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 'Health' sections in the trip notes for more information.
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, Galapagos Islands. As you start this trip on the Galapagos Islands and join other travellers arriving from Quito, you have two options for joining the group.
SUNDAY DEPARTURES: You can meet the others at San Cristobal Airport at 11.30 am: The guide will be waiting in the arrivals hall with an Intrepid sign for the arriving passengers from Quito.
FRIDAY & WEDNESDAY DEPARTURES: You can meet the others at San Cristobal Airport at 12.30pm: The guide will be waiting in the arrivals hall with an Intrepid sign for the arriving passengers from Quito.
Alternatively you can meet them at the hotel (Casa de Nelly) when they arrive at approximately one hour after the airport meeting time. Check in time for the hotel is 12 pm. If you're making your own way to the hotel, we recommend taking a short cab ride which will cost approximately US$2.
Please advise us where you plan to join this trip no later than 15 days prior to departure. If you are going to be late for either of these meeting times, please contact the local emergency number located in the 'Essential Trip Information'
After joining up with the group, travel to La Loberia where you'll put on snorkelling gear for the first time and go for a swim with sea lions, and maybe even some sea turtles. Continue back to town. Tonight you may wish to head out with the group and enjoy some of the fresh seafood available.
Isla San Cristobal, Galapagos
Today begins with a short boat ride to Leon Dormido (approx 45 mins) or Isla Lobos, observing along the way the abundant marine life that Galapagos is renowned for. On the way we might be able to spot nesting frigates and blue-footed boobies and/or might swim/snorkel with playful young sea lions. Here we can snorkel keeping an eye out below for sea turtles, manta rays and maybe the odd harmless Galapagos shark, to name a few. This snorkeling is in open sea, on occasion the currents can be quite strong so it's particularly important you are a confident swimmer for this activity. If you have any concerns, please ensure you speak with your leader. Included lunch today is a packed box lunch on board the boat! Unfortunately it is against National Park rules to eat on the beach.
Later head we will head to the interpretation Center. Learn about the history of the 'Enchanted Islands' and the conservation projects which seek to preserve the unique Galapagos wildlife. Next, make our way to Frigatebird Hill (Cerro Tijeretas), which is located two kilometres from the Interpretation Center, southwest of Isla San Cristobal. It's quite a climb to the top, but well worth the amazing views of the bay. From here you can also see Kicker Rock, an eroded volcanic formation protruding from the sea which has become an emblem of the island. We'll return to town in the late afternoon/early evening.
Isla Floreana/Isla Isabela, Galapagos
Take an early morning boat ride today towards Floreana Island, 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 Isabela Island (approximately 2 hours) From Isabela Port it's a short transfer to the hotel where we will spend the night (approximately 15 minutes)
Isla Isabela, Galapagos
Start your second day on Isla Isabela with a short bus ride (approximately 15 minutes) to the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center where you'll observe giant tortoises in all stages of development. The centre has almost a thousand giant tortoises training for life on their own. Afterwards we make our way to a brackish lagoon where we will be able to observe flamingos.
In the afternoon after an informative visit, board a small pangas for Tintoreras or Shark Alley. On our way we will go along the coast line in the hope to spot blue-footed boobies and the famous Galapagos penguin who is home on the western part of the arquipelago. On arrival, hop off for a short walk on this isolated islet and popular iguana nesting site that’s home to hundreds of marine iguanas. 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.
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.
Isla Isabela, Galapagos
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 between five and six hours. After the hike, make your way back to town in the late afternoon for some free time to curl up with a book or venture down to the water for a relaxing swim before dinner. Unfortunately, recycling isn't available on Isabela, so please take your plastic rubbish with you.
Isla Isabela / Isla Santa Cruz, Galapagos
Today you will start the day with a kayak around Isabela before transferring by private speedboat to Isla Santa Cruz.
Once you arrive on Santa Cruz you will head to a restaurant that offers a typical Eduadorian lunch package, simply referred to as ‘Menu’. Usually this consists of a fresh juice, basic entrée (usually a soup) as well as 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 have free time to further explore the town or go on an optional excursion to the Charles Darwin Research Centre.
Isla Santa Cruz, Galapagos
In the afternoon visit the higher part of the islands to observe the giant tortoise roaming in its natural habitat. Afterwards visit a locally owned Sugar cane farm. Here the farmers will show us the process in which 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.
Tonight, enjoy an included group dinner.
Welcome to Guayaquil, officially Santiago de Guayaquil, the coastal gateway to your Ecuador adventure, upon arrival at the airport you will be transported to your centrally located Hotel. There will be a welcome meeting at 3 pm to meet any new passengers who are joining you for this leg of the tour. 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. Later, we will travel to Podocarpus National Park where you can breathe deep the heady scent of orchids and spot endemic plant species. Spend up to 3 to 4 hours wandering this biodiverse park, including natural wonders like the mist-filled elfin forests you’ll find at 3000 metres elevation.