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Ecuador, South America
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    Wild and Exotic Colonial Haciendas ride

    Colonial Haciendas ride summary

    The Colonial Haciendas ride is a journey back in time through a landscape devised for riding: 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 different regions of the Andean highlands.

    There are breath-taking views as the ride crosses vast plains and pastoral valleys in a fascinating landscape sculptured by both glacial and volcanic activity. The sights include hanging valleys, perfectly formed conical hills, grassy slopes covered in a profusion of wild flowers, crater lakes and steep, rocky summits. The ride follows the famous ‘Avenue of Volcanoes’, skirting the snow-capped peaks of Cayambe and Cotopaxi (the highest active volcano in the world) and negotiating traditionally cultivated land beneath.

    The itinerary includes visits 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 produce and goods, you will also meet friendly locals wearing colourful traditional dress as they go about their daily tasks – the children tending unruly pigs and sheep as their parents work the land in the same way their forefathers before them.

    Nights are spent in haciendas – historically important country houses dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries. Guests can relax in front of open fireplaces and enjoy fine period detail, as well as atmospheric courtyards and flowering gardens. Theses prestigious haciendas hold an important place in the history of Ecuador, and many are still home to the noblest of Ecuadorian families.

    There is also another ride, Colonial Hacienda five star luxury ride, which is fundamentally a similar route, with a little more luxury!

    As well as the fantastic Colonial Hacienda and Cotopaxi Adventure rides we now offer shorter rides with maximum flexibility to cater for all riding abilities.

    On the One Centre ride guests ride out from our base in the Antisana foothills, between Pasachoa & Sincholagua volcanoes (less than 1 hour drive from Quito) to a Hacienda surrounded by magnificent Andean peaks close to the northern edge of Cotopaxi National Park. Guests will ride from the farm where the horses are kept to spend the night at a hacienda in the most amazing location, perfect for stunning views of snow-capped Cotopaxi Volcano and many other surrounding Andean peaks. The hacienda is very comfortable, situated in tranquil highland scenery and close to Cotopaxi National Park. The area is made for riding with varied terrain and many options for pace, route and length of riding hours per day. The routes can vary in length & content depending on rider abilities & wishes.


    Colonial Hacienda ride sample itinerary

    Day 1: Otavalo Market and introductory ride. Guests are met at their Quito hotel by an English speaking guide and driven into the northern area of Ecuador. Please note that Wild and Exotic will arrange transfers into Quito from the international airport and also hotel in Quito for guests arriving the previous evening (at extra cost). We will drive through an arid valley with avocado orchards then into the Imbabura province otherwise known as ‘the land of the lakes’ and visit 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. We will then be transferred to a hacienda where we meet the horses, get settled and ride through valleys and hamlets to an historic hacienda where we spend the night. This journey takes approximately 2 1/2 hours. Members of the charming family that have owned the hacienda for several centuries greet us warmly as we ride in to their property. 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.

    Whilst riding we often see friendly but dignified locals in their immaculate traditional dress working in the fields by using hand tools or cattle to work the land. These tiny fields are surrounded by stone walls and earth banks topped with sisal plants and an array of wild flowers. After a welcome drink in the cosy bar accompanied by the music of an excellent Andean band and a delicious, traditional dinner (a la carte) overnight at hacienda Pinsaqui, which has fireplaces in most rooms.

    Day 2: Sacred Imbabura and an Pablo Lake. We leave this historic hacienda and ride on to Hacienda Cusin, a colonial hacienda built in 1602, a journey which takes approximately five hours. We ride past tiny hamlets of adobe huts, through woodlands, across rocky gorges and wind our way around the patchwork fields of quinoa, potatoes, maize and tree tomato orchards. As we ride across the slopes of the sacred Imbabura Volcano (extinct) – the focus of many Inca legends – there are magnificent views of the San Pablo Lake and the jagged Mojanda summit. Along the way we stop to visit a small farm for a traditional snack and to learn more about the numerous medicinal qualities of the local plant and visit a rare stand of primary Andean montane forest. We reach the early 17th Century hacienda Cusin, adorned with local crafts and antiques, during the afternoon. After your long ride you have the chance to relax in the glorious surrounding of the hacienda, wandering through the beautiful flowering gardens admiring the avocado trees, bromelias, orchids and kitchen garden with passion fruit, tree tomato and a host of other interesting plants. After the ride there is an optional visit to meet a family of local weavers in one of the many traditional villages, whom still produce unique rugs using the ancient pre-Inca back strap loom that most weavers have abandoned in favour of modern replacements. The wool is still dyed using plants and then hand spun as the family sticks rigidly to the traditional weaving processes. Overnight hacienda Cusin.

    Day 3: Pastoral Zuleta Valley. After breakfast we begin our journey of a stunning six hour ride into the beautiful pastoral Zuleta Valley. This journey takes us along country lanes and through eucalyptus forests. We then climb out of San Pablo Valley enjoying wonderful views of the Imbabura volcano, and onto the plains beyond for some fast-pace riding across the verdant ‘paramo’ (the unique Andean habitat of high grasslands), passing dewponds and hedges of aloe vera and spiky agave (sisal) atop mud walls. Following sandy tracks, we then descend into the Zuleta valley with dramatic views to the hanging valleys and rocky ridges above us, as well as ancient tumuli and earth pyramids erected by the pre-Inca population. On the way to a working farm deep inside this tranquil valley seldom visited by tourists you may see the mighty Andean Condor as well as other species such as hummingbirds and bright scarlet flycatchers. After arrival at Hacienda La Merced later in the afternoon there will be the chance to see examples of the hand embroidery that has made this valley famous. NB this hacienda has 7 rooms, so for a large group or private ride guests can choose to upgrade to Hacienda Zuleta instead.

