This grand circuit of Ecuador includeds Quito, the Amazon rainforest, the ‘Avenue of the Volcanoes’ and the Galapagos Islands.
Begin your trip with a day or two exploring Quito and its environs. Our half-day city tour can be combined with the teleferico up the slopes of Pichincha Volcano or a visit to the Equator Monument. Other day trips include the Mindo Cloudforest, Cotopaxi National Park, Pasochoa Volcano.
Depart Quito by plane for the remote jungle town of Coca, from where you will travel by boat down the Napo River – an Amazon River tributary - to a lodge from where you will base your daily explorations. Guided excursions include river trips, jungle hikes, wildlife spotting and birdwatching.
Return to Quito and spend one more night before setting off on multi-day journey along the ‘Avenue of the Volcanoes’ that runs along the spine of the Andes from Otavalo and the Chota Valley in the north to the lovely colonial city of Cuenca to the south. You will visit small towns along the way, shop at the renowned Otavalo Market, hike around Cuicocha Lake, visit Cotopaxi National Park, take a train ride through the ‘Devil’s Nose’ canyon, visit the Inca and pre-Inca fortress of Ingapirca, staying at haciendas along the way. You will then spend a day or two in Cuenca before continuing to Guayaquil with a stop at Cajas National Park along the way.
Finish your grand tour of Ecuador with a luxury-class cruise throughout the Galapagos archipelago.
You will be met at the Quito airport by our local English-speaking guide and transferred by private vehicle to your hotel.
Overnight Hotel Patio Andaluz, located in the heart of historic "Old Quito" and surrounded by churches, museums and national monuments. The hotel is an official National Treasure and holds centuries of history within its walls. It was part of the original Solaris (original building sites) that constituted the City of San Francisco of Quito at the time of its foundation. This charming boutique hotel offers colonial charm and excellent service. Daily breakfast included - 2 nights.
Set off with your private guide for a drive around one of the most charming cities in Latin America, declared a "Patrimony of Humanity" by the UNESCO (1978). Enjoy the colonial center of Quito: Independence Square, the Presidential Palace, the Cathedral, the richest church of the Americas - La Compañia (dating from 1605) with its breathtaking golden altars, The San Francisco Square and Church and the arts and crafts gallery of Tianguez.
Around midday the tour continues to the slopes of Pichincha Volcano. From here you will board the “teleferico” (cable car) that leads you up to more than 13,200ft/4,000m above sea level. From the lookout you will have magnificent view of the city and, on a clear day, some of the volcanoes and snow-capped mountains surrounding the capital such as Cayambe, Cotopaxi and Antisana. Hikers, with special permission, can hike over 14,800ft for views of the paramo. Facilities include coffee shops, restaurants and a recreational area for children. Late afternoon return to your hotel. Lunch not included.
You will be met at your hotel and transferred to the airport for your flight to Coca, in the Amazon basin.
You will be met at the Coca Airport and transfer to Port Francisco de Orellana from where you will embark by comfortable covered motor boat along the Napo River for a 2-hour journey to the Napo Wildlife Center entry dock, lunch box provided en route. Along the way birds like herons, kingfishers and others can be spotted. From the dock you disembark on a majestic and peaceful dugout canoe ride along a narrow creek that connects to the lake where the lodge is located. Good possibilities of monkey sights of various species as well as large birds like toucans, parrots or even macaws. Late afternoon arrival at the Napo Wildlife Center located by Añangu Lake , ancestral territory of the Anangu Quichua Community.
The Napo Wildlife Center and Amazon Lodge is the ultimate luxury ecolodge in Amazonian Ecuador. This ecotourism project includes the conservation of approximately over 82 square miles (53,500 acres - over 21,400 hectares) of the most pristine Amazon Rainforest within the Yasunì National Park, an important UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and the largest tract of tropical rainforest in Ecuador. Each of the 16 individual large luxury cabanas include a king-size and twin-size bed with mosquito netting, private bathrooms with hot water, a multi-speed ceiling fan and private porches providing lake and forest views. The lodge has 24-hour electricity provided by hybrid system combining solar panels, batteries and silent generators.
Over 562 species of birds have been recorded at the Napo Wildlife Center - more than a third of all of Ecuador`s birds. NWC is home to a total of 11 species of monkeys, including squirrel, saddle-backed, white-fronted capuchin, monk saki, spider, woolly and golden mantle tamarin. All four species of caiman are found at NWC, which can best be seen during nocturnal canoe rides. Night hikes are possible at NWC providing unexpected wildlife sightings. The largest mammals like jaguar, puma, tapir, giant anteater and giant armadillo have been spotted in the area.
Guided excursions will be lead by a pair of guides: a native Anangu guide, who is also an official Yasuni Park Ranger and an expert on the forest's secrets about medicinal plants and other useful items of the rain forest; and a bilingual naturalist guide with great deal of knowledge in tropical forest biology.
