Cotopaxi and Quilotoa

Highlands Riding Tours Ecuador: (IT-ECRT10)

Highlands Riding Tours Ecuador
Ride through volcanoes, valleys, forest, and pre-Inca sites with comfortable overnights traditional Highland Haciendas!

- select special dates also include Horse- and Cattle-Round-up

Come experience the stunning beauty of the Ecuadorian Andes on horseback! Each morning will bring us new experiences and a chance to contemplate the unique beauty of the impressive mountain range and valleys on the region. Friendly “chagras”, the local Ecuadorian horsemen, often pause from their work to greet you, to exchange local news, or some will even offer a drink as they wish you luck on your travels.

This ride incorporates visits to the Corazon, Ruminahui, Quilindana, and Chalupas volcanoes, and, of course, you will see the majestic Cotopaxi volcano from as many different angles as possible throughout our journey. The only form of transportation during your trek will be your horse. They will be your partner and friend throughout this authentic adventure. Our itinerary incorporates trips through dozens of authentic working haciendas dedicated to the production of regional dairy products, potatoes, broccoli and flowers. Around the cozy fireplace of each hacienda we will reminisce about the day's events and discuss local traditions of the culture here, especially those related to the chagras.

We enjoy a special relationship with chagras, participating with them in rodeos and festivals and visiting them in their homes each month, and so we want to share this closeness with you, our guests. You will come to appreciate the tradition and customs of them, in their goat skin chaps and woolen ponchos, they welcome tourists to demonstrate their centuries old tradition of herding cattle. The chagras' skill on horseback and knowledge of the Andean paramo are legendary. They are the true inspiration for our trek, framed by ancient volcanoes, highland plateaus and rivers that flow down the massive Andes towards the Amazon and the Pacific. During these first days we shall venture to nearby mountains like Viudita and Corazon. This will be your taste of the paramo, an Andean ecosystem that encompasses approximately 12,500 square kilometres. Rolling hills of high altitude grasses, through little flowers that protect themselves from the cold with furry leaves, ravines that create micro climates that sprout a surprising variety of life; it is a wondrous place for both new and experienced visitors. Then we shall visit the colourful animal and produce market of Machachi and later we will ride through the narrow cloud forest paths, surrounded by literally thousands of plants and animal species. One can't help but be amazed by the sheer biodiversity of this area. Many riders have exhausted their cameras' memory chips and batteries in an attempt to record the endless and amazing sights. Then we shall start towards mighty Cotopaxi - the tallest active volcano in the world (5987 m), Cotopaxi's impressively symmetric cone will guide us past its surrounding hills. We will ride past the masive rocks of Ruminahui into the plains near Cotopaxi and then onto the Inca ruins of Salitre and their Pucara fortresses. We also ride towards Quilindana 4000m (13,123ft) and the extensive haciendas that surround it. In some haciendas, cattle roam free and are only rounded up and counted once a year at a massive rodeo. These same grasslands are home to Andean deer, spectacled bears, Andean fox and pumas, as well as a variety of birds like the curiquingeu (cara-cara), the kilico (falcon), the guarro (eagle), chugshi (owl), bandurrias (black ibis), urco paloma (sea gull), ducks and the majestic condor.  In warmer ravines you'll also see colorful hummingbirds sipping nectar from a multitude of flowers.

On this trip you will experience a diversity of geography and weather. Be prepared for a period of intense equatorial sun followed by the chill of the Andes' wind - all within the space of a few hours. The locals say that the highlands experience all four seasons within the same day. As we ride though the paramos, you will see the great alpaca and llama herds that roam at this altitude. The shaggy coats which protect them from the harsh elements of mountain life are also the key ingredient to a great sweater or poncho. Seeing these herds gallop together with Cotopaxi in the background is a truly amazing experience! We cross extensive properties, some with more than 40,000 acres, and with our sturdy and well trained horses we climb to altitudes exceeding 12000 feet (4000m) and ride down to hidden valleys like Pedregal, Limpiopungo, Yanachiza, Chalupas, Guagui and Secas where we will be able to experience the exhilaration of full out gallops at high altitudes. It is in these valleys of Machachi where men, shaped by the land, together with their horses, have tamed the wild bulls and produced the culture of the paramo, a world apart. Long after our return to the our home base hacienda and the end of our journey comes to an end, the memories of this rugged but beautiful world will linger for a lifetime.


This is a progressive ride where nights are spent in different locations. 

Hacienda Alegria has very nice and comfortable accommodations. The accommodations along the way are more basic, but all authentic and comfortable. There are 2 people per room with private showers in every accommodation. There is access to free Wi-Fi almost everywhere (except when camping) and laundry services are available at Hacienda La Alegria for a small gratuity.

