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15 days/13 nights:

Highlights of Ecuador and Galapagos

Highlights of this tour:

Visit to a rose farm, Lake San Pablo, the Indian town of Otavalo, Cuicocha Crater Lake, the Equator Monument, Quito, Cotopaxi National Park, Cotopaxi Volcano, Lake Limpiopungo, 7-night Galápagos cruise to experience the incredible flora and fauna.

This package holiday includes the following:

  • Return flights from the UK to Quito
  • Domestic return flight from Quito to the Galápagos Islands
  • Transfers from and to the airports
  • 6 nights’ accommodation in good hotels incl. breakfast
  • 7 nights’ Galápagos cruise incl. full board
  • 1 x lunch (day 2)
  • Emergency hotline staffed 24/7 throughout your trip
  • ATOL certificate included
  • Departure guarantee – the tour will take place regardless of the number of participants
  • Options for other departure dates

The following package of excursions are included:

  • Guided tour of a rose farm
  • The colourful Indian market of Otavalo and the crater lake of Cuicocha
  • The Equatorial Monument and city tour of Quito
  • The Cotopaxi volcano
  • Guided tours of the Galápagos Islands
  • Local, English-speaking guides on all excursions
  • The excursions are with a private guide/driver, while the trips on the Galápagos Islands will be in small, international groups
  • Admission tickets the attractions mentioned, excluding Galápagos National Park (to be paid on site)

Single room supplement: £1590
Discounts are available for groups of 6 or more people

Choose this tour because…

Ecuador is an authentic paradise on Earth for everyone who loves nature, culture and animals. This trip features a visit to the capital city of Quito, with its finely preserved buildings dating back to the colonial age, and plenty of opportunity to admire areas of natural beauty dotted with lakes and majestic volcanoes. You will visit one of the country’s famous rose farms where a variety of species in a host of colours are grown. It is actually said to be one of the most beautiful in the world. In the Indian town of Otavalo and at the colourful markets, you are sure to meet the proud, local people in their brightly coloured clothes. The trip finishes up among the extraordinary Galápagos Islands, which are rightly famous for their brilliant white beaches, volcanic rock formations, intriguing plants and unique, fascinating wildlife – both on land and in the water. Your time here gives you the chance to see exotic birds, giant land turtles, penguins, colourful iguanas, roaring sea lions and harmless sharks.

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Departure from the UK

Departure day, where you will fly to Quito with connecting flights along the way. At Quito’s international airport you will be met by a guide, who will accompany you to your hotel in the town of Cayambe, which is situated at the foot of the volcano of the same name. The drive from the airport takes about 1 hour.

Overnight stay Molino San Juan

Day 2: Rose farm and Otavalo

This morning we will visit a rose farm. Ecuador’s roses are said to be the most beautiful in the world, and therefore the export of roses has become one of the country’s most important sources of income. We will see the many differently coloured varieties and get an insight into their production. Back at the hotel we will learn how to make one of Ecuador’s most traditional cakes, Bizcocho.

After lunch at the hotel we will drive to the Indian town of Otavalo. We pass the Lago de San Pablo, and enjoy the magnificent view over the lake with the snow-capped volcanoes in the background. En route, we stop at Mirador de San Pablo, a well-known vantage point.

We will be staying at a hotel that is within walking distance of the Peguche Falls, considered a sacred site. The waterfall is 18 metres high, formed by the river of the same name, which flows out of the Lago de San Pablo.

Overnight stay La Casa Sol

Day 3: Otavalo and Cuicocha Lake

We then continue on our way to Otavalo, which is famous for its colourful market and its accommodating people, who are often dressed in the special local costume. At the market, traders sell locally made arts and crafts items such as ceramic figures, woven textiles including ponchos, sweaters and blankets, as well as fruit and vegetables.

We will then visit the crater lake Cuicocha, which is situated in an extinct volcano. The landscape here is magnificent. The view over the crater lake is without compare, with small volcanic peaks breaking the surface of the water and the volcano itself towering above the other side of the lake.

