Ecuador has it all: from the unique Galapagos Islands to the iconic snow-capped peak of Cotopaxi and from the relaxed beach vibes on the coast to the adrenaline-inducing anacondas and tarantulas in the Amazon jungle.
Most likely you will start your journey through South America’s most compact Andes country in its capital Quito. The charming colonial architecture and the various spectacular viewpoints of the surrounding mountains make Quito a perfect introduction to Ecuador, but spending time here at both the start and end of your trip might be a bit too much. There are plenty of other options for nice places to stay in the vicinity of the airport.
Personally, I was in desperate need of some warmth and cosiness after spending three rainy days in Cuyabeno, on Ecuador’s side of the Amazon jungle. I was in need of a hotel that is a destination on its own, a true escape from the on-the-go life of a traveller. And so we swapped our basic jungle hut for the comfort and romance of Hacienda las Cuevas.
Leaving bustling Quito behind is a challenge even when being picked-up by a local who knows his way through the crazy traffic. A more surprising part of the ride is entering the countryside. A bumpy unpaved road leads us past small villages and into the hills. Here, the sounds that reach us through the open windows are no longer those of honking cars. Instead, we hear birdsong and the occasional bark of a dog and moo of a cow. The smell of polluting exhaust fumes is replaced by that of aromatic trees and freshly mowed grass. A long line of trees on both sides of a cobble stone driveway anticipates another world at the end of it. And it does. Hacienda Las Cuevas looks like the décor of a fairy tale. Bright green grass covers the site, a flower-lined pond accommodates leisurely floating ducks. The reflection of its water shows the attractive features of the hacienda. As the name suggests, the hotel is built into a gigantic rock. The natural stone walls, its soft shapes and the wooden hatches give it an inviting look – one that reminds me of the film set of The Hobbit’s cosy Shire.
I immediately unwind. Anyone would in a place like this. Except perhaps the engineer Álvaro Bustamante who originally chiselled his (basic) home out of the rock that is now transformed into a hotel.
Although we came here to relax, I wouldn’t be me if I would not ask what activities are on offer right after I have seen my room – a cosy cave. A little while later we enjoy views of the valley and distant Quito from the back of a horse. We step through fields with wild flowers and pay a short visit to a rose plantation on the way. As we get back on our horses rain starts to drizzle and when we enter the forest – frequently bending over to avoid banging our heads against low hanging branches – the skies start to rumble and rain comes pouring down on us. We return a tad less relaxed then we had anticipated, but we are warmly welcomed back on the doorstep with hot towels by our host Joaquín Ponce. And then there is the jacuzzi. Inside a cave, you guessed it.
In the next cove, local cheeses mature in the perfect temperature and humidity of the cave. Although the sight of the moulded cheeses is not that appealing, the taste is all the better. Especially when enjoyed with wine. Chef Isabela Vela explains us how to best combine cheeses and wines and, even better, lets us taste it for ourselves. A lovely and delicious start of the evening followed by a three course dinner, more wine and then tea in front of the fireplace.
Blue skies and sunshine greet us the next morning and so we set out for a hike in the nearby forest. Joaquín joins us and we definitely need his guidance. The trail is kept as natural as possible and this means one has to know its way through the tree branches. It is a fun walk taking in a cave (a real, natural one) and two waterfalls. The views of the lush green valley are wonderful, and a lovely last impression of Ecuador. A country whose cities are enjoyable, but whose nature is memorable.
Up for a romantic getaway to Hacienda Los Cuevas Terra Lodge yourself? Read more below this photo…
How to make a booking?
A reservation through firstname.lastname@example.org is required.
How to get to the hotel?
The drive to the hotel is a bumpy one so you want to have a suitable vehicle (you don’t need a 4×4 but I’m not sure if you will enjoy driving up with an economy rental car). The road is unlit, so for safety reasons I highly recommend not to drive there yourself at night. The hotel can arrange a pick-up from the airport or from Quito for you for $25. The drive is 20 minutes from the airports and half an hour from Quito’s city centre.
What should I bring with me?
If you want to get active, make sure to bring along comfortable, long pants for horsebackriding, and sturdy boots for hiking.
If you want to relax, bring along a good book to read by the fireplace.
Disclosure: my stay at Hacienda Las Cuevas was sponsored. This story is a reflection of my personal, honest opinion about this special accommodation.