This holiday of a lifetime is a must for lovers of nature. Explore Ecuador's incredible cloud forest, before discovering remarkable landscapes and unique wildlife when you stay on three of the UNESCO-listed Galapagos Islands.
|Day 1||UK - Quito|
|Day 4||Quito - Mindo|
|Day 5||Mindo - Quito|
|Day 6||Quito - Santa Cruz Island|
|Day 7||Santa Cruz Island - Isabela Island|
|Day 8||Isabela Island|
|Day 9||Santa Cruz Island|
|Day 10||San Cristobal Island|
|Day 11||San Cristobal Island|
|Day 12||San Cristobal Island - Quito|
|Day 14||Quito - UK|
Today you'll fly to Quito, the capital of Ecuador.
On arrival in Quito we will transfer you to your hotel. Located high in the Andes at 9,000 feet above sea level, Quito is one of the highest capital cities in the world. You'll probably need a little time to acclimatise, so today has been left free for you to relax. This evening you will get to know your travelling companions over a welcome drink and dinner.
Our explorations begin with a trip to Mercado Iñaquito, one of the city's most popular markets full of many strange and interesting fruits and vegetables. A Local Guide will show us around and you'll be offered samples of local produce.
After the market, we'll enjoy a visit to the new and old towns of Quito. Independence Square and the Churches of Basilica, La Compañia and La Catedral are a few stops we'll make before heading over to the Heladería San Agustín. Tasty treats like Ecuadorian humitas, tamales, colaciones (sweet snacks) and caca de perro (corn covered in sugar) are some of the foods we'll sample.
Next, we'll wind our way to the Calle de la Ronda. We'll peruse the local shops as we hunt for a street food vendor and taste the empanada de viento (empanada of wind). To finish our day, we'll head to possibly the best lookout in Quito, the Panecillo, for a panoramic view of the city.
Today we're heading to the Mindo Cloud Forest, an area of spectacular scenery and wildlife. Our first stop is a chance to catch a glimpse of the small, interesting bird that enjoys the cloud forest climate – the hummingbird. The Alambi Cloud Forest is home to dozens of species of hummingbirds and is probably the best place in Ecuador to see them, along with a wide variety of other interesting species. You'll get so close to the hummingbirds that you'll feel and hear their wings fluttering right beside you! This afternoon after lunch, we will be visiting a butterfly garden where there are more than 1,000 species including the owl eye, the blue morpho and the Mariposas butterfly. We'll learn about the life cycle of a butterfly and may get an up-close look at some friendly butterflies that might land on an outstretched finger! We'll then hit the road... the chocolate road that is! Visiting El Quetzal de Mindo, you'll see cocoa trees and have a peek at a working chocolate farm. Learn about how Ecuadorian chocolate is made, and try some samples! You may want to try the locally made craft beer as well. With our afternoon chocolate fix satisfied, we'll head back to the hotel for a local dinner.
Our adventure continues with a morning hike through the cloud forest, a great way to enjoy more of the spectacular scenery and wildlife. Then we'll travel to Mitad del Mundo, where you can pose for a photo on the Equator. Later this afternoon we'll arrive back in Quito, and there's time to relax before we get together for dinner and a briefing about tomorrow's journey to the Galapagos Islands. You may be provided with a duffle bag for your belongings - all luggage is inspected on arrival at Galapagos and duffle bags make this process easier.
Today we're going to fly to the Galapagos. This archipelago of islands is home to an astonishing array of wildlife and the landscapes range from black volcanic rock to glorious white-sand beaches. A Local Guide will be waiting for us on Santa Cruz and the sightseeing will start straight away. We'll make our way to a private ranch in the Highlands, where giant tortoises roam free. Whilst we enjoy lunch, you'll want to keep an eye on the birds - many species can be spotted in the Highlands, including the Galapagos mockingbird.
