With magnificent wildlife, awe-inspiring architecture and striking scenery, Ecuador is an incredible adventure for lovers of natural beauty, history and culture. A place that often goes unsung, Ecuador is an under-appreciated destination with wonders around every corner.
Although the Galapagos islands feature high up on most people’s bucket list, the mainland is a surprising and fascinating place to visit in its own right. On this inspiring tour, you’ll be able to see some of the world’s highest volcanoes, buzzy colonial cities, wonder at the beauty of hummingbirds in tropical cloud forests, travel on spectacular trains and stay in historic haciendas – all this before you’ve even stepped ashore in the Galapagos!
When we reach the Galapagos, you will be truly spoilt by the sheer sights of natural beauty, well-preserved terrain and exotic wildlife. For years, the only way most people could visit the Galapagos was to sail from island to island on small motor-yachts – a great way to travel, but also very expensive.
Our tour avoids this by offering an island-hopping itinerary which means you actually get to stay on two of the most interesting islands. To get the most out of your visit to this extraordinary wildlife destination, it’s important to be fully mobile and be able to snorkel so you can discover the amazing marine life, something that even Charles Darwin was never aware of! You will also have the opportunity to explore Santa Cruz at your own leisure, an island famed for sea turtles, giant tortoises and marine iguanas, as well as the calm, white sand beaches of Tortuga Bay.
Whether you are looking forward to the wonderous wildlife, breath-taking landscapes, the colonial charm – or all three and more – this unique destination and its welcoming locals are awaiting your adventure.
- Return scheduled flights and overseas transfers
- 13 nights accommodation in 3 and 4-star accommodation
- 21 meals : daily breakfast, 5 lunches and 3 dinners
- Guided walk around the astonishing UNESCO World Heritage sites of Quito and colonial Cuenca
- Discover the wonderful birdlife of the Mindo Cloud Forest, with over 500 species recorded
- Enjoy the amazing views of snow-capped Cotopaxi, the world’s highest active volcano
- Travel on the engineering marvel of the Devil’s Nose Train
- Experience the wonderful architecture and laid-back atmosphere of Cuenca
- Search for bargains in authentic local markets and visit a rose farm in Riobamba
- Explore Ingapirca, the most intriguing Inca ruins in Ecuador
- See how authentic Panama hats are made
- Ride the Pan-American highway along the Avenue of the Volcanoes
- Stay five nights on the Galapagos islands of San Cristobal and Santa Cruz
- See the giant tortoises of Santa Cruz in the stunning El Chato highland reserve
- Learn about the wildlife conservation work at the San Cristobal Interpretation Centre
- Swim or snorkel with the amazing marine life of the islands, in Isla Lobos lagoon and Academy Bay
- See ‘Lonesome George’ at the famous Charles Darwin Research Station
- Local accommodation taxes
- Hotel porterage of one luggage item per person
- Touring and coach travel as mentioned in the itinerary
- The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout
Not included: Galapagos National park entrance fee of $100 USD per person, payable locally.
Subject to availability. Single supplements apply.
For more information or to book, please call 01283 742300 or click here.
Ecuador & the Galapagos Itinerary
Day 1 – Departure
You should arrive at the airport to take your flight to Quito via Bogota.
Day 2 – Arrival in Quito
Welcome to Quito! The largest, best-preserved colonial city of America, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. Considered the Cultural Capital of South America, it’s located just south of the equator at the foothills of the Pichincha volcano. Our tour of the city includes the leafy Independence square, overlooked by the Presidential Palace, cathedral and Archbishop’s Palace. Just a short walk away is the baroque Jesuit church of Compania de Jesus, with its incredible gilded interior. Another of Quito’s gems is the church and convent of San Francisco, the largest religious complex on the continent.
We stay one night at the impressive five-star Swissotel with breakfast.
Day 3 – Cross Equator Line
Embrace the once-in-a-lifetime experience of standing on both the north and southern hemisphere. Here you’ll learn about the interesting history of the Equator line and physics of the location.
We then continue to the little town of Mindo, set amidst lush forested hills.
Stay two nights at the charming three-star superior Septimo Paraiso Lodge, with breakfast, surrounded by the exotic cloud forest.
Day 4 – Mindo Cloud Forest
Today we explore the pristine cloud forests and hike along waterfalls of the area. At an altitude of 1,300m, Mindo lies between Ecuador’s lowlands and highlands and has a year-round mild climate. This, and the plentiful rainfall, mostly between January and April, has created lush forests, perfect for a wide variety of birdlife – with an incredible 140 species of hummingbirds recorded.
Our hotel is surrounded by the forest and has several marked trails around the property, ideal for birdwatching.
You may also try out the optional zip-line tour or learn about how the famous Ecuadorian chocolate is made.
Day 5 – Cotopaxi Volcano
Heading south on the Pan-American highway we drive along the Avenue of the Volcanoes, and into the Cotopaxi National Park for some stunning views, and at 5,900m, the highest active volcano in the world. Snow-capped year-round, the perfectly symmetrical volcanic cone is one of the greatest sights in South America.
