Mainland & Galapagos (15 days)
Ecuador is among the most rewarding travel destinations in South America. Included are highlights of the Andes and the Galapagos Islands.
From the world heritage site of 16th century colonial Quito, you are no more than a day's drive from the Amazon jungle, remote villages of Andean indigenous artisans, or the lush cloud forest. Our program has a focus on nature, culture, adventure and learning. Although the trip is not extremely physically demanding, it requires that participants be in good enough shape to walk for a 1-2 hour period sometimes in high forest terrain or uneven lava fields. We spend our first week on the mainland of Ecuador visiting highland villages, indigenous markets cloud forests and spectacular Andean countryside. The highlight of a trip to Ecuador is a journey to the Galapagos Islands. We will travel on a 20 passenger boat for five days/four nights cruising from island to island to observe the unique flora and fauna made famous by Charles Darwin. Hiking, swimming and snorkeling will enhance the trip. Each cabin has private washroom facilities with hot and cold showers. Join us for an unforgettable journey. Optional Amazon, Peru and Patagonia Extensions are available.
2017 Departure Dates & Costs
Early bookings are essential! Departures each Monday, Wednesday and Friday based on 2 or more persons. Some day by day itinerary changes occur depending on the day of arrival based on market days and Galapagos cruise scheduling.
Tour cost: $ 6,100 USD from Quito
Single supplement for mainland: $ 1,100 USD
Shared accommodation is necessary on the boat due to limited space
8 DAY PERU EXTENSION $ 2,950 USD Including airfare Quito/Lima
AMAZON EXTENSION: $ 1,050 USD
Deposit required: $ 800 - Balance due 60 days prior
DAY 1: ARRIVE QUITO
Flight to Quito. On arrival in Quito you will be met and transferred to the Alameda Mercure Hotel.
DAY 2: COLONIAL QUITO & THE EQUATOR (B,L)
Morning briefing on the program before starting a full day visit to Colonial Quito (with lunch included), highlighting the country's historical and cultural background. We will visit the newly restored Independence Square, the narrow streets of La Ronda, the dazzling gold-leafed La Compania Church, bustling San Francisco Plaza, plus a bird's-eye view atop Panecillo Hill. Afternoon visit to the equator line and cultural museum. Late afternoon return to Quito. Evening free.
DAY 3: MINDO RESERVE (B,L)
Full Day in the mountain cloud forest. It has one of the most diverse bird populations in the world. Some time to hike, bird watch, and learn about cloud forest ecology. Late afternoon departure back to Quito.
DAY 4: PAPALLACTA HOT SPRINGS (B)
Approximately two hours east of Quito is Papallacta Hot Springs, famous for it's mineral hot springs. The hot springs are said to be a panacea for most known aches and pains. To swim or just to relax in one of the thermal pools is a delight you cannot deprive yourself of. Besides the hot springs, there are full spa facilities, as well as excellent opportunities for hiking, birding and horseback riding that are optional. Bring your bathing suit.
DAY 5: QUITO / COTOPAXI NATIONAL PARK/ RIOBAMBA (B,L)
Travel the Avenue of Volcanoes to the base of mighty Cotopaxi (19,400ft.), the highest active volcano on earth. This area is rich in wildflowers, like the rare Chuquiragua insignis, emblem of mountain climbers, and birds such as the graceful Andean lapwing and the elusive Carunculated caracara. Lunch at a local traditional Hacienda. Continue south to Riobamba and visit a local Indian market at the foothills of Ecuador's highest snow capped mountain, Chimborazo (20,697ft.) Upon arrival in Riobamba, birthplace of Ecuador's constitution, you will be taken on a panoramic tour of the city. Accommodation at El Troje Hotel.
DAY 6: RIOBAMBA / DEVIL'S NOSE / INGAPIRCA / CUENCA (B,L)
After breakfast we start our day driving through some of the most picturesque farming areas in the country until we reach Alausi train station. From here you will experience the adventure of going from the high Andes to lower elevations by train through the Devil's Nose. Back on the road in the afternoon, we proceed to the Inca ruins of Ingapirca. Continue by road into South Ecuador. Overnight in Cuenca at the Hotel Conquistador.
DAY 7: CUENCA (B,L)
Flanked by mountains and surrounded by four rivers, with architecture dating back to the 18th century, Cuenca has been declared a World Cultural Heritage site by UNESCO. In the morning we go on a city tour of Cuenca where you will be captivated by the charm of it's cobblestone streets, flowered plazas, magnificent cathedrals and galleries. In the afternoon we visit the town of San Joaquin, the ruins of Todos los Santos and the anthropological Central Banks Museum. Accommodations at the Hotel Conquistador.
