1. PULULAHUA EXPLORATION TRAIL "A" (1DAY)
Transport from Quito to the Green Horse Ranch, inside the National Reserve Pululahua , about 40 miles north from Quito. Already the jeep-ride is a true experience that offers outstanding picture-stops. From the ranch, robust and amiable mountain horses will take us through the stunning landscape of this ancient volcanic crater - the biggest one on the whole American continent and one of only two inhabited craters in the world - with its constantly changing sceneries and huge bio-diversity. While circling the inner cone, we witness volcanic history and nature, interesting geological formations, mineral avalanches blooming with wild orchids and traditional Andean agriculture.
Riding time about 4 hours. Lunch with panoramic view over valleys and cloud forest covered mountains. Optional photo-stop at the Ecuadorian monument Mitad del Mundo. Transport back to Quito.
Participants: 1 to 10 persons with or without riding experience
2. PULULAHUA EXPLORATION TRAIL "B" (2DAYS)
Ride the Green Volcano Valley
Transport from Quito to the Green Horse Ranch inside the National Reserve Pululahua, about 40 miles north from Quito. Optional photo-stop at the Ecuadorian Monument Mitad del Mundo. Robust and amiable mountain horses will take us through the stunning landscape of this ancient volcanic crater with its constantly changing sceneries and huge bio-diversity. 6-km diameter make it the biggest volcanic crater on the American continent, and it is also one of only two inhabited craters world-wide. Riding time on the first day about 4 hours, on the second day about 5 hours.
These rides will take us from areas of traditional Andean agriculture to lush tropical vegetation, passing by eroded volcanic avalanches blooming with wild orchids, cloud forests, deep gorges and clear mountain streams. We will also find prehistoric ruins and interesting geological formations along our way. We get a good impression of the present and past of the country life in Ecuador, of its geology and botany. But most of all we'll discover the pleasure to explore healthy nature on horseback!
Delicious food and accommodation in comfortable, art-style country Inn in the mystical surroundings of the crater walls.
Participants: 1 to 8 persons with or without riding experience.
3. THE TREFOIL TRAIL (3DAYS)
As on the one- and two-day-trips, we’ll be visiting the crater of Pululahua volcano, located right on the Equator, with its fascinating sceneries. 6-km diameter make it the biggest volcanic crater on the American continent, and it is also one of only two inhabited craters world-wide. In three different loops, that all together will draw the shape of a trefoil leaf, we shall explore the depths and heights of this surprising area.
The first day is marked by volcanic history and nature, interesting geological formations, mineral avalanches blooming with wild orchids and traditional Andean agriculture.
The second day leads us along deep gorges covered with cloud forest and invites us for a dive in a crystal clear volcanic stream.
On the third day, we’ll be riding through lush tropical vegetation, sugar cane, pineapples and bananas, gathering colourful crab-spiders at lunch-break, enjoying the sound of the crickets while viewing black vultures sailing above us. Riding along narrow mountain ridges, we shall also take a glance on the pre-Inca ruins of Portalanza.
Accommodation in comfortable country Inn in the mystical surroundings of the crater walls.
Participants: 2 to 8 participants with at least a little riding experience
4. THE HUMMINGBIRD TRAIL (4DAYS)
From Pululahua Volcano to Bellavista Bird Lodge
Transport from Quito to the Green Horse Ranch inside the ancient crater and National Reserve Pululahua with its big selection of beautiful sceneries. Once on our horses, we enter a tropical climate with a lot of bamboo, sugar cane and banana trees along the way, until we start climbing gently but continually in order to leave the crater to the south-west. On our trail up the mountain, we only come across a few small farmhouses, where the highland farmers scratch a meagre income from the steep, infertile land beside the forest. Accommodation in a more than 300 years old beautiful colonial Hacienda and a hot evening meal await us, next to the volcanic springs of El Cachaco. Bring your bathing dress for the mineral water Jacuzzi!
We'll be riding across the Valley of Nono, along green, hilly pastures, passing several stately farms, where we can observe fighting bulls and flower crop for exportation, getting a good impression about present and past of the country. Some extensive canters along fields and pastures make our way shorter this time. This picturesque valley is also the home and breading place of many beautiful horses. Drawing closer to Pichincha volcano, which towers above us at almost 4800 m, we begin our trek along the Northwest side to the tiny, colonial village of Nono, where rustical country-style-suits with a beautiful view over the valley await us. Next to a hot chimney fire, the farmer’s family might tell us some interesting stories about people and lifestyles and spoil us with the chefs cuisine.
Today we leave Nono, climbing up to the edge of the paramo grassland, catching views on the ashy slopes of Pichincha Volcano and the surrounding valleys. After crossing a ridge that divides the Interandean Valley from the Pacific Andean slopes, we start heading downhill into a lush green region of virgin forests studded with waterfalls toward the fishing resort of Tandayapa. Once back on the road, we say goodbye to the horses and shall meet our accompanying vehicle that brings us up the rest of way to Bellavista nature reserve, where hundreds of hummingbirds have found their home. We'll be welcomed into a comfortable lodge with hot showers and delicious, wholesome food. From the balcony of our shared room, we can enjoy a breath-taking view far over the cloud forest and listen to the sound of exotic birds.
