This 7-day/6-night horseback riding adventure to the Ecuadorian village of Piñán is like traveling back in time. Along the way, you can stop at magnificent colonial-era haciendas, witness ancient pre-Incan earth mounds, and make contact with authentic highland cowhands who herd their livestock the same way this was done a hundred years ago. This journey will take you through pristine highland valleys surrounded by imposing mountains as you make your way around snowcapped volcanoes, shimmering waterfalls and mountain-top lakes bathed in green. This horseback ride to Piñán will take you to an altitude of 3,112 meters above sea level in the heart of the Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve, one of the largest and most biologically diverse reserves in Ecuador. The trip is suitable for people with or without previous riding experience, though the ride is still challenging enough for intermediate and even expert riders. Strong and well trained horses will carry you along mountain trails and around the lakes, while the tour itself is led by an experienced multilingual guide. All of this provides an opportunity to profoundly reconnect with nature, taking in awe-inspiring panoramic views of Andean volcanoes, summits and valleys.
“We booked our Galapagos/Peru trip through Surtrek and are very glad that we did.”
PM: As soon as you land at the new Quito international airport, you will be welcomed and driven to Hacienda Pinsaqui (or comparable lodgings). The hacienda’s pleasant, meandering corridors are adorned with hanging baskets and natural mosses, leading to central courtyards, numerous outbuildings and lush tropical gardens – a great place to relax before beginning your Ecuadorian travel experience.
AM: This morning, we will visit the biggest indigenous market in Ecuador: the Otavalo market, which is brimming with authentic handicrafts as well as the aromatic food markets that are a feast for all the senses.
PM: Enjoy your time at your leisure, go for a stroll around glassy Cuicocha Lake, or simply stop to people watch in this colorful market town.
AM: This morning we will mount up for some horseback riding through agricultural areas in which sugar cane and other crops are grown. This horseback ride is one of the best in Ecuador, as the landscapes range from the “paramo” grasslands to cloud forests. Along the way, it’s even possible to spot condors.
PM: Hacienda San Francisco will be the destination for this afternoon. Hosteria San Francisco offers rural accommodations in a charming farmhouse that overlooks the mountains in Chachimbiro. Indeed, Hacienda San Francisco can be described as not only a hotel, but also an “activity center,” as it will allow you to recover your energy as you enjoy the beautiful setting. The hacienda features a restaurant and a private orchard. In addition, regional homemade dishes prepared with natural ingredients can be ordered at the hacienda’s restaurant, while “Temazcalli healing and cleansing treatments” practiced by local tribes can be requested at the spa. Guests can also unwind in the hot spring pool or make use of the hacienda’s Turkish baths.
AM/PM: Our destination for the day will be the village of Piñán, near Cotacachi-Cayapas National Park. Today’s horseback riding to Piñán can be along any one of several routes – from Intag, Chachimbiro (in the Urcuquí area), Sachapamba or Buenos Aires. In all, there are more than 35,000 hectares of paramo, forest and mountain areas for you to discover. This region is crowned by Cotacachi Volcano (reaching a height of 4,937 meters) and the Yanaurcu Volcano (4,535 meters), among other peaks over 4,000 meters. Due to the elevation of this area, it offers the best place for acclimatization in the Ecuadorian Andes.
AM: This morning – like every morning on this tour – will bring with it new experiences and a chance to contemplate the beauty of Ecuador’s majestic mountains and valleys. Friendly “chagras” (Ecuadorean cowhands) are likely to take a pause from their work to greet you, exchange news and views, and even to offer you a drink as a way of wishing you luck on your travels.
PM: Our ride for today will also incorporate visits to the Cotacachi and Yanahurco volcanoes as we spend the day riding back to Hacienda San Francisco along a route different from the one that brought us to Piñán.
AM: After breakfast at Hacienda San Francisco, we will ride out along the “Old Trail” to Lake Yahuarcocha, riding through El Chota Valley on the way to the San Miguel de Yahuarcocha community.
PM: This evening, we will drive back to Quito, where you will spend the night
AM: Following breakfast, you will be accompanied to the Quito airport in time for your flight home or onward.
“We had a great time in the jungle. Our experience was amazing. Can’t wait to tell you more about it.”