Hacienda Zuleta is alluring not merely for its idyllic 5,218 acres that guests can explore on horseback and its picturesque colonial buildings dating back to 1691. Hacienda Zuleta, home to former Ecuadorian president Galo Plaza Lasso, provides guests a home-away-from home among the volcanoes, and it funds the Galo Plaza Lasso Foundation.
The foundation, a non-profit, non-governmental organization formed in 1995, seeks to empower and educate the local, primarily indigenous, people of Zuleta and the surrounding Ibarra region. The foundation also aims to protect the environment and culture of the area.
It works toward these goals through two major projects: the Embroidery Project and the Condor Huasi Rehabilitation Project. The Embroidery Project began with Doña Rosario, wife of the former president, who was inspired by her travels to Spain and Italy in the 1940s and the embroidery she saw women doing there on their doorsteps. She thought of the intricate brocades, tapestries, and gauze work the Andean women of Zuleta had been doing since pre-Columbian times. Upon her return from Europe, Doña Rosario established a workshop for the local women as well as a shop, El Taller, at the hacienda where they could sell their wares to supplement their families' primarily agrarian income. Zuleta embroidery is now part of the region's cultural heritage and the sale of the product and perpetuation of the art form clearly benefit from increased tourism to the hacienda and the region in general.
Another of the foundation's projects is the Condor Huasi Rehabilitation Project that houses wild condors that have suffered from human aggression and seeks to reintroduce them to the wild. The on-site project seeks to educate visitors on the importance of protecting wildlife, and provides food to the dwindling and endangered wild condor population.
In addition the foundation's great work, Hacienda Zuleta is Smart Voyager certified and scored a 92 percent on the 2009 re-evaluation of its program's best practices. The Smart Voyager Certification program is a joint venture of Ecuadorian NGO Conservación y Desarrollo (Conservation and Development) and U.S.-based Rainforest Alliance that seeks to help tourism operators reduce the impact of their business on the environment while supporting local communities and their employees. UNESCO has acknowledged the program as an example of how to increase the efficiency and profitability of companies while protecting a region's natural heritage and historic and cultural sites.
Horseback riding trips at Hacienda Zuleta can be booked via Hidden Trails - an organizer of some of the best equestrian vacations worldwide. To reas more details about these riding vacations, go to: