Home to former world leaders, endangered birds and more history than most nations can conjure – this 17th century Andean stay is a true antique, and offers a real taste of old Ecuador…
Ecuador’s Hacienda Zuleta may be hidden high in the Andes, but its celebrated history means that it’s never at risk of being lost.
The Plaza family have occupied this colonial-era working farm for more than a century – and count two ex-presidents among their number. Yet step inside their family home and it feels almost cosy.
Today, the Plaza’s descendants still helm the farm, which spans 16km². Travellers arrive to brightly painted antique rooms adorned with fresh wildflowers and crackling log fires to warm the Andean nights – the kind of presidential welcome you’d expect.
Part of the farm’s appeal is its links to community and wildlife projects. Guests can learn embroidery with local artisans or even spot rare Andean condors – Zuleta is one of few places you can guarantee an encounter with the world’s largest flying bird due to its work on the Condor Huasi Project.
Both endeavours are supported by the Plaza foundation, which builds on the legacy of grandfather (and former president) Galo Plaza Lasso, who is still revered for his social initiatives.
Back on the hacienda, an on-site cheese factory, a trout farm and the abundant produce from the gardens Galo and his wife set up offer fine ingredients for the many communal dinners. And you’ll need all that food to build your strength for exploring.
Another of the unique charms of Zuleta are the 100 or so Zuleteño horses stabled here. Treks to crashing waterfalls and cool valleys spotted with hummingbirds and pre-Inca sites can be arranged for either experienced or beginner riders. Or just grab a bike and hit the mountain trails, looking out for spectacled bears and climbing to high alpine meadows.
At the end of the day, though, you’ll look forward to returning to Zuleta – a hot water bottle between your sheets and history on every wall.
Hacienda Zuleta is a two hour car ride from the capital, so either arrange a transfer with the hotel or rent a car and drive.
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