Nestled in the Andes about 2 hours north of Quito, Hacienda Zuleta has a certain serenity that draws you in. It is the kind of place you immediately want to explore. The grounds are lined by weathered stone walls adorned with exotic vines and vibrant flowers.
Hacienda Zuleta is a working hacienda and hotel with 14 beautifully decorated bedrooms, immaculate gardens, comfortable hideaways, reading rooms and authentic Ecuadorian cooking. Coming from a hectic work schedule or organized group tour, Hacienda Zuleta is the perfect place to recharge; allowing you the freedom to do what you want, whenever you want. Self-guided walks, hikes, mountain biking, horseback riding, bird watching, cooking classes, and farm tours are among the many activities to enjoy while relaxing in historical surrounds.
Upon arrival, I was greeted by Silvia and Sebastian, my hosts working at the hacienda during my visit. They introduced me to the property with a tour of the house. My room was located just down the hall from President Galo Plaza Lasso’s private library. It was peaceful and charming with hardwood floors, embroidered linens, a private fireplace and views out onto the hacienda’s main courtyard and horse stables. After sitting in my room for just a few moments, I realized the captivating charm of Hacienda Zuleta; you immediately feel like you’ve just come home after a long trip away.
There are nine walking & trekking trails which wind through the thousands of acres of hacienda land, each one clearly signposted and well described. My first afternoon I walked about 5 miles on the Community Loop along flat cobblestone paths and dirt trails, discovering hidden waterfalls and admiring the rolling green hills around me. To my delight, I was also accompanied by Fito, one of the hacienda dogs, who trotted by my side the entire afternoon. On my second day, I ventured down to the Andean Condor Reserve, passing by several pre-Incan pyramid mounds. Within the Hacienda grounds, you will find archeological sites of the ancient Caranqui culture, dating as far back as 700 A.D.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner were also three activities I very much looked forward to each day. With the freedom to choose when you wanted to eat, each meal was also prepared to meet your exact dietary preferences and requests, with as much organic food from the farm as possible. The kitchen used milk, cream and yogurt from the cows, vegetables from the garden, fresh fish from the trout farm, and cheese from the onsite factory. Any food not served at the hacienda is taken to the local market.
You travel to Galápagos to experience the wildlife, but you visit Hacienda Zuleta to experience the Ecuadorian culture and tradition. I left Zuleta eager to share my experience with everyone I knew; I wanted everyone to understand the peace and serenity I felt on my daily walks, the flavors in each home-cooked meal, the beauty of the hacienda and its’ grounds, and the warmth of the staff and locals. I have to pinch myself every time I get caught daydreaming about my trip. And even though I can’t believe it has been almost two years since my visit to Hacienda Zuleta, I call myself lucky to have ever been.
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