DAY 8: CUENCA (B)
A day at leisure. Several local tours are available to explore the cultural and natural heritage of the Cuenca region including breathtaking scenery, interesting geology, wildlife, unusual plant life and good trails. Afternoon flight to Quito.
DAY 9: OTAVALO MARKET (B,L)
On this day we will head north of Quito to Otavalo, making stops in different towns along the way, each one famed for it's particular craft.
We will visit local artisans and experience them create their unique crafts. Upon reaching the famous Indian Market of Otavalo you will have the opportunity to test your bargaining skills as you shop for hand knitted sweaters, colourful tapestries, wood carvings, silver jewellery, native paintings, straw hats and much more. Overnight in Mondo Valley overlooking the exuberant topography of the cloud forest habitat ranging between 6 and 8 thousand feet above sea level.
DAYS 10 - 14: GALAPAGOS CRUISE (B,L,D)
Aerogal or TAME Flight 195 9:00 am/12:00 pm (1 stop in Guayaquil). On arrival in Galapagos, you will be met by your naturalist guide and transferred to the M/C Anahi 4 nights or the MC Millennium. On the boat you will have the comfort of a stable, spacious, luxurious and fast catamaran built for Galapagos travel. Theses ships offer more comfort than on any other Galapagos boat of its size. Just picture yourself walking on the Islands and having to make your way around nests carelessly built by blue footed boobies and frigate birds on the trail! Imagine feeling the cool Galapagos waters as you swim with penguins at the Equator and see playful sea lions through your snorkelling mask, manta rays and numerous species of colorful fish. Enjoy close encounters with armies of marine iguanas, hundreds of seabirds including the waved albatross, flightless cormorants and the magnificent frigatebird, visit "Lonesome George", the most emblematic of Galapagos giant turtles. It is a once in a lifetime vacation brought to you by the M/C Anahi, its guides and crew... Your are invited to join us!.
As portrayed by famous marine explorer Jacques Cousteau "Galapagos is the last wildlife sanctuary". Animals do not fear humans making it a natural paradise and haven for naturalists escaping a busy and noisy outside world. Board the M/C Anahi for the nature travel experience of a lifetime, the waters are calm and the weather is pleasant (we are at the Equator), the Galapagos Islands travel experience is at the top of the list of every experienced traveller. Breakfast at hotel. You will be picked up and transferred to the airport for your morning flight to the Galapagos Islands for a 5 day /4 nights Galapagos. Naturalist guide and crew onboard. Afternoon visit to Plaza. The Plazas are a pair of islets situated just off the east coast of Santa Cruz. South Plaza is another example of a geological uplift. In this case, the southern portion of this narrow islet (only a couple hundred yards wide) has considerably more uplift to it, forming cliffs with spectacular views. South Plaza is one of the smallest islands to be visited. A large colony of sea lions, numbering about 1,000 bulls, cows and pups, occupies the smooth rocks here. The small cactus forest is populated by land iguanas, which can be seen sunning themselves or feeding on Opuntia pads and fruits. Along the cliff edge nesting swallow-tailed gulls are the predominant seabirds, along with tropicbirds and shearwaters. During the rainy season the dormant ground cover undergoes a drastic change. The red Sesuvium turns bright green and the leafless evening-blooming Portulaca bursts into large yellow flowers relished by the land iguanas.
NOTE Cruise itinerary may vary depending on the cruise vessel. We use a selection of deluxe, superior tourist class boats for both 5 day/4 night, 6 day / 5 night and 8 day/7 night programs.
DAY 11 SAN CRISTOBAL, GALAPAGOS (B,L,D)
San Cristobal is geologically one of the oldest islands, reflected by its eroded volcanic peaks in the north and densely vegetated slopes in the south. The town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is the capital of Galapagos Province. This island hosts frigatebirds, sea lions, giant turtles, blue and red footed boobies, tropical birds, marine iguanas, dolphins, swallow-tailed gulls. Its vegetation includes Calandrina Galapagos, Lecocarpus Darwinii, trees such as Lignum Vitae, Matazarna. Visit the Interpretation Center with its new buildings, lush gardens and sweeping ocean views are a strong contrast to the 1960?s style buildings at the Charles Darwin Center . Visitors to the Interpretation Center can learn about both the geological and human history of the islands, conservation issues, and natural history. The older Museum of Natural History attempts to preserve the natural history of the islands. Afternoon visit to La Loberia. Traveler's frequently note the unusual color of the plants as they near the beach. La Loberia is home to a large sea lion colony and nursery. There are frequently dozens of sea lions visible at any time. Here you'll enjoy the sea lions, marine iguanas, bird watching, and perhaps Galapagos giant tortoises. You have to always stay on the path and try not to disturb the wildlife. We may pass the scattered tuff-rock called Leon Dormido, which stands out of the deep-blue ocean like the rock of Gibraltar. Look our for masked boobies, blue-footed boobies, and frigate birds along the cliffs.
