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Ecuador & The Galapagos Islands (15 Days)

Ecuador & The Galapagos Islands (15 Days)

per person

Why you'll love this trip

Immerse yourself in a journey full of contact with nature in the country that is in the middle of the world: Ecuador. Quito, with its architecture and its surroundings; the Galapagos Islands, with their flora and fauna which date back to many years in the past; and the impressive Amazon jungle, are some of the places that will surround you in this fabulous trip.

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Example trip itinerary

Day 1: Quito

You arrive in Quito, the world’s second highest capital at 2850 m. of altitude. You are picked up at the Mariscal Sucre airport and by way of a private transfer you are brought to a small and comfortable hotel in the new town. Your afternoon is free today.

You stay overnight at Ikala hotel.

Day 2: Quito Old Town & “Mitad del Mundo”

At 9.00 a.m., our guide picks you up at the hotel for the excursion to Colonial Quito and “Mitad del Mundo.” The city tour starts at “La Plaza Grande”, also known as “Plaza de la Independencia”, with the governmental palace. We visit several churches with the typical Latin-American mix of Gothic, Moorish, and Baroque styles. Then, we continue to “Casa del Alabado”. This beautifully restored colonial house has a precious museum with Pre-Columbian art.  We then drive to “Mitad del Mundo”, 22 km. north of Quito, where Charles Marie de La Condamine in 1736 made the measurements showing that this was the equatorial line. Here, you can stand with one foot in each hemisphere, and learn all ins and outs about the equator and its importance to the native cultures of Ecuador. We then go back to the hotel in the afternoon.

You stay overnight at Ikala hotel.

Day 3: Galapagos Expedition Cruise - San Cristobal

Early in the morning, you are transferred to Quito’s airport where you check in for your flight to the Galapagos Islands. You arrive at San Cristobal airport at noon and then head to the Seaman Journey, a spacious motor catamaran with a capacity for 16 passengers in comfortable double cabins with a private bathroom. After lunch onboard, you will head to the Interpretation Center at San Cristobal, where you can learn about the geological and human history of the archipelago. This is the oldest museum of Natural History in the Galapagos Islands which attempts to preserve the archipelago. It is indeed inspiring and motivating to watch and learn all of their research and conservation projects.

The accommodation is aboard Seaman Journey, and includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Day 4: Galapagos Expedition Cruise - Galapaguera & Witch Hill

We visit Galapaguera in the morning, a good place to observe Galapagos tortoises in their natural habitat. Other endemic species that can be seen here are the San Cristobal mockingbird (Nesomimus melanotis), the lava lizard (Microlophus bivittatus), the Chatham leaf-toed gecko (Phyllodactylus leei). It has a large beach that is a nesting zone for marine tortoises.

After lunch, we visit Cerro Brujo (Witch Hill), a beautiful white coral beach where you can swim and snorkel close to sea lions. This is the first coast where Charles Darwin walked on, in 1835. In the marvelous lava landscape, you can watch seabirds like blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, herons, frigate birds and shore birds. The protected bay is well known for its young tortoises which like to swim around. The pools with salty water behind the sand dunes were used as a salt mine in order to preserve food for the local population. You can spot the endemic Chatham mockingbird and San Cristobal lava lizard, Galapagos turtles and the little bird known as the pájaro brujo. The vegetation includes candelabrum cactus and carob trees.

The accommodation is aboard Seaman Journey, and includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Day 5: Galapagos Expedition Cruise - Española

Today we explore Española, one of the highlights of the Galapagos archipelago! We have a morning excursion to Gardner Bay, a visitor site in the northern part of Española with an excellent beach for swimming, snorkeling and even kayaking. The crystal-clear ocean waters are home to sea lions, green sea turtles, reef fish, sharks, amongst others. You can observe three species of Darwin finches. After lunch aboard, we visit Suarez Point, the second site in Española. This rocky land spot sustains one of the most impressive and varied colonies of sea birds in the Galapagos – including the waved albatross (from April to December), the red-billed tropicbirds and black-tailed gulls. Along its southern shore, the famous attraction is the magnificent blowhole, spurting water high into the air.