Accommodation Itinerary - subject to changes based on availability
Nights 1 & 2: Hacienda La Alegria
Night  3: Hacienda Bomboli
Night  4: Hacienda La Alegria
Night  5: Lodge Tambopaxi in Cotopaxi National Park
Night  6:  Camping at Hacienda Pansache
Night  7: Hacienda La Cienega
Night  8: Hacienda San Gabriel (part of Hacienda San Jose) in Sigchos
Night  9: Samay Kirutoa Lodge at Quilotoa crater
Night 10: Lodge at Insilivi 
Night 11: Hacienda La Alegria

Hacienda La Alegria
The Hacienda was built in 1910 in Franco Italian Style and has been renovated and restored. It is made out of adobe and stones and its walls are over 80 cm thick! It is nestled amidst lush surroundings in the typical fertile and green farmland of the Ecuadorian inter Andean plain at an altitude of 2880m (9449 ft).
The Hacienda is a family-run organic farm and the hospitality of the Espinosa household is remarked upon by visors 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.
The farm 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. Split-level family rooms sleep five comfortably. Wi-fi internet is available at this property.

Hacienda Bomboli
This property offers basic accommodation for up to 16 guests. It is set in a beautiful rainforest and each room has its own bathroom with hot water. Due to its remote location, cell phone service is very limited and there is no electricity. The house is kept warm and lit with fireplaces and candles and your hosts even puts a warm water bottle in your bed before you go to sleep.

Lodge Tambopaxi in Cotopaxi National Park
This newly constructed mountain lodge recreates the traditional building style of the paramo houses in order to reduce their impact on the environment.
There are 6 bedrooms, each equipped with a private bathroom with hot water, an individual heating system an warm eiderdown.
WiFi is available in all areas and is free of charge. Laundry service is available for a surcharge.

Camping ground of Hacienda Pansache in Cotopaxi National Park
While camping, you will be sleeping in 2 or 4 person tents. We provide you with a Thermarest inflating mattress and sleeping bag.

Hacienda La Cienega near Tanicuchi
This hacienda is over 400 years old, making it one of the oldest colonial haciendas in Ecuador. It has kept its original architecture and charm but the interior was renovated in order to accommodate guests. Each of the spacious bedroom comes with ensuite facilities and a heater. Free Wi-Fi access is available in common areas.

Hacienda San Gabriel (part of Hacienda San Jose) in Sigchos
The accommodation features simple rooms with a variety of arrangements (single, double, twin, triple or quadruple). Facilities include free Wi-Fi access and an indoor swimming pool.

Samay Kirutoa Lodge at Quilotoa crater
This lodge offers comfortable accommodations with spectacular mountain views. There are only 7 rooms and each are simply decorated with respect to the surroundings. There is a garden where guests can relax and free Wi-Fi internet is also available.

Llullullama Lodge at Insilivi
This Eco Lodge offers cozy accommodation in the heart of the Ecuadorian Andes. It is housed in an old farmhouse that has been renovated with respect to the environment. The Lodge offers a wide variety of rooms, each simply decorated with local artifacts. There are common areas with fireplaces as well as a terrace offering beautiful mountain views, where guests can relax and chat with fellow travelers. There is no internet at this property.

Room Occupancy
Single supplement is mandatory is we cannot find another rider to share.

All meals are included from lunch on Day 1 to breakfast on Day 12.

Meals are featuring delicious, gourmet international and Ecuadorian food. You will never go hungry with 3-4 courses offered per meal. Soups are a specialty in the highlands that we will use to warm our bodies after a good ride. Main courses can be chicken, pork, beef, trout, tilapia, pasta and more. Don't forget to save room for dessert!

This trip includes some wine/ beer with dinner.

Dietary Restrictions
We can cater to most dietary restrictions with prior notice.

This trip includes some wine with dinner.



Our horses are very important to us. We have more than 35 riding-horses as well as about 30 mares and foals. Most have been bred here 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”. Beginners and experienced riders alike have found them easy to ride, willing and good mannered.
We are happy to follow the Natural Horsemanship principles when training our horses.

There is a range of tack including North American style, English style, McClellan cavalry, Chilean and traditional Ecuadorian "Chagra" style with its intricate leatherwork and saddle horn.

Your host Gabriel comes from a family steeped in equestrian tradition. His grandfather bred racing horses close to Quito and his father, was a keen polo player.
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. We are proud to share that Gabriel was recently nominated as MAESTRO GUIA ECUESTRE -- there are currently only 3 in the world with this title.


