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Highlights of Ecuador & Galapagos

Code: EC-GLP-12DL
12 Days

Overview

Discover the enchanted Galapagos Islands through this island-hopping tour! The islands offer endless opportunities to witness a unique abundance of wildlife in a setting unlike any other on the planet. Due to its isolation, the Galapagos formed a natural sanctuary that preserves species, allowing them to evolve over countless millennia. This is one of the few places on earth that allows such close and intimate contact with wildlife. The tour also provides many benefits to local communities and is socially and environmentally responsible. Be part of an educational and inspirational journey of a lifetime in one of the most fiercely protected marine wildernesses in the world!

Highlights:

Many Unique Islands of the Galapagos
Charles Darwin Station
Local Indigenous Markets
The Avenue of Volcanoes and Cotopaxi

Major Cities/Towns/Islands:

Quito, Porto Ayora, Santa Cruz, Isabella Island.

Cultural/Natural Impact:

Great learning opportunities to connect with local people and to discover the unique wildlife.

Variety of Transport:

Bus/Ban/Local Taxi, Boats.

Activity:

Short walks along the trails on the Galapagos Islands and on the mainland and hikes in the Cloud Forest. Great opportunities for snorkeling and scuba diving.

Unique Local Experiences:

On this unique Island-hopping adventure you can stay at the Galapagos Islands to explore the unique wildlife. Meet with the unique people of the Andes. Excellent opportunity to try local cuisine, see unique local handicrafts and nature’s many wonders.
Day Tour Meals Proposed Hotels
Day-01 Arrive at Quito Hotel
Day-02 Quito – Galapagos – Isabela Island B+L Hotel/Lodge
Day-03 Isabela – Lava Tunels B+L Hotel/Lodge
Day-04 Isabela – Highlands B+L Hotel/Lodge
Day-05 Isabela – Santa Cruz B Hotel/Lodge
Day-06 Santa Cruz B Hotel/Lodge
Day-07 Santa Cruz – Baltra – Quito B Hotel
Day-08 AM: City Tour Quito – PM : Cotopaxi B+D Hacienda
Day-09 Cotopaxi – Hacienda and Horses B+L+D Hacienda
Day-10 Cotopaxi – Papallacta (hot springs) – Otavalo B+L+D Hacienda
Day-11 Otavalo: Cuicocha Crater, indigenous workshops B+L Hacienda
Day-12 Otavalo Market – Quito B

 

B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner

Details

12 days Adventure to Ecuador including 6 days 

Island Hopping Adventure in the Galapagos

 

Galapagos Islands

Day-01 Arrive at Quito
Arrive at Quito airport and proceed through immigration. Look for your guide who will be waiting for you just outside in the arrival hall with an Off The Map Adventures sign. With a warm welcome, your guide will assist you with your transportation and will bring you to your hotel overnight.

Day-02 Quito – Galapagos – Santa Cruz – Isabela Island
Early this morning, your guide will bring you back to the airport and will assist you with obtaining your Galapagos Immigration cards. For foreign tourists, this card costs US$20 per person. We advise that you bring cash with you. Once you are all set, it’s time to board your flight to Baltra. From the very moment, you step out of the aircraft you will start to notice the unique wildlife of the Galapagos Islands. Right away you may spot a variety of birds, including the many finches that reside on this island. You might even spot a massive Galapagos land iguana. Proceed through immigration where each tourist must pay the Galapagos National Parks fee currently set at US$ 100 per person. Both credit cards and cash are accepted. Your naturalist guide will greet you upon arrival and will assist you to the transfer bus that brings you to the port. To get to Santa Cruz you will board a ferry to cross the Itabaca Channel. During this twenty-minute boat ride, you may be able to spot a variety of wildlife, including blue-footed Boobies, frigate birds, marine iguanas, and sea lions. Once you arrive at Santa Cruz’s main port, your guide will assist you with your private transfer to Porto Ayora. Your ride will take you through the highland’s lush green landscape which is noticeably very different from the rugged and often dry coastal landscape. Once you arrive at Porto Ayora, you will be transferred to your speed boat which will take approximately two and a half hours to reach Isabela, the largest island of the Galapagos archipelago. Its stunning volcanic landscapes, diverse wildlife, and unique geological formations will fulfil any explorer’s sense of awe and wonder. Welcome to Puerto Villamil the main pier at Isabella Island. Your walk along the boardwalk will be dotted by many marine iguanas, seemingly oblivious and unruffled by the many tourists wandering by. Your guide will bring you to your hotel. Settle in and enjoy the evening walking along the sandy coast.

