Haciendas, manor homes for feudal landowners dating from as early as the late 1500s, dot the mountain highlands of Ecuador. Many of these elegant residences have been restored and converted into accommodations more aptly described as retreats than hotels.
Hosteria Hacienda Pinsaquí, located 90 minutes from the capital of Quito, in the Imbabura province — with its lakes and artisans — makes a handsome headquarters for exploring the region.
As you turn off of the Pan-American Highway between Otavalo and Ibarra, imposing gates open onto trim lawns and towering palm trees in this colonial hideaway. A door man with a brightly woven vest materializes at the steps leading from the gravel drive to the main building to greet you.
The whitewashed structure, built in 1790, is cheerily trimmed with blue, and a fountain sparkles at the entrance. Guests are guided through chandelier-adorned halls hung with photos of horses (the hacienda has been owned for generations by equestrians and has its own stables) and illustrious guests.
Each large, airy suite is outfitted with French and Spanish antiques, sheepskin rugs and fireplaces or wood stoves. Floral canopies arch between the four posters of many beds; claw-foot tubs in the bathrooms invite travelers to a respite.
During the day adventurers can hike, horseback ride and mountain bike. Those in quest of quieter pursuits can explore the grounds (which include a historic chapel), or sway in the breeze in a hammock while leafing through a book borrowed from the hacienda’s library.
In the evenings an Andean band entertains in the cellar bar, where cheese empanadas and canelazo, a drink brewed from cinnamon and naranjilla (a subtropical fruit) are passed around, courtesy of the house.
Pinsaquí’s restaurant offers first-rate renditions of regional specialties, such as fritada (fried pork) and carne Colorado (chopped beef with red chiles). Traditional dishes are accompanied by crispy llapingachos (potato-cheese patties), fried plantain, hominy and a slice of avocado.
If the empanadas haven’t left room for such a hearty meal, the hacienda has lighter offerings, such as pan-fried trout from local waters, locro — a traditional stew — or quintessential shrimp ceviche. Local women with ropes of golden necklaces, full black skirts, and white blouses embroidered with a rainbow of flowers bring warm bread and refill water.
The setting is luxurious without being ostentatious, the staff thoughtful without being obsequious.
The area’s crafts villages are all in easy reach of the hacienda: Cotacachi (known for its leather), Peguche and Agato (weaving), and San Antonio de Ibarra (wood-carving), are each no more than a 20-minute drive. The country’s most celebrated artisan market, in nearby Otavalo, offers a chance to compare goods and prices all in one place.
The market is open every day, with a mayhem of merchants on Saturdays. Several of the province’s lakes (Cuicocha, San Pablo and Mojanda Lakes) are also just a short drive away.
While haciendas are sprinkled throughout the Ecuadorian Andes, Pinsaquí is a good value as well as a great experience. With double rooms for US$ 108, including taxes and breakfast, the only question left is when to go.
If You Go
Hosteria Hacienda Pinsaquí