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I have been designing trips to my home country of Ecuador for over 20 years. Traveling itself has always felt like magic to me: my mind is always on travel, but my heart is forever in the Galapagos as it never fails to surprise me.
Latin America Specialist
- from $10,657 PP
- 12 Nights
- Year round
- 13 hours from London / 9 hours New York
Explore Ecuador’s highlights on this 13-day trip, staying in luxury accommodation with expert guides. You will start your tour at the capital of Ecuador, Quito. Built by the Spanish in 1534 on the ruins of an Incan city, it is one of the best-preserved old towns in South America. You will continue your adventure by traveling to the Cloud Forest for two nights at Masphi Lodge, a luxury property in the forest with a wide range of activities available. Your tour culminates in a 7-night cruise in the Galapagos Islands on the luxurious Elite Yacht. Spend your days on the water visiting the islands and spotting the incredible wildlife. Your naturalist guides will accompany you as you explore on foot, by boat, or swimming taking in the flora and fauna of this unique ecosystem.
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- 3 x Nights Casa Gangotena including breakfast
- 2 x Nights Mashpi Lodge on full board basis and shared activities
- 7 x Nights Elite Yacht full board and shared activities
- All transfers as listed in the itinerary
- All activities and entrance fees as listed in the itinerary
- English speaking guide
- Personalized itinerary that can be modified to suit your preferences
- 24/7 support from our dedicated staff
Day by Day Itinerary
Day 1 Arrive Quito
Welcome to Ecuador! On arrival into Quito airport you will be met by your guide who will transfer you to your hotel. Your guide will brief you on your trip, Quito and help you with anything you need.
Quito is the capital of Ecuador and one of the highest capital cities in the world at 2850m (9350ft) above sea level. The old town of Quito is a UNESCO World Heritage site as it is one of the best-preserved cities on the continent. The city was founded in the 16th Century on the ruins of the Incan settlement that was the hub of the Northern Inca Empire.
Day 2 City Tour Quito
This morning you will be met by your guide to explore Quito. You will start in the historic center at the main square, Independence Plaza. Historical buildings flanking the square include the main Cathedral, Presidential Palace and Archbishop’s Place. You will visit the La Compañía de Jesús which is one of the most beautiful churches in Quito with its intricate decoration and baroque style. Next, you will visit the Monastery of San Francisco which is a 16th century Roman Catholic church and monastery covering three hectares of land.
Your tour will continue just outside Quito with a visit to the Equator where you can stand with one foot in each hemisphere. There will be time to stop at the Ethnographic Museum to learn about the indigenous people of the area. Your guide will then transfer you back to the hotel. We recommend you head out into Quito’s old town for dinner tonight.
Day 3 - 4 Mashpi Lodge
This morning your driver will meet you and transfer you three hours outside of Quito to the rainforest. You will spend two nights at Mashpi Lodge in the cloud forest on the foothills of the Andes Mountains. You will spend time with naturalist guides learning about the ecosystems and the wildlife that lives there.
There are many activities available at the lodge, these include:
– Hummingbird Station – you can observe 19 species of hummingbird at the specially designed feeding station, the toucans are also often seen here.
– Night walk – head out into the forest at sunset to spot the nocturnal creatures including fireflies, owls and bats.
– Sky bike – hop on the aerial bikes to explore the forest canopy while you peddle on the track in the air crossing a gorge and river.
– Hiking trails – there are many opportunities to hike and one of the most popular trails is the route to the San Vicente Waterfall or the monkey trail which passes through the area of the forest where they live.
Day 5 Quito
This morning you will have time for another activity or you could visit the spa with an extensive range of treatments as well as a hot tub and yoga studio. The early morning is a great time for bird watching and the terrace outside the lodge is the perfect place to have a coffee and spot the many species that live in the forest.
You will then meet your driver for your transfer back to Quito. This afternoon you can pick up any essentials or souvenirs you need before you fly to the Galapagos Islands in the morning.
Day 6 The Galapagos Islands - El Junco Lagoon
This morning you will be met by your driver and transferred to the airport for your flight to the Galapagos Island. You will fly to San Cristobal where you will be met and transferred to your boat, the Elite, your home for the next 7 nights.
Walk up the rocky path surrounded by rich vegetation and wildlife to the rim of the El Junco Lagoon, an impressive crater lake located in the highlands of San Cristobal island. Here you will enjoy superb panoramic views of the island, and you can often catch frigate birds diving and bathing in the crystal clear water below.
Day 7 North Seymour - Santa Cruz Dragon Hill
North Seymour Island is a small island named after Lord Hugh Seymour, a senior British Royal Navy officer. Walking amongst the low, bushy vegetation you will be able to observe a large variety of birds, including blue-footed boobies, swallow-tailed gulls, and a large population of frigate birds. Look out for the marvelous bright red chests of the male frigates used to attract a mate.
The name Dragon Hill refers to the large population of Galapagos land iguanas that have made their home here. As you walk along the rocky coastline and through the forests of cacti and Palo Santo trees, you will no doubt encounter a number of these incredible creatures that resemble miniature dragons. The high tide also makes this a fantastic place to snorkel as the coral attracts a plethora of colorful fish close to the shoreline.
