Staying in one of the many beautifully restored haciendas as part of a custom vacation package to Ecuador offers guests a first-hand glimpse into its Spanish colonial past, and a chance to explore the breathtaking scenery of the Ecuadorian Andes and immerse themselves in life in the highlands.
In the 1500s the conquering Spaniards, eager to claim their share of the rich spoils, chose the huge tracts of land with fertile slopes and favorable climate of the Ecuadorian high sierra near Quito as prime ranching farmland to raise livestock.
Haciendas operated very much like a small town might: the main house for the owner’s family and surrounding housing and facilities like schools and churches for the hundreds of workers employed on the property. Many were so large it could take a day’s ride to reach from one end to the other.
Due to changes in land ownership regulations, and the costs involved in maintaining such large properties, only a few of these haciendas remain intact today, but those that do have typically been passed down from generation to generation, often converted (fully or partly – some are still working farms) into boutique hotels, offering travelers an idyllic escape from the hustle and bustle and main tourist attractions of Quito to get a glimpse of Ecuadorian farm life.
With their epic landscapes, outdoor adventures, and some of the top rooms and restaurants in South America, here is a list of the very best haciendas in Ecuador to stay in, for every type of traveler, and a great place to spend a few days before or after visiting the iconic Galapagos islands.
One of the most luxurious boutique hotels in Ecuador, Hacienda Zuleta is set on the fringes of Zuleta village (known for its exquisite embroidery) and cradled by a sweeping stretch of the picture-perfect Andean valley (the Imbabura region has been recognized as a Geopark by UNESCO). A stunning 4,000-acre working farm, it comes complete with its own cheese factory, dairy and trout farms, organic gardens, and more. With sophisticated yet traditional style, excellent service, outstanding cuisine, and a serious horseback riding program (they have their own breed of horse), Hacienda Zuleta is Ecuador’s most luxurious hacienda hotel.
The original hacienda, located near the town of Otavalo, was built by Jesuit priests in the 17th century. Don Galo Plaza Lasso bought the hacienda in 1898 and went on to become President of Ecuador from 1948-52 (his father was also president of the country two separate times). To this day, the luxury hotel is family-run.
The place is elegant, authentic, comfortable, and luxurious, from the hundreds of freshly cut long-stemmed Ecuadorian roses arranged throughout the enormous house to the hot water bottles placed between your sheets every night (a welcome touch at nearly 10,000 feet in the hills near Otavalo) to the gourmet meals made with traditional recipes and local ingredients (the hacienda is now famous for its homemade cheese).
Service is impeccable and many staff members are the third or fourth generation of their family to work on the hacienda. Another point of interest: Hacienda Zuleta has an on-site Andean condor breeding and rehabilitation center where you can get close to one of the biggest (and most endangered) birds on the planet.
Rooms: 15 elegant ensuite rooms trimmed with roaring fireplaces, antique furnishings, family photographs, hand‐embroidered linens, and beautiful garden views
Standout Services: Gourmet cuisine prepared with the hacienda’s fresh products; horseback riding; mountain biking; visits to in house productions (cheese factory, fish farming, embroidery workshops); visit to Condor rehabilitation centers and archaeological ruins of the Caranqui culture; visit to Otavalo Indian Market and surrounding indigenous towns; hikes around the Cuicocha and/or Mojanda crater lakes
Location: Zuleta Valley (between Ibarra and Cayambe), Imbabura (110km / 2 hrs from Quito)
Altitude: 2930 meters
While most haciendas in Ecuador were created for cultivating the soil, one hacienda became a place for cultivating the mind. Hacienda Piman, just north of the town of Ibarra, was established in 1680 and eventually became the home of writer and newspaperman Ignacio Zaldumbide and has remained in his family’s hands ever since, including those of his son, the famous Ecuadorian poet Julio Zaldumbide Gangotena, and subsequently those of his son, statesman and novelist Gonzalo Zaldumbide (one of his most acclaimed works, “La Egloga Tragica” was written at Piman).
Set in twelve acres of lush gardens ablaze with natural color, Hacienda Piman combines chic colonial flair with the stylish lines of a contemporary hotel, having recently been restyled with a modern twist, under the guidance of Ecuadorian architect Igor Munoz.
He not only restored rooms in the original hacienda to promote their original wood floors, hand-painted wood trim and original wallpaper features, but also created 10 sleek rooms in the newly constructed villas, with floor-to-ceiling windows and huge decks, as well as an angular wood-and-glass dining room.
Rooms: 17 antique-littered rooms, 7 in main house, each individually designed with classic historical allure and lovely views of the patio and gardens, and 10 in 5 villas, each with two separate rooms with private terrace.
