The Ecuadorian Andes run north to south and are comprised of eastern and western chains. This trail starts at Hacienda La Alegria, which is based on the western chain. The south western Andes are a well known Indian region, isolated communities such as the Guambaine are also based in the central region of the Andes, following the same traditions and way of life they have done since Colonial times.
This ride is specifically designed for those looking for cultural immersion and adventure, with long journeys and amazing scenery. The route takes us close to the Illinizas, Quilotoa, Chimborazo, Carihuirazo, Igualata and Tungurahua volcanoes, the last of which has been active for the last 16 years. During the ride we also have the opportunity to enjoy two thermal springs.
The horses used on this ride are exceptional - you will find your perfect partner to take on this exciting and challenging ride.
Please Note: The opinions expressed in these reviews are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Unicorn Trails Ltd. These reviews are "directly from the horses mouth" and unedited. Unicorn Trails may make additional comments for clarification clearly identified in red.
Review received from RH of Elham on 12/12/2019
Arrive at Quito Airport and transfer to Hacienda La Alegria (2,890m). If you arrive early you will be able to ride in the afternoon. Have dinner and spend the night the hacienda.
In the morning after breakfast, we will try out the horses and ride in an arena until you feel comfortable with your horse and tack. Today's ride is for acclimatization around the hacienda. You will see the green valley of Machachi and the soaring mountains of the Volcano Avenue, where you will be riding during the trip. Return to the hacienda for a late lunch and an afternoon tour of the farming activities which help to make this an eco- organic dairy farm. Spend the night in Hacienda La Alegria. Riding time 4 hours.
In the morning we ride west towards the Corazon to 4,000m and descend to the cloud forest. We ride through 3 different eco-systems through the valley, paramo and arrive at the cloud forest. At the cloud forest we can observe a great biodiversity of plants and flowers including giant guneras and orchids and birds such as the turkey of theforest (guan). In the afternoon we will arrive for tea at Hacienda Bomboli (3,000m) where we can relax by the fire enjoying the evening sunset and watching the lights of the coastal villages. Here we will have a great meal before retiring to our beds.
Accommodation: Hacienda Bomboli
Riding time 6 hours.
We leave behind the cloud forest and ride the old road that until 1960 connected Quito with the coast. From there we can appreciate the green and fertile Machachi Valley and we can also see the routes we will take the next day along the east mountain chain. Crossing extensive pastures and eucalyptus forests we arrive in the valley for a snack. Delicious dinner at the Hacienda.
Accommodation: Hacienda La Alegria
Riding hours: 4 + hours
The second part of this ride is a long journey, we will start the ride 1 hour south of Hacienda la Alegria and we will be transferred to this point to begin our 6 day adventure in the southern Andes.
Today we will ride along the Inca trail and dirt roads leading to Sigchos, the village that was known as the last home of the Inca general, Ruminahui. From this day onwards the landscape becomes dramatic, including steep ravines and narrow passages. Even though we can visualise where we are going and it looks close, we will have to cross many mountain chains to get there. This area is a combination of forest, rock peaks and lands that has been eroded over the centuries. Arrive at Hacienda San Jose, a working dairy farm and guest house, in time for a good meal, jacuzzi or sauna and rest. The horses will rest in the lush fields of fresh grass surrounding the hacienda. Accommodation: Hacienda San Jose.
Riding time 8 hours, approximately 40km.
After breakfast, we will head south to the Quilotoa crater lake. The trail goes along the bottom of the Toachi canyon, where we will have lunch. There are few agricultural villages and houses, the land is very dry and the soil is mostly pumice from the Quilotoa volcano that erupted 1,280 years ago. The challenge will be to get to the Quilotoa summit at 3,800 meters above sea level, where our hostel is waiting. At the peak of the volcano we will enjoy the breathtaking view of the Quilotoa crater lake. Overnight at Quilotoa. Riding time 8+ hours.
Quilotoa has a crater lake and is the most western volcano in the Ecuadorian Andes. The 3km wide caldera was formed by the collapse of the volcano following a catastrophic erruption. Elevation: 12,841' (3,914m). Last erruption: 1280.
