Besides wanting to go the market in Otavalo, my main interest in the Highlands was to see the historic haciendas that I had heard about for years. Seeing and staying in these wonderful properties is well-worth the time and effort to get there. High are on the list are:
Hacienda Zuleta: Charming historical hacienda in the highlands of Ecudaor. The Hacienda is the family home of former Ecuadorian President Galo Plaza Lasso, for over 100 years, and is still used by his family today and managed by one of his grandsons. It is a 2,000 acre working dairy farm.
It is a charming property with around 15 rooms. They are adding one to two more. You can tour the beautiful grounds, go horseback riding, take a horse drawn carriage to explore the grounds, hike, go bird watching to look for condors, or mountain biking. It is a working hacienda so you visit the cheese factory and museum where you can see how their semi-aged handmade cheeses are produced, visit the organic garden and the dairy. I thought the cheese factory tour was really interesting. They even have their own embroidery shop that helps supplement the income of local women. I found some lovely pieces in the shop. Many of the items can be seen throughout the hacienda. They also have a family library and within the grounds there are the largest, and best preserved, archaeological sites of the Caranqui culture with 132 small earth mounds dating back as far as 700 AD and five large square pyramids from 1200 AD.
The rooms are charming, there are roses and flowers everywhere in the house, the staff is excellent and very helpful and breakfast and dinner are included. You sit in the dining room and meet other independent travelers.
Hacienda Cusin, San Pablo del Lago near Otavalo, is a wonderful Hacienda from 1602 and one of the top places to stay in the Highlands. The grounds are lovely and the rooms large. Make sure to walk to the old Monastery, on the grounds, which has additional rooms, a lovely sitting room with an altar piece as the fireplace mantel and beautifully painted corridors and interiors. The main Hacienda has a beautiful sitting room and restaurant. I had an excellent three course lunch in the warm and elegant dining room.
Hacienda Pinsaqui: Another one of the top Haciendas in the Northern Highlands not far from the market town of Otavalo. Because of this the Hacienda does get more larger groups due to its location near the famed market. The Hacienda, living room, dining room, breakfast room, chapel and rooms are very attractive. The food is not as good as Haciendas Zueleta or Cusin but okay. I loved the Andean music in the living room and the welcome by the owner who said the property has been in his family for almost 300 years.