This horse ride takes us through breathtaking scenery of Ecuador’s Valley of Volcanoes.
Our well-kept horses will be your companions as we travel along ancient Inca Highways and skirt the towering, snow-capped peaks of Cayambe and Cotopaxi.
Overnight stops include lovingly restored centuries old haciendas; no two lodges are alike but all are in exceptional locations and absolutely captivating.
The pace is also varied, from steadily crossing wetlands to cantering across the vast plains of the altiplano.
You can canter through mazes of patchwork fields as we experience the diverse highland landscapes, flora and fauna, and indigenous communities of this fascinating, compact Andean country.
This is horse riding in two stunningly beautiful, yet very distinct areas of the Andean highlands.
Breath-taking views as we cross vast plains and ride through pastoral valleys in a fascinating region dramatically sculptured by both glacial and volcanic activity.
Beautifully kept horses are your companions in the Ecuadorian highlands.
Wonderful, exclusive accommodation in some of Ecuador's most stunning and remote areas.
Expert, bilingual rider leads the trip, with at least one skilled, local horseman alongside.
Variety of terrains to make the riding interesting at all times.
It was all a highlight really!
The riding week was fantastic in terms of the setting / organisation/ quality of leadership / quality of horses and group."
R. Balen, Riding in Ecuador
Heading northwards from Quito, after a quick stop on the equator line, we meet the horses and, once everyone is comfortable, head out along the grassy lanes.
Having admired the magnificent view atop a hill carpeted with wild flowers, we descend to a family run Hacienda in a beautiful pastoral valley. This small working farm with a dairy herd and Andalusian (PRE) horses is the perfect location to leisurely drift into the relaxing Andean atmosphere.
Once settled in at the six-room hacienda, guests can view the collection of Inca and pre-Inca ceramics discovered on site.Riding time: 2hr drive, 4-5 hours riding
Today, we ride past tiny hamlets of adobe huts, the ladies in their brightly coloured full skirts herding sheep and pigs. We ride through woodlands, and wind our way around the patchwork fields of quinoa, potatoes, maize, lupins and tree tomato orchards.
There are magnificent views of the jagged Mojanda summit as we cross the slopes of the sacred Imbabura volcano — the focus of many pre-Inca legends.
Nearing our stay for the night, a 17th century hacienda, we pass avocadoes, papaya, passion fruit and, riding into the Hacienda courtyard, graced with bougainvillea, the hummingbirds zoom past us enroute to the agapanthus.
A blast of dazzling Andean colour is provided on a visit to the famous Otavalo market.
Riding time: 5-6 hours riding
After a fascinating demonstration by local master weavers and a chance to purchase top quality Andean handicrafts, we ride out of the Hacienda.
Climbing out the valley onto the plains, we pick up the pace and, following agave-lined sandy tracks, ride through a landscape frequently described by guests as the most picturesque they have ever seen. Dramatic views of the hanging valleys and rocky ridges as we descend to lush meadows below passing ladies in traditional dress embroidering intricate blouses as they watch their flocks.
We stop to see the pre-Inca earthworks dotted around this valley -one of the first highland areas settled, also often pausing in awe at the sight of a mighty Andean condor soaring overhead.
Afternoon drive to a very comfortable country hotel located at the trail head of the next part of our ride. Jacuzzi & sauna at this very comfortable lodge.
Riding time: 6 hours horse riding, 2.5hrs drive
First riding along lanes between the meadows, riders get used to their new horses.
Alongside the gurgling river, the abundance of lush vegetation is quite surprising: montane bamboo, ferns and native trees dripping with orchids and bromelias. The birds such as woodpeckers and hummingbirds are wonderful to see, the vultures a little unnerving!
As we leave the micro-climate of the river valley, extensive views open up before us. Surrounded by four Andean peaks, part of the Avenue of Volcanoes, we ride towards the iconic Cotopaxi Volcano.
Riding onto rough grasslands in the Sincholagua foothills there is a good chance of seeing more Andean Condors as well as eagles, hawks, falcons and harriers. At the northern border of the Cotopaxi National Park we arrive at a modern hacienda, often greeted by the llamas.
This idyllic location, with remarkable views of the marvellous Andean landscape encircling us, is dominated by the perfectly conical shape of the snow-capped Cotopaxi Volcano. It will be our base for two nights.
Riding time: 6 hours
We ride into Cotopaxi National Park on our adorable sure-footed criollo horses for some exhilarating canters across the wide, arid plains at the base of the Cotopaxi volcano. The horses enjoy the open spaces but have such a calm temperament that they settle into a rhythm without trying to rush.
Several herds of wild horses inhabit the park and to ride alongside these long-maned horses galloping freely across the rugged terrain is a unique experience. Part of this ride follows the main Inca highway which linked Quito with Cusco, Peru, then we turn eastwards to follow the Inca route leading down to the Amazon.