Sample Itinerary - subject to changes

Day 1: Arrival
Depending on your arrival time you can have a short ride at the hacienda, dinner included.
Meals included: Dinner
Overnight at Hacienda Alegria

Day 2: Introductory Ride
Ride in the arena and try horses to get acquainted with the horse, tack that we will be using the next days, we ride around the neighboring Haciendas at the west Andes. Our first contact with the heights starts this first day. Lunch at the Hacienda, visit the milking barn, the aging cheese cave, and at the end of this interesting day enjoy the hot tub and fireplace. 
Riding: 4 hours
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Overnight at Hacienda la Alegria    

Day 3: Ride to Bomboli
Crossing extensive pastures and eucalyptus forests, we will have a nice view of the “Volcanoe Avenue”. From there we can appreciate the green and fertile Machachi Valley and we can also see the routes we will take the next day at the east mountain chain. We will ascend the Corazon volcano up to 4,000 meters and descend through the Cloud forest reserve.
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. In the afternoon we arrive to Hacienda Bomboli at 3,000 m and relax by the fireplace enjoying the sunset and see the lights of the villages near the coast. We will arrive at tea time, then enjoy a delicious dinner.
Riding: 4 hours
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Overnight at
Hacienda Bomboli  

Day 4: Back to Hacienda La Alegria
In the morning we will walk at the Hacienda’s gardens and learn and see an incredible variety of the most beautiful orchids and cloud forest plants.
We ride up hill admiring the forest and the hundreds of flowers and plants. We will use the old road that was built in 1873 to connect Quito with the coast.
Arrive to Hacienda la Alegria for lunch, relax and enjoy the hot tub and the fireplace. 
Riding: 6 hours
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Overnight at Hacienda la Alegria  

Day 5: Ride to Cotopaxi
We start our ride toward the green Machachi valley as always guarded by the volcanoes avenue. We cross the Machachi plaza where horsemen are always welcomed. Then, we ride west towards Ruminahui to the highest point of our ride (4,250 m) on the edges of the rocks of the Ruminahui Volcano. 
Riding: 5+ hours
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Overnight at Tambopaxi Lodge

Day 6: Cotopaxi Volcano Ride
We ride around the Cotopaxi Volcano and make our way towards Hacienda Pansache. We ride in close proximity to Berber wild horse herds that live in the park who are descendants of the horses brought by the Spanish in the 16th century.
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Overnight camping near Hacienda Pansache

Day 7: Pansache to La Cienega
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Overnight at Hacienda La Cienega

Day 8: Ride to Sigchos
Today will be a long journey on the saddle. We will be transferred by car to Planchaloma. We will ride by the Inca trail and dirt roads and paths that takes us to Sigchos, the village that was known as the “last home” of the Inca general Ruminahui. From this day on we will ride through a dramatic landscape, including steep ravines and narrow passages.
Even though we can visualize where we are heading and it looks near, we will have to cross many mountain chains to get there. This area is a combination of forest, rock peaks and eroded land from the last centuries.
We will arrive at the Hacienda San Jose, a working dairy farm and guest house in time for a good meal, Jacuzzi, sauna, and a comfortable night.
Our horses will  have lush fields of fresh grass. 
Riding: 8 hours
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Overnight at Hacienda San Jose

Day 9: Sigchos to Quilotoa
After breakfast we head south to the  Quilotoa crater lake. The trail goes by the highest mountain heading west they call the cloud forest and there is some dairy cattle and a couple of cheese makers. As we descend to the canyon, the environment becomes arid. The soil is composed by pumice from the Quilotoa volcano that erupted 1,280 years ago.
In the afternoon we will arrive to the Quilotoa volcano summit at 3,800 meters above sea level, where our hostel is awaiting. At the edge of the volcano we will enjoy and amazing view of the breathtaking Quilotoa crater lake.
Quilotoa is a crater lake caldera and the most western volcano in the Ecuadorian Andes. The 3 kilometer wide caldera was formed by the collapse of this dacite volcano following a eruption.
Riding: 8 hours
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Overnight at Quilotoa hostel, next to the crater lake

Day 10: Quilotoa to Insilivi
In the morning, we will take a small walk to take the last photos of the incredible view of the crater lake. We will then start our ride downhill the volcano by a beautiful old path. It will take us half a day to descend the Canyon, crossing a few villages that make us remind old pictures as The Good the Bad and Ugly.
Volcano pumice and dry soil makes hard and poor area for agriculture, thus, only a few people lives in this region.
The ride continues through several hills, arriving to a small village called Insilivi founded in 1857. Here we will find our hostel for the night. which was started by an entrepreneur from the UK 16 years ago, and is now owned by a Dutch couple.
Riding: 4 hours
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Overnight at Hostal at Insilivi   

