Hacienda Cusin, a restored 17th century Andean estate at 8,500 feet is 90 minutes north of Quito and 20 minutes south from the famous market town of Otavalo. The Equatorial line and snowcapped Cayambe mountain are 30 minutes away.
Cusin’s terracotta-tile roofs, winding cobblestone pathways, courtyards and perennial gardens nestle beneath a deep blue sky in a wide, pastoral lake valley. Nearby, the often snowcapped 15,000-foot Cotacachi volcano is reflected in Lago San Pablo.
An ancient lakebed, cool nights and a predictable equatorial sun have conspired with avid gardeners to create several acres of ever-blooming gardens which include belladonna, bougainvillea, agapantha, acanthas, foxgloves, orchids and palms that attract over 50 species of birds.
Over the past 400 years, Hacienda Cusin has remained, for the most part, in the hands of two different Spanish families. Cusin had been operated as a farm until converted into a hotel by Eugene Metz. In 1970, when tourists were rare, Metz sold the hotel, ending three centuries of ownership by the Chiriboga family. The Creightons, the new owners and Cusin’s former managers, attempted to begin a rose-plantation, sold all of the surrounding land, and allowed Cusin to fall into disrepair. The Creightons sold Cusin in 1990 to the present owner, Nicholas Millhouse, who began the ambitious project of refurbishing the buildings, restoring the landscape, and constructing beautiful additions. With an eye on international tourism, the Hosteria’s original name, Hacienda was restored.
The 1993 New York Times Travel & Leisure reviews of Cusin, followed by those of guidebooks, newspapers and international magazines dramatically increased occupancy. As a result, the additional income provided capital for necessary construction and for additional staff. Purchase of land in Gualavi valley gave space for Cusin’s horses and crops for the kitchen. The construction of El Monasterio in December1995, only a garden walk from Cusin, provided additional space for guests, conferences, weddings and seasonal festivities.
El Monasterio is a self-contained, reflective site characterized by colorful gardens and mysterious cobblestone courtyards. Constructed for the purpose of conference and discussion of contemporary ideas instrumental in changing tomorrow’s world, El Monasterio is also a place for the celebration of life’s triumphs. The monastery, the ‘computer’ of the Middle Ages, was a meeting-ground for great minds and a place of inspiration for fervent creativity. The irony of building a monastery in the actual computer age was appealing, as was constructing an historic building in the ancient landscape of Imbabura appropriate.