    Day 4: Snows of Cayambe and the Equator Line. We ride out 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 to Imbabura peak where condors are often seen.  We ride out of the valley through a large eucalyptus forest, cantering along the shady tracks between the rows of tall trees. We often meet locals with small herds of sheep, goats, pigs and cattle. Emerging from the forest onto the plains, snow-capped Cayambe comes into view. 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 La Compania for a delicious and traditionally home cooked 3 course lunch. The hacienda is decorated with thousands of fresh roses. We are then transferred (3hrs) by vehicle across the Equator Line to hacienda La Carriona, which has a swimming pool, Jacuzzi, sauna and Turkish bath and massage for extra cost.  Overnight La Carriona.

    Day 5: The day starts with a drive to meet the horses. Leaving the farmlands behind, a spectacular ride awaits (7hrs), across the Sincholagua foothills to the northern edge of the Cotopaxi national park. We start with some canters through dramatic Andean scenery, then traverse a series of huge gorges along tracks and riding across the remote ‘paramo’ wilderness. We then descend and, once on the pasturelands, enjoy some exhilarating canters across the pastures and ride towards Cotopaxi National Park approaching the perfectly conical shape of the snow-capped Cotopaxi Volcano (the highest active volcano in the world). Sincholagua, a rocky summit that dominates the skyline, clearly marks the continental divide – the precipitation that falls the western side runs down and ends up on the Ecuadorian coast, in the Pacific Ocean, while that of the eastern sides eventually joins the Amazon and goes on to the Atlantic Ocean, via Brazil. Having avoided the fighting bulls (the hacienda we cross is famous for it’s feisty Spanish bulls!), we turn westwards, cross a river and arrive for the night at Hacienda Los Mortiños surrounded by mighty Andean peaks. The accommodation on day 5 will be at a this Hacienda or a Mountain Inn. The decision will be based on the number of participants (one has too few rooms for larger groups). Both lodgings are situated in idyllic locations with stunning views, cosy rooms and excellent food.

    Day 6: Cotopaxi National Park and wild horses. 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 close by Cotopaxi snow-capped volcano. We ride into Cotopaxi national park to canter across the wide, barren plains at the base of the Cotopaxi Volcano. Several herds of wild horses inhabit the park and to ride along side these long-maned horses galloping freely across the rugged terrain is an unique experience. Part of this ride follows the main Inca highway which linked Quito with Cusco, Peru as well as the Inca route leading down to the Amazon. We ride to the old Inca fort that guarded this supply route. The ground is covered with tiny pumice stones and lichen on this arid plain created by lava and ash from Cotopaxi volcano. We then ride across a very surprising ‘lunar landscape’ – huge boulders and hard baked ochre-coloured mud, between fascinating glacial and volcanic features and onto rolling grassy hills for more fast paced riding.  After a picnic lunch amidst this stunning scenery, we ride out of the national park to a recently converted Jesuit Hacienda seeped in history and now a very comfortable highland hacienda, Santa Ana.

    Day 7: Valley descent. Guests ride out of the lodge along dirt tracks, ford a river and head down a very scenic valley northwards towards civilization and Quito (5-6hrs). We pass polylepis trees (‘paperbark trees’), alisos and other native trees & plants as we cross wooden bridges, ride through streams and along sandy tracks. A chance of some final canters across the pastures, avoiding encounters with the fighting bulls. We often meet the local horsemen (chagras) checking the cattle and have also seen Andean Condors on this route as well as eagles, hawks, kestrel, fox and deer. As we descend into the valley along a lane bordered with native trees& shrubs humming birds, finches, flycatchers and many other bird species flit from tree to tree in front of us. Meeting the cobbled roads guests say goodbye to the horses and are driven back into Quito (75 minutes). On the way to the hotel we will take a quick detour through Colonial Quito. Overnight in hotel Sebastian in Quito.

    Day 8: Following breakfast, guests are accompanied to the airport in time for their outward flights.

    Notes: The price based on two people sharing accommodation, is provided that at least 4 guests on the ride. As ATOL licence holders 6445, Wild and Exotic can arrange your international flights with Iberia. If less than 4 guests the price for this itinerary increases. Alternatively guests can opt for an amended itinerary at the original price.

    A single supplement is charged if you require separate accommodation.

    Cattle roundup specials each November & February, please ask Wild and Exotic for details. Extensions to the ride can also be arranged on request including city tours, visits to the Amazon rain forest trips, cruises in the Galapagos Islands, bird watching and hiking.

    Neither Wild and Exotic nor the operators or suppliers can accept any responsibility for changes to itineraries or dates that may arise due to weather or unforeseen circumstances such as changes, disruptions or delays to airline flights for whatever reason. This holiday is subject to Wild and Exotic’s terms and conditions, a copy of which is available on this website under the general info tab.

    Wild and Exotic Cotapaxi riding adventure

    Cotapaxi riding adventure summary

    This Cotapaxi riding adventure is a circuit of the perfectly conical snow-capped peak, through breathtaking, wild open country including Cotopaxi National park and seldom visited open plains high in the Andes.

    A chance of seeing the Andean wildlife (the mighty Andean condor among other raptors and hunters, high altitude hummingbirds, foxes and deer) as we cross a variety of scenery including rugged passes, barren, luna-like landscapes and rolling, grassy hills.

    The pace is also varied, from steadily crossing wetlands to cantering across the altiplano. Where there is a break in the sea of high Andean grasslands, the ground is carpeted with wild flowers and we pass by primary woodland with native trees and shrubs. During part of the ride, we cross old lava flows dotted with rocks catapulted out from the erupting volcano, where only lichens grow and the streams fed by snowmelt run red from the iron deposits. The glacial retreat, followed by the volcanic activity have left intriguing landscapes.

    On some days we ride along old Inca routes, on a few days we pass by adobe cottages and patchwork fields farmed by the charming and very friendly local people. The children are often out and about herding errant pigs and donkeys. Nights are spent in a wonderful mixture of haciendas and farmhouses.

