La Escondida Farm offers this 8-day/7-night horseback riding experience that will take you into the heart of the Ecuadorian Andes, passing through many of the country’s most beautiful and biologically diverse areas – including “the City of Flowers and Fruit” (Ambato), as well as typical Andean towns and villages such as Simiatug, Salinas de Bolívar and Guaranda. As you make your way around mountain-top lakes bathed in green, you’ll pass snowcapped volcanoes and are likely to see ancient pre-Incan earth mounds, waterfalls and strikingly dramatic views beneath the clouds – and sometimes even above them! The trails on which you will ride are appropriate for intermediate riders, though these are still challenging and interesting enough for even more experienced equestrians. What’s more, this trip can be custom-designed based on your experience and interest as a rider. All of this provides an opportunity to profoundly reconnect with nature, taking in awe-inspiring panoramic views of Andean volcanoes, summits and valleys.
“Everything went off without a hitch. Accomodation was just what we wanted. Clean, great location and within our budget. The dive master was great. ”
AM: As soon as you land at the new Quito international airport, you will be welcomed and driven to a local B&B for your first-night stay.
PM: This afternoon, you will have time to explore Quito on your own, or a city tour can be arranged for you (extra). Quito, with its beautifully restored historic district, became the planet’s first UNESCO-declared World Heritage Site, in 1975. Among the sights in this quarter is the La Compañía Church, which – with 15 tons of gold along its walls, roof and altar – is said to be the most richly decorated church in the world.
AM: We will drive you by car, southbound on the Pan-American Highway, passing through Bolivar Province on our way to the city of Ambato. The landscape will change rapidly as we drive through small villages and past fields where farmers raise their crops on steep slopes. On your left you will see a huge mountain that dominates the entire area: the Chimborazo Volcano.
PM: This afternoon we will arrive in Ambato, which has been dubbed the “City of Flowers and Fruit.” After checking in, you will have time to relax before dinner and turning in for the night.
AM: After a hearty “Ambato Breakfast,” we will all mount up, as the only form of transportation for the day will be on horseback. We will begin with visits to the Carihuayrazo and Pan de Azucar volcanoes, though you will of course see the majestic Chimborazo Volcano from as many different angles as possible throughout our journey. Our itinerary incorporates trips through dozens of authentic working haciendas that produce regional dairy products, potatoes, broccoli and flowers.
PM: This afternoon, we will ride along the famous Inca Trail, as well as pre-Inca routes. This evening, you will settle in at a hacienda in the town of Simiatug, where you will spend the night. Sitting together around the hacienda’s cozy fireplace, we will recall the day's events and discuss the local culture and traditions of this area, particularly those related to the chagras (Andean cowhands).
AM: This morning we will visit the colorful Simiatug animal and produce market.
PM: After lunch, we will ride by horseback along narrow forest paths that are surrounded by literally thousands of plants and animal species. One can't help but be amazed by the sheer biodiversity of this area. Many riders have exhausted their cameras' memory chips and batteries in attempts to record the amazing and endless sights here. Passing through the town of Salinas de Bolívar, we will make our way to Guaranda, where you will spend the night.
AM: On today’s ride, you will experience a diversity of geography and weather. Be prepared for a period of intense equatorial sun followed by the chill of the Andes' wind - all within the space of a few hours. From this, you will understand why locals say that all four seasons are experienced in the same day while in the highlands. As we ride though the paramos, you will see large alpaca and llama herds that roam free at this altitude. The shaggy coats that protect them from the harsh elements of mountain life are also the key components of great sweaters and ponchos. Seeing these herds galloping with Cotopaxi in the background is a truly amazing experience!
PM: Continuing our ride, we will cross extensive plots of land, some with more than 400 acres. Mounted on our sturdy and well-trained horses, we will also climb to altitudes exceeding 12,000 feet (4,200 m) above sea level, and later ride down into hidden valleys. Passing through the town of San Miguel de Bolivar, we will make our way to Chillanes, where you will spend the night.
AM: This morning we will head out on a spectacular 6-hour ride that follows the main Inca trail, the one that once linked Quito with Cusco, Peru. Close by is another route that runs west; one previously used by the Incas to travel through the coastal rainforest.
PM: This afternoon, we will ride up and over a series of ridges before starting our descent from the Andean Highlands down into the Bucay Valle. Following well-traveled horse trails, you will note how the ground is covered with wild flowers. In this area, hummingbirds and birds of prey are often spotted – sometimes even mighty Andean condors. Passing through the town of Bucay, we will make our way to Echandia, where you will spend the night.
AM: Today we will ride across the Echandia Valley to Chillanes, through green hilly pastures and past several stately farms on which you can observe fighting bulls and flower crops. This picturesque valley is also the home and breeding place of many beautiful horses. All of this will give you a good impression concerning the present and past of the country. Our horseback riding will include some extensive canters along fields and pastures to make the trip quicker.
PM: Drawing closer to the Chimborazo volcano, which towers above us at an altitude of almost 6,300 meters above sea level, we will reach the colonial village of Chillanes, where we find shelter in a traditional farmhouse that was built during the colonial era. Sitting next to a blazing fireplace, our host (known as the “Wild West Cowboy”) is always willing to tell some interesting stories about the local people and lifestyle, while sharing tea and locally produced “burnt brandy” (Pajaro azul).
AM: Following breakfast, you will be driven to the Guayaquil airport in time for your flight home or onward.
“The trip to the Galapagos was really fantastic! Although it was quite short, the trip itinerary made time for us to do quite a lot of things. Everything went very smoothly, too.”