We pause to visit the remains of an Inca fort before continuing on through the gently undulating grassy hills, passing drumlins and moraine, crossing lahas and old lava flows before returning to the Hacienda via a canyon. We return to the same hacienda.
We head up the slopes of Rumiñahui Volcano (stoneface) with an excellent chance of close encounters with the Andean condor, fox and deer.
We pass polylepis trees (‘paperbark trees’), native shrubs such as chuquiragua and valeriana and a host of colourful wild flowers hugging the hillsides.
Rising above 4,000m/13,132ft and experiencing one of the highest canters in the world, we then ride on into a hidden valley often seeing wild horses grazing close to the towering cliffs. The views are unforgettable and the picnic spot unmatchable.
The trails, marked out by the wild horses, take us back down and on to a once important and now historic Jesuit Hacienda recently restored and now a delightful place to stay.
Riding time: 6-7 hours
The final ride takes us on an exhilarating canter across the flat expanses of Cotopaxi National Park close to the volcano where we traverse old lava, volcanic ash and lahas.
We then veer westwards and start a long ascent with outstanding views. Riding up through the native grasslands in order to reach the scree slopes and cross over into the Avenue of the Volcanoes, we leave the national park.
We often meet local horsemen (chagras) checking their cattle, quite a sight, with their colourful ponchos, thick goatskin chaps and intricately plaited bridles. Their stirrups are enclosed, like clogs, and often carved into an animal head. Their lassos seem impossibly long to be useful – but very necessary when working with their very feisty bulls: they lasso the animal then get as far away as possible.
We leave the horses and are driven to a historic hacienda with large gardens, close to Quito airport for dinner and overnight.
Riding time: 6-7 hours, 2hr drive
Following breakfast, guests are accompanied to the airport in time for their outward flights, or we can help with extra tours across Ecuador.
Prices From $4,175 / £3,540 per person
Enquire about booking
Horse (spare horses taken), guide and grooms, meals as listed, snacks and water on rides, 7 nights accommodation, national park/private reserves etc. entrance fees, transport to and from Quito, transport of bags between lodgings and all local taxes. Saddlebags and poncho for each guest.
Tips and personal expenditure such as bar bills, flights (we can look for these), insurance, personal items, flights, Quito arrival services and hotel (we can arrange these), alcoholic or soft drinks
Haciendas and hotels, 3* standard with private bathrooms.
Haciendas are often working farms with accommodation.
Guests are always accompanied by a guide (bilingual: English/Spanish) who has many years experience of riding.
In addition, at least one ‘groom’ is present – a usually a skilled local horseman.
Both guides and grooms have excellent local knowledge and are good riders. There is also additional ground staff.
Professional guides speaking other languages are available on prior request.
We can cater for almost all dietary requirements – please contact us for more.
Whether staying in a hacienda, estancia, hostal or country ranch, the food is excellent, filling and not overly spiced.
Dishes are a mixture of international and local, some meals ‘a la carte’, sometimes set menus.
Delicious tropical fruit such as papaya, mango and custard apple are often on offer in Ecuador as well as hearty highland soups made with prime local ingredients including beans, pulses and vegetables.
If picnic lunches are served, they never consist of just a sandwich – fruits, salads and more where possible.
As well as lunch, variety of snacks and also bottled water all provided each day.
Riding level for this is intermediate and above, meaning you need to be confident cantering and riding in open spaces, at speed.
Enjoyment from the rides can be greatly increased if you are physically fit and your riding muscles are toned. Guests are welcome to arrive before the start of a set date departure tour in order to do an extra ride with the guide to ‘de-rust’.
You can request instruction if you wish and for private groups can have a riding lesson at the farm on day 1 prior to the riding out or have more formal lessons prior to day 1 (prior notice needed).
Ecuador is the second smallest South American country, and one of the most varied.
It comprises three main geographical areas: the coast, highlands and Amazon plus is home to the Galapagos Islands.
Because of its relatively compact size, it makes a great holiday destination as you can move from highlight to highlight fairly easily and rapidly.
Landscapes vary from the drier south to the more humid north.
The Highlands, or sierra, encompass two Andean Cordilleras (the Central and Western), which run north to south through the country. Ecuador’s largest volcano is Chimborazo (6,310m) whose summit, because of its proximity to the equator, is the closest point on earth to the sun. Several of Ecuador’s volcanoes are still active, and it’s a great area for trekking.
Descending the steep, east-facing slopes of the eastern Cordillera, one passes through a transition zone comprising dense cloud forest and humid high jungle, before entering the Amazon lowlands.
This mainly primary rainforest covers a third of the country, accounts for 5% of the population and stretches across Ecuador, from its Colombian to its Peruvian borders.