Day-03 Isabela – Excursion to the Lava Tunnels for snorkeling
Wake up to the sounds of birds and crashing waves. After breakfast, get ready to head to the dive shop to pick up your snorkel and fins and gear up with your wet suit. Once you are all set, your guide will bring you to the pier from where you take a speedboat to the famous Lava Tunnels off the island’s southeast coast. The boat ride will take about an hour and a half to bring you to “Los Tuneles”. At first sight, you will notice the dramatic rock formations, featuring a labyrinth of molten rock, forming many ponds that trap crystal clear water, frequented by giant sea turtles, iguanas and sea lions. You will have an excellent opportunity to snorkel and spot various marine life including rays and white-tip sharks. If you are lucky, you may be able to spot some curious Galapagos penguins playing around. After a wonderful visit and swim, return to Isabela. In the evening, free time to explore on your own.

Day-04 Isabela – Highlands
Breakfast at the hotel. Today you drive to the highlands of Isabela Island where you will hike up to the creator edge of Sierra Negra Volcano. With a height of about 1,500 meters and an outer diameter of approximately nine kilometres, it is the biggest and the most active volcano in the Galapagos Islands. You will hike along the cone to the resting place in the northeast. The volcanic lava terrain feels like a lunar landscape. Lunch will be served in a local finca (local country house or ranch).
You will have lunch at a local restaurant in the highlands surrounded by a beautiful organic farm. This delicious meal is made from fruits and vegetables grown locally at the farm, hence making it sustainable and delicious. The main course is prepared on a lava rock grill for a uniquely local experience. After lunch, you have some time to explore the farm. In the afternoon head back to the pier at Puerto Villamil. Get ready for a fun kayaking adventure on the bay where we can spot a variety of local wildlife. If you are lucky, you might see penguins, whereas blue-footed boobies, pelicans, iguanas, sea turtles and sea lions are common sightings. You might even spot some eagle rays and, sometimes, juvenile sharks. We can also make a quick visit to Concha De Perla reserve for a scenic walk through the mangroves. The boardwalk will lead to a spot with turquoise waters where local wildlife is abundant. If time permits you can snorkel here to see plenty of colourful fish, sea lions, sea turtles, mockingbirds, and marine iguanas. Return to your hotel to conclude today’s activities.

Day-05 Isabela – Santa Cruz
After breakfast, head to the pier to take your speedboat back to Santa Cruz. On this two- and half-hour journey, there is a chance to spot dolphins and whales, especially between the months of July and October. Once we arrive, we will head to the Charles Darwin Research Station, where we will learn about many endemic species of the Galapagos Islands. We will also learn about the ongoing conservation and sustainability efforts conducted by the centre. In the afternoon we will head to El Chato reserve in the highlands of Santa Cruz. This is the home of the famous Galapagos Giant Tortoise.
As you explore the beautiful trails at El Chato, you will notice what at first sight seems like peculiar-looking rocks. These are none other than the lumbering giant tortoises of the Galapagos Islands. While visiting these highlands you can also visit a lava tunnel, also known as a lava tube. Such a tunnel is formed when lava flows underground and forms a hardened crust on its surface, while the molten lava continues to flow inside. Over time, the lava cools and solidifies, leaving behind a hollow tube that may be several meters in diameter. During the visit to the highlands, you will notice a variety of other wildlife such as pintail ducks, egrets, flycatchers, and a variety of finches.
Return to your hotel to conclude your excursions for the day.

Day-06 Choose your own adventure
Free Day at Santa Cruz
Today you have a free day to choose from the many options available. You can explore a nearby island, snorkel, scuba dive or try out a discovery dive or a guided dive to try out scuba diving. You could take time on your own and walk to Tortuga Bay to swim or snorkel on your own. This trail is free and does not require a guide. The hike is approximately 30 minutes and ends at Tortuga Laguna, where you can snorkel and swim.
For optional tours, you choose to go on a discovery adventure of a nearby uninhabited island, availability depends on the National Park regulations and the number of boats allowed to operate that day. You could choose from any of the following options (booking in advance is recommended):

Floreana Island : (boat ride is approximately 2 hours each way).
Just off the coast of Floreana, we’ll visit Enderville Islet to observe colonies of sea birds such as blue-footed boobies, masked boobies, and frigate birds. We’ll continue our trip to the nearby Champion islet, where we’ll snorkel with sharks, rays, sea lions, a variety of colourful fish, and other impressive marine fauna. In the afternoon we’ll enjoy lunch in Floreana’s port town, Puerto Velasco Ibarra. After lunch, we’ll visit the island’s highlands, to a visitor’s site called “Asilo de Paz” to observe giant tortoises and land birds, such as Darwin’s finches, and vermillion flycatchers, and learn about the island’s native vegetation. Later we’ll hike along a trail that will lead us to the famous caves of Floreana that were once used for shelter by the first colonists in the Galapagos. In the evening we’ll return to Puerto Ayora by speed boat.

