horse riding holiday Ecuador
horse riding holiday Ecuador
horse riding holiday Ecuador culture

Ecuador is a magnificent location for a horseback riding vacation, as well as a base for trips to the Galapagos, the Amazonian region etc. This equestrian getaway is located in the world renowned Avenue of Volcanoes at Hacienda La Alegria, a working dairy hacienda set in the beaautiful Machachi valley. The modern accommodation is excellent with stunning views from all the bedrooms and the guest lounge. Snow capped Cotopaxi, one of the highest active volcanoes in the world, can be seen from the grounds.

The horses are suitable for all levels of horseback rider and the vacation is perfect for non-riders  and children as well. After just a few hours of tuition, beginners will be riding out along the lanes and into the beautiful local mountains above the cloud line. Non-riders are well catered for with trips to local markets, the Cotopaxi National Park, rose plantations, hikes directly from the hacienda etc. Help to milk the cattle, meet the llamas and alpacas, or watch the chagras (Ecuador's cowboys) roping bulls. This ride can be booked by the day and also includes mini trails - either a 2-day trails or the Cloud Forest Trail. It is also the perfect addition for anyone on a trip through Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. 

Read a personal review of this trip.

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 SJ of Sarchi Sur on 25/01/2023

Ride Summary
Absolutely wonderful. The warmth and graciouness of the hosts, who made me feel like family. The food (oh, the food!), the room, the dogs, the nightly fires, the wonderful horses. The attention to every tiny detail.
What was your overall impression of the holiday
Overall impression
Unicorn Trails sales staff

Riding tour leader

Additional Comments
Horses and Tack

Additional Comments
Meals

Accommodation

Miscellaneous

Was this trip accurately described to you beforehand?
YES
Please give more details to explain your response:
This trip was SO much more than I had expected. If I could give 10 stars all around I would!
Was there anything you should have known and were not told? NO
Please give more details to explain your response:
What could we do to improve this ride?
Nothing. It was perfect in every way.
How would you rate the difficulty of this ride out of 10 where 1 is very easy and 10 is very advanced?
2
Please explain why you scored it as you did:
A 2 because riders should be prepared for up to 6 hrs in the saddle. But the tack is very comfortable and the horses are fantastic.
Would you recommend Unicorn Trails to your friends?
YES
Please give more details to explain your response:
Best customer service I've ever encountered.
May we use you as a reference for other people wishing to go on this ride?
YES
Any other comments:
Unicorn comments: Thank you for your feedback. Glad you had a great time! :)

Hacienda La Alegria offers various riding excursions in the area and rides can be tailored to the riders' requirements. At the hacienda groups are split according to ability so that the better riders can undertake the more challenging rides.

Hacienda Stay Example:
Day 1
Morning transfer from Mariscal Sucre Airport, Quito or any Quito hotel to the hacienda. The hacienda is situated 1 hours drive south of Quito in the beautiful Machachi Valley. After check-in, there is ride in the arena to get acquainted with the horses and tack being used over the next few days. Ride around the neighbouring haciendas and countryside after lunch. The hacienda is surrounded by fabulous riding country, with cobbled tracks winding through lush farmland up to the rolling paramo (high grassland) and the rocky summit cones of the many extinct volcanoes that line both sides of the Machachi valley. Total riding time for the day is 3-4 hours. Dinner and overnight at the Hacienda.

Day 2
After breakfast and a short session in the 'round' and the paddock, ride out from the farm and ascend the local peak, La Viudita ("The Widow", 3760m above sea level), and a fine view of the "Avenue of the Volcanoes". The guide will point out the local flora. Riding time is approximately 5 hours. Return to the hacienda for a late lunch and a rest. The afternoon is free to join any non-riding companions. Follow one of the numerous paths leading from the hacienda and, weather permitting, catch the sun glinting on the snow-capped Cotopaxi, or even join in milking the farm's herd of dairy cows! Dinner and overnight at the Hacienda.

Day 3
After breakfast, ride out into the local countryside to witness the daily life of the locals before returning to the hacienda for lunch. After a rest the group set out on a different track for an afternoon ride. Return to freshen up before bidding the hosts farewell. Transfer back to Quito.

 

Day Ride Options From the Hacienda

THE VALLEY AND SURROUNDINGS (2-3 HOURS)
This ride is through the valley of Gualilahua Aloag and historical paths of the haciendas. We start along the railroad and headed north, where we can admire the nearby volcanoes of Viudita, Atacazo,  and Pasochoa.
Max height 2900 mts
Approximate time 2-3 hours.

MIRAFLORES AND THE WIDOW MOUNTAIN SKIRTS  (3 HOURS)
This ride gives us the opportunity to gallop and ascend to Miraflores hill from where we can admire the valley of the 9 volcanoes.
Max height 3200 mts.
Approximate time 3 hours.

