Ecuador travel at its best, explore the cultures of the Andes and immerse yourself in the heart of the highlands as you meet the people and enjoy historic attractions and great landscapes. Top off your journey with the 2 greatest expeditions in natural history wildlife cruises on board the Galapagos Journey fleet or one of the Galapagos Boutique yachts and the Manatee Amazon explorer. The nature and culture trip of a lifetime.
Travel to the Andes starting with Quito, a UNESCO heritage site. Cross the Equator line, visit the indigenous market at Otavalo, traverse the Avenue of the volcanoes South of Quito, ride the “The Devils Nose”, continue on to Ingapirca and Cuenca UNESCO heritage city. Stay at country inns and enjoy a comfortable adventure.
From Cuenca in the Andes descend to Guayaquil in the coastal lowlands. Fly on to the Galapagos Islands and board the Galapagos Seaman Journey or another Galapagos yacht for a 3 night expedition cruise. Finally add another highlight the mighty Amazon and its rainforest basin on board the Manatee Amazon explorer for 4 nights cruise in the worlds greatest wilderness.
Day 1 - Arrive in Quito
Your Ecuador boutique travel tour leader will greet you at the airport. After a short drive he or she will assist you in checking in at your hotel. Overnight.
Day 2 - Quito & Equator line
Today we explore the city that enamored both Spaniards and Incas. The capital of Ecuador is a true colonial gem with a mystical blend of indigenous and hispanic cultures. You will appreciate how the mix has influenced art and every day culture.
We will visit the Equator line and its monument. The Intiyan museum is included (Sun Path), here we will prove with experiments that you are at the exact location where the Equator line divides the world in two hemispheres.
Overnight in Quito. B, L
Day 3 - Quito - Otavalo - Quito
Drive north from Quito to Calderon (famous for its bread dolls) and to Peguche, where the Otavalo indians do their weaving. Visit the famous Otavalo Indian market. The Otavalo Indians are propsperous tradespeople and their outdoor emporium is loaded with baskets, ponchos, hats, tapestries, leatherwork and woodcarvings. After lunch at a country inn or local hacienda, continue to Cuiocha Lake and Cotacachi Village, known for their leather goods. Afternoon journey back to Quito.
Overnight in Quito. B, L
Day 4 - Quito-Riobamba
South of Quito, visit Mount Cotopaxi and its national park, world’s highest active volcano (5.907 m / 19.400 feet). Lunch en route. Continue to Riobamba, visit a Indian market and see Ecuador's highest snow capped mountain, Chimborazo (6.310 m. / 20.697 ft.). Brief tour of Riobamba.
Accommodations at a country inn by Riobamba. B, L
Day 5 - Riobamba-Devils Nose-Ingapirca-Cuenca
Take the Andean train, through the Devil's Nose and admire the great scenery. Visit Ingapirca Inca and Canari ruins, the most important archaeological site in Ecuador.
Overnight in Cuenca. B, L
Day 6 - Cuenca
Cobblestone streets, wrought-iron balconies, and flowered plazas. Market places and handicrafts. Colonial cathedral, convents and museums. Visit a straw-hat export enterprise. Free afternoon to continue exploring this beautiful city, there are many options, you can walk around the dowtown of Cuenca for days and always find something interesting.
Overnight in Cuenca. B
Day 7 - Cuenca - Cajas - Guayaquil
Today we visit the boxed lakes at Cajas National Park, more than 200 lakes and spectacular landscapes. Great opportunity to see andean flora and highland birds. If you are very lucky, you might spot an Andean Condor. Lunch at a local trout farm. Continue on to Guayaquil as you descend to the coastal lowlands. Late afternoon visit to the river front.
Overnight in Guayaquil. B, L
Day 8 - Guayaquil - Galapagos Islands : Santa Cruz
Your tour leader (or local guide in Guayaquil) will escort you to the airport for your flight to the Galapagos Islands. Board your luxury yacht or catamaran. Al fresco lunch.
afternoon: Santa Cruz Island - Highlands The trail to the highlands leaves from Bellavista and passes through the agricultural zone, near the National Park boundary, the Miconia Zone and then goes to the Fern and Sedge zone. With clear weather (unpredictable) this area affords beautiful scenes of rolling hills and extinct volcanic cones covered with grass and lush greenery all year round.
B, L, D
Day 9 morning: Chinese Hat
Chinese hat is a tiny Island just off the southeastern tip of Santiago Island is less than a quarter of 1 sq km in size. It is a fairly recent volcanic cone, which accounts for its descriptive name, it has the shape of a down-facing Chinese hat. The hat shape is best appreciated from the northside. Opposite Sombrero Chino, on the rocky shoreline of nearby Santiago, Galapagos penguins are often seen.
A 400 mt. trail goes around the cove and through a sea lion colony - marine iguanas cover the landscape. The volcanic scenery is attractive, and there are good views of the cone. There are snorkeling and swimming opportunities in the cove.
afternoon: Santiago Island - Puerto Egas
Wet Landing. James Bay at the western end. Puerto Egas with its black sand beaches was the site of small salt mining industry in the 1960s. A hike inland to the salt crater is an excellent opportunity to sight land birds such as finches, doves, and hawks. A walk down the rugged shoreline, especially at low tide, will turn up many marine species. Iguanas bask on the rocks and sea lions laze in the tide pools. At the end of the trail there is a series of grottoes or sea caves where fur seals and night herons are found resting on shady ledges.
