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Belonging to the family of former Ecuadorian President Galo Plaza Lasso, Hacienda Zuleta’s history stretches back to the 16th century when the Jesuits first started farming this area after arriving from Spain.
Breeding, training and riding horses has been a key part of daily life on the hacienda for generations, so it is no surprise that Zuleta is home to quality horses and great riding.
Tracks radiate from the hacienda in numerous directions. Some paths take you to the surrounding villages for a glimpse of local life, whilst others head off into the mountains where there are lakes, volcanic peaks and waterfalls to discover.
On one day you might ride to the Condor House to learn about the hacienda’s conservation project, which aims to boost condor numbers and release juveniles into the wild. Adult condors cannot be successfully released into the wild, so there are a number of adult birds here. As well as seeing the captive condors, if you are lucky one or two wild ones may come to visit too. There are only about 100 condors left in the wild in Ecuador, so numbers are at critical levels.
The riding is suitable for all levels. Beginners can be taken out on experienced mounts to explore the surrounding area on short horseback rides. More experienced riders can go on longer rides further into the valleys and communities of Zuleta and up into the paramo beyond.
The horses are Andalusian-Quarter Horse crosses known locally as 'Zuleteño'. They are strong, willing mounts who handle the varied terrain extremely well. The horses are trained using a type of natural horsemanship and as a result the herd are calm and have a great attitude to their work.
The horses respond to neck-reining. The saddles are Western style with a horn, a deep seat and are hand-crafted in the local community. The seat of each saddle is covered with a fitted sheepskin pad.
This is a mountainous area and in some places the terrain calls for a steady pace. However there are still plenty of chances for flowing canters along the valleys and in the wide green pastures.
Hard hats are mandatory.
Zuleta is a beautiful colonial hacienda dating back to 1691. As well as the hacienda's numerous guest rooms, living rooms, dining rooms and library, there is also a working farm, condor house, cheese factory, dairy farm, vegetable garden and craft shop to explore on site.
There are seven junior suites, eleven deluxe rooms and three standard rooms. Each is individually decorated with antique furniture, with a private bathroom and fireplace.
Some rooms have direct access to the gardens, whilst others have a private terrace or seating in one of the courtyards.
Meals at Hacienda Zuleta are a real highlight. Breakfast is typically fruit, cereal, fresh milk, cream and yoghurt from Zuleta's dairy, with your choice of eggs, bacon, pancakes or French toast.
Lunch may be a saddlebag picnic with hot soup, sandwiches, lupini beans, fruit and biscuits. Or if returning to the hacienda you might be served fresh rainbow trout and a homemade dessert.
Dinner usually starts off with an Ecuadorian favourite 'sopa', whether it is quinoa, chard or potato, don't forget to add the the obligatory hot sauce or 'aji'! The soup course could be followed by steak, pork loins, broccoli pudding or mushroom quiche and then another homemade sweet.
Hacienda Zuleta is open year round and there are no set arrival days. The minimum stay is four nights, but we recommend stays of seven nights.
Sample Itinerary for Hacienda Zuleta
Select your preferred arrival date:
The prices below are on the basis of a seven night stay. Shorter or longer stays are possible, please enquire for details
|2020 & 2021||Per person sharing||Single supplement|
INCLUDES Accommodation; full board; riding (2 full day, 3 half-day and 2 short rides); English speaking riding guide on all riding activities; soft drinks and afternoon tea/coffee; other activities including a guided tour of the house and chapel the organic garden the embroidery shop cheese factory and the Condor Project.
There is a discount for children under 12 sharing a room with their parents, please enquire for details.
SINGLE SUPPLEMENT applies to anyone in a single room.
PAYABLE LOCALLY Alcoholic canned and bottled drinks; optional gratuities; laundry; additional activities such as carriage rides, riding lessons and guided bird watching.
NEAREST AIRPORT Quito.
TRANSFERS The price depends on the number of people sharing the transfer, the time of collection/drop-off and whether they have an English-speaking guide, but in 2020 the cost from the airport to Hacienda Zuleta is c. $101.05 per person each way (minimum two people). Transfer prices for 2021 are yet to be confirmed, please ask for a quote.
The collection point for the ride can be Quito airport or Quito city. Hacienda Zuleta is situated in the Northern Highlands, about two to two and a half hours from the capital. The hacienda stands at roughly at the same altitude as Quito (c. 2,800m).
Your flights can arrive and depart at any time. Flights to Quito are available with a range of airlines. You could fly with Iberia via Madrid, KLM via Amsterdam or with one of the American airlines via the States.
If your Spanish is good enough you may prefer to take a taxi to Hacienda Zuleta. It would be advisable to agree a price before setting off, but you should expect a taxi to cost somewhere in the region of US $60-$80 each way. Another option is to take a public bus from Quito to Ibarra. The journey takes about two and a half hours and costs c. US $2.50. From Ibarra you would take a taxi to Hacienda Zuleta for c. US $15-20. You may not be able to rely on there being a taxi at Ibarra if you are arriving very early in the morning or late at night. If you plan on either of these options you should let us know the estimated time of your arrival so that we can be sure that a representative of Hacienda Zuleta will be on hand to meet you and show you to your room etc.
Hacienda Zuleta is located in Ecuador's Northern Highlands about 110km from the capital Quito.
Being on the equator, Hacienda Zuleta is blessed with a temperate climate all year round.
Typical temperatures are generally around the 20-25˚C mark during the day, with low humidity and cooler evenings.
Between February and June the weather is characterised by sunny days with Spring-like showers, making the landscape green and lush. July, August and September are usually drier. October to January is a pleasant time of the year, with occasional showers.
I had high expectations going to Hacienda Zuleta, and this place met all of them. It was the vacation home of two past Ecuadorian presidents for a reason.
Cilka, ProvidenceOverall rating: 5/5
After a long day in the saddle and a delicious dinner, return to your room to find your fire lit, a hot water bottle nestled in your bed and flowers adorning your bathroom. It is these little touches, the incredible staff and delightful horses that makes Hacienda Zuleta such a special place to stay.
Hacienda Zuleta is home to an internationally-recognised project which aims to increase the number of condors in the wild. Do read up about these magnificent birds prior to your visit and then seeing them in the flesh will be all the more special.