The Galapagos Islands are simply unique. Lying 600 miles off the mainland, the archipelago comprises the summits of gigantic equatorial volcanoes.
The flora and fauna of the Galapagos, long separated from their continental cousins, have evolved differently. Charles Darwin used his observations there to develop his theory of Evolution.
Ecuador lies between latitudes 4º south and 2º north. Overall, climate varies according to time of year, altitude and region.
In the Ecuadorian highlands, there is little temperature variation by season as temperature depends largely on altitude.
In Quito, shade temperatures range from 6 to 10ºC in the morning and from 19 to 23ºC in the afternoon, with cool nights. In the lower basins between mountains, it gets significantly warmer.
Rainfall depends on whether an area lies closer to the eastern or western Andes. To the west, June-Sept is the dry period and Oct-May the wet (with often a short, dry spell in Dec or Jan).
The best period to visit Quito and trek and climb volcanoes such as Cotopaxi is the west Andean dry season of June-Sept and Dec/Jan. This is also Ecuador’s high season. During the Oct-May wet season, most rainfall is in the afternoons.
To the east, Oct to Feb are dry and Mar-Sept are wet. Overall, the southern highlands are drier than the northern highlands.
On the Pacific coast, rainfall becomes less from north to south. The coast can be enjoyed year-round, although from June-Sept mornings are often grey with the garua mists.
Jan-May is the hottest and rainiest time of year.
In Ecuador’s Amazonian region, rain can fall at any time, but Dec-March is usually the driest season and Mar-Sept is usually the wettest period.
The Galapagos Islands
Galapagos can be visited at any time of year.
The warm season is Jan-Jun, bringing calm, warm waters (around 70°F) and sunny days (72-9°F or 22-32°C), February and March being the hottest and sunniest months with blue skies and sunshine.
The islands receive slightly more rainfall during these months, occasional heavy bursts in the afternoon. Great for snorkelling and you can spend a lot of time in the water without wetsuits, with great, clear waters.
The dry ‘garua’ season is Jun-Dec an it’s a great time for marine life. August and September are the coolest when you may need a jacket in the evenings and the sea can be choppy and temperature drops around 15-24ºC on average.
There can be mist on the islands in the mornings (garua) which usually burns off by midday leaving overcast skies or a sunny afternoon.
Sea temperatures may drop to 60°F- 72°F (15-22°C) during this time and snorkellers will want a wet suit for prolonged periods in the sea.
Good kit is vital for every trip.
Book with Andean Trails and get 15% off Páramo’s fantastic ethical and high performance outdoor gear.
Guests are kindly requested on all rides/treks to take a minimum of personal belongings with them. Vehicles bring on guests’ belongings to each nights’ lodgings. Luggage storage can be organised in Quito during the ride/trek.
Please note some trips involve overnights at high altitudes where temperatures sometimes fall below freezing. Please do bring clothing for COLD weather (riding and for evenings).
Contact lenses and glasses
The rides can be dusty at times and the air is very dry therefore contact lenses can irritate. Guests have experienced problems with contact lenses. We suggest bringing a pair of glasses to replace lenses if necessary.
Guests are strongly advised to bring and use their own riding helmets.
Give plenty of thought to kit selection, and try to keep weight down.
Below is a more detailed kit list.
Equipment provided for the riding tours:
Clothing, equipment & personal effects:
Riding in the highlands:
Multiple thin layers of clothing are recommended for the changes in temperature. The Ecuadorian Highlands are famous for ‘all four seasons in one day!’
Multiple thin layers of clothing are recommended for the changes in temperature.
Andean Trails has two decades of experience of dealing with South America holidays.
We pay a fee to the CAA for every licensable passenger we book since we hold an Air Travel Organiser’s Licence granted by the Civil Aviation Authority. In the unlikely event of our insolvency, the CAA will ensure that you are not stranded abroad and will arrange to refund any money you have paid to us for an advance booking.
We also offer ATOL (Civil Aviation Authority) protected holidays to give our customers peace of mind when booking and travelling.
When you buy an ATOL protected air holiday package from Andean Trails Ltd you will receive a Confirmation Invoice from us confirming your arrangements and your protection under our Air Travel Organiser’s Licence number 6275.
You can read more about ATOL, who is covered and what protections you have if not ATOL-covered, on our ATOL page.
What is ATOL?
The CAA’s ATOL scheme offers protection to your money and your holiday if you book with us. Not everybody is covered (see ‘Who is covered?’ for more), as you must purchase an ‘air package holiday’ with Andean Trails to be protected.
And ‘air package holiday’ is defined as including a flight and some ground services (hotel, transfer, trek etc). This is also known as an ‘ATOL-protected holiday’.
Who is covered?
To be covered by ATOL, you must book a flight and some ground services with us and be from the UK. If you are from the UK and only book ground services and no flights, you are not covered by ATOL (see below for more on how non-ATOL clients are covered).
