Join a tour with a focus on the ultimate nature experiences in the Andes Mountains, the Amazon Rainforest, and the Galapagos Islands on a magical 5-day cruise.
Join a tour with a focus on the ultimate nature experiences in the Andes Mountains, the Amazon Rainforest, and the Galapagos Islands on a magical 5-day cruise.
Comprehensive package of excursions:
Look forward to the ultimate nature and animal experiences on this tour to Ecuador. This small country offers high mountains, active volcanoes, thundering waterfalls, lush rainforest and of course, the enchanting Galapagos Islands.
In Ecuador’s capital of Quito, you can look forward to seeing impressive cathedrals and colonial era squares. You also visit the equator line, which runs right through northern Quito.
The tour continues through the majestic Andes Mountains to Cotopaxi National Park, the fairy-tale Quilotoa crater lake and the pleasant town of Baños, which sits at the foot of the Tungurahua volcano, surrounded by waterfalls.
The next stop is the Amazon rainforest, where you stay at a jungle lodge with modern facilities right next to the rushing Napo River. From the lodge, a skilled local guide brings you on hikes and boat rides into the lush rainforest.
From the Ecuadorian mainland, you fly to the Galapagos Islands, where your tour concludes with a “once in a lifetime” experience; an enthralling 5-day cruise. Being on a cruise in Galapagos is a wholly unique experience in which you visit uninhabited islands and get up close to the fascinating animal life.
Today the tour continues to Quito, the capital of Ecuador, with connecting flight(s) along the way. On your approach, you can admire Quito’s wonderful location in a lush valley in the Andes Mountains.
You are picked up from the airport by a driver/guide, who will be holding a sign with your name on it as you leave the arrivals hall. The drive from the airport is about 1 hour and takes you through Quito’s modern district down to the old district where your hotel is located.
The rest of the day is at your disposal to take a stroll through the old district or simply to relax after the long journey. Remember to drink plenty of water and to take it easy, as Quito sits at 2850 metres above sea level, and your body must slowly adapt to being at this altitude.
Once, Quito was a bustling Inca city, but when the Spaniards arrived in 1526, the Inca general Rumiñahui quickly realised that this was a fight he could not win. Therefore, he destroyed everything in the city, leaving nothing to the Spaniards. In 1534, the Spanish lieutenant Sebastián de Benalcázar founded the Quito that you encounter on today’s city tour, with its fantastic, well-preserved colonial buildings, squares and cathedrals. As Quito’s old district is the most well-preserved historical city centre in Latin America, it is not for nothing that Quito can be found on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
You are picked up at your hotel by your guide after breakfast and the tour continues to the old district. First, you visit the characteristic 115-metre tall Basílica del Voto Nacional and the Plaza de la Independencia (“Independence Square”). This square is surrounded by some of Quito’s most important buildings: The Presidential Palace, the Government Building, the Archbishop’s Palace and the Metropolitan Cathedral of Quito. From Plaza de la Independencia, you continue down the cobblestone streets to the La Compañía Church, which is decorated with the finest gold sheets on the inside, as well as the San Francisco Church, which is Quito’s oldest.
After the old district, you are driven up to the Panecillo hill, where there is a wonderful view of the city as well as a 45-metre tall aluminium statue named the Virgen del Panecillo. From here, the tour continues to the northern end of the city and La Mitad del Mundo, where the equator line is located.
Translated, La Mitad del Mundo means “the middle of the world” in English, and a massive, 30-metre high equator monument stands here as a symbol of the unique geographical location. You can go up into the monument for a nice view of the area, where you can find souvenir shops, food stalls, a cocoa museum, a brewery and a small planetarium. Here, there will also be time to eat lunch and walk around, visiting the many interesting exhibitions and museums.
The last stop of the day is the small, pleasant Indian museum Intiñan, which is located just 100 metres away from La Mitad del Mundo. Here, you can try out fun experiments that put the earth’s gravitational and magnetic forces to the test. After all, this is where the true equator lies. It turned out that the big, wonderful equator monument is placed slightly off due to imprecise measuring techniques used in the old days.
After the city tour, you will be driven back to your hotel, and you can spend the rest of the day exploring the city on your own.
Quito is a beautiful city with many activity options, and you have the day on your own to go exploring in the big city. You can also purchase an optional excursion from home.
