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Ecuador riding holidays

Ecuador, South America
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    Wild & Exotic Colonial Haciendas ride

    Colonial Haciendas ride summary

    A journey back in time 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 breathtaking 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, lakes, steep, rocky summits and glaciers. 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.

    Colonial Haciendas ride sample itinerary

    Day 1: Wild and Exotic will arrange transfers (at extra cost) into Quito from the international airport to their hotel.  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. 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. P, L, D.

    Day 2: SACRED IMBABURA AND 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, and 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. B, PL, D

    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. B, PL, Tea, D.

    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.  B, PL, D

    Day 5: THE REMOTE FOOTHILLS OF SINCHOLAGUA. 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, and 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 its 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 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. B, PL, D.

    Day 6: COTOPAXI NATIONAL PARK & 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 alongside 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. B, PL, D.

    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 a comfortable Quito hotel. AB, PL.

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

    Notes: The price of this ride is based on two people sharing accommodation on full board basis subject to itinerary above, and is inclusive of snacks and water on rides, accommodation, national park/private reserves entrance fees, transport of bags between lodgings and all local taxes, saddlebags, water bottles and ponchos for each guest. Please note that the abbreviations above are as follows: B – breakfast, PL – picnic lunch (varied menus, never just a sandwich), D – dinner.

    The price does not include international and or domestic airfares, transport to and from Quito, dinner in Quito on the final evening, bar tabs, items of a personal nature, gratuities and visa fees

    We advise guests to arrive up to 48 hours prior to day 1 of the ride to enable acclimatisation. Wild and Exotic can make all the necessary arrangements.

    A single supplement will apply for anyone who does not wish to share accommodation.

    All participants will be required to sign a responsibility release form before starting the ride.

    Riders over 85kg accepted by prior agreement only, and will incur a supplement in order to provide two horses/day for that rider in addition to the spare horse(s) taken for the group.

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

    Neither Wild & Exotic Ltd nor the operators or suppliers can accept responsibility for changes to itineraries or dates that may arise due to weather or other unforeseen circumstances such as changes to airline flights. This holiday is subject to Wild and Exotic’s terms and conditions, a copy of which will be enclosed with your booking form.

     
    Wild & Exotic Andean Adventure ride in Ecuador

    Andean Adventure ride summary

    A route that takes riders into the remote Andes in the eastern foothills of the perfectly conical, snow-capped Cotopaxi volcano, across the seldom-visited plains in the National Park and also through the stunning verdant valleys of the Cayambe-Zuleta-Imbabura area north of Quito. A very good chance of seeing the mighty Andean condor as well as a host of other birds while traversing the pastoral valleys and then the open plains. We cross a huge variety of scenic terrain, firstly riding across the patchwork of tiny fields on dirt tracks then riding through lunar landscapes, picking up speed on vast grassy plains.

    The pace is varied, including plenty of chances for long canters across rolling hills mixed with a steadier pace over more challenging surfaces. Where there is a break in the sea of high Andean grasslands, the ground is carpeted with wild flowers and we pass through primary woodland with native trees and shrubs and also eucalyptus forests. We cross old lava flows dotted with rocks catapulted out from the erupting volcano, where only lichens grow and ride through rivers fed by snowmelt. As well as being surrounded by majestic Andean peaks, the glacial retreat -followed by the volcanic activity, have helped sculpt the area producing intriguing landscapes.

    Nights are spent in a wonderful mixture of haciendas, inns & isolated farmhouses, built of a variety of materials including adobe with thatched roofs and original Inca stone. One night is spent in little cottages in a hamlet, supporting a truly excellent local community project. Due to the varying weather conditions in the mountains (seasonal changes east & west of Cotopaxi Volcano), flexibility is needed. We have several other excellent alternatives if a change to the itinerary is required.