One of the highlights at NWC is going out on a very early excursion to reach two of Ecuador's most accessible parrot clay licks along the Napo region. These parrot clay licks are an exclusive part of the reserve. Each parrot lick has well-constructed and comfortable blinds providing visitors with the best viewing and highest quality photo/video opportunities. Species include: Mealy, blue-headed, yellow-crowned, orange-winged and orange-cheeked parrots, cobalt-winged, dusky-headed and white-eyed parakeets, with the occasional rarities like scarlet shoulder parrotlet and scarlet macaws.
Only 35 minutes away from the lodge there is one of the best canopy towers ever built in Amazonian Ecuador. Over 125 feet tall, it stands next to a giant 155-foot Kapok tree where and ample platform provides great space for over 15 guests and their gear. Our canopy tower provides unrivalled opportunities for birding at the best rainforest property in the country. Active feeding bird flocks reach the vicinity of the tower and tree, offering more than 80 bird species in one single morning, including large toucans, macaws and tanagers.
Early wake up and depart for the best parrot clay licks in Ecuador, located about 1 hour from the lodge. You will arrive just before parrot activity kicks off at the clay lick between 7:30 to 8:30. A total of 11 species of parrots, parakeets and macaws can be seen. Subject to weather conditions, but usually successful.
Later, hike along a forest trail to the Kichwa community of Añangu where you will share time with a family amd their activities. Return to the creek and hike through a Terra Firme Forest for about 30 minutes to the second parrot clay lick where, weather conditions permitting, your guide will help spot different species of parrots, parakeets and even macaws. A lunch box will be served at the parrot clay lick observatory. Late afternoon return to the lodge. Dinner and overnight.
After an early breakfast, depart from the lodge to the canopy tower on the Napo. A 36-meter-high canopy tower opened in November 2004 is a great way to experience the life above the forest floor. This is the second tower at the Napo Wildlife Center (the first is attached to the dining hall and allows great views of the lake). The tower is located about 30 minutes from the lodge deep within the terra firme forest. As you ascend the 12-floor tower, you pass through different levels of the forest and emerge on top of a huge Ceiba tree. Here you cross onto a wooden platform that is actually built into the tree and experience the view formerly reserved only for the birds. The metal tower itself was constructed to the highest standards, galvanized, and carefully inspected by engineers. Safety is top priority. The platform at the top of the tree was constructed by tree platform specialists. From top to bottom, there is no finer canopy experience in Eastern Ecuador. Flocks of colorful tanagers pass right through the canopy of the tree, Blue-and yellow Macaws fly past, in nearby trees Spider Monkeys search for fruit, two species of large toucans call in the early mornings and afternoons, and the life of the forest canopy opens before you. Birds that are virtually impossible to see from the forest floor far below are suddenly right beside you, oblivious to your presence. The canopy tower opens a whole new world to guests of the Napo Wildlife Center. Return to the lodge for lunch.
Afternoon visit to a terra firme for a hike along primary forest to discover the forest interior, possibilities of finding lizards, colorful manakins and the unique and endemic Golden mantle tamarin monkeys. After the hike, explore the lake and creeks by dugout canoe with great possibilities of running into a Giant otter family on the way.
Early departure from the lodge and the last excursion canoeing back along the Napo River. The creek may reveal new sights of Giant otters, Monk Saki monkeys or many other rare birds. From the Entry Dock embark by motorized canoe for the return to Coca. Transfer to the airport for your flight to Quito.
You will be met at the airport and depart with your private guide for a scenic ride through the Ecuadorian Highlands to Otavalo. Along the way, stop at the village of Calderon, where you may buy souvenirs handmade from colorfully painted bread dough. If it is the season you can eat the Chirimoyas (a very sweet Andean fruit). Your next stop is at a small monument of the equator.
Continuing down the road you make a stop in Cayambe for biscuits and cheese. A short city tour in Ibarra (the capital of Imbabura province) and visit the village of San Antonio de Ibarra, where fine wood carvings are made.
Overnight accommodations are at Hacienda Pinsaqui. In the heart of Ecuador's lake district Hacienda Pinsaquí, rich with centuries of history, is ideally situated at the base of Imbabura Volcano, just north of the world-famous Otavalo Market. Its location also allows easy access to the region's many attractions: the lakes of San Pablo, Cuicocha and Mojanda, as well as the white colonial city of Ibarra and local handicraft villages like Cotacachi. Constructed in 1790 Hacienda Pinsaquí was originally a colonial textile enterprise, employing over one thousand weavers and spinners. Many of Pinsaquí's fabrics were exported to the United States in the late 1800s where they first received international recognition. To this day, the Hacienda retains the character and authenticity of its earlier incarnation, making for a unique travel experience. The hacienda has 30 well-appointed suites with fireplaces (some with jacuzzi bath), restaurant featuring the finest Ecuadorian and international cuisine, 200 year-old grounds with ponds, palms, walks, and roaming llamas, the Terrace snack bar with lovely views of the garden, room service, reading library, chapel, horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking. Breakfast included.