    We also now have an extension to the Cotopaxi riding adventure called the Volcanoes and Vistas ride, a journey through the Ecuadorian Andes and for more information on this please see “The Volcanoes and Vistas ride” tab.


    Cotapaxi ride sample itinerary

    Day 1: Today we will be driven out of Quito, into the Eastern Cordillera and meet the horses (1h). This first day offers stunning Andean scenery and a first taste of the distinct Andean ‘paramo’ vegetation (5-6hr ride). Once riders are comfortable with their horses you will set out, accompanied by a local ‘chagra’ (horseman). The views are spectacular; looking out across the green valleys to the jagged rocky summits beyond and there is also a good chance of seeing Andean condors, this very much depends on flying conditions! Leaving the pigs & donkeys grazing on the tracks and the fields of potatoes, maize and beans behind you, you will climb into the wild ‘paramo’ vegetation in the Antisana foothills – onto open grasslands, with opportunities to canter, then descend to a working farm for an overnight stay. The Hacienda house has recently been converted so that guests can stay to enjoy the impressive views and traditional home-cooked food. The Chagras unsaddle and feed the horses for you, always on hand to tend to the horses for guests.   Single, twin, double & triple rooms, most with en suite bathroom. (PL, D).

    Day 2: Today you will ride out of the farm and climb towards ‘Muerto Pungo’ Lake along dirt tracks through a sea of grass, again with incredible vistas (6hrs). There is plenty of wildlife and flora to see from hummingbirds (the smallest bird in the world!) to Condors (the heaviest flying bird in the world!) and many other bird species as well as native flowers & shrubs. The views extend to distant snow capped volcanoes and to Quito; peaks such as Antisana, Sincholagua, Pichincha, the Iliniza twin peaks and Cotopaxi Volcano come into sight.  Arriving at the highland lake ‘Muerte Pungo’, riders will see a fascinating old lava flow and its exit hole. After a relaxing picnic lunch taken from your saddle bags (not just a sandwich!) back on the horses for a few more hours pioneering your way through the wild flower filled rough grasslands before finally dropping down into a secluded valley.  You will leave the horses in pastures and head back to the Hacienda for a second overnight (a short drive). Single, twin, double & triple rooms, most with en suite bathroom. (AB, PL, D).

    Day 3: The morning starts with riding through the open expanses of ‘paramo’, far off the beaten track guests can enjoy the tranquillity of this seldom-visited breath-taking area (7hrs). The ‘chagras’ guide you through this landscape as they spend their lives up here so can carefully lead you between the muddy wetlands. You will then ride up the scree slopes and rocky outcrops of Sincholagua volcano, crossing over the continental divide – the water shed where drops of water landing so close together end up oceans apart – in the Pacific or the Atlantic. You will have excellent views of many peculiar geological features- drumlins, ‘hot spot’ hillocks, and mud and lava flows produced during the ice age and by volcanic activity. The pace picks up across the northern end of the Cotopaxi national park and guests ride on to a charming old adobe and thatch farmhouse for an overnight stay. A chance to exchange stories with a pre dinner glass of the local ‘fire water’ in front of a roaring fire. Single & twin rooms divided by reed partitions, shared bathrooms. Option: upgrade to single/twin/double room with private en suite bathroom. (AB, PL, D).

    Day 4: Today you will get the chance to take a closer look at the famous Spanish fighting bulls as you ride through the Hacienda lands. Curiously enough these fierce beasts were introduced into Ecuador by the Jesuit priests as a way of stopping their other animals being rustled. Skirting Ruminahui rocky summit you will continue on into the national park (6hrs). Passing native Andean forests the route flattens out as you descend into a hidden valley, a favourite haunt for Condors and wild horses. The pace quickens as you ride across plains and end the ride at the lodge closest to Cotopaxi Volcano, with unbeatable views of this magnificent peak, the resident llamas often oblige and pose for photos. Single/twin/double/triple rooms with private en suite bathroom. (AB, PL, D).

    Day 5: Today is an exhilarating day riding through the western part of Cotopaxi national park (5-6hrs). Fast paced riding across the flat plains and as you speed through the rolling hills an almost guaranteed chance of meeting several herds of the wild horses that roam the park – the curious colts often run alongside us, long manes and tails flowing. You may also sometimes see deer and more and more frequently the Andean Condor passes overhead. You will cross luna-like surfaces as you approach the snow-capped Cotopaxi Volcano and also follow the main Inca highway linking Cusco and Quito then head to a new, very comfortable lodge located at the centre point between four mighty Andean peaks: Ruminahui, Pasachoa, Sincholagua and Cotopaxi. Single/twin/double/triple rooms with private en suite bathroom. (AB, PL, D).

    Day 6: The longest ride of the trip- covering 45 kms (30 miles) through the northern section of national park and to the remote eastern flanks of Cotopaxi Volcano, far off the beaten track (7-8hrs). Flat plains, marshlands, volcanic rock fields, riverbeds are some of the distinct terrains we traverse. You will follow an Inca route that led down to the Amazon for part of the way and the house you will stay at tonight is a ‘tambo’ built out of Inca stone -log fires and lovely staff ensure a warm welcome and once again guests can enjoy an incredible location. The Equator-line sky is packed with stars, including the Southern Cross. Twin bedded rooms (partitions dividing the sleeping areas), generator & candle lighting in this house built of Inca stone, shared bathrooms. (AB, PL, D).