    Andean Adventure ride sample itinerary

    Day 1:  Wild and Exotic will arrange transfers (at extra cost) into Quito from the international airport to the hotel. After breakfast, guests are met at their hotel in Quito by their guide and driver and leave Quito, driving north-east through a dry valley filled with acacia and cactus as well as avocado groves to Cayambe Valley (90 minutes); stopping as we cross the equator line from the south into northern hemisphere for a photo opportunity. We meet the horses and once guests are comfortable ride into the beautiful pastoral Zuleta Valley, to a working Hacienda for an overnight stay (5-6hrs). This valley and the Hacienda have been firm favorites with guests for many years. Guests enjoy an insight into Ecuadorian life on a working ranch, staying in a beautifully converted old building on a farm established in the 1500s, this area being farmed for centuries prior to that date. The ride is varied in pace and terrain – through eucalyptus forests, along dirt tracks, through a gorge and passing a 16th century Hacienda. A good chance of seeing the mighty Andean Condor. As always, the ‘chagras’ that work alongside the main guide are there to look after your horses as soon as we arrive. The dairy herd and Andalusian horses are close to our accommodation, the English-speaking owners are delightful and informative as they open their farm to us and show guests around and there is a museum of pre-Inca & Inca artefacts excavated at the Hacienda. Guests can walk around the farm or into the nearby village.5 rooms, each with private bathroom. Tea, PL, D.

    Day 2: Ride out of the hacienda north-west to a superbly maintained hamlet (6-7hrs). Through another part of the picturesque Zuleta Valley sculpted at the end of the ice age by retreating glaciers. Then we climb out the valley, stunning views all around, through pine forests onto the slopes of Imbabura. The largest finch in the world and the brilliant mountain tanager flit around, depending on the time of the year, the vermillion fly catcher and the giant hummingbird can be seen. Other hummingbird species constantly zoom past us, including train bearers. Another delicious picnic along the way – a very varied menu including local fruits & salads, is enjoyed in a stunning location overlooking the valleys below. Along dirt tracks, cobbles, through woodlands then passing adobe houses we arrive at charming cottages and comfortable log cabins for overnight. This is an example of a very well managed community project; the local indigenous people are our hosts and, for those that wish, an opportunity to learn about the local culture – shamans, Andean calendar & fiestas and also their cooking. Delicious traditional food served at the home of a local family involved in tourism for many years. B, PL, D.

    Day 3 After a breakfast, including fresh fruit and local flatbread, cooked in the oven outside the house, we ride out of the hamlet along cobbles and narrow dirt tracks, passing small farms, herds of animals, locals cultivating the fields in traditional dress. Through woodlands then over a ridge we arrive in the San Pablo Valley (6-7hrs). The land flattens out and riders have the chance of canters along the tracks as well as enjoying impressive views, both snow-capped Cayambe Volcano and the rugged peak of Imbabura on the horizon. Guests spot many ‘exotic’ plants including fields of lupins & quinoa, passion fruit, mountain papaya & ‘uvillas’. The wonderful hairy pigs are tethered to the sides of the tracks and we pass flocks of sheep– the shepherdess engrossed in the embroidery the area is famous for. We arrive in a typical village square and say goodbye to these horses as we will meet fresh ones tomorrow. A drive takes riders to the northern entrance of the ‘Avenue of Volcanoes’, just north of Cotopaxi national park (2-2.5hrs). Overnight at a small inn in the Pasachoa foothills. Rooms with private bathrooms.  B, PL, D.

    Day 4: A complete change of scenery! An exhilarating day starting with the chance to take a closer look at the famous Spanish fighting bulls as we ride through pastureland. Curiously, the fighting bulls were introduced by the Jesuit priests centuries ago to prevent their cattle being rustled. Then, riding into Cotopaxi national park, riders find themselves amongst important geological features produced by both ice age and volcanic activity (5-6hrs). Fast paced riding – long canters, across the flat grassy plains on ideal terrain, and as we speed through the rolling hills an almost guaranteed chance of meeting several herds of the wild horses that roam the park – the bold colts often running alongside us, long manes and tails flowing. We sometimes see deer and more and more frequently the Andean Condor is sighted soaring overhead. Crossing old lava flows, we then follow an old Inca route and ride on to a very comfortable lodge on a plain surrounded by four mighty peaks very spacious and beautifully designed, located at the centre point between four mighty Andean peaks: Ruminahui, Pasachoa, Sincholagua and Cotopaxi, an unbeatable location. A chance to exchange stories with a local hot cinnamon drink while watching the sun set on Cotopaxi. Single/twin/double rooms with private en-suite bathroom. AB, PL, D.