After breakfast you will drive up to Cuicocha Lake for a hike around this flooded volcanic crater with its twin islets. Here you will observe a particular species of orchid that grows at this altitude (3,220 m./10,562 ft). Later on visit the town of Cotacachi, where fine leather goods are made and where you may buy leather jackets, handbags, suitcases, wallets and clothing. Then visit the renowned market of the Otavalo Indian, industrious makers of the handicrafts for which Ecuador is famous. Here you will find a bustling market full of wood carvings, hand-woven textiles, silver jewelry, hats, and grains and vegetables used in the local cuisine. You'll have plenty of opportunities to bargain for your purchases. You will also be fascinated to see the food and produce that is traded among the Otavaleños themselves. Afterward, set off with your guide and drive south to “Cotopaxi” National Park, the highest active snowcapped volcano on earth. The snow-covered summit lies above, at 19,347 feet (5898 m) elevation. If the weather permits, and you are in good physical shape, from the parking place and trailhead at 14.760 ft. (3500.m), you can walk to the snow line.
En route, savor this beautiful Andean landscape, with exquisite dwarf wild flowers and a varied and interesting bird life, including, if you are lucky, the rare Andean condor. Depending on the day of the week, you may stop en route at one of the many picturesque Indian markets along the way. Lunch will be included and served at a local hacienda.
In the afternoon, continue through the Andes to Riobamba. If time permits, you'll take a short tour of this provincial town, before being dropped off at your hacienda.
The wonderful Hacienda Abraspungo is located at 2,754 meters above sea level and is surrounded by the magnificence of the Ecuadorian Andes. Abraspungo offers 42 comfortable rooms with direct access to the magnificent gardens. Facilities and services include restaurant and bar, laundry services, room service, business center. Daily breakfast is included.
After breakfast, depart your hotel and drive through the small towns with lovely landscape and terraced countryside of the Avenue of Volcanoes to the small village of Alausi. Here you will board the train and set off on one of South America's truly memorable rides as you pass from the highlands towards the lowlands through the narrow Devil's Nose canyon.
Afterwards continue travelling south to the Inca and Pre-Inca (Cañari tribe) fortress of Ingapirca. With your guide, you'll explore the walls, unique chambers and strange bathtub carvings in the cliffs and stones.
Late afternoon you'll pass by the towns of Biblian and Azogues, before arriving at your hotel in Cuenca.
Overnight at the Hotel Victoria, located in the the Barranco district of Cuenca, on the banks of Tomebamba River. Breakfast included.
Depart from your hotel and set off with your private guide for a tour of Cuenca. This beautiful colonial city is renowned for charming flower boxes on iron-scrolled balconies, a dozen shining silvery domes, white adobe walls, tile roofs, wedding cake churches and cobblestone streets. The Tomebamba River flows through the heart of the city. You'll also witness the huge Cuenca cathedral located on the main plaza, the La Merced church and convent, and the Crespo Toral Museum. Cuenca is the center of the country's craft industry. You may enjoy one of the many handicraft shops which sell silver, gold and ceramics or stroll with your guide through the markets a wealth of folkloric items and crafts are available.
This afternoon set off with your private guide for Guayaquil. Before leaving the highlands, stop for some light hiking in the El Cajas National Park, located on the high Andean paramo with unique vegetation, geological formations, 232 lagoons and many birds. Here you will cross the Continental Divide. The drive to Guayaquil descends from the high Andes down to the tropical lowlands of the coast. Along the way you will see the change of vegetation passing through cloud forest, the large banana, cacao, coffee and rice plantations as well as a wide variety of tropical fruits such as papayas and mangos.
On arrival in Guayaquil, you will be taken to your hotel.
The Holiday Inn Guayaquil Airport is located 4 minutes from the International Airport Jose Joaquín de Olmedo, near the Convention Center, shopping malls, business areas, bars and restaurants. Breakfast included.
Transfer to the airport for your flight to the Galapagos Islands.
You will be met at the Baltra Airport by your guide and transfer immediately to the dock to board the M/V Santa Cruz. Welcome introductory briefing and lunch.
The M/V Santa Cruz is ideally designed and outfitted for exploration of the unique environment of the Galápagos Islands, with a faithful and eminently professional crew. The three decks of the Santa Cruz offer a wide range of cabin accommodations – Standard, Standard Plus, Superior, Junior Suite, Master Suite. Addtionallly, the Sun Deck provides dining, lounge, Jacuzzi and relaxation areas. .
