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Galapagos & Cotopaxi Expedition

A nature enthusiasts expedition featuring Cotopaxi, cloud forests, falls, and Galapagos wildlife.

Itinerary & Prices

14 Day / 13 Night - Galapagos & Cotopaxi Expedition
itinerary map

Arrival 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)

Quito Sky with birds flying
Location
Quito
Day
1 / 14

Rucu Pichincha & Teleferico

After breakfast, we are picked up for a day of exciting excursions around Quito.

Cable car ride:

We head to the eastern part of Quito and to the highest cable car in South America. At the ground station, we are at a height under 3000 meters (under 10,000 feet) and we venture up to over 4000 meters (13,000 feet) and the top of the Cruz Loma mountain from where we can see the true scale and magnificence of the Pichincha volcano. Local folklore tells the story of how the volcano watches over and cares for the city and this story really comes into its own when seen from the perspective of the viewing point. From this peak, we also got an amazing view of the city and on a clear day, you get especially fantastic views of Cayambe, Antisana, Cotopaxi, Pasochoa, Rumiñahui amongst other important mountains.

Hiking Rucu Pichincha:

This is our first hike, and is a relatively straightforward climb and acts as the perfect way to begin your acclimatization in preparation for your days ahead in the Andes. The trail is well marked and is a full-day excursion. We begin from the last stop on the cable car and take the meandering path as our guide stops to point out landmarks in the city and volcanoes and mountains as they come into view. Pichincha is the closest volcano to Quito and is still active, but don’t worry as it is not likely to erupt any time soon!

Meals (B, L)

hiking trail andes outside quito
Location
Quito
Day
2 / 14

Hiking Pasochoa

With heights rising to 4,200 meters (almost 14,000 feet) this is a challenge that will get our engines revving and is a gradual build-up to the second part of our adventure. The approach is not difficult, and our hike to the peak will take about 3 hours over grassland trails and a backdrop of dramatic mountainous scenery. From Pasochoa you will get a spectacular view of the mountains surrounding Quito, the striking views of the crater below, and the impressive surrounding mountain crests of Antisana, Sincholagua, Quilindaña, Cotopaxi, Rumiñahui, Corazón, and the twin Iliniza peaks.

The second part of our day consists of the descent to the Pedregal Valley, a downhill walk of about 3 hours through grassland, ending at the cozy Chilcabamba Lodge, situated at about 3,200 meters (10,500 feet) above sea level. The Chilcabamba Lodge is situated right on the edge of the Cotopaxi National Park and offers picturesque bike rides and short walks or horse treks to the Rio Pita and is one of the foremost ecolodges of Ecuador, with close ties to the local community.

Meals (B, L, D)

people hiking through high altitude grasslands
Location
Quito to Cotopaxi
Day
3 / 14

Cotopaxi Trail

Today we head to Cotopaxi National Park, one of Ecuador’s most important and interesting National Parks.
On a clear day, it is possible to see Cotopaxi’s peak from parts of Quito, but the views from the park itself offer a totally different type of experience.

The views of the snow-capped almost-symmetrical cone-like summit are truly awe-inspiring and present a truly breathtaking backdrop. The hike proper begins at the Rio Pita river which provides essential drinking water to hundreds of thousands of Quiteños (as Ecuador’s capital city residents are known); its source is the pristine glacial meltwater of Mt. Cotopaxi. The Pita’s rushing waters will accompany us throughout much of our adventure.
The hike enters Cotopaxi National Park and we head towards an archeological site called Pucara de Salitre, an area known for the plethora of migrant and resident Andean birds.

On the way keep your eyes peeled for the wild deer and llamas that make the park their home, as well as the gorgeous seasonal mountain wildflowers and breathtaking scenery. We end with a wonderfully rewarding view of Mt. Rumiñahui reflected in the pristine waters of the Pita river and to the other side spectacular views of Cotopaxi rising high over the skyline. During our adventure, we will stop to enjoy a picnic in the crisp alpine environment.

Meals (B, L, D)

Foggy hike through high altitudes ecuador
Location
Cotopaxi
Day
4 / 14

On the Snow Line

After a hearty breakfast, we set off from the lodge and drive in our private vehicle to the parking area of the Cotopaxi mountain refuge. We will then walk for approximately an hour with a visit to the mountaineers’ lodge the first stop on our agenda. Once there we take a second to admire the views before beginning the next stage of our day’s hiking, a walk to the edge of the glacier, a trip of approximately two hours.

Here we enjoy another quick stop to enjoy the views from the northern side of the mountain, which offers a spectacular panorama. At this point, it is interesting to identify (with the help of our guide) all the ground we have covered since the first day of our adventure: Quito, its valleys, the distant mountains in the north, and the road from Pasochoa, through the Pita canyon, to el Pedregal, Sincholagua, Rumiñahui, and the magnificent Limpiopungo valley.

The last stage of our day’s hiking is the descent, which will take approximately 2 hours, takes the same route back to the parking lot and we head to our hotel in Banos.