Bartolome Island : (boat ride is approximately 2 hours each way).
Upon arriving on Bartolome Island, you will go up to a lookout point where you’ll be able to admire the spectacular panorama of Sullivan Bay and the famous “Pinnacle Rock.” The beaches at the foot of Pinnacle Rock boast some of the finest snorkelling spots, where you can discover a marvellous underwater world and will have a good chance of finding gently gliding turtles. On the beaches beneath Pinnacle Rock, it’s quite possible to spot one of the speedy little Galapagos Penguins — the second smallest penguin in the world, with heights of around 25 centimetres (10 inches) — as well as the white-tipped reef shark.

North Seymour Island
After a landing on North Seymour Island, you will take a short walk along the coast. Here you’ll encounter everything from swallow-tailed gulls to sea lions and cliff crabs. This part of Seymour Island is also known for being a major nesting site of blue-footed boobies and for possessing the largest colony of the magnificent frigatebird (a species different from the great frigatebird). You can also spot endemic species of both types of iguanas: marine iguanas and land iguanas. You’ll enjoy this relaxing hike around the nesting sites.
In the evening we’ll return to Puerto Ayora by speed boat. Stroll through the market in the evening to chat with locals at the restaurant of your choice near your hotel. Conclude this thrilling night at your hotel (overnight).

Day-07 Santa Cruze – Baltra – Quito
Breakfast at your hotel. Depending on your flight time, your guide and driver will pick you up from your hotel and bring you to Baltra Airport for your flight back to the mainland in Quito. Once you arrive, your guide from Quito will meet you at the airport and will bring you to your hotel in Quito city. The rest of the day (afternoon and evening) is free.

Day-08 AM: City Tour Quito – PM : Cotopaxi
After breakfast, you will have an exciting and educational city tour, which includes visits to residential neighbourhoods at the northern end of the city. You will take the Twelfth-of-October Avenue to the Culture House and pass by the Legislative Palace (Congress), whose stone mural records Ecuador’s history. The tour will then continue through Gran Colombia Avenue up to the Basilica Church. Stroll in the downtown to visit the colonial temples and monasteries of this urban jewel, designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Start at the Independence Plaza, flanked by the Cathedral, the Presidential Palace, the Municipal Building, and the Archbishop’s Palace. Visit the Church of La Compania de Jesus. Continue to the Church of San Francisco, one the of great religious buildings of the New World; its impressive facade and atrium lead to its gilt Baroque interior, influenced by Moorish style, with the winged Virgin of Quito at its main altar. On our way to Cotopaxi, we will make a short stop at “San Juan Mirador”, from where you will have a beautiful panoramic view of Quito city. After our visit, we will head toward Cotopaxi National Park. Here we will overnight in a traditional lodge/hacienda for dinner and overnight.

Day-09 Cotopaxi – Hacienda and Horses
Wake up to beautiful views of Mt. Cotopaxi, one of the highest active volcanoes in the world, with a summit elevation of 5,897 meters (19,347 feet) above sea level.
Get ready for an exciting day of adventures. You can choose from an option of horseback riding or an option of mountain biking. These activities are part of a visit to the Cotopaxi National Park, in the heart of the high Andes of Ecuador. The National Park is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, including llamas, Andean condors, pumas, and the endangered spectacled bear.
After lunch, you will have the option to relax or take part in an optional activity, such as a unique bonding experience that involves interactions between people and horses to promote emotional growth and healing. Horses are sensitive animals that can sense and respond to a person’s emotions and feelings. Through working with a horse, a person can develop a deep sense of connection and trust with the animal. This can be a transformative and powerful experience for many people. It can help them develop greater connection, presence, physicality, and empowerment. This option is only subject to availability, costs may vary ask your trip leader for details.
Dinner will be served at your lodge/hacienda.

Dinner will be served at your lodge/hacienda.

Day-10 Cotopaxi – Papallacta (hot springs) – Otavalo
After breakfast, we head to the Papallacta for a unique spa experience. The Papallacta hot springs are a popular natural attraction located in the high Andes, about 67 kilometres east of Quito. The hot springs are situated at an elevation of approximately 3,300 meters (10,800 feet) above sea level, and they are fed by volcanic activity in the surrounding mountains. Known for their relaxing and therapeutic properties, the waters of these springs contain minerals such as sulphur, magnesium, and calcium that are believed to have healing benefits for the skin, muscles, and joints. The hot springs also offer stunning views of the surrounding mountains and countryside, making them a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. There are several hot spring pools to choose from at Papallacta, ranging in temperature from cool to very hot. In addition to the hot springs, you can also enjoy hiking and birdwatching in the surrounding area.
In the afternoon we continue north along the Pan-American Highway and make a brief stop in the town of Miralago for a superb view of Lake San Pablo. Along the way, you will have a chance to taste delicious Bizcochos, a type of cookie or bread baked in a clay oven and covered with local cheese or caramel sauce. From there we will head to the town of Otavalo, home to Ecuador’s largest Indigenous market. Otavalo’s bustling handicrafts market, in addition to its food markets, sets up every day, although Wednesdays and Saturdays are the largest market days.
Arrive and transfer to your hotel for dinner and overnight.