After some free time this morning, we'll transfer by boat to Isabela Island and make our way to the little town of Puerto Villamil. Once we've arrive in Puerto Villamil and settled in, we'll have a practice snorkeling session to help us prepare and test our gear for the afternoon activity. This afternoon after lunch, we'll catch our panga for the Tintoreras tour. This small boat tour of Isabela's bay includes a short cruise along the coast, a snorkel, and a walk on Tintoreras islet. It's our best chance to see the Galapagos Penguin along with pelicans, and hopefully blue-footed boobies! The snorkelling is done in a sheltered area, where you may spot colourful tropical fish, sea lions, starfish, urchins, rays, turtles and perhaps even sharks. On Tintoreras islet, we'll hop off for a short walk on this lava-laden land, which is home to nesting marine iguanas. This nursery area is protected from many predators, so you'll probably see marine iguanas and scurrying lava lizards about!
There's an exciting morning ahead, as we set off on a hike up the Sierra Negra volcano. Sierra Negra is one of the most active volcanoes in Galapagos; its last eruption was in October 2005. On our way we will make a stop at the Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre, that houses almost 1,000 of these creatures in different stages of development and is helping to protect them from extinction.
We will then make our way to the volcano and, as we hike to the perimeter of the caldera, we’ll be on the lookout for bird species found only in the highlands, like the bright red vermillion flycatcher and the elusive short-eared owl. Once we reach the rim, we’ll be met with a 9km view that stretches across one of the most active calderas in the world. We'll make our way back to town early afternoon.
You're free to enjoy a lazy morning if you wish. However, if you enjoy snorkelling our optional excursion to Los Tuneles is a must. You'll head to one of the best snorkelling spots in the Galapagos for a chance to explore underwater lava tunnels teeming with marine life. Look out for reef sharks, sea turtles, sea horses and more.
Later, we'll travel back to Santa Cruz by boat, and after dinner you might want to stroll down to the waterfront with your fellow travellers. At night the locals can often be found playing Ecua-volley, or Ecuadorian volleyball, which is always fun to watch.
Today we're going to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station, where we'll learn more about efforts to conserve several species of the giant tortoise. Lonesome George was perhaps the most famous Galapagos tortoise. His species, the Pinta Island tortoise, became extinct when he died in 2012 and after being preserved by expert taxidermists, he is now on display at the centre.
We'll travel to another island, San Cristóbal, by boat this afternoon. After checking into our hotel, we'll walk to the Interpretation Centre. Here you'll learn about the history of the archipelago, Charles Darwin's famous visit in the 19th century and today's work to protect the amazing landscapes. Afterwards you can explore the surrounding area at your leisure. Hiking trails take you to Frigatebird Hill, Punta Carola - a wonderful beach - and Darwin Bay, where a statue of Charles Darwin commemorates his landing on the island.
We're going to take a cruise along the coast and hopefully catch a glimpse of San Cristóbal's fabulous marine life today. Keep a lookout for birds including the great frigate and blue-footed booby as we head to Kicker Rock, where the remains of a volcanic tuff cone rises over 143 metres out of the ocean. If Kicker Rock were a building, it would have almost 50 floors! Snorkel a channel between the rocks in search of spotted eagle rays, chocolate chip starfish, sea turtles and Galapagos sharks, as well as damselfish, puffer fish, and, hopefully, curious sea lion pups.
After a busy morning you'll be ready for lunch on board. We're going to stop at a beautiful beach accessible only by boat – a little slice of paradise and the perfect place to relax.
You're free to spend your final morning in the Galapagos at leisure. Perhaps head to the beach for one last swim, or shop for some last-minute souvenirs.
Later, we'll drive to the airport for our flight back to Quito. This evening we'll get together for a farewell dinner and a chance to reminisce about the wonderful experiences we've shared.
Your holiday ends with a trip to the market in Otavalo, considered to be one of the biggest and best in South America. There will be lots of colourful textiles and handicrafts on offer, so you might want to have a go at bargaining for a few souvenirs. Next we'll head to Cotacachi, a town famous for its leather. The main street is packed with shops selling jackets, shoes, wallets and more, so be warned, you might be tempted to treat yourself!
Today we will transfer you to the airport for your flight back to the UK.
You will arrive in the UK today.