riding through water
Poncho and saddlebags
Riding through cloud
Lush terrain
quick drink
Vast expanses
Good friends
Ascending the mountains
Surrounded by mountains
Break time!
Setting up camp

Visit the Andean country of Ecuador as personal guests of the owners of a large working hacienda. The Neumann's and their family have explored most of the Andes mountains on horseback themselves and are therefore some of the best guides in the area to show you this spectacular mountain range, accompanying you on this adventurous pack trip into the heart of the Andes Mountains. You follow remote valleys and ride over high passes until you reach the isolated and pristine Lake Pinan. 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. You start and finish your trek at an historical old hacienda and can visit the various production areas of the hacienda, from ultra modern flowers for export to traditional milking cows and vegetable crops. The horses are all very fit due to their background in endurance riding; there is a horse for everyone from purebred arabs to quarter horses and criollos. They are all extremely surefooted and accustomed to trail riding.

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 GK of Mirfield on 13/05/2010

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     (X) Excellent     (   ) 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
I was treated as one of the family
Horses and Tack
Condition of Horses     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Condition of Tack     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Performance of Horses     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Additional Comments

Meal Quantity     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Meal Quality     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Meal Punctuality     (   ) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Camping Equipment     (   ) Excellent     (   ) Good     (X) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Hotels/Lodges/Inns     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Hygiene standards     (   ) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor
Transfer arrangements     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Other office staff     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Other ride staff     (X) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) Fair     (   ) Poor     (   ) N/A
Weather     (   ) Excellent     (   ) Good     (   ) 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?     (   ) NO     (   ) YES
Please give more details to explain your response:

What could we do to improve this ride?

How would you rate the difficulty of this ride out of 10 where 1 is very easy and 10 is very advanced?
Please explain why you scored it as you did:
A challenging adventurous ride
Would you recommend Unicorn Trails to your friends?
    (   ) NO     (X) YES
Please give more details to explain your response:
Without hesitation
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 Mariscal Sucre Airport, Quito to the Hacienda. The Hacienda is situated 20 minute’s 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 8.30am. We meet the horses, prepare the luggage and equipment for our journey to Piñan. Explanation of the journey. Lunch at the Hacienda. In the afternoon we visit the old part of the hacienda, typical of the colonial era and over 100 years old. We also tour our horse stables. Alternatively those feeling tired from the altitude can rest and enjoy the peace. Dinner is at 7:30pm.

Day 3
After an early breakfast we will transfer to San Blas in the Imbabura province. This will take approximately two hours and during the trip we will be able to see the majestic Cayambe volcano, 17,000 feet (5,830 metres) above sea level, the Imbabura volcano (14,000 feet) and the Co

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

Riders wanting to do the trail to Lake Piñan should be comfortable at a walk, trot and canter and riding fit with an adventurous attitude. The riding is at all paces where posible and pace is dictated by the terrain.

There is a weight limit of 90kg / 198lb / 14 stone on this ride an upper age limit of 70 years. Quito is at an altitude of 2800m and the start point of the ride is at 2000m – bear in mind 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, a veranda to enjoy the views and tranquillity of the valley, 2 rooms with own shower/toilet en-suite. Twin or double beds. There is electricity but no TV or phones are available in the cabins. WiFi is available in the cabins.

Camping on the Lake Piñan trail consists of 2 or 4 person dome tents with sleeping mats, basic facilities with washing in rivers and streams. Sleeping bags can be borrowed with advance notice. There is also an option to stay for 1 night in a comfortable cabin in Pinan which was built by the community for travellers. The Nangulvi cabins at the end have comfortable rooms 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 except on the trail. 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,
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. 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

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

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.


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 only. Film and batteries are widely available for sale in Quito or Otovalo before or after the trek. While camping there will be no electricity available, take spare batteries nad film for this portion.

Packing List

You need a riding helmet or a 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
Warm jacket + waterproofs
Long-sleeved shirts
Insect repellant
Sleeping bag - can be borrowed with advance notice.


This is an 8 day/7 night programme with riding on 4 days. This is an adventurous week long pack trip to Lake Piñan in the heart of the Andes Mountains. All equipment is carried on the horses and the camping en route is basic. Stays at the hacienda before or after the trek can be tailor made to your requirements.

Departure Dates

Please enquire

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

This ride is not suitable for non-riders. Non-riders can stay at the Hacienda where there are plenty of other excursions to keep them 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.



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

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.

If you can't ready speak a little Spanish it is advisable to learn a few words or take along a phrase book with you as, although the hosts can speak English, this can sometimes be a small barrier which is very easily overcome.

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)
Included from meeting point
Flight Guide:
London - Quito return £650 - £900. See below for flight info