of the world's Top Ten Finds!" by Outside Magazine and is a truly special place. The farm produces a wide range of products including milk, cheese, barley, quinoa, potatoes, wheat, and organic vegetables—and boasts a variety of livestock from dairy cows to horses. One of the most interesting aspects of this hacienda is its Condor Huasi Project, created to reintroduce captive condors to the wild. The project provides food for wild condors in order to aid their re-population and basic survival. Next we'll discover ancient Caranqui Pyramids, a hidden treasure of the Andes. The Caranqui civilization thrived here between 850AD and 1,550AD and built 15 pyramids and 20 “mounds,” which are believed to be burial plots.

(Hiking time: 2 hours, 2 miles, easy)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Hacienda Zuleta

Day 4: Hike through scenic valleys to Ibarra

After a short drive from Hacienda Zuleta to the small community of Cochacaranqui Madgalena, we'll begin an exhilarating hike on the old road that connects Hacienda Zuleta with the city of Ibarra. On the way we'll see plenty of local houses and beautiful landscapes, including fields of quinoa, barley, wheat and corn. After lunch we'll continue our drive through the valleys, formed by the Andes Mountain Range, alongside lakes, rivers and indigenous Otavaleno houses until we reach Hacienda Piman. This hacienda is located 30 minutes from the city of Ibarra, driving around Lake Yaguarcocha along a secondary road; at an elevation of 6,880ft.

(Hiking time: 3 hours; 4 miles, easy to moderate)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Hacienda Piman

Day 5: Ride the Ecuadorian railroad and explore Otavalo market

The Ecuadorian railroad network began operating at the end of the 1800s, connecting the coastal and mountainous regions north and south of the country. It promoted the economy and cultural exchange throughout Ecuador. In 2007, the Ecuadorian national government initiated the process of the railway’s rehabilitation and, in 2008, it was declared a Testimonial, Symbolic, Civil and Historical Heritage Monument. Today Ecuador’s railway system is oriented towards expanding the tourism industry, promoting outstanding routes such as the Ibarra – Salinas de Ibarra. During the 2-hour, 18-mile journey, you'll appreciate magnificent landscapes, pass through seven tunnels carved into the mountains, and cross bridges sustained a hundred feet over the rivers. And, as we continue to descend towards the dry Andean Valley of Chota, the scenery is simply out of this world!

Later we'll visit the largest and most famous handicraft fair in South America, the market at Otavalo. The indigenous weavers from Otavalo and the surrounding area are talented in the weaving arts, and their products are traded in the Plaza de los Ponchos in the center of Otavalo city. Nowadays indigenous artists from all over the country bring their arts and crafts to this market where can find all sort of art crafts such as woven textiles, sweaters, blankets, ponchos, shawls, scarves, tagua carved figurines, Andean musical instruments, hammocks, and many other products. We'll also get an insight into Otavaleno culture and have the opportunity to fully appreciate their costumes, music, colors, textiles, language, and food. Finish the day by resting at the beautiful luxury Hacienda Cusin.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Hacienda Pinsaqui

Day 6: Hike to Laguna de Cuicocha

Following a hearty breakfast, we'll enjoy a pleasant drive to the nearby Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve for a 5-hour hike at Laguna de Cuicocha (10,200'), a deep-blue crater lake on the lower southern flanks of Volcán Cotacachi. Here we can take in views of several nearby volcanoes, including Imbabura, Cayambe, and Cotacachi, and do some bird-watching. Look out for Andean condors, ruddy ducks, giant hummingbirds, silvery grebes, and more! After the hike, weʼll stop at the picturesque colonial town of Cotacachi, famous for its hand-made leatherwork. Later we'll visit the town of Peguche, where we'll meet local musicians and learn how their instruments are made. Afterwards we'll meet the women of the Huarmi Maqui—a project that promotes traditional customs and skills among local indigenous women—and see a wool-spinning and weaving demonstration.