In the afternoon we drive back to Quito, where we visit the 30 m high Equatorial Monument, located at Mitad del Mondo (the Middle of the World). Here, it is claimed you can stand with one foot in the northern hemisphere and the other in the southern hemisphere, although recent calculations have revealed that the monument is actually a couple of hundred metres off target.

Overnight stay Hotel Fuente de Piedra I

Day 4: Tour of Quito

The wonderful city of Quito is situated at an altitude of 2,850 m above sea level, making it the second-highest capital city in the world. Quito is set in beautiful surroundings between the mountains, and there are many vantage points in and around the city offering marvellous views.

After breakfast, we head out on a guided tour of the old colonial centre of Quito, which features on the UNESCO World Heritage List thanks to its very well-preserved colonial and historical buildings. The tour will take you to attractions including the impressive La Compania church and the central square – Plaza de la Independencia – where the cathedral, the official residence of the archbishop and the presidential palace all stand. We then continue on to the church of San Francisco, the oldest church in Ecuador. It is built in Moorish style and is famous for its gold sculptures and the impressive altarpiece, which is made of pure gold.

We then set off towards Cotopaxi National Park. Cotopaxi is also the name of the volcano in the park. At a height of 5,897 metres, this is the tallest active volcano in the world.

Overnight stay Hacienda El Porvenir

Day 5: Cotopaxi - Puembo

Before we drive into the national park, you have the opportunity (for an additional fee) to explore the area on horseback, which is highly recommended. Horse-riding is one of the most popular activities in Cotopaxi.

About dinnertime we will drive into the national park, where we will see the world’s highest active snow-covered volcano, Cotopaxi itself. It last erupted in spring 2006, raining down ash on Quito and the surrounding area. However, the last major eruption was right back in 1940, when it wiped out a town of 20,000 inhabitants.

It is truly spectacular to drive through the Andean landscape to the foot of the Cotopaxi volcano, which dominates the entire area. The national park is also home to the world-famous condor. We will drive up to a parking place at an altitude of 4,600 m. Our goal is the Jose Ribas refuge at 4,800 m. That means we have 200 strenuous metres of ascent in front of us, and as the air is thin at this altitude it is important to pace yourself. Then again you could just take in the view from the parking place!

We then leave the national park and drive to Lake Limpiopungo at an altitude of 3,800 m on the plain between Cotopaxi and Cerro Rumiñahui. Here we will take a walk around the lake to observe the unusual fauna and flora, before driving on to Puembo for the night.

Overnight stay Rincon de Puembo

Day 6: The Galápagos Islands

Today marks the start of our Galápagos cruise.

After breakfast, we drive out to the airport and fly to the Galápagos Islands, where our cruise starts. We land on Baltra Island, north of the green and beautiful island of Santa Cruz, which we reach after a short boat crossing. Santa Cruz is the second-largest island in Galápagos, and is home to sea lions, tortoises and turtles, marine iguanas and frigate birds.

We visit Las Bachas in the north of the island. The name comes from the Second World War, when the American army left two barges behind here. The locals had trouble pronouncing the English word “barges”, so it came to be known as Las Bachas. It consists of two white sandy beaches, with a combined length of 1 km. These beaches are one of the most important breeding locations for sea turtles. You can also swim and snorkel here, and you might catch a glimpse of marine iguanas, crabs and small sharks.

We then walk to a lagoon behind the beaches, where it is possible to see flamingos, herons, migratory birds and marine iguanas.

The programme for the visit to the Galápagos Islands is provisional, as the order of activities and visits to the various islands may change. It all depends on the weather and the Ecuadorian authorities.

Click here for more information about Galápagos.

