Ecuador is the secret country within South America yet it is a magnificent location for a horse riding holiday as well as trips to the Galapagos, the Amazonian region etc. This ride is located in the world renowned Avenue of Volcanoes at a working dairy hacienda. The modern accommodation is excellent and the view from all the bedrooms and the guest lounge is quite stunning. Snow capped Cotopaxi, one of the highest active volcanoes in the world, can be seen from the grounds and Antisana, just a little lower but still snow capped, is visible when you ride out just behind the farm.
The horses are suitable for all levels of rider including non riders and children. After just a few hours of tuition beginners will be riding out along the lanes and up 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. You can 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 include mini trails - either a 2 day trail or 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 JB of Dubai on 29/08/2018
The hacienda offers various riding excursions in the area and each visit is tailored to your requirements. On the hacienda groups are split according to ability, so better riders can do more challenging rides. For a supplement there is also an option of a mini trail to the Cloud Forest. The pace on these mini trails is that of the least experienced rider. Below are some samples of the itineraries, these are only an indication and are flexible.
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 Guayllabamba Valley (2100 metres above sea level). You'll drop your luggage in your en-suite bedroom which has a truly spectacular view. Then ride in the arena to get acquainted with the horses and tack that you will be using over the next few days. After a delicious lunch we ride out around the neighbouring haciendas and countryside. 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.
The day starts with a hearty breakfast. After a short session in the 'round' and then the paddock, we ride out from the farm and ascend the local peak La Viudita ("The Widow", 3760 metres above sea level), from which you can enjoy fine views of the "Avenue of the Volcanoes". Your guide will point out the local flora. Riding time is approximately 5 hours. Return to the hacienda for a late lunch and a rest. In the afternoon you are free to join any non-riding companions. You can stroll out on one of the numerous paths leading from the hacienda. Weather permitting, you'll catch the sun glinting on snow-capped Cotopaxi. Perhaps you would prefer to try your hand milking the farm's herd of dairy cows! Dinner and overnight at the Hacienda.
After breakfast ride out again in the local countryside. Maybe you'll catch an indiginous family harvesting their potato crop. Return to the hacienda for lunch before setting out on a different track. Return for a hot shower before bidding your hosts farewell. Transfer back to Quito.
Cloud Forest Mini Trail
One of the unique features of the environment around Hacienda La Alegria is the endangered habitat of the Ecuadorian cloud forest. These subtropical montane rain forests used to cloak much of the steep western slopes of the Andes between 1,000 and 2,500 meters, but are now classified as threatened. The hacienda is extremely fortunate to have an area of unspoilt primary forest nearby.
These luxuriant forests rank among some of the most bio-diverse habitats on the planet, with an astonishingly profusion of plant life, including orchids, epiphytes ("air plants"), tree ferns, bamboo, wax palms, podocarpus and aliso. Bird-watching is popular, with hummingbirds, nightjars, and other exotic species present in the forest (Ecuador boasts more bird species than any other country).
In the morning we ride west towards the Corazon to 4,000 meters and descend to the cloud forest. At the cloud forest, we can observe a great biodiversity of plants and flowers, including giant guneras, orchids, and birds such as the turkey of the forest (guan). In the afternoon, we arrive for tea at Hacienda Bomboli (3,000 m), relax by the fireplace, enjoying the sunset, and watch the lights of the villages near the coast following a great meal.
Riding time:4 hours
We leave behind the cloud forest and ride the old road that until1960 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 to the valley for a snack
Delicious dinner at the Hacienda.
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 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. You will be given plenty of opportunity to canter. Before setting off you will be given time to get used to your horse and tack in the safety of our paddock. They have 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. They riding is western style with neck reining.
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.
The weight limit for this ride is 15 st/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. You will be welcomed with a roaring log fire in the sitting room, and in your bedroom when the nights are cold. La Alegria can accommodate up to 24 people both in the farmhouse and a recently completed extension. The extension 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. Paty 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! Vegetarian / other special dietary options on request.
There is Wi-Fi in the rooms, living room, dining room and also in the garden.
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
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
At Unicorn Trails, the health and safety of our customers is of paramount importance. While cases of the Zika Virus remain predominantly in Brazil and Ecuador, there have been reports of cases in Mexico, Barbados, Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Cape Verde.
Whilst the symptoms of the Zika Virus are usually mild, customers are recommended to take the strict insect bite avoidance measures. This is particularly relevant if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, suffer from a severe, chronic medical condition, or have a medical condition that weakens your immune system.
Customers due to travel to the affected areas should monitor the World Health Organisation website for further updates and advice.
Customers planning to become pregnant should discuss travel plans with a healthcare provider to assess the risk of infection and receive advice on mosquito bite avoidance measures.
Customers who are already pregnant should inform their obstetrician or midwife if they have recently travelled to a country where Zika is known to occur.
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.
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)
Cosmetic kit (reduce to minimum)
Sun-blocking lotions +30 and lipstick ointments (important)
Flashlight with extra batteries
Camera extra batteries
The programmes here are flexible and available all year round. Highly recommended to stay 7 nights should you wish to go on a mini trail whilst at the Hacienda which should be arranged in advance.
All year round (closed: 24 Dec - 2 Jan)
|Riding days||Product item description||£|
|2018 weekly||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,285|
|2018 weekly||8d/7n||6||single supplement||349|
|2018 weekly||8d/7n||6||Cloud Forest Mini-Trail, per person||375|
|2018 weekly||8d/7n||6||Cloud Forest Mini-Trail, single supplement||125|
|Riding days||Product item description||€|
|2018 weekly||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,469|
|2018 weekly||8d/7n||6||single supplement||399|
|2018 weekly||8d/7n||6||Cloud Forest Mini-Trail, per person||429|
|2018 weekly||8d/7n||6||Cloud Forest Mini-Trail, single supplement||145|
|Riding days||Product item description||$|
|2018 weekly||8d/7n||6||double pp||1,625|
|2018 weekly||8d/7n||6||single supplement||445|
|2018 weekly||8d/7n||6||Cloud Forest Mini-Trail, per person||475|
|2018 weekly||8d/7n||6||Cloud Forest Mini-Trail, single supplement||159|
|Riding days||Product item description||SEK|
|2018 weekly||8d/7n||6||double pp||15,075|
|2018 weekly||8d/7n||6||single supplement||4,115|
|2018 weekly||8d/7n||6||Cloud Forest Mini-Trail, per person||4,405|
|2018 weekly||8d/7n||6||Cloud Forest Mini-Trail, single supplement||1,469|
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.
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
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
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.