    Day 5: The longest ride of the trip– covering 45km (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. We follow an Inca route that led down to the Amazon for part of the way and the house we stay at tonight is a ‘tambo’ built with 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, shared bathrooms. AB, PL, D.

    Day 6: A ride into the ‘paramo’ vegetation of Quilindaña Mountain (6hrs). A circuit ride, usually accompanying the ‘Chagras’ – local horsemen that live and work in this area, while they go about their daily work. We may end up searching for cattle the chagras have been unable to locate in the far reaches of the hacienda lands, or helping the chagras bring cows down off the hills into the corral. The chagras have a specific dress – ponchos and goatskin chaps, ideal for the conditions. The fascinating tack has been specifically adapted over the centuries, since the Spaniards first brought horses to South America and the local horse has also developed into the ‘Ecuadorian Criollo’ horse, ideally suited to the conditions. Return to this unique rarely visited Hacienda, literally at the end of a 4×4 track, for a second overnight. Twin-bedded rooms (partitions dividing each twin-bed sleeping area), generator & candle lighting in this house, shared bathrooms. AB, PL, D.

    Day 7: Riders often wake to stunning views of the close-by Cotopaxi & Quilindana Volcanoes and also the glacier on Antisana Volcano on the horizon. Riders have a chance to inspect the hacienda stone and turf corrals used for the feisty fighting bulls before we set off through another part of this wilderness. The route is about 40km (7hrs), taking us close to the foot of Cotopaxi Volcano via a wide, glacier formed valley. The terrain is amazingly diverse: across rough ‘paramo’ grassland, fording rivers, traversing boulder fields and wetlands; then back onto the plains for some long canters across the huge expanses of open terrain of the national park. En route, we pass a restored hilltop Inca fort.  Arriving at the park exit guests leave the horses and are driven back to Quito for an overnight stay. Single, twin/double/triple rooms with en suite bathrooms. AB, L.

    Day 8: Following breakfast, end of services. Guests can book transport with us to the airport or we can arrange extensions for them, for example Amazon lodges & Galapagos Island cruises. B.

    Notes: The price of this ride is based on two people sharing accommodation on full board basis subject to itinerary above, and is inclusive of snacks and water on rides, ten nights’ accommodation, national park/private reserves entrance fees, transport of bags between lodgings and all local taxes, saddlebags, water bottles and ponchos for each guest. Accommodation is in double/twin bedded rooms, and is a mix of rooms with and without private bathrooms, although normally not more than two nights with shared bathrooms. Please note that the abbreviations above are as follows: B – breakfast, PL – picnic lunch (varied menus, never just a sandwich), D – dinner.

    The price does not include international and or domestic airfares, transport to and from Quito, dinner in Quito on Day 7, bar tabs, items of a personal nature, gratuities and visa fees

    We advise guests to arrive up to 48 hours prior to day 1 of the ride to enable acclimatisation. Wild and Exotic can make all the necessary arrangements.

    A single supplement will apply for anyone who does not wish to share accommodation.

    All participants will be required to sign a responsibility release form before starting the ride.

    Riders over 85kg accepted by prior agreement only, and will incur a supplement in order to provide two horses/day for that rider in addition to the spare horse(s) taken for the group.

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

    Neither Wild & Exotic Ltd nor the operators or suppliers can accept responsibility for changes to itineraries or dates that may arise due to weather or other unforeseen circumstances such as changes to airline flights. This holiday is subject to Wild and Exotic’s terms and conditions, a copy of which will be enclosed with your booking form.