TROUT FISHING (4 HOURS)
After an hour and a half of horseback riding we arrive at the trout pools operated by one of our neighbors.  We fish, then return to the farm with our catch to cook and enjoy.
Height max 3000 mts.
Approximate total time 4 hours (riding time 2,5 hours)

WIDOW FARM AND HACIENDA ROSARIO (3 HOURS)
This very entertaining route lets us observe two different ecosystems, the valley and the other at the base of Viudita mountain. The view from the top is spectacular and allows us to recognize the “Nine Volcanoes Valley”.
Max height 3200 mts
Approximate time 2 hours.

AROUND THE WIDOW MOUNTAIN (5 HOURS)
We will ascend to 3600 meters and we will be able to observe the Machachi valley and the Avenue of the Volcanoes. We ride around the mountain and descend to the valley, then arrive at Hacienda La Alegria for lunch. When we reach the western part of the Viudita mountain, we take a narrow path through a paramo. This paramo suddenly changes to become a forest of local bamboo (zuro) where you can see forest turkeys and other bird species.  We ride around the mountain enjoying views of the cloud forest, the south of the city of Quito,  and the nine volcanoes. The vegetation and endemic trees such as the pumamaqui, guneras, and some orchids gives us the impression of a high-altitude cloud forest.
The route is subject to the weather conditions.
Max height 3600 mts
Approximate time 5 hours.

THE CORAZON & PUCARA (3 HOURS)
Riding through a large eucalyptus forest, galloping through large areas cultivated with oats and pastures and reaching the Aichapicho Pucara.  A mound of earth in the middle of the plain, suggests that it is handmade and it is striking to find the stone wall, surely brought from a river more than 10 kilometers away. In addition, you will also see the treasure hunters excavations called "huacas".  The primary vegetation with Pumamaqui trees is a must see.  We will be able to devise other Pucaras and the volcanoes of the eastern mountain range, this will allow us to understand the strategy and logistics of the Incas in order to control the Andes from south to north and connect Cuzco with Quito.
Height max 3400 mts.
Approximate time 3 hours.

EL CORAZON, PUCARA and RETURN TO AICHAPICHO (4 HOURS)
We chose this route to have the opportunity to gallop in wide grasslands and with beautiful views of the volcanoes.
At the beginning of the descent we will be able to harvest the fruit of the green cactus upon our arrival we will start the process of making capers.
We will ride through the streets of Aloag village, where the locals never get tired of greeting the riders, we arrive at La Alegria for lunch.
Height max 3400 mts.
Approximate time 4 hours.

THE CORAZON AND THE PARAMO (4-5 HOURS)
Riding through the paramo is a unique experience. In Ecuador this immense ecosystem is the vegetation that surrounds the volcanoes and mountains in the 3400 mts and above.  This is where the grass called "paja" family of the "poacea" grows so dense that it can become difficult for the horses to open a path. We will also be able to appreciate the small groves with native species such as the Pumamaqui and some orchids that grow thanks to the proximity to the cloud forest and its influence.
Height max 3600 mts.
Approximate time 4-5 hours.

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.

Horses & Riding

Most of the 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". They are easy to ride, willing and good mannered. There is plenty of opportunity on the route to to canter, and time to get used to your horse and tack in the safety of our paddock before setting off. There is a range of tack including North American style, English style, Mclellan calvary, Chillean and traditional Ecuadorian "Chagra" style with its intricate leather-work and saddle horn. The riding is western style with neck reining.


Rider requirements

Riders of all levels can be catered for. On the hacienda there is scope to separate riders into groups of various abilities. On the mini trails the riders all ride at the pace of the slowest. The minimum riding age for the hacienda is 5 years, although please enquire for any children under 10 to ensure the most suitable horses are available.

The terrain can be very steep in places and encompasses grassy fields as well as paramo. There is plenty of assistance with mounting, girths and stirrups. The horses are of an excellent standard, mostly home bred and tacked up in western style.The riding, although not necessarily strenuous, is at high altitude, particularly on the mini trails so riders should be reasonably fit.

Weight Limit

The weight limit for this ride is 209 lb/95 kg, please enquire if you are an experienced rider exceeding this weight.

Hacienda Alegria is a family-run organic dairy farm and the hospitality of the Espinosa household is remarked upon by visitors who return year after year. Guests are welcomed with a roaring log fire in the sitting room, and the bedrooms when the nights are cold.

La Alegria can accommodate up to 24 people both in the farmhouse and an extension which has been tastefully restored with solid cypress floors and beams and modern en-suite bathrooms with plenty of hot water and powerful showers. There are also split-level family rooms which sleep five in comfort.