Overnight at Quilotoa, close to the crater lake. Riding time 8+ hours.
Zumbahua is the next village from which we will start trekking into the high Andes. From this point onwards we will only find a small isolated homestead of about 50 families, there are no roads and the only connection to civilization is by a 3 hour trek to Angamarca. We will see llama herds that are used as pack animals as well as sheep guided by children working as shepherds. Today will be an intense riding day and will be one of the high points of the adventure. You will be among the first tourists arriving in the area, camping overnight and using one of the grass huts for a kitchen. Yur hosts on this trail are looking forward to helping the community to make a path to the east which will help the locals sell their produce at large markets and also get better prices for their cheese, potatoes, broad beans and barley.
Overnight at Guambaine, camping. Riding 8+ hours.
In the early morning we will have the opportunity to admire the extraordinary combination of the sunrise and the clouds arriving from the cloud forest to the west. Today there will be another dramatic change in the ecosystem. Riding from the high mountains to the lowland valleys (3,700m), we will see thousands of small farms. A lot of them produce milk (50% of the milk produced in Ecuador is from farms that have less than 5 acres). We will come across a ravine that originates from the Chimborazo volcano (6,300m, the highest volcano in Ecuador) and alongside the ravine’s river runs an old road built in 1830’s called “camino de Flores”. This was the first road to connect the highlands with the coast. In the afternoon we will arrive at a hot springs where we will set up the camp and enjoy a nice BBQ dinner. Overnight at Salado. Riding time 7 hours.
Carihuairazo is a volcanic caldera adjacent to Ecuador's highest mountain, Chimborazo. Chimborazo is a currently inactive stratovolcano in the Cordillera Occidental range of the Andes. Its last known eruption is believed to have occurred around 550 AD. The expedition continues all day along the Chimborazo skirt; this will be a challenging ride with a range of terrain such as grassy hills, swampy areas and rocky hills. We will ride east, crossing into the eastern Andes mountain chain with the Carihuairazo on our left. The scenery changes from a desert full of running vicunas to swampy green paramo. The area is full of climbing paths and we will finish the day on the east face of Chimborazo. Overnight: Chimborazo refuge. Riding time: 8+ hours.
This is the last day of the expedition, we will ride through the Tungurahua area that has been changed over the last 14 years with volcanic ash and periodic eruptions. The Tungurahua volcano stands at 16,480' (5,023m) and last errupted in 2014. This ride completes our journey through the east. We will ride by fertile hills with potatoes, beans and cash crops on the side of the Igualata volcano. The landscape is dotted with mini farms up to 4,000m high.
We start the downhill to the Chambo canon and arrive at the Tungurahua skirts; the volcano and the changes of scenery from 4,000m to 2,400m makes for impressive scenery. we will sad a sad farewell to our horses today as they will make their way back to the hacienda while we stay at Banos. Overnight at Banos. Riding time 8+ hours.
Today we will visit Banos, a very unique city based on the skirts of the volcano. It is the entrance to the Amazon jungle region and is will known for its hot springs. Transfer by car back to Hacienda la Alegria in time for lunch.
Overnight Hacienda la Alegria. No riding today.
Transfer back to Quito Airport after breakfast.
Please note that accommodation may vary from the establishments listed according to availability.
The first days (1-4) are devoted to acclimatisation (Quito is at 2800m) and the itinerary incorporates trips through working haciendas dedicated to the production of dairy products, potatoes, broccoli, and flowers.
100% horseback trip (once you start the ride you are not transferred by car on any day of the trip).
Pace: Moderate, trots and canters
High quality, easy-to-ride, trained horses full of stamina owned exclusively by Hacienda La Alegria, part of a herd of 65 horses.
High-quality, well-maintained equipment (tack, camping equipment, 4-wheel drive SUV).
View hundreds of friendly haciendas throughout the countryside.
Visits dozens of the highest Ecuadorian volcanoes.
Hacienda La Alegria maintains close relationships with and supports the local rural schools.
We promote the preservation of the local culture and educate visitors about the “chagras” (local cowboys).