We stay one night at the excellent four-star Cotopaxi Pungo Finca hotel with breakfast.
Day 6 – Local Market & Riobamba
Ecuador is the world’s largest exporter of roses and this morning we’ll visit one of the many rose farms in the area. We’ll also stop at the Pujii local market to see the wonderful traditional arts and crafts of the Andes. The local indigenous people come down from the surrounding villages to sell their wares and the market here is far more authentic here than in other more ‘touristy’ places.
We continue to the historic 250-year-old four-star Hacienda La Andaluza with breakfast.
Day 7 – Devil’s Nose Train
An early start today – we drive to the small town of Alausi where we board the world-famous Devil’s Nose train which zig-zags its way down steep gorges and was considered a huge engineering achievement when it was completed.
After the train returns to Alausi, we continue along the Pan American highway to Ingapirca, the most interesting Inca site in Ecuador, before arriving in the amazing colonial city of Cuenca.
We stay two nights at the four-star colonial Carvallo, or the new Four Points by Sheraton Hotel with breakfast.
Day 8 – Colonial Cuenca
A UNESCO World Heritage site, Cuenca is a treasure-trove of charming colonial churches, mansions and squares, which are all easily walkable. The main square is overlooked by the town’s vast cathedral, said to be modelled on St Peter’s in Rome. The city is also known for its Panama hats, which are in fact hand-made in Ecuador, not Panama!
After our included city tour, you will have the afternoon to explore this charming town on your own.
Day 9 – Guayaquil
Leaving Cuenca, we cross the spectacular Cajas National Park and descend to the warm coastal plains and the port city of Guayaquil.
We stay one night at the centrally-located four-star Unipark Hotel with breakfast.
Day 10 – Fly to San Cristobal Island
This morning we catch the 1 hour 50-minute flight to San Cristobal island in the Galapagos. As the most easterly island in the archipelago, this was the first to be visited by Charles Darwin in 1835.
After we are settled into our hotel, we explore the wildlife along nearby La Loberia’s white sand beach, with a chance to swim or snorkel. You are bound to spot marine iguanas, sea lions and plentiful birdlife.
We stay two nights at the family-run three-star Blue Marlin Hotel with breakfast, ideally located close to the centre of the island’s small main town of Puerto Moreno.
Day 11 – San Cristobal & Isla Lobos
Today we board a small boat for the short trip to Isla Lobos, where we explore families of frigate birds and blue footed boobies. Although the path on the island is uneven and rocky in parts, the effort is worth it to see these iconic birds up close.
We then have an opportunity to swim or snorkel off the boat in the lagoon, where inquisitive seals may come and swim with us! In the afternoon we learn about conservation work on the islands during our visit to the San Cristobal Interpretation Centre.
Day 12 – Santa Cruz Island
This morning we catch the speedboat ferry service to nearby Santa Cruz island, which should take between 1hr30 to 2hrs. On arrival, we’ll visit the famous giant tortoises in the beautiful El Chato highland reserve – an unforgettable experience! Within the grounds, you may also explore one of several underground lava tubes, left over from when the island’s volcano was active.
We stay three nights at the three-star Fiesta or Silberstein Hotel, both with breakfast.
Day 13 – Santa Cruz
This morning we have a boat tour of nearby Academy Bay, with an opportunity to snorkel with the Galapagos’ exotic marine life. You may see the likes of sea lions, rays and even sharks.
We continue for a tour of the famous Charles Darwin Research Station, where you will be able to see the remains of ‘Lonesome George’, stuffed and on display. There are also pens where baby giant tortoises are looked after before being released into the wild.
Day 14 – Santa Cruz at leisure
Today you’re free to enjoy Santa Cruz at your own pace, where you can meander around Puerto Ayora or relax at the unspoilt Tortuga Bay. You can also personalise your trip with a pre-bookable boat trip to nearby North Seymour Island or Bartolomé Island, subject to weather and availability.
North Seymour island, just off the north coast of Santa Cruz, is known for its swallow-tailed gulls, large numbers of frigate birds and colourful land iguanas. The other trip is to Bartolomé island, with its iconic views over Pinnacle Rock and stunning volcanic landscape which provides the most scenic views in the Galapagos.
Day 15 – Return Flight
We say our goodbyes to the wonderful Galapagos Islands and fly home via Guayaquil and Bogota to Heathrow, arriving the next day.
Day 16 – Arrive Home
Arrive in the UK with wonderful memories of a fascinating trip.
Ecuador & the Galapagos
- London Heathrow
- 1st May 2020
- 22nd June 2020
- 17th July 2020
- 27th August 2020
- 9th October 2020
- 23rd October 2020
- 6th November 2020
- 15th January 2021
- 12th February 2021
- 12th March 2021
- 9th April 2021
- 7th May 2021
- 4th June 2021
- 2nd July 2021