Hacienda Zuleta is a colonial working farm of 4,000 acres (2,000 hectares) that belongs to the family of Mr. Galo Plaza lasso, a former president of Ecuador, for more than 100 years. It was chosen as one of the world's “Top Ten Finds” by Outside magazine for those thinking about taking one of our Ecuador trips.
The hacienda has 15 beautifully decorated bedrooms, all with their own fire place; Antique gardens along with cosy living and reading rooms offer a peaceful atmosphere. Delicious home cooking and regional cuisine is offered daily, prepared with organic vegetables, trout and dairy products produced on the Hacienda.
Hacienda Zuleta offers a great variety of activities and places to visit to its guests. With horseback riding being our speciality, we also offer mountain bikes and a horse drawn carriage for trips on hacienda grounds to observe the milking, the agriculture, mountain views and the tranquil life of the community.
Guest can also visit the Condor Huasi Project that works for the rehabilitation of the majestic Andean Condor.
The Plaza family with his natural warmth and hospitality welcomes you to their country house and invites you to share life at an authentic hacienda in the Andes of Ecuador.
To visit Hacienda Zuleta on one of our Ecuador trips is to experience four centuries of Ecuadorian history seeped in Pre-Colombian, Spanish and Ecuadorian tradition.
Pre-Incan and Incan Period
The original inhabitants of the Zuleta region were the peace-loving Caranquis. They were an agrarian-based culture and flourished in this area, rich in volcanic soils, from about 800 A.D. until the arrival of the war-faring Incas in the late 1470's. Within the grounds of Zuleta there are 130 Caranqui Mounds, which were supposedly constructed around 1200 A.D. These earth mounds were necessary to protect buildings such as huts, sheds and temples from the humidity of the ground.
Although the Caranquis fought stoically against the Inca for forty years, they were eventually conquered and forced into Inca servitude. Yet Inca rule was short-lived. By 1534, the last Inca king, Atahualpa, had been captured and assassinated by the Spanish Conquistador, Pizarro, leaving the Inca empire in collapse and permitting a free for all for the land-hungry vassals of the Spanish Crown.
In the late 16th century, King Charles is believed to have bequeathed the Zuleta region to the Jesuits, who implemented their Spanish methods of farming and cattle and sheep production. In the following years an ‘obraje' (small wool mill) was established. By 1691, the Hacienda house, granary and chapel were completed and the farm was in full operation.
Private Ownership of Zuleta
However, in 1713, under the direction of King Charles III, the property was confiscated and transferred to Canon Gabriel Zuleta, thus making Zuleta his seventeenth Hacienda. From this day forth the farm became known as Cochicaranqui de Zuleta. Upon the Canon's death, the farm passed to the Posse family, who were inspired to bring the Hacienda back to its previous 17th century grandeur.
The Plaza-Lasso Family
Yet it wasn't until the farm was sold to Jose Maria Lasso in 1898 and passed through two more generations to Galo Plaza Lasso, the ex-President of Ecuador, bullfighter and diplomat, that Zuleta recaptured its original prosperity. A farmer at heart, Lasso was an ardent supporter of modern agriculture and through this conviction he was the first to bring Holstein cows, systematic seed selection and tractors to Ecuador. Zuleta was his flagship, the place where each of these technologies was showcased.
Zuleta encompasses 2,112 hectares of pastureland, forest and protected areas of native primary forest. The hacienda's production, with approximately 300 Holstein-Friesian cows, consists mainly of milk. Six thousand litres of milk are produced daily, which is used to produce eleven varieties of semi-aged cheeses, cream, yoghurt and cream cheese in Zuleta's cheese factory.
Other products farmed are potatoes, barley, wheat and approximately 2000 sheep for wool and meat. 900 tons of humus are generated by the worm farm per year.
The trout farm raises a mixture of steelhead and rainbow trout sold in the local market and used for personal consumption at the hacienda itself. Approximately 26 tons of trout are produced per year.
Zuleta also has a beautiful organic garden, which produces 25 different vegetables, herbs and fruits for personal use at the hacienda.
