Ecuador Group

Duration: 13 days

Highlights: Quito, Galapagos Islands, Hualilagua

Ideal for groups of all sizes wanting to explore Ecuador, including a cruise in the Galapagos Islands.

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Itinerary

Day 1 - Arrive Quito

Upon arrival in Ecuador’s capital you are met and transferred to your hotel for the night.  Quito, nestled at the foot of 17,800 foot Rucu Pichincha, is known for its eternally spring-like climate and for the beauties of its well-preserved casco colonial, or colonial Old Town.

Rich in history, Quito is the second highest capital city in the world, founded in 1534 by Spanish Conquistador Sebastian de Benalcazar.  For nearly three centuries, the arts and intellectual societies flourished under Spanish colonial rule until 1809, when Quito established the first self-governing junta in the colonies. Liberator Simon Bolivar led the country as part of the Republic of Greater Colombia until 1830, when the Republic of Ecuador announced its independence with the adoption of the Constitution signed in Riobamba. Due to the city’s preservation of its blended past, UNESCO declared Quito one of the "world's cultural heritage sites" in 1978.

Overnight: Swissotel Quito

 

Day 2 - Quito

This morning, take a city tour of colonial Quito, which demonstrates some of the reasons why Ecuador's capital has earned its honour as a world cultural site. Marvel at the city’s ornate churches such as the Cathedral, La Compañía de Jesús and San Francisco, and experience a long history of local culture in Quito’s “Old Town”. Rich in art treasures, fine woodcarvings and altars of gold leaf, the churches are the historical icons of Quito. A very special venue will welcome you for lunch – the San Agustin Monastery, which has a very significant meaning to the history of the city as it was here where the Act declaring Independence of Spain was signed in 1822.

This afternoon, drive north to the Middle of the World, where you straddle both hemispheres at once. Visit the Ethnographic Museum which displays the costumes and lifestyle of the various indigenous groups of Ecuador. Alternatively, you can visit the Inti Ñan Museum. Inti Nan is a Quechua word meaning the "Route of the Sun." Located on the equator, this interactive museum includes various astronomical experiments and equatorial demonstrations.

Tonight, dine on typical Ecuadorian cuisine at a private dinner at your hotel.

Overnight: Swissotel Quito

 

Day 3 - Quito - Otavalo - Quito

After breakfast at your hotel, you drive north through dramatic mountain landscapes dotted with tiny villages, white churches and blue lakes to Otavalo. This small town, with a population of about 18,000, is justly renowned for its friendly people and their market, a gathering that has occurred here since pre-Incan times. Otavalenos are the most prosperous Indian group in the country - surely because their weavings, carpets, colourful ponchos, Indian jewellery and needlework are so attractive! Bargaining is the order of the day here; those who refuse to "play the game" will lose both money and respect to stallholders who greatly enjoy the clash of wits. Enjoy lunch at hacienda La Compania with its beautiful rose plantation. The owners will provide a private tour through the plantation and afterwards, you are entertained with a performance of folk ballet before returning to Quito.

Leave Quito this evening for the 45 minute drive to the historic Hacienda Chillo Jijon, Ever since its construction around 1730 as a manor house, the hacienda has always been a residence to the same family. Built by the Marquees of Miraflores and enlarged a century later by the Marquees of San Jose, the hacienda has seen much of the country’s history within its walls. For over 120 years, it was home to one of the largest and oldest textile mills in the Andes. The hacienda has been embellished and restored to create a unique country house, superb in style and rich in tradition and insight to Ecuadorian aristocracy. Enjoy a cocktail and dinner in this fascinating setting, as a duo of guitarists from the region perform during dinner.

Overnight: Swissotel Quito

 

Day 4 - Quito - Galapagos Islands

This morning after breakfast you will be transferred to the airport for your flight to Guayaquil and Galapagos. In Baltra Airport, guests will be received at the airport by guides and then taken to the pier to join the boat of your choice.

The Galapagos, located approximately 600 miles off Ecuador's Pacific coast, is a fascinating archipelago consisting of 13 large islands, 6 smaller ones and over 40 islets. Formed approximately four to five million years ago by underwater volcanoes that erupted and rose above the ocean's surface, the islands were made world-famous when Charles Darwin visited in 1835 and later wrote his famed "The Origin of the Species."  Due to the strong conservationist efforts and strict regulations in the archipelago, the endemic wildlife and fauna Darwin noted in his studies remain unique to the area even today.
 
