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Ecuador & the Galapagos

From £3799.00
Request Callback Enquire or Book
Bartolomé Island
Departing by Air
Duration 16 Days
Available Until November 2022

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!

These incredible volcanic islands are home to a vast variety of flora and fauna, most of which are endemic species. A dream destination for wildlife enthusiasts and nature photographers, we will tour both land and sea to witness the sights of this magical archipelago.

Whether you are looking forward to the wondrous wildlife, breath-taking landscapes, the colonial charm – or all three and more – this unique destination and its welcoming locals are awaiting your adventure.

What You’ll Love

  • Enjoy peace of mind with Flexible Booking*
  • Happy by day two or we’ll bring you home with a full refund
  • Return scheduled flights from the UK
  • Stay in hand-picked three-star and four-star accommodation with daily breakfast and eight meals
  • 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
  • The chance to add on an optional zip-line tour in the Mindo Forest
  • Personalise your holiday with optional boat trips to the islands of Bartolomé or North Seymour
  • The services of our experienced and insightful tour manager throughout

Subject to availability. Single supplements apply.

*Full terms and conditions can be viewed here

Itinerary

Day 1 – Departure 

Arrive at the airport for your overnight 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.

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. We stay for two nights in a lodge, surrounded by the exotic cloud forest and incredible birds.

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 – Pululahua Crater

Heading south on the Pan-American highway we drive along the Avenue of the volcanoes, towards the Cotopaxi National Park. En route we stop at Pululahua, the third largest inhabited volcano crater in the world. From the rim of the extinct volcano enjoy the panoramic views over the green farmland in the base of the crater. Lunch is included today.

Day 6 – Cotopaxi and Riobamba

This morning we reach Cotopaxi National Park for some stunning views, and at 5,900m the highest active volcano in the world. Snowcapped year-round, the perfectly symmetrical volcanic cone is one of the greatest sights in South America. Lunch is included today. Ecuador is the world’s largest exporter of roses and this afternoon we’ll visit one of the many rose farms in the area.

Day 7 – Riobamba and Cuenca

This morning is free for you to relax in the surroundings of your historic Hacienda hotel. Alternatively, you’re welcome to join a visit of the local area to appreciate the fascinating life and culture of this agricultural community. This afternoon, we continue along the Pan American highway, arriving in the amazing colonial city of Cuenca. Dinner is included tonight.

Day 8 – 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! Our included city tour takes in all these sights as well as a visit to a Panama hat factory, and finishes at one of the fascinating local markets, where you can admire the colours of the fresh produce as well as the traditional arts and crafts of the Andes.
The rest of the day is free for you to explore.

Day 9 – Guayaquil

Leaving Cuenca, we cross the spectacular El Cajas National Park and descend to the warm coastal plains and the port city of Guayaquil. El Cajas National Park has 786 lagoons interconnected by small streams within the vast park valley area.

Day 10 – Fly to San Cristobal Island, Galapagos

This morning we catch the 1hr.50 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 close to the centre of the island’s small main town of Puerto Moreno. Dinner at a local restaurant is
included tonight.

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 have lunch on board, and then we 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.

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. After an included lunch, 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 – Optional trips to Bartolome or North Seymour Islands 

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 (£235pp) to nearby North Seymour Island or Bartolomé island, subject to weather and availability.

Day 15 – Return Flight

We say our goodbyes to the wonderful Galapagos Islands and fly home via Guayaquil and Bogota, arriving the next day.

Day 16 – Arrive Home

Arrive in the UK with wonderful memories of a fascinating trip.


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