The accommodation is aboard Seaman Journey, and includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Day 6: Galapagos Expedition Cruise - Floreana

We arrive in Floreana island. We land on Cormorant Point, the site with the best flamingo lagoon in the Galapagos. It is situated between two lava tuff cones that gives it a special atmosphere. There are various species of shorebirds to observe besides flamingos; the most frequent are common stilts, white-cheeked pintail ducks, and other migratory birds. It is very interesting to see the two distinct beaches: “The Green Beach” (due to its high percentage of olivine crystals in the sand) and the “Flour Sand Beach” which is made up of coral. We have an afternoon excursion to the Post Office Bay. Historically, this site is the location of a wooden barrel that was placed in the 18th century by the crew of a whaling ship. It has been used since then by marines and tourists as a post office. The idea is to carry letters or postcards to their destination by hand. Besides, this site was the landing area for some of the first colonists. We continue to the north of the island and proceed to an elevated slope to enjoy a beautiful view at the Baroness lookout. It is said that Baroness Eloisa Von Wagner loved this place and spent several hours watching the horizon. Within walking distance (30 m) are the ruins of what is known as her house. From this lookout, the landscape covers the coastline from the Enderby islet to the Post Office Bay, as well as Cerro Pajas, the pool of flamingos and wide forest of Palo Santo.

The accommodation is aboard Seaman Journey, and includes breakfast, lunch and dinner

Day 7: Galapagos Expedition Cruise - Charles Darwin Station – return flight

We have our last excursion early in the morning to the Charles Darwin Station on Santa Cruz island. Although the great majority of Galapagos visitors come here to observe and appreciate the famous giant tortoises, it is also very interesting to learn how the protection and conservation of the islands is carried out. The main attractions are the National Park information center, the Van Straelen Exhibition Hall, and the Breeding and Rearing Center for young tortoises. After this last excursion, you are taken to Baltra airport for your flight to the mainland. We arrive at Quito’s airport in the afternoon. Our guide is waiting to drive you to Otavalo in the northern highlands. You spend the night in a small and quiet hacienda just outside town.

You stay at Las Palmeras Inn, which includes breakfast.

Day 8: Otavalo and surroundings

Today you explore Otavalo and surroundings together with our guide. The indigenous people from Otavalo are world famous for their fine handicrafts made of wool, wood, leather, dough and other materials. We take a look at the handicraft market at Plaza de Ponchos, and then head to the small town of Peguche for a short hike to the waterfalls. We then continue to Cuicocha or Guinea Pig Lake, a spectacular crater lake just beside the Cotacachi volcano, and then make a stop in the village of Cotacachi that is famous for its leatherwork.

You spend the night in Las Palmeras Inn, which includes breakfast.

Day 9: Condor Park - Cochasquí – Quito

Our guide picks you up at 8:30am for the trip along the Volcano Avenue to the Central Highlands. Our first stop is Condor Park, a rescue project for the endangered Andean condor. The Park is also home to birds of prey and owls. With clear weather you can enjoy views of the Imbabura volcano. We then head to the Cochasquí Archeological Park, Pre-Inca ruins with 15 pyramids constructed out of volcanic tuff stones, and 21 funerary mounds. In the afternoon we return to Quito.

You spend the night at Hotel Ikala, which includes breakfast.

Day 10: Napo Wildlife Center

We take you from the hotel to Quito’s Airport early in the morning and then take a 30-minute flight to Coca, the starting point of a 4-day trip to Napo Wildlife Center. This is a luxury lodge surrounded by pristine Amazon rainforest, located on the banks of a small jungle lake. You are received at the airport in Coca and then transferred to the port, where you embark on a comfortable covered motor boat for a canoe ride along the Napo river, the major tributary of the Amazon. Along the way, birds like herons, kingfishers and others, can be spotted. After about 2.5 hours, we continue the journey by dugout canoe, paddling along a narrow creek to the lake where the lodge is located (motorized boats are not allowed at the lake in order not to disturb wildlife). There are good chances to spot some species of monkeys as well as large birds like toucans, parrots or even macaws. Late in the afternoon, we arrive at the Napo Wildlife Center Lodge, with an overwhelming view of the Añangu lake, a black water lake that is home to different fish species, caimans and endemic giant otters.

The accommodation is in the Napo Wildlife Center Lodge, and includes breakfast, lunch box and dinner.

Day 11: Napo Wildlife Center

Early in the morning, we get up to visit one of the most incredible nature spectacles you will ever see: the parrot clay licks. The most accessible parrot clay lick is about an hour from the lodge. Once you get there, hundreds of parrots such as the Amazon-mealy and the blue-headed parrot, parakeets and macaws show up just before your eyes to feed with the minerals and salts the soil has to offer. Guests reach this destination just before parrot activity kicks off at the clay lick between 7:30 to 8:30am to ensure the best viewing experience. Later, we hike along a forest trail to visit the Kichwa Community of Añangu and share time with a family on one of their many activities. We enjoy some lunch at Napo Cultural Center, where you share time with people of the Kichwa community. Then, we return to the creek and hike through Terra Firme Forest for about 30 minutes until we arrive at the second parrot clay lick. If the weather conditions permit, we can find different species of parrots, parakeets, and even macaws.