Patty and her staff provide full board. All meals are tailored for hungry travellers, riders and hikers, and combine delicious Ecuadorian and international cuisine. The visitors book contains many compliments to the chef! 



There is Wi-Fi in the rooms, living room, dining room and also in the garden.


Vegetarian or other dietary requirements within reason can be accommodated with advance notice. Please contact Unicorn Trails with requests before booking.

Documents - Visa and Consulate Info

Please note that it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct documentation in place for your trip.

NB: Be sure to check the COVID status of the country you plan to visit including entry procedures and requirements while travelling.

Both visitors and residents must have a minimum of 6 months’ validity on their passport from the date of entry. This is a strict legal requirement from the Ecuadorean government. If your passport does not meet this requirement, you will be denied entry to Ecuador.

All visitors to the Galapagos Islands should be ready to provide a copy of their hotel booking upon entry. National and foreign tourists must also present evidence of a return flight, as well as the Galapagos Transit Control Card, to be filled out online at least 24 hours before the flight.

Travel health insurance is mandatory for foreign tourists.

Passport and Visa requirements can change regularly 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 should you need a visa.

In the UK the British Foreign Office gives advice: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/ecuador

In the US: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Ecuador.html

In Canada: https://travel.gc.ca/destinations/ecuador

Climate Summary

There is great variety in the climate, largely determined by altitude. It is mild year-round in the mountain valleys (such as where La Alegria is based); Humid Subtropical Climate incoastal and Rain Forests in lowlands. The Pacific coastal area has a tropical climate, with a severe rainy season. The climate in the Andean highlands is temperate and relatively dry; and the Amazon basin on the eastern side of the mountains shares the climate of other rain forest zones.

Because of its location at the equator, Ecuador experiences little variation in daylight hours during the course of a year

Climate Chart

Health

At Unicorn Trails, the health and safety of our customers is of paramount importance.

COVID: Be sure to check the latest COVID regulations for travelling in any country you visit.

Please refer to your country’s latest health guideline for travel in Ecuador and contact your own GP for up to date advice on vaccinations and prophylaxis prior to travel.

Health (ride specific)

Please take along sun cream and anti-allergy medicine for possible insect bites.

High altitude, e.g. in Quito (2800m) can affect some people's health. You should take sensible medical precautions and seek advice from your doctor before travelling.

Be aware of higher exposure to UV radiation. Since January 2020, the levels of UV radiation have significantly increased throughout Ecuador. You should use a high factor sunblock, wear long sleeved clothing and keep very well hydrated.

Electricity

In Ecuador the standard voltage is 120 V and the frequency is 60 Hz. You can use your electric appliances in Ecuador if the standard voltage in your country is in between 110 - 127 V (as is in the US, Canada and most South American countries). Manufacturers take small deviations (plus or minus 5%) into account.

Packing List

Clothing:
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)


Accessories:
Cosmetic kit (reduce to minimum)
Sunglasses
Sun-blocking lotions +30 and lipstick ointments (important)
Flashlight with extra batteries
Washcloth

Camera extra batteries

Binoculars

Programmes

The programmes here are flexible and available all year round.

Departure Dates

All year round
(closed: 23 Dec - 2 Jan)

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.


Other Activities

There are a variety of activities for those interested the ecology of this immensely bio-diverse region.
These include hiking, mountain-biking, tours to Cotopaxi and the Cloud Forest

Wildlife

Ecuador is one of seventeen megadiverse countries in the world according to Conservation International. In addition to the mainland, Ecuador owns the Galapagos Islands, for which the country is most well known.
With 1,600 bird species (15% of the world's known bird species) in the continental area, and 38 more endemic in the Galápagos. In addition to over 16, 000 species of plants, the country has 106 endemic reptiles, 138 endemic amphibians, and 6,000 species of butterfly.
The Galápagos Islands are well known as a region of distinct fauna, famous as the place of birth of Darwin's Theory of Evolution, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Other Information

The Hacienda is the family home of the Espinosas. Your host Gabriel comes from a long tradition of equestrian sports. His grandfather bred racing horses close to Quito and his father, Renato Espinosa was a keen polo player. Gabriel followed in the same footsteps as a young man, horse-jumping and playing competitive polo. The hacienda is full of fascinating equestrian heirlooms, including antique side-saddles, cattle brands and traditional "Chagra" (Andean cowboy) tack.

Gabriel and Paty's three daughters are all keen riders, and the enthusiasm of the whole family is reflected in the quality of the horses at the farm

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 (UIO) or hotel
Transfer:
2024: return transfers from Quito airport are $100 return per car. Transfer time approximately 1 hour. Payable on site.
Flight Guide:
London to Quito from £920 return pp
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