Visit the Andean country of Ecuador, South America as personal guests of the owners of a large working hacienda. You are welcomed into this diverse family who are delighted to share their fascinating history and culture with visitors. Everyone can visit the historical old hacienda, the various production areas of the hacienda, from ultra modern flowers for export to traditional milking cows and vegetable crops. Visit the Indian town of Otovalo and admire their traditional dress while bargaining for fine wool bags or hammocks on the market. Ride on beautiful, fit horses accompanied by your hosts who are expert riders with a long history of exploring the highlands on horseback. The Avenue of the Volcanoes is all around you with the mighty snow covered peaks of Cayambe, Pinchincha, Chimborazo and many more visible throughout your visit.

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 RW of Bury St Edmunds on 27/10/2011

Ride Summary

What was your overall impression of the holiday

Unicorn Trails sales staff
Professionalism     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Friendliness     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Speed of response     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Efficiency     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Knowledge     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Other(please specify)     (   ) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Riding tour leader
Professionalism     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Horsemanship     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Pacing of Ride     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Concern for Safety     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Leadership     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Friendliness/availability     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Knowledge of local Culture     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Knowledge of local Flora/Fauna     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Concern with Environment     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Language skills     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Additional Comments
Freddy accompanied us all the time and ensured everything ran smoothly.
Horses and Tack
Condition of Horses     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Condition of Tack     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Performance of Horses     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Additional Comments
Not a huge selection of horses.
Meals
Meal Quantity     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Meal Quality     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Meal Punctuality     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Accommodation
Camping Equipment     (   ) Excellent     (   ) Good     (X) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Hotels/Lodges/Inns     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Hygiene standards     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Miscellaneous
Transfer arrangements     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Other office staff     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Other ride staff     (   ) Excellent     (X) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Weather     (   ) Excellent     (   ) Good     (X) Fair     (   ) Poor
Was this trip accurately described to you beforehand?
    (   ) NO     (X) YES
Please give more details to explain your response:

Was there anything you should have known and were not told?     (X) NO     (   ) YES
Please give more details to explain your response:

What could we do to improve this ride?
Control the weather!! Unfortunately on the ride to Otovalo we encountered the worst conditions, rain and mist, that they'd had. Instead of descending straight down the mountains it was too slippery and we had a long jarring ride down a cobbled road. Still that's adventure holidays and safety comes first.
How would you rate the difficulty of this ride out of 10 where 1 is very easy and 10 is very advanced?
6
Please explain why you scored it as you did:
Generally easy but some riders may be phased by some steep climbs and drops not generally encountered in the UK. The horses made easy work of it!
Would you recommend Unicorn Trails to your friends?
    (   ) NO     (X) YES
Please give more details to explain your response:

May we use you as a reference for other people wishing to go on this ride?
    (   ) NO     (X) YES
Any other comments:

Unicorn comments:
Day 1
Arrival in Ecuador and transfer from Marsical Sucre Airport Quito to the hacienda. The Hacienda lies 30 minutes drive north of Quito in the Guayllabamba Valley (2100m altitude). Accommodation and dinner at the Hacienda's own cabins in a hidden valley.

Day 2
Breakfast at about 8.30am. We then depart on a 2-3 hour ride around the hacienda to familiarise ourselves with the horses. We will ride through flora typical of a dry Andean Valley zone: bromeliads, cacti, agaves etc. Return to the hacienda for lunch. In the afternoon we visit the old part of the hacienda, typical of the colonial era and over 100 years old. We also tour the stables and cow and poultry sheds. Alternatively those feeling tired from the altitude can rest and enjoy the peace. Dinner at 7.30pm

Day 3
Breakfast at 7.30 a.m. today. We depart on a mini trail to Otovalo. For those not fit or experienced enough to undertake the 2 day trek to Otovalo by horseback various different routes riding out can be enjoyed from the hacienda, tuition undertaken, followed by a car journey to the hotel in Otovalo. The start of our ride takes us down a steep descent to the Pisque River (1800m altitude), crossing and then ascending to the valleys of Tanda and Malchinguí (2600m) with spectacular views of the river Gauyllabamba. We stop along the way for a picnic lunch. We continue into the hills of Mojanda were we set up camp and enjoy our dinner around a bonfire.

