Here is the thing with the Abrascpungo: This is an example of an owner that knows he has the only really nice hacienda in the entire area. He also realizes that Riobamba is conveniently located about halfway between Quito and Cuenca. It is therefore the most logical spot for those en route to either Cuenca or the Devil's Nose Railway. There is no other reason to stay here more than one night. And he takes full advantage of it which is why the property is virtually always full even when it seems empty. Sadly, many people only see this beautiful piece of property in the darkness. Try to arrive by 4PM since you probably be departing early and take advantage of an hour or two of serenity, especially if the sun is out and you can see the volcano in the background.
We've noticed that almost all the reviews seem to be those heading south from Quito or on their way to nearby attractions which there really aren't any except the Devil's Nose Train or perhaps Banos and the surrounding cloud forest area (worth seeing BTW). We offer a perspective from south to north. Having completed both an Amazon trip and a Galapagos cruise, we were seeking to explore Ecuador by private guide for about 5 days. As potential expatriates we decided to explore Cuenca for a few days to see what all the hubbub is about regarding its status as "the number one retirement haven in the world" several years running by International Living. (that is a separate review). Rather than fly back to Quito, our company booked us on a drive north from Cuenca back to Quito that would feature a trip on the Devil's Nose Train, thus the Abraspungo is the best choice for evening lodging. The drive through the Andes Region is absolutely beautiful with various opportunities for spectacular scenery photos, some very interesting indigenous folks living in towns that look unchanged since the Inca days and perhaps a chance to see llamas.
It's about a two hour drive from the beautiful town of Alusei to Riobamba. When you finally arrive in the Riobamba area, the world shifts from serene rural tranquility to developing world construction hell. About 50% of this entire city is under construction. There are stretches where it appears a bomb was dropped on the area and what is left is the dusty charred remains. Unlike organized American construction, Ecuadorian construction sites are dusty, can stay untended for weeks or months and have virtually no barriers, road signs or anything else that might warn you to slow down, close the window or avoid the endless potholes created by the worksite. This went on for about 5 miles. We finally approached the hub of the city that is actually built. Compared to Cuenca or Quito, it has absolutely zero appeal. The traffic circles are chaotic; there are very poor looking indigenous and stray dogs running all through the main streets and the outdoor market looked more like Afghanistan than Ecuador to us. Since our guide has a high degree of pride in everything Ecuadorian, he insisted we stop at the main square which consisted of a not very photogenic old church, dozens of pigeons and some beggars. After the beauty of the Andes region, the eyesore of Riobamba came as an unwelcome surprise
After getting the un-scenic tour, you pull into a dirt driveway and enter a welcome oasis of beauty. The grounds are large and spacious with beautiful gardens, numerous flowers, and a small farm with chickens and some goats. Birds are everywhere. There is a reading room with a pool table near the lobby and a small bar near the restaurant. As you walk to your room you will pass a local vendor selling typical Ecuadorian artifacts and clothing. There are heat lamps which is good because at 12,000 feet, it can get cold at night. Apparently all the rooms are different. Ours had a wonderfully relaxing hammock on a porch with table and chairs for relaxing. The room itself was large but very poorly designd: the shower has absolutely no door and no place to hang any towels. The water pressure is average and there are virtually no amenities to speak of. Our room was set up like a suite with a living room that had a couch and two chairs. The bedroom is small and had virtually nowhere to store anything. The lack of space meant keeping the suitcases on the couch in the living room but for a short stay I guess this is no big deal.
Regarding the restaurant: Perhaps we had an off night since others have described it as better. They told us that a table had already been reserved for us at any hour we chose but when we got there they had no clue and spent 15 minutes trying to find anyone that could translate our names into Spanish./ Once finally seated, the menu is very large and sounded promising, featuring meat, seafood and chicken dishes of every type including large appetizers and an extensive wine list. We ordered an seafood appetizer platter that arrived cold. The taquito like egg rolls with crab meat tasted like a microwave Hot Pocket from the local Super Maxi and the breading on all the seafood was stale and flavorless. The main dishes were not much better and the staff obviously can't keep up with the always full restaurant. I ate about three bites of my also cold seafood dish that taste like it was made entirely from canned sauces. Sadly, the food is extremely overpriced for Ecuador and you can either pay it or go to bed hungry since the property is nowhere near anything. In 16 days, this was the ONLY meal in all of Ecuador that I would say was terrible. And the food in Ecuador is fresh, inexpensive and flavorful.
The next morning, although breakfast is included, we stuck to toast and a bit of fruit, also subpar by Ecuadorian standards. With a 7:30 AM departure deadline looming, we had asked the front desk to send someone for our bags since the walk was very long and we had 16 days of clothing. After 15 minutes, we gave up and walked the bags back half way until someone finally came running and attempted to relieve us. There are no phones and the power went off in our building for no apparent reason at 5:30 PM although it did come back on in about 10 minutes.
To sum it up, the owner clearly knows there is no other place worth staying in Riobamba and he has virtually locked up all the tour bus business 365 days a year so I would assume he will not strive to make the service or food the same level as a 5 star hotel. But the grounds are beautiful and can be peaceful after a long day in transit. My suggestion would be if you are on a private tour or by yourself, arrive in the late afternoon and try to enjoy the peacefulness of the property. But don't expect anything more other than an average bed to sleep in.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The wonderful Hacienda Abraspungo is located at 2,754 metres above sea level and is surrounded by the magnificence of the Ecuadorian Andes. It is named after a glacial valley which is situated between the Chimborazo Volcano and Carihuairazo, in the exact centre of Ecuador.Hacienda Abraspungo, with its comfortable, charming and high level installations offers a personalized service in the ideal spot to enjoy the peace and beauty of the Andes. The architectural style found here offers the best of traditional colonial design often used in the ancestral mansions and haciendas of Ecuador. The Hacienda is adorned with old photographs and illustrations of Andean landscapes, which today constitutes as a testimony to eras gone by. The antiques on display in the social areas give a colonial flavour as well as a feel for the pre-Colombian cultures of the region. The visitor can truly appreciate the richness of the natural resources offered by the Chimborazo Province and Ecuador in general. Each room takes its name from one of the mountains of Ecuador. That mountain is shown in the photographs displayed within the interior design in the room. The owner’s commitment is to create a working environment which allows sustainable growth, enhancing positive image and generating an overall feeling of trust between the working force, the clients, and the community, aiming to become a point of reference within the tourist industry of Ecuador and the city of Riobamba. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Abraspungo Hotel Riobamba