(Hiking time: 4 to 5 hours, 8.6 miles, moderate to challenging)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Hacienda Cusin

Day 7: Hike to Angla and visit a local school

Today's spectacular walk is dominated by a breathtaking landscape of valleys and volcanoes. From Hacienda Cusin we'll follow dirt roads and small paths, crossing through small settlements, fields of corn and quinoa, volcanic grasslands, and remnants of montane forest typical of the Andean valley. Often the landscape is embellished by the contrast of light produced by the shadow of clouds on the mosaic of fields. We'll often be accompanied by a few local people who are curious about our journey, which gives us the opportunity to interact with the community. The walks end at the small elementary school, where we'll swap stories with local kids and faculty—as they tell us about their school system and we tell them about our own. As well as giving us insight into the local way of life, this exchange of ideas also benefits the school.

(Hiking time: 3 hours, moderate)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Hacienda Cusin

Day 8: Tour the city of Quito

From Hacienda Cusin weʼll head south on the Pan-American Highway towards Quito. En route we'll stop to visit a sundial located precisely on the equator and meet our astral-archeological expert, who will explain why Ecuador has 12 hours of daylight throughout the year. Heʼll also teach us how to orientate ourselves from the equator line at different times of the day in different seasons. You learn something new every day!

We'll continue to Quito and check into our hotel before enjoying lunch at a local restaurant. Next we'll taking a walking tour to visit the colonial temples and monasteries of this urban jewel, declared by UNESCO a World Heritage Site. We'll see St. Augustine Convent, the Independence Plaza surrounded by the Cathedral, La Compañía de Jesus, the Presidential Palace, the Municipal Building and the Archbishopʼs Palace, and the Church of San Francisco—one of the greatest religious buildings of the New World.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Swissôtel

Day 9: Fly home

Today, we'll transfer to the airport for homeward-bound flights.

  • Breakfast

Dec 17 - 25, 2016 Guaranteed Departure

pricing

2016 PRICES PER PERSON
$3,995 (4-15 members)
$600 single supplement

Minimum age 12

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Hacienda Cusin — Otavalo

Hacienda Cusin is a restored, 17th-century estate at 8.500ft in the Ecuadorian sierra. This very personal hotel and its 38 attentive staff and famous gardens are one hour from Quito’s new International airport, near the Equatorial line, the market town of Otavalo and two hours from Spanish Colonial Quito, via the PanAmerican Highway. Cusin’s 25 guest rooms garden cottages, suites and salons, furnished with antiques and select Andean craft, most with log-burning fireplaces and beamed-ceilings, overlook several acres of landscaped perennial gardens, ancient trees, and often snow-capped mountains. Guest wing el Monasterio de Cusin.

Hacienda Piman — Ibarra

A historic retreat located in the northern Ecuadorian Andes. A place redolent with peace, a place where you’ll enjoy comfortable rooms and social areas amid modern and traditional architecture, delicious home-cooking, peaceful gardens and the warmth of your hosts.

Tucked into an oasis-like valley between the folds of dry mountains, Hacienda Piman is ideal for exploring the rich cultural and natural heritage of one of Ecuador’s most captivating regions.

Hacienda Pinsaqui — Otavalo

In the heart of Ecuador’s lake province, close to the giant Imbabura volcano, you'll find Hacienda Pinsaqui. Aesthetically pleasing with its beautiful colonial architecture, the Hacienda once acted as a hub for textile weavers in the Ecuadorian countryside. Simon Bolivar, famously known as the liberator of Ecuador, also stayed here. There is certainly no shortage of history at this Hacienda, and the old-fashioned charm is enhanced by a cozy bar area, a restaurant serving a variety of delicious Ecuadorian cuisine, and 30 guest rooms-all with a touch of their own unique character. The Hacienda Pinsaqui is also located near the world- renowned Otavalo handicraft market, making it a great place to enjoy the natural wonders and rich culture of northern Ecuador.

Hacienda Zuleta

Dating from the late XVI century, the Hacienda lies in the spectacular Andean mountain range of Ecuador at 9,600 feet above the sea level, and only two hours north of Quito, the capital of Ecuador.

Zuleta is a colonial working farm of 4,000 acres (2,000 hectares) that belongs to the family of Mr. Galo Plaza lasso, a former president of Ecuador, for more than 100 years.