If the weather is nice, we recommend heading up to Cruz de Loma, which is a lookout point on the volcano Pichincha at approx. 4100 metres above sea level. A 2.5-km cable car named TelefériQo brings you up the steep volcano to the lookout point, where you have a magnificent panoramic view of Quito and the surrounding volcanoes and mountains in the background.
If your body has not quite acclimatised to being at altitude yet, you can instead visit Quito’s botanical garden, Jardín Botánico de Quito, for an exciting look at the many fascinating trees, plants and flowers.
You can also purchase a day trip to the small town of Mindo, which is located in a fantastical 500-km2 cloud forest. This lush area is home to diverse plant and animal life, and it is very well-known for its production of delectable chocolates as well.
If you would like to experience the indigenous culture of Ecuador, you can also join a one-day excursion to the Imbabura Province north of Quito, which is renowned for its gorgeous landscapes with picturesque lakes, towering volcanoes and of course, the famous Otavalo Indian Market, where you can purchase colourful carpets, cloths and ponchos.
Today, you exchange the busy capital with the calm and magic of the Andes Mountains. The tour continues south from Quito along the beautiful Avenida de los Volcanes (“Avenue of the Volcanoes”) to Cotopaxi National Park; a trip that takes about 2.5 hours.
At Cotopaxi National Park, a light hike awaits you around the fairy-tale Laguna Limpiopungo, which is located at an altitude of 3850 metres. You have a skilled local guide with you to explain everything about the flora and fauna of the area, as well as exciting myths about the great volcanoes. You may be lucky enough to spot condors, hummingbirds, wild horses, brocket deer and guanaco in the park. The snow-capped volcano Cotopaxi, which stands at 5897 metres above sea level, is always by your side, and you truly get the feeling of being tiny next to such a mighty volcano.
In the afternoon, you are driven to your accommodation, which is located just outside the national park.
This day is at your disposal and can be spent on relaxation or activities in and around the cosy Hacienda El Porvenir.
You can take a walk on marked paths on your own, or join some of the activities offered by the hotel, such as, for example, horseback riding and mountain biking in the unique Andes landscape.
Note that the tours are with Spanish speaking staff, but instruction in, for example, horseback riding, is given in English before departure, so you do not need to be able to speak Spanish.
All activities are booked and paid for locally when you arrive at the hotel. However, the horseback ride is so popular that we recommend you purchase it from home.
If you would prefer a bit of relaxation, the hotel has its own day spa where you can pamper yourself with wellness treatments and relaxing massages.
After breakfast, your tour continues through the mountainous landscape. The next stop is the magnificent Quilotoa Crater Lake, which is approx. 250 metres deep and has a diameter of around 3 km. The colour of the water is quite remarkable and may shift from being completely turquoise to almost yellow, depending on the season and the mineral content of the water.
You have the option to go all the way down to the banks of the lake on a marked zig-zag path, or simply stay at the top and take buckets of photos of the picturesque lake. The walk down to the lake takes about 30 minutes, but the return trip up the steep path may take up to 2 hours. For an additional charge, you can rent a donkey, which will bring you back to the top without getting sweat on your brow.
After lunch, you continue to Baños, which sits in a lush valley at the foot of the volcano Tungurahua.
Baños is a popular travel destination for both international travellers and Ecuadorians themselves, as the city has activities for every taste. Regardless of whether you want relaxation with spas and hot springs or something more extreme with “canyon swinging”, zip-lining and mountain bike rides, Baños definitely has just the thing for you.
The town has a manageable size, and you can easily walk from your hotel down to Baños’s main street, where activity and good times are always waiting for you. Here, you can find countless eateries, bars, souvenir shops and tour operators, who sell adventure activities in the area.
You have all day today to explore Baños and the lovely area around the city on your own.
The town is surrounded by waterfalls, and a popular activity is to head to see Pailón del Diablo, which is the biggest waterfall of them all and impresses with its power and strength. The tour going there can be purchased from home.
You can also independently take the bus up to Casa del Árbol, which is a slightly different kind of lookout point. Here, you can take a swing over the abyss, giving you not just a thrilling experience, but some truly fantastic photos as well.
