caballo campana

There are a lot of good reasons to choose a hotel in central historic Cuenca. But I mentioned two hacienda hotels outside of town in this recent Cuenca tour story that are worth a look for a more serene experience: Caballo Campana and Uzhupud.

Hacienda Caballo Campana is only 10 minutes from the city, near the Banos hot springs, but it sits on a large horse farm where locals come to take equestrian classes and guests can saddle up as well. Rooms are in the main house, built in the 1940s, or in several other small buildings dotted around the property. The surprisingly elegant restaurant served up one of the best dinners I experienced in the region, in a gorgeous atmosphere with a sense of place.

A full equestrian course is on site for competitions, but for those who want to stay on their own two feet there are hikes into the hills from trails starting on the property. The couple managing the property—the daughter of the hacienda owner and her Argentine husband—are great host and both speak fluent English.

This is not a true luxury hotel like historic Mansion Alcazar in the center, but it’s comfortable and decorated with care, the warmth of the hospitality and good value rates resulting in many repeat visitors. A tray of welcome snacks, robes, and a minibar join a good array of bath amenities. While you’re at dinner, staffers light up the fireplace or wood stove in your room.Book the largest family suite for the most space, at  $182 per night including breakfast and the hefty 22% Ecuadoran tax. Check the package deals too.

Hacienda Uzhupud

Hacienda Uzhupud is further out and larger, about a 35-minute drive from the city and feeling like a whole different world. This is a working farm, with sheep, horses, cows, and other creatures around that guests can interact with. If you’d like a real “farm to table” experience, here you can milk the cows yourself. It began in the 1700s and has been in the same family since 1821. It’s not like living on a farm otherwise though: this is a well-designed hotel that’s spacious and comfortable. There’s a swimming pool on site, an excellent restaurant and bar, plus sport and game areas. This being a hacienda, it even has its own chapel.

uzhupud-loungeMost of the guests at Uzhupud are domestic, but one of the managers and a few staffers speak English and there are enough expats from Cuenca coming out for a weekend to keep them in practice. It is located between a region of craft villages and Cuenca, so it makes a good base for exploring the countryside and seeing local artisans at work. Rates at the 62 rooms start at $85 and run up to $239 for the best suite in high season, but for families it’s best to snag one of the packages. Rates don’t include taxes, but do include airport transfers, breakfast, and some activities.

Visitors to Cuenca seem to fall into two camps: those who come on a quickie tour tacked onto a Galapagos trip or those who are scouting out their prospects for moving here permanently, looking into local real estate. For those who fall in between and can stick around long enough to experience all that the area has to offer, a night or two in one of these hacienda hotels is a great alternative to the traffic-clogged urban core.

For more information, see the websites for Hacienda Caballo Campana or Hacienda Uzhupud.