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HomeTours to Central and South AmericaEcuador / GalapagosHighlights of Ecuador & Galapagos
15 days:

Highlights of Ecuador & 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 on board the boat Golondrina at the Galapagos Islands 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 supplement (when two or more travelers) £2280
Single supplement (when single traveler) £2750
Discounts are available for groups of 4 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
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
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
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
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
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 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 cruise begins
Day 6: The Galápagos cruise begins

Today is the start of your Galápagos cruise, and over the following week you will sail on Golondrina, which has accommodation for 16 passengers. Each cabin is equipped with bunk beds, air conditioning and a private bathroom. Facilities on board include a buffet restaurant, a sun terrace and an area with a bar, TV, etc. Snorkelling equipment and wetsuits are also available.

Following breakfast, you will be driven to the airport for the flight to Galápagos, where your cruise begins. You land on the island of Baltra, which was an important strategic base during the Second World War. Here you will be met by your guide, who will accompany you on board Golondrina and provide introductory information about your cruise.

After lunch you sail on to the flat island of Mosquera, situated between North Seymour and Baltra, which consists mainly of white sandy beaches and cliffs. Mosquera has a large population of sea lions and is home to many wading birds.

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.

Overnight stay Golondrina, Galapagos cruise

Day 7: Isabela – Fernandina
Day 7: Isabela – Fernandina

Today you sail to Isabela, the largest of the Galápagos Islands, where you will visit Punta Vicente Roca, with its impressive volcanic formations. You will take a panga ride, allowing you 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.

In the afternoon you sail to Fernandina, the third-largest of the Galápagos Islands and the most westerly. Most of the island is covered by lava and there is therefore little vegetation. You will visit Punta Espinosa, where you can see lava cactus and fantastic wildlife, including playful sea lions, cormorants, penguins, pelicans and marine iguanas. From January to June it is possible to see the marine iguanas build nests and incubate their eggs.

Overnight stay Golondrina, Galapagos cruise

Day 8: Isabela
Day 8: Isabela

Today you sail back to Isabela, where you visit Urvina Bay at the foot of the Alcedo volcano. Until 1954 this bay was seabed, but it was raised 5 m above sea level and is now 6 km long and 1 km wide. You disembark onto the beach, from where a path leads away and into the dry regions of the island. From the path it is clear to see that 60 years ago this bay was underwater. Some of the largest populations of colourful land iguanas are here, as well as Darwin’s finches, giant tortoises and 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. After the walk there will be an opportunity to snorkel along the coast, where you can see penguins and enjoy the extraordinary sea life.

In the afternoon the boat moves to a different part of the island, where you go ashore. You walk through palo santo woodland to Darwin Lake, which is a 9 m deep, round, salty lake. You can walk around the lake through the dry vegetation, where you will be able to see a range of bird species, against the background of the Darwin and Wolf volcanoes.

You will then take a panga ride to visit Tagus Cove, a popular anchorage in the 19th century for pirates and whaling ships. Their crews carved the names of their ships on the cliffs, and as you sail between the cliffs you can see these historical artefacts, the oldest of which dates back to 1836. There is also a good opportunity to see penguins, pelicans and crabs here.

Overnight stay Golondrina, Galapagos cruise

Day 9: Santiago – Sombrero Chino
Day 9: Santiago – Sombrero Chino

Today you sail to the volcanic island of Santiago. You will visit Puerto Egas, one of only two fur seal colonies and also home to Darwin’s finches, marine iguanas, lava lizards and crabs. You come ashore on the beach of dark, volcanic sand and continue to a crater where in the 1920s and 1930s salt was extracted. The former mine is a small volcanic cone whose crater contains a seasonal salt-water lagoon where flamingos and other birds can be seen. The Galápagos hawk is also often observed in the area. There will then be time to swim and snorkel along the coast.

After lunch you sail to the tiny island of Chinese Hat off the southern tip of Santiago. The island’s name refers to its distinctive shape, and there are lava tunnels and lava cacti here. There will also be an opportunity to swim and snorkel, and there are good chances of seeing penguins, sea lions and marine iguanas.

