19 Day: Best of Ecuador


    The ideal introduction to Ecuador, this comprehensive programme includes the diverse mainland highlights as well as a visit to the magnificent Galapagos Islands.

    • From: Contact us for details.
    • Special Offers Available.

    Highlights:
    Quito, Cotacachi, Otavalo, Cotopaxi, Quilotoa, Riobamba, Cuenca, Cajas National Park, Gualaceo, Guayaquil, Galapagos.

     


    Best of Ecuador Itinerary


    Day 1: Arrive Quito - Cotacachi

    Arrival in Quito this afternoon where you will be met and directly transferred to the hotel in Cotacachi.

    Overnight: La Mirage Garden Hotel & Spa
    Meal Plan: D


    Day 2: Otavalo - El Angel Reserve - Otavalo

    This morning you will drive north towards the El Angel Ecological Reserve. This valley of glacial origin is located 170 km north of Quito between 3,000 and 4,000 metres above sea level. Weather ranges from 5ºC to 18ºC. Rain is frequent as well as fog. This area is part of one of the most bio-diverse regions in the world, and it features the frailejones – an endemic plant of the paramos in Venezuela, Colombia, Peru and Ecuador, which consists of one single empty trunk with no branches that hosts a wide variety of invertebrates in the interior. Its leaves are thin and protect themselves against the cold weather with a thick furry layer.

    Here you will be able to explore and observe two unique different ecosystems: the Polylepis and Frailejones, amid water streams, brooks, small cascades and magical surroundings.

    Overnight: La Mirage Garden Hotel & Spa
    Meal Plan: B,D


    Day 3: Otavalo - Quito

    This morning visit the famed local market villages showcasing their acclaimed handicrafts.

    With a population of about 18,000, Otavalo is justly renowned for its friendly people and their market, a gathering that has occurred here since pre Incan times. Although native Ecuadorians meet in Otavalo to trade for animals, food and other essentials, you may be more interested in the wide selection of crafts on display. Otavaleños are the most prosperous Indian group in the country perhaps because their weavings, carpets, bread dough sculptures, colourful ponchos, Indian jewellery and needlework are so attractive. Other visits include San Antonio de Ibarra, a nearby village famous for its woodcarvings, Ilumán, well known for its traditional felt Indian hats and Peguche, home of the Otavalo Indians.

    Lunch will be at Pinsaqui. Built in 1790, the Pinsaquí estate was originally a textile mill which exported to the United States. Over the years the hacienda has hosted scores of famous visitors, including Venezuelan liberator Simon Bolívar, who regularly stayed here during his trips from Ecuador to Bogotá.

    Return to Quito in the afternoon for your overnight at the Plaza Grande. This unique boutique property located in the heart of colonial Quito offers 15 spacious suites, each luxuriously appointed. The evening is at leisure.

    Overnight: Plaza Grande
    Meal Plan: B,L


    Day 4: Quito - Cotopaxi

    After breakfast you will be transferred to a private hangar at the Quito Airport where you will board a Bell 407 helicopter with a capacity for five people. We will take you on a one hour flight over the Corazón, Pasochoa and Cotopaxi volcanoes. As you fly over this central part of the Andes mountain range you will enjoy the stunning Andean scenery of the "Avenue of the Volcanoes", so-called by Alexander Von Humboldt, the German scientist that came to Ecuador in the 18th century.

    At the end of the helicopter ride you will land near Hacienda San Agustin de Callo. This hacienda offers a wonderful insight into the Incan architecture to the north of their influence, whilst offering unrivalled views of the world’s highest active volcano, Mount Cotopaxi. Discover the area through a variety of excursions whether it is on horseback, cycling or visiting the local markets on foot.

    Overnight: Hacienda San Agustin de Callo
    Meal Plan: B


    Day 5: Cotopaxi - Quilotoa - Riobamba

    Begin you day with a visit to Quilotoa Lake. Drive through a fantastic Andean landscape towards the western side of the mountain range. From the road, you cannot see the breathtaking, aquamarine crater lake until you approach the rim. Then the whole lake and its vista are unvelied. The three other sides of the volcano have a ragged, rugged high ridge with a 1500 ft drop which makes it impossible to climb. However, from the village look-out point you can see the majestic volcanic lake which is approximately three kilometres in size.

    Lunch is at a pretty, cozy mountain inn before you continue towards Riobamba. Surrounded by spectacular snowcapped peaks such as Chimborazo (at 6,310 m, Ecuador's highest peak), Riobamba, the former capital of Ecuador, is known as the Sultan of the Andes. With its colonial architecture and cobblestone streets, Riobamba's Old Town is a favourite among foreign tourists, with Parque Pedro Vicente Maldonado being a particularly interesting destination. Other places worth visiting are the Natural Science Museum at Colegio Maldonado, the religious art museum in the Concepción Convent.

    Overnight: Hosteria Abraspungo
    Meal Plan: B,L


    Day 6: Riobamba - Cuenca

    After an early breakfast, you will leave your hotel and drive to Cuenca via Alausi, where the main train station is located. You will stop at the Inca ruins of Ingapirca, meaning “The Inca wall” in Quichua. It is the most important complex of ruins existing in the country and was built on top of Cañari constructions which go back to 1200. The Incas conquered the Cañaris and started the construction of their temple in 1460. The purpose of this place was for worshipping the sun. It was also used as a calendar for agricultural purposes.The complex also has other important sections such as the ancient residing place of the virgins of the sun and the Inca baths. There is also a small museum onsite with some pieces from both Cañari and Inca civilisations.