DAY 12 ESPANOLA (B,L,D)
Espanola is the southernmost island of the archipelago, and being so isolated, a high percentage of its fauna is endemic. Gardner Bay is on the eastern shore and has a magnificent beach. This beach is frequented by a transient colony of sea lions, and is a major nesting site for marine turtles. Around the small islets nearby, snorkelers will find lots of fish and sometimes turtles and sharks. On a trail leading to the western tip of the island you'll pass the only nesting sites in the Galapagos of the waved albatross, huge birds with a 6-foot wingspan. These huge birds nest here from April to December and represent the majority of the world?s population of this species. Punta Suarez is one of the most outstanding wildlife areas of the archipelago, with a long list of species found along its cliffs and sand or pebble beaches. In addition to five species of nesting seabirds there are the curious and bold Hood Island mockingbirds, Galapagos doves and Galapagos hawks. Several types of reptiles, including the brilliantly coloured marine iguana and the oversized lava lizard, are unique to this island. When heavy swells are running, Punta Suarez is also the site of a spectacular blowhole, with thundering spray shooting 30 yards into the air.
DAY 13 FLOREANA (B,L,D)
Located in the south the island of Floreana has abundant plant and animal life. Visit Punta Cormorant at the Northern end of the island with its unusual olive coloured beach with sea lions. Flamingos nest by a brackish lagoon that also provides feeding grounds for pintails, common stilts and other waders. Devils crown, the remains of a small crater and submerged volcano offers some of the best snorkelling in Galapagos. Coral, colourful fish, sea lions and some reef sharks are found in the clear waters off Devil's crown. Post Office Bay is where a century old tradition of posting letters from a barrel continues. You may wish to send mail home from here as letters require no stamps. Floreana is one of the inhabited Galapagos Island's with an intriguing history of early settlement.
DAY 14 SANTA CRUZ, DARWIN RESEARCH STATION/QUITO (B)
AEROGAL flight 33 12:00 pm/4:00 pm Baltra/Quito. Santa Cruz is the second largest island in the Galapagos. The small town of Puerto Ayora is the economic center of the archipelago, with the largest population of the 4 inhabited islands (approx 10.000). Santa Cruz is also the only island where six different zones of vegetation can be seen: Coastal, Arid, Transition, Scalesia, Miconia, and Pampa Zones. The Charles Darwin Research Station and the Galapagos National Park offices are based here. We will have an opportunity to visit some of the best scientists of their kind. Scientists, park rangers and park managers among others, who make huge efforts to preserve this Unesco World Heritage Site, conduct the conservation of the islands. The station is also a tortoise breeding and rearing centre, where tortoises of different subspecies are prepared for reintroduction to their natural habitats. The most popular inhabitant of this island will probably be Lonesome George. He is the only survivor of the specific turtle species. We will then transfer to the airport for flight back to Quito. Transfer from airport to the hotel.
DAY 15: Departure (B)
Transfer to the airport for the flight home.
EXTENSIONS AVAILABLE TO THE AMAZON, PERU & PATAGONIA
Your tour includes:
- Domestic airfare to the Galapagos Islands (QUITO/GALAPAGOS/QUITO)
- Accommodation based on 3 and 4 star lodgings which have been chosen for their charm and character
- Meals as per itinerary (B-breakfast, L-lunch, D-dinner)
- 4 night Galapagos Cruise with full board
- All tours listed in the itinerary
- Services of local escorts mainland sections and a Naturalist guide for the cruise
- Hotel taxes and service charges
Your tour does not include:
- $ 100 USD Galapagos Park Tax/ $ 10 park registration fee/Ecuador departure tax $ 41 USD
- Meals not listed in the itinerary
- Tips and gratuities, items of a personal nature (telephone, laundry, etc.)
What our clients say...
"Thank you for your recent note and brochures of your upcoming adventures. We still look upon the trip you organized so efficiently for us to Galapagos, Peru and Ecuador those many years ago as one of our best travel memories ever and again we are glad we did it when we did - a 10 1/2 trip out of 10, thanks to your organizational skills. We still keep in touch with several couples whom we met on MV Eric in Galapagos – for a bunch of folks who hadn't met or known each other before, we lucked into a wonderful and convivial group. The two on-board naturalist lecturers were extremely knowledgeable as well as environmentally aware of their responsibility of and to tourists in such a vulnerable place." Melva & Gordon Bradshaw
"I have done a fair amount of travelling, but no trip has so impressed me and filled me with such awe." M. Scott, Ontario
"Thanks for allowing me the trip of a lifetime. ...The Galapagos still stands as the high spot of our travels." Dr. David Suzuki, British Columbia