Overnight stay Samba, Galapagos cruise

Day 7: Genovesa

Today we arrive at Genovesa, a horseshoe-shaped island located in the north-eastern part of the Galápagos archipelago. Its distinctive shape was created by a volcanic eruption. The crater formed Darwin Bay, which is surrounded by steep cliffs that are the habitat of a host of seabirds. Genovesa is also known as Bird Island, because of the thousands of birds that nest here. We come ashore at the white sandy beach of Darwin Bay, where we can see sea lions sunning themselves. A path leads us along a lagoon and up to a hill, from where there is an excellent view across Darwin Bay. En route you may well spot frigate birds, Darwin’s finches, swallow-tailed gulls, red-footed boobies, seagulls and many other species. Fresh fruit, juice and snacks will then be served on the boat, before we go snorkelling. Here you will have the chance to swim with colourful fish, sea turtles and sea lions.

In the afternoon we continue to El Barranco, also known as Prince Philip’s Steps, a steep path of 1.5 km that leads us through a seabird colony up to 25 m high cliffs.

Overnight stay Samba, Galapagos cruise

Day 8: Marchena

Today we sail to one of the northernmost islands in the archipelago, Marchena, easily recognisable from its central volcano, which last erupted in 1991. The island is protected and landing is therefore not permitted, but our boat has permission to explore the coastline. Punta Mejia is one of the best spots for snorkelling, and there is an opportunity to see colourful fish, rays, sea turtles and reef sharks.

We then sail on to a location off the beach of Negra, named for its black sand, where it is possible to see dolphins, whales and various birds. We will snorkel around a lava cave, where there is an opportunity to see colourful fish, sea turtles, marine iguanas and seals. We will then sail westwards. The further we get from Marchena Island, the more the seabed changes as we reach deeper waters.

Overnight stay Samba, Galapagos cruise

Day 9: Isabela

We now reach the largest island in the Galápagos, Isabela, and in particular its northernmost point, Albemarle. Albemarle was an important North American radar station during the Second World War, used to prevent Japanese vessels from approaching the Panama Canal. All that remains now are some small ruins. However, Albemarle is also the site of a mangrove, where we can see the Galápagos’ largest marine iguanas lounging in the sun, as well as the breeding grounds of flightless cormorants. The Galápagos cormorant is the only cormorant in the world that cannot fly; there have not been any land predators to provide a threat. In fact, its wings are only a third of the size necessary to allow it to fly.

We continue to Punta Vicente Roca, with its impressive volcanic formations and breeding birds. We will take a panga ride, allowing us to see penguins, pelicans, sea lions, seals, sea turtles and blue-footed boobies. If the water is calm, snorkelling here is absolutely fantastic, surrounded by the marine life, the colourful cliffs and corals, the seaweed and invertebrates. You may well sense that the water is cooler here, thanks to the Cromwell Current from the west.

Overnight stay Samba, Galapagos cruise

Day 10: Fernandina and Isabela

Today we sail to the westernmost island of Fernandina, the third-largest in the Galápagos. Most of the island is covered by lava and there is therefore little vegetation. Nevertheless, by the shore at Punta Espinosa you can find lava cactus and excellent wildlife, including iguanas, playful sea lions, cormorants busy building nests, penguins, Sally Lightfoot crabs, turtles and the blue heron. Also on this island you can spot the Galápagos snake and the Galápagos hawk hunting for iguanas.

We then sail back to Isabela to visit Urvina Bay. Until 1954 this bay was seabed, but it was raised 5 m above the surface of the water and is now 6 km long and 1 km wide. A long path leads us away from the beach and into the dry regions of the island. From the path it is clear to see that 60 years ago this was underwater. Some of the largest and most colourful land iguanas, giant tortoises and cormorants also live here, and it is possible to see Darwin’s finches and yellow warblers, hopping around on lantana flowers and palo santo trees.

Overnight stay Samba, Galapagos cruise

Day 11: Isabela – Elizabeth Bay

Today we will explore the area around Elizabeth Bay in an inflatable boat. We start our adventure 400 m west of Elizabeth Bay, close to the Mariela Islets. As we approach the inner bay, we turn off the engines so that we do not disturb the peace of this stunningly beautiful, magical area. On the way into the bay it is possible to see penguins, pelicans, frigate birds and other seabirds. We sail through a narrow channel with white and red mangroves on both sides. These magnificent, tall trees with their stilt roots indicate that we are right in the centre of the equatorial zone. This is the only place in the world where you can see penguins and tropical trees side by side. Sea turtles, sea lions, finches and blue-footed boobies also live in this area. If the water is clear, you may be able to catch a glimpse of rays and mangrove snappers.