Weather, water and wildlife conditions will affect your actual day to day itinerary but visits are planned for main islands and their landmarks. You land by panga on island beaches to wander among the Galapagos' unique species - where you are objects of curiosity rather than fear.


This afternoon: Las Bachas Beach – Santa Cruz Island
Las Bachas Beach is located in the north of Santa Cruz. Its soft, white sand is derived from decomposed coral, making it a favourite nesting site for sea turtles. Behind the beach there is a small brackish lagoon, where it is possible to observe flamingos and other coastal birds, such as black-necked stilts and whimbrels.

Overnight: M/Y Eclipse

 

Day 5 - Galapagos Islands

Morning: Puerto Egas – Santiago Island
Puerto Egas (James Bay) is located on the northwest side of Santiago. The landing is on a black beach with eroded rock formations in the background. The trail crosses the dry interior, where the remains of a salt mining enterprise can still be seen, and then continues along the coast. Tidal pools are home to a variety of invertebrate organisms, including sea urchins, octopus and starfish. The trail leads to the Fur Seals Grottos, one of the only places in the islands where they can be seen. After the walk, you will have time to swim or snorkel off the beach, where you will see sea lions, fish and maybe some turtles and reef sharks.

Afternoon: Bartolomé Island
Bartolomé is a small island that has two visitor sites. At the first site, you can swim and snorkel around Pinnacle Rock, where penguins are usually seen. Back on board for a quick change of clothes and then it is a short dinghy ride to a dry landing for a climb to the highest point on the island. On the way up, you will encounter different volcanic formations, including spatter and tuff cones, lava flow and lava tubes. From the summit you will have a wonderful view of Sullivan Bay.

Overnight: M/Y Eclipse

 

Day 6 - Galapagos Islands

Morning: Cerro Dragón – Santa Cruz Island
The name Cerro Dragon (Dragon Hill) stems from the fact that it was one of the few sites on Santa Cruz Island where a healthy population of land iguanas were found in 1975. After landing at a pier, a hike takes to you to a salt water lagoon behind the beach, frequented by common stilts, pintail ducks and occasionally flamingos. A short walk up the hill leads you to a land iguana nesting site, with breathtaking views of the bay. You will have the chance to go swimming after the walk.

Afternoon: Rábida Island
Rábida is a small island with red volcanic rocks surrounding a beautiful red sand beach, where there is a colony of sea lions and a pelican nesting site. The trail leads to a salt water lagoon where shore birds can be seen. Rábida is considered to be one of the best snorkeling sites in the Galapagos Islands, and you will also have the opportunity to go kayaking.

Overnight: M/Y Eclipse

 

Day 7 - Galapagos Islands

Morning: Tagus Cove – Isabela Island
Tagus Cove was historically used as an anchoring place for pirates, buccaneers and whalers. Here you will see the names of hundreds of ships painted on the high ridges (a practice now forbidden). On the hike, the trail goes through an area of vegetation and the volcanic landscape of Darwin Volcano. At the top of the trail, you will enjoy an incredible view of the whole cove and Darwin Lake. On the panga ride, you will see a large number of blue-footed boobies perched on the ledges of the cliffs, as well as marine iguanas, penguins, brown pelicans, brown noddy terns and swallow-tailed gulls. While exploring the channel between Fernandina and Isabela Islands, dolphins and whales are sometimes encountered.

Afternoon: Elizabeth Bay – Isabela Island
Elizabeth Bay is one of the furthest points of the Galapagos that you will visit on your cruise. A panga ride around two islets called the Marielas offers a wide variety of bird life, such as flightless cormorants, herons, and blue-footed boobies. Then you will enter a sheltered cove – a wonderful mangrove ecosystem that is a refuge for sea turtles and rays.

Overnight: M/Y Eclipse

 

Day 8 - Galapagos Islands

Morning: Punta Espinoza – Fernandina Island
Fernandina last erupted in 1995. La Cumbre Volcano dominates the landscape, with lava fields stretching towards the ocean from its base. Punta Espinoza is a narrow piece of land where some of the most unique Galapagos species can be seen, including the flightless cormorant, Galapagos snakes, marine iguanas, penguins and the Galapagos hawk.