Baños’s full name is actually Baños de Agua Santa, which translates to “sacred baths”. The name comes from the town’s many hot springs, which are said to have healing properties due to their high content of minerals, which stems from the activity of the volcano Tungurahua. You can pamper yourself several places with a wellness experience in the hot springs, which are situated in the middle of the city in gorgeous surroundings.
The tour continues down winding mountain roads from Baños to the city of Tena, which is the entrance to the Amazon Rainforest. The drive takes about 3-4 hours and is truly beautiful trip with both volcanoes and waterfalls along the way. The temperature and humidity rise in step with your altitudinal descent towards the large jungle.
The road literally ends in the Napo River, where a motor-driven canoe waits to take you the last step of the way to your jungle lodge, which is located about 40 km from Tena, surrounded by lush jungle. The boat ride lasts about 15 minutes.
When you arrive at the lodge, you are received with a welcome drink and a delicious lunch. In the afternoon, your guide gives you an exciting introduction to cocoa production in the Amazon and the processing techniques for the humble bean that is the main ingredient in their fantastic chocolate.
Your day concludes in cosy surroundings at the lodge, with the sound of the rushing Napo River and the jungle’s inhabitants in the background.
After breakfast, a skilled local guide takes you on a walk into the jungle. The guide explains the medical applications of the various plants and trees, as well as the birds and insects you spot along the way. The Amazon Rainforest is also home to a plethora of different types of mammals and reptiles. However, there is not as high a chance of meeting them in this part of the rainforest, which is known as the upper Amazon, as it is too close to habitation. You will however experience the exotic animal life of the rainforest later in the day during a visit to the rehabilitation centre AmaZOOnico.
At the centre, you can meet animals such as monkeys, toucans, turtles, snakes, tapirs and perhaps even one of the more rare felines, like the ocelot. AmaZOOnico takes care of injured and confiscated animals, and seeks to bring them back to nature. Volunteer helpers give you a tour and explain about the animals they are taking care of at the moment. You cannot get up close to the animals that are soon heading back to nature, as they are to have as little human contact as possible.
You enjoy lunch back at the lodge until the afternoon, when you visit a small local society where old traditions are kept alive. Here, you get a unique look into how the locals live and grow their various crops, such as yucca, coffee, cocoa, and other tropical fruits. You are also allowed to taste the quintessential jungle drink “Chicha de Yuca”. The women make their own cups and pots for cooking by hand. It may look simple, but try it yourself; it’s not easy. They can make the most gorgeous ceramics from plain, natural materials.
You have the rest of the afternoon to relax at the lodge and enjoy its facilities.
Today, the time has come to say goodbye to the Amazon jungle. It may well be a little sad to leave this incredible jungle, but you will be bringing an unforgettable nature experience back home.
After a nice breakfast, you make the short trip by boat up the Napo river, where a driver is waiting at the river bank to drive you back to Quito. You again get a truly beautiful drive of about 5 hours through the Andes Mountains. Along the way, you make a lunch stop at Papallacta, which is known for its hot springs. If you like, you can throw on some swimwear and enjoy the relaxing therapeutic baths.
You spend the night just outside of Quito and close to the airport, so that you do not have to get up too early the next morning, when your tour continues to the magical Galapagos Islands.
You can safely look forward to the second part of your tour, which brings you in Charles Darwin’s footsteps to the enchanting Galapagos Islands. Here, some wholly unique animal and nature experiences await you on a 5-day cruise among these incredible islands.
In 1831, a young Charles Darwin went on an expedition that would change his life as a scientist. Because on the Galapagos Islands, he discovered that the finches here were different from those back home. Perhaps they had the same ancestor, but had developed differently due to the environment they lived in? The theory began to form in his head and would become his work On the Origin of Species, which is still considered to be the most important contribution to the understanding of biological evolution.
You will be picked up at your hotel in the morning and driven the short distance to the airport. Here, you will be required to pay 20 USD (cash) for a Transit Control Card before you can check in. The flight from Quito to Galapagos takes around 2.5 hours. On arrival at Baltra Airport in Galapagos, you will be required to pay a national park entry fee of 100 USD (cash).
At Baltra Airport, you are picked up and driven to the yacht Golondrina I, which will be your floating home for the next 5 days. Here, you are checked into your cabin, after which there is a small welcome meeting followed by lunch. At the welcome meeting, your guide will introduce you to the captain, the chef and the rest of the crew, as well as the other guests on the yacht, before they review the exciting programme for the afternoon.