Day 4
Breakfast at 7.30am, pack up and continue our journey on horseback to the lagoons of Mojanda (3600m). On the way we see the vegetation of the páramo of the Andes of Ecuador along with beautiful views of snow covered mountains and volcanoes such as Cayambe, Cotopaxi, Cotocatchi, Imbabura etc. This portion of the Andes is also known as the Avenue of the volcanoes. Lunch at the Mojanda crater, an extinct volcanic crater which now contains Lake Cuicocha. We will cross the cordillera at 4000m and then descend to the traditional Indian market town of Otavalo. Here we overnight in a small hotel.

Day 5
Breakfast at 8am in the hotel followed by free time to visit the Indian craft market. This market is famous throughout Ecuador and has a large variety of crafts with sellers dressed in traditional costume. Return the Hacienda by car in time for lunch. In the afternoon can relax or enjoy a walk to observe the more than 50 bird species present in the area. Hummingbirds are especially numerous. Dinner and overnight at the hacienda.

Day 6
Breakfast at 7.30am. Depart on a 4 hour ride through the orchards of avocado, chirimoyas and citrus. Return to the hacienda for lunch. Ecuador is one of the leading producers of fresh flowers and in particular roses, of the world, and this hacienda has its own flower plantation. In the afternoon we can visit the flower plantation on the hacienda and receive a first hand look at this fascinating export industry. Dinner and bonfire at the hacienda.

Day 7
Breakfast at 8.30am. Visit the forest and plantations of bromeliads endemic to the regions and explanation of their cultivation. We visit (and walk across for the brave) a swing bridge over a ravine on the hacienda. In the afternoon we visit the Quito Zoo where you can see the typical Andean animals.

Day 8
Transfer back to the airport and departure after breakfast. Please note that all itineraries are subject to change depending on local conditions at the time of your visit. They are given as a guideline only.

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.

Small group supplement - there is a small group supplement for less than 4 riders - this means that if the ride does not reach the official minimum number of 4 then it can still go ahead. The supplement will be refunded if the minimum number of 4 riders is reached.

Reading List
We're avid readers here at Unicorn Trails and have selected several books connected to this ride. If you're interested in reading more about the area before you travel, or want to get into the cultural background, here are some suggestions that may inspire you. Click on the links for more information.

The Conquest of the Inca's - John Hemming
Ecuador - Henri Michaux
The Birds of Ecuador- Robert Ridgely and Paul Greenfield
Birds, Mammals and Reptiles of the Galapagos - Andy Swash and Robert Still

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.

Horses & Riding

The horses are of various breeds including Quarter horses, Criollos and pure Arabians. They range in size from 14-15hh and are ideally suited to the mountainous conditions. Fit and extremely sure-footed, these horses can take you through terrain that you would never consider passable on horseback with an incredible ease and smoothness.


There are Ecuadorian saddles, English saddles, trail saddles or western saddles to choose from. Riders should bring their own riding helmets and water bottles. Seat savers are provided.

Rider requirements

No previous riding experience is necessary to ride on the hacienda. There is qualified instruction for riders wanting to learn and challenging riding out for more experienced riders. The riding is at all paces dictated by the terrain. It may be necessary to walk next to your horse on steep descents. Riders should be able to mount and dismount unaided.

There is a weight limit of 90kg / 198lb / 14 stone on this ride and an upper age limit of 70 years. Quito is at an altitude of 2800 metres and the start point of the ride is at 2000 metres – bear in mid that this may require a few days of adjustment.

Weight Limit

The weight limit for this ride is 210 lb/95 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.

Accommodation on the hacienda is in comfortable log cabins situated in a private hidden valley on the hacienda. The cabins each have their own sitting room and a veranda to enjoy the views and tranquility of the valley, 2 rooms with private en-suite shower and toilet. There are twin or double beds. There is electricity but no TV or phones are available in the cabins. There is WiFi available in the cabins.