Afternoon: Punta Vicente Roca – Isabela Island
Punta Vicente Roca is a wonderful snorkeling site, where you can usually see turtles as well as all kinds of fish. After the snorkeling you will go on a panga ride, which will give you the opportunity to study some of the Galapagos’ spectacular geological rock formations. Nazca boobies, pelicans, swallow-tailed gulls, marine iguanas, flightless cormorants and penguins are often seen in the area.

Overnight: M/Y Eclipse

 

Day 9 - Galapagos Islands

Morning: Charles Darwin Research Station – Santa Cruz Island
On your visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station you will gain insight into the huge efforts being made by scientists, guides, rangers and park managers to preserve this UNESCO World Heritage Site. You will see the famous Galapagos tortoises that are the islands’ namesake. After the visit you will have some free time to explore the town of Puerto Ayora.

Afternoon: Santa Cruz Highlands – Santa Cruz Island
From Puerto Ayora you will travel by bus to the lush, green highlands of Santa Cruz, where you will visit a tortoise reserve to search for giant tortoises in their natural surroundings. You will have the opportunity to walk through lava tunnels so take a flashlight if you have one.

Overnight: M/Y Eclipse

 

Day 10 - Galapagos Islands

Morning: Gardner Bay – Española Island
Gardner Bay offers the chance to enjoy a wonderful white sandy beach. It is home to one of the most important colonies of sea lions, and it is also a nesting site for sea turtles. After the beach time you will have a chance to deep water snorkel from the panga at Gardner Islet.

Afternoon: Punta Suarez – Española Island
Punta Suarez is one of the most popular and attractive sites in the Galapagos. Due to its isolation from other islands, it has a high proportion of endemic fauna. A few steps inland from the landing site, groups of Española marine iguanas bask in the sun. Further inland, Nazca and blue-footed boobies nest almost on the trail, Galapagos doves peck around unaware of visitors and finches go about their business. The trail continues towards a blowhole, which is a fissure in the lava where water spurts high into the air like a geyser. The cracks in the cliffs are home to swallow-tailed gulls and red-billed tropicbirds. Further up the cliff in an area of low-lying trees you will find waved albatrosses nesting. The 10,000 to 12,000 pairs of albatrosses on Española represent the entire population of this species on the planet. They perform one of the most spectacular courtship rituals of the animal world.

Overnight: M/Y Eclipse

 

Day 11 - Galapagos Islands - Quito

Morning: Black Turtle Cove – Santa Cruz Island
Black Turtle Cove is one of the most beautiful marine sites in Galapagos. It is a complex maze of tranquil saltwater inlets, surrounded by three different species of mangrove. Its waters are a resting site for sea turtles, rays and sharks. This site is only accessible by panga.

Departure from Baltra Airport to Quito, via Guayaquil.

Arrival in Quito and transfer to the hotel.

Overnight: Swissotel Quito

 

Day 12 - Quito - Hualilagua

This morning travel south to Hacienda Hualilagua de Jijon, dating back to 1718. The hacienda was built on the mountainside and overlooks the Valley of Machachi. It is still owned and run by the descendants of the founding family. During its early years it produced cereals and precious woods for furniture and religious sculptures. Its charming manor house is surrounded by gardens with many native species of trees, orchids and bromeliads.  Learn about the traditions, stroll through the gardens, watch the rodeo and most important, enjoy the hospitality of the owners. The Chagras, or men on horses, at full gallop show their ability to round up the cattle and their skill with the lasso. The hacienda’s manor house is noted for its extensive collection of paintings, furniture and sculptures representative of the "Quito School of Art" of the 16th and 17th centuries. Lunch is served in the charming dining room, featuring the richness of the Ecuadorian biodiversity with organic vegetables and grains.

This evening, enjoy dinner at Theatrum Restaurant and Wine Bar which was built in the late 1800s as the Teatro Nacional Sucre, an expression of Renaissance Classicism. Its unique location and exterior architectural design, combined with an impeccable contemporary decoration, have turned it into one of the best restaurants in the historical centre of Quito.

Overnight: Swissotel Quito

 

Day 13 - Depart Quito

Your international flight from Quito leaves early in the morning and you will be transferred to the airport on time to comply with boarding procedures.

 

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