Get acquainted with the beautiful churches and graceful boulevards of Quito, Ecuador’s capital. The Galapagos Islands played a profound role in forming Charles Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection. Explore the islands on this in-depth adventure, coming face-to-face with some of the most extraordinary wildlife on earth. Get your blood pumping as you scale a volcano on Isabela Island, and kayak in beautiful Isabela Bay. Get up close and personal with giant tortoises on Santa Cruz Island. These nearly extinct creatures are one of the greatest drawcards to the Galapagos
Amazing wildlife, both on land and underwater, is the drawcard of the remote Galapagos Islands. Tour the Galapagos’ outstanding natural beauty and interesting history by foot, boat and bike on this active adventure. Trace Darwin’s theory of evolution, spot colourful, bizarre and beautiful creatures and have an experience that is completely out of this world as you discover the incredible Galapagos Islands.
Bienvenidos! Welcome to Quito, Ecuador. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 2 pm. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
Quito is one of the most attractive cities in South America, sitting at an altitude of 2,850 metres with a view of Volcan Pichincha on the horizon. On day 1 there is a city tour to show the beautiful Colonial style buildings and help you explore the nooks and crannies of cosy Old Town. We’ll be back in Quito at the end of the trip, giving you a chance to further experience the city.
Notes: Due to the high altitude of many of places we visit, the air is thinner and some people can suffer altitude sickness, regardless of age, gender or fitness. Please see the 'Is This Trip Right For You?' and 'Medical and health information' sections in the Essential Trip Information for more details.
Optional Activities in Quito:
Quito is an incredible city with loads to see and do. This trip doesn’t include much time in Quito, so a few extra days to explore it is recommended. Great activities are available through our local office – just email firstname.lastname@example.org before departing or, once you’re in Quito, give our office a call +593 9 94014877 and they will happily assist you.
Urban Adventures: If you are interested in any of the Urban Adventures listed you will need to contact Urban Adventures directly. For more information on the activities mentioned below and contact information for Quito please visit: http://www.urbanadventures.com/contact-us
Otavalo Market, a full day tour of the biggest Indian market in South America in the northern town of Otavalo, full of local handicrafts to take home for your friends, and the Cotacachi leather market.
Cotopaxi Volcano, for something more active, head out to the 5,897 metre high Cotopaxi Volcano – drop by the National Park museum, then hike for around 2 hours and visit the picturesque Limpiopungo Lagoon.
Quilotoa Lagoon, if you’re into lagoons, maybe take a full day trip to the stunning Quilotoa Lagoon. Early in the morning, drive 3 hours south through the local communities and Andes views of the Avenue of Volcanoes. Then hike (2 hours return) to the beautiful Quilotoa volcano crater lagoon, before returning to Quito. Something more chill is a full day at the Papallacta Hot Springs – take a scenic drive, reaching heights of 4,150 metres, and then relax in springs with views to the towering Antisana Volcano.
Cloud Forest, maybe get in touch with the region’s incredible nature with a shared services trip to the Cloud Forest – take a guided hike through a reserve on the edge of the Choco Bio-region, one of the most bio-diverse places in the world, and get acquainted with the exuberant vegetation, bird life, and the fascinating adaptations to life in this special environment.
Papallacta-Something more chill is a full day at the Papallacta Hot Springs – take a scenic drive, reaching heights of 4,150 metres, and then relax in springs with views to the towering Antisana Volcano.
Please note, the prices listed below include entrance fees, however these are paid separately by you during the tour. Some tours require a minimum of 2 passengers to operate.
(Please note prices listed are subject to change)
Isla San Cristobal, Galapagos
Welcome to San Cristobal in the Galapagos Islands! As you start this trip on the Galapagos Islands you have two options for joining the group, as outlined in Special Information below. After joining up with your fellow travellers, head to La Loberia where you'll put on snorkelling gear for the first time and go for a swim among sea lions, perhaps spotting sea turtles too. Return to town for a free evening. Perhaps head out with the group and enjoy some of the fresh seafood available.
Isla San Cristobal
Today begins with a 45-minute boat ride to Leon Dormido (Kicker Rock). On the way we might be able to spot nesting frigates and blue-footed boobies. There is also potential to swim among playful young sea lions. At Leon Dormido you can snorkel and look for sea turtles, manta rays and maybe the odd harmless Galapagos shark. Currents can be quite strong so it's important you are a confident swimmer to participate in this activity. If you have any concerns, please ensure you speak with your leader. Eat lunch on the boat then head to the Interpretation Center. Learn about the history of the 'Enchanted Islands' and the conservation projects which seek to preserve them. Continue to Frigatebird Hill (Cerro Tijeretas), which is located two kilometres from the Interpretation Center. It's quite a climb to the top, but well worth the amazing views of the bay. Return to town in the late afternoon or early evening.
Isla Floreana / Isla Isabela
Take an early morning boat ride towards Isla Floreana, which should take about 2.5 hours. Along the way keep your eyes peeled for wildlife such as dolphins and whales. On arrival to the island, snorkel in the clear blue waters and then break for lunch. Afterwards venture to a black-sand beach which belongs to the Witmers, decedents of some of the first settlers on the Galapagos. The town here, Puerto Velasco Ibarra, has about 150 residents and an intriguing history involving deaths, disappearances and murders. Later in the afternoon, wave goodbye to Floreana and continue to Isla Isabela (approximately 2 hours). From Isabela Port it's a short transfer to the hotel where we will spend the night (approximately 15 minutes).
