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Sarah Lozanova headshot

Farm-to-Table Greets Visitors at 1620s Jesuit Monastery

By Sarah Lozanova

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Our family ecotourism adventure in continues on the outskirts of Ibarra in Northern Ecuador to what was the northern end of the Inca Empire when the Spaniards first arrived. We stayed in the historic Hacienda Chorlavi, a country inn which was previously a Jesuit Monastery. Founded in 1620, the oldest building was constructed in a European style by local tradesmen that used adobe and wood. Today the inn brings fourth centuries of history, in an artful manner. Cobblestone paths lead to thick-walled guest rooms with decorative touches throughout.

After acquiring the property, the Tobar family used it for agricultural production for a few generations before José and Pilar Tobar transformed their home into a country inn in 1973. The barn transformed into a conference room and the laborer's quarters became guest rooms. In the last forty years, other Ecuadorian haciendas have followed suit, making this once innovative transformative idea much more widespread.

All the rooms in the inn possess a colonial-era feel, with antique furniture, and some containing a wood-paneled ceiling, fireplace, and wood flooring.

From a social responsibility standpoint, Hacienda Chorlavi stands out.

The restaurant offers farm-to-table foods, using fruits and vegetables grown in the property. The grounds are dotted with fruit and avocado trees alongside colorful flowerbeds, all grown using organic methods. The gardener explained to me that they use garlic, hot pepper, and tobacco for natural pest management, and composted food scraps from the restaurant for fertilizer. The warm climate allows food to be cultivated throughout the year.

There are several recycling bins dispersed around the property, including a compost bucket. These were the first recycling bins I saw in use during our four weeks  in Ecuador. The hacienda also donates a dollar per guest room to a local child's aid organization.

Hacienda Chorlavi even has a sustainability policy on its website (click here to read to read the full version):

"We believe in sustainable tourism based on the needs of our guests while respecting and enhancing the ecological, economic and socio-cultural aspects of the local population. We implement best practices in all areas of the hacienda, thus minimizing any impact to the environment, our employees and surrounding communities."

Now the next generation, children Carolina and Andres Tobar, have given the inn a makeover, while maintaining a sense of tradition. It is difficult for my American mind to grasp the depth of a family's relationship with a place that spans generations, as my family hasn't even lived in the same continent for the last three generations. During the makeover, Carolina and Andres ensured that there is wi-fi access in the most distant corners of the property and were the vision behind the homegrown produce at the inn's restaurant and the recycling program.

They have large shoes to fill, as the José and Pilar Tobar have a reputation for living by their values and contributing to the community. José was mayor of Ibarra and a highly respected business man. It is inspiring to see Hacienda Chorlavi maintain its charm, while keeping up with the times. This approach is what allows businesses to thrive not just for decades, but for generations.


Sarah Lozanova headshotSarah Lozanova

Sarah Lozanova is an environmental journalist and copywriter and has worked as a consultant to help large corporations become more sustainable. She is the author of Humane Home: Easy Steps for Sustainable & Green Living, and her renewable energy experience includes residential and commercial solar energy installations. She teaches green business classes to graduate students at Unity College and holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School.

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