Day 11: Insilivi to Planchaloma
The last day riding in the region is by several narrow old paths ascending to the high Andes paramo. From here, it is possible to admire the nice scenery from one valley to another.
The transition from paramo to eroded land offers a change in mountain scenery and colors. At a distance, we will see the Eastern Mountain Chain. We will make our way back to Hacienda Alegria.
Riding: 6 hours
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
Overnight at Hacienda la Alegria

Day 12: Departure
Breakfast and finish our services. Transfer to airport.
Meals included: Breakfast

Rates and Dates for Cotopaxi and Quilotoa

Rates include:

Accommodations, All meals including wine/ beer with dinner on some nights & 10 riding days with bilingual guide (English, Spanish).
Wool ponchos, rain ponchos, chaps, saddle bag and helmets are provided - let us know in advance if you would like to borrow one of these items
All camping equipment is provided including inflating mattress and sleeping bag

Packages and Options

  • SeasonYearDescription US$
    202012 days, AP - 10-day ride$3400

* prices are per person based on double/twin occupancy

Transfer and Other Charges:

2020 Transfer from Quito w/ return (1 - 4 passengers) per car
This is a "Group Rate" - to be paid locally
2020 Extra day with meals and riding at the hacienda, dbl, pp $220
2020 Extra night (B&B- no riding) $75
2020 Small group supplement (2 pax only), pp $150
2020 Single supplement, where applicable $150

Season Tour Dates  Min / MaxReserve
A 2020 10/30 - 11/10 12d / 11n 12 days, AP - 10-day ride 4 /12 Expired

Dates Note: ** Quilotoa Ride is possible to book all year -- please inquire for availability

Rates do not include:

Departure tax, Transfers ferom/to Quito, Insurance & Gratuities

Other Info
Meeting: Quito Airport or Hotel
Airport: Quito
Transfer: Quito

                                            Sigchos‎‎ area














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Source: NOAA

The temperatures in the Ecuadorian highlands are normally in the 70s and 80s F (20-25 C) all year. However, please note that mornings and evenings can still become very cold! 
Day temperatures can vary considerably in the mountains (65º F during the daytime, 40º F at night). Average temperatures will range in 50’s.
Temperatures in Cotopaxi National Park and the surrounding region vary little throughout the year. The average daytime temperature is 45° F (7°C). Seasonal variations and night-time temperatures range between freezing 32°F (90°C) and 68°F (20° C).

Visitors are recommended to bring several layers of clothes including a warm sweater and protective rain-wind jacket, hat and gloves.
The rainy seasons run between January and May and October and November. The main dry season of June to September though the strong winds are known to occur. December also has a short dry season and the time around Christmas is normally considered the best weather of the year.

What To Bring:
Our partner can supply: wool ponchos, rain ponchos, rubber boots, full chaps, horse bag, and helmets. For camping equipment they can supply sleeping mats and sleeping bags- although they highly recommend you bring your own as theirs are more worn out. Please let us know if you'd like to borrow any of these items.


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 runner boots (if your shoe size is 9.5 US or less, boots are available at Hacienda La Alegria).

Camping Equipment:
-10 degree C rated sleeping bag
At request we can provide the sleeping bag and sleeping mat, but recommend you bring your own for quality.

Cosmetic kit (reduce to minimum)
Sunblock +30 and lipstick ointments (important)
Flashlight with extra batteries
Camera extra batteries

There is no set weight limit for your luggage as it will be transferred by car. 

…  this list is only a guideline for you


Hidden Trails Travel Documents and TripVoucher (contains important local tour contact info.)

Flight tickets


Visa (check with your consulate)



Riding pants or Jodhpurs (used if possible!)

Riding boots (short) + Minichaps

Riding helmet  (recommended for all trips)

Riding gloves

Hat (with chin strap) for sun protection

Lightweight Rain coat



Jacket or sweater for cool evenings

Comfortable T-Shirts/Shirts



Underwear and socks


Bag for dirty clothes

Trekking boots/ comfortable shoes



For Camping trips:

Sleeping Bag

Ground Mat (Thermarest or foam mattress)

Towel and small bar of soap



Personal Toiletries

Insect protection

Personal medications

Sore cream (for an emergency)

Sewing kit

Torch/ Flashlight

Adapter for electric appliances

Camera and extra film or batteries

Belt pack

Address book and pen (for postcards!)

Sun glasses with strap

Sun protection lotion and lip balm