Horse-riding: a travel guide
An excellent way to enjoy the marvellous scenery on offer in Ecuador is on horseback. Several companies offer short or long rides for all ages and levels of skill.
You can ride in the Andean highlands, crossing paramo, grasslands and plains against a backdrop of snow-capped volcanoes. Another option is to ride down from the Andes towards the coast or the Amazon region.
- Colonial Haciendas. One of the most popular horse rides in Ecuador is called the Colonial Hacienda Ride. This eight-day trip takes us along grassy tracks in Andean valleys, rising up through the mountains to the north and ending on the lower plains of Cotopaxi Volcano. The route takes in the provinces of Imbabura, Pichincha and Cotopaxi. Along the way, the travellers can stay in any of the historical haciendas [farmhouses] that were built in the country in the 1600s or thereabouts.
- Cotopaxi Adventure. The Cotopaxi Adventure is suitable for more experienced riders, although it can also be done by those with intermediate skills. On this seven-day ride, travellers stay the night both in haciendas and in rural homes built of stone and adobe by the Incas and Spanish conquistadores.
- Pululahua. This trip goes into the crater of the active volcano Pululahua, one of the only two inhabited craters in the world. The ride takes approximately three hours.
- El Camino del Trébol. This tour, meaning the Shamrock Route, is a three-day adventure and also starts in Pululahua crater. In addition to the crater, the route takes us through ravines and cloud forest among other vistas. You can even swim in a volcanic stream. Travellers can see tropical plants and animals, not to mention the pre-Inca ruins of Portalanza.
- Walk and Ride. There is a four-day excursion called Caminata y Paseo [Walk and Ride] starting in Pululahua crater. The first two days, covered on horseback, take in Portalanza hill and the village of Yunguillas. The remaining two days are set aside for Maquipucuna Cloudforest Reserve.
- El Camino del Colibrí. This 4-day option, the Hummingbird Route, starts at the Rancho del Caballo Verde in the crater of Pululahua. From the crater, the route moves into tropical scenery and continues to the volcanic waterfalls of El Cachaco.
- From the Andes to the cloud forest. This is a nine-day trip across the Rancho del Caballo Verde. Transport is arranged to take travellers from Quito to the western range of the Andes, which borders on the cloud forest descending to the coast.
- Hacienda Pinsaquí. Pinsaquí hacienda, between Otavalo, Cotacachi and San Antonio de Ibarra in the province of Imbabura, is one of the country's great historical farms. In fact the Treaty of Pinsaquí, which put an end to the war between Ecuador and Colombia in the 1800s, was signed in one of the great rooms of this farmhouse.
- Pambamarca. Located in Cayambe, in the province of Pichincha, this is a large-scale architectural complex. The magnificent ruins of the fortresses lie at an altitude of over 3,000 m. in the Cayambe Coca Reserve.
- Cotacachi. This ride, on the lower slopes of Cotacachi Volcano, near the town of Otavalo, takes us to Cuicocha Lake, also known as the Lake of the Gods. The distance from Cotacachi town to the lake is 12 km.