The first stop is the small, flat, uninhabited island of Mosquera, which sits between the islands of North Seymour and Baltra. The island is just 600 metres long and 160 metres wide at its widest point, and consists mainly of white sandy beaches and cliffs. A large sea lion colony is located here, and you may also encounter pelicans, blue-footed boobies and many other waders.
Every day, the group gathers with the guide back at the boat before dinner to talk about the experiences of the day and reviews the next day’s programme, so that you know what to look forward to.
In the afternoon, you can enjoy a starry sky without any kind of light pollution from the deck of the ship. It is, quite simply put, a magical experience. As you head to bed after an eventful day, the ship sets a course for the next exciting island.
Note that the programme on Galapagos is always subject to changes. Poor weather conditions or recommendations from local authorities may result in your route being changed on short notice.
Isabela is the largest island in the Galapagos Islands, and you will visit several unique sites on this vast, volcanic island on your cruise. The first stop is at Punta Vicente Roca. You do not go ashore here, but drive around many impressive volcanic formations along the coast in a small, motor-driven rubber boat (called panga). Here, you may be lucky enough to encounter penguins, seahorses, stingrays, pufferfish and sea turtles.
In the afternoon, you sail to the third-largest island in the Galapagos Islands, namely the island of Fernandina. The island is dominated by the active volcano La Cumbre, whose lava streams reach all the way down into the ocean. You go ashore at Punta Espinosa, where you will take an approximately 1.5 hour-hike along small, uneven paths made from sand and loose stones. On the trip, you can see the spectacular lava cactus and the island’s diverse animal life. Among other things, you have a good chance of seeing marine iguanas, penguins, pelicans, the Galapagos hawk and the Galapagos cormorant. The marine iguanas build nests and lay eggs in the ocean in the period from January to June.
After the hike, you have an opportunity to either go snorkelling from the beach, or to simply bathe and relax before you are taken back to the ship.
It is an altogether unique experience to be on a Galapagos cruise. You have the opportunity to visit uninhabited islands where the animal life is without equal. Not to mention that the crew will do everything they can to make your stay on the ship and in Galapagos unforgettable, and you will quickly pick up on the relaxed, familiar and not least, the pleasant atmosphere on-board.
Today, you travel by sea back to Isabela, where you visit Urbina Bay, which sits at the foot of the Alcedo volcano. The bay was at the bottom of the ocean until 1954, when volcanic activity in the area lifted it 5 metres above sea level. Alongside your talented nature guide, you take an approximately 2-hour walk here, experiencing exciting corals and seashells from the time the bay was at the bottom of the ocean.
On the island, you can also see a large population of the magnificent, colourful marine iguana, the Galapagos tortoise (June – September), and the Galapagos cormorant, which is endemic to the Galapagos Islands and is unique in that it is unable to fly. In fact, the Galapagos cormorant’s wings are just a third of the size they should be for such a big bird, making it impossible for them to fly.
After the walk, you have the chance to go snorkelling along the coast, where you can see penguins and enjoy the incredible sea life beneath the water’s surface.
Lunch is enjoyed back on the ship, and while you eat and relax, the boat slowly continues on to your next stop on Isabela. You make a stop at Tagus Cove, which once was a popular location for whalers and pirates. Many of them wrote their ships’ names on the cliff walls around the bay, and today you can still see many of the names on the cliffs.
The excursion begins with an approximately 2-hour hike through a forest of Palo Santo trees to the gorgeous saltwater Darwin Lake, which sits in an extinct volcanic crater. You hike all the way around the lake through the dry vegetation, where you can see many different bird species and reach a lookout point from which you can see the volcanoes Darwin and Wolf.
After the hike, you travel by panga along the coast and look out for animals such as penguins, colourful Sally Lightfoot crabs, boobies and cormorants. There will also be some time for snorkelling before you are driven back to the ship.
After an eventful day with many magnificent nature experiences, you can relax with a cold drink or a beer and gossip with the other guests. The boat lifts anchor in the evening, and a long, overnight boat ride to the island of Santiago begins.
After breakfast, you go ashore on the black volcanic beach at Puerto Egas on the island of Santiago.