Overnight stay Golondrina, Galapagos cruise

Day 10: Santa Cruz
Day 10: Santa Cruz

You now sail to Santa Cruz, the second-largest island in Galápagos, where you will visit the Charles Darwin Research Station in Puerto Ayora, the largest town on the island. The station was established in 1960 with a view to promoting research and education on the Galápagos Islands. Researchers here work continuously on assignments and projects intended to protect and preserve the local ecosystems. The station staff will be very happy to answer questions about the islands, and there is a slide show that traces the history of the islands and the current conservation initiatives. In addition, the station is home to Darwin’s finches and 11 different species of tortoises, which can grow to up to 4 metres. The island is also the habitat of the giant tortoises, some of which are estimated to be 100–150 years old.

You then visit Hacienda Primicias to see the famous tortoises in their natural habitat. They are easy to spot as they slowly move around and eat grass and leaves. While here you can also see various types of birds, including finches, flycatchers, mockingbirds and cattle egrets.

Overnight stay Golondrina, Galapagos cruise

Day 11: Isabela
Day 11: Isabela

Today is another thrilling day: you visit Las Tintoreras, a lava islet off the coast of Isabela, surrounded by beautiful, clear turquoise water inhabited by sea lions, sea turtles, marine iguanas and rays. You go ashore and follow the Tintoreras path. There are good chances of seeing penguins, blue-footed boobies and iguanas here. You approach a lava channel along the coast, where you can see whitetip sharks resting on the seafloor while fish and sea lions swim around them.

In the afternoon you will visit the Arnaldo Tupiza Breeding Centre, which focuses on preserving tortoises from the southern island of Isabela. The centre is home to about 330 tortoises, of all ages and all sizes, some as large as 200 kg.
You continue to the wetland area of Los Humedales, where there are sandy beaches, cliffs and four different types of mangroves, home to many fish and migratory birds.

Finally you visit the 25 m high Wall of Tears, a poignant reminder of Isabela’s history: it was constructed between 1946 and 1959 by inmates of the island’s penal colony, which had been established by president José Maria Velasco Ibarra in 1944, using materials left behind by the US military after the Second World War. The name “Wall of Tears” commemorates the hard work involved and the tears of pain of the prisoners.

Overnight stay Golondrina, Galapagos cruise

Day 12: Rabida – Santa Cruz
Day 12: Rabida – Santa Cruz

Today you sail to the island of Rábida, one of the most colourful and volcanically varied in the archipelago. It is known for its red-brown sandy beaches and viewpoints offering fantastic views of the wonderful landscape. The island is home to rich birdlife, with nine species of finches, flycatchers, the Galápagos hawk and brown pelicans. There are also penguins and sea lions.

After lunch you sail back to Santa Cruz. You will take a walking trip to a salt-water lagoon, which is even saltier than the sea. Here flamingos, black-winged stilts, pintails and other birds can be seen. You continue to Dragon Hill, where you will be able to see the famous and endemic land iguanas, whose colours vary from red to yellow and brown. These reptiles can grow to lengths of up to 1.5 m, and can weigh as much as 13–15 kg. Many of the iguanas come from the Charles Darwin Research Station. In 1975 many of Santa Cruz’ land iguanas were killed by wild dogs, after which a breeding programme was begun: 38 iguanas were moved to the islet of Venecia and an artificial breeding ground was created. The breeding programme has proved incredibly successful, and the population of iguanas continues to grow. Additional iguanas are moved to Santa Cruz about every three years.

Overnight stay Golondrina, Galapagos cruise

Day 13: Santa Cruz
Day 13: Santa Cruz

Today you take a panga ride to the peaceful Black Turtle Cove, which is surrounded by mangroves. You will have an opportunity to see blacktip and whitetip sharks, rays, pelicans, herons and of course turtles.

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
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
Day 15: Return trip

Arrival in the UK after a fantastic holiday.

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