In the afternoon we sail to Punta Moreno through various narrow channels, surrounded by mangroves and lava flows. Depending on the time of year, you may be able to see brown pelicans and their chicks. We will then take a short walk on the lava formations, where we will be able to see lava cacti and scalesia trees growing right on the lava. We will come to some sunken brackish lagoons surrounded by rushes and other plants. Here we can see pink flamingos, grebes and lava lizards. From Punta Moreno there is a fantastic panoramic view of the three large active volcanoes: Cerro Azul and Sierra Negra on Isabela, and La Cumbre on Fernandina Island.

Overnight stay Samba, Galapagos cruise

Day 12: Floreana

After breakfast we reach Puerto Velasco Ibarra, where we will take a ride up to the highlands of Floreana Island in a chiva, an old American school bus that has been converted into a brightly coloured, open-sided bus. En route we stop to climb Cerro Alieri (340 m), from where there is a breathtaking view. We then continue to Asilo de la Paz (450 m), where we will visit the pirate caves, the former home of the 18th-century pirate Patrick Watkins. In the 1930s Heinz and Margaret Wittmer lived here, and their son Rolf was born here, the first inhabitant to be born on Galápagos. We will hear some remarkable stories of survival on the islands. We also come here to see the spring at the foot of Asilo de la Paz, which provides water for the population of the island. After lunch we sail to the beach of La Loberia, famous for its colony of sea lions as well as marine iguanas and green turtles, which breed on the beach. Swimming and snorkelling here is an excellent way to conclude a fantastic day.

Overnight stay Samba, Galapagos cruise

Day 13: Santa Cruz - Quito

Today we will go to Santa Cruz, where we will explore the highlands of this green and beautiful island. The dominant vegetation of scalesia trees in the highlands creates the verdant green colour, and these trees are home to finches, flycatchers, owls and stunning flowers and plants. We will visit the twin craters of Los Gemelos, formed by the collapse of an underground magma chamber. We will then continue to two lava tubes forming underground caves. A visit to these tubes is a unique, almost surreal experience. We then sail to Baltra Island, from where we fly to Quito, where we stay overnight.

Overnight stay Hotel Fuente de Piedra I

Day 14: Start of the trip home

After a magnificent and eventful tour, it is time to bid farewell to Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands. You will fly to the UK with connecting flights along the way.

Day 15: Return trip

Arrival in the UK after a fantastic holiday.

Highlights of this tour:

Visit to a rose farm, Lake San Pablo, the Indian town of Otavalo, Cuicocha Crater Lake, the Equator Monument, Quito, Cotopaxi National Park, Cotopaxi Volcano, Lake Limpiopungo, 7-night Galápagos cruise to experience the incredible flora and fauna.

This package holiday includes the following:

  • Return flights from the UK to Quito
  • Domestic return flight from Quito to the Galápagos Islands
  • Transfers from and to the airports
  • 6 nights’ accommodation in good hotels incl. breakfast
  • 7 nights’ Galápagos cruise incl. full board
  • 1 x lunch (day 2)
  • Emergency hotline staffed 24/7 throughout your trip
  • ATOL certificate included
  • Departure guarantee – the tour will take place regardless of the number of participants
  • Options for other departure dates

The following package of excursions are included:

  • Guided tour of a rose farm
  • The colourful Indian market of Otavalo and the crater lake of Cuicocha
  • The Equatorial Monument and city tour of Quito
  • The Cotopaxi volcano
  • Guided tours of the Galápagos Islands
  • Local, English-speaking guides on all excursions
  • The excursions are with a private guide/driver, while the trips on the Galápagos Islands will be in small, international groups
  • Admission tickets the attractions mentioned, excluding Galápagos National Park (to be paid on site)

Single room supplement: £1590
Discounts are available for groups of 6 or more people