After a hearty breakfast, a tour of Bellavista reserve is open to whoever wishes. Self-guided maps help you to design your adventure through this Andean jungle. We have plenty of time to enjoy the beautiful surroundings and the variety of plant- and bird-life, before our accompanying vehicle will bring us back to Quito after lunch.
Participants: 2 to 8 persons with at least some riding experience.
5. HIKE AND RIDE (4DAYS)
From Pululahua Volcano to Maquipucuna Jungle Resort
Transport from Quito to the Green Horse Ranch inside the crater and National Reserve Pululahua. While circling the volcanic cone - covered with cloud forest - on horseback, we witness volcanic history and nature, interesting geological formations, mineral avalanches blooming with wild orchids and traditional Andean agriculture. Accommodation in a cosy, art-style country Inn in the mystical surrounding of the crater walls.
Forests of bamboo are marking our way, while we start climbing gently but continually in order to leave the crater to the west. On our way, we'll enjoy a close look on "Cerro Portalanza", a pre-Inca site that has been abandoned 600 years ago. From here, we only come across a few small farmhouses, where the highland farmers scratch a meagre income from the steep, infertile land beside the forest. The higher we climb, the wider the view over the cloud-forest covered mountains and valleys we leave behind. Our cottage camp and a hot evening meal await us in the mountain village of Yungillas.
This section of the trip is not suited for horses anymore. In companionship of a local guide explaining about plants and wildlife, we hike along an old smuggler's path, through thick jungle and narrow hollow earth tunnels, down to the Maquipucuna nature reserve. Tonight's accommodation is in comfortable rooms in the reserve's ecological appropriate lodge. We will enjoy a good, hot shower under the stars, and a fine meal made with local ingredients.
The 6000-hectare Maquipucuna reserve is one of the ten richest areas of natural variety in the world and is comprised of more than 80% primary forest. You'll have the opportunity to bath in the rivers and waterfalls of this virgin forest or find out more about the wide variety of animals and plants under the guidance of experts. Nature lovers have the chance to buy a 1000 square-meters of virgin forest for about 50,-USD, helping the reserve to grow bigger and protect this important eco-system from being deforested.
Transfer back to Quito after lunch.
Participants: 2 to 10 persons with or without riding experience
6. FROM CLOUD FOREST TO THE HIGHLANDS (9DAYS)
From Bellavista Bird-Lodge to Otavalo Indigenous Market
This trip will take you through the very heart of the Western Andes and their unbroken beauty. Enjoy an incredible variety of Andean landscapes - jungles and deserts, hot valleys and cool windy heights, volcanoes and lakes, culture land and tropical wilderness - combined with fascinating in-looks into Ecuador’s natural and social history.
From Quito we'll drive you over the western cordillera in direction to the Pacific cloud forest. Scenery and microclimate change around each major road-turn, and you might get an impression of what variety awaits us on our ride. On the way, we have the chance to visit the Ecuadorian Monument 15-km north from Quito as well as the QUITSA-TO scientific project about the most ancient culture that has determined the equator line more than thousand years ago. We’ll learn some interesting facts about the people which once lived on “the Center of the Earth” and who’s fascinating knowledge has mostly been destroyed. Typical Ecuadorian lunch on the Equator and drive to "Bellavista" nature reserve where we'll be welcomed into a cozy lodge with hot showers and delicious, whole-some food. The bamboo-built, rounded “dome house”, that will be our home for tonight, allows a 360-degree few on the vivid bird- and plant-life around us: The place is surrounded by hundreds of colorful hummingbirds, often Toucans and bright blue shining Jays. From the balcony of our shared room, we can enjoy a breath-taking view far over the cloud forest and listen to the sounds of exotic birds, before the mist races in.
About 40 minutes further down the road we shall meet our horses, choose the right one for each and start riding through a lush green region of virgin forests studded with waterfalls, while steadily climbing uphill, drawing closer to Pichincha volcano, which towers above us at almost 4800 m. If lucky with the weather, we might find us riding close to Guagua Pichincha’s ashy crater slopes and its ridge, often enough steaming with sulfur fumerolas. Just before reaching the tiny, picturesque village of Nono, nestling at the northern face of the volcano, we’ll be crossing over a ridge that divides the Western Cordillera from the Interandean Valley where we shall be surprised by the dramatic change of scenery. Spacious country-style-suits with a beautiful view over the valley await us. Next to a hot chimney fire, the farmer’s family might tell us some interesting stories about people and lifestyles and spoil us with the chefs cuisine.
Today, we'll be riding along green, hilly pastures, wealthy Andean agriculture land, passing several stately farms, where we can observe fighting bulls and flower crop for exportation, getting a good impression about present and past of the country. This picturesque valley is also the home and breading place of many beautiful horses. Enjoy some nice canters along the fields and pastures. Crossing the Pucara hot springs around noon, we have the chance to relax our mussels in sulfur mountain water. Accommodation in the 350 years old, up to 1-meter thick colonial walls of a romantic country Inn. This Hacienda was already the home of the “Count of Amboise”, one of the members of the famous geodesic commission that measured the Equator midst of the 18th century. Measuring instruments bought in Paris 300 years ago and old Luis XIV- furniture can be admired in our fabulous dining room. Bring your bathing dress for the springs or the mineral water Jacuzzi!