    Day 7: Today you will wake to stunning views of the close-by Cotopaxi & Quilindana Volcanoes and also the glacier on Antisana Volcano on the horizon. You will have a chance to inspect the hacienda stone and turf corrals used for the feisty fighting bulls before you set off through another part of this wilderness. The exact route will depend on weather conditions, the route will be almost as long as yesterday’s taking you along narrow tracks through the rough grasslands, across several streams, through wetlands and then onto sandy tracks for some more long canters across the huge expanses of open terrain. You may see Chimborazo (Ecuador’s highest peak) and Tungurahua – which is erupting regularly, on the horizon. Descending into the very aptly named ‘Avenue of Volcanoes’ you will leave the horses and be driven back to Quito for an overnight stay. Single, twin/double/triple rooms with en suite bathrooms. (AB, L).

    Day 8: Following breakfast, you will be transferred to the airport in time for your outward flight, or collected at your hotel to continue on extensions. (CB). End of Wild and Exotic services.


    The cost of this itinerary, based on two people sharing accommodation, is provided that at least 4 guests join the ride.

    The cost includes horse (spare horses taken), guide and grooms, 3 meals per day (see below), snacks and water on rides, 7 nights accommodation, national park/private reserves etc. entrance fees, transport to and from Quito, transport of bags between lodgings and all local taxes. Saddlebags and poncho for each guest.

    Meals included are shown on the itinerary using the following codes: AB= cooked breakfast, CB = continental breakfast, PL= picnic lunch (different menus, not just a sandwich), D=dinner.

    The cost does not include sleeping bag (needed on certain nights, they are available to rent), items of a personal nature, flights, visa fees (if applicable) or gratuities.

    If separate accommodation is required a single supplement is payable and is available for 3 nights of the itinerary. Limited availability.

    Extensions to the riding itinerary are available including Galapagos Island cruises (8 days), Amazon jungle trips (minimum 3 days), famous Otavalo market (1 day), cloud forest visits (minimum 2 days) white water rafting (1 day), relaxing at the historic haciendas, city tours (half day) and much more. Please contact Wild and Exotic for more information on extensions to the ride.

    Neither Wild and Exotic nor the operators or suppliers can accept any responsibility for changes to itineraries or dates that may arise due to weather or unforeseen circumstances such as changes, disruptions or delays to airline flights for whatever reason. This holiday is subject to Wild and Exotic’s terms and conditions, a copy of which is available on this website under the general info tab.

    Wild and Exotic Volcanos and Vistas ride, a journey through the Ecuadorian Andes

    Volcancos and Vistas ride summary

    A Challenging route journeying on through incredibly varied terrain including fast paced riding across the arid plains alongside the wild horses of the Cotopaxi national park. The ride starts among the patchwork fields in the very picturesque verdant valleys of the Andes, just across the equator line north of Quito and ends on the vast plains below the snow-capped Cotopaxi Volcano. Meeting the horses close to the glacier-topped Cayambe Volcano, guests ride along agaves lined grassy tracks into a sleepy pastoral valley, arriving at a working hacienda with magnificent Andalucian horses.


    Volcanos and vistas ride itinerary

    Day 1:  On arrival into Quito you will be met and transferred out of Quito northwards through the Andes, across the equator line to meet the horses (90mins) in the shadow of the Cayambe Volcano. Once everyone is comfortable you will ride out of the Cayambe Valley and down into the pastoral Zuleta Valley (4hrs). Along grassy lanes and then across pastureland riders enjoy the picture postcard scenery around every corner. Stopping for a wonderful picnic along the way, you will ride into a Hacienda having enjoyed some canters across the grasslands, passing their magnificent Andalucian stallions posing for you in their fields. Your hosts -the hacienda owners, are delightful people making this a very special introduction to Ecuadorian life. This evening you will have a delicious home cooked dinner and overnight at the farm, with fireplaces in most rooms.

    Day 2: Today is a long circuit ride out of the magnificent Zuleta valley and into the San Pablo valley beyond, with superb views of San Pablo lake and surrounding jagged peaks (6hrs). There will be a chance of some long canters on the tracks as well as the perfect opportunity to see local life as you pass small adobe huts, the very friendly locals still dress in their vibrant coloured traditional clothing. You will encounter herders out with flocks of sheep, goats, pigs in the open grasslands and a host of mismatched dogs supposedly keeping the animals in order! You will have a picnic lunch on the ride and this evening will be spent back at the farm for your second nights stay.

    Day 3: Today you will ride out southwards, through Eucalyptus forests, spotting a great variety of birds including, the largest hummingbird in the world (at certain times of the year). Before you ride into a small village (always causing quite a stir!) you will enjoy a picnic admiring views of Imbabura, the impressive Cayambe and other surrounding peaks (4-5hrs). The village square is typically colonial Spanish with ornate gardens at the centre and here you will leave the horses and  be transferred south, bypassing Quito (2hrs). A chance to stop on the equator line.  Dinner and overnight this evening will be at an old, restored Jesuit hacienda complete with fine Ecuadorian art and antiques, verandas and ornate gardens.

    Day 4: Today you will meet the horses in the nearby Antisana foothills to ride into the ‘paramo’ (high Andean vegetation) and a complete change of scenery. The ride on cobbled roads, soon leaving the cultivated fields behind and climbing into the rough grasslands (6hrs). There are superb views across the ridges and valleys to Quito and many snow-capped peaks part of the ‘Avenue of the Volcanoes’ and you will also pass a fascinating old lava flow. After your picnic lunch (never just a sandwich, but much more!) the terrain flattens and the pace picks up allowing guests some long canters through the ‘paramo’. The ‘hosteria’ nestled in the valley below is a wonderful sight, and you will ride to cosy rooms in a perfect location to enjoy the tranquil Andes. Your hostess is another wonderful cook and prepares traditional food for dinner. Overnight in 3-4 bedrooms ‘cabañas’ with a mix of shared and private bathrooms.