Start your second day on Isla Isabela with a short bus ride (approximately 15 minutes) to the Arnaldo Tupiza Tortoise Breeding Center where you'll observe giant tortoises in all stages of development. The centre has almost a thousand giant tortoises preparing for life on their own. Afterwards, head to a brackish lagoon to observe flamingos. In the afternoon, board a small Zodiac (panga) and cruise to Las Tintoreras (Shark Alley), looking out en roue for blue-footed boobies and the famous Galapagos penguin. On arrival, take a short walk on this isolated islet and popular iguana nesting site. Snorkel in a calm inlet with colourful fish and winding underground lava tubes. This area is frequented by green sea turtles that like to rest on the calm, sandy bottom. In the late afternoon return to town in search of your own sandy resting spot and enjoy your first Isabela sunset, arguably the most beautiful of all the islands.
Start your last day on Isla Isabela by heading towards the Sierra Negra Volcano (approximately 45 minutes by bus), one of the most active volcanoes in the Galapagos and the second-largest crater in the world. Weather permitting, take a challenging hike of around 17 kilometres up the rocky mountain, which takes 5—6 hours. After the hike, make your way back to town for some free time to curl up with a book or venture down to the water for a relaxing swim before dinner.
Isla Isabela / Isla Santa Cruz
Start the day with a kayak around Isabela before transferring by private speedboat to Isla Santa Cruz. Once you arrive on Santa Cruz head to a restaurant that offers a typical Eduadorian lunch package, simply referred to as ‘Menu’. This usually this consists of a fresh juice, a basic entree (usually a soup) and a main meal. These lunch deals are very popular throughout Ecuador so it’s a great way to eat like a local. In the afternoon enjoy free time to further explore the town or go on an optional excursion to the Charles Darwin Research Centre.
Isla Santa Cruz
In the afternoon visit the highland of Isla Santa Cruz to observe the giant tortoise roaming the wild. Afterwards visit a locally owned sugar cane farm. Here the farmers will show us the ways sugar cane is processed and turned into alcohol. Along the way, keep an eye out for eagle rays, sea turtles and blue-footed boobies. Later, head back to Puerto Ayora.
Welcome to Guayaquil, officially Santiago de Guayaquil, the coastal gateway to your Ecuador adventure. First things first, join your mainland tour leader for a welcome meeting at 3 pm. As this is a combination of two trips, you may have some new travelers joining you for this leg.
After the meeting, we will embark on a walking tour to the Malecon 2000. Afterwards, feel free to use the rest of your afternoon and evening to explore Guayaquil. Maybe take a stroll along the boardwalk overlooking the Guayas river, which is particularly lively in the evening. Here you’ll find monuments, interesting sculptures and food stalls where the humble plantain is made into everything from dumplings to chips.
After breakfast we’ll take a 3.5-hour bus ride to what many consider Ecuador’s most attractive city, Cuenca. We arrive at approximately 12pm. See for yourself why this medieval fortress town earned a place on UNESCO’s World Heritage List during a walking tour of the city. Cuenca is a study in how architecture can complement environment, where ornate buildings are built into craggy cliff faces. After the tour, the rest of the day is yours. Why not wander this imminently strollable city while munching on a skewer of cuy? This rich, roasted meet is popular all over the Americas, but is particularly renowned in Cuenca, though you might know the animal by its Western name: guinea pig!
Today is a free day to explore Cuenca. There are loads of impressive 500-year-old churches (among them, La Catedral Metropolitana de la Inmaculada Concepción which took 100 years to finish, and its blue and white domes are a real standout) and colonial buildings, made out of marble and decorated with stunning woodwork and ironwork. It’s the country’s third largest city but still has a small town and Old World air, and it’s great for just wandering around and exploring. Think you can pull off a Panama hat? Well Cuenca is the home of the famous headwear, and if there’s time you could visit a factory and pick up one that fits perfectly. You can also learn about the Cañari and Inca cultures at the Ingapirca Archeaological site, or, if nature is more your scene, be sure to check out Cajas National park (3050m-4450m). and revel in the amazing variety of ecosystems which includes 270 glacier lakes and lagoons. There are also many plant species are endemic to Cajas' coud forest and it is home to a number of important wildlife species, in particular the violet-throated metaltail, endemic to Cajas and surrounding valleys which is the largest hummingbird in the world. If you're lucky you may spot some of the fourty-four species of mammal identified in the park such as deer, alpaca, llama,fox or the ever reclusive puma. For those looking for authentic souvenirs a day at the handicraft villages of Chordeleg and Gualaceo provide ample opportunity to grab some one of a kind jewelery, textiles and pottery. Cuenca is also a university town, so all the students give it a buzzing nightlife, and there are some good bars and restaurants to choose from in the evening.
Set off for Vilcabamba, making a couple of stops along the way. Visit Saraguro, a town named after the Kichwa Nation indigenous folk who have called the area home for over 500 years, for a tour of the town and its beautiful church. Continue to the neighbouring farming village of Namarin for lunch. Although the contents of lunch will depend on the day, be prepared for rustic, hearty dishes made from potatoes – a staple of Southern Ecuadorian cuisine.Today we will explore this verdant valley town via a walking tour, wandering roads shared by tame livestock such as donkeys. This relaxed town was once named the “Valley of Longevity,” and while claims of residents extra-long lifespans have since been disproven, there’s no doubt the mineral-rich produce, clear mountain water and fantastic weather make for a happy and chilled out community.