The hacienda has almost 100 horses, some pure Andalusians and some polo horses, and a mix of Andalusian, quarter horse and thoroughbred. The workers use the horses for transportation inside the hacienda, whilst guests and family members ride the horses for pleasure.
Hacienda Zuleta's hospitality retains an intimacy, warmth and sincerity reminiscent of a century past. Additionally, Zuleta offers a level of privacy rarely achieved in the 21st century. At Zuleta you are a guest of our family and you are welcomed as such. You will be invited to relax at your leisure in our cosy reading and living rooms, which have entertained their own entourage of famous visitors including past presidents and dignitaries.
All of our guestrooms are located in the main building of the Hacienda, which dates back to 1691.
As the structure of the original colonial building could not be drastically changed, every room has its different shape and charm. Individually decorated with antiques, authentic family pictures and hand embroidered linens, the guestrooms transmit the feeling of a private home.
The rooms have beautiful garden and mountain views and some provide access to private gardens, terraces or a courtyard where hummingbirds feed.
Our double beds are queen or king size, with four pillows and anti-allergic bedding. While guests are enjoying their dinner, room service staff place hot water bottles with beautiful embroidered cases in every bed and light the fireplaces.
Suites for families and adjoining rooms are available. Satellite television, movies and games are available at any time in one of the living rooms, as well as coffee, soft drinks and a bar service. Phone calls can be made from the public areas and offices.
As your dining experience unfolds, you will be impressed by the Hacienda's sustainability. Virtually everything gracing the table comes fresh from Zuleta's rich earth and is carefully prepared by hand.
Fresh milk and cream from Zuleta's dairy cows are offered daily.
Handmade cheeses are produced from the farm's fresh milk and carefully crafted in the small factory near the guesthouse.
Rainbow trout are caught moments before melting in your mouth.
Freshly churned butter melts over warm bread baked from wheat harvested on the Hacienda.
Fresh organic fruit and vegetables are picked from the expansive garden to make unforgettable salads and freshly squeezed juices.
The recipes used have been inherited from great-grandmothers and are influenced by the various countries where family members have lived over the years. Many of the dishes served are so unique you will not encounter them elsewhere. They have even been published in renowned magazines.
Located between 2870 and 3050 metres above sea level in the Andean mountains of Northern Ecuador and 110 kilometres north of Quito, the Hacienda can be reached within two hours from the capital. Transfers with English speaking guides from Quito or other locations can be arranged with prior notice.
Blessed with an equatorial location, Hacienda Zuleta experiences a temperate climate all year round. Temperatures average between 70 and 75 degrees during the day with low humidity. Nights tend to be crisp: perfect for sitting in front of the fireplace with a warm cup of tea! January through June are characterized by sunny days with occasional spring-like showers. During this time of year, the countryside is lush and green. July and August are typically dry and provide the best opportunities for extraordinary views of the surrounding volcanoes. September through December offers pleasant weather with occasional showers.
Miles of meandering roads through lush pastureland, pine trees and a eucalyptus forest make the valley of Zuleta a paradise for outdoor activities. We have twenty Zuleteño bred horses, mountain bikes and a horse drawn carriage upon which you can explore the area. At the Hacienda itself, guests can find out more information about our trails in our Activity Room, there are options for every interest and fitness level. We will be happy to help you plan your stay!
Riding has been a Plaza family tradition for over one hundred years, and today Zuleta reflects this equestrian affinity by boasting one of the most exclusive stables in Ecuador. Zuleta is also known for its Zuleteño horse, a unique mixture of Spanish – Andalusian, English and Quarter horses. The outcome of this crossbreeding is a robust, noble and smooth Andean horse with a perfect disposition for trail riding.
Many of our guests come specifically to Zuleta for one of our 3 to 10 day riding programmes. Riders will have numerous opportunities to explore the Andean countryside along high altitude trails (between 9,000 and 11,000 feet) that wind through ‘páramo'.
