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Zuleta
Women from Zuleta community embroidering
Ladies in traditional costume walking with a herd of cows in Zuleta, Ecuador
Hacienda Zuleta luxury hotel sitting area
Zuleta, a traditional hacienda (farm) in Ecuador
Traditional embroidery of Zuleta
Andean condor in flight in the wild at Zuleta

Zuleta is renowned for traditional embroidery, excellent cheese, a luxury boutique hotel and a condor conservation project.


Zuleta - Ecuador Destinations

Zuleta is a small village in the beautiful highlands of Imbabura Province in Ecuador.  This agricultural area is famed for its traditional embroidery, dairy products, alpaca farming and highland crops such as wheat, maize, potatoes, lentils and quinoa.  The village is home to Hacienda Zuleta, a large farm once owned by an ex-president of the country.  Many people in Zuleta wear their traditional costumes on a daily basis and the village is a tranquil place.  Attractions include the community library, various embroidery workshops and a good chance of seeing Andean condors in the wild.
Hacienda Zuleta is an authentic working colonial farm and produces a range of crops including wheat, barley and potatoes as well as trout and some excellent cheeses.  Hacienda Zuleta has been owned by the family of a previous president of Ecuador, Galo Plaza Lasso, for over a century and his descendents still own and run the hacienda today.  Part of the historic buildings, dating back to the 17th Century, are used for luxury boutique hotel accommodation where visitors are treated as guests of the family.  
Guests at Hacienda Zuleta enjoy delicious food grown or produced on the farm served in an elegant and tranquil setting.  A log fire blazes in a flower-filled sitting area adorned with family photos and antiques.  Service is impeccable and friendly.  Activities include horseriding, trekking and mountain biking, or for the less-active, taking a carriage ride or just admiring the beautiful mountain scenery.  You can visit the cheese factory, trout ponds, dairy or embroidery cooperative.  Hacienda Zuleta is luxury tourism at its best, with prices to match (around $250 per night).  Note that the hacienda does not accept day visitors, the activities described here are for hotel guests only.  Fortunately, Zuleta cheese is available in supermarkets all over the country - look for the fantastic, mature "Don Galo" cheese in its black wax coating.
President Galo Plaza's legacy also lives on through the foundation named after him.  Currently run by staff of the Hacienda Zuleta, the foundation's projects include Zuleta's community library and educational workshops, and sales support for the local women's traditional Zuleta embroidery.  President Galo Plaza's wife Doña Rosario helped to revive the Zuleta embroidery tradition back in the 1940's.  The foundation also supports the Condor Huasi Project which rescues and breeds the endangered Andean condor with the aim of reintroducing condors to the wild.  Three young condors were released for the in late 2016.  There are believed to be fewer than 100 wild Andean condors left in Ecuador.  At Zuleta, they put out food for the wild condors which makes the area a great place to spot this majestic bird in the wild. 
The community of Zuleta is amongst the most informed, educated and organised communities in Ecuador, thanks to Hacienda Zuleta facilitating access to education.  This tradition of support for the local community started in the time of President Galo Plaza and continues still.  The community are involved in and very supportive of the condor conservation project in addition to their other activities of dairy farming, alpaca farming, embroidery and agriculture.  
The community of Zuleta are also planning a small community tourism project.  So far they have constructed a beautiful restaurant with rustic furniture made from reclaimed wood.  The hospitality side of the project is still in development, but you can get in touch via the Zuleta Community Website and ask about homestay accommodation, which they can usually arrange for around $10 a night. 
The páramo grasslands and forests of the Zuleta area are home to wildlife including Andean condors, pumas, páramo foxes and more.
Getting to Zuleta: The bus journey from Ibarra takes around an hour and costs $0.50.  Alternatively, take a bus to Zuleta from Cayambe for $1 - the route goes through a very rural area and takes about an hour and 20 minutes.  Zuleta itself, and the bus route from Ibarra to Cayambe, is one of the best areas of the country to see traditional highland costumes.

Useful Spanish Vocabulary for an excursion to Zuleta, Ecuador:
hacienda: large farm
bordados: embroidery
queso: cheese
Ecuador Destinations: Zuleta
The little hill village of Zuleta is famous for its embroidery, dairy products and beautiful scenery.
Tourist accomodation is at one end of the scale or the other - backpacker accommodation in family homes in the community,
or luxury boutique hotel rooms in the historic Hacienda Zuleta, a working colonial farm.
Website www.ecuadortravelsite.org, text and photos by Sarah Clifford.
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