    Day 5: The Andean condor with its massive wing span is seen most days cruising over the ‘Hosteria’, so you will hope that today is no exception. A long ride (7-8hrs) will take you out of the hills and onto the plains, to a traditionally built adobe farmhouse. Guests ride out across the ‘hosteria’ lands, leaving Antisana Volcano behind, traversing rolling hills as you cross the slopes of Sincholagua, an extinct volcano. The morning ride involves some challenging parts across rocky outcrops and wetlands. The views are impressive and we have seen foxes and deer in this area as well as many species of raptors patrolling the skies. A warm cinnamon local drink awaits you and tasty ‘empanadas’ beside the fireplace. Overnight in small twin bedded rooms separated by partitions, shared women only and men only bathrooms (option: room with private en suite bathroom).

    Day 6: This morning there is a steep ascent out from the thatched hacienda and you will ride up close to the impressive rock face of the Rumiñahui peak (5hrs). First, you will have to negotiate the fields of fighting bulls- this ranch is famous for its feisty fighting bulls, caution is needed! Our ‘chagra’ (Andean horseman) in his traditional poncho, armed with lasso, will guide you safely through. The stunning Cotopaxi Volcano soon comes into view in all its perfectly conical, snowy glory. Approaching the volcano you will stop for a picnic in the unique Andean scrubland with stunning views of the volcano.  Descending into a valley scraped out during the ice age you will ride into Cotopaxi national park, dropping down to a shallow lake then enjoying long canters across luna-like landscapes. The ‘hosteria’ is in an idyllic location with amazing views of Cotopaxi. Overnight in small dormitory rooms; women only and men only bathrooms (option: room with private en suite bathroom).

    Day 7: Continuing on the route that will takes you on a complete circuit around Cotopaxi, you will; enjoy fast paced riding across the plains just below the Cotopaxi snowline then descend into the Lasso Valley (7hrs). The locals, the crops, their small farms and houses are very different from the northern areas, giving guests a view of a different region of the Ecuadorian Andes. You will canter along sandy tracks to the hamlet of San Ramon, where you will leave the horses and be transferred a short distance to a converted farmhouse. Rooms with fireplaces and en suite bathrooms for everyone.

    Day 8:  This morning you will rejoin the horses early for a long ride into the remote eastern side of the Cotopaxi to a hacienda built of Inca stone close to Quilindaña mountain (8hrs). There is no vehicle access to the hacienda via the route you will take and riding close to Cotopaxi volcano in this remote area, you will enjoy the vast open expanses of the ‘paramo’. Usually the weather allows magnificent views of Chimborazo (Ecuador’s highest peak), Tungurahua, currently in eruption and other peaks forming the Avenue of Volcanoes. This hacienda outpost is a firm favourite of guests – the hot showers, delicious food, roaring fires and very comfortable beds making up for the lack of electricity.

    Day 9:  Waking up to stunning views of Cotopaxi, Antisana and Quilindaña, a hearty breakfast awaits in the hacienda built of Inca stone.  Another full day of riding starts with a ride through an expansive ‘rock field’ – a result of the last eruption of Cotopaxi Volcano (8hrs). Having crossed a river, the rocks give way to grasslands, allowing fast paced riding through another herd of fighting bulls! Turning westwards, you will  follow a river valley then criss-cross the grasslands through a series of lakes. Ducks dive for food here on the lakes and high altitude hummingbirds zoom by. Crossing old lava flows and passing a series of strange hills -created by the ice flows and by the later volcanic activity- you will ride into the rolling hills to enjoy exhilarating fast paced riding. The thatched mountain inn affords splendid views and is an incredible location to spend the last night out in the Andes. Wood stoves in/near rooms. One bathroom per two rooms (option: private en suite bathroom).

    Day 10: Today is a ride back into the real world! Sadly you will have to ride out of the mountains (approximately 6hrs). Crossing a river into another large ranch where you will have exclusive riding rights, guests take to the beautifully smooth pastures for a last opportunity of some fast paced riding. You will then gently descend into the valley below via a wonderful meandering track lined with native trees and flowers. Joining a cobbled road you will ride to a tiny village and say goodbye to the horses at a small chapel, you will be transferred back to a charming hotel in Quito for an overnight stay and dinner under your own arrangements.

    Day 11:  This morning you will be transferred back to the airport for your flight home.


    The price of this ride is based on two people sharing accommodation on full board basis and is inclusive of snacks and water on rides, 10 nights accommodation, national park/private reserves etc. entrance fees, transport to and from Quito, transport of bags between lodgings and all local taxes, saddlebags, water bottles and ponchos for each guest. A single supplement will apply for anyone who does not wish to share accommodation.

    The price does not include international and or domestic airfares, dinner in Quito on Day 10, bar tabs, items of a personal nature, gratuities and visa fees.

    Extensions to the ride can be arranged on request including city tours, jungle trips, Galapagos island and Machu Picchu visits, bird watching and hiking.

    Neither Wild and Exotic nor the operators or suppliers can accept any responsibility for changes to itineraries or dates that may arise due to weather or unforeseen circumstances such as changes, disruptions or delays to airline flights for whatever reason. This holiday is subject to Wild and Exotic’s terms and conditions, a copy of which is available on this website under the general info tab.

    Wild and Exotic Cattle round up ride

    Cattle round up ride summary

    An exhilarating ride across the wild Ecuadorian high Andes – breath-taking scenery as we ride through these remote areas, a string of snow-capped volcanoes providing a stunning backdrop. Riding across very varied terrain: from the flat, arid plains below Cotopaxi volcano to the steep, grassy slopes of the lower slopes of Antisana volcano, we often see the wild horses and the magnificent Andean condor.

    We join the local horsemen (chagras) dressed in their brightly coloured ponchos and traditional chaps at a huge annual cattle roundup in one of the remotest haciendas of the highlands.