The M/V Santa Cruz is a 237-foot ship with a capacity of 90 passengers. She carries a crew of 52, including 6 naturalist guides and a medical officer. Facilities include dining/bar/lounge area, boutique/gift shop, Internet access, reading room/natural history library, glass-bottom Boston Whaler, snorkeling equipment and wet suits.
*Or a 4-night cruise of the Eastern Islands: San Cristóbal, Santa Fe, South Plaza, Santa Cruz, Española. A day-by-day itinerary can be provided.
Las Bachas (Santa Cruz Island)
After WWII, US military barges were beached and abandoned here. Locals referred to the beach as the barges beach, a name that morphed to "Bachas". Today it is an important nesting area for the east Pacific green sea turtle. Located on the north shore of Santa Cruz Island, it is a glorious white beach (wet landing), with several brackish lagoons only a few steps away from the sea. These lagoons are the feeding grounds of various wading birds, from stilts to flamingos. This is a great opportunity to get acquainted with snorkeling gear and techniques. Welcome Cocktail, expedition plan for Tuesday and dinner.
Buccaneer Cove (James Island)
After breakfast, enjoy a coastal exploration along the impressive cliffs of Buccaneer Cove. Learn about the history of Santiago Island, its relevance for the whalers, pirates and early researchers, including Darwin's epic voyage in 1835, and the conservation projects aimed at eradicating feral species (a fence stretched along the rocky outcrop is visible to save native plants from the once existing enormous goat population). Today the island is free of feral goats, and the cove is home to a large number of marine birds, sea lions, and inter-tidal organisms. Enjoy fantastic natural formations such as the "Elephant Rock", "The Bishop" and an impressive natural cave. This is a great site for snorkeling too! Lunch on board.
Puerto Egas (James Island)
Wet landing for a mid-length walk. Most of the landscape is tuff-stone layers and lava flows. This is a great opportunity to see land and marine birds. At low tide, marine iguanas graze upon the algae beds and there is a colony of fur-sea lions. Opportunity for snorkeling and swimming from the beach after the walk. Expedition plan for Wednesday and dinner.
Rábida Island (Jervis)
Disembark at Rábida Island (wet landing) on a red-colored beach, due to the unusually high content of iron in the volcanic material. A gratifying stroll along the beach of this small island (1.9 sq. mi.) allows the observation of a large colony of sea lions, marine iguanas, mockingbirds, yellow warblers and several species of Darwin's finches. Very close to the beach, hidden behind a strip of green saltbush, is a salt pond where at times greater flamingos migrate. This is a great place to snorkel from the beach, both for beginners as well as for experienced snorkelers, due to the unique combination of underwater species and submarine landscapes. Non-snorkelers will enjoy a ride on the glass bottom boat. During navigation to our next island, dolphins are often spotted. Lunch on board.
Disembark at Bartolomé Island (dry landing) for a hike to the summit. This is a moderately steep climb aided by a wooden staircase resting platforms and handrails; the view from the top is worth the effort. Dinghy ride around colossal Pinnacle Rock, then time to enjoy the beach (wet landing) and some snorkeling, possibly with Galápagos penguins, or else a ride in the glass-bottom boat for great views of the underwater world. Expedition plan for Thursday and dinner.
Prince Philip's Steps (Tower/Genovesa Island)
The morning starts with a very interesting panga ride along the cliffs and then disembark (dry landing) on rocks for a steep climb (90 feet) up some stairs. Once at the top of the stairs, the land is flat, allowing for a stimulating walk of about a mile to the other side of this small island, observing large colonies of Nazca boobies, red footed boobies, great frigate birds and storm petrels. Those not wishing to disembark can enjoy a longer panga ride along the cliffs (depending on weather conditions). Lunch on board.
Darwin Bay (Tower/Genovesa Island)
In the afternoon, a wet landing for an easy stroll observing hundreds of birds, mainly frigate birds, red footed and Nazca boobies, gulls, herons, finches and mockingbirds. Optional walk over sharp lava and uneven terrain for dramatic views, or else return to the beach to enjoy swimming and snorkeling at this beautiful natural harbor, or join a Glass Bottom boat ride. Farewell cocktail party, departure briefing and dinner.
Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (San Cristóbal (Chatham) Island)
After breakfast, optional departure to see the breeding program of giant tortoises at Cerro Colorado. Learn about his endangered species, and its promising recovery. This site is 45 minutes by bus, on the south shore of San Cristóbal Island. Return to town and transfer to the airport for your flight back to the mainland.
|Price from||$8,175.00 per person, based on double occupancy|
Galapagos Entrance Fee and Transit Control Card
Domestic airfare - round-trip Quito-Coca, round-trip Guayaquil-Galapagos