How many people can say they’ve slept at a president’s house? Well, I have and so could you on your next trip to Ecuador. Located in the little highland village of Zuleta (famous for it’s embroidery), and nestled between rolling Andes mountains, sits Hacienda Zuleta, a beautiful working farm that is steeped in history.
Dating back to the 17th century, this authentic colonial farm is now run by the descendants of former Ecuadorian president, Galo Plaza Lasso. The farm has stayed within the family, with the result that the hacienda is less of a hotel and more of a luxurious home whose legacy you can trace through family photos, antiques and heirlooms dotted throughout the property. You feel less like a guest and more like a member of the family.
In keeping with the original infrastructure, each room has a different shape and charm, but creature comforts have not been spared. Furnished with colonial pieces, every room offers sweeping views of the farm or surrounding mountains, complete with your own wood-burning fireplace. A handful of rooms come with a private garden, terrace or courtyard. A warming hot-water bottle in your bed at the end of the night is a welcome surprise, and one of the many special touches that makes Zuleta homely rather than hotel-y.
With a working cheese factory, trout farm and organic garden on site, each meal is the epitome of farm to table. The cuisine combines Ecuadorian tradition with international influence, and frankly I loved it.
The 4000 acres at Zuleta provide an extensive network of trails, great for hiking, horseback riding (purebred Andalusian) and biking. You can also go for a tour of the cheese factory and condor rehabilitation center, as well as the farm. Why not try your hand at milking a cow, or two? I did! At the end of the day, the many cozy rooms throughout the hacienda are perfect for relaxing or curling up with a book, next to one of the two giant fireplaces.
Zuleta is welcoming, warm and relaxed, making it a superb coda to an action packed stay in the Galapagos. Zuleta is a real gateway to culture, history and legacy; a truly authentic experience.
Victoria Marsh is off to Latin America for several months to perfect her Spanish, cow milking and condor rehabilitation skills – as well of course as her trip planning. Email her directly here for tips on any of the above.