For those who want to see and experience more of Ecuador, this 16-day Avenue of the Volcanoes & Galápagos tour is the perfect opportunity. Explore volcanoes, immerse yourself in the arts and crafts of the Andes, discover archaeological and historic sites, and experience the unique nature and beauty of the Galápagos Islands on a spectacular cruise.
Avenue of the Volcanoes Tour
Your tour begins in the populous capital city of Quito. Here you will explore the famous colonial center, indulge in a unique chocolate excursion, and visit the equatorial line just to the north. Then it’s on to the most famous and prominent volcano in Ecuador.
Once you arrive at Cotopaxi National Park, you’ll explore and learn about this incredible geological feature, which is part of the complex of volcanoes on the Ring of Fire. Visit the surrounding small towns and authentic, indigenous markets before approaching the next volcano crater, Quilotoa, and its mysterious natural green lake.
As the tour continues, you’ll discover majestic Andean landscapes filled with native llamas and alpacas and explore mysterious archaeological sites. You’ll also enjoy stops in local art galleries full of Andean folklore influences.
The Andes people are known for their many crafts and handiworks, such as textiles and leatherwear, so you’ll discover these first-hand along the Craftman’s Trail. Visit workshops, including ones specializing in musical instruments or traditional jewelry-making as well.
The next destination is Cuenca, one of the most beautiful cities in all of Ecuador. Enjoy a day exploring this city and learning its history before heading back to Quito.
Galápagos Islands Adventure
After the incredible mainland tour of Ecuador, it’s time to move on to the islands of Galápagos for a nature and wildlife extravaganza! A quick flight from Quito to Baltra brings you to the islands for incredible experiences starting immediately. After spending the day exploring, you’ll board the Mary Anne, your floating accommodations for the next seven nights.
The Mary Anne is a 216-foot sailing vessel, complete with tall sails and a deep draft. Climb aboard and feel like you’re back in the days of pirates and the great explorers. Settle into your choice of either a Single or Double Cabin, each with its own hot water bathroom and air-conditioning for added comfort. Then roam the ship and stretch out on the sun deck, relax in the lounge, or settle in to read for a spell in the library. You’ll enjoy the best of modern cuisine in the dining area, including fresh, local seafood dishes prepared by the Ecuadorian chef on board.
Your cruise will sail through the enchanted islands, stopping to visit several of them, including Floreana, Isabela, Fernandina, Santiago, and North Seymour. Each one offers something unique to experience, so you won’t want to miss any of them.
See giant tortoises and learn about their journey. Explore pirate hideouts, and look for flamingos, sea lions, penguins, and red-footed boobies. Hike inland to see land iguanas or stroll along pristine beaches of white or volcanic dark sand. The waters surrounding Galápagos are the second largest marine reserve in the world, so stay on the lookout for whales, dolphins, colorful fish, and maybe even a shark or two.
The fun continues with thrilling panga rides, snorkeling various sites, and exploring volcanic landscapes, including craters and lava tunnels. On the last morning of your cruise, you’ll visit the home of a large sea lion colony before disembarking and flying back to the mainland with a memory full to the brim with moments to treasure for a lifetime.
Itinerary & Prices
Arrival in 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.
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)
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)
Indigenous Markets and Quilotoa Lake
Today we will visit Indian markets in the towns of either Saquisili, Pujili, Zumbahua, or Latacunga. These markets are almost completely untouched by outside influences and maintain their authenticity. Acting as the hub of the local society, as they have done for centuries, indigenous markers form the cornerstone of the social, economic, and cultural worlds of the Andes. From there, we visit the Quilotoa volcano crater, famous for the natural green lake that sits mysteriously in the crater. Here we have the option of a short walk – about 1.7 km – along the crater’s rim.
On the way back, we will stop to visit the art galleries in the community of Tigua, where we will be able to appreciate the paintings representative of the folklore of this special part of the Andes. The brightly colored unique style of the region’s painters, currently the third generation, has transcended local boundaries and is now internationally renowned. These days there are a lot of painters in Tigua, but Julio Toaquiza was the first and is still number one. We will visit Julio in his studio, and you will be able to see why his work is appreciated by museums and collectors worldwide for the bright colors, the meticulous detail, and the stories his paintings tell of life high up in the Andes
Meals (B, L, D)
Chimborazo, land of Llamas
No picture of the Andes is complete without the graceful figures of the native llamas, alpacas, guanacos, and vicuñas. These creatures, highly adapted to arid high altitudes, are both charismatic and graceful. From Riobamba, we enjoy majestic Andean landscapes as we make our way through the region.
Our destination is the local community of Palacio Real, which is dedicated to preserving the habitats in which the aforementioned creatures thrive. Here we will learn more about these curious camelids, and the various ways in which we can help ensure their survival.
Meals (B, L, D)
Ruins of Ingapirca
Today we transfer from Riobamba towards Cuenca, and en route have a few interesting sites to visit.
home to what is arguably the most famous archeological site in Ecuador, Ingapirca. Thought to be an observatory and fortress, this location is where the emperor and his entourage would rest during trips to the northern segment of the empire. The site was constructed from perfectly carved stone, joined seamlessly without the use or mortar.
The Devils Nose:
The biggest complication faced by the construction of the Trans-Andean railroad was the Devil’s Nose, a mountain with almost perpendicular walls. To overcome this obstacle, a zigzag railroad was built that climbs more than 500 meters in less than 12 km with steep ascents and descents. It today remains an impressive piece of engineering. From the Pistishi viewpoint, we will have a spectacular view of this feat, and the surrounding countryside.
Meals (B, L)
The Craftsman's Trail
One of the most interesting things in South America, and particularly in the Andean region is the abundance of fantastic local craftsmen. Many regions have whole styles of textiles and leatherwear unique to their culture and Ecuador truly is a country of artisans. Two such places are the towns of Gualaceo and Chordeleg, and these near neighbors are located just 45 minutes east of Cuenca. In these traditional settlements set in beautiful Andean landscapes, we will meet families who are still making textiles the way the “Cañaris” (the pre-Inca inhabitants) did more than 500 years ago.
Among the other workshops, we visit are a traditional jewelry workshop, a musical instrument workshop where regional variations on the guitar are a specialty. Guitars are a specialty of this area, so much so that the area is known as the ‘Guitar Trail’. We also make a visit to a ‘Chola Cuencana’ who stills makes her straw hats in the traditional manner, following centuries of knowledge that have passed from generation to generation. Along the way, we will have the opportunity to visit an orchid farm that houses more than 2,000 species of orchids, and also stop by a market selling fruit, traditional food, and artisanal goods.
Meals (B, L)
Cuenca's Historical Center
A walking tour of Cuenca:
Cuenca is considered by many to be the most beautiful city in Ecuador. One of the first things to notice when entering Cuenca is the magnificent skyline marked by brilliant church domes. Cuenca’s winding rivers, graceful ironwork balconies, and beautiful gardens are part of the pleasant atmosphere of this historic city, declared a Cultural Heritage site by UNESCO in December 1999.
After your tour, you are transferred to the airport for your flight to Quito. You will overnight at the airport hotel for convenience as you fly tomorrow to the Galapagos islands!
Meals (B, L)
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!
After arriving at Baltra airport we will be greeted by a cruise representative and then board a bus that will take us to Puerto Ayora for the first visit to the islands. Please keep in mind that this itinerary starts right after you arrive at the islands. If possible, please wear clothes comfortable enough for a visit to the highlands of Santa Cruz Island: comfortable shoes, a hat for the sun, pants or shorts.
PM: After arriving at the Fausto Llerena Tortoise Breeding Center we will see tortoises from different islands. The animals are found in large semi-natural pens for their protection, but also to ensure an easy view for the tourists. The pens are divided according to four different stages: eggs, neonates, juveniles (held here until they are mature enough to be “repatriated”), and adults.
Afterward, we will head back to Puerto Ayora, where we will have some time to explore the town and shops by ourselves before boarding the Mary Anne at around 17:00. Once onboard, we will be welcomed by the crew and captain, have a short security drill, and enjoy dinner and the briefing for the next day’s activities.
Meals: (B, L, D)
Punta Cormorant, Devil’s Crown & Post Office Bay
AM: We spend the day on Floreana, the legendary homestead of infamous Baroness Eloise Von Wagner de Bousquet. Wet landing onto the olivine beaches of Punta Cormorant; we will be seeking Greater Flamingos on our way to another special beach with the finest sand you’ll set your foot on, a sea turtle nesting ground where sharks and rays also visit regularly. We end the outing on a short panga ride to Devil’s Crown, a key snorkeling site.
PM: After lunch, we will visit Post Office Bay where you can drop your postcards in the barrel as the whalers did centuries ago.
Meals: (B, L, D)
Black Beach & Asilo de la Paz
AM: This morning we will visit Floreana Island ́s Black Beach to learn about the intriguing human history of the island and its first inhabitants. Floreana was the first island in the archipelago to be inhabited since it has one of the very few freshwater sources.
We will visit this freshwater source known as Asilo de La Paz, as well as the caves that served as hideouts for pirates and where the first Galapegueño was born, according to the stories of Floreana, which involve the infamous Baroness Eloise Wagner von Bousquet and her lovers who mysteriously began to disappear after settling on the island.
PM: After our visit, we will have the best opportunity for a not‐so‐common yet well beloved activity in the archipelago, full afternoon navigation to look for whales and dolphins. The waters of the Galapagos form the second largest marine reserve in the world very rich in wildlife.
The biggest representatives of the underwater fauna are the different species of whales and dolphins found here. We will navigate from Floreana to Isabela Island while looking for these fascinating creatures, which are commonly seen in this area. This afternoon is completed by the impressive landscapes of Isabela and the Cerro Azul volcano.
Meals: (B, L, D)
Punta Moreno & Urbina Bay
AM: We arrive at Isabela, the largest island in the Galapagos. After breakfast, we step ashore at Punta Moreno onto a superb pahoehoe lava flow surrounded by giant shield volcanoes, some still active! From here we will do a short hike to a lagoon where flamingos are usually present.
PM: We disembark at Urbina Bay (wet landing) onto a black sand beach, a nesting site for green sea turtles. We take a brief hike inland in search of land iguanas and giant tortoises (seasonal) that migrate to and from the highlands. At the beach, we will admire the remains of a geological uplift exposing coral heads and marine fossils and if the sea conditions and time are on our side, we will also snorkel in these waters.
Meals: (B, L, D)
Tagus Cove & Espinosa Point
AM: Dry landing near Tagus Cove, a historic pirate hideaway where names of countless ships are recorded for posterity on the cliff face. Hike through beautiful Galapagos landscapes to Darwin Lake, a salt-water crater lagoon surrounded by tuff stone.
PM: We cross Bolivar Channel to Fernandina Island, one of the world’s most unspoiled sites, and disembark at Punta Espinosa. Strolling along the shoreline, we will be on the lookout for Flightless Cormorants, Galapagos sea lions, Galapagos penguins and hawks, sooty-colored marine iguanas, and bright red-orange Sally Lightfoot Crabs.
Meals: (B, L, D)
Puerto Egas, Bucaneer Cove & Espumilla Beach
AM: At Puerto Egas, we disembark on a dark sand volcanic beach with an interesting history of human settlement. Sleepy Galapagos fur seals lounge under arches of lava carved by the ocean and occasionally dip into the crystalline pools, also known as “grottos”. Walk along the shore and observe the abundant marine life.
PM: At Buccaneer Cove we will take a panga ride around the beautiful coastline. This place got its name because it used to be a refuge for British Buccaneers during the time they would anchor here to collect supplies and clean their ships among other activities. The cove is very scenic with views of the cliffs and a dark beach. Do not forget to look for two unusual rock formations known as ‘the monk’ and ‘elephant rock’.
After three days of exploring the fabulous western islands, we head to central Santiago to disembark at Espumilla onto a golden-colored sand Green Sea Turtle nesting site. A forest trail will take us through some of the largest specimens of Palo Santo on the islands to observe Yellow Warblers, the unbelievably tame Galapagos Flycatcher, and the ever-intriguing Darwin’s finches.
Meals: (B, L, D)
Sullivan Bay & North Seymour Island
AM: We head across to Sullivan Bay in Santiago to walk over a recent lava flow, including very fresh pahoehoe lava formations, lava bubbles containing crystallized minerals, and pioneer plants. Along the shoreline, we may find Galapagos penguins and herons going after small fish.
PM: Disembark on North Seymour, a small uplifted island, where we will walk right up to bird nesting colonies of the two species of Frigatebirds, Blue-footed Boobies, and Swallow-tailed Gulls, and experience, depending on the season, spectacular displays.
Meals: (B, L, D)
AM: Mosquera is a small islet located between Baltra Island and North Seymour measuring about 160 meters across and 600 meters long. It is home to one of the largest sea lion colonies and is also a haven for shorebirds. Orcas occasionally come to the islet to feed on the sea lions.
After this visit, the ship will sail to Baltra where passengers ending their trip will disembark and passengers beginning their cruise will join us on board.