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Volcanoes & Vistas in the Ecuadorian Andes & Cotopaxi National Park

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Country: Ecuador Fly to: Quito (Mariscal)
The riding: Trail ride Pick-up & Transfers: Yes
Duration: 10 nights/11 days/10 riding Hours in the saddle: 5-7 hrs per day
Period: All year Level: Reasonably experienced and fit
Horses: Andalusian, Arab, Criollo, P.Paso Accommodation: haciendas
Riding style: Trail / Gaucho Max.weight: 85-95kg Group: 8 pers

A spectacular journey through the Ecuadorian Andes & Cotopaxi National Park
Special: long canters, gliding condors in the air & visit the famous Otavalo market
Price indication: from € 3.650 (4 pers or more) to € 4.410 (2-3 pers)

A spectaculaire trail ride through the most beautiful part of the Ecuadorian Andes. Stunning landscapes and a varied terrain. We will take you through fascinating valleys and up to the highlands, two very different regions of the Andes. We descend through the clouds and pass tropical fruit trees/bushes and coffee plantations. There are many bird species from tiny hummingbirds to large Andes condors. During the trail ride we will visit the famous Otavalo market, stay overnight at working ranches and comfortable little guesthouses in villages as well as at a remote place along an Inca trading route. The ride starts nearby the glacier covered Cayambe volcano, north of Quito. It follows paths and countryside valleys climbing up through eucalyptus and pine tree forests. Further on towards the north from San Clemente over a ridge into the San Pablo-valley towards Otavalo, home of the market. The second part of the trail ride takes you travelling along a 600 year old trade route to the higher located village of Pinan. From thereon the flora becomes more tropical and we will be riding past bamboo, coffee and passion fruit. Then follows the last part of the trail ride where you will be able to spot wild life, such as condors, eagles, owls, hummingbirds and deer. With some luck even wild horses roaming in the area.

DAY 1 After an early breakfast, guests are met at their hotel in the Mariscal district of Quito by their guide and driver, and leave Quito (7h45), driving north-east to Cayambe Valley (90 minutes); stopping on the equator, 0°00’00” latitude, for a photo opportunity. We meet the horses and, once guests are comfortable with their mounts, we ride onto the Pesillo plains below the magnificent Cayambe Volcano. A route between cultivated fields, with grassy lanes lined with agave plants enabling guests to get used to their horses and tack on easy terrain. There are always two guides (bilingual & local) and we take at least one spare horse in case a guest would like to try a different horse. A good chance of sighting the Andean condor over the next few days. After a picnic lunch, we leave the Cayambe valley – riding over a ridge and down to a working ‘Hacienda’ for overnight. Just 6 rooms in the charming guest house at the farm, in a beautiful location on the Zuleta Valley floor. (3-4 hours riding)

DAY 2 A delicious breakfast before riding into the enchanting pastoral Zuleta Valley, returning to the working hacienda and Andalusian stud in the late afternoon. The ride is varied in pace and terrain – through eucalyptus forests, along dirt tracks, through a gorge and passing a 16th century Hacienda. As always, the ‘chagras’ that work alongside the main guide, are there to look after guests horses as soon as we arrive. Staying in a beautifully converted old building on a farm established in the 1500s, you can enjoy a taste of life on an Ecuadorian working ranch. The dairy herd and Andalusian horses are close to our accommodation, the English-speaking owners are delightful and informative as they open their farm to us and show guests around. Guests can visit the on-site museum of pre-Inca & Inca artefacts excavated at the hacienda. (6 hours; 6 rooms with private bathrooms)

