Nestled in the Ecuadorian Andes at around 9,600 feet above sea level lies a property little known to the world at large. A place where long standing traditions continue to be practiced and weaved into the pattern of daily life. A place where they are less concerned about the latest Apple product and more concerned with preserving the unique aspects of their community and the environment around them.
Hacienda Zuleta dates back to the late XVI century and has belonged to the family of Mr. Galo Plaza Lasso, a former president of Ecuador, for more than 100 years. Aside from being a spectacular hotel property – complete with 14 bedrooms (all with their own fire place), detailed gardens, a phenomenal equestrian program, hiking and mountain biking opportunities, farm to table cuisine, and roughly 4,000 acres of working farmland – Hacienda Zuleta is rich in history and tradition.
One of many notable aspects of the Zuleta community history and culture is their dedication to a unique form of hand embroidery described best by Fernando Polanco Plaza, grandson to Galo Plaza Lasso.
In our local community of Zuleta, hand embroidery has been an important form of artistic expression and adornment for centuries. The style was so unique it became a form of cultural identification and it has persisted to the present day, unfortunately while at the same time so many folk arts are being lost around the world.
Without doubt, this is in part due to my grandfather, former Ecuadorian President Galo Plaza Lasso, and my grandmother, Doña Rosario, who had a long term vision of how this art and its cultural significance could be preserved while at the same time providing a sustainable revenue stream to supplement the basic agrarian income of the surrounding communities.
My grandmother, Doña Rosario, was inspired during one of her trips to Italy and Spain, where in small villages she saw women embroidering on their doorsteps. On her return to Hacienda Zuleta, she created a community workshop and introduced embroidery classes into the school they founded for the community. Over the years these embroidery projects have flourished under the auspices of the Galo Plaza Lasso Foundation and thanks to involvement ranging from Capuchin nuns to the Peace Corp.
Today visitors to Hacienda Zuleta directly support the project and have the opportunity to purchase embroidery at the El Taller shop and exhibit at the hacienda. All of the products are hand-made by women in the local community.
Below are more photos highlighting different excursions available at Hacienda Zuleta, unique aspects of the property, and a sample Ecuador travel itinerary aimed at being a reference to get you started on planning your own trip to Hacienda Zuleta and mainland Ecuador.
Ecuador Travel Idea: Hacienda Zuleta, Otavalo & More
Day 1 USA – Quito
You will fly from the USA to Quito arriving most likely in the evening. Upon your evening arrival to Quito you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel in the heart of the old historic center of Quito.
- No meals – Casa Gangotena or similar
Day 2 Quito
Enjoy the morning to sleep in, enjoy your property and explore Quito independently. In the afternoon you will be met at your hotel for a guided exploration of the city. Walk down quaint cobblestone streets lined with brightly colored colonial houses and balconies dressed in flowers. Visit the Plaza de la Independencia and the impressive La Catedral de Quito, one of the oldest cathedrals in South America. Then see the Presidential Palace along with other historically and architecturally rich buildings lining and surrounding the square. Visit some of the most important churches built around the 16th and 17th centuries, including the monastery of San Francisco, which was started just five days after the founding of Quito in 1534. Then visit Panecillo hill for spectacular views of this incredible city. Return to your hotel for a relaxing evening.
- B – Plaza Grande or similar
Day 3 Quito – Otavalo
Today you will head north to Otavalo. Before leaving Quito, visit the fascinating and fun Intiñan museum, dedicated to the promotion and study of the nations that inhabited the equatorial area. This is an interactive museum that is great for all ages. In the afternoon, stop for lunch at a traditional hacienda and then arrive to your charming accommodations at Hacienda Zuleta. Enjoy the rest of the day relaxing and taking advantage of the many onsite activities.
- B, D – Hacienda Zuleta
Day 4 Hacienda Zuleta
Enjoy a full day at leisure to independently explore the amazing Hacienda Zuleta grounds. The hacienda has Zuleteño bred horses, mountain bikes and a horse drawn carriage from which you can explore the area. There are also a variety of hiking trails for you to explore, as well as an organic garden, farm and condor rehabilitation program.
- B, L, D- Hacienda Zuleta
Day 5 Otavalo – Quito
Today you will visit the Otavalo market, the biggest and most important indigenous market in all Latin America. The colorful main handicraft and textile market spills into the streets from the central Plaza de Ponchos, the colorful produce market impresses by sheer number, and the cacophony of the animal market is to the outskirts of town. The friendly Otavalenos are more than happy to talk about their crafts and traditions. After exploring this feast for the senses, we’ll drive to the Cotacachi- Cayapas ecological reserve for a visit to the interpretation center and a nice view of the deep blue Cuicocha lagoon. After the hike we will stop at the picturesque colonial town of Cotacachi, famous for its leatherwork. Continue on to Quito for a relaxing evening at your hotel, conveniently located near the airport.
- B, L- Rincon de Puembo or similar
Day 6 Onward Home or Extend Your Adventure
This would be the perfect opportunity to extend your adventure onward and visit the Galapagos Islands, Machu Picchu in Peru, or a different destination in South America.
Visiting the Galapagos Islands After a thorough exploration of mainland Ecuador, fly west to the Pacific for a Galapagos adventure cruise.
Visiting Machu Picch This incredibly vast archaeological site – lost to the world until well into the twentieth century – is perched amidst Andean peaks and lush cloud forest making it as breathtaking as it is intriguing. Arrive by train or by a day’s hike on the Inca Trail.
Hasta Pronto, Knowmad Adventurers
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