Hacienda la Alegria is environment-friendly (we produce organically, conserve energy and water, and compost).
We can also arrange for extensions to this ride including trips to the Galapagos Islands and to the Amazon Rainforest. Please get in touch if you would like more information.
Please note: All itineraries are given for your guidance only and it may be altered on the ground and in accordance with the prevailing conditions by the organising team.
Most horses here have been bred 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". Beginners and experienced riders alike have found them easy to ride, willing and good mannered. On the trail you will be given plenty of opportunity to canter. Spare horses come along with the ride too so if you need to change for any reason, there will always be one ready for you. There is a range of tack available including North American style, English style, Mclellan calvary, Chillean and traditional Ecuadorian "Chagra" style with its intricate leather-work and saddle horn.
This trail is for intermediate riders capable and in control at walk, trot and canter in varied terrain. There will also be some long days in the saddle (9+ hours). There is assistance available to mount and dismount, some of the terrain will be rough and/or steep.
The weight limit for this ride is 198 lb/90 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.
The first and last nights are spent at a hacienda in Machachi. There are 11 rooms here all tastefully and individually decorated. Rooms are double, trip or split level family rooms with en suite bathroom. On the trail there are overnight stays at various haciendas, hostels and campsites. Rooms have private bathrooms. Meals are a mix of Ecuadorian and international cuisine tailored for hungry travellers!
Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.
Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct documentation in place for your trip. If Visa’s are required the requirements can change from year to year depending on diplomatic relations. Please request information from the appropriate Consulate in your home country. Unicorn Trails will assist with any questions you have or supply any necessary supporting documents as required by the consulate on request.
British nationals are issued with a visit visa on arrival which is valid for up to 90 days. Visit extensions of a further 90 days can be obtained through the local immigration authorities. Your passport must have a minimum validity of six months. In the UK the Embassy of Ecuador can be found at:
Embassy of Ecuador
3 Hans Crescent
London SW1X 0LS
Telephone: (020) 7584 2648/1367/8084
In Ecuador the British Embassy can be found at:
Naciones Unidas Ave. and Republica de El Salvador 14th Floor
(Consular Section 12th floor)
PO Box 17-17-830,
Telephone: (593) (2) 2970 800 / 801
The British Foreign office gives up to date travel advice on 0845 850 2829 or www.fco.gov.uk
The climate in the Andean highlands is temperate and relatively dry compared to the rainforest. Because of its location at the equator, Ecuador experiences little variation in daylight hours during the course of a year.
Through the trail, 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. The locals say that the highlands experience all four seasons within the same day.
At Unicorn Trails, the health and safety of our customers is of paramount importance.
High altitude, e.g. in Quito (2800 metres) can affect some people's health. You should take sensible medical precautions and seek advice from your doctor before travelling. If visiting Quito you are advised to take it easy for the first few days and drink plenty of water. See your local doctor or the department of healths web site for further details www.dh.gov.uk
110V, 60Hz as in the USA. You may need a transformer as well as an adaptor to plug in UK or European appliances.
The following is a personal equipment list suggested for traveling in this circuit. Day temperatures can vary considerably in the mountains (18º C during the daytime, 0º C at night). Average temperatures will be in the region of 10º C.
Shirt: Cotton or wool, long sleeved or turtleneck
Sweater: Heavy wool or fleece sweater or vest
Trousers: Full length, wool, blend, or pile or other warm pants.
Underwear: Light-weight (polypropylene) thermal underwear, top and bottom
Headwear: Skycap, wool hat or wide brim felt hat, bandana, and sunglasses.
Jackets: Insulated or Gore-Tex mountain parka for rain and wind (important)
Gloves: Wool, leather, or polypropylene, recommended water proof
Socks: Wool or polypropylene
Footwear: Tennis shoes, lightweight hiking boots, or rubber boots (if your shoe size is 9 ½ US or less, boots are available at Hacienda La Alegria). Waterproof boots are recommended for riding as you may ride through long, wet grass.