    Cattle round up ride itinerary

    Day 1: We drive out of Quito and meet the horses (50 minutes). This first day offers a very varied route including some tricky sections – where we dismount and let the horses negotiate the rocky riverbeds on their own, and also some exhilarating canters across the rolling hills (5 hours). We arrive at a working ranch and have to carefully cross the huge, rolling pastures – this farm is famous for its Spanish fighting bulls!  Guests often encounter the type of bulls that we will be helping round up later in the week.   The scenery is spectacular with green valleys, rolling hills and we are surrounded by jagged rocky summits and snow capped peaks. We arrive at another hacienda for tea and in time to admire the sunset, once again in magnificent surroundings. Overnight at this charming traditional adobe and thatch hacienda, a working farm situated on the edge of Cotopaxi national park.  PL, D. Twin sleeping areas, partitioned. Shared bathrooms.

    Day 2: We ride into Cotopaxi National park and cross the arid plains of the park from north to south, close to the perfectly conical shape of the snow-capped Cotopaxi Volcano (the highest active volcano in the world) (6hrs). The luna-like landscape formed by both glacial and volcanic activity is fascinating and the arid plains scattered with boulders thrown out by the volcano provide a wonderful surface for some long canters. (The volcano is currently dormant!). We often meet the herds of wild horses that roam the park, they gallop alongside us, long manes and tails flowing. Descending into Lasso Valley, we leave the horses and drive for a comfortable overnight at another hacienda, built in the 1600s. We enjoy a delicious dinner of traditional Ecuadorian fare before retiring for the night. Private bathrooms. AB, PL, D.

    Day 3: An incredible ride high up into the ‘paramo’ (unique Andean vegetation) (7hrs). We leave the adobe huts and patchwork fields behind and climb up into the huge expanses of wild grasslands. Enjoying views of several of the snow capped peaks of the ‘Avenue of Volcanoes’: Chimborazo (Ecuador’s highest peak), Tungurahua in the distance (actually erupting at the moment) and Cotopaxi, we cross the beautiful paramo grasslands, without a house in sight. We cross over a ridge into a valley and spot the isolated hacienda house in the distance. Very few people manage to visit this stunning place and the wonderful tranquility and huge expanse of space, almost uninhabited, is appreciated by all. Cottage with 3 bedrooms (2, 4 & 4 beds) & lounge area to sleep in (2), number of people per room depends on number of riders. Shared bathroom. AB, PL, D.

    Day 4: A ride across the paramo to a ‘tambo’ built out of Inca stone (4-5hrs). Amazing scenery, riding along a river bed and across the grasslands close to the jagged Quilindana summit. A good chance of seeing the mighty Andean condor and deer, the Andean fox and high altitude hummingbirds (hillstars) as well as large raptors soaring overhead. We occasionally meet a chagra with his trusty dog riding out to check the cattle but most of the cowhands are already at the roundup. The house we stay at tonight is very comfortable and once again guests can enjoy the incredible views. There is no light pollution and the Equator-line sky is packed with stars, including the southern cross. Double rooms (twin rooms, partitions) in this charming house, shared bathrooms. AB, PL, D.

    Day 5: We ride into the hacienda where the annual cattle roundup is taking place (2hrs). An early start is needed so we can join the chagras as they head off to roundup the cattle and also the horses that run freely on the ranch and need attention. The chagras, in their brightly coloured ponchos and goat hair chaps, arrived at the hacienda several days ago some herding their spare horses in front of them. Two or three chagras normally manage the hacienda lands (over 60 000 acres) where the cattle roam freely but once a year, for the roundup, they need all the help they can get. The roundup, a vital part of the farming calendar, is steeped in tradition. Today we will normally join the chagras and help them roundup up the wild horses so their hooves can be cut and shaped and any injuries treated. We will possibly be also helping rounding up part of the cattle herd. After a busy day, we spend the night at the campsite sleeping in 2-man dome tents. A hot dinner is served and we ready ourselves for the big day tomorrow. AB, PL, D.

    Day 6: Today is the main roundup day. Earlier on in the week, the chagras brought the cattle down off the hillsides of different sections of the hacienda, pushing them nearer and nearer to the corrals. Today over 2000 head of cattle have to be herded into the main corral, then the bulls extracted. It is often called ‘la gruesa’ – describing the thick, seething mass of cattle brought together.The hacienda owner usually ‘opens’ the roundup with a short welcoming speech and each rider has a sip of the local ‘firewater’ served in a bull’s horn. The ‘mayodomo’ or head chagra issues the orders of the day – which cattle to move and by which route. Great distances will be covered, the day will be wasted if the herd manages to break through the line of riders and regain the far reaches of the vast pastures so it is vital that each chagra knows where he is to go. Having got the main herd into the corrals, the cattle that managed to break away have to be collected. They sometimes arrive, unwillingly, on the end of two or three lassos.
    Guests will be able to ride alongside the chagras or ride further back away from the cattle and admire the impressive scene (or choose not to ride and from a safe vantage point near the corrals enjoy the roundup). A second night in tents with a covered seating area around the camp fire, rustic bathroom and surrounded by an incredible array of stars and summits. AB, PL, D.

    Day 7: Having spent the early morning at the corral watching the chagras at work with their lassos (guests are welcome to join in) we leave these skilled cowhands to their tough work and ride out across another part of the hacienda, heading north to the Antisana foothills (4-5hrs). Crossing mountain streams and rolling hills we enjoy another exhilarating ride in these wild open spaces, the massive Antisana glacier appears ahead of us. Another good chance of seeing the Andean condor and also Andean spectacled bears have been seen in this area. We arrive at Hacienda Antisana and say farewell to our horses and the chagras that have accompanied us and are driven back down to Quito for overnight in a comfortable hotel. AB, PL.

    Day 8: After breakfast guests then depart or continue on extensions. AB.