Camping (on one night on the way to Otovalo) consists of 2 or 4 person dome tents with sleeping mats, basic facilities with washing in rivers and streams. The overnight in Otovalo is in a comfortable hotel with twin/double beds and en-suite shower/toilet.


The food is typical Andean fare, similar to European based on potatoes and rice. The main meal of the day is usually taken at lunch time. This may vary depending on the riding activity. Fruit juices are a speciality and freshly made from various exotic fruits grown locally. Soups are another feature of Ecuadorian cuisine and are usually thick and hearty.

Breakfast: juice, eggs, coffee, tea, bread, marmalade, butter, cheese, fruits, milk Lunch: Starter, main dish and dessert plate, juice, coffee, tea Dinner: Main dish, coffee, tea, juice, fruit

Vegetarian or other dietary requirements can be accommodated with advanced notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests.

Documents - Visa and Consulate Info

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.

General information:

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
Flat 3b
3 Hans Crescent
London SW1X 0LS
Telephone: (020) 7584 2648/1367/8084
Email: embajada.ecuador@btclick.com

In Ecuador the British Embassy can be found at:
Citiplaza Building,
Naciones Unidas Ave. and Republica de El Salvador 14th Floor
(Consular Section 12th floor)
PO Box 17-17-830,
Quito
Telephone: (593) (2) 2970 800 / 801
Email: britembq@interactive.net.ec
Website: www.britembquito.org.ec

The British Foreign office gives up to date travel advice on 0845 850 2829 or www.fco.gov.uk



Climate Summary

The temperature in the highlands does not vary very much throughout the year. The temperature in Ecuador is dependent on altitude and cloud cover. Daytime temperatures vary from 12 to 26 centigrade and night time from 2 to 10 centigrade in the highlands. January to March is generally fine weather, April, May to middle of June can be rainy. July to September are sunny with some wind, October to November rainy again. The best times to visit are January to March and July to September.

Climate Chart
Health

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

Health (ride specific)

The Ecuadorian highlands vary in altitude from 1800m to over 5000m. The hacienda is situated at 2000m and Quito city at 2800m. Altitude sickness has not been a problem on these rides but you will find that all physical activity takes a little longer and is more tiring. It is not recommended that people with heart or respiratory diseases undertake a strenuous trek in the Andean mountains.

Electricity

110V, 60Hz as in the USA. You may need a transformer as well as an adaptor to plug in UK or European appliances.

Film and Camera Equipment

You will be able to recharge any digital cameras at the Hacienda. Film and batteries are widely available for sale in Quito or Otovalo.

Packing List

Riding helmet/broad rimmed hat which must stay on firmly.
Riding trousers
Half-chaps (recommended)
Riding gloves
Lightweight riding boots or trainers + comfortable shoes for the evening
Sunglasses with sting
Jumper
Warm jacket
Shorts
Long-sleeved shirts
T-shirts
Swimwear
Underwear
Sun-block
Insect repellant
Torch
Camera
Sleeping bag

Programmes

This is a comfortable hacienda stay with a mini trail to Otovalo on horseback for the more experienced riders (this trip can also be done by car). Stays of any length can be tailormade to your requirements at the hacienda.

Departure Dates

2018: 21 Feb; 7, 21 Mar; 11, 18 Apr; 9, 23 May; 13, 27 Jun; 11, 18, 25 Jul; 8, 15, 22, 29 Aug; 12, 26 Sept; 17, 31 Oct; 14, 28 Nov; 5, 12, 26 Dec.

Pricing
No single supplement payable if willing to share with someone of same sex. Should you wish to book a single room, please see supplement price below.

Recommended Reading

John Hemming 'The Conquest of the Inca's'; Henri Michaux 'Ecuador'; Robert Ridgely and Paul Greenfield 'The Birds of Ecuador'; Andy Swash and Robert Still 'Birds, Mammals and Reptiles of the Galapagos'.
For an excellent selection of equestrian travel and adventure books visit www.horsetravelbooks.com (part of the Long Rider’s Guild).

