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“Magical!”

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Ali Shungu Mountaintop Lodge
Ranked #8 of 33 Otavalo B&B and Inns
Reviewed 1 June 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, travelled solo
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Thank CapecodRE
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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112 - 118 of 168 reviews

Reviewed 3 May 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, travelled 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 14 May 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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Reviewed 23 April 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.
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  • Stayed: March 2012, travelled 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
Reviewed 6 March 2012

This was our 4th trip to the Ali Shungu Mountaintop Lodge. For us, there is no other place to stay while in Ecuador. You have your own house, beautifully decorated with local art; superb service; fresh, on-site grown organic food prepared deliciously; and a view outside your huge picture windows that will inspire and recharge your brain. It's quiet, gorgeous, and friendly. The owners, Frank and Peg, have an enormous knowledge of the history and culture of the area and are well-respected in the local indigenous community. This place will soothe your soul. We will be returning to the magic mountain for many years to come.

Room Tip: There are 3 houses and they are all perfect.
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  • Stayed: February 2012, travelled as a couple
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Thank Celeste B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 10 February 2012

After spending 3 nights at Ali Shungu mountaintop retreat, I can tell you that it has won a special place in my heart and soul.  High above the town of Otavalo,  we were warmly greeted by Frank, the proprietor.  He introduced us to Jose Maria, his compadre, who does many things on and around the property.  Later we met Margaret, Frank's wife, who also made sure that we were well taken care of.

Our cabin:  a spacious 4 room home, large picture windows, very tastefully decorated, attention to detail, very comfortable, warmed by wood stove.  
The food:  bountiful, fresh, organic, beautifully presented, delicious, and varied breakfast and dinner.
The mountain setting:  Eucalyptus forests, beautiful flower gardens,  stone paths, lots of space.
The site:  magnificent views all around, especially Imbabura Volcano.  Watch the light change on the mountain throughout the day and evening.  Wow!
Side trips:  Paguche, Cotocachi, Cuicocha....Frank has great suggestions.
Horseback riding:  gentle horses led by Jose Marie,  sights, sounds, and smells of the countryside, blanketed with green farmland.
Otovalo:  Saturday animal market, food market, artesian  market,  indigenous people.  All very colorful!
Expense: very reasonably priced.
The hosts: Frank and Margaret have helped the indigenous people through their many projects. Frank also makes documentaries to raise awareness of the needs of the people. Now he is also studying bee keeping. Margaret makes beautiful jewelry, and is also working on making berry wines.

It was hard to leave Ali Shungu. Just thinking of the place gives me a sense of calm. Thank you Frank and Margaret!

  • Stayed: February 2012, travelled with family
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Thank micki27
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 9 February 2012

Our experience at Ali Shungu couldn't have been better. We had a beautiful private house with 2 bedrooms and numerous beds overlooking the Imbabura volcano, always changing and adjusting its beauty with the changing light. The native artwork in the house was tastefully chosen and created a warm environment, symbolizing the Otavalo and other nearby indigenous cultures. Two meals were provided: breakfast and dinner, and they were more than ample, healthful, beautifully presented and served by Paulina in native garb, and fresh! Much of the food comes from their organic garden. I'm vegetarian and was in veggie heaven! Each of the nights we were there had a different culinary theme: one night was Asian style, another was Mexican themed. Lunch can be bought for the economical price of $8 USD. Meals are accompanied by beautiful recorded native music.
The help, was ,well, helpful! JoseMaria stoked our wood burning stove regularly to keep our house warm, took us on a horseback ride without commenting on our lack of experience, and provided us with hot water bottles to keep our beds toasty. He even carved us walking sticks!
Owners Frank and Margaret are a delight. They support many indigenous causes and treat their native help with dignity. Although they look like aging hippies, they have been in Otavalo so long that natives all know who they are and seem to accept them as honorary Otavalenos.
If you stay here, you will be outside of town, but travel to town can be arranged easily for 5 USD. Some may prefer to stay in town, and I probably thought that would have been preferable....until I experienced Ali Shungu. It's worth it to stay at A.S. and go into town for shopping the market. Frank can also arrange other tours for you with a mestizo driver, Fabian, for $10 an hour. He can take you to Cuicocha, Cotacaxi, waterfalls, weaver, whatever. Fabian is a great driver and fun to be with.
We were there on Friday, Sat. And Sun. On Sat, Frank took us to the interesting animal market in town.
If possible, try to spend at least 3days in Ali Shingu so that you can relax in the mountains and not just shop the market
I usually write my reviews with a list of pros and cons, but quite honestly, I can't come up with any cons regarding Ali Shungu!

Room Tip: All rooms are beautiful. The only sounds you'll here are those that nature provides: crickets, b...
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  • Stayed: February 2012, travelled with friends
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Thank sannettie
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 14 January 2012

My husband and I spent 8 days in Ali Shungu lodge over Christmas. 2011. We chose this lodge on line as it appeared to be secluded, quiet and mysterious especially when the mist came down in the evening. We were not disappointed. This is a marvelous location on the mountain top overlooking Otovalo. The accommodations are spacious, beautifully furnished and extremely comfortable. The staff were so friendly and helpful. The owner Frank, went out of his way to make us comfortable and gave us a ride to town anytime. He shared so much knowledge about the town and the area. The food was wonderful , mostly vegetarian, healthy and well prepared and served. We experienced fruits in salads and juices that we had never heard of before and they were delicious. The lodge manager, Jose Maria ,was also very helpful and even provided a hot water bottle at night! I cannot wait to return and experience the magic of Ali Shungu. I recommend at least 3 nights to truly appreciate the experience?

Room Tip: All of the cottages are spectacular.
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  • Stayed: December 2011, travelled as a couple
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Thank IsabellaRichard
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about Ali Shungu Mountaintop Lodge

Address: Imbabura, Otavalo 100450, Ecuador (Formerly Rancho Ali Shungu)
Region: Ecuador > Imbabura Province > Otavalo
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Kitchenette Restaurant Suites
Hotel Style:
Ranked #8 of 33 B&Bs / Inns in Otavalo
Price Range: £64 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Number of rooms: 6
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Travelers enjoy the tranquility and beauty of Andean Mountains and Culture in our warm and spacious guesthouses, surrounded by 40 acres of private gardens and forests ...all just a few minutes from the world famous markets of Otavalo. ... more   less 

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