Escape from Quito to experience the countryside
Sierra Alisos is a unique and picturesque hacienda in Tambillo, in the foothills of Mount Atacazo, and only a 50-minute car-ride away from Ecuador’s busy capital Quito. It gets its name from the native Aliso (or Alder) forest that surrounds the secluded area which it’s in. We decided to get away from the hustle and bustle for a weekend, and we were absolutely delighted with our experience. Alex and I had briefly visited the hacienda a year ago and were so impressed that we vowed to come back … and so a year later, we did!
Share the experience with us!
We drove to Sierra Alisos with our friend Soledad, who is now also one of the new owners of Quito Bike Tours, the first company in Quito to offer urban cycling tours in the city. We were on a mission, on an adventure! Apart from wanting to chill and have a good time in and around the hacienda we also wanted to see what the surrounding countryside had to offer in the way of some fun bike rides outside of Quito.
After an easy drive of less than an hour (we also stopped for some snacks on the way), we were greeted by Raul Guarderas, the affable owner and host of Sierra Alisos who is an avid traveller himself. He speaks both English and Italian fluently as well as his own native Spanish. As you arrive you can only be taken aback by the spectacular panorama of several volcanoes. If you are lucky enough to get a blue sky, the view is breathtaking. We got lucky! And there she was, in all of her glory, snow-capped Cotopaxi. It is the second-highest summit in Ecuador, reaching a height of 5897 metres.
First up Raul offered us a coffee. I knew this was going to be an awesome stay! Coffee … always the way to an Italo-Australian’s heart! From there we were taken to our respective rooms, all with private bathrooms. Beautiful, warm, comfortable beds, gorgeously decorated without being over the top, they simply made you feel at home right away. Add to that the wooden fireplace, just magical! When you look outside you see mountains, greenery and forest whilst a multitude of birds are singing in the background. How can you not feel relaxed and at peace?
We ate dinner that night in a comfortable dining room that was right next to another room with lots of sofas, armchairs and a beautiful open fireplace. Everything about Sierra Alisos simply makes you feel at home. A lot of the vegetables come from a vegetable patch that they have on-site. Although Alex and I are both vegan and don’t eat wheat this was not a problem at all, and our meals were delicious! I loved that our dietary requirements were not an issue! Another coffee after dinner. What was there not to love!
After dinner, we all sat around the open fireplace in the room abutting the dining room. It’s cosy and warm and has several old photos all around. A great conversation starter as we looked, commented and asked lots of questions. The warmth was eventually our demise, and off to bed we went. I have always said that the most important part of wherever you choose to stay is your bed. Ten out of ten! Big, warm and most importantly, comfortable!
Going to bed early had not been a bad idea as we were due to be standing at the back door at 6.00am to go bird-watching. Yes, this is part of what Sierra Alisos offers and it will only ‘cost’ you waking up a little earlier than usual and you do not have to pay anything extra! We had a wonderful one-hour walk through the lush forest that surrounds the hacienda. The forests surrounding Sierra Alisos are home to a unique ecosystem which houses a range of bird and animal species as well as plant life. These forests are also home to many threatened species as well as a range of Andean medicinal plants. We viewed some spectacular vegetation and yes we did get to see several bird species; some with our eyes and some through binoculars!
Did you know that Ecuador is the home to more than 1500 bird species, twice the number found in any one of the continents of North America, Europe or Australia! For this reason, bird-watchers from all over the world flock to this tiny country on the equator. Ecuador is so much more than the rightfully infamous Galapagos Islands. The serenity, the views, the sounds … were all worth the 5.45am wake-up call!
After breakfast, another splendid meal of fresh fruit, granola, and eggs cooked to your liking (along with tea, coffee and fresh juice, of course), we went in search of some new bike routes. Soledad of Quito Bike Tours and Raul from the hacienda will soon be offering some fun bike rides. Not too hard, not too long and definitely lots of fun. These will come at an extra cost. Watch this space. You will be pleasantly surprised as we take you on a secluded bike route, where the only thing that will ‘block your view’ is the spectacular scenery.
When we returned, we relaxed in one of the several hammocks in the outdoor area that is covered by a glass room. Warm, relaxing and more scenic views. Lunchtime soon came around and we were treated to some more of the fine food that we’d been experiencing over the last day and a half. An honourable mention here must go to Raul and his team’s ‘Smoked chilli with quinoa’, a spicy chilli, quinoa and panela (unrefined whole cane sugar) condiment that you can sprinkle over your food. You can also buy some to take home. Be warned though, this one’s only for those that like things spicy!
Surely it wasn’t time to go home? Oh yes, it was. What a wonderful, wonderful stay we had at Sierra Alisos. The views, the food, the bike riding, the hammocks, the relaxing. But two days certainly were not enough. We recommend going for at least two days, three nights; regardless of whether you are an adventure-seeker or relaxation expert, you will just love this hacienda its surrounds.
Want to know more?
Chill out and relax in the garden, it’s free! At an extra cost massage, hiking, bike rentals, hiking and horse riding can be arranged. Prices will vary depending on what you need or want to do.
Apart from traditional Ecuadorian food and dishes, the restaurant serves fusion and international dishes as well. They are also willing to cater to any dietary need; all you need to do is ask. Breakfasts start from USD $7.50, lunches and dinners from $10.50 and coffees from $1.25. Also available is wine by the glass or bottle, and even a packed lunch, if you require it.
There are seven rooms available of varying sizes available, from a double to a family suite to quadruple deluxe. There’s a honeymoon suite as well. As a rough guide, the price range is between $70.00 and $130.00 per couple. You should always check their website or other booking platforms for more up-to-date prices. For more information contact:
Cotopaxi National Park
Cotopaxi National Park, one of Ecuador’s most spectacular, is only an hour away from Sierra Alisos by car. If you are an adventure lover or explorer, it should not be missed.
Tambillo Train Station
You can also get to Cotapaxi National Park by taking a scenic train ride. The Tren de los Volcanes (or the Route of the Volcanoes train) technically starts in Quito, but you can also pick it up in Tambillo. The cost is USD $39.00. The Tambillo train station is only 9 kilometres (or 5.6 miles) away from Sierra Alisos. Click on the link below for more information, departure times and other relevant information.
The airport is also only an hour away from the hacienda by car. If you have had an amazing stay in Ecuador but just need a few days of rest and relaxation before you go home, Sierra Alisos is your perfect last stop.
Just in case you are wondering or want to make sure, yes, there is wi-fi! If you have your own vehicle FREE private parking is available on site.
The icing on the cake
Sierra Alisos offers you a real taste of country life and no request is too big or too small. You will not be charged ‘extra’ for random things. Raul and his team are helpful, transparent and accommodating. I can only wish that more places were like this!
It is no coincidence that Sierra Alisos was rated 9.9 by Bookings.com. Don’t miss this place and experience!
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Photo Credits: © Alex Benavides (Photography) & Ombretta Zanetti (Content)