DAY 3 Ride out of the hacienda northwards to a superbly maintained hamlet and on through a different part of the picturesque Zuleta Valley - sculpted at the end of the ice age by retreating glaciers. Then we climb out the valley, stunning views all around, through pine forests onto the slopes of Imbabura. The birdlife is staggering, the area is home to largest finch in the world Yellow Southern Grosbeak (below), and the brilliant Mountain Tanager and, the Vermillion Fly Catcher and the Giant Hummingbird are sighted. Other hummingbird species are regular sights, including the extravagantly-tailed Trainbearer. Another delicious picnic including local fruits and salads along the way allowing both horses and riders to take a break and enjoy the view. Continuing along dirt tracks, cobbles, through woodlands then passing adobe houses, we arrive at charming cottages and comfortable log cabins, home for the night. This is an example of a beautifully managed community project, the local indigenous people are our hosts and, for those that wish, it is an opportunity to learn about the local culture - shamans, Andean calendar & fiestas and also cuisine. Delicious traditional food served at the home of a local family involved in tourism for many years. (6-7 hours)

DAY 4 After a breakfast, including local flatbread cooked in the oven outside the house, we ride out of the hamlet along cobbles and dirt tracks, passing small farms and traversing fields and woodlands - a fascinating insight into local life. Varied paced ride, with the chance of canters along the tracks, often under the nonchalant gaze of tethered hairy pigs. Over a ridge and into the neighbouring valley, with views of the San Pablo lake below as we ride towards Otavalo. Guests may spot may ‘exotic’ plants including fields of lupins & quinoa, passion fruit, mountain papaya & avocadoes. We pass flocks of sheep – the traditionally-dressed shepherdess frequently engrossed in the embroidery for which the area. Arriving at a small hotel full of character in Otavalo for the night, we bid farewell to the horses as we will meet fresh mounts tomorrow. Option for a late afternoon visit to the nearby famous Otavalo market, bursting with vibrant colours, & relaxing on the terraces before dinner and the night. (6-7 hours; rooms with private bathrooms)

DAY 5 From the hotel, we head north-westward across the valley to meet the local criollo horses at Cochapata (60 minutes, very dependent on track conditions) and ride into a remote highland village (7hrs). We leave the farmland a long way behind us - a stunning route into the vast ‘paramo’ with miles of swirling grasslands, with frequent sightings of Condors, caracaras, eagles and huge hawks as well as deer. We ride up to 3600 metres, then descend to a sleepy village at 3300 metres for the night. Overnight at the lodge, in excellent, spacious dormitory rooms. (7 hours; 3 rooms in total with sturdy, spacious, comfortable beds. 2 rooms (3 large, solid bunkbeds & 1 double bed) share a bathroom (separate male and female bathrooms);1 room (2 bunkbeds, 1 double bed) has an en-suite bathroom)

DAY 6 After a hearty breakfast, often with pancakes and always with lots of delicious fresh fruit, a circuit ride taking in the beautiful lake in an idyllic location in the rolling hills. We ride along narrow tracks in use for at least 600 years crossing the grasslands, passing native shrubs and trees draped with vines and filled with bromeliads and orchids. These ancient routes were chronicled by early European explorers as used by coastal folk people coming to the highlands to trade and barter. A snack break at the wide beach by the lake and returning to the lodge for late lunch. The afternoon to relax, visit the fascinating Piñan community established centuries ago on the coast-sierra trading route. The locals are delighted to show us their traditionally built adobe houses and way of life, a unique experience. Return for a second night to the lodge with great views over the river and community. (4-5 hours)  

DAY 7 We ride out of Piñan valley, via a very different route leaving grassy ‘paramo’ heading down into the cloud forest. Although relatively small in size, the Ecuador Cloud Forests are considered the single richest biodiversity hotspot on the planet, containing approximately 15 -17% of the world's plant species and nearly 20% of its bird diversity (below, Black Mandibled Toucan). In sharp contrast to yesterday’s riding, we see tropical fauna and flora such as montane bamboo, coffee trees and passion fruit. We leave the horses, meet a vehicle and after a quick drive arrive at the idyllic Rio Lindo lodge, surrounded by coffee & banana trees. The afternoon to swim in the water hole, take a coffee tour and the chance to roast your own coffee or simply relax in the hammocks, soaking up the extraordinary sounds and sights of this unique environment. A home-cooked dinner of local ingredients, and fall asleep to the sound of the gurgling river and cloud forest noises. (7 hours; Single, twin, double & triple rooms sharing 6 individual showers) IMPORTANT NOTE: In case of wet weather/tracks: guests must be prepared/able to walk downhill, on a steep track for a while (maximum 1 hour). If this may be a problem – please let us know.