Here, you take a gorgeous hike lasting about 1.5 hours on uneven paths to an old salt crater, where you can often see Darwin’s finches and the Galapagos hawk. You may sometimes see flamingos here as well.
There are also many marine iguanas and sea lions on the island, and it is one of few places in Galapagos where you may encounter the Galapagos fur seal.
After the hike, there is time to swim and go snorkelling along this beautiful coast.
You eat lunch back at the boat as the course is set for the small island of Sombrero Chino, which sits off the southern tip of Santiago. The island was named after its characteristic shape, which is most reminiscent of a Chinese conical hat.
On Sombrero Chino, you take a short, roughly 30-minute walk on rocky, uneven terrain. Here you experience wonderful lava formations, lava cactuses and the endemic plant sesuvium edmonstonei, which is only found on the Galapagos Islands. When it’s winter in the UK and summer in Galapagos, the plant usually displays shades of green and yellow, while it turns almost bright red during the island’s winter half of the year, which is the dry season.
On Sombrero Chino, you will also have the opportunity to swim and go exploring beneath the sea’s surface with a snorkelling mask, letting you take a peek at colourful fish and perhaps even encountering a sea turtle.
Nature on Galapagos is quite overwhelming and indescribable, and it truly is a “once in a lifetime” experience to visit the Galapagos Islands.
Today, you wake up outside Puerto Ayora, the main city on the island of Santa Cruz, the second-biggest island in the Galapagos Islands. You have reached the end of your Galapagos adventure, and it is time to say goodbye to the ship’s crew. However, a final excursion awaits you in Puerto Ayora to the exciting museum and research centre; Charles Darwin Research Station. The centre was established in 1964 to promote research and education concerning the Galapagos Islands, and projects involving the conservation of Galapagos’ ecosystems are ongoing here.
After your visit to the centre, you are driven by bus across the island to the Itabaca Canal, after which a boat takes you to the airport island of Baltra, from which you fly back to the mainland and to the biggest city in Ecuador, Guayaquil. The flight from Baltra to Guayaquil takes around 1.5 hours.
Guayaquil is Ecuador’s commercial and financial centre and has a population of over 2 million. Despite its size, the city has a pleasant and relaxing atmosphere.
When you arrive to Guayaquil, you are picked up at the airport and driven to your hotel. The rest of the day is at your disposal.
Today it is sadly time to say farewell to lovely Ecuador, but until then, you have the morning at your disposal to explore Guayaquil. You can choose to either explore the city on your own or purchase a city tour taking you to the city’s main attractions with a guide.
The old district Las Peñas is most definitely worth a visit. Here, the cityscape is characterised by colourful houses, cobblestone streets and cosy taverns. Las Peñas sits on a hilltop, and you must ascend a 444-step staircase from the beach boardwalk to get up to the district. The reward for this hard work is a fantastic view of Guayaquil. If you have any strength left in your legs, you can continue up to the city’s lighthouse and enjoy a magnificent 360-degree panoramic view of the entire city.
A stroll through the Parque Seminario park is also recommended. The park is better known as Parque de las Iguanas (“Iguana Park”), and received this name due to the many colourful land iguanas that live here. You may even get to share a bench with one of these dragon-like animals.
In the afternoon, you will be picked up from your hotel and driven to the airport, from which you will fly back to the UK, with connecting flight(s) along the way.
Can’t get enough of the magical Galapagos Islands either? Then why not extend your cruise by 3 nights and experience even more enchanting places in Galapagos?
On the island of Santa Cruz, you will see the huge Galapagos tortoises which live in the wild in the lush highlands at Hacienda Primicias. In the northern part of the island, you will see the dragon-like land iguanas at Cerro Dragon, better known as Dragon Hill, and visit the serene mangrove forest at Caleta Tortuga Negra, a popular spot with reef sharks, rays and sea turtles.
You will also sail to the other side of the island of Isabela, to the cosy port town of Puerto Villamil, which will charm you with its sand and sea lions in the streets. Points of interest here include a tortoise breeding centre, exciting wetlands, beautiful sandy beaches, the historic Wall of Tears and fantastic snorkelling at Las Tintoreras.
You will also visit the island of Rabida, which is one of the most colourful islands in the archipelago with its distinctive reddish-brown sand and some amazing vantage points.