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

    Volcanos and Vistas ride summary

    This ride explores the fascinating scenic northern valleys and remote southern highlands –two very distinct areas of the Andes. The ride starts among the patchwork fields in the picturesque and 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. The astonishing birdlife ranges from tiny hummingbirds to the great Andean Condor. This challenging route includes fast paced riding across the arid plains alongside the wild horses of the Cotopaxi national park. This itinerary is suitable for fit, experienced riders. It includes a visit to the famous Otavalo market, stays at a working ranch, comfortable cottages in a local village & at a remote hamlet on an Inca trading route. The ‘Chagras’ (local horsemen) are on hand each day to tend to the horses.  No camping – nights are spent in charming, varied out-of-the-way locations.

    Volcanos and Vistas ride sample itinerary 

    Day 1: Wild and Exotic will arrange transfers (at extra cost) into Quito from the international airport to the hotel. . After breakfast, guests are met at their hotel in the Mariscal district of Quito by their guide and driver and leave Quito (7h45), driving north-east to Cayambe Valley (90 minutes); stopping on the equator line for a photo opportunity. We meet the horses and, once guests are comfortable, we ride (3-4hrs) onto the Pesillo plains below the magnificent Cayambe Volcano. An interesting route between cultivated fields, with wide grassy lanes lined with agave plants enabling guests to get used to their horses and tack on easy terrain. There is always two guides (bilingual & local) and we take at least one spare horse in case a guest would like to try a different horse. A good chance of sighting the Andean condor over the next few days.

    Overnight at a charming house on a small farm, a beautiful location in the Cayambe foothills – snowcapped Cayambe peak as a backdrop. Three bedrooms, 2 bathrooms. For larger groups, the accommodation may be changed. PL (on ride), D & overnight.

    Day 2: Ride into the beautiful pastoral Zuleta Valley, to a working Hacienda (ranch) for overnight (6hrs). This valley and the Hacienda has been firm favourite with guests for many years. Guests have an insight into Ecuadorian life on a working ranch, living in beautifully converted old building on a farm established in the 1500s, and this area being farmed for centuries prior to that date. The ride is varied in pace and terrain – through eucalyptus forests, along dirt tracks, through a gorge and passing a 16th century Hacienda. A good chance of seeing a mighty Andean Condor. The dairy herd and Andalusian horses are close to our accommodation, the English-speaking owners are delightful and informative as they open their farm to us and show guests around and there is a museum of pre-Inca & Inca artefacts excavated at the Hacienda. 6 rooms, each with private bathroom. B, PL, D.

    Day 3: Ride out of the hacienda northwards to a superbly maintained hamlet (6-7hrs). Through another part of the picturesque Zuleta Valley -sculpted at the end of the ice age by retreating glaciers. Then we climb out the valley, stunning views all around, through pine forests onto the slopes of Imbabura. The largest finch in the world and the brilliant mountain tanager flit around and, depending on the time of the year, the vermillion fly catcher and the giant hummingbird are sighted. Other hummingbird species constantly zoom past us, including train bearers. Another delicious picnic along the way – a very varied menu including local fruits & salads, is enjoyed in a stunning location – overlooking the valley. Along dirt tracks, cobbles, through woodlands then passing adobe houses we arrive at charming cottages and comfortable log cabins for overnight. This is an example of a very well managed community project, the local indigenous people are our hosts and, for those that wish, an opportunity to learn about the local culture – shamans, Andean calendar & fiestas and also their cooking. Delicious traditional food served at the home of a local family involved in tourism for many years. B, PL, D.