Sleeping bag - it is possible to borrow a sleeping bag with prior notice, subject to availability
Sun-block lotions +50 and lipstick ointments (important and should be applied regularly even if overcast)
Flashlight with extra batteries
Waterproof poncho and full chaps
This is a 12 day/11 night programme with 10 days riding available on set dates. Private dates may be available for groups of 6 or more, please enquire.
2020: Aug 14; Nov 20
2021: Jan 29; Aug 20; Dec 3
|Riding days||Product item description||£|
|2020||12d/11n||10||small group supplement 1-2 riders||125|
|2020||12d/11n||10||extra night double pp||66|
|2021||12d/11n||10||small group supplement pp 1-2 riders||125|
|Riding days||Product item description||€|
|2020||12d/11n||10||small group supplement 1-2 riders||139|
|2020||12d/11n||10||extra night double pp||75|
|2021||12d/11n||10||small group supplement pp 1-2 riders||139|
|Riding days||Product item description||$|
|2020||12d/11n||10||small group supplement 1-2 riders||155|
|2020||12d/11n||10||extra night double pp||83|
|2021||12d/11n||10||small group supplement pp 1-2 riders||155|
|Riding days||Product item description||SEK|
|2020||12d/11n||10||small group supplement 1-2 riders||1,535|
|2020||12d/11n||10||extra night double pp||819|
|2021||12d/11n||10||small group supplement pp 1-2 riders||1,535|
|No of days/nights||Product item description||£|
|2021 Extra night, B&B, no riding||per night||double pp||79|
|2021 Extra night, full board with riding||per night||double pp||205|
|2021 Extra night, full board with riding||per night||single||229|
|No of days/nights||Product item description||€|
|2021 Extra night, B&B, no riding||per night||double pp||89|
|2021 Extra night, full board with riding||per night||double pp||235|
|2021 Extra night, full board with riding||per night||single||265|
|No of days/nights||Product item description||$|
|2021 Extra night, B&B, no riding||per night||double pp||98|
|2021 Extra night, full board with riding||per night||double pp||259|
|2021 Extra night, full board with riding||per night||single||289|
|No of days/nights||Product item description||SEK|
|2021 Extra night, B&B, no riding||per night||double pp||975|
|2021 Extra night, full board with riding||per night||double pp||2,559|
|2021 Extra night, full board with riding||per night||single||2,869|
Andean deer, spectacled bears, Andean fox and pumas, as well as a variety of birds and the majestic condor. In warmer ravines, you’ll also see colourful hummingbirds sipping nectar from a multitude of flowers. As we ride through the paramos, you will see the great alpaca and llama herds that roam at this altitude. Seeing these herds gallop together with the volcanoes in the background is truly an amazing experience.
Our first two days are devoted to acclimatisation. Our itinerary incorporates trips through working haciendas dedicated to the production of dairy products, potatoes, broccoli, and flowers.
You will come to appreciate the traditions and customs of the chagras’ skills too in this time. In their goat-skin chaps and woollen ponchos, they welcome tourists to demonstrate their centuries-old tradition of herding cattle. The chagras’ skills on horseback and knowledge of the Andean paramo are legendary. They are the inspiration for our trek.
Bordering the Pacific Ocean at the equator, Ecuador has a tropical climate in coastal regions, getting cooler inland. It is the smallest country in the rugged Andean highlands. The terrain consists of coastal plain (costa), inter-Andean central highlands (sierra), and a flat, rolling eastern jungle (oriente) and the Galapagos Islands. Ecuador is one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world. The Galapagos Islands and the waters surrounding it are both World Heritage Sites and of vital ecological importance. Charles Darwins visits to The Galapogos played a vital role in the development of his ideas on evolution.
Advanced indigenous cultures flourished prior to the arrival of the Incas in the 15th century. The capital, Quito, was once the centre of the Inca Empire. Ecuador was subsequently conquested by the Spanish in 1534, finally gaining independance in 1830. Ecuador has retained an array of vibrant cultures and stunningly well preserved colonial architecture.
Ecuador is five hours behind GMT and they use the metric weights and measures system, so kilometres and kilograms instead of miles and pounds. There is approximately 1.6 kilometres in a mile and 2.2 pounds in a kilogram.