DAY 8 After an early breakfast, departure by vehicle. A fascinating drive out of the cloud forest passing passion fruit plantations, and over a pass in the western cordillera then driving south through the central valley. Mid-morning break and arrive for a light lunch just north of Cotopaxi National Park. (5hrs). We meet fresh horses and ride up a valley, along an avenue of native trees, emerging onto plains, with magnificent views of the surrounding volcanoes. We cross pasturelands of a private hacienda – carefully avoiding the fighting bulls that have made this hacienda famous, a chance to speed up as we cross the grasslands (4hrs). Keeping a look out for the Andean condors often sighted here, we cross a river and arrive at an inn full of character, built of adobe and thatch, with stunning views of 5,900m Cotopaxi, south America’s most volatile volcano and other Andean peaks that surround the plain. (4 hours; 2 bedrooms share 1 bathroom, & bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms)  

DAY 9 A faster paced start today (option of a slower ride for those who wish) – lots of long, steady canters across the plains of Cotopaxi National Park. Usually the wild horses join us, an unforgettable experience as these herds gallop across the grasslands alongside us. The topography is fascinating as we approach the magnificent Cotopaxi volcano known to the Incas as Neck of the Moon – moraine, old lava and rock flows, huge boulders catapulted from the volcano – features created by both glacial and volcanic activity. We ride up into the Ruminahui foothills, another great place to spot condors, deer and foxes and affording ever more fantastic views. We ride to a cosy, family-run new country lodge for the night. A wonderful end to the ride at this incredible location, equal distance between 4 great Andean peaks, including Cotopaxi. (HOURS?; Large double/twin rooms with private, en suite bathrooms)  

DAY 10 A hearty breakfast to prepare for a 7 hour ride and ‘the highest canter in the world’. An adventure into the high ‘paramo’ grasslands on this our last day of riding to Sincholagua peak, this route remains an absolute favourite and a magical way to round off the tour. We start with some fast paced riding across the flatlands close to Cotopaxi Volcano then the pace steadies as we climb up to 4000metres in the Sincholagua foothills (luckily the horses are doing all the work). The highest canter in the world is truly exhilarating as we cross the undulating hills covered in high grasses following narrow tracks known by few and used only by the ‘chagras’. Leaving the open expanses and descending into the cultivated areas, we say goodbye to the horses and are driven back to Quito for overnight.(7 hours (dinner not included tonight, you can dine at the hotel or we can make restaurant recommendations).(Guests can be taken to a hotel near Quito airport, extra charge may apply).

DAY 11 Departure
After breakfast our services for this ride end.
We can arrange other trips/visits for guests, colonial Quito city tours, airport transfers etc

Tour route dependent on weather conditions – if adverse weather conditions prevail, we may change the route. We do have a lot excellent options.

The horses/the riding
Local criollo bred crossed with Andalusian, Arab, Thoroughbred, Peruvian Paso – ideally suited to the terrain. Because the terrain is varied, so is our pace. You will ride on hardend old lava streams, sprinkled with rocks from the volcano and where only moss grows. We will cross rivers of melting water. Some days following old Inca routes and passing little houses of very friendly locals. You will see children herding sheep, pigs and donkeys. You will need to be an experienced rider who can control your horse in open and sometimes difficult terrain. There will be steep slopes and riding at a high altitude with thin air and long hours in the saddle will demand some fitness from you. There will always be at least one extra horse coming along, should you need or wish to change horse. Nevertheless, should you weigh over 85kg an extra horse is required at an additional supplement. The very maximum weight is 100 kg. Sally, your host trains the horses and guides most rides herself.