Standout Services: Ecuadorian dishes, culling ingredients from the on-site organic garden; hiking; mountain biking, on-site swimming pool; day trips to the Otavalo indigenous market or El Ángel Ecological Reserve
Location: Ibarra, Imbabura
Altitude: 2630 meters
Hacienda El Porvenir, with its incredible views of the four surrounding volcanoes, is a great option for budget conscious travelers. The scenic premises offer 3 types of accommodation, including “Machai” glamping with multiple low beds separated by hand-knitted totora partitions and shared bathrooms, which are styled after the simple, traditional lodgings of the area—like an Andean dorm. Standard rooms and spacious new suites are also available.
Dating back to colonial times, the original area, known then as Pedregal, was managed by the Jesuits who raised sheep and wild cattle. In 1913, the old farm was bought by the Gangotena Escudero family, who run it to this day. Of late the hacienda, under Arturo Gangotena Escudero’s stewardship, has become famous for its wild cattle, known as Pedregal-Tambo.
The working ranch has more than 30 horses and riding guides can take you high into the gorgeous landscape of the 2,500 acre hacienda, which still produces renowned bullfighting bulls, on the border of Cotopaxi National Park. The family-run hacienda is also deeply focused on reforestation and sustainable practices and was nominated in the category of “Leading Green Hotel” in Ecuador in the 2015 World Tourism Awards.
Rooms: 21 in total, 7 spacious Suites with sitting areas, fireplaces and private bathrooms, 6 authentic Traditional Doubles with private bathrooms and 8 ‘functional’ Machai sharing 4 bathrooms and 3 showers.
Standout Services: APU Mountain Spa; hiking; horse riding; mountain biking; cooking classes; ropes course; Cotopaxi National Park tours
Location: North gate of Cotopaxi National Park on the slopes of Rumiñahui Volcano, Machachi, Pichincha (2 hrs south of Quito)
Altitude: 3600 meters
Hacienda San Agustin de Callo boasts more history than most, having been built on ground that had served as an Incan fortress and palace since the 1500s. Researchers speculate that the property may be the northernmost point that the Incas ever ventured. Small buildings and sections of walls made from symmetrically carved lava-rock building blocks which fit together without any mortar, a distinctly Incan practice, still exist on the property and have been incorporated into the hacienda.
Subsequent architectural styles showcase 18th-century Spanish Colonial and 19th-century Republican elements—you can view distinctive sections from all three periods from the central courtyard. The family-run estate also once housed an Ecuadorian president, Leónidas Plaza; they’re a branch of the same illustrious clan behind the aforementioned Hacienda Zuleta.
Set in the foothills of the snow-capped Cotopaxi Volcano, guests here can head out horseback riding, sign up for bullfighting lessons in the old bullfighting ring, or feed the resident llamas and vicunas that roam the courtyard each afternoon. On a clear day, the views of the very active Cotopaxi Volcano are breathtaking. The hacienda’s on-site restaurant is not to be missed, being renowned for its gourmet regional food (be sure to try their take on locro, a beloved cheese, potato and avocado soup).
Rooms: 11 individually decorated, luxurious rooms with antique details, massive fireplaces and frescoed walls, private bathrooms and stunning views. The 6 suites offer sofa and some bathrooms have a Jacuzzi. Be sure to be sure to request one with original Incan walls intact!
Standout Services: On-site restaurant serving gourmet regional food; Inca Chapel; gardens exteriors; trekking; biking; horseback riding; fishing; bullfighting lessons in the old bullfighting ring; feeding the resident llamas and vicunas.
Location: Lasso (close to entrance of Cotopaxi National Park), Cotopaxi (77km / 1.5 hours south of Quito)
Altitude: 3000 meters
Unlike many hacienda hotels in Ecuador that are either too fancy or too rustic for those families with energetic and demanding kids, Hacienda Manteles offers a homely and welcoming atmosphere with spacious and flexible family rooms. The little ones will love the friendly farm animals (including rabbits, ducks, donkeys and cows), the organic garden, the wide-open spaces and the all important kid-friendly dining menu.
Built in 1948 and receiving guests since 1992, this former apple-and-pear orchard is located on the verdant slopes of a peaceful Andean valley, nestled between Ecuador’s Uanganati and Sangay National Parks, offering incredible views of the stunning currently-active Tungurahua Volcano. in a verdant valley with views of the currently-active Tungurahua volcano. The sprawling hacienda’s property, much like the nearby town of Baños, includes many waterfalls, 25 in fact, many of which you can hike to.
Rooms: 16 individually decorated rooms (single, double, triple, Mini Suite and Honeymoon Suite types) all with private en suite bathroom, some with wood burners and stunning views of the gardens and the Tungurahua Volcano
Standout Services: Wonderful extensive gardens; 200 hectares of protected primary cloud forest; birdwatching; horseback riding; mountain biking; hiking; trekking; massage treatments
Location: Near Patate Valley and Baños, Tungurahua (1 hr from Baños, 3+ hrs from Quito)
Altitude: 2700 meters
Website: http://haciendamanteles.com/ (Spanish only)
Should you need further information about the haciendas available in Ecuador, and all other accommodation options, please contact our South American destination specialists.
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