Ecuador: Quito and the Galapagos Islands -

Ecuador: Quito and the Galapagos Islands

  • Destination:
  • Duration: 10 days
  • Prices from: $6,110

Highlights

-Accommodation at 4 star hotel, breakfast included

-Private airport transfers in/out in Quito

-Shared airport transfers in/out in Baltra

-Private tour of Quito

-Mindo Cloud Forest Full Day Private tour

-Santa Cruz Galapagos Islands Cruise 6 days / 5 nights all inclusive with excursions (except beverages)

-Galapagos national park entrance fee

-Transit Control Card for Galapagos

See the best of Ecuador…

You’ll explore the best of this amazing country on this 10-day tour

Explore the Galapagos Islands

See the animals and enjoy the beautiful scenery

Itinerary

Day 1 – Arrival in Quito

Welcome to Quito and Ecuador!

On your arrival at the airport you will be greeted by your private driver and transferred to your hotel. Rest of the day at your leisure.

Enjoy the scenic colonial and artistic Quito, visit museums, monasteries and the golden altars of its many churches. Stand with a foot on each hemisphere on the Middle of the World memorial. The capital of Ecuador has a setting that few cities in the world can match. During the 13th century it was the prosperous center of the Kingdom of Quitus. It later became the northern capital of the Inca Empire. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Colonial architects built formidable temples, monasteries and mansions, creating an urban jewel designated by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage Site. Quitos artistic creativity awaits the visitor in cosmopolitan galleries and boutiques filled with contemporary paintings, sculptures and exquisite traditional crafts.

Day 2 – Quito

Quito Old Town

Today you head out for a private walking tour of the Old Town, intent on understanding more about the people who live in the largest and best-restored historical center in the Americas. You begin by meeting your local resident guide, part of a NGO organization that has created a walking tour of its Quito neighbourhood, called San Roque. The guide takes you through the nearby streets, stopping to meet artisans, shopkeepers, hat makers and sweet confectioners. Up the hill on Calle Rocafuerte, you explore the San Francisco Market, one of the oldest in the capital. Here, you learn all about the fruit and vegetables produced in Ecuador and some culinary traditions.

You also have the chance to meet and learn from one of the local herbal healers who have locales in the market.

From the market, you walk downhill to the emblematic street of La Ronda, considered one of the flagship regeneration projects in the city. It’s a quiet, cobbled street with typical balconies overflowing with geraniums. Here you visit the Manos en La Ronda project and meet artisans in the workshops. Then visit the chocolate factory on the ground floor, where you enjoy a snack and have a chance to discover and taste the finest chocolate in the world – which, of course, comes from Ecuador..!

From La Ronda, you walk northward through the handsome streets of the Old Town to the Plaza Grande, the political heart of the city. Following a brief explanation, you stroll to the Jesuit church of La Compañía with its stunning gold-leaf interior. Returning back to Plaza San Francisco, you visit the church, choir and pretty patios of the Franciscan order before arriving at Casa Gangotena, on the same square, for a lunch of Ecuadorian specialties prepared by the hotel’s talented chefs.

In the afternoon, you cross the street to the excellent Casa del Alabado Archaeological Museum. It houses a fantastic collection of pieces dating back some 5,000 years, arrayed beautifully within a restored 17th-century colonial mansion.

This tour also includes a visit to a panoramic viewpoint to appreciate Quito in all its Andean splendor.

Day 3 – Quito

Mindo Cloud Forest Full Day

Today your specially trained private guides introduce you to the mysteries of the Cloud Forest, pointing out the unique flora and fauna. Visit the El Pahuma Orquid Reserve and its Orchid Botanical Garden with flowering orchids mounted on the trees and placed in the vegetation along the trail, consistent with each species’ habitat. Labels identify each specimen. Then, a hike on a trail through the lush cloud forest, alongside a lively, sparkling creek to the 50 meter (165 foot) Pacaya waterfall. The El Pahuma Orchid Reserve is a privately owned forest of an Ecuadorian family who is searching for a viable economic alternative to destructive activities such as logging or cattle raising, and it protects over 600 hectares (over 1500 acres) of tropical mountain forest. Over 170 species of orchids have been identified within the reserve, which lies in a region with some of the highest rates of plant endemism in the world. Orchids, bromeliads, heliconias, ferns, vines, mosses and lichens grow in abundance here.

Continue to the quaint little village of Mindo, at an altitude of 1300 meters, observing the bird life along the way. BirdLife International has designated Mindo as an IBA (Important Bird Area), the first such site in South America. Then, a visit to the Butterfly Vivarium, housing 25 varieties of butterflies. Flight areas simulate the outside forest with water streams, mineral deposits, and a wide range of wild flowers. Hundreds of caterpillars feed on their host plants in their natural environment to assure the best development of pupae and butterflies. Lunch is served at a restaurant of the area. Time for a short stroll in the surroundings before return to Quito.

Day 4 – Galapagos Islands

SANTA CRUZ Western Islands

Cruise 6 Days / 5 Nights (Wednesday to Monday)

Private transfer between your hotel in Quito and the airport.

Flight to Baltra Island (not included).

Wednesday : Baltra Island/North Seymour Island

You arrive by plane at Baltra Island and shared transfer to the dock to board the M/V Santa Cruz where you receive a welcome introductory briefing, boat drill and lunch.

