A hacienda conjures up grandiose historical context. The mind wanders to rolling country estates with horse-riding nobility and a grand house with Spanish ceramic tiles. You can find this type of hacienda in Ecuador, but nestled below the glowering peak of Volcan Imbabura is a different type of hacienda.
At Hacienda Cusin you can wander through towering trees, past llamas languidly chewing on grass, and hole up with a good book in front of a roaring fire. Sure the horses are there as well, but Cusin is a cosier feeling hacienda.
Reconstructed after decades of disrepair, the owners have recreated a historical feeling amongst the cobblestoned pathways. First established in 1602 by a powerful Spanish family, Cusin maintained an expansive presence along the valleys on the eastern end of Lago San Pablo near Otavalo. At its peak, it controlled over 100,000 acres, all but redistributed following land reforms in the mid-20th century. Now it is home to quaint rooms with fireplaces spread amongst the main house and several out buildings.
The rooms each have a unique character, but it is the gardens and newly built monastery that have the most character. Trees draped with moss and bromeliads provide a canopy for various hummingbird inducing flowers. The friendly little group of llamas ignore most visitors – except when they get close enough for a kiss from my wife!
And the monastery – which we first thought was refurbished, but later learned was actually completely built from scratch in the 1990s – offers surprises behind a myriad of doors. Hand carved columns, handmade furniture, a chapel and beautiful altar, and even a secret door, the monastery is a fabulous place to explore! And if you are lucky to get a sunny day, the view from the top of the tower, accessed through the secret door (if you can find it!) is stunning.
If you haven’t explored enough, then check out their little farm. They have a few horses, ducks, chickens, cuy and once we discovered a huge bee’s nest. They can organize horse riding adventures, or else you can just watch the baby chicks wander around and look for their elusive rabbits.
And when you’re tired of that, check out their squash court, fusbol table, ping pong table, and several movie rooms. WiFi is free in the common areas, or disconnect on a garden bench or in front of the fire in your room.
Hacienda Cusin is friendly and welcoming and we all love going there – even Mosa who plays with the property’s dog Terry. The staff know us, especially Piper, and treat us like familiar friends. They know of Piper’s propensity for soup in the evenings, her tendency to fall asleep at the table soon thereafter and her desire to find the llamas!
Any old ramshackle house with Spanish ceramic tiles and some gardens can call itself a hacienda, but it takes a special feel to make such a place feel like home – Hacienda Cusin is just such a place. Thanks Hacienda Cusin for the great experience for us and our guests, each and every time we go.