    Day 4: After a breakfast, including local flatbread cooked in the oven outside the house, we ride out of the hamlet along cobbles and dirt tracks, passing small farms and traversing fields and woodlands – a fascinating insight into local life (6-7hrs). Varied paced ride, with the chance of canters along the tracks. Over a ridge and into the San Pablo valley, views of the San Pablo lake below as we ride towards Otavalo. Crops include fields of lupins and quinoa, passion fruit, mountain papaya & avocadoes. The wonderful hairy pigs are tethered to the sides of the tracks and we pass flocks of sheep– the shepherdess engrossed in the embroidery the area is famous for. Arriving at a small hotel full of character near Otavalo, for overnight we say goodbye to these horses as we will meet fresh horses tomorrow. A late afternoon visit to the nearby famous, Otavalo market, bursting with vibrant colours & relaxing on the terraces before dinner and overnight . Rooms with private bathrooms.  B, PL, D.

    Day 5: From the hotel, we head north-westwards, across the valley to meet the local Criollo horses at Cochapata (60 minutes, very dependent on track conditions) and ride into a remote highland village (7hrs). We leave the farmland a long way behind us – a stunning route into the vast ‘paramo’ with miles of swirling grasslands. Usually seeing Condors, caracaras, eagles and huge hawks as well as deer. A lake comes into view in the distance and then the village alongside a mountain river. We ride up to 3600 metres, and then descend to the sleepy village at 3300 metres for overnight, guests have never had problems as they are already acclimatized and the horses are doing the work! Overnight at the lodge, in excellent, spacious dormitory rooms. 3 rooms in total with very comfortable beds – large, stable bunkbeds and 1 double bed. 2 rooms (3 bunkbeds, 1 double bed) share a bathroom (separate male and female bathrooms). 1 room (2 bunkbeds, 1 double bed) has an en suite bathroom.  B, PL, D.

    Day 6: After a hearty breakfast, often with pancakes and always with lots of delicious fresh fruit, a circuit ride takes in the beautiful lake in an idyllic location in the rolling hills (4-5 hrs). We ride along narrow tracks through the grasslands, passing native shrubs and trees draped with vines and filled with bromeliads and orchids. These ancient routes were used at least 600 years ago and chronicled by early European explorers– as people from the coast came up along these ancient trading routes into the highlands to barter for goods. We pause for a snack on the wide beach beside the lake and return to the lodge for late lunch. A relaxing afternoon, visit to the fascinating community, feeling like a huge step back in time: the village being established centuries ago due to its position on the coast-sierra trading route and the houses still being built traditionally with adobe. The locals are delighted to show us their houses and way of life, an absolutely unique experience. A second overnight at the lodge with great views over the river and down to the community. B, PL, D.

    Day 7: We ride out of Pinan valley, via a very different route: down into the cloud forest with a very distinct flora and fauna to the previous days riding – riding into an area of more tropical flora and then seeing montane bamboo, coffee trees, passion fruit and many other tropical trees and fruits. We start by riding across the open rolling hills of the grass covered ‘paramo’ of Andean highlands with magnificent views of the surrounding peaks, then descend through thick forest of bamboo. (7hrs). In case of wet weather/tracks guests must be prepared and physically able to walk downhill, on a steep track for a maximum of one hour. We leave the horses; meet a vehicle and a quick drive to Rio Lindo lodge, surrounded by coffee & banana trees. A swim in the water hole, a coffee tour and a chance to roast your own coffee or just relaxing in the hammocks, taking in the sounds and sights of the cloud forest are all on offer. Followed by a delicious home-cooked dinner with local ingredients and falling asleep to the sound of the gurgling river and cloud forest noises. Single, twin, double & triple rooms sharing 6 individual showers.  B, PL, D.

    Day 8: Pasachoa ride to Cotopaxi area, Avenue of the Volcanoes. After an early breakfast, departure by vehicle. A fascinating drive out of the cloud forest -passing passion fruit plantations, and over a pass in the western cordillera then driving south through the central valley with very varied scenery along the way. Mid-morning break and arriving for a light lunch just north of Cotopaxi national park. (5hrs) where we meet fresh horses and ride up a valley, along an avenue of native trees, emerging onto plains, with magnificent views of the surrounding volcanoes. We cross pasturelands – carefully avoiding the fighting bulls that have made this hacienda famous, a chance to speed up as we canter across the grasslands (4hrs). Keeping a look out for the Andean condors often sighted here, we cross a river and arrive at an inn full of character, built of adobe and thatch, with stunning views of Cotopaxi Volcano and other Andean peaks that surround the plain. 2 bedrooms share 1 bathroom, & bedrooms with private, en suite bathrooms. B, PL, D.

    Day 9: Cotopaxi national park. A faster paced start today (option of slower ride for those who wish), with lots of long, steady canters across the plains of Cotopaxi national park, below the snowcapped peak. Usually the wild horses join us, an unforgettable experience as these herds– long manes and tails flowing- gallop across the grasslands alongside us. The topography is fascinating as we approach the magnificent Cotopaxi volcano– moraine, old lava and rock flows, huge boulders catapulted from the volcano – features created by both glacial and volcanic activity. We ride up into the Ruminahui foothills, another great place to spot condors, deer and foxes and affording ever more fantastic views. We ride to a relatively new country lodge, family run and very personal service, for overnight. A wonderful end to the ride at the-is incredible location, equal distance between 4 great Andean peaks, including Cotopaxi. Large double/twin rooms with private, en suite bathrooms. B, PL, D.

    Day 10:  Sincholagua peak. An adventure into the high ‘paramo’ grasslands on this our last day of riding. This route remains an absolute favourite and the 7 hour ride ‘on top of the world’ is a fitting way to finish this tour. We start with some fast paced riding across the flatlands close to Cotopaxi Volcano then the pace steadies as we ride up to 4000metres in the Sincholagua foothills (luckily the horses are doing all the work). The highest canter in the world is truly exhilarating. We cross the undulating hills covered in high grasses following narrow tracks used  by the ‘chagras’  -very few manage to ride up into this enchanting area except the local horsemen. Leaving the open expanses and descending into the cultivated areas, we say goodbye to the horses and are driven back to Quito for overnight. B, PL (dinner not included tonight, you can dine at the hotel or we can make restaurant recommendations). (Guests can be taken to a hotel near Quito airport, extra charge may apply).

    Day 11: Departure. After breakfast guests are transported to the international airport in Quito for their departure flight home.

    Notes:

    The price of this ride is based on two people sharing accommodation on full board basis subject to itinerary above, and is inclusive of snacks and water on rides, ten nights’ accommodation, national park/private reserves entrance fees, transport of bags between lodgings and all local taxes, saddlebags, water bottles and ponchos for each guest. Please note that the abbreviations above are as follows: B – breakfast, PL – picnic lunch (varied menus, never just a sandwich), D – dinner.

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

    We advise guests to arrive up to 48 hours prior to day 1 of the ride to enable acclimatisation. Wild and Exotic can make all the necessary arrangements.

    A single supplement will apply for anyone who does not wish to share accommodation.

    All participants will be required to sign a responsibility release form before starting the ride.

    Riders over 85kg accepted by prior agreement only, and will incur a supplement in order to provide two horses/day for that rider in addition to the spare horse(s) taken for the group.

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

    Neither Wild & Exotic Ltd nor the operators or suppliers can accept responsibility for changes to itineraries or dates that may arise due to weather or other unforeseen circumstances such as changes to airline flights. This holiday is subject to Wild and Exotic’s terms and conditions, a copy of which will be enclosed with your booking form.

    Wild & 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: 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. On arrival at Quito international airport, guests are met by our representative and transferred at extra cost 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.

    ecuador -map_tn285x1000-37212

    “Our holiday exceeded all our expectations. All the arrangements worked perfectly and we all had a simply wonderful time. Sally is a star; and runs a superb operation. Her horses are excellent, all with character but also well mannered and a far cry from your average trekking prod. It really was refreshing to see how much she cares for her horses and we couldn’t have been looked after better – the picnic lunches were seriously good. The scenery was stunning, especially in the Cotopaxi National Park – riding at 4000m in the company of wild horses with a snow covered volcano as a backdrop is just a bit special”
    Christopher Marriott, Colonial Hacienda ride, Ecuador, October 2011

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