The best hotel recommendation for a city you are about to visit always comes from a person who was born there. So when Ecuador came up on my itinerary, my New York City workmate, Silvia was the only source I was going to listen to.
“You have got to stay at Hacienda Cusin,” she said lovingly. Silva was born in Quito and her family still lives there. Her sighs while describing the hotel were enough for me so I immediately made a reservation via Cusin’s website. After experiencing Hacienda Cusin, my travel mate and I changed our one-night reservation to three nights.
Hacienda Cusin is an exquisitely restored 17th century Andean estate high in the mountains at the foot of the Cotacachi volcano about 50 miles north of Quito.
Less than 10 miles from the Andean shopping mecca of Otavalo and less than 30 minutes from the Equatorial Line it is a pristine spot for great food, hiking and quiet reflection.
Owner Nick Millhouse is British and fell in love with
Ecuador during a visit more than 30 years ago. He bought Cusin in 1990 and immediately began conserving and restoring its salas, salones, guestrooms and landscape.
Many rooms are furnished with antiques. To separate conference dynamics from the tranquility of house-guests an original looking monastery with excellent conference facilities was built nearby. His focus is on service, comfort and ambience.
Our luck at Cusin began when we were assigned room 25, a beautifully appointed rustic, terracotta-tiled cottage with a wood-beamed ceiling and a bathtub for piping-hot water. A roof-top patio overlooked private perennial gardens and 15,000’ Imbabura mountains. Close to the Equatorial Line and at 8,500’, the nights are cool. But every night upon returning to the romantic room, we found a roaring log-fire.
Hacienda Cusin exudes typical Andean service you find throughout Ecuador.
The staff, whom all speak English, are friendly and customer oriented. Their specialty seems to be providing no-hassle help – be it additional food portions, help in ordering wine, or a ball to use on the excellent squash, basketball or volleyball courts. Wi-Fi compliments an internet café and tea is served all day in the library.
But Hacienda Cusin is not all about the hacienda. The surrounding mountains offer great horseback riding, hiking and birdwatching (more than 50 species of birds live on the grounds). One hike we took stretched several miles to the foot of a valley with a grand waterfall to greet us. Minina, Cusin’s friendly dog, walked along and guided us through the easy trail.
A less expensive sister hotel, Las Palmeras Inn, is close to Otavalo, and an excellent place for lunch.
John Garcia is a freelance writer in New York.