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This ride brings new experiences and a chance to contemplate the beauty of the mountains and valleys of the Ecuadorian Highlands everyday. As you ride, friendly chagras (cowboys of the Ecuadorian Andes) will guide your way and share their lifestyle, traditions, and impressive horsemanship skills. This trip includes rides by Corazon, Illinizas, and Quilotoa volcanoes. It is the perfect combination for those looking for adventure, cultural immersion, and natural beauty!
You will be spending nights at the following accommodations:
Hacienda La Alegria is a family-run horse and organic dairy farm located in the heart of Ecuador’s magnificent, Volcano Avenue. The Hacienda sits on 135 hectares, nestled in the fertile valley of Machachi, near the small village of Aloag. Built a century ago, the hacienda has retained its stately elegance and original character, as well as its exquisite surrounding gardens awash with colorful roses, native flowers, graceful trees and intricate outdoor stonework.
Filled with historic charm, the hacienda’s large rooms are filled with antiques that have been in the Espinosa family for hundreds of years. To reach the hacienda, one drives along a cobblestone road originally built by the Spaniards and Incas, lined with tall, majestic cedars, eucalyptus, and cypress trees as well as lush greenery.
Each of the 11 rooms at Hacienda La Alegria is different and decorated with Paty and Gabriel’s impeccable taste. The hacienda can accommodate up to 28 people in single, double, triple, and split-level family rooms which sleep five in comfort. The guest rooms have been tastefully restored with solid cypress floors and beams and modern en-suite bathrooms with plenty of hot water and powerful showers.
One of the unique features of your ride is the variety of natural environments you will experience during the trip. You will begin your ride by visiting the endangered habitat of the Ecuadorian cloud forest. These subtropical Montagne Cloud forests used to cloak much of the steep western slopes of the Andes between 1,000 and 3,000 meters, but are now classified as threatened ecosystems.
In the second part of the ride, you will head towards a higher altitude and experience a more ride volcanic environment filled with canons, rocky peaks and at the bottom the Toachi River. You will climb mountain ridges and switch from the eastern to the western Andes Mountain Chain experiencing rolling hills of high altitude fauna typical of the Andes as we make our way to the spectacular Quilotoa Crater Lake.
Your base will be Hacienda La Alegria, which is situated south of Quito in the verdant valley of Machachi. This region is referred to as “The Volcano Avenue” as dozens of volcanoes surround it. Your horse will be your partner throughout this adventure and the team, who will make you feel part of the family, will guide you all the way. You will thoroughly explore and experience the grandeur of the Andes, marveling at the diversity of flora, fauna, and landscape.
The first day of the trip is designed for guests to get used to the altitude, to choose your horse, and to be introduced to the chagras’ lifestyle. Indeed, you will come to appreciate the tradition and customs of the chagras’ (cowboys) abilities in La Alegria. In their goatskin chaps and woolen ponchos, they welcome guests to demonstrate their centuries-old tradition of herding cattle.
The chagras’ skill on horseback and knowledge of the Andean paramo are legendary. Hacienda La Alegria enjoys a special relationship with the chagras, participating with them in rodeos and festivals and visiting them in their homes each month. They are the inspiration for your journey, framed by ancient volcanoes, highland plateaus, and rivers that flow down the massive Andes towards the Amazon and the Pacific.
The first part of the ride includes acclimatization at the Hacienda and the cloud forest. At the cloud forest, you will enter a completely different environment and see an exciting change in the surrounding vegetation; from a lush native tundra landscape of the high attitude to impressive sub-tropical vegetation.
Here, nestled deep in the mystical cloud forest, learn about medicinal plants and trees that are native to the area, and be regaled by tales of the remote life of living in the Cloud Forest. Around the cozy fireplace of the hacienda, you will reminisce about the day’s events and discuss local traditions, especially those related to the chagras. You will also talk about the itinerary for the rest of the trip and prepare for what is to come.
After acclimatization at the hacienda as well as riding to the cloud forest, you will be prepared for the second part of the ride and you shall start your journey towards the mighty Quilotoa Crater Lake.
The second part of your trip, you will ride through the western Andean paramo, an Andean ecosystem that encompasses approximately 12,500 square kilometers. Rolling hills of high altitude grasses, through little flowers that protect themselves from the cold with furry leaves, ravines that create microclimates that sprout a surprising variety of life; it is a wondrous place for both new and experienced visitors.
As you ride through the Andes Mountains, you will experience a diversity of geography and weather. Be prepared for a period of intense equatorial sun followed by chill Andes’ wind-all within the space of a few hours. The locals say that the highlands experience all four seasons within the same day. As you ride through the paramos, you will see the great llama used for packing.
Long after your return to Hacienda La Alegria and the end of your journey, your memories of this rugged but beautiful world will linger as a lifetime ride.
Depending on your arrival hour, you can have a short ride at the hacienda, dinner included.
Ride in the arena and get acquainted with your horse and tack that you will be using the next days. You will ride around the neighboring Haciendas at the West Andes. This day is key to acclimatize with the altitude and environment as well as your horse and tack. Then, you will have lunch in the Hacienda house, visit the milking barn, the aging cheese cave, and finally, you can enjoy the hot tub and fireplace.
