We drove from Quito down the Pan-American Highway, the storied road from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, towards the highest active volcano in the world…Cotopaxi. It towered over us at 19,347-feet, growing even taller with a steady stream of smoke and ash. We rounded the gravel road and the charming Hacienda el Porvenir appeared, nestled in the foothills with horses galloping and grazing. This fifth-generation ranch is carrying on the tradition of Andean cowboys and a simpler life in the dramatic páramo, and sharing it with a few dozen fortunate guests each night.
Hacienda el Porvenir is in the heart of Ecuador’s Volcano Avenue, surrounded by 12 volcanoes and at the foot of the Cotopaxi National Park. We weren’t sure how we felt sleeping below an active volcano…but one look at the glacier-capped peak and steam billowing from the top, and we realized the location couldn’t be better.
We walked into the main house, and instantly fell in love with its inviting feel and chic Ecuadorian style. A woman in traditional dress, greeted us with a tray of cheese empanadas and canalazo, a hot toddy made with naranjilla fruit and cinnamon. We wandered the farmhouse with a warm feeling in our bellies, staking out all its cozy nooks for future reading and relaxing by the fire.
All the rooms in the hotel are unique but with a unifying Andean panache. Room #16 won us over with its gabled ceilings and gorgeous view of El Pedregal Valley and the surrounding volcanoes of Pasochoa, Sincholagua, and Cayambe.
The hacienda encourages guests to take full advantage of its dramatic natural surroundings with everything from mountain biking, waterfall trekking, to its signature activity…horseback riding to a volcano-packed panorama. I’ll admit I have a slight fear of horses, but even I couldn’t pass up this romantic notion of donning a poncho and galloping toward a volcano. The team outfitted us in the traditional riding gear (leather chaps included), gave us a safety briefing, and then rode with us into the sunset.
We ambled up the foothills of Rumiñahui Volcano, and noticed a bull ring. Chagras, Andean Cowboy, culture lives on in the region, and Hacienda el Porvenir and its fellow Tierra del Volcan properties are helping it thrive. All their haciendas are traditional working ranches, managing more than 2,000 Toro Bravo (aka. Spanish Fighting Bulls). In July, more experienced riders are invited join the cattle drive and the annual Chagras celebration.
Watch this video of our dreamy horseback ride between the volcanoes.
After our ride, dinner never looked so good. Their restaurant focuses on Andean recipes, using ingredients grown in the nearby valleys, like purple potatoes and quinoa, beef from grass-fed cattle, fresh-baked bread and homemade aji salsa—an Ecuadorian staple at every meal. We had the tenderloin steak with huckleberry sauce…mmmmmm.
Cotopaxi and its billowing steam had beckoned us long enough, it was time to get up close. The next day we set out for a hike around the base, strewn with rocks from recent and past explosions. (Cotopaxi volcano has erupted 50 times since 1738.) Our guide pointed out the lichen, wildflowers, and shrubs that can survive in this extremely harsh environment, along with the wild horses and elusive condor.
Set on 1,000+ hectares of land, Hacienda el Porvenir is preserving Andean land and culture in meaningful (and fun) ways. In addition to their luxurious properties and exciting activities, they run non-profit programs for anthropological research, condor monitoring, environmental education, Volcanic hazard mitigation, school building, and other community initiatives. Sign-up in advance for their 3-5 day Traveling Meaning programs or rest assured that even one night’s stay at the hacienda helps this incredible corner of the Andes.
Anne and Mike Howard are creators of the around-the-world honeymoon blog HoneyTrek.com and Long Term Travel Coaches for anyone looking to travel the world safely, affordably and off the beaten path. You can see more from @HoneyTrek over on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Mike and Anne Howard left on their honeymoon in 2012 and have been traveling the world ever since. HoneyTrek.com chronicles their adventures across 7 continents, 44 countries, and counting! Their writing, photography, and the story of the “World’s Longest Honeymoon” can also be found on Condé Nast Traveler, BBC Travel, The Knot, Los Angeles Times, CBS, and dozens of other international publications. Connect with @HoneyTrek on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.