    The cost of this itinerary is based on shared accommodation and at least 4 people joining the ride. The cost includes all meals as indicated on the itinerary (AB: cooked breakfast, PL:  Picnic Lunch (elaborate, not just a sandwich), D: Dinner)

    A single supplement can be arranged if requested (subject to availability). The availability of single accommodation on day 4 depends on number of guests.

    Because of the tough nature on the ride, it is advisable to be riding fit and to arrive a few days prior to the start of the itinerary to acclimatise.

    Please note that you will be met at Quito airport and additional services can be arranged at request, such as hotels in Quito, city tours, extensions to the Galapagos Islands, Amazon rain forest, bird watching and hiking.

    Neither Wild and Exotic nor the operators or suppliers can accept any responsibility for changes to itineraries or dates that may arise due to weather or unforeseen circumstances such as changes, disruptions or delays to airline flights for whatever reason. This holiday is subject to Wild and Exotic’s terms and conditions, a copy of which is available on this website under the general info tab.

    Wild and Exotic fact sheet for Ecuadorian rides

    Accommodation: Is in haciendas – historical country houses, most dating back to the 17th and 18th Century – ranging from luxurious to basic in the remotest parts of the high Paramo. On itineraries where camping is necessary accommodation is in simple 2 man tents, with Karrimats. Guests should bring sleeping bags, however they can be rented by prior request.

    Activities: We arrange trips to various indigenous markets and craft villages whilst we are on rides. Hiking and bird watching can also be arranged. Before or after your ride, Wild and exotic can arrange exciting extensions to your holiday. These include cruises in the Galapagos Islands, stays in the Amazon, bird watching, climbing & trekking. Please contact Wild and Exotic for further details.

    Altitude: For the exact altitude please consult the information about each individual ride.  Most of the riding takes place above 2500 metres (on some rides we go up to 4400m on a high pass but then descend for the night). On arrival guests often feel slight effects of the altitude. The rides are planned so that guests can acclimatise and while the horses will be doing most of the work guests should check with their doctor as high altitude may be inadvisable for certain medical conditions. It is beneficial to arrive in Quito one or two days prior to the start of the tour.

    Best months to visit: Mid November to early March (a dry section in mid rainy season) and mid May to mid October (summer/dry season).

    Cash: The US Dollar is the national currency. Both cash and travellers cheques are accepted at haciendas.

    Children: The age limit on set date departure rides is 15 years old, exceptions can be made (if an under 15 is a particularly good rider and the first to book onto a set date departure), please check with Wild and Exotic. There is no age limit for private group rides.

    Clothing list: A detailed clothing list is available on request, and will be sent to all participants at the time of booking.

    Drinks: Wine, water and juice are included at lunchtimes. Drinks in the evenings are not included unless camping or staying at unstaffed haciendas in the high Paramo.

    Guides / Grooms: Guests are accompanied by a bilingual guide (English and Spanish) and at least one local second guide / groom. The guides have excellent local knowledge of the highlands of Ecuador, and have many years experience of guiding both on horses and on foot. Guests are not expected to tack up, groom or feed their horses. There is also additional ground staff.

    Health: It is a very healthy environment both for riders and for horses. There are comparatively few insects in the highlands and malaria is not present here.  Vaccinations: it is essential that you 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 the yellow fever vaccination is required. Guests travelling to certain parts of the jungle or the coast will need, for example, malaria pills.  Medical kits are carried on every ride. In Quito there are excellent English speaking doctors (we are members of IAMAT) and dentists. Please also see section on altitude.

    Horses: The horses are Ecuadorian “Criollo” horses ‘warm/hot blood lines’ (English, Arabs, Pasos, Andalusian) crossed with the “Criollo” horses (descendants of the Spanish Conquistadors stock), resulting in a horse ideally suited for the terrain. They are specially selected, well trained and good natured.  There are horses for experienced riders and other horses for less experienced riders as well as for children, allowing us to can cater for all levels of riding. Great attention is paid to matching horse and rider. Most horses can be ridden either western style (neck reining, one hand) or English style. Riders normally change to fresh horses every 3 to 5 days, depending on the ride.

    How to get there: As ATOL licence holders 6445, Wild and Exotic can book return airfares to Quito. On arrival at Quito, guests are met by our representative and transferred to a hotel for their first night in Quito. The ride generally begins the following morning.  Ecuador is five hours behind Greenwich meantime.

    Insurance: Adequate travel insurance providing cover for, but not limited to, personal injury, curtailment or cancellation of your holiday, is compulsory for all Wild and Exotic itineraries. The details of our recommended insurers are listed on all booking forms.

    Length of rides: 5 –7 hours average in the saddle per day. All rides of more than three hours include regular breaks, and normally a lunch break of approximately one hour.

    Meals: A delicious cooked breakfast with local exotic fruits and juices is served every morning. On most days a picnic lunch is carried in your saddlebag, however we also stop for lunch at haciendas on some itineraries. Candlelit three course dinners are served in the charming hacienda dining rooms, alternatively our guides prepare meals whilst staying at remote haciendas in the high Paramo.

    Medical and Safety: A medical kit for both horse and rider is carried at all times, regardless of the length of ride. Mobile phones and/or radios are carried on all rides. Most riding takes place above 2500 metres, and can reach up to 4,300 metres in the highest and most remote stretches. On arrival guests often feel slight effects of the altitude. Rides are planned so that guests have time to acclimatise, however guests should check with their doctor prior to departure as high altitude may be inadvisable for certain medical conditions.

    Non-Riders: If non-riders wish to accompany a Colonial Hacienda ride, alternative arrangements and activities (such as walking, trekking, mountain biking, bird watching, visits by vehicle etc) can normally be organised, and on most days everyone in the group can meet up for the lunchtime picnic. Please ask Wild and Exotic for further details. The Cotopaxi Adventure ride is not suitable for non riders.

