Horse riding around Cotopaxi volcano

Horse riders will love this horse riding tour around Cotopaxi volcano. You can set the pace – we can design the perfect riding tour in Cotopaxi National Park – be you beginner or advanced or anything in between.

Trot, canter or gallop while riding past wild horses and following old Inca trails.

We can set this tour up to make it family friendly, for experienced riders to ‘de-rust’ or to spend all day out in the saddle.


More on Cotopaxi horse riding

You get a fascinating insight into hacienda farm life in Ecuador as we spend two nights at a working farm (hacienda).

We leave the hacienda, and local Chagras guide our next ride through a hauntingly beautiful landscape of scree, muddy wetlands and open grassland.

Longer and shorter horse rides in the Cotopaxi are possible, too.

Trip Highlights

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  • Trot, canter or gallop past Cotopaxi volcano.

  • Experience 'Chagra' lifestyle by staying at working farms and riding with these skilled, local horsemen.

  • Beautiful and varied terrain throughout the ride.

  • Tailor made itinerary can be adapted to be suitable for families or for expert riders.

The riding week was fantastic in terms of the setting / organisation / quality of leadership / quality of horses and group composition.

R. Balen, Ecuador horse riding


Full Itinerary

Day 1: Ride towards Cotopaxi Volcano. Hacienda (L,D)

We ride out of the farm and head south towards Cotopaxi Volcano, the highest active volcano in the world (6hrs). We cross stretches of farmland as we head towards the imposing Volcano. The terrain is very varied as we make our way across highland streams, down rocky gullies and small gorges and along narrow paths in the woodlands.

We traverse the lower slopes of the foothills of Sincholagua and follow the River Pita before fording it. En route we often see the large Andean raptors – eagles, hawks and kites soaring overhead in search of prey. The last part of the ride, through part of the Cotopaxi national park, is across grassy, undulating hills, giving us a chance of some faster pace riding.

We spend the night at a charming working hacienda nestled in the lower slopes of Rumiñahui on the edge of the Cotopaxi National Park with magnificent views of the surrounding valleys and peaks including the magnificent Cotopaxi summit. Rooms with shared bathrooms (option to upgrade to have private bathroom)

Riding time: 2-5 hours riding (above route 4-5 hours), 1-hour transfer from Quito.

Day 2: Circuit ride into Cotopaxi National Park. Return to hacienda (B,L,D)

We enjoy an exhilarating circuit ride into the Cotopaxi national park. On a clear day the views of Cotopaxi – a perfect, volcanic cone standing at 5,897m/19,347ft – are quite breathtaking.

For those that wish, there is the chance for some more fast pace riding across the undulating grasslands at the foot of the volcano before we head out over the luna-like landscapes and around a shallow lake on the high altitude arid plain. (5hrs). The unique landscape is fascinating: carved out by the glaciers then filled in by volcanic eruptions.

We often see the herds of wild horses that the roam the parkland and enjoy a gallop alongside the curious stallions of the groups, their long manes and tails streaming out as they cross the rugged ground. We follow old Inca routes between Quito and Cusco, Peru and down to the Amazon and see the Inca hilltop fort.

At the end of the ride we head back to the traditionally-built working hacienda for a delicious home-cooked highland dinner then spend the night in this incredibly cosy, picturesque setting.

Rooms with shared bathrooms (option to upgrade to have private bathroom).

Riding time: 2-6 hours horse riding (above route 5-6 hours)

Day 3: Long ride high into wild open paramo. Return to hacienda (B,L)

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’) and alisos and other native plants such as chuquiragua and valeriana and a host of colourful native flowers hugging the hillsides.

We climb above 4,000m/13,123ft, then drop down into a hidden valley, cantering across pumice stone to arrive at the base of impressive vertical cliffs for another delicious picnic.

Emerging from the valley, the views are unforgettable: ridges and vales as far as the eye can see – yet more indelible memories to take home on this the last day of riding.

Riding time: 3-6 hours horse riding (above route 5-6 hours)

Prices From $885 / £720 per person

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What's Included?

Horse (spare horses taken), guide and grooms, meals as listed, snacks and water on rides, 2 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.

What's Not Included?

Tips and personal expenditure such as bar bills, international flights (we can look for these), insurance, hotels in Quito, extra nights in working farm before and after three day trip


Haciendas and hotels, 3* standard with shared or private bathrooms.

Haciendas are often working farms with accommodation.

Tour Staff

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 – if group numbers dictate.

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.

Activity Level

Riding level for the specified trip this is intermediate and above, meaning you need to be confident cantering and riding in open spaces, at speed.

However – the rides can easily be adapted to suit less experienced riders or even beginners.

All these tours are private, so please contact us for your perfect trip.

Enjoyment from the rides can be greatly increased if you are physically fit and your riding muscles are toned.

You 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).


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Practical Information

Introduction to Ecuador

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.

Weather in Ecuador

Ecuador lies between latitudes 4º south and 2º north. Overall, climate varies according to time of year, altitude and region.


The Sierra 

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.


The Coast

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.


The Amazon

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.


FAQs about horse riding tours

Do I need to be an experienced rider to join one of the tours?

Rides are divided into those for experienced riders and those for the less experienced (a large number of which are suitable for beginners.) Guests participating on the rides for experienced riders (scheduled departures or private) are expected to be able to canter comfortably and control a horse in open terrain at all paces; intermediate level and above.

If you have any doubts please ask us.

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’.

If NON-RIDERS wish to accompany the tour, alternative activities can be organised for them and on most days everyone can meet up for mid-day meals.


Can we design our own riding tour with your help?

