Destination: Ecuador | Duration: 11 days | Call to Personalize your Custom Journey
Ecuador is one of the most diverse and friendly countries in South America. Your Ecuador and Galapagos Islands Adventure will take you to the top places to visit in Ecuador. Begin with a visit to colonial Quito and the colorful artisan marketplace at Otavalo. Travel to the tropical rainforest highlands and the lovely Mashpi Lodge to enjoy time with nature. Then make your way to the Galapagos Island to get up close and personal with some of the tamest and most unique wildlife in the world.
Day 1: Time for Adventure in Ecuador
Welcome to your Ecuador and Galapagos Islands Adventure! At the airport you will be greeted by your guide who will escort you to your hotel in Old Town Quito. During the drive, your driver will tell you some valuable and interesting information about Quito and the country of Ecuador. Settle into your hotel and enjoy the rest of the day and evening on your own. Take time to relish this urban jewel and its treasures of architecture. Then partake in a scrumptious dinner. Ecuadorian cuisine dates back to the Incas and Quito gets the attention of chefs from around the world for their use of Andean ingredients.
Day 2: Colonial Quito
Head out with your guide today on a tour of historic downtown Quito, the largest and best preserved of South America. Your stroll starts at the Independence Plaza flanked by the Cathedral, the Presidential Palace, the Municipal Building and the Archbishop’s Palace. Visit the temple of La Compañía de Jesus with its awesome gilded interior and continue to the Monastery of San Francisco.
The Equatorial Monument marks Latitude 0º where you can stand with a foot on each hemisphere. Visit the Ethnographic Museum highlighting Native American groups living in Ecuador. The colonial-style town also has a plaza, church, post office, bullring, restaurants and shops.
Day 3: World-Famous Otavalo Market
This excursion goes north to the land of Otavalos. Travel along the Pan-American Highway through dramatic mountain scenery to see and buy textiles at South America’s most famous indigenous artisan market. Enjoy browsing the many stalls full of ponchos, scarves, blankets, wall hangings, woven belts, hats, handbags and more. Then proceed to Peguche, an Indian village very near Otavalo that is home to the artisans who do the weaving in their homes. Guests can learn about their culture and everyday life. Then it’s on to Cotacachi where the whole town is dedicated to the production and sale of leather goods such as coats, belts and all kinds of handbags. Lunch today is at the charming Hosteria La Mirage, a Relais & Chateaux spa property.
Day 4: Welcome to the Mashpi Lodge
The wonders at this lodge in the sky will delight even the worldliest nature lover. Perched at 900m (3,116 feet) above sea level and surrounded by cloud and rainforest, you will find a profusion of plant species like ferns, bromeliads and hundreds of orchid species. A staggering 500 species of bird flutter through the canopy. Monkeys, peccaries and even puma make their homes inside this Reserve of waterfalls and dramatic, verdant hills. Trails will lead you to discover life at every step. At the Life Centre, there are many local butterfly species. Get a bird´s-eye view and dramatic panoramas from the observation tower where you might spot toucans, woodpeckers, barbets, tanagers and parrots, as well as raptors.
Day 5: Rainforest Exploration
Today is your free day to explore at your leisure. You might try out the exciting sky bike and pedal along a cable stretched between two points in the forest canopy crossing a gorge above a river flowing between rocks and trees below. Silent, easy-to-use and fun, sky bikes provide a chance to observe the natural world close to the lodge.
The forests of Mashpi boast 22 hummingbird species. A shelter with seating and feeders hung from its roofline provides the ideal setting to see these amazing creatures. The site is located at a natural viewpoint and on clear days there are breathtaking views of the Reserve’s forested hills.
Day 6: From Mashpi to Quito
Enjoy the morning at the lodge. Around noon, you’ll start the lovely drive from Mashpi back to Quito. This 3-hour drive is truly a unique experience with so much to see you can hardly take it all in – sit back and enjoy the scenery and a few stops along the way if you desire. You will overnight in Quito, so enjoy a nice dinner in Old Town tonight before retiring early to rest for your early morning adventure.
Day 7: Adventure to Galapagos!
Now it’s time for the second part of your Ecuador and Galapagos Islands Adventure. You will begin this once-in-a-lifetime journey to the Galapagos Islands with your arrival by plane at San Cristóbal Island. You will then be transferred to your home for the next 4 days, the elegant Yacht La Pinta. Check out your cabin and get an introductory briefing and lunch on board. After lunch, you will go by land transfer for about 40 minutes to the island’s southern shore. At Cerro Colorado Tortoise Center, you will visit the breeding center of the highly endangered Giant Tortoises in the middle of a fantastic deciduous forest. The forest is home to dozens of bird species and the endemic San Cristóbal lava lizard.
Day 8: San Cristóbal Island
Land at Punta Pitt, the eastern tip of San Cristóbal Island. A trail ascends from the beach providing spectacular views of the shoreline. You can see the two frigate species, plus a colony of bachelor sea lions and if conditions are favorable, you might swim from the beach and snorkel by an islet.
Following lunch on board the ship, a dinghy ride along the shores of tuff-stone layers takes you to Cerro Brujo’s expansive, white coral-lined beach. It’s great for walking and you will be rewarded with lots of seabirds and shore birds, as well as Galapagos sea lions. These are the same shores that Charles Darwin walked upon in September 1835.
Day 9: Espanola Island
The morning outing at Punta Suárez provides an exciting walk on lava and boulder terrain to visit its unique sea bird colonies, including the waved albatrosses (April-December), boobies, swallow-tail gulls and the famous “blowhole”. You will also look for red-green-black marine iguanas.
After lunch on the boat, set down at the beautiful, white coral beach of Gardner Bay for a short walk to observe the sea lions, mockingbirds and finches. Then enjoy the beach, snorkeling, kayak or a ride in a glass-bottom boat.
Day 10: Charles Darwin Research Station
In the morning, you will disembark on Santa Cruz Island. Visit the Charles Darwin Research Station housing an extensive collection of preserved specimens of Galapagos plant life. See the ‘rearing in captivity’ program for the endangered giant tortoises. Witness the efforts and results of all the field work done in the name of science.
Afterward, travel across Santa Cruz Island for a short ferry ride to Baltra to catch a flight back to the mainland. Lucky you, you have one more evening to savor the delicious Ecuadorian cuisine in Quito.
Day 11: Adios, Ecuador
When it’s time, you will have a private transfer from the hotel to Guayaquil International Airport for your flight home. You take memories of your Ecuador and Galapagos Islands Adventure, of this mega-diverse country and its friendly people with you to share with friends and family.