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Hacienda La Cienega Ecuador

Hacienda La Cienega is an important part of the hacienda life in Ecuador as Merri writes below:

To continue our series on the great haciendas of Ecuador, let’s look at La Cienega!  It’s been a favorite of Gary’s and mine.  The ancestral and present owners, the Lasso family have been wonderful caretakers of this magnificent hacienda and we are lucky to count them as friends.  (Marques of Maenza-Lassos)

When we first entered through the magnificent eucalyptus lined entrance fifteen years ago, we felt awe and surprise.  The name La Cienega means “the swamp” so we were looking for something a bit different than this exquisite land and hacienda!

It is said that La Cienega entrance is the original in Ecuador.  Over 125 years ago, the first eucalyptus trees ever planted in Ecuador were brought from Australia to line this entrance.  These trees heralded a sign of great wealth and power which has lasted centuries.


The grandest entrance of them all!

Located in the Central Highlands, La Cienega is surrounded with volcanoes mixed with rich and beautiful farms and bisected by the Pan American Highway.  Hundreds of years ago, each powerful Ecuadorian family owned an entire volcano and its surrounding valleys.  What a grand heritage this area boasts!

This is the Avenue of the Volcanoes from Quito south.  La Cienega lies in the dawn shadow of Volcan Cotopaxi and was the home of Baron von Humboldt (one of my heroes) when he lived in the area in 1802 while studying the volcano. The house is said to have been built in 1580 and remains a landmark of history and beauty today.  Even independence from Spain was plotted here by the original families.

Here are some lovely thoughts from the present day owners:

The Marques family, romantic and strong archetypes of the colonial period, whose manorial house covered an astonishing six thousand metres (sixty-five feet), were fervent defenders of Simon Bolivar and the libertarian cause.  Family members such as Manuel Matheu y Herrera, Francisco Xavier and Jose Xavier de Ascazubi were Heroes of the Independence, a number of whose activities took place within the four walls of the hacienda.

Mariscal de Ayucucho, Antonio Jose de Sucre and several presidents of the republican period such as the first president of Ecuador, Juan Jose Flores, signed the important Treaty of La Cienega here in the hacienda.  Gabriel Garcia Moreno, Leonidas Plaza Gutierrez and Jose Velasco Ibarra are historical figures of the country who have resided at the hacienda.

Generation after generation, the hacienda has been inhabited by important personalities and great historical figures, leaving the residence glowing with an aura of grandeur.

Gary and I were invited to stay in Baron von Humboldt’s private quarters on the top floor.  That was a lovely first time for us and especially since it was in the early days of our own private exploration of Ecuador…unforgettable you might say and was right at the beginning of our falling in love with Ecuador and its hacienda life.

Today, La Cienega boasts a remodeled interior, lovely bedrooms and manicured grounds.  The old hacienda comes back alive on weekends, where families from Quito drive out to enjoy the countryside.  Food is delicious, fires lit in the massive stone fireplaces are welcoming, the staff is excellently trained and there again, hacienda life is wonderful.

Here is the hacienda itself.

Ecuador hacienda

Here we are in the inner courtyard filled with birds and full of the Sunday mornings bells, installed in 1768 in thanks for the end of Cotopaxi’s 20 years of eruptions…but alas the volcan is hot and ready again!

La Cienega Courtyard

La Cienega embodies all the beauty and history of Ecuador and should be at the top of anyone’s list for a visit, whether it be for a weekend in the country or a delightful meal.

A visit to the hacienda’s chapel is worth the journey alone. Here it is.


The chapel doors are special as shown in this phto from the hacienda’s web site.


Just in case that you might think Gary and I are just enamored with haciendas and hacienda life, I have quoted below one of our good friends and clients, Bonnie Keough from Massachusetts, on her experience at La Cienega also!

Enjoy life.  Experience the history combined with the beauty and pleasures of hacienda life in Ecuador with us!

Merri Scott

I have so many wonderful memories of unique experiences in Ecuador, many of which just happened, unplanned.  One of these adventures happened during a trip to the Saquisili Market, south of Quito.  Anyone who knows me knows that since I’ve been on the Scott’s Import Export Expedition,  I’m always looking for markets to explore!

The trip to the market was an adventure in itself.  This market is smaller than Otavalo and off the tourist radar.  Therefore, many of the visitors are local, indigenous Ecuadorians.  Most of the goods displayed for sale were locally made; usually the artists were also doing the selling.  They were friendly and happy to do business with us.  I found the quality of the items to be excellent, especially the weavings.  The rugs were done in a very fine, close weave; the designs were well thought out and beautifully done in complimentary colors.  I purchased several that were made by an energetic, little old lady who had been hand spinning her yarns and weaving all her life.  I’m sure these rugs will outlast me.
I also found some great pieces of jewelry, different from things I had found in other markets. My friend, Kim, befriended an artist who made his own paints from local plants and minerals.  He incorporated pre-Columbian symbols into many of his pieces.

We had a great time shopping and looking around the market.  It’s about a 2 ½ drive from Quito and well worth the time.

Now for the unplanned part, it was lunchtime when we left.  Fortunately for us, our driver was familiar with the area and suggested we visit Hacienda La Cienega for lunch since it was nearby.  Other than a good meal, we didn’t know what to expect.

As it turns out, the Hacienda is very well known in Ecuador.  It has been meticulously maintained for centuries.  The restaurant and rooms are quite popular among locals and tourists and after visiting, I can see why.  It is a historic gem tucked into the shadow of Cotopaxi volcano.

Turning down the driveway was my first clue this was not going to be an ordinary restaurant, they really knew how to make a grand entryway when they built those places!
The driveway was very long and the large, old trees lining both sides formed an overhead canopy.  The air was saturated with the smell of eucalyptus, horses grazed peacefully in lush pastures.  Looking down to the end of the drive, I glimpsed La Cienega.  It was impressive, but blended very comfortably into its surroundings.  It was inviting, not intimidating.

We entered through an arched, stone doorway and hall; it reminded me of an English castle.  There are a number of dining rooms, all looked comfortable and clean.   We were seated in a medium size room, decorated with antiques and a fireplace.  The menu offered many choices including tempting desserts and there was also a menu of the day.   While we were eating, local musicians serenaded us.  The food, service and ambiance were perfect.

After lunch, I was eager to look around the buildings and grounds.  Alberto, our driver, knew the host and asked him to show us a room.   The room he took us into was very large, had a stone wall and arched, stone ceiling—quite impressive!  The windows overlooked a well manicured garden to the rear and fountain to the front.  He said we were welcome to wander around on our own.  The gardens were well tended and full of colorful flowers and trees and surrounded by mellow, old buildings, including a chapel.  We spent about an hour looking around and taking pictures before reluctantly heading back to Quito.  I can’t wait to return to La Cienega to spend a night or two.

Our bill at Hacienda La Cienega for lunch for four including wine, dessert, tax and tip was $62.  I can’t imagine what a comparable experience in the States would cost.   The memory is priceless.

Bonnie Keough

Join us in Ecuador

See dates for our Autumn courses and tours:

Ecuador Coastal-Quito Real Estate Tour

Ecuador Super Thinking + Spanish Course

Ecuador Imbabura Real Estate Tour

International Investing and Business Made EZ North Carolina

Ecuador Ecuador Import Export Course

International Investing and Business Made EZ Ecuador

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