Yes, no problem at all. Private tours can be tailor-made to suit guests’ wishes (more days in the saddle, shorter daily rides, days out of the saddle added to the itinerary for bird watching, hiking, visiting local markets or craft villages etc.) For tailor-made tours, departures can be any day of the week.


What can you tell me about the horses you use and the type of ride I can expect?

It is incredibly important that you provide us accurate riding ability details – we try to put a lot of work into selecting suitable horses for each rider.

The horses are mainly ‘Criollo’ -descendants of the Spanish Conquistadors’ stock, developed in each country depending on the environmental conditions. These horses are ideal for the terrain we ask them to ride over and often crossed with warm/hot blood lines (English, Spanish, Arab, Pasos) for a taller, more responsive horse. They are specially selected, well trained and good natured.

As mentioned, great attention is paid to matching horse and rider and on most rides 14.2-15.2hh horses are available.

Riders normally change to fresh horses at least once during the longer rides, depending on the ride. The pace is very varied due to the great variety of landscapes. On most rides, each day there are opportunities for faster paced riding.

In Ecuador, on the second part of the scheduled tours, much of the ride can be fast-paced, depending on guests’ wishes – so please let us know what style of riding you like so we can make some suggestions.

All rides of more than 2 hours include regular breaks and all-day rides normally include a lunch break of approximately one hour. Please refer to individual itineraries for more details.

Set date group departures: no more than 8 guests (Ecuador) per group, maximum 10 in Chile, maximum 12 in Uruguay. Private groups: 1 or more guest(s).


What tack is used?

Western tack is used. In Ecuador US cavalry saddles with sheepskin seats are used.

English riding style is possible in Ecuador, English saddles are normally available upon prior request.

Ecuador: English and western style bridles (let us know your preference: direct rein or neck reining).


What can you tell me about the terrain & climate I’ll experience on the ride?

For challenging riding in the remote, high Andes. Parts of Ecuador are at high altitude. Please contact if you have any concerns.


What do I need to bring with me? Do I need any special equipment?

We provide the following in Ecuador: riding helmets upon prior request (but we do recommend that you bring your own), ponchos, saddlebags. Half chaps also available on prior request.

On tours in Ecuador a vehicle brings on guests’ belongings to the Hacienda/Estancia. Luggage storage can often be organised during the ride -please contact us.

All bed linen and towels will be provided on the tours.


What additional costs are involved in the price of the tour?

There are very few expenses not included in the overall price of the trip. You may need to bring money for:

  • soft drinks & alcohol (provision of drinks varies on each tour; as a minimum, water is provided while riding).
  • meals & accommodation pre/post tour
  • sundry expenses such as telephone calls and laundry bills.
  • discretionary tips
  • souvenirs


Kit list

Good kit is vital for every trip.

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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:

  • Saddlebags
  • Rain ponchos
  • Half chaps (a few pairs are available on prior request.)
  • Water bottles
  • Bed linen & towels
  • All bed linen and towels will be provided at the haciendas/hotels 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!’


  • Insect repellent.
  • Towel & wash-kit.
  • Wet Wipes/antiseptic hand-wash cream.
  • Toilet paper (1)
  • Sunscreen (factor 30+) and lip salve.
  • Head-lamp (plus spare bulb and batteries).
  • Penknife.
  • Travel alarm clock.
  • Binoculars.
  • Swimming costume
  • Plastic bags – ‘Zip-loc’ & tough bin liners.
  • Camera and film / memory cards (take at least twice the amount you think you will need!).
  • Camera and phone chargers.
  • Book, e-book, mp3 player/ipod or other for free time.
  • Spanish/English phrasebook.
  • Extra snacks i.e. cereal bars or favourite chocolate bars.
  • High quality sunglasses with protective lenses – NOT fashion glasses
  • Travel adaptor



Multiple thin layers of clothing are recommended for the changes in temperature.

  • Stretch trousers/jodhpurs (we advise against denim jeans/baggy trousers. Lightweight jodhpurs).
  • Riding chaps – full or half length.
  • Thin ‘long johns’/stockings/stretch lycra-style cycling shorts are useful under trousers/jodhpurs.
  • Thermal underwear (if you feel the cold).
  • Woollen & cotton scarf.
  • Fleece jacket & wool jumper.
  • Warm waterproof jacket (suitable for cold evening temperatures & occasional rain/high winds when riding).
  • Long sleeved cotton shirts and T-shirt.
  • Solo neck jumpers (cotton and/or wool).
  • Strong boots (hiking boots/riding boots with rubber soles – you may have to walk on rough terrain).
  • Trainers/canvas shoes/deck shoes (for evenings & market visits – comfortable, low/no heels).
  • Riding gloves.
  • Wide brimmed hat (‘Stetson’ / Panama/ safari style). Panama hats can be purchased in Ecuador.
  • Day pack.
  • Evening wear (trousers, shirt and sweater for the hotels, no formal wear necessary, except for special occasions).


Miscellaneous others

  • Money belt.
  • Passport (original) + a good quality photocopy.
  • U.S. dollars cash, mixed-denomination notes, undamaged and unmarked.
  • ATM cash/credit card.
  • Any inoculation certificates.
  • Personal & medical insurance certificates.
  • Presents e.g. Postcards from home.
  • Comfortable clothes for travel, smart clothes for night life.

Quick facts about Ecuador


Official name: Republic of Ecuador

Country population: 15,000,000

Capital city: Quito (2.51 million)

Largest cities: Guayaquil, Quito, Cuenca, Machala

Languages: Spanish (official), Quechua

Latitude/Longitude: 2º S, 77º 30 W

Official currency: US dollar

Major industries: bananas, shrimp, oil, gold, roses

Time zone: GMT-5 (Galapagos GMT-6)

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