We stay overnight in the Napo Wildlife Center Lodge, which includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Day 12: Napo Wildlife Center

After an early breakfast, we leave the lodge to experience an amazing view of the rainforest from a 36-meter-tall canopy tower, a great way to see the hustle and bustle of life above ground-level. This is the second tower at the Napo Wildlife Center, located about 30 minutes from the lodge deep within the Terra Firme forest. As you ascend the 12-floor tower, you pass through different levels of the forest and emerge at the top of a huge Ceiba tree. Flocks of colorful tanagers pass right through the canopy of the tree. Blue-and-yellow macaws fly past while, in nearby trees, adorable spider monkeys search for fruit. Two species of large toucans call in the early mornings and afternoons, and the life of the forest canopy is laid out before you. Birds that are virtually impossible to see from the forest floor far below are suddenly right beside you, usually oblivious of your presence. Lunch is served at the lodge. Your afternoon can include discovering another Terra Firme trail, where we hike along the primary forest to see the forest interior, with possibilities of finding lizards, colorful manakins, or the unique and endemic golden-mantled tamarin monkey. After the hike, we explore the lake and creeks in a dugout canoe and enjoy a likely chance of meeting with our local giant otter family on the way.

 

The overnight stay is in the Napo Wildlife Center Lodge, and includes breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Day 13: Napo Wildlife Center – Lasso

Early in the morning, we depart the lodge and take a final 2-hour excursion canoeing back to the Napo River. The creek may reveal sights of giant otters, monk saki monkeys, and rare birds along the way. Once we reach the river, you are transferred to the motorized canoe to go all the way back though the same path you came. You arrive in Coca after an approximately 2-hour boat ride in order to check-in for your Coca – Quito flight. You arrive in Quito’s airport around noon, where our guide is waiting to drive you south to Volcano Avenue. You spend the night in a beautiful hacienda located at the base of the Cotopaxi volcano.

The accommodation is at Hacienda Hato Verde, which includes breakfast.

Day 14: Pujilí – Quilotoa Lake - Tigua

We pick you up from the hotel at 8:30am and drive to the small town of Pujilí, famous for its artisans. We continue on a small road, passing a patchwork of fields with beans, potatoes and barley, and indigenous communities where women and children herd sheep and llamas. We arrive at Quilotoa, an active volcano that last erupted about 800 years ago. You can take a short hike on the crater rim and enjoy the spectacular views of the emerald lake. On the return trip, we make a stop in the Tigua art gallery. The indigenous people from Tigua are famous for their naïve style paintings on sheepskin, representing rural life, landscapes of the Andes and local legends.

You stay overnight at Hacienda Hato Verde, which includes breakfast.

Day 15: Rose Plantation - Cotopaxi National Park - Quito

After breakfast, we visit one of the many rose plantations in this area. Thanks to the Andean climate, Ecuador produces some of the world’s finest roses that are exported to many countries all over the world. We then head to the Cotopaxi National Park, named after one of the world’s highest active volcanoes. The Cotopaxi is Ecuador´s second highest peak with an altitude of 19,350 ft. With clear weather, you can make great photos of its snowcapped cone. In the park, we make a short hike near Laguna Limpiopungo, a shallow lake at 3850 m. where you can observe several endemic bird species, such as the Andean gull and the Andean lapwing. You also see typical paramo plants, like the chuquiragua and cacho de venado (deer’s antler). In the afternoon, we drive to Quito.

You spend the night at Ikala Hotel, which includes breakfast.

Day 16: Quito

You spend some free time in Quito and are then transferred to Quito’s Airport for your international departure.

  • All transfers according to the itinerary by private car (including transfers from and to the airport)
  • All accommodations in mid-range hotels as detailed in the itinerary, based on double rooms with private bath and hot water, including taxes and breakfast
  • Private day tour to Quito old town and Mitad del Mundo, including English speaking driver-guide, transfers, entrance fees
  • Flight tickets Quito – Coca – Quito
  • 4-day Amazon jungle tour to Napo Wildlife Center; including transfers from Coca, accommodation in luxurious jungle lodge (double room with private bath and hot water), meals full board, excursions with English speaking naturalist guide, use of rubber boots
  • Private day tour Otavalo and surroundings, including English speaking driver-guide, transfers, entrance fees
  • Private day tour Otavalo – Condor Park – Cochasqui – Quito, including English speaking driver-guide, transfers, entrance fees
  • Private day tour Pujilí – Quilotoa Lake – Tigua, English speaking driver-guide, transfers, entrance fees
  • Private day tour Rose Plantation and Cotopaxi National Park, English speaking driver-guide, transfers, entrance permit
  • International airfare
  • Meals (except for the meals detailed in the itinerary)
  • Travel and cancellation insurance
  • Optional excursions

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