Day 8 Tintoreras/Sierra Negra Volcano - Arnaldo Tupiza Breeding Center/Isabela Wetlands
Las Tintoreras is a chain of islets off the coast of Isabela Island that are characterized by dark lava formations and have created a unique habitat for a variety of wildlife. It is, therefore, a fantastic site for water activities such as a panga ride, snorkeling, kayaking, or paddleboarding, and visitors are often treated to close-up sightings of turtles, sharks, penguins, and sea lions. The Sierra Negra is one of the most active volcanoes in the Galapagos and has the second largest caldera in the world. As you walk up to the top of the caldera you will encounter forests of guava trees and on a clear day, you will be treated to spectacular views of the other five volcanoes on the island.
The Arnaldo Tupiza Breeding Center, where two species of giant tortoise are bred to increase the population of these incredible animals, plays an essential role in protecting the future of the Galapagos. As you walk around the center you will also be able to enjoy the beautiful gardens that boast a wide variety of native plants. Just outside Puerto Villamil, you can also take a walk around the Isabela wetlands, comprised of lagoons, swamps, and mangroves, which have become a paradise for migratory birds such as stilts and flamingos.
Day 9 Isabela Island
Moreno point is located on the west coast of Isabela Island and although it appears a barren lava flow at first, a walk along one of the trails soon reveals a multitude of beautiful green lagoons and mangroves and is a fantastic place to see penguins, blue herons, and flamingos. Meanwhile, a panga ride or snorkel along the rocky shoreline is a wonderful way to spot green sea turtles and white-tip sharks.
Urbina Bay is located at the foot of the Alcedo Volcano and is the result of a major volcanic uplift that took place in 1954 and resulted in 6km of coral reef being lifted out of the ocean. Walking along this new shore, you can observe the corals and remains of marine life that were stranded due to this event. However, it is now home to giant land iguanas and giant tortoises and it is often a good spot to see Galapagos hawks and flightless cormorants. It is also ideal for snorkeling as turtles, rays, and tropical fish frequent the coastline.
Day 10 Fernandina Island - Isabela Island
Fernandina is the youngest island in the Galapagos and Espinosa point is a wonderful area of natural beauty. Snorkeling and swimming from the zodiac allows you to see the marine iguanas feeding underwater. On the rocks, you will often see large numbers of colorful Sally Lightfoot crabs. On land, the walking trails enable you to explore the fascinating mangrove plants, lava cacti, and striking black lava formations where marine iguanas enjoy basking themselves in the sun.
Accessible by panga, Vicente Roca Point on the northwest coast of Isabela Island is a beautiful large bay with two coves that provide nesting sites for blue-footed and Nazca boobies, gulls, storm petrels, and Brown Noddy Terns. Snorkeling is also a great activity here as the cooler waters result in an abundance of food for marine life, and it is common to see groups of whales, dolphins, sea lions, and marine birds gorging themselves.
Day 11 Rabida Island - Bartholomew Island
Rabida Island is most known for its dark red sand beach surrounded by a backdrop of cliffs and steep volcanic hills full of Palo Santo trees and endemic cacti. A panga ride around the shoreline gives the chance to spot blue-footed and Nazca boobies and water activities such as snorkeling, kayaking or paddleboarding are ideal for seeing white-tipped sharks and rays. On the beach, you will find a large noisy colony of sea lions and the surrounding salt brush is home to a nesting colony of pelicans. Inland, bird watchers will delight in seeing mockingbirds, yellow warblers, and Darwin finches – Rabida is the only site where all nine Darwin’s finches are found.
Bartholomew Island is an islet located in Sullivan Bay and its most famous landmark is a huge volcanic cone named Pinnacle Rock. A walking trail leads up to a viewpoint at the summit of the island where you can enjoy spectacular views of Pinnacle Rock and the surrounding lava flows. The northern beach, a nesting site for green sea turtles, is perfect for snorkeling where sightings of spotted eagle rays, penguins, and reef sharks are possible.
Day 12 San Cristobal
Kicker Rock is an iconic feature of the Galapagos that has been formed over time by the erosion of the cone of an extinct volcano. In addition, on the rock formation itself, blue-footed boobies, frigatebirds, and sea lions can often be seen perched on the ledges above which makes an excellent site to take great pictures while the vessel circumnavigates the rock formation. Witch Hill features an idyllic white sand beach which can be accessed by panga and is a superb vantage point for seeing Kicker Rock in the south of the island. The hill itself is an eroded tuff cone and the calm waters at the base of it offer a magnificent spot for snorkeling. Meanwhile, a walk along the beach or on one of the inland paths provides opportunities to see a variety of shorebirds, finches, and mockingbirds.
The visit to the Giant Tortoise’s Reserve is the longest hike on San Cristobal; the walk is about 5 km one way and may be quite hot. This is an excellent site for observing giant tortoises in their natural habitat. San Cristobal has a population of six thousand giant tortoises; on a good day, hundreds of them can be seen along with other endemic species, such as lava lizards, and mockingbirds. Snorkeling is a great activity as you have opportunities to see sea turtles and tintoreras (white-tipped reef sharks). The beach of this visitor site is a nesting area for sea turtles.
Day 13 San Cristobal Interpretation Center - Departure
A short distance from the center of San Cristobal is the San Cristobal Interpretation Center, which provides an overview of the fascinating history of the islands. The main areas of focus, which are addressed through several expositions are natural history, human history, and conservation for the future. You can also take one of the trails behind the center that lead to some great viewpoints of the ocean and volcanic rocks below.
It’s now time to disembark and meet your driver for your transfer to the airport.
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What's not Included
- As we have clients from all over the world. Our itineraries do not include flights. If you would like us to include flights in your trip, we are happy to do so. Please speak to your travel specialist at the planning stage to include them.
- Gratuities for local guides
- We strongly advise all guests purchase comprehensive travel insurance
- Visas if required
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