Private Tour of Ecuador
Ecuador : Quito & Galapagos Islands
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Everything about Quito – from its setting along the slopes of Pichincha volcano to its having the best preserved, least altered historic centre in Latin America – makes it a capital city worth visiting. (The ‘old town’ as the centre is known was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978.) Stroll along its narrow streets and enjoy the buskers, vendors and locals going about their everyday business. Visit the monasteries of San Francisco and Santa Domingo, the Church and Jesuit College of La Compañia, the Cathedral of Quito or the hill of El Panecillo where you can view the 45m high statue of the Virgin Mary. Mariscal Sucre offers a taste of modern Quito with its trendy bars, restaurants and night life.
Santa Cruz Island
The island of Santa Cruz (Indefatigable) is home to Puerto Ayora, the largest and most developed town in the Galapagos. While many visitors use this island as merely a springboard for the more remote surrounding islands, those who dig a little deeper will discover that this island has plenty to offer. With numerous visitor sites, easily accessible beaches and remote highlands in the interior, Santa Cruz makes an excellent base for adventurous activities. The most popular attractions is undoubtedly the Charles Darwin Station which offers an impressive turtle breeding area and interesting information about the conservation of the unique biosphere of the Galapagos. Don’t miss the opportunity to swim or snorkel at one of the island’s magnificent beaches where you will find white sand and turquoise waters as well as an abundance of fascinating wildlife including: pelicans, blue-footed boobies and marine iguanas.
North Seymour Island
Despite its small size, North Seymour Island, in the Galapagos archipelago, is certainly worth a visit for its astonishing abundance of wildlife. Visitors to the island are typically treated to the sight of sea lions riding waves all the way into shore, marine iguanas basking in the sun, and flocks of pelicans and swallow tailed gulls feeding just off the coast. The island is also renowned as a natural haven for one of the most sought after residents in the Galapagos Islands, the Blue-Footed Boobie. During mating season, the island is an ideal place to witness the intriguing mating rituals for which these birds are famous. With its extraordinary profusion of wildlife and close proximity to Santa Cruz, North Seymour island makes an ideal destination for an adventurous day tour.
Resting in the western part of the Galapagos archipelago, Isabela Island is larger than all of the rest of the islands combined. Comprising six volcanoes, the island is about 120 km long and covers 4,585 square km. The remote location of the the island’s visitor sites means that few boats frequent Isabela but visitors who do make the effort will be richly rewarded with a profusion of fascinating wildlife including large numbers of flamingos which are typically spotted at the lagoon in town or along the boardwalk to the impressive Giant Tortoise Breeding Center. Don’t miss: Concha de Perla, a natural pool which is ideal for snorkelling and interacting with sea lions; Las Tintoreras, a lagoon where white tip sharks come to rest; and Los Tuneles where you will find abundance of turtles, rays, and fish swimming in the canals and pools.
Situated on Santa Cruz Island of the Ecuadorian Galapagos Islands, the tourist town of Puerto Ayora is famous for its striking natural scenery, breathtaking beaches and unique history. As the biggest town in the archipelago, it is from here that many excellent cruises, diving expeditions and land based tours depart. Tortuga Bay, which rivals any South American beach, is perfect for swimming and sunbathing and also offers the chance to spot sharks, marine iguanas, pelicans and the occasional flamingo; while the Charles Darwin Research Station is home to giant tortoises. Lava tunnels and two idyllic lagoons provide further opportunities to explore. The incredible Maprae Museum uses smartphone technology and augmented reality to tell the stories of ancient pre-Columbian artefacts, and is the first of its kind in the world.
Floreana Island is located in the far southern portion of the Galapagos archipelago. As the first of the islands to support permanent human habitation, Floreana boasts a rich heritage complete with tales of buccaneers, pirates, whalers, convicts, and colonists. Visitors are invited to follow in the footsteps of whalers in the 1700s and drop a postcard into the famous “post office” barrel or sift through the mail for any letters they can deliver when they return home. At the northern tip of the island is Punta Cormorant, with its two beaches, one of which forms a nesting site for Galapagos green turtles, and.is aptly named “Flour Sand Beach”. Between these two beaches lies a salt lagoon frequented by long-legged greater flamingoes, and other shorebirds. With its unique human history, its fascinating geology, its remarkable wildlife, and the little village of Puerto Velasco Ibarra offering excellent lodging and food, Floreana makes an ideal base for visitors looking to explore these unforgettable islands.
Located in the central part of the Galapagos archipelago, the small, flat island of Baltra (also known as South Seymour island) is the only island that is not part of the Galapagos National Park as it operates as a military base and is home to the local airport. With its extremely arid landscape and its sparse vegetation consisting of little more than prickly pear cacti, salt bushes and palo santo trees, arriving on this remote island can feel like landing on another planet. As the island has been designated as a non-visitor site, travelers who arrive in Baltra will immediately be taken by bus to one of two docks where they will either board a cruise ship or a ferry that will take them to the island of Santa Cruz.
Northern Andes Ecuador
Boasting a dramatic landscape of soaring mountain peaks, numerous volcanoes, and exuberant cloud forests are the Northern Andes, a long, narrow plateau that looms over Ecuador's western region. Visitors to the area can lose themselves to the wide variety of things to do on the mountain slopes ranging from thrill-seeking outdoor activities to fascinating cultural experiences. Highlights include a scenic hike and canopy tour along the verdant landscape of Mindo Cloud Forest and a stroll along the cobblestone streets of the Old Town Quito to view stunning colonial architecture. Don't miss a visit to the small town of Otavalo, home to the tremendously popular Otavalo Market, reputed to be the biggest market for traditional jewellery, textiles and crafts in South America.
The longest mountain range in the world, the Andes stretches along the western coastline of South America from Venezuela to Argentina. The Northern Andes, however, encompasses only Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador. The area boasts some of the richest tropical montane forests on earth and is home to a myriad of species including most of the world’s spectacled bears. Seven different eco-regions can be found along the way, as well as numerous charming colonial towns, Inca ruins and of course, Bogota – Colombia’s capital city and the third highest city in South America, sitting at 2,640 metres (8,660 ft) above sea level.