Meals (B, L, D)

Man swinging from tree swing banos
Location
Cotopaxi to Banos
Day
5 / 14

The Waterfalls 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, these waters are said to have huge health benefits and are rich in sulfates, sodium, calcium, chloride, and traces of magnesium which are odorless, colorless but have a slightly salty taste, and as such have been used throughout the centuries for healing and relaxation purposes by the local communities.

Meals (B, L, D)

water fall and swimming hole banos ecuador
Location
Banos
Day
6 / 14

A Journey Through the Clouds

Mindo is a village in the Andean cloud forests north of Quito. It is famous for its numerous species of birds, butterflies, and orchids (more than 370) found in the reserve. Along the route, we will visit a butterfly garden, where we will have the opportunity to observe numerous species, learning about the four stages of their life cycle. We will also see a rich collection of orchids, some with blossoms so small a magnifying glass can be required! It is not uncommon to observe hummingbirds buzzing around the area, jostling for a few moments at the feeders.

The lodge is located just outside the town of Mindo – recognized as a world-class bird-watching site by BirdLife International – and on arrival, you will be welcomed by your hosts who will show you to your rooms and offer a short informal introduction to the lodge and its nearby garden. The evening can be spent relaxing in preparation for the next day’s adventures

Meals (B, L, D)

Emerald Toucanet perched on a branch
Location
Banos to Mindo
Day
7 / 14

El Monte Ecolodge

The El Monte Ecolodge is one of the leading lodges in the world for birdwatching and hiking opportunities. It operates a list of a la carte excursions, meaning there is something for everyone, and if anything, you may struggle to decide what exactly to do first! Hiking excursions vary in length from the shortest of just an hour to day-long excursions. The lodge is situated between the town of Mindo and the Rio Mindo and the area houses some 500 species of bird and acts as a wintering home of many temperate species.

Other options available are horseback riding or rafting in Rio Mindo. Rafting in Rio Mindo has become something of a local pastime, and it is possible to raft all the way down to the Pacific Ocean from Mindo. At the El Monte lodge, we offer a much-abridged version of that epic journey, and all rafting is conducted with full safety gear and expert guides. The horseback riding begins on a dirt road that crosses the Rio Nambillo. From there, we pass through the countryside by horseback, and can eventually reach the Rio Cinto before returning home and enjoying a relaxing drink in one of the riverside hammocks.

Meals (B, L, D)

 

El monte lodge exterior in Mindo
Location
Mindo
Day
8 / 14

Returning to the Highlands

Today we are back in full hike mode, and the purpose of today’s walk is to scale and traverse the heights of the San Lorenzo Cordillera. This hike is a fantastic chance to catch a view of many birds and animals and offers another type of ecosystem from the cloud forest, meaning the possibility of viewing a few rare species.

Expect to see such spectacular birds as the Golden-headed Quetzal, Choco Toucan, Crimson Rumped Toucanet in their natural habitat as you venture out on the final hike of our itinerary.

Once we finish, we bid farewell to the head back to Quito and the hotel Wyndham. This hotel is comfortable and convenient and offers the perfect opportunity for a good night’s rest and its proximity to the airport means you will leave fully refreshed the next morning for your next exciting destination.

Meals (B)

Red eyed tree frog on branch
Location
Mindo to Quito
Day
9 / 14

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!

Upon arrival at Baltra Airport, you will pass through an airport inspection point to insure that no foreign plants or animals are introduced to the islands, as well as to pay the park entrance fee of $100 (unless it has been prepaid). A guide will meet you, help you collect your luggage, and escort you on a short bus ride to the harbor.

PM: Although the great majority of Galapagos visitors come here to observe and appreciate natural wonders, it is also interesting to learn how the protection and conservation of the islands are carried out. The main attractions are the National Park information center, the Van Staelens Exhibition Hall, the Breeding and Rearing Center for young tortoises, and adult Galapagos tortoises in captivity.

Meals: (B, L, D)

Treasure of the Galapagos boat
Location
Quito to Treasure Galapagos Cruise
Day
10 / 14

Sullivan Bay & Bartolome Island

AM: Santiago, also called James Island, is located in the western-central part of the Galapagos archipelago. It is the fourth largest island in the archipelago (following Isabela, Fernandina and Santa Cruz). Along with some of the large western volcanoes of Isabela and Fernandina, Santiago is also volcanically active, with many young flows and cones to be seen, particularly along the southern, western, and eastern coasts. These can even be seen from the summit of Darwin Volcano and from space. A number of large eruptions have been reported over the last 2 centuries. Santiago actually consists of two coalesced volcanoes: a typical shield volcano on the northwest end and a low, linear fissure volcano on the southeast end.

PM: Bartolomé Island is situated across Sullivan Bay. It has an altitude of 114 meters, from where we can observe one of the most beautiful sceneries of the Galapagos Islands such as: Volcanic cones, lunar-like craters, lava fields, and the famous Toba formed pinnacle eroded by the sea. There is very little vegetation on this island. It has two breathtaking beaches where marine turtles exist and at the base of the pinnacle, as well as a very small colony of Galapagos penguins.

Meals: (B, L, D)

Galapagos penguins on a rock
Location
Treasure Galapagos Cruise
Day
11 / 14

North Seymour Island & Mosquera Islet

AM: Seymour is an uplifted (as opposