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Galapagos & Andes

10 days in Ecuador and Galapagos exploring mystical cloud forests, mountains and enchanted isles.

Itinerary & Prices

10 Day / 9 Night - Galapagos & Andes
itinerary map

Welcome to Quito

You arrive in the historical city of Quito and are transferred to your hotel in the comfort of our private, air-conditioned vehicle. Quito is the most populous city in Ecuador, and the second-highest capital city in the world. Founded in 1534 by Spanish Conquistadors, it is nestled in the lower Andes mountain range, creating quite a dramatic backdrop to the colonial architecture of the center and the more modern suburbs, which sit in the rocks of the mountains themselves. Quito is located a short drive south of the equator – Ecuador is, in fact, the Spanish word for the equator, the city sits on the eastern slope of the Pichincha volcano.

Quito lies in the valley of the Guayllabamba River, flanked by volcanoes, many of which are snow-capped, and visible from the city on a clear day. Quito’s altitude is listed at 2,820 meters (9,250 feet). The colonial influence is strong in the traditional center of the city and any visit to Quito should include a stroll around this area, which was one of the world’s first UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Buildings of particular interest being the Carondelet Palace, the Cathedral, the four main churches, and the Basilica del Voto Nacional. The center of Quito is the most untouched and also the biggest colonial center of any city in the Americas.

Meals (x)

Location
Quito
Day
1 / 10

City Tour & The Equatorial Line

A trip to Ecuador encapsulates a mix of history, fascinating indigenous cultures, slow winding rivers, and lush tropical forests, spectacular snowcapped volcanoes, and some of the most exciting wildlife on earth.

Our starting place today is the ‘Mitad del Mundo’, a site located just 45 minutes north of Quito, where a monument marks the equator at its closest point to the city. Archaeological evidence shows that both pre-Inca and Inca civilizations recognized and celebrated the equinox, the day the sun is directly over the equator. We make the 45-minute journey northwest to the equatorial line, where we will walk the rim of the extinct Pululahua volcanic crater. From there we visit the “Ciudad Mitad del Mundo” a group of buildings designed to explain the significance of the site, as well as the Ethnographic Initñam Museum, located right on the Equator. Here you will have the chance to plant your feet in two hemispheres at the same time!

Back in Quito, after lunch we will visit the city’s impressive colonial center, the reason Quito was the first city to be named a world heritage site. First on the agenda is a walk through the main plaza, the ‘plaza de la Independencia’, where you will see the Government Palace, the Cathedral, and some of the most important churches built around the XVI and XVII centuries, including the San Francisco Monastery, the first building built in the whole city. We wind down from a busy day’s sightseeing with an excursion all about chocolate! Ecuador’s unique equatorial climate provides the perfect environment for growing the world’s finest cocoa – Cacao Arriba. Cocoa has been revered in Latin America for over 5,000 years and Spanish explorers loved it so much they called it the ‘Food of the Gods’. Our chocolate experience starts with a guide explaining the history of cocoa in Ecuador, followed by a chocolate tasting.

Meals (B, L)

Location
Quito
Day
2 / 10

Cotopaxi National Park

Cotopaxi is the most prominent and famous volcano in Ecuador and its almost symmetrical cone visible on the skyline from Quito. Rising to a height of over 12 thousand feet the volcano is part of a complex of volcanoes on the Ring of Fire and is home to one of the few equatorial glaciers in the world.

At the foot of the volcano is the entrance to the Cotopaxi National Park where we make a stop at the visitor center to learn about the exciting history of the Cotopaxi, past eruptions, and the impact those eruptions have had on the surrounding area, culture, and agriculture. The mountain’s colorful past also has had an impact geographically and this has, in turn, affected the wildlife. Our guide will explain how the volcano is central to life in the area and talk you through the unique characteristics of the local flora and fauna.

From there we visit Lake Limpiopungo which offers a chance for some spectacular sights. We take a walk around a part of the lake till we reach the perfect point to see the whole of Cotopaxi reflected in the lake as a mirror image. Quite often the low lying clouds can offer an additional dimension to this view and many a fantastic photograph has been taken from this viewpoint. If you feel like a longer walk, a 2-hour hike will take us to Mt. Cotopaxi’s J. Ribas refuge (4,800 m) where you will be able to enjoy spectacular views of the volcano and the surrounding Andean peaks.

Meals (B, L)

birds flying in the sky
Location
Quito to Banos
Day
3 / 10

Healing Waters of Banos

Today we enjoy a full day of excursions in the beautiful spa city of Baños. The journey itself is extremely picturesque and the route carries some spectacular views as we pass through mountains, valleys, and little towns. We take advantage of the proliferation of waterfalls in this region to do a small tour of these spectacular cascades including the Manto de la Novia and Pailon del Diablo waterfalls. As part of the tour, we cross the valley in a cable car used by the locals for transport across the valley and enjoy the views offered by this alternative means of transport

Upon arrival in Baños, so-called for the hot springs that surround the town that is said to have healing powers due to the minerals in the water, we make a visit to the treehouse swing. High up in the mountaintops, and located above a valley is a small lodge that offers guests the chance to swing out and over the valley below, offering spectacular views of the surrounding valley. This excursion sounds a lot more daunting than it actually is and definitely worth doing, even for the faint-hearted as the rewards are quite special

Meals (B, L, D)

banos waterfall swimming hole
Location
Banos
Day
4 / 10

A Hike through The Cloud Forest

After breakfast, we head east to the “Termas of Papallacta”, a spa & resort located in a unique natural environment in the Andean highlands which offers complete relaxation and rest. Choose from different hikes in the Andean Forest, where you can learn about the fauna, flora, and its importance to the surrounding ecosystem. The two options for excursions vary in difficulty to ensure that there is something for everyone.

 La Chorrera Path: Viewing the waterfalls.  We take you on a gentle hike through a complex of stunning natural waterfalls that cover both sides of the path and cascade down from the crags as the river from the Peine peaks makes its descent from the Cayambe Coca Ecological Reserve.

River Path: On this tour, we cross the wetlands and the high primary forest, while trekking on an ancient glacial valley where prehistoric plants and wet forest vegetation can be found.  Upon arrival at our final destination, we take a relaxing bath in the natural hot springs between two volcanoes, the Volcano Cayambe and Volcano Antisana. Papallacta´s thermal waters contain sulfates, sodium, calcium, chloride and are said to be anti-allergenic, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, and anti-rheumatic.

The afternoon is spent enjoying the facilities of the spa and the natural plunge pools, all surrounded by the peace and magic of nature.

Meals (B)

Location
Banos to Papallacta
Day
5 / 10

Departing Quito & Cruise Embarkation

AM: After breakfast, at the scheduled time, you will be picked up from your hotel and privately transferred to Quito airport, ready to board your departure flight to the Galapagos Islands!

This morning you will arrive at Baltra airport where our crew will meet you for your transfer to Santa Cruz. Here you will visit the highlands before boarding the ship. We ask that you dress appropriately for a hike!

PM: At the Highlands of Santa Cruz, you can walk along a path, observing the hills, ferns, volcanoes, and rich wildlife. This area is home to giant tortoises, forest, mockingbirds, Bahama ducklings, White-cheeked Pintail ducklings, Darwin finches, and many other species. Highlights include wild turtles and the tortoises breeding center.

Meals: (B, L, D)

Petrel Cruise Navigation
Location
Quito to Petrel Cruise
Day
6 / 10

Sullivan Bay & Pinnacle Rock

AM: Located southeast of Santiago Island, Sullivan Bay is of great geological interest. The area is covered by Pahoehoe lava flows combined with lava. It was very active 200 years ago. This flow is geologically very young. The magma formed is flat, but the movement of underground lava, the rapid cooling, and other eruptions led to the breakage in many places. Pahoehoe lava flows, which have hardened in an accordion-like formation. Small glass-like bubbles of lava can be found, called “hornitos”. Swimming with sea lions and other wildlife from the shore is a lovely way to finish off the tour.

PM: Home of the famous Pinnacle Rock, Bartolomew consists of an extinct volcano with a variety of red, orange, black, and even green volcanic formations. A trail of stairs leads to the summit of the volcano, boasting one of the best views of the islands. The beach is perfect for snorkeling and possible sightings of the Galapagos Penguin. Highlights include panoramic views, moonlike landscape, penguins, pioneer plants, snorkeling with penguins, reef sharks, rays, and great colorful fish.

Meals: (B, L, D)

baby sea lion on dry lava
Location
Petrel Galapagos Cruise
Day
7 / 10

Darwin Bay & Prince Phillip’s Steps

AM: Darwin Bay’s white-sand coral beach heads a half-mile trail that winds through mangroves filled with land birds. Nazca boobies, red-footed boobies, and swallow-tailed gulls can be spotted here. Further down the path are tidal pools where sea lions swim playfully. At the end is a spectacular view off a cliff. Highlights include Nazca boobies, red-footed boobies, swallow-tailed gulls, mangroves, coral pebbles beach, snorkeling: rays, colorful reef fish, and hammerhead sharks.

PM: Also known as El Barranco, Prince Phillip’s Steps’ steep, rocky paths lead up to a high cliff-face. A marvelous view can be appreciated from here. This site is also home to Palo Santo vegetation as well as red-footed boobies, short-eared Lava Owls, Galapagos swallows, and Galapagos doves.

Meals: (B, L, D)

Galapagos panga ride ecuador
Location
Petrel Galapagos Cruise
Day
8 / 10

Egas Port, Espumilla Beach & Buccaneer Cove

AM: Also known as James Bay, Egas Port is home to the curious Galapagos hawks and quick-footed Galapagos Lava Lizards. The trail leads to a coastline with gorgeous tide pools and grottos full of fauna. Here the Galapagos Fur Sea Lions bathe in the sun. This is also a great snorkeling site. Highlights include fur sea lions, Galapagos sea lions, tidal pools and “grottos”, Galapagos Hawk, oystercatchers, marine iguanas, finches; snorkeling: reef sharks, turtles, rays, and nice underwater formations.

PM: Espumilla Beach is a popular place for marine iguanas and Sally Lightfoot Crabs. The crabs attract the hunting herons, performing the dance of predator and prey. With an abundance of marine life including octopi, moray eel, and shark, snorkeling is highly recommended. A highlight is snorkeling.

Years ago Buccaneer Cove was a haven where pirates in the 1600 and 1700s would stake out on the Northwestern side of Santiago Island. Sea turtles now take the pirates’ place and dig their nests for their eggs near the Mangrove trees. It is a great location for snorkeling and many marine birds and sea lions can be found here. Highlights include rock formations, tropical fish, turtles, and sting-rays while snorkeling.

Meals: (B, L, D)

Location
Petrel Galapagos Cruise
Day
9 / 10

Disembarkation

AM: Carrion Point creates a sheltered lagoon with beautiful turquoise water. During this visit, you can snorkel and see a variety of fish, rays, and perhaps the harmless white-tip reef sharks. The point is on the north coast of Santa Cruz Island at the entrance of the Channel of Itabaca. Highlights include snorkeling with colorful fish, rays, and white-tip reef sharks.

After your morning excursion, you will be assisted to Baltra airport for your flight to the mainland.

Meals: (B)

Water splashing forming rainbow galapagos
Location
Return Home
Day
10 / 10
1 / 10

Accommodations

Cruises & Lodges

Petrel ship seen from the water level

Petrel

Stylish, luxury cruising aboard a chic catamaran designed to sail the waters of the Galapagos.
16 Guests
7 Cabins
View

Hotel Options

5 Star

Mama Cuchara

Quito
Boutique

Termas de Papallacta

Quito