The hacienda has 14 beautifully decorated bedrooms, all with their own fire place; Antique gardens along with cosy living and reading rooms offer a peaceful atmosphere. Delicious home Ecuadorian cuisine among other types of gastronomic adventures are offered daily, prepared with organic vegetables, trout and dairy products produced on the Hacienda. Guest can also visit our Condor Andes rehabilitation program “Condor Huasi Project” that works for the rehabilitation of the majestic Andean Condor.

Swissôtel — Quito, Ecuador

This luxury hotel offers comfort and professional service in an excellent location close to the Old Town and the airport. Large, comfortable rooms and great views of the surrounding area from the top.

  • Explore the lush valleys of the spectacular Northern Sierra and stay in luxury haciendas—including world-renowned Hacienda Zuleta!
  • Take a thrilling ride on the historic Ecuadorian railroad and visit the Huasi Condor Rescue Project
  • Experience remnants of Spanish colonial influence and be dazzled by the largest handicrafts fair in South America
  • Hike through beautiful Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve amid stunning volcanic scenery

Discover the beauty and culture of Ecuador’s fertile highlands on this incredible nine-day itinerary. As you travel from one luxurious hacienda to another along the old "hacienda trail," you’ll hike through Andean grasslands and lush valleys teeming with bird life. You'll enjoy a truly memorable experience at Hacienda Zuleta and have the chance to meet endangered condors at the Condor Huasi Project—a special condor conservation program. Afterwards, take a thrilling ride on one of the world’s most spectacular railways and discover Otavalo's "La Plaza de los Ponchos," the largest handicrafts fair in South America with its extraordinary display of vibrant textiles and dazzling jewelry. Your journey ends with a full-day guided tour of colonial Quito, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Come with us on an Andean adventure that takes natural and cultural exploration to new heights.

DAILY itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Quito, Ecuador

Welcome to Quito! An MTS representative will meet you at the airport and transfer you to the Swissôtel in the colonial town of Quito (a 1½-hour drive). The evening is free to dine at your leisure.

  • Accommodation:Swissôtel

Day 2: Hike from Pesillo to Zuleta

Today we’ll head north to one of the most fertile valleys in the region and visit a sundial located precisely on the equator. From there, we'll continue our trip to the small village of Pesillo where we’ll enjoy lunch. After fuelling up, we'll begin our 3-hour hike through the high Andean grasslands (9,800ft) along an old “hacienda trail” linking Guachala with Hacienda Zuleta. There are more than eight old haciendas that lie along this route! We’ll arrive in the afternoon at Zuleta, a 4,000 acre working hacienda. Feel free to relax the remainder of the day, or visit the Hacienda’s beautiful surroundings. During the day, have your binoculars ready for sightings of hummingbirds, flycatchers, sparrows, hawks, the American kestrel and Andean condor, and the spectacled bear.

(Hiking time: 3 hours, 5.6 miles, easy to moderate)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Hacienda Zuleta

Day 3: Visit the Condor Huasi Project and the Caranqui Pyramids

Hacienda Zuleta is located between 9,400ft and 10,000ft in the Andean mountains of Northern Ecuador. The hacienda was rated as "one  of the world's Top Ten Finds!" by Outside Magazine and is a truly special place. The farm produces a wide range of products including milk, cheese, barley, quinoa, potatoes, wheat, and organic vegetables—and boasts a variety of livestock from dairy cows to horses. One of the most interesting aspects of this hacienda is its Condor Huasi Project, created to reintroduce captive condors to the wild. The project provides food for wild condors in order to aid their re-population and basic survival. Next we'll discover ancient Caranqui Pyramids, a hidden treasure of the Andes. The Caranqui civilization thrived here between 850AD and 1,550AD and built 15 pyramids and 20 “mounds,” which are believed to be burial plots.