Day-11 Otavalo: Cuicocha Crater, Indigenous workshops
After breakfast this morning, head to Cuicocha Crater, a volcanic caldera, considered to be one of the most visually stunning volcanic features of Ecuador. Located half an hour’s drive northwest of Otavalo city, it is part of the Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve and is situated at an elevation of approximately 3,064 meters. Cuicocha Crater is an active volcano that last erupted approximately 1,400 years ago. The crater is approximately 3 kilometres (1.9 miles) wide and contains a lake that is approximately 200 meters (656 feet) deep. We can take a short hike and visit the viewpoint to appreciate the beauty of this natural wonder.
For your next stop, we will descend into the valley to visit a local family who will be your host and our teachers. The family will share their traditional knowledge of preparing typical Ecuadorian cuisine. Let’s roll up our sleeves and try out the centuries-old tradition of making tortillas. You will grind the corn with the traditional stone tools they have used for centuries. Your hosts will assist you in the process while they explain each ingredient they use. In a short time, your meal is prepared right in front of your eyes using fresh local ingredients. It’s time to try it out.

After lunch, we will visit another community-based project to preserve a vibrant Indigenous culture: the traditional art of weaving intricate and colourful Indigenous textiles. We will visit a family of weavers who has been keeping this art alive for many generations. They will demonstrate how they weave on their traditional back-strap looms and how they make striking colours from local plants. You can try it out yourself and follow a numbered pattern to run the traditional hand-operated loom. Once you get a hang of running the loom you will start to see your pattern emerge in a beautiful colourful band. This is a great place to buy souvenirs that are easy to carry. Your support keeps this project sustainable and a unique traditional art alive.
Return to your hotel for dinner and overnight.

Day-12 Otavalo Market – Quito
After breakfast, you have the time to do last-minute shopping for family and friends and what better place to find these souvenirs than here in Otavalo!
It is a large, open-air market, known for its vibrant atmosphere, colourful textiles, and handmade crafts. Vendors come from all over the region to sell their wares, including textiles, clothing, jewelry, ceramics, and other handicrafts. Many of the goods sold at the market are handmade using traditional techniques by local Indigenous communities. The market is divided into different sections, with each section specializing in a particular type of product. The textile section is one of the largest and most popular, offering a wide variety of textiles, including shawls, blankets, and ponchos, made from wool and cotton using traditional techniques. The Otavalo Market is not only a place to buy goods but also a cultural experience. Visitors can observe traditional dances and music, taste local food and drink, and interact with vendors and other visitors from all over the world. The market is an important part of the local economy and culture and provides an opportunity for visitors to support local artisans and communities. After lunch, we will check out and head toward Quito. Depending on the schedule of your international flight, you can be transferred to the international airport in Quito.

 

Cost includes:

  1. Meals: Eighteen meals are included in the program including daily breakfasts.
  2. Accommodation: Neat and clean accommodation with a unique local style.
  3. All entry fees for sites included in the tour with the exception of the Galapagos national park fee: US$ 100 to be paid in cash at the Park and Tourist Immigration Card US$ to be paid at the airport in Quito *.
  4. All transfers and sightseeing as mentioned with the tour.
  5. Ground transportation throughout the tour (as per sightseeing program and hotel transfers).
  6. English-speaking local naturalist guides in the Galapagos and mainland Ecuador.

 

Cost does not include:

  1. International and regional flights.
  2. Flights from the mainland to Ecuador. (you can make it part of your international flight, ask us how to do that).
  3. Customs and baggage handling during overseas travel.
  4. Expenses of a personal nature such as phone calls, personal drinks, use of mini-bar at the hotels, laundry, or personal medication.
  5. Any expenses that may arise due to unforeseen natural or political situations.
  6. Personal travel insurance, including Medical+Cancllation+Interruption, (we strongly recommended).
  7. Park fee for Galapagos National Park (approximately US$ 110).
  8. Tips and gratuities to guides and drivers.

NOTE:

  • Ask us to check if there is a minimum number of people required to operate this trip.
  • Our prices are guaranteed not to change unless the currency devalues by more than 7%.
  • *Park fees may change by the Ecuador Government and Galapagos Authorities sometimes at very short notice.

 

Departures

Available Dates

Start Date End Date Price US$ Join
No tours available.

Note: Start Date is the arrival date at the destination

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