In the awe-inspiring landscapes of the Ecuadorian highlands you can discover the rustic charm of Andean haciendas filled with Spanish colonial history and natural splendor. Yet, a closer look will reveal that these one-time mountain hacienda/hotels have been converted into stylish boutique hideaways.
These chic oases retain their wood and brick rooms, working fireplaces, antique beds and warm blankets; however, all of this has been complemented with all the amenities and creature comforts you might find in any big-city hotel. In any case, brisk evenings give way to brilliant sierra sunrises with delicious breakfasts and singing birds, followed by activities that range from horseback riding and hiking to exhilarating white water rafting.
The following are just five of the best of these luxury haciendas in the Ecuadorian highlands.
Hacienda Manteles, Patate, Ecuador
The unique name of this hacienda/hotel (meaning “tablecloths” in Spanish) refers to the surrounding hills and fields, which from a distance form the image of table coverings of differing shades of green.
Built in 1965, the Manteles Hacienda is located in the center of Ecuadorian “Sierra” (highlands), which is strategic because of its proximity to several regional tourist attractions, including the resort-town of Banos, two national parks, a traditional indigenous-run market, and the mysterious Amazonian rainforest.
The interior of this hacienda/hotel has been completely remodeled, with all of its 16 rooms provided with private bathrooms, steaming hot water, Wi-Fi and panoramic views of the region. Surrounded by gardens, the hacienda also allows a direct view of the still active Tungurahua Volcano.
Besides the main house, the hacienda has a family home with four bedrooms that share a central hall. There, travelers can relax in the warmth of a fireplace or step outside to enjoy the terrace.
Hearty breakfasts at Hacienda Manteles are another reason to come to this serene and appealing retreat in the Ecuadorian Andes. Every morning, travelers can start the day with pancakes, eggs, fruit juice and homemade bread. The dishes here are prepared with organic ingredients harvested from the hacienda’s gardens and served in its restaurant, which has also maintained its original style.
This luxurious yet authentic hacienda is the perfect place to unwind and get away from city life. However, if you want more activities, you can take part in walks to nearby waterfalls, participate in farm tours or walks to nearby cities like Banos or Riobamba. In addition, you can take cooking classes or go bird watching, horseback riding, camping and even do some ziplining (thanks to a cable system that crosses a gorge on the hacienda).
The Manteles is built in a valley that was once home to the Panzaleo civilization. Therefore, it is not uncommon for visitors taking tours of the area to find archaeological remnants on the grounds. Several of these are on display in the social areas of the hacienda.
In short, Manteles Hacienda is the ideal place to relax, as it provides a comfortable stay and contact with nature in the middle of an Andean cloud forest.
Hacienda Zuleta, Zuleta, Ecuador
Situated at an altitude of 1.8 miles above sea level (2,900 meters), and located only two hours from Quito, the Zuleta Hacienda dates back to the late 17th century.
Its history is linked to a former president of Ecuador, whose descendants still own this traditional hacienda that is accessed through a beautiful eucalyptus bordered roadway.
The hacienda is located on land that has become an organic farm, which is the principal supplier of the dishes served at the on-site restaurant. Completing the setting of this ranch is the famous Zuleta cheese factory and the warm and luxurious interiors of this hacienda/hotel.
If your intention is to learn about rural life at Zuleta, then you can participate in harvesting crops, milking cows, meeting people from the community, learning how cheese is made, or going horseback riding or mountain biking. You can also visit the Huasi Condor Project, which is working to repopulate the Andean condor.
The rooms of the hacienda are rustic yet comfortable. Each one features a fireplace and Wi-Fi, in addition to parquet floors, sloped ceilings, elegant furnishings and appointments, as well as a private bathroom to guarantee guests’ comfort.
In the dining room, guests will find a cozy and elegant ambiance. La Hacienda Zuleta has been recognized for its personalized service in a tranquil and comfortable environment.
Moreover, there is an additional feature that makes this hacienda a special place. Born on the grounds of this hacienda was the Galo Plaza Lasso Foundation, which runs social development initiatives in the interest of the local community. An embroidery project that involves women from the community and an organized effort to maintain the condors are two of these efforts. The foundation also supports schools, community libraries, an archaeological project and a volunteer program in schools.
All this makes the Hacienda Zuleta a special place that combines the comfort of a good stay with a social mission that leaves its mark on the community.
Hacienda La Mirage, Cotacachi, Ecuador
Nestled in a stunning Andean landscape, just an hour from Quito’s new international airport, this 200-year-old hacienda has been transformed into a chic oasis where guests are met with delicious food, elegant surroundings and irresistible hospitality.