(Hiking time: 2 hours, 2 miles, easy)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Hacienda Zuleta

Day 4: Hike through scenic valleys to Ibarra

After a short drive from Hacienda Zuleta to the small community of Cochacaranqui Madgalena, we'll begin an exhilarating hike on the old road that connects Hacienda Zuleta with the city of Ibarra. On the way we'll see plenty of local houses and beautiful landscapes, including fields of quinoa, barley, wheat and corn. After lunch we'll continue our drive through the valleys, formed by the Andes Mountain Range, alongside lakes, rivers and indigenous Otavaleno houses until we reach Hacienda Piman. This hacienda is located 30 minutes from the city of Ibarra, driving around Lake Yaguarcocha along a secondary road; at an elevation of 6,880ft.

(Hiking time: 3 hours; 4 miles, easy to moderate)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Hacienda Piman

Day 5: Ride the Ecuadorian railroad and explore Otavalo market

The Ecuadorian railroad network began operating at the end of the 1800s, connecting the coastal and mountainous regions north and south of the country. It promoted the economy and cultural exchange throughout Ecuador. In 2007, the Ecuadorian national government initiated the process of the railway’s rehabilitation and, in 2008, it was declared a Testimonial, Symbolic, Civil and Historical Heritage Monument. Today Ecuador’s railway system is oriented towards expanding the tourism industry, promoting outstanding routes such as the Ibarra – Salinas de Ibarra. During the 2-hour, 18-mile journey, you'll appreciate magnificent landscapes, pass through seven tunnels carved into the mountains, and cross bridges sustained a hundred feet over the rivers. And, as we continue to descend towards the dry Andean Valley of Chota, the scenery is simply out of this world!

Later we'll visit the largest and most famous handicraft fair in South America, the market at Otavalo. The indigenous weavers from Otavalo and the surrounding area are talented in the weaving arts, and their products are traded in the Plaza de los Ponchos in the center of Otavalo city. Nowadays indigenous artists from all over the country bring their arts and crafts to this market where can find all sort of art crafts such as woven textiles, sweaters, blankets, ponchos, shawls, scarves, tagua carved figurines, Andean musical instruments, hammocks, and many other products. We'll also get an insight into Otavaleno culture and have the opportunity to fully appreciate their costumes, music, colors, textiles, language, and food. Finish the day by resting at the beautiful luxury Hacienda Cusin.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Hacienda Pinsaqui

Day 6: Hike to Laguna de Cuicocha

Following a hearty breakfast, we'll enjoy a pleasant drive to the nearby Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve for a 5-hour hike at Laguna de Cuicocha (10,200'), a deep-blue crater lake on the lower southern flanks of Volcán Cotacachi. Here we can take in views of several nearby volcanoes, including Imbabura, Cayambe, and Cotacachi, and do some bird-watching. Look out for Andean condors, ruddy ducks, giant hummingbirds, silvery grebes, and more! After the hike, weʼll stop at the picturesque colonial town of Cotacachi, famous for its hand-made leatherwork. Later we'll visit the town of Peguche, where we'll meet local musicians and learn how their instruments are made. Afterwards we'll meet the women of the Huarmi Maqui—a project that promotes traditional customs and skills among local indigenous women—and see a wool-spinning and weaving demonstration.

(Hiking time: 4 to 5 hours, 8.6 miles, moderate to challenging)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Hacienda Cusin

Day 7: Hike to Angla and visit a local school

Today's spectacular walk is dominated by a breathtaking landscape of valleys and volcanoes. From Hacienda Cusin we'll follow dirt roads and small paths, crossing through small settlements, fields of corn and quinoa, volcanic grasslands, and remnants of montane forest typical of the Andean valley. Often the landscape is embellished by the contrast of light produced by the shadow of clouds on the mosaic of fields. We'll often be accompanied by a few local people who are curious about our journey, which gives us the opportunity to interact with the community. The walks end at the small elementary school, where we'll swap stories with local kids and faculty—as they tell us about their school system and we tell them about our own. As well as giving us insight into the local way of life, this exchange of ideas also benefits the school.