Crossing extensive pastures and eucalyptus forests, you will have a nice view of the “Volcano Avenue”. From there, you can appreciate the green and fertile Machachi Valley and you can also see the routes you will take the next day at the east mountain chain. You will ascend by Corazon Volcano up to 4,000 meters and descend through the Cloud forest reserve.
At the cloud forest, you will be able to observe a great biodiversity of plants and flowers, including giant guneras, orchids, and birds, such as the turkey of the forest. In the afternoon, you will arrive at Hacienda Bomboli at 3,000 meters, and relax by the fireplace enjoying the sunset and watching the lights of the villages near the coast, you will arrive at teatime, then enjoy a great meal.
In the morning, you will walk at the Hacienda gardens to learn about orchids and cloud forest plants. You will ride uphill admiring the forest and the hundreds of flowers and plants; you will use the old road that was built in 1873 to connect Quito with the coast. Arrive at Hacienda La Alegria for lunch, relax and enjoy the hot tub and the fireplace.
Start the ride one hour south of Hacienda La Alegria; transferred by car to this point to start your four-day adventure at the southern Andes. Ride by the Inca trail and dirt trails that will take you to Isinlivi. From here, it is possible to admire the nice scenery, from one valley to another. The colors and the mountains make the changes from paramo to eroded land full of different color patches.
At the distance, you will see the Eastern Mountain Chain. The ride continues thru several hills, arriving at a small village called Isinlivi, founded in 1857. Here, you will find your lodge for the night, which was started by an entrepreneur from the UK 16 years ago and is now owned by a Dutch couple.
In the morning, take a small walk to get the horses on a hill, a viewpoint of the canyon formed by several eruptions of Quilotoa volcano. You will then start your ride uphill to reach the Quilotoa crater lake volcano. Crossing a few villages and paths, discover the same agriculture for hundreds of years as lupins, potatoes, quinoa, and barley.
Volcano pumice and dry soil hinder agriculture, thus, just a few people live in this region. Quilotoa volcano erupted 1,280 years ago, the volcano summit is at 4,000 meters above sea level, where the lodge awaits. At the edge of the volcano, enjoy an amazing view of the breathtaking Quilotoa Crater Lake. The 3-kilometer-wide caldera was formed by the collapse of this volcano after the last eruption; the water's color changes with the light.
Today is a long journey on the saddle. Ride to Sigchos, the village that was known as the “last home” of the Inca general, Ruminahui. After breakfast, head north by the ridge of Quilotoa Crater Lake. The trail goes across the highest mountain heading northwest. There, find some small dairy farms and a couple of artisanal cheesemakers, stop for a short visit and a cheese taste.
Buy some cheese to mature (aging) on the cave at Hacienda la Alegria. Arriving in the afternoon at Hacienda San Jose, a working dairy farm and guesthouse, in time for a good meal, Jacuzzi, sauna, and a comfortable night. The horses will have lush fields of fresh grass.
Ride through a dramatic landscape, including steep ravines. Even though you can visualize where you are heading and it looks near, you will have to cross several mountain chains to get there. This area is a combination of forest, rock peaks, and eroded land from the past centuries.
The last day of riding at the region will pass through several narrow paths well known as the Inca path. Make your way back to Hacienda La Alegria by car for dinner and overnight at home.
Riding hours: 6 hours
Breakfast and finish of services. Transfer to the airport.
At Hacienda La Alegria, the horses are very important to them. Most have been bred here on the farm from mixed Criollo (native South American), English thoroughbred, and Arabian stock, resulting in a near-perfect combination of toughness, agility, calm temperament, and mountain sense. The horses are exceptional. Hacienda La Alegria breeds their own horses and their ancestors are Berber (local horse), Andalusian, and Arabian breeds.
Beginners and experienced riders alike have found them easy to ride, willing, and good-mannered. If you have previous riding experience, you will be given plenty of opportunity to canter. Hacienda La Alegria has a range of tack including North American style, English style, McClellan calvary, Chilean, and traditional Ecuadorian chagra style with its intricate leather-work and saddle horn.
This riding tour will take you to explore the Andes, Ecuador. You will begin your expedition at Hacienda La Alegria in Quito. You will then continue to ride to Sigchos, Quilotoa, Insilivi, Planchaloma, and go back to Hacienda La Alegria. The Ecuadorian Andes run north to south and are comprised of eastern and western chains. Hacienda La Alegria is at the western chain. The southwestern Andes are in a well-known Indian region, isolated communities like Quilotoa, Sigchos, and Guambaine discovered in the middle of the Andes, following the same traditions and ways of life since the Colonial times.
All meals feature delicious, gourmet international and Ecuadorian food, wine and beer included. Also, lunch boxes on most of the rides.
Mariscal Sucre International Airport
Transfer available for additional US$100 per person
Buses leave Quito on average every ten minutes and take approximately one hour to Aloag. You should take the Trolebus in Quito and get off at La Villa Flora station. At that station, you have to take a green bus that says Mejia and get off when you reach Aloag or the junction to Santo Domingo. There, you take a white and green pickup truck. They are close to the gas station and tell them you want to go to Hacienda La Alegria. That should be 3 USD. All the drivers know where it is.
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