Equipment/tack
Please let us know if you have a preference to English or Western style riding. ‘McClellan’ style saddles are used with sheepskin seats (easy to ride either ‘western’ or ‘English’ style), horses used to neck reining and/or English style ‘2 hands’. English saddles on some horses. Ponchos (wool & rain) and saddlebags for each rider. Towel and sleeping bags are NOT needed.

Grooms: will be present to help guests with the horses. Guests are not expected to care for, nor tack and untack their horses.

The guides
There are always two guides (bilingual and local). They are experienced, know the horses and the terrain. Other than that there are always grooms riding along and taking care of the horses. You needn't brush or saddle yourself, the grooms will do this for you.

Your host: Sally Vergette
Sally started her riding yours in Ecuador in 1966. She currently owns 16 horses and trains most of them herself. She still guides a large majority of the tours. Her goas is to offer spectacular rides journeying through magnificent scenery in the company of local horsemen; on healthy, happy, suitable horses.  She also offers special itineraries for inexperienced/beginner riders.

Prices Volcanoes & Vistas 2020
Per person based on a shared room
Four or more riders  US$ 3.950 or € 3.650
Two to three riders   US$ 4.770 or € 4.410
Single supplement  US$ 495 or € 458
Weight supplement >85kg US$ 350 or € 323

Arrangement
on a basis of full board (breakfast/lunch/dinner, starting from lunch on day 1 and including breakfast on day 11) with 10 nights accommodation in a shared twin room, all necessary transfers by car during the trail ride, all entry fees for the national parks, horse and reserve horse, first aid, sheepskin on the saddle, saddlebag, poncho & water bottle, all local taxes, English speaking guide, grooms, transfers to/from Quito airport. Excluding flights, dinner on day 10, drinks at the lodges/hotels/guesthouses, personal expenditures (laundry, phone), travel-/cancellation insurances and tips.

Data Volcanoes and Vistas 2020
26 February-7 March
1-11 July
22 July - 1 August
1-11 August
19-29 September
21 November-1 December
23 December 2020-2 January 2021

Location
This horse trail ride takes place in the remote valleys of the northern highlands of the neighbouring Cotopaxi National Park.

Fly to Quito
You can book your flights yourself or leave it to us. We advise you to wait with booking flights until we have confirmed your horse riding holiday. It is advisable to fly in to Quito a few days earlier so you can acclimatise as you will be a a high level with thin air.

Pick-up & Transfer
You will be awaited at the international Airport of Quito (Mariscal area) and drive to your hotel in Quito.

Accommodation
You will stay 10 nights in a double/twin bedded room, varying per guesthouse, with and sometimes without a private bathroom.
Night 1 at La Finca, small farm with three guest rooms and shared bathrooms. If the group size is larger, you will overnight at Hacienda La Merced instead.
Night 2 at Hacienda La Merced, a working farm in the Zuleta valley. Rooms with own bathrooms.
Night 3 at San Clemente, a guesthouse owned by a local family.
Night 4 at Casa Sol in Peguche, nearby Otavalo.
Night 5 at a remote inn with three dormitory rooms/beds and shared bathrooms.
Night 6 again
Night 7 at Rio Lindo, a small lodge on a coffee plantation. Rooms with shared bathrooms.
Night 8 at Chilcabamba Mountain Inn, single, twin& double rooms, a bathroom per two rooms.
Night 9 at Hacienda Los Mortiños, in Cotopaxi National Park, single, twin & double rooms with en-suite bathrooms.
Night 10 at a comfortable hotel in Quito with en-suite rooms.

Culinary
A warm and hearty breakfast, varied picknicks on the way with hot drinks, dinners are three course. Snacks and water during the trail. Fizzy drinks and alcoholic drinks are available at the hacienda's in the evenings at an additional cost.

Weather/climate
Normally it is dry fromj June until the end of September. From November until mid March you may count on sunny mornings, but it can rain somewhat in the afternoons. Ecuador has several climate zones. In the higher regions the temperatures are between the 5 and 20 degrees. In the lower regions approx. 30 degrees. On the Galapagos islands (should you extend you trip) temperatures are between 20 and 30 degrees.