One of the most elegant and prestigious hotels in Ecuador, La Mirage is the only member of the Relais & Chateauxen chain in this country.
The La Mirage Garden Hotel & Spa is a perfect blend of tradition and classicism. Antique furniture, crystal chandeliers, high ceilings, spacious seating areas, and fresh flowers give each room a warm touch as every detail is seen to.
Each of the hotel’s 23 rooms and suites, in addition to its four-guest family suite, is arranged differently, though each has a fireplace, separate social area, telephone, internet access, cable TV and a private bathroom.
Then too, the fine cuisine served at The Mirage is one of its unquestionable strengths. Dining under the stained-glass ceiling of its exquisite restaurant, guests can revel in sumptuous gourmet specialties, with dishes like fresh quail and turkey baked golden over open fire.
On the grounds of the hotel is a water lily covered pond, as well as beautiful gardens with unique flowers. Other features include a Jacuzzi, a lounge, a pool and a spa area where 11 types of treatments are provided.
The La Mirage Hotel-Spa is located near the town of Cotacachi, famous for its leather goods and American expats, though guests can also visit the Otavalo market – the largest, most colorful and most important of the country’s traditional, indigenous-run markets.
Hacienda Chillo Jijon, Pichincha, Ecuador
Arguably, guests are privileged when staying in this old farmhouse, converted into an exclusive hotel. It is not an exaggeration, if one thinks that only 20 people can stay at the ago-old hacienda that was built in 1730.
Hacienda Chillo Jijon has always been owned by the same family, which just recently decided to open it up to small groups – always by reservation – and give them warm attention, personalized service and guaranteed comfort.
The farm is located in the Valley of the Chillos, a 30-minute drive from the capital city of Quito. The hacienda/hotel has ten very exclusive and comfortable suites, and welcomes guests in all inclusive. Each of the suites has a comfortable yet luxurious decor with canopy beds, colonial art, antiques and fine furnishings. They also have fireplaces and private bathrooms.
The tranquillity of the colonial corridors and patios of this hacienda, as well as the grounds 20 acres of woods and fields, give the visitor the feeling that time has stopped. In addition, a charming Italian-style church attracts the attention of guests.
The hacienda, built of wood, tiles and adobe, was constructed on sloping land. The hacienda has an outdoor courtyard that features a stone cross, a detail that characterizes many Andean haciendas. A second courtyard, at the lowest level, has an octagonal basin and carved stone benches. This space is part of the Italian church, an exquisite building, which was built to service both the family and the surrounding rural population.
Hacienda Chillo Jijon also has a dining room, a bar, lounges, gardens and trails.
Luna Runtun, Banos, Ecuador
Perched high above an Andean valley, the rustic and natural feel of the Luna Runtun is complemented by all the bells and whistles of a contemporary boutique resort.
As the story goes, in 1914 the settlement of Banos was divided into nine estates, one of which belonged to a man named Angel Luna, the grandfather of the current owner of the luxurious Luna Runtun hacienda.
The construction of this mountain hotel itself began in 1992, when fifty workers began erecting the 18 structures of the hacienda. Using materials from the immediate environment – such as locally fashioned bricks, handmade tiles, wrought stones, eucalyptus wood and handcrafted mosaics – as the architects aimed for a building that harmonized with the landscape and vegetation of the land. In April 1994, the Luna Runtun resort and adventure spa was ready to open its doors to the public, enveloped in a generous supply of aromatic flowers and fruits.
Luna Runtun, which translates as “fortress of the moon,” is also synonymous with the impeccable blend of comfort and nature. A 10-minute drive from the resort town of Banos, this deluxe hotel is situated within the Sangay National Park and a close but safe distance from and active Tungurahua Volcano.
At the Luna Runtun, its 30 spacious guestrooms and suites offer panoramic views of either the city of Banos or the Tungurahua Volcano. These accommodations feature fireplaces, terraces, and private bathrooms possessing bathtubs as well as all the amenities of a big-city luxury hotel.
One of the biggest attractions of this hacienda is its spa. Its attractions include 11 treatment rooms that offer more than 20 relaxation techniques, as well as four pools, whirlpools, a cafe overlooking the large nearby volcano, gardens for a chance to further disconnect, and a restaurant that serves gourmet dishes.
In addition, travelers can choose any of the 25 adventure activities offered at the hotel – anything from adventure mountain-biking to ziplining, as well as horseback riding, bird watching, and whitewater rafting.
Alfonso Tandazo is President and CEO at Surtrek Tour Operator.
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