A picturesque ranch surrounded by four volcanoes, high up in the Andes mountains, is the perfect place to stay for those planning a truly memorable horse riding holiday. And there is a great choice of rooms from a honeymoon suite to a glamping experience in a machai designed to simulate sleeping in an Andean hut.
Hacienda El Porvenir in the Cotopaxi National Park, Ecuador can be found nestled under the Cotopaxi volcano at an altitude of 3,600 meters (11,811 feet) above sea level. Although remote and approached along ‘roads’ which need four-wheel drive vehicles, the ranch is only an hour and a half drive from the country’s capital Quito along the Avenue of the Volcanoes. This road forms part of the Pan-American Highway, a 48,000km network of roads, extending from Alaska to Argentina. According to Guinness World Records, it is the world’s longest motorable road. Along the way I was delighted to see groups of wild horses and deer and was lucky enough to spot an Andean condor circling in the sky with its 10-foot wingspan making it one of the largest birds in the world.
Arriving at Hacienda El Porvenir I fell in love with the ranch. The farmhouse is made from local building materials, keeping the spirit and essence of traditional Andean construction. The stables, saddle room and corrals add to the character of this working farm whose history goes back to colonial times.
My spacious room had a large bay window with a seat overlooking fields dotted with grazing horses and llamas on the slopes of the Rumiñahui volcano. It boasted a bed large enough for four which staff considerately put a hot water bottle in before bedtime. Although I didn’t feel cold, it must get cold up there as farmers had strapped empty feed bags on to the backs of young calves to protect them from freezing temperatures.
Activities at the ranch included horse riding. Led by a guide we headed up the volcano into and above the clouds to get a good view of the snow-capped Cotopaxi volcano. We were kitted out with ponchos and riding chaps and looked the real deal in our western-style saddles. It was a steep climb over rocky ground, but the horses were well used to it and sure footed. As any rider knows when coming down steep hills on horseback you have to lean back to help the horse negotiate the incline. I have to confess that took its toll on me and I was a little stiff the next day!
El Porvenir is a working ranch and is known for its wild cattle ‘Pedregal-Tambo’. It is dedicated to sustainable agriculture and cattle farming, conservation and ecotourism and produces milk, cheese and grows some of the vegetables and herbs offered in the restaurant. The restaurant has an interesting menu, and I particularly enjoyed the ‘Stone Tomato Soup’ prepared using an ancestral pre-Columbian technique when hot volcanic stones are submerged in the soup whilst cooking to give a unique flavour. Continuing the volcanic theme, I can also recommend the ‘Volcanic Rock Beef’ which is cooked on a slab of volcanic rock sizzling and smoking on your table and served with an Andean chimichurri herb sauce – it was a memorable meal.
Ecuadorian food is very special, and the ranch offers cooking lessons for guests who want to experience regional gastronomy, such as cheese empanadas and ají sauce, in an informal and friendly environment. The drawback is they may be a little difficult to follow as they are taught in Spanish by native women.
For those who wish to be more active there is mountain biking, hiking and a ropes course.
Hacienda El Porvenir, A 4k Ingreso Norte Parque Nacional Cotopaxi, Machachi 171110, Ecuador.
Tel: +593-2 600-9533
An hour and a half drive from the capital Quito, Hacienda El Porvenir is located on the slopes of Rumiñahui Volcano, in a beautiful scenic spot, at a height of 3,600 meters (11,811 feet) above sea level.
Type of Hotel: Working Ranch
Number of Rooms: 22 rooms and good complimentary Wi-Fi despite the ranch’s remoteness.
Price Band: Low to medium.
Insider Tip: Ask for Room 2. It may be a little too remote for some people and so I would suggest a two to three night stay would be enough.
Reviewer’s Rating: 8/10
Debbie Pugh-Jones enjoyed a career in journalism working for daily and regional newspapers and has travelled extensively, with many of her adventures being animal-orientated
Photographs by Debbie Pugh-Jones