(Hiking time: 3 hours, moderate)

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Hacienda Cusin

Day 8: Tour the city of Quito

From Hacienda Cusin weʼll head south on the Pan-American Highway towards Quito. En route we'll stop to visit a sundial located precisely on the equator and meet our astral-archeological expert, who will explain why Ecuador has 12 hours of daylight throughout the year. Heʼll also teach us how to orientate ourselves from the equator line at different times of the day in different seasons. You learn something new every day!

We'll continue to Quito and check into our hotel before enjoying lunch at a local restaurant. Next we'll taking a walking tour to visit the colonial temples and monasteries of this urban jewel, declared by UNESCO a World Heritage Site. We'll see St. Augustine Convent, the Independence Plaza surrounded by the Cathedral, La Compañía de Jesus, the Presidential Palace, the Municipal Building and the Archbishopʼs Palace, and the Church of San Francisco—one of the greatest religious buildings of the New World.

  • Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner
  • Accommodation:Swissôtel

Day 9: Fly home

Today, we'll transfer to the airport for homeward-bound flights.

  • Breakfast
lodgings

Hacienda Cusin — Otavalo

Hacienda Cusin is a restored, 17th-century estate at 8.500ft in the Ecuadorian sierra. This very personal hotel and its 38 attentive staff and famous gardens are one hour from Quito’s new International airport, near the Equatorial line, the market town of Otavalo and two hours from Spanish Colonial Quito, via the PanAmerican Highway. Cusin’s 25 guest rooms garden cottages, suites and salons, furnished with antiques and select Andean craft, most with log-burning fireplaces and beamed-ceilings, overlook several acres of landscaped perennial gardens, ancient trees, and often snow-capped mountains. Guest wing el Monasterio de Cusin.

Hacienda Piman — Ibarra

A historic retreat located in the northern Ecuadorian Andes. A place redolent with peace, a place where you’ll enjoy comfortable rooms and social areas amid modern and traditional architecture, delicious home-cooking, peaceful gardens and the warmth of your hosts.

Tucked into an oasis-like valley between the folds of dry mountains, Hacienda Piman is ideal for exploring the rich cultural and natural heritage of one of Ecuador’s most captivating regions.

Hacienda Pinsaqui — Otavalo

In the heart of Ecuador’s lake province, close to the giant Imbabura volcano, you'll find Hacienda Pinsaqui. Aesthetically pleasing with its beautiful colonial architecture, the Hacienda once acted as a hub for textile weavers in the Ecuadorian countryside. Simon Bolivar, famously known as the liberator of Ecuador, also stayed here. There is certainly no shortage of history at this Hacienda, and the old-fashioned charm is enhanced by a cozy bar area, a restaurant serving a variety of delicious Ecuadorian cuisine, and 30 guest rooms-all with a touch of their own unique character. The Hacienda Pinsaqui is also located near the world- renowned Otavalo handicraft market, making it a great place to enjoy the natural wonders and rich culture of northern Ecuador.

Hacienda Zuleta

Dating from the late XVI century, the Hacienda lies in the spectacular Andean mountain range of Ecuador at 9,600 feet above the sea level, and only two hours north of Quito, the capital of Ecuador.

Zuleta is a colonial working farm of 4,000 acres (2,000 hectares) that belongs to the family of Mr. Galo Plaza lasso, a former president of Ecuador, for more than 100 years.

The hacienda has 14 beautifully decorated bedrooms, all with their own fire place; Antique gardens along with cosy living and reading rooms offer a peaceful atmosphere. Delicious home Ecuadorian cuisine among other types of gastronomic adventures are offered daily, prepared with organic vegetables, trout and dairy products produced on the Hacienda. Guest can also visit our Condor Andes rehabilitation program “Condor Huasi Project” that works for the rehabilitation of the majestic Andean Condor.

Swissôtel — Quito, Ecuador

This luxury hotel offers comfort and professional service in an excellent location close to the Old Town and the airport. Large, comfortable rooms and great views of the surrounding area from the top.

Dates and Pricing

Dec 17 - 25, 2016 Guaranteed Departure

pricing

2016 PRICES PER PERSON
$3,995 (4-15 members)
$600 single supplement

Minimum age 12

Activity Level Moderate
Trip Length 9 days

From $3,995

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