If you are outside the UK and buy flights with us, you will be ATOL protected IF any of the flights booked with Andean Trails touches/stops in the UK at any point during your holiday package booked with us.
If you buy your flights elsewhere, please check with that agent if you are ATOL protected. Be careful with online flight purchases and make sure you know what protection you have, if any, before paying for flights.
Not all holiday or travel services offered and sold by us will be protected by the ATOL scheme. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking.
For land only holidays not involving any air travel, in accordance with “The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992”, all UK passengers booking with Andean Trails Ltd. are fully protected for the initial deposit and subsequently the balance of all money paid to us, arising from cancellation or curtailment of travel arrangements due to the insolvency of Andean Trails.
I’m not ATOL covered, what protection do I have?
If you are not ATOL covered, any payments you make to us go to a Trust account.
We can only access this money once your tour has been completed, meaning that if anything happens to Andean Trails Limited while you are on holiday, then your money is secure and you can either complete the trip or be able to make it home.
If you pay for your holiday with a credit card, some offer payment protection – please check with your cardholder.
You also should have cancellation protection written into your insurance (which we recommend you have at the time of booking) in case you need to cancel.
Some 40% of Ecuador’s and is covered by Amazon rainforest.
As well as being rich in wild life, Ecuador’s rain forest is still home to a multitude of indigenous tribes, some of which have opened their communities to ecotourism.
A 4 or 5-day visit to one of the quality lodges will allow you to venture into beautiful primary forest.
Native guides lead you on verdant forest trails where you will see monkeys, tortoises, frogs and an array of birds including toucans and macaws.
Large mammals like jaguar, tapir and giant anteater have been spotted, but are elusive.
Ecuador’s cloud forest covers its rolling hillsides as they descend from the high Andean plateaus into the rain forest or down to the Pacific coast.
Most of this tropical forest lies between 1,200-2,700m/3,937-8,858ft above sea level, an evergreen, lush and moist forest, teeming with bird and insect life.
Much of the cloud forest is readily accessible from Quito making it perfect a 2 or 3-day stay.
There are many lodges with virgin forest, home to a dazzling variety of hummingbirds, refreshing waterfalls for swimming, zip lining and wildlife walks.
The humming birds, Cock of the Rock and the chance of spotting larger mammals such as the spectacled bears are just some of the attractions of spending some time in this amazing ecosystem.
Cotopaxi National Park is dominated by the almost perfect cone shape of Cotopaxi (5,897m/19,347ft), an active volcano and the second highest mountain in Ecuador after Chimborazo.
The national park is well worth a visit for trekking in the foothills, climbing smaller peaks like Ruminahui, downhill mountain biking, horse riding or just enjoying the National Park itself.
The surrounding páramo is good for bird watching – you may see condors soaring above.
There are lots of lovely hacienda and mountain refugios to stay at in and around the park, and from which there are a variety of walks, horse rides and bike rides for all levels.
Ingapirca (meaning wall of the Inca) is just an hour from Cuenca and is the most important Inca archaeological site in Ecuador.
The site is in good condition and consists of a main elliptical building thought to be a sun temple, with typical Inca features such as trapezoidal doorways and niches.
There are Inca trails leading to and from the site, so you can visit on a day trip or incorporate a visit as part of a trekking itinerary.
You can travel here from Cuenca, or make it part of a trip from Baños to Cuenca.
Ecuador’s vibrant capital Quito sits in a stunning location, surrounded by snow capped volcanoes and many of the high peaks of the Andean sierra.
There is plenty to do for visitors of all ages and interests. The old town of Quito is a UNESCO world heritage site, with many beautiful churches and colonial facades, a wonderful range of museums and picturesque squares.
For an over view of the city and along the Avenue of volcanoes to north and south and to help with acclimatising try taking the Teleferico (cable car) up the eastern slope of Pichincha volcano.
At night Quito is a lively city. Head to the modern Mariscal area where tourists and locals alike find a great range of restaurants, bars and night clubs.
01st Jan 2024 - From $4175 / £3540.4
Select an available date to view pricing and information for that particular trip.
2024 price, per person, shared room basis.
Based on 4 riders.
Can run on private basis or with fewer riders.
Single supplement applies
$4,175 / £3,540
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Capacity: 16 people
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Join a small group of like-minded travellers on a guided trip.
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Dates: From January 2024 to December 2024
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Students Study Food Insecurity & Climate Change in Peru University of Edinburgh students and teachers report back from Peru, where they learned how traditional farming techniques could help prevent climate change and reduce food insecurity. The team visited coastal Lima, the Cusco Highlands, and the cloud forest. For Andean Trails and our local team, it was a chance to showcase a side of Peru that many visitors may not see when passing through. It went so well that the University has already signed up its team to another Food Security tour in the spring of 2024. Learning About …
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