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Ali Shungu Mountaintop Lodge
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Reviews (169)
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Reviewed August 4, 2012

If you desire a mini paradise, your own delightful casita, delicious fresh home-grown food that is stuck on top of a mountain, this is your place. It's a bumpy 15 minute taxi ride straight up the mountain out of Otavalo. You think you are going to a shack as the road worsens, the taxi hitting bottom on the wagon-wheeled track. Then you pull into an open area and there it is: a mini paradise. Franciso and Margarita are wonderful hosts for your dream visit. It was the best breakfast by a long shot of our entire trip. The horses are friendly as well.

Room Tip: This is so far from town the only noise you have to deal with are the birds.
  • Stayed: July 2012, traveled with family
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Thank ward a
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 1, 2012

Ali Shungu is a beautiful mountaintop retreat from which to enjoy the beauty of Otavala landscape but close enough to town to partake of the market and other attractions. The homes are beautiful... with Ecuadorian handicrafts, and very spacious and comfortable. There is always a fire in the woodburning stove and a nice welcome from Frank and Margaret, the owners. The food is wonderful...fresh and everything homemade and beautifully presented. The view from the front window is the volcano and San Pablo Lake..what a backdrop! We felt like we owned the entire mountain. A horseback ride through the mountain village was also included...very fun and interesting. Margaret has a wonderful little gift shop with South American treasures she has been collecting for thirty years. Check it out for some beautiful old treasures. We loved our time here and cannot recommend it highly enough!

Room Tip: There are only about 5 casitas and all are beautiful!
  • Stayed: July 2012, traveled with family
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Thank carolann805
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed May 31, 2012

May 8, 2012 It was my first visit to Ecuador, and after reading the reviews on Trip Advisor, I decided to spend the first few days at Ali Shungu, to acclimatize and drink in the natural beauty of the area. It couldn't have been more perfect! From the warm welcome offered by Frank and Margarita, and friendly dogs Sara and Paco, to the inspiring views of Mount Imbabura, Ali Shungu was the highlight of my trip! My immaculate and spacious casita was decorated with gorgeous native weavings, art, and pottery, and was made cozy by a (non-smoking) wood stove kept stoked by the sweet and gentle Otavalan Indian, Jose Maria, who lives on the mountain with his lovely family. There was a well-stocked kitchen complete with Intag coffee, a huge shower with plentiful hot water and fluffy towels, 2 large bedrooms with very comfortable beds, made with soft sheets and colorful locally woven blankets, and, what a treat--Jose Maria arrived every night with a hot water bottle to warm up the bed! The views of the mountains were inspiring, and there were acres of gorgeous flower gardens and mountain trails to explore, and resident llamas to greet! The food was delicious and plentiful, carefully prepared by Jose's wife and daughter, from Ali Shungu’s own organic gardens, and served by Jose's adorable daughter, Paulina, The next day Jose Maria saddled up a gentle mount for me, and we rode for 2 hours up, down, and around the mountain, through the Indian villages, greeting the people and enjoying the sunshine. The colorful market in Otavalo is just a few minutes taxi ride down the mountain road, and is an experience not to be missed! I cannot say enough about this magical place—and I will return!

  • Stayed: May 2012, traveled solo
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Thank CapecodRE
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed May 3, 2012

It is hard to write a review when everyone before you has written so glowingly and you had a different experience, but here goes....
First impressions are lasting impressions. Getting up the mountain to the lodge put an incredible damper on our entire experience. We had rented a 4 wheel drive vehicle and I am sure that, had it not been for that, we would not have made it up the mountain to the lodge.
Frank had sent instructions, which we followed to the letter, but this was a very frightening experience. When we finally found the place,(there are no signs), and I expressed to Frank and Margaret the degree of anxiety we had experienced getting up the mountain, Frank's first response was: "did you follow the instructions I sent?" Next from Margaret came the excuse of all the rain they had been having for the last 3 years, how the road did not belong to them, it belonged to Otavalo and how they were not going to put out the money to fix the road because it was the responsibility of the city. Later, we also heard how the road and no signs prevented crime; that it was better that the people didn't know they were up there. Yet they were both quick to boost about how they had been there for more than 20 years, taking care of the elderly in the area through their foundation.
We didn't do anything at the lodge except have breakfast and dinner. One hour of horseback riding was 'included' in our reservation but we never heard anything about it - it was never offered.
Be aware that the only source of heat in the units is a wood burning stove. Because of my companions allergies, we were not able have a fire and therefore our unit was cold and damp. (My fault, I didn't appreciated from the ad that the wood burner was the ONLY source of heat.)
The best thing I can say about Ali Shungu are 2 people: Jose Maria and his daughter Paulina. These are two of the sweetest, gentlest people I have ever met. Paulina served all of the meals. She has little to no English and my Spanish translator was of little help. Imagine my dismay when, after several minutes of trying to order breakfast (dinner is a set menu), she motions for me to come to the kitchen. I'm thinking she wants me to show her what I am trying to say. As I enter the kitchen, there is Frank! Why he didn't come out when he heard us trying to communicate, I will never know. (Our table was right at the kitchen.)
All in all, I would not recommend this lodge unless you are going to pay Frank to have someone bring you to the lodge and then hire a taxi for the day to see Otavalo and the surrounding area. He does offer pickup and return to Quito for and additional fee. In hindsight, this is what we should have done. Clearly we got off to a bad start and just never recovered.