We provide half chaps, helmets, rain ponchos and a saddle bag. The South American saddle utilized is very similar to western. The saddle has a pommel, a deep seat and is covered with a cozy sheep skin pad.
All the rides start at Hacienda Zuleta at about 9,000 ft. Every day's ride has its particular beauty and charm, including rides in valleys surrounded by mountains, bathed in green lakes on mountain tops, snow-capped Cayambe, ancient pre-Incan earth mounds, waterfalls, dramatic views in or above the clouds. You will see local people work on their land and have a chance to meet a saddle maker. Depending on the weather conditions, we offer 15 different tours.
All excursions are accompanied by a local guide, although an English speaking guide is always available. All-day rides include a fine and luxurious, 3 course country picnic.
Horse Drawn Carriage
If you would like to travel back in time, we recommend a turn in our horse drawn carriage. Rodrigo Aguilar and a gentle Andalusian mare will take you on an unforgettable trip where you can comfortably explore the Hacienda.
We offer six mountain bikes size 15” to 18.5” as well as helmets. We have many trails perfect for biking, and we are happy to drive you to the top of a nearby hill so you can enjoy the descent back to Zuleta! For your own safety we always recommend you use a helmet.
Hiking and Trekking
As there are numerous options of trails for every interest and fitness level, we ask you to please inform us of your preferences and let us help you plan your hikes. You can hike with a local guide who can give you some information on the way, or if you prefer to go alone, you can easily follow our self-guided signs along the trails and roads.
The expansive Hacienda Zuleta grounds are full of beautiful and interesting points to visit. Guests are invited to explore the grounds and to visit our museums, farm operations and archaeological sites. We are happy to discuss your interests and plan an exciting and personal itinerary for you.
Many of our guests ride or hike to Condor Huasi, our condor rehabilitation project, located about 5 km from the house in a valley surrounded by native forest. At Condor Huasi, the only reproduction and liberation site licensed by the governmental condor protection agency in Ecuador, you will be able to observe the eight condors we have in captivity and with some luck you might see wild condors flying above you or even landing on the aviary.
Within the Hacienda grounds, you will find the largest and best preserved archeological sites of the ancient Caranqui culture. There are 132 small earth mounds dating as far back as 700 A.D. and five large square truncated pyramids from 1200 A.D. Please visit our History page for more information about the mounds.
At “El Taller,” you will find a workshop of Zuleta's famous and beautiful embroidery work. “El Taller” is managed by the Galo Plaza Lasso Foundation, a non-profit organization involved in helping the surrounding communities. Our embroideries are made by hundreds of Zuleta's women who use their spare time to contribute to their agrarian family income.
Francisca Carlosama, the head of the Zuleta Women's Cooperative can demonstrate the process, and you are welcome to buy or order tablecloths, placemats, curtains, blouses and many other beautiful items.
Hacienda Zuleta has over 300 cows that support Zuleta's milk production. Milking takes place at 3pm in the afternoon (or at 5am in the morning!) and we invite you to come to the milking sheds to experience the process, feed a little calf, see giant bulls and talk to the vaqueros (local cowboys). If you are interested in a private milking lesson, Rosa and her cow Esperanza are happy to teach you to milk by hand.
We invite you to visit our organic garden, to learn about permaculture and to discover the origin of your lunch ingredients. Within three hectares, we grow seventeen different kinds of vegetables, five different kinds of fruit, several herbs, spices and medical plants. Everything is produced without chemicals and the humus used as fertilizer comes from our own worm farm.
If you are interested in cheese, you can visit the cheese museum and learn how Zuleta's semi-aged, handmade cheeses are produced from the farm's fresh milk and carefully processed in the small factory near the guest house. Find out about the steps from milk to cheese and how the process has changed throughout history.
Next to Zuleta's main entrance, you will find the library. Run by the Galo Plaza Lasso Foundation, the library offers free cultural and educational activities for the community. In the morning hours it is used as a Child Care Center, and in the afternoon, many children from the community arrive to get help with homework. We also offer extracurricular activities and workshops. You are more than welcome to visit the library and meet Zuleta's children.