A Visit Not to Be Missed!
The Hacienda maintains its architectural style and rustic native materials.
We leave Quito early in the morning to take advantage of the good weather, clear skies and the magnificent views of the spectacular Cotopaxi, Antisana and Cayambe Volcanoes rising well over 19.000 feet of elevation above sea level and covered with massive layers of white snows and glaciers, all near the Equator. They make the perfect frame for post-card pictures of the verdant Andean valleys of Ecuador’s stunning “Avenue of the Volcanoes”, as it was described by the German explorer and geographer, Alexander Von Humboldt in the 19th Century.
Our 70 miles voyage riding the Pan-American Highway North is an endless parade of amazing sights, colors, fertile valleys, picturesque little towns, hill slopes cultivated in terraces and that unique crisp Andean air. We cross the Equator Line, marked by a stone globe replica of our planet, and continue on to one of the country’s major rose-growing zones. Cayambe, a bustling small city located at the western foothills of its namesake volcano is also a notorious agricultural, farming and cattle raising area. A short stop gives us the chance to try the local delicacy: clay oven-baked tasty “bizcochos” (biscuits), served with locally made fresh cheese, wrapped on a plant leaf, known as "queso de hoja" (leaf cheese).
Next we stop at “Miralago”, a natural observatory which provides a spectacular view of the sparkling blue lake of San Pablo, nestled at the foothills of the Imbabura Volcano. Darwin, a ten year old Otavaleño (the local indigenous group which inhabits the area for centuries), poses with charming smiles holding his pretty Andean llama pet, with the beautiful background of the Lake.
Going past the famous town of Otavalo we continue a short distance to the north, to reach, two hours after having left Quito, the magnificent Hacienda Chorlavi, converted since four decades ago into a fascinating Country Inn. The historical mansion, which retains its name and condition of “Hacienda”, boasts a cobble-stoned central courtyard with a pretty water fountain, surrounded by red geraniums and other flowers. Andrea and Carolina, the current owners of the Hacienda (and grand-daughters of the illustrious man who had the vision to convert this estate into the first Hotel-Hacienda in rural Ecuador to receive tourists, lodge and feed them in the property), greet us with charming hospitality and give us an introductory tour of the superb colonial estate. The Hacienda’s staff who wear their colorful native dresses have welcomed us with a refreshing fruit juice and small and amazingly delicious maize patties with a “guacamole” sauce.
As we tour the property, Andrea and Carolina tell us that legend and history explain that the Hacienda’s name of “Chorlavi” means “love nest”, in reference to the place where the Inca King Huayna-Capac fell in love with the local Caranqui Princess Paccha. During the Spanish Colony, Chorlavi became a Jesuit Monastery in 1620. With the advent of Independence, the estate became one of the largest Haciendas of the northern Andean Region and since the late 19th century, in the hands of the Tobar family, whose young descendants now run it, it was converted into Ecuador’s first country “Hosteria”.
The Hacienda maintains its architectural style and rustic native materials. However, it has been fully revamped to make it a top-class countryside Hotel. The rooms are ample, comfortable and beautifully decorated and equipped. My room even has a fireplace, which will be welcome in the chilly evening. The bathroom has nothing to envy an urban five-star hotel, from space and design to equipment and amenities. The windows provide views of gardens, flowers and native trees like the “araucarias” and Andean palms. The atmosphere is one of comfort, peace and relaxation.
Discretely disguised within the architectonic layout of the original Hacienda, there are close to 60 guest rooms and suites; a swimming pool, Jacuzzi and sauna; three large and fully equipped conference rooms for meetings and conventions; reading room, tennis and squash courts, soccer, volley-ball and basketball courts and fields; children’s games and of course the Hacienda’s classy dining-room-restaurant and bar. Food is outstanding, a feast to our palate, focused on Ecuador’s traditional gastronomy and local recipes, with a touch of sophistication and cheerful, efficient service.
The challenge now is whether we stay to relax and enjoy the ambiance and peace of the Hacienda or which of the many activity alternatives offered we take after lunch. We opt for a horseback ride, along rows of eucalyptus trees, admiring the farm’s daily life and routines, together with the amazing scenery of the area. Taking it easy for the first afternoon will give us the chance to take other tours and activities in the area tomorrow. Now it is time to sit by the fireplace, enjoy conversation, a glass of wine and a delicious dinner, before retiring to rest at such a history-rich and delightfully pleasant country estate and Hotel.
Like Chorlaví which was the pioneer, more than a dozen Haciendas along Ecuador’s north-central Andean region have been converted into country “Hosterias” and provide unique experiences and great services for the voyagers.
For more Hacienda style accommodation options in Ecuador, click here.
If you would like to learn some more of Ecuador, check-out our Top Ten Attractions list.