Language
Spanish is the official language in Ecuador. Your host&guide Sally is English and most guides speak English.

Extenstion at La Finca
It is possible to book extra nights/days at La Finca where the horses are stabled and go out for rides in the area. La Finca is a guesthouse with three bedrooms and located in the lovely valley beneath the Cayambe volcano and at only 75 minutes drive from Quito airport.

Quito City Tour
Should you wish to stay a few days in Quito we can organise a City Tour for you. You will be picked up at your hotel in Quito by a Dutch guide (ex KLM stewardess who married an Ecuadorian Tour Operator and now together run their business, she by the ways also rides). The tour includes a visit tot the Virgin Mary monument on Panecillo hill, the La Basilica church, the large squares and the San Fransisco convent, a local lunch, visit to the Inti Nan equator museum, Pululahua's crater and back to your hotel. Price approx. € 70. You may prefer to explore Quito on your own and take the cabel car up to Pichincha or - on a Monday at 11:00 am - watch the President of Ecuador on the balcony of his presidential palace at the Plaza de la Independencia.

Day tour to Papallacta
The hot springs of Papallacta will surely make your muscles relax after riding in the Andes. With a pick-up from your hotel in Quito and a drive through the mountains by car to 4.00 meters height, you can hike 1,5 hours to the Paramo-area where there are bears and many birds. After the walk your legs will rest in the volcanic mineral baths. It is also possible to get facials, massages and aroma therapy (additional cost). Lunch at a local restaurant and back to Quito to visit a local market.
Price approx. € 70.

Travel documents
Depending on which nationality you have, we will advise you on your required travel documents.
Often a passport needs to be valid for at least another 6 months upon arrival in Ecuador.
A visum usually is not required if you stay shorter than 90 days, but this does depend on your nationality.

Rider weight: Rider weight limit 85kg. We can occasionally, by prior agreement, accept riders 85-95Kg but a supplement is applied for second horse.

Riding ability: intermediate and above – able to canter in open spaces and also be prepared to ride on steep slopes and tricky terrain. Guests need to be riding fit – long days in the saddle with some tough riding. At various points guests may be leading their horses (but not normally over long distances). Please consult with us if you have any doubts.

Group size: maximum 8, no minimum (price may vary depending on group size). Available as a private ride.

Acclimatisation
It is important that riders are acclimatised before the ride. As all the rides are now scheduled to start at 2800 metres (same altitude as Quito) then we recommend at least 24 hours in Quito/at same altitude as Quito prior to day 1 of the tour. Please note that the Quito airport hotels are several hundred metres lower than Quito. Guests rarely experience problems but please note that the ride takes place above 3000 metres, and sometimes we ride at around and even above 4000 metres (up to 4250m), sleeping at lower altitudes than 4000 metres but often above 3500m. Guests must seek medical advice if they have any doubt as to whether they are able to be at these altitudes.

What to bring
Your own helmet, riding pants, short boots, chaps, gloves, belt, hip bag, scarf, sunglasses, hat, socks, slippers, sneakers, sweater/fleece, lightweight raincoat, smartphone & charger, perhaps powerbank, torch, medicine, sweets.

Booking
We can request availability for you and ask for a provisional booking.
Upon reservation a deposit of 20% is required.
The remaining amount may be paid 10 weeks before departure.
The partner abroad always determines the price, so you will always get the same price (or better if you are entitled to a discount as e.g. if you are a KNHS-member or Paardenpas-loyal friend).

Reservation form/booking form

You will receive a personal travel itinerary with all relevant information about your horse riding holiday including flights, arrival, pick-up & transfers, hosts, guides, instructors, horses, accommodation, insurances, health, program, documents etc.

Tel: +31(0)6-47310175 | E-mail: patricia@paardenpas.nl | Offerte-aanvraag |