  • Stayed: April 2012, traveled with family
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Thank GlendaS260
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
alishungu, Owner at Ali Shungu Mountaintop Lodge, responded to this reviewResponded May 14, 2012

Heavy rains have had devastating effects on major roads, secondary roads, rural roads, homes and crops throughout the Andean region for over a year now. Our roads are no exception though cars, trucks and some taxis come and go on a regular basis. Because of the damage to one of our entrance roads, we sent a map twice and directions three times, emphasizing the importance of following the directions. Knowing that Ms. Stafford might arrive late because of a four hour detour due to landslides on a major highwaybetween Mindo and Quito, we wrote that morning again emphasizing the importance of following directions and recommending that she call us from the phone center at the turn off of the Pana so we could guide her up the road. Unfortunately, the driver took the wrong road as we discovered the next day. Over the next two days, Ms. Stafford and her companion came and went a couple of times. Once they knew the correct road, there was no problem. But when they first arrived, Ms. Stafford was very, very angry.

When they entered their Guesthouse, she became even more distressed when she saw the wood stove. Because of a bad experience with a smoky fireplace at a hacienda, though the Lodge Guesthouse was crispy warm and there was no smoke whatsoever, Ms. Stafford became most upset. At that point we tried to console Ms. Stafford and offered her a refund for her prepaid second night.

But Ms. Stafford was inconsolable. The couple stayed the two nights, preferring to draw the curtains, not allowing the housekeepers to enter, not permitting the watchman to attend the wood stove, refusing the hot water bottles for their beds. I sincerely tried to communicate, making recommendations for what to do, chatting about the area. This is what I do. But Ms. Stafford was cold and indignant, openly hostile with me the whole time she was there.

Yes, I was in the kitchen busy training a new employee, but, Ms. Stafford, forgive me, I am 60 % deaf in my right ear. I honestly did not know that you could not understand the waitress for your breakfast order. I was glad to translate when I was called from the kitchen.

The Ali Shungu Mountaintop Lodge is located on an Andean mountain road. One of our entrance roads has been damaged by heavy rains. The city owns these roads, but we manage to keep one road maintained, though a bit bumpy, and vehicles arrive on a regular basis.

We are truly sorry that these folks missed their turn, but it is a shame that Ms. Stafford could not get past the initial anger and indignation she felt for losing her way! Unfortunately, the result was a negative experience for them and an uncomfortable weekend for us all.

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 23, 2012

We stayed two nights and three days in early March - arriving on a Friday and leaving Sunday afternoon. Our pre-arranged drive from Quito and back with Fabian was engaging and comfortable and a great opportunity for us to practice Spanish and him to practice English. It was fun and it worked. From Otavalo, the bumpy ride up the mountain road and onto the Lodge property made us grateful that we were not driving a rental car. On arrival we were warmly greeted by Frank and Jose Marie who welcomed us like family from away. For the next few days we were the only guests - pampered and treated to many great conversations with Frank, regular feeding of our fireplace by Jose Marie as well as a memorable two hour horseback trek through the scenic trails of local life distant vistas of the exquisite valley below. Frank proved to be an excellent chef as well as dining room host. He catered perfectly to our vegetarian preferences without compromising any flair for gourmet touches that made each meal unique. Our cabin was like a small country home, exquisitely furnished with local tapestries, pottery, paintings, books, games and finishing touches that had we chosen, we could have simply stayed put the entire visit. The views combined with the fresh air, flowers, and occasional fragrance of eucalyptus wood from the fireplace made for many moments of peaceful contemplation and the joy of just being content within the moment. Our trips to the Otavalo market and surrounding towns were coordinated with Frank and Fabian, allowing us to choose both the pace and the places that were of interest to us. There were many choices. Sleeping at the lodge was the most comfortable and restful. The kitchen was well supplied with basics for light snacks and a full range of beverages. The bathroom was large and well supplied. Perhaps the most memorable and unique feature of this Ecuadorian gem is the gentle charm, yet deep knowledge, love and respect for local people, art, customs, history and culture of the area that Frank conveys in whatever quantity one wishes to know about it. He is a compassionate and skillful teacher who models a deep affection and connection for this part of Ecuador. Check out his videos at http://www.otavalovideos.com as well as the work that the Ali Shungu Foundation is doing. Wow! For us, it was this heart-felt sensitivity and integrity that so perfectly complemented the setting that he and his wife Margaret have created at Ali Shungu. "Authentic" is the word that best describes it. There were so many gifts of the spirit that reflected from every aspect of our short stay. We left with a genuine sense of gratitude for all that we were able to deeply experience in this special sanctuary of the senses. Ali Shungu Mountaintop Lodge is much more than just a pretty view with comfortable lodging, excellent food and hospitality. It is an "authentic" gem that invites inner growth and gentle engagement with the meaning of life.

Room Tip: All rooms are excellent.
  • Stayed: March 2012, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank BFJC
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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