    Pace: The pace is very varied due to the variety of terrain. The 3 scheduled rides start steadily and build up to faster speeds (see itineraries). Most days there are opportunities for faster pace riding and on the second half of the set departure itineraries there is ample opportunity for long canters. Our rides are not suitable for those unable/unwilling to trot and canter. Private rides are adapted to the weakest rider in the group, although we can usually arrange for the group split from time to time to allow faster pace for those who wish. Due to the altitude our rides in Ecuador are not suitable for guests wanting to gallop flat out.

    Riding ability: You should be comfortable at all paces. Riders must be used to steep slopes and open ground. Novice/beginner riders are welcome on private rides and the routes will be adapted to suit their level of riding ability.

    Single supplement: A single supplement may be charged to those who are not able to share same sex accommodation.

    Size of rides: For our set departure dates a maximum of 8 guests per group. Private tours can accommodate more guests by prior arrangement.

    Tack: Saddles used are classed as Western style (ex US Cavalry saddles) but it is easy to ride English style instead of Western in theses saddles. Sheepskin seats are provided. English saddles are available on request for shorter rides, but inadvisable on the longer rides. Bridles are generally English.

    Type of ride: We ride between magnificent haciendas in the breathtaking Andean scenery. The rides are accompanied by four-wheel drive vehicles that transports guest’s luggage between haciendas by a different route to the ride. We offer two different 8 day set departure rides being a Colonial Hacienda ride (CH) and the more modestly priced Cotopaxi Adventure ride (CA) with more challenging riding and more basic accommodation than the Colonial Haciendas ride. There is no camping on either of these rides. The CH ride includes visits to markets, weavers, rose plantations etc included as well as the riding. The accommodation is in historical haciendas with ensuite bathrooms. The CA ride is at a higher altitude requiring prior acclimatisation, and the accommodation is with shared bathrooms, with the option most evenings to pay surcharge for a private bathroom. No market etc. visits, more hours riding than CH tour. We also offer an 11 day set departure ride, called Volcanoes & Vistas, which is a combination of best of the CH and CA rides and for private groups, a Luxury Historic Haciendas tour, staying at Ecuador’s VIP haciendas for private parties, and the occasional opportunity to participate in an annual Cattle Roundup rides, which are for experienced riders only.

    Visas: Most European and North American citizens visiting Ecuador as tourists for less than 90 days do not currently require an entry visa.

    Weather / Climate: The climate in the Ecuadorian highlands allows us to ride almost all year round. During the days the temperatures can rise to 28 – 30 degrees Celsius, although most days start with a crisp 6 – 10C. Night time temperatures can drop to freezing. In the rainy season (October to May in most areas) the rain does not fall daily and is rarely prolonged. Afternoon showers occur, but generally once the day’s ride is over.

    Weight limit: Without prior agreement we are unable to accept riders over 85kgs (190lbs). By special request we are able to cater for a small number of heavier riders on some rides.

    Ecuador general information and map

    Capital: Quito

    Getting there: There are no direct flights to Quito from the UK, but there are regular flights with major airlines via several European cities including Amsterdam and Madrid. Flying time from Madrid to Quito is approximately 11 hours.

    Time: GMT minus 6 hours.

    Try not to miss: The fertile valleys and lush green vistas surrounding Otavalo to the north of Quito, including the lovely Zuleta valley, famous for hand embroidery. This region is home to stunning colonial haciendas, the oldest ones dating from the 17th century where herds of dairy cows and fighting bulls are raised on rich pastures. Most of the haciendas used by Wild and Exotic have courtyards festooned in colourful flowers, beautiful gardens, antique décor and open fireplaces in the bedrooms. Many of these prestigious and historically important haciendas are still home to the noblest of Ecuadorian families. The bird watching here is spectacular, with a huge variety of birds from the mighty Andean Condor to tiny hummingbirds and bright scarlet flycatchers. Whilst in Otavalo don’t miss out on a visit to the market, where locals dressed in traditional costumes sell crafts and home grown produce.

    Head south across the Equator and into Cotopaxi National Park and the avenue of the volcanoes, overlooked by the spherical white cone of 5897 metre high Cotopaxi, the highest active volcano in the world. Using high altitude haciendas as your base explore the high paramo, not dissimilar to Exmoor, where herds of wild horses and fighting bulls roam a landscape of rolling hill and rocky outcrops studded with glittering lakes. Ride or walk along the ancient Inca highway that linked Quito with Cusco in Peru, and spend a night at the most important Inca site in Ecuador, Hacienda San Augustin, where the rooms are arranged around a perfectly preserved Inca square.

    The Amazon jungle on the eastern side of the Andes. We recommend a stunning eco-lodge overlooking a lagoon on the Napo River (a tributary of the Amazon) where you can swim with giant otters, watch flocks of gaudy parrots flight into clay licks each morning, see snail kites at work and go spotlighting caimans at night. Other Amazon wildlife surrounding the lodge includes wild pigs and monkeys.

    The Galapagos Islands are a series of volcanic outcrops on the Equator some 600 miles from mainland Ecuador, world famous for being stuck in an evolutionary time warp and home to many unique indigenous species of wildlife. The best way to experience these islands is to join on a cruise lasting from 4 – 8 days, or better still ask Wild and Exotic about chartering a cruise boat (the smallest are for just 10 passengers) for the exclusive benefit of your party. During your tour there will be visits to many of the islands on foot, talks by qualified naturalist guides and opportunities for scuba diving and snorkelling,

    Visas: No visa is required for visits of up to 90 days for UK citizens.

    Why Ecuador: For her rich colonial heritage and superb examples of well preserved colonial archeicteure, her unique avenue of volcanoes and the world famous Galapagos Islands.

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    “Thoroughly enjoyed my holiday – the riding was excellent, guide very nice helpful good horses well cared for & helpful friendly staff. Haciendas all very nice”
    Sue Ruddock, Colonial Hacienda ride Ecuador, October 2011

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