Ecuador And Galapagos Experience9 days & 8 nights, Escorted Discovery Group
Escorted Discovery Group
Quito, Galapagos Islands & Guayaquil
This journey provides a special opportunity to experience the Galapagos islands and observe their remarkable wildlife at close quarters. See giant tortoises and a number of indigenous bird species, and swim with sea lions, penguins and perhaps even sea turtles. Explore the old colonial center of Quito, visit a colorful local market, see Ecuador's most impressive volcano, and spend a final night in Guayaquil, on the banks of the Guayas river.
Day 1Arrive Quito
You will be met and taken to your hotel.The Hilton Colon - 3 Nights
Walk along the narrow cobblestone streets and feel the charm of 16th century Quito. Visit Independence Plaza, the beautiful French styled square bordered by the Cathedral, the Government Palace and the Archbishop's Palace. See the renowned La Compania Church, whose ornate gold leaf interior and elaborately carved altars have recently been renovated to recapture their days of glory. Visit the wide open plaza and impressive church of San Francisco, the Escorial of the Andes, built in the 16th century by the Indians of St. Andrews School.The Hilton Colon (B)
Drive approximately 14 miles north of Quito to the monument which marks the 'Middle of the World', where it is possible to stand on both hemispheres simultaneously. Visit the Ethnographic Museum, which shows the different Native American groups that live in Ecuador.
This morning, drive south on the Pan-American Highway through the spectacular 'Avenue of the Volcanoes' to the Cotopaxi National Park.The Hilton Colon (B, L)
Ecuador's finest mainland national park, the area covers 133 sq. miles and is dominated by the magnificent presence of Cotopaxi volcano. The volcano is a steep, snow-capped and symmetrical cone, giving it an appearance that matches the classic volcano shape imagined by most people. 19,347 feet, Cotopaxi is the second highest mountain in Ecuador and is the highest active volcano in the country. It is also the most destructive volcano in Ecuador having erupted on several occasions during the 1700s and 1800s, including the two occasions when it completely destroyed the town of Latacunga. The last major eruption was in 1903-04 with some relatively minor activity in 1942. The park has a visitor's center located 4 miles from the entrance with a small museum and lavatory facilities.
Drive along the lava fields to enjoy views of the volcano (weather permitting) and take a walk through this ecological sanctuary, with its unusual flora, fauna and geological formations.
Continue to the Limpiopungo Lagoon to observe a variety of birds, Andean flora and occasionally wild horses.
After lunch at a local restaurant in the area, explore a traditional Andean market of Pujili, where you can find a variety of local products all hand-made by the local Andean people.
Day 4Fly to the Galapagos
You will be collected at your hotel and taken to the airport.The Isabela II - Central Islands - 4 Nights (B, L, D)
On arrival at Baltra airport, you will be met and transferred to the Itabaca Channel, where a small ferry will take you across to the north shore of Santa Cruz Island. Here, board your bus and transfer to the highlands of Santa Cruz Island.
After lunch, continue to Puerto Ayora and visit the Charles Darwin Research Station, where you may see the giant tortoise pens, an impressive giant prickly-pear cacti forest and land birds like Darwin's finches, Galapagos mockingbirds and flycatchers. Take a stroll along the main street of Puerto Ayora, before embarking the Isabela II.
After breakfast, make a wet landing on a sandy white beach where many sea lion harems can be found. Some of the island's endemic species include Galapagos hawks, Galapagos snakes, rice rats, different types of finches, and Galapagos mockingbirds. The visit includes a hike on a trail past salt bushes where Galapagos hawks as well as the Santa Fe land iguanas tend to roam. The Santa Fe species of iguana are a brighter yellow color and have uncommonly large spikes on their spine. The opuntia cactus, a favorite food of the land iguana, grows unusually tall here, up to 33 feet high and are the largest of their kind in the Galapagos. Playful sea lions will usually accompany swimmers and snorkelers, while manta rays and sea turtles may be seen against the sandy bottom of Santa Fe's beautiful anchorage.The Isabela II - Central Islands (B, L, D)
This afternoon, make a dry landing at South Plaza Island, located off the east coast of Santa Cruz Island. The turquoise waters of the channel contrast brilliantly with the white sand and black lava of the shoreline. The rocks have grown thick with green seaweed in places, speckled with bright orange Sally Lightfoot crabs. Further up the shore, a carpet of scarlet sesuvium succulents serves as groundcover for a grove of luminescent green prickly-pear cacti. Yellow-grey land iguanas sit beneath these, waiting patiently for pears to drop. Along the coastline, you find sea lion colonies, while frigates, swallow-tailed gulls and shearwaters glide, playing with the thermals that form along the cliffs of this small, amazing island.
Visit the spectacular scenery of North Seymour Island, which was formed by a volcano rising from the depths of the ocean. The island is characterized by brown and white rocks and abundant wildlife, together with the sounds of nature. Here, you will have the chance to see sea birds, male frigatebirds with their scarlet red pouches, blue-footed boobies, Sally Lightfoot crabs as well as sea lions. Here, nature is completely untouched by humans.The Isabela II - Central Islands (B, L, D)
Visit this white sandy beach (wet landing) where you may see some nesting sites for sea turtles. There are several brackish lagoons, which are the feeding grounds of various wading birds, from stilts to flamingos. You may also see frigatebirds, finches, white-cheeked pintail ducks and marine iguanas. You will have the opportunity to get acquainted with snorkelling gear and techniques.
This morning, make a dry landing at Bartolome, an island of varied volcanic formations with a 328-foot summit and a fabulous 360-degree view. Hike to the summit, a steep climb up a wooden staircase with handrails and several rest and observation stops. The view from the top is worth the effort and, depending upon the weather, you may be able to spot five other islands, one of the most spectacular views of the archipelago. Following the walk, take a dinghy ride around colossal Pinnacle Rock and then make a wet landing in a cove where you can enjoy the beach and snorkel. Here, you may have the chance to see a small colony of Galapagos penguins - the only penguins north of the equator. Sea lions may also be found here and, behind the beach, red and white mangroves, salt bushes, morning glory and prickly pear cacti can be found. Alternatively, ride on the glass-bottom boat for great views of the underwater world.The Isabela II - Central Islands (B, L, D)
After lunch, take a panga ride to the landing site at Sullivan Bay on the east coast of Santiago. Santiago, also called James or San Salvador Island, is located in the western central part of the Galapagos archipelago and is the fourth largest island. Santiago consists of two volcanoes; a typical shield volcano and a low, linear fissure volcano. A number of historic eruptions have been reported over the last two centuries, the last major one occurring in the early 1900s. The area is covered by lava flows, such as pahoehoe (Hawaiian for rope). This thin-skinned lava's molten material cools down in a way that causes the surface materials to buckle, creating a rope-like appearance. Pahoehoe lava is rare to the rest of the world, but is common to the volcanoes of Hawaii and the Galapagos Islands. Make a wet landing on a white coral sand beach for a hike over the lava flows. Wildlife here includes finches, Galapagos hawks, lava lizards and Galapagos penguins.
Day 8Fly to Guayaquil
This morning, disembark at Baltra.Unipark Hotel - 1 Night (B)
You will be met and taken to the airport for your flight to Guayaquil.
Upon arrival, you will be met and taken to your hotel.
Day 9Depart Guayaquil
Enjoy the morning at leisure or take an optional tour of the city or (time permitting) a visit to the nearby Churute mangrove reserve.(B)
You will be collected at your hotel and taken to the airport.