Other Activities

There are plenty of other excursions to keep non-riders occupied. Apart from visiting all the aspects of the hacienda: old colonial buildings, hen houses, cattle sheds, flower export business, vegetable cultivation etc, you can undertake hikes on the property, bird watching, mountain bike rental can be arranged, excursions to Otovalo (included) or nearby Quito city with its UNESCO Old Town, shopping and cable car ride to a panoramic viewing point above the city at 4200m.

Wildlife

THE BIRDS OF GUAYLLABAMBA

Common name - Scientific name
Curve-billed tinamou - Nothoptocta curvirostris
Cattle egred - Bubulcus ibis
Great egred - Ardea alba
Andean cóndor - Vultur gryphus
Turkey vulture - Cathartes aura
Black vulture - Coragyps atratus
Harris's hawk - Parabuteo unicinctus
American krestel - Falco sparaverius
Black chested buzzard-eagle - Geranoaetus melanoleucos
White-tipped dove - Leptotila verreauxi
Eared dove - Zenaida auriculata
Common ground-dove - Columbina passerina
Croaking ground-dove - Columbina cruzziana
Dark-billed cuckoo - Coccyzus melacorryphus
Barn owl - Tyto alba
Great horned owl - Buho virginianus
Burrowing owl - Athene cunicularia
Band winged nightjar - Caprimulgus longirostris
White collared swift - Streptoprocne zonaris
Blue and white swallow - Notiochelidon cyanoleuca
Rufous tailed hummingbird - Amazilia tzacatl
Sparkling violetear - Colibrí coruscans
Giant hummingbird - Patagona gigas
Black-tailed trainbearer - Lesbia victoreae
Blue-tailed emerald - Chlorostilbon mellisugus
Purple collared woodstar - Myrtis fanny
Crimson mantled woodpecker - Piculus rivolii
Ringed kingfisher - Megaceryle torquata
Azara`s spinetail - Synallaxis azarae
Southern beardless tyrannulet - Camptostoma obsoletum
Vermilion flycatcher - Pyrocephalus rubinus
Straek throated bush tyrant - Myiotheretes striaticollis
Tropical  mockingbird - Mimus gilvus
Mimus White Capped Dipper - Cinclus leucocephalus
Great thrush - Turdus fuscater
Spectacle whitestar - Myioborus melanocephalus
Cinereous conebill - Conirostrum cinereum
Rusty flowerpiercer - Diglossa sittoides
Golden rumped euphonia - Euphonia cyanocephata
Fawn-breasted tanager - Pipraeidea melanonota
Scrub tanager - Tangara vitriolina
Blue gray tanager - Thraupis episcopus
Blue and yellow tanager - Thraupis bonaerensis
Summer tananger - Piranga rubra
Southern yellow grosbeak - Pheuticus chrysogaster
Streaked saltator - Saltator striatipectus
Hooded siskin - Carduelis magellanica
Band tailed sierra-finch - Phrygilus alaudinus
Rufous collared sparrow - Zonotrichia capensis

MAMMALS OF GUAYLLABAMBA
Skunk - Conepatus chinga
White eared andean opossum - Didelphis pernigra
South American fox - Pseudalopex culpaeus
Long tailed weasel - Mustela frenata
Brazilian rabbit - Sylbilagus brasiliensis

Other Information

The Ecuadorian highlands vary in altitude from 1800m to over 5000m. The hacienda is situated at 2000m and Quito city at 2800m. Altitude sickness has not been a problem on these rides but you will find that all physical activity takes a little longer and is more tiring. It is not recommended that people with heart or respiratory diseases undertake a strenuous trek in the Andean mountains.

Other Country Information

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.

Travel Summary

Meeting-point (getting there):
Quito Airport, Ecuador (UIO)
Transfer:
Included from meeting point
Flight Guide:
London - Quito return £450 - £650