Unforgettable experiences in Ecuador including the Indian Market in Otavalo and the scenic Cotopaxi volcano, combined with an 8-day cruise to the Galapagos Islands.
Unforgettable experiences in Ecuador including the Indian Market in Otavalo and the scenic Cotopaxi volcano, combined with an 8-day cruise to the Galapagos Islands.
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.
Comprehensive package of excursions:
This tour departs on Sundays, every 14 days. The tour can be completed every Sunday, but then there will be another itinerary on Galapagos. You can view the itinerary and which islands are visited on our The unique Galapagos Islands tour.
It is possible to upgrade the boat on the Galapagos cruise. If you wish to do this, please contact our travel consultants for prices. Please note that there will most likely be other departure days and another itinerary on Galapagos.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Today, your Galapagos cruise starts, and over the next week you will be sailing on board Golondrina, which accommodates 16 passengers. Each cabin has bunk beds, air conditioning and an en suite bathroom. On board, there is a restaurant with a buffet, sun terrace and area with a bar, TV, etc. Snorkelling gear and wet suits are available to rent for a small fee.
After breakfast, you will drive to the airport and fly to Galapagos where your cruise starts. You land on the island of Baltra, an important strategic point during World War II where the Americans established a military base on the island to protect the Panama Canal against enemy access. You will be met by your guide, and together you board the Golondrina, where you will be settled in to your cabin. There will then be a briefing on your upcoming cruise, providing answers to any questions you may have.
After lunch, you sail to the island of Santa Cruz, Galapagos’ second largest island. You visit Las Bachas, the white sandy beach where sea turtles go ashore to lay eggs. American flamingos, red rock crabs, sea iguanas and migratory birds also visit this beach.
The Galapagos itinerary is subject to change as the order of the days may change, and other islands may be visited. It depends on the weather and the Ecuadorian authorities.
Today, you will sail to the island of Genovesa, which is located north-east of Santa Cruz and shaped like a turtle head with an open mouth. The island’s distinctive shape is due to the collapsed caldera of a shield volcano that has left a large crater, which today forms Darwin Bay.
Genovesa is also known as the “Bird Island”, as it is home to many different bird species. In fact, the island is one of the few places in Galapagos where the red-footed booby is found in abundance. Besides the red-footed booby, the island also home to frigate birds, Nasca boobies, dovetail gulls, short-eared owls, Darwin’s finches, galapagos doves, red-billed tropicbirds and storm petrels, which breed in the island’s lava holes.
You climb about 25 metres up steep cliff steps, also called Prince Philip’s Steps, to the cliff top. On the way up and from the top of the cliff, you can enjoy the view of Darwin Bay and see some of the many bird species nestled in the rocks.
After lunch, you visit the white sand and coral beach which forms Darwin Bay, where you will have the opportunity to see lots of seabirds such as dovetail gulls, lava gulls and the famous frigate birds with their characteristic red throat pouches. The bay is also home to one of the Galapagos Islands’ smallest sea iguanas, which is almost entirely black.
Today, you can look forward to visiting exciting volcanic islands. First, you sail to the small volcanic island of Bartolomé, which is famous for its impressive landscape with ash formations in red, orange, green and black. Once arrived, you walk up to a vantage point from which you can enjoy the beautiful panoramic view of the volcanic landscape, the neighbouring island of Santiago and the famous pointed volcanic rock named Pinnacle Rock. After the walk, you have the opportunity to snorkel, a chance to enjoy the amazing marine life and perhaps even spot the Galapagos penguin, the second-smallest penguin in the world, which is only found on Galapagos.
Later in the day, you sail to the neighbouring island of Santiago, which is also a volcanic island. Here, you will visit Sullivan Bay, where you can see how the lava flowed down through the landscape, leaving behind a lunar-like wavy black surface. You go ashore a white sandy beach from which you can explore the captivating landscape or swim and snorkel in the bay. On land, you will be able to see sea iguanas, lava lizards and red rock crabs, and in the water, you may be lucky enough to see fur seals, sea lions and penguins swimming past.
Today, you will sail to the island of South Plaza, which is located on the eastern side of Santa Cruz and one of the smallest islands in Galapagos. Despite its small size, the island is home to a large number of animal species and known for its unique flora.
Pretty much wherever you look on South Plaza, you will be able to see fig cacti as well as the plant sesuvium edmonstonei, which can only be found on Galapagos. When it’s summer on Galapagos and winter in the UK, the plant displays shades of green and yellow, turning almost bright red in the winter, when the dry season has occurred. The island is also home to land iguanas, and you might be able to spot one waiting in the shade of a fig cactus for its fruit to fall to the ground. At the water’s edge, you are in with a chance of seeing sea lions and seabirds such as dovetail gulls and red-billed tropicbirds.