    Lunch en route before continuing to Cuenca to your hotel.

    Overnight: Mansion Alcazar
    Meal Plan: B,L


    Day 7: Cuenca

    Full day tour of Cuenca, considered by most Ecuadorians as the most beautiful city in the country. It was declared a World Cultural Heritage site in 1999 by UNESCO. Today, you will do a walking tour along its cobbled stoned streets, flowery plazas and picturesque sites. This private tour is as flexible as you want it to be, so you can choose to visit museums (The Conceptas Monastery Religious Art Museum or the Archaeological Museum of the Central Bank), plazas or visit the Homero Ortega Panama Hat factory after lunch.

    Overnight: Mansion Alcazar
    Meal Plan: B,D


    Day 8: Cajas National Park

    Leave Cuenca and drive to El Cajas National Park, one of Ecuador’s natural wonders. Cajas boasts glacial lakes, strange rock formations, numerous species of flora and fauna and breathtaking waterfalls. There is also an array of exotic wildlife including the hummingbird and condor. El Cajas National Park offers great trout fishing opportunities in several of the 235 glacier type lakes, an amazing environment of moorland vegetation and spectacular rock formations.

    Should you want to try fishing at El Cajas, the first stop will be La Toreadora lake, at 3,900 metres above sea level and which you will reach after a 15 minute walk. This lake is a perfect introduction to the beautiful reserve. El Cajas geology has glacial origin and its flora is responsible for holding and keeping an important fresh water resource for the Southern Andes. Your next stop will be the lakes called Unidas (with a one hour walk) and Patoquinuas ( with a 90 minute walk).

    Before you continue your fishing activities, a delicious lunch will be offered at Dos Chorrera where you might want to try their specialty, trout. With renewed energies, you will continue to a very good lake for fishing called Llaviuco, which is only at 3,000 metres above sea level and easily reached after a 15 minute walk.

    These lakes are home to small trouts (300–400 grams). You should also note that this is not a professional fishing program, but designed mainly for amateurs.

    Overnight: Mansion Alcazar
    Meal Plan: B,L,D


    Day 9: Cuenca - Gualaceo - Guayaquil

    After breakfast, you will drive towards the craft villages near Cuenca along the Santa Ana Valley. The first stop will be San Bartolo where you will be able to visit local craftspeople who make ceramics and Panama hats. You will then continue to Chordeleg, a small town famous for its gold and silver work and also an attraction itself for its traditions and typical countryside landscapes.

    Gualaceo is visited as well and here you will see the activities that take place at a local market. You will also visit the home of the Rodas family who will show you the ancient and traditional techniques still used in Cuenca to manufacture the typical textiles in this region.

    A stop at the Ecuagenera Orchid farm will be your farewell stop to this valley.

    Back in Cuenca you will be transferred to the airport to board a flight to Guayaquil. Upon arrival, you will be escorted to your hotel.

    Overnight: Hilton Colon


    Day 10: Guayaquil - Galapagos

    This morning you are transferred to the airport to board a flight to Baltra island. You will be driven to the dock where you will board the M/Y Eclipse to start your seven night cruise of the Galapagos Islands.

    This afternoon you will visit Las Bachas Beach on 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 favorite 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
    Meal Plan: B,L,D


    Day 11: Santiago Island - Bartolomé Island

    This morning visit Puerto Egas on 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.

    In the afternoon visit Bartolomé Island, 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 EclipseMeal Plan: B,L,D


    Day 12: santa Cruz Island - Rábida Island

    This morning visit Cerro Dragón on 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.

    In the afternoon visit Rábida Island, 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 saltwater 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
    Meal Plan: B,L,D


    Day 13: Isabela Island

    This morning begins with a visit to Tagus Cove on 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, you may encounter dolphins and whales.

    In the afternoon stop at Elizabeth Bay. 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
    Meal Plan: B,L,D


    Day 14: Fernandina Island - Isabela Island

    This morning visit Punta Espinoza on Fernandina Island. La Cumbre Volcano dominates the landscape, with lava fields stretching towards the ocean from its base. Fernandina last erupted in 1995. 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.

    Later visit Punta Vicente Roca on 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
    Meal Plan: B,L,D


    Day 15: Santa Cruz Island

    This morning will begin with a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island. Here 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.

    In the afternoon you will travel by bus from Puerto Ayora 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 torch/flashlight if you have one.

    Overnight: M/Y Eclipse
    Meal Plan: B,L,D


    Day 16: Española Island

    This morning explore Gardner Bay on Española Island. This 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.

    Punta Suarez, also on Española Island 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
    Meal Plan: B,L,D


    Day 17: Galapagos - Quito

    This morning visit your last stop in the Galapagos, Black Turtle Cove on 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.

    Later transfer to Baltra Airport for your flight to Quito. Arrival in Quito where you will be transferred to your hotel.

    Overnight: Plaza Grande
    Meal Plan: B



    Day 18: Depart Quito

    Today you will be transferred to the airport for your flight home.

    Meal Plan: B


     

    To book or customise this itinerary call: 01227 671 154


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