The wet landing on the dark sands of Puerto Egas, James Bay leads to one of the more rewarding visits in the Galapagos. First, a trail leads inland to the remains of a salt mining operation, one of several largely unsuccessful attempts to commercialize the Galapagos. Some groups will make the 1 hour round trip to the Sugarloaf Volcano (about 1000 ft elevation). But it is the Fur Seal Grotto that produces the most pleasure for visitors. Here one can get very close views of both fur seals and sea lions in a series of rocky pools. For many, this is the only opportunity to see the Galapagos fur seal, once thought to be on the verge of extinction. In addition to the fur seals. James Bay offers the best opportunity for tide-pooling in the Galapagos.
B, L, D
Day 10 morning: Santiago Island - Bahia Sullivan
This visitor site provides a unique opportunity to view a recent lava flow of approximately 100 years old. The East Side of James Island is known to have barren volcanic landscapes, dominated by black pahoehoe (ropy) lava flows of very young age. On the surface of the lava is possible to observe some tree that was carried down by the flow of the fresh lava. It is also interesting to see how some Mollugo plants are starting to colonize the small lava fissures.
afternoon: Bartolome Island
A small barren island, located across Sullivan Bay off James Island, Bartholomew has two visitors’ sites. At one of them it is possible to climb to the summit of the island, from where visitors can observe a variety of volcanic formations, spatter and tuff cones, lava flows and lava tubes. The moon like landscape provides the most scenic panorama in the archipelago. At the other site, the visitor may swim and snorkel from a beautiful beach or walk across the isthmus to another beach that faces south, where swimming is prohibited. Multi –coloured fish and occasionally penguins may be seen at the base of the tall pinnacle rock, which dominates Bartholomew’s landscape.
B, L, D
Day 11 morning: Santa Cruz Island - Bachas Beach
These two small beaches are found to the West of Turtle Cove. Their sand is made of decomposed coral, which makes it white and soft, making it a favourite nesting site for sea turtles. Behind one of the beaches there is a small brackish water lagoon, where occasionally is possible to observe flamingos and other coastal birds, such as black-necked stilts and whimbrels. The other beach is longer, but it has two old barges that were abandoned during the Second World War, when the USA used Baltra Island as a strategically point to protect the Panama Channel.
Late morning departures board a bus, and drive to the airport for a return flight to Quito. Cruise extensions are available. Upon arrival you will be met by your Ecuador boutique travel tour leader and transfered to your hotel. Free afternoon in this fun city.
Overnight in Quito. B
Day 12 - Quito - Amazon rainforest
Depart from Quito in the morning (11:00), flight to Francisco de Orellana (Coca), arriving to Coca at around 12:00. Transfer to the Napo River port then the motorized canoe ride downstream will be approximately one hour and 30 minutes. Once aboard the Manatee Amazon Explorer will start navigating downstream. The courteous crew will attend to your needs and the guides will introduce you to the surprising Amazon world, its people, more than 600 species of birds, and hundreds of botanical wonders. The Manatee sails along different ecosystems and important natural reserves such as the Yasuní National Park and the Limoncocha Biological Reserve.
Overnight on board the Manatee. B, L, D
Day 13 Amazon rainforest: Parrots and the Limoncocha Biological Reserve
Early departure by motor canoe to visit a very special corner of the jungle, the clay banks of the river where different species of parrots gather daily to eat this clay that helps them digest the seeds they feed on, it is quite a sight, colorful and noisy! Then, back aboard the Manatee to sail upriver and reach one of the tributaries of the Napo to observe the flora and fauna, the surprising pygmy monkeys and then a trek to the facilities of what used to be South America's Summer Institute of Linguistics in Limoncocha, currently the only Biological Reserve of Ecuador.
Upon reaching the Limoncocha Lake, we will board a canoe and travel along the banks of this marshy ecosystem, where over 470 species of birds have been recorded. There is a possibility to fish for piranha, and for a short walk. At night, it is possible to observe the black caimans that inhabit the lagoon; quite an experience... Late return to the Manatee for dinner
Overnight on board the Manatee. B, L, D.
DAY 14 Amazon rainforest : Culture / The Amazonian man / Giants of the Forest
The adventure today begins with a visit to the Museum of Pompeya, a small archaeological sample with Amazonian funeral urns that date back several centuries, as well as utensils and ways of life of the ancient denizens of the rain forest, which can still be seen today. We will also have the opportunity to see the giant trees of the Amazon, like the kapok, which rises over the forest canopy to more than 40 meters high, with huge, protruding roots. Guests can also try rowing the canoes on a tranquil tributary of the Napo River up to the house of a native family, to share a moment with them and learn their ways of life.
Overnight on board the Manatee. B, L, D.
Day 15 Amazon rainforest - Quito
While the Manatee navigates upriver, the guides wrap up our knowledge of the great Amazon region. Then transfer to the airport for the flight to Quito. Free afternoon.
Overnight in Quito. B.
Day 16 Quito - Home ( or trip extension )
Your tour leader will say farewell as he or she escorts you to the airport for your flight home. B
Departs: Every Monday, all year round. Minimum 2 passengers.
Includes: Private transportation, all airport transfers, English speaking tour leader throughout itinerary, guided excursions, park and museum entrance fees, meals as listed in itinerary (B= breakfast, L= lunch, D= Dinner), roundtrip flight Guayaquil - Galapagos - Guayaquil, 9 nights lodging at 4 star hotels throughout the itinerary, 3 nights Galapagos cruise on board the Galapagos Journey fleet or Galapagos boutique yacht, Galapagos shore excursions in company of a nature guide, roundtrip flight Quito - Francisco Orellana (Coca) - Quito, 4 night cruise on board the Manatee Amazon Explorer, guided Amazon hikes with nature guides.
Does not Include: Meals not listed, gratuities, personal expenses, trip insurance, airport departure taxes, all other items not listed.