North Seymour Island

Take your time to experience this marvelous island. This is a great introductory site to the islands and their wildlife, full of bird colonies of blue footed boobies, two species of frigate birds, swallow tailed gulls, as well as sea lions and marine iguanas.

Day 5 – Galapagos Islands

Thursday: Punta Vicente Roca (Isabela Island)/Punta Espinoza (Fernandina Island)

After breakfast, you explore the coast by panga, while your naturalist guide explains the dramatic geology of the area, nesting place for a Galápagos highlight: flightless cormorants. Depending on weather conditions, you can snorkel along the cliffs of this area rich in marine life, seasonally-visited by green sea turtles and oceanic sun fish (Mola mola).

Punta Espinoza (Fernandina Island)

The afternoon is dedicated to explore the youngest island of the archipelago, Fernandina, which, having no introduced mammals, boasts a very unique environment with a very high density of marine iguanas, who share their space with sea lions, Sally light-foot crabs, hawks, penguins and the flightless cormorants.

Day 6 – Galapagos Islands

Friday : Tagus Cove / Urbina Bay (Isabela Island)

After breakfast, you land at Tagus Cove on the northwest of Isabela. It provided a favorite anchorage for pirates and whalers over the centuries. An uphill hike takes you to the rim of a crater, Darwin lake, filled with salt water and to a dramatic viewpoint. After your walk, you take a panga ride to spot local wildlife, with the possibility of swimming or snorkelling.

Urbina Bay (Isabela Island)

After lunch you disembark at Urbina Bay, the fascinating result of an uplifting of the ocean floor in 1954. Here you can admire corals, shells and many other calcareous organisms exposed above water. First you enjoy a snorkel from the beach, with the chance of swimming with flightless cormorants. This area is also home to large and very colorful Galápagos land iguanas, and occasionally to giant tortoises. You return back on board for your expedition plan for Saturday and dinner.

Day 7 – Galapagos Islands

Saturday: Puerto Ayora and the Charles Darwin Research Station (Santa Cruz Island)

In the morning, you disembark (dry landing) for your visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station’s giant tortoise Breeding Center within an impressive giant prickly-pear cactus forest home to many land birds. These are the headquarters of scientific investigation, conservation and the National Park administration. Following your visit, you board your transport to enjoy lunch in the cooler highlands of Santa Cruz Island, a completely different ecosystem.

Santa Cruz Island

You have several options available (mountain biking, kayaking in Tortuga Bay, hiking) for the afternoon, which can be discussed in advance with your Expedition Leader. At the end of the afternoon’s activities, you return to Puerto Ayora and embark on the Santa Cruz.

Day 8 – Galapagos Islands

Sunday: Post Office Bay / Champion Islet and Cormorant Point (Floreana Island)

A short walk leads you to the historic barrel where postcards are traditionally left for guests from other vessels to hand-deliver to their destinations. Near Post Office Bay, you explore the north shore of Floreana along narrow channels teeming with life. You then head back on board for lunch.

Champion Islet and Cormorant Point (Floreana Island)

Following lunch and a nap, you take the pangas and glass-bottom boat to explore the underwater wonders around Champion Islet, an extinct shield volcano, regarded as one of the best snorkeling spots in the archipelago. From there, it’s on to Cormorant Point, beginning with a wet landing on the olivine-crystal beach for an easy walk that includes a brackish water lagoon where bird species such as greater flamingos, pintail ducks, common stilts, herons, sandpipers, and others gather. You continue your walk over to a white-sand beach, where sea turtles emerge from the sea at night to nest (from December to May).

Day 9 – Quito

Monday: Baltra Island

You disembark at Baltra Island in order to be transferred to the airport to take the flight back to the mainland (shared transfer, flight not included).

On your arrival, you will be greeted and escorted to your hotel in Quito. Rest of the day at leisure.

Price/Hotels
DatesPrice Per Person From
Departs Daily$6,110

Hotel Experience

Quito: Hilton Colon Hotel Quito or similar

Set in La Mariscal district, on Quito’s bustling commercial and touristic Avenida Amazonas, the Hilton Colon Hotel is at the heart of the city’s action. Hilton Colon Quito is a 10-minute walk to Quito’s Spanish Colonial old town, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Relax in a modern guest room with WiFi, a work desk, and panoramic views of the city and mountains. Upgrade to the spacious and luxurious suites of La Pinta Executive Tower, an upscale experience available only at the Hilton Colon Quito. Sample Ecuadorian and international fusion cuisine buffet, or enjoy fine dining in the Mediterranean weekend gourmet restaurant, which offers creations from a reputable executive chef.

Galapagos Islands: M/V Santa Cruz or similar

The M/V Santa Cruz refreshes the Galapagos exploration experience. The flagship luxury yacht caters to 90 passengers with 43 cabins of varying sizes and configurations. The ship has superb dining, ample social areas, a sundeck with a bar, tables and sun loungers, a Jacuzzi, and the latest in navigation and safety systems, and is ideal for families, small groups, couples or individuals.

On board the M/V Santa Cruz is an underwater naturalist – who will lead guests by the hand during swimming and snorkelling activities, helping them with masks, snorkels and techniques. Another unique feature is the hydrophone for listening to the calls of dolphins and whales, as well as a ‘splashcam’ video camera which films these creatures in action underwater. Other great activities include trekking in the highlands, biking, visiting an organic coffee plantation, scuba diving and strolling along the shores.

Note: Limited Availability, some hotels may not be available. Prices are per person.

Tours can be customized for any number of travelers, on any date.

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