After lunch, you sail south to the island of Santa Fe. The landscape here is also bedecked with fig cacti and sesuvium edmonstonei, and you will also be able to see the greyish tree palo santo, the Spanish name of which means “holy wood”. Playful sea lions can often be spotted on the beaches of the bay, and around and about on the island, you will be able to see dovetail gulls, Galapagos mocking birds, rice rats, lava lizards and land iguanas. You will also have the opportunity to swim and snorkel to see sea lions, sea turtles, rays and colourful fish.
Today begins by heading to the island of San Cristóbal, the easternmost of the Galapagos Islands. You will start out by seeing a volcanic rock which is split in two in the middle of the water. The rock is called León Dormido, or “sleeping lion” in English, so named because of its resemblance to a sleeping lion. With a little imagination, you will also be able to see a lion resting on the surface of the water. Here, you will have the opportunity to see blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies and frigate birds, as well as a sea lion colony, which also lives on the rock. If you look down into the water, you might be lucky enough to spot a white-tipped reef shark.
Afterwards, you sail to Cerro Brujo beach, which is located in the north-western part of San Cristóbal and is said to be one of the most beautiful beaches on Galapagos with its powdery white sand. From here, you can see León Dormido on the horizon. In addition to being home to sea lions, great egrets, great blue herons and pelicans, Cerro Brujo is the only area of Galapagos where red-footed boobies, Nazca boobies and blue-footed boobies can be found in one place.
In the afternoon, you sail to the small neighbouring island, Lobos, named after its large number of sea lions, which are called “lobos marinos” in Spanish. In addition to all the sea lions, you may also see fur seals, frigate birds and blue-footed boobies here. The sea between Lobos and San Cristóbal is a great place to swim and snorkel, as the short distance between the two islands makes the water calm.
Your first stop today is the island of Española, which is located to the south of San Cristóbal. You start by seeing Punta Suarez on the island’s west coast, where you are welcomed by a colony of sea lions basking in the sun. You walk along a path from which you will be able to see blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, large frigate birds, large cactus finches and lots of other exciting birds. It is also the only place in the world where you can see a magnificent colony of Galapagos albatrosses, which can consist of more than 20,000 adult birds during their mating season.
After lunch, you sail to Gardner Bay in the northern part of Española. The large white sandy beach is a sea lion magnet, and you will also be able to see Darwin’s finches and Española mocking birds here. The shallow water near the beach is a great place to swim and snorkel, and you may even be lucky enough to see green sea turtles.
Afterwards, you sail to the small island of Gardner off Gardner Bay. Under the water, you will have the chance to see yellow dwarf moray, garden eels, snake eels, scorpion fish, louvars and red-lipped batfish.
The last stop of the day is the small peninsula, Osborn, which is located south-east of Gardner. Here, there will be time to snorkel and swim in the calm waters, which are teeming with wildlife. The animals that live here include corals, green sea urchins, parrotfish, butterfly fish and an array of other colourful fish.
Today, you start out by sailing to the island of Floreana, which is located west of Española. You are going to see Punta Cormorant on the northern part of the island. You pass a green sandy beach, the colour of which comes from small olivine crystals, and you pass a lagoon which is home to flamingos, stilts, petrels, rays, sea turtles and red rock crabs. You also pass a beach where green sea turtles like to go ashore to lay their eggs and where numerous rays swim in the shallow water close to the beach.
You then sail out to Devil’s Crown, an impressive volcanic crater with pointy rocks that stick up out of the water to form a semicircle. The wildlife inside the crater is impressive due to the underwater oasis of coral reefs that attract turtles, pufferfish, hawk fish, eagle rays, white-tipped sharks and hammer sharks as well as a host of other interesting animals.
After lunch, you sail back to Santa Cruz, where you visit the Charles Darwin Research Station in Santa Cruz’s largest town, Puerto Ayora, a research centre set up in 1964 to promote research and education on the Galapagos Islands. Research and projects involving the conservation of Galapagos’ ecosystems are ongoing here. Learn more about the history of the islands and the current conservation work. The centre is also home to Darwin’s finches and 11 different species of tortoise, including large land tortoises, estimated to be between 100 and 150 years old.
Today, your exciting Galapagos cruise rounds off with a trip to North Seymour, a small island north of Santa Cruz. Here, you will again see the mysterious palo santo tree and experience sea lions, sea and land iguanas, blue-footed boobies, dovetail gulls and pelicans. It is also here that one of the Galapagos’ largest colonies of frigate birds is found, and if you’re lucky, you might get to see a male frigate puffing up his red throat pouch to impress the females.
Sadly, the time has come to say goodbye to Galapagos. You board Golondrina for one last time and sail to Baltra. From here, you fly to Quito, where you stay the night.
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