Upon stepping through the gates of Hacienda Zuleta, one enters into a historical legacy dating back thousands of years. Surrounded by the natural beauty of the Andes Mountains, the fertile valley still bountifully supports its inhabitants and is sited as a model for farming and land use in Ecuador and all of the Andes.
Today the working farm thrives under the supervision of former Ecuador President Galo Plaza's descendants. The farm produces a wide range of products including milk (5000 liters per day), cheese, barley, quinoa, potatoes, wheat, organic vegetables and compost, and also boasts a wide variety of livestock, dairy cows, sheep and horses.
Of special interest to many guests are the hand-embroidery workshop, condor rehabilitation project, trout farming and cheese factory. Tours of the entire farm are a typical part of every guest's stay. You are usually privately escorted by a Plaza family member, another gesture of Zuleta's renown hospitality.
Located between 2870 and 3050 meters in the Andean mountains of Northern Ecuador and 110 kilometers north of Quito, the Hacienda can be reached within two hours from the capital.
The original inhabitants of the Zuleta region were the peace-loving Caranquis. They were an agrarian-based culture and flourished in this area rich in volcanic soils from about 800 A.D. until the arrival of the war-faring Incas in the late 1470's.
Although the Caranquis fought stoically against the Inca for forty years, they were eventually conquered and forced into Inca servitude. Yet Inca rule was short-lived. By 1534, the last Inca king, Atahualpa, had been captured and assassinated by the Spanish conquistador, Pizarro, leaving the Inca empire in collapse and a free for conquest by the Spanish Crown.
In the late 16th century, King Carlos is believed to have bequeathed the Zuleta region to the Jesuits, who implemented their Spanish methods of farming and cattle and sheep production. In the following years an 'obraje' (small wool mill) was established. By 1691, the Hacienda house, granary and chapel were completed and the farm was in full operation.
However, in 1713, under the direction of King Charles III, the property was confiscated and transferred to Canon Gabriel Zuleta, thus making Zuleta his seventeenth Hacienda. From this day forth the farm became known as Cochicaranqui de Zuleta. Upon the Canon's death, the farm passed to the Posse family, who were inspired to bring the Hacienda back to its previous 17th century grandeur.
Meanwhile, Doña Rosario (Galo's wife), established the Zuleta Embroidery Workshop. Doña Rosario had long observed the Zuleteña women's affinity for intricate embroidery, so it seemed natural that they should use this skill to supplement family incomes. The idea took off with the assistance of a Peace Corps volunteer. The Zuleteña women started working together at the Hacienda's workshop and at home, creating exquisitely embroidered tablecloths, place mats, blouses and towels, often especially ordered by the Hacienda's illustrious guests and world-leaders.