After breakfast in the mighty colonial chamber, we ride out crossing the Equator from the southern to the northern part of the globe. While slowly winding downhill through forests of bamboo, we only come across a few small farmhouses along the way, where the highland farmers scratch a meager income from the steep, infertile land beside the forest. We keep approaching the impacting scenery of the ancient volcano "Pululahua", with the biggest crater in the whole Americas and one of only two inhabited worldwide! At the bottom of the crater, a mystical and very peaceful place, we can observe farmers plugging their fields with sticks and oxen, like they did 300 years ago. The green corn fields, swaying gently in the breeze, paint the picture you’ll take home from this part of your journey. Accommodation in comfortable country Inn in the mystical surroundings of the crater walls.
After looping around the central volcanic core, we shall be leaving the volcano through a small breech in its crater walls, passing by deep gorges, carved by lava streams thousands of years ago. Riding along steep mountain slopes covered with mossy cloud-forest, crossing eroded lahar fields blooming with wild orchids, we finally enter the narrow valley of the Rio Blanco with its warm and tropical climate where we shall find coffee trees, fields of sugar cane and a lot of tropical fruits. Legendary historical sites can be observed along the way. When the afternoon light breaks through the clouds over the pre-Inca-fortress “Portalanza” , this mountain-valley looks most certainly like taken from a fairy tale. "Aguacatal" is the name of the very remote (no electricity!) and beautiful farm that offers us beds for tonight.
Having gone half our way to Otavalo, we will make a rest day today - enjoying some leisure activities and refilling our energies with Mrs. Hildas Austrian “Kaiserschmarrn” in the middle of nowhere.
In the morning we invite you for a 2-3 hours hike or ride, to take a look at mysterious 1300 years old stone-carvings from the Yumbo-culture. The visit of a nearby Hacienda that was ruled by the Jesuit-community during colonial time and shows interesting historical evidences, is another option. Those, who'd like to change activity for a while, can go for a walk, collecting tropical fruit, head for a shower under a natural waterfall or just hang out for a day, enjoying the enchanted and unique scenery of our rest place.
This is the day of the adventurous! After crossing the bridge over the furious and turbulent river Guayllabamba, we'll be trekking along a nerve-wrecking trail above the river for several hours, following its direction upstream, leading us through the most hallucinating and breathtaking landscapes you can possibly imagine. You should not be afraid of heights. We will have to dismount on several sections of this trail and hike in difficult steep terrain. Fitness required!
In the late afternoon we'll reach the “wild-west-town” of San José de Minas, which has lost its glory as an important mining place when the new road from Quito to Otavalo was built, leaving San José de Minas out of the way. The view of the town is dominated by a mighty colonial church with stories to tell about. In its stony archways, Marcelo and Janet run a Flintstone-designed fancy little hostel that offers us shelter for tonight. When Marcelo takes out his strange collection of German and American Country music and the Cuba Libres are served, the mood is rising.
Today we’ll be climbing about 4000 feet in altitude, up to the cool and windy heights of the Paramo. Leaving the fertile valley of Minas behind us, we start riding and climbing along and across the fields and pastures of the authentic, charming Andean Highland, with cattle grazing on over 60 degrees inclined mountain-slopes. As we precede, housing, clothing and features get more and more indigenous: we are entering the land of the Otavalo tribe, one the few indigenous cultures worldwide who have managed to integrate and to succeed in a globalized world without loosing their identity. We’ll reach the beautiful Cuicocha Crater Lake in the afternoon, encircled by rugged mountain walls. Here, we spend our last night in comfortable double room “cabañas” with the best hot showers in Ecuador, while the cold Andean winds are blowing outdoors. A beautiful, picturesque hiking trail winds down from our hotel-yard to the lagoon, for those who still want to do some exercise.
After a hearty breakfast in the wooden built cafeteria, and after waving good-bye to our horses, our accompanying vehicle will pick us up and drive us down to Otavalo with a far-reaching view over the valley and the surrounding mountains. In the small Andean town, world-famous for its handicrafts and wool products, we'll have the chance to visit its lively, colorful indigenous market. Nowadays, these textile products are successfully sold around the world, and as poor as the mountain housings were we have seen yesterday, it’s also here in Otavalo where you can see more Mercedes Benz than anywhere else in Ecuador.
After lunch in an exquisite local restaurant, our main program has ended and participants will have the choice either to stay in Otavalo on their own (nearby attractions are the lakes of Mojanda and the Peguche waterfall) or to drive back with us to Quito.
Participants: 2 to 8 persons with riding experience. (Levels: advanced, intermediate to expert) Fitness
and adventurous spirit required. Maximum rider weight: 90 kg
NOTE:The operator reserves the right to change the itinerary without warning due to weather conditions, National Park regulations or unforeseeable circumstances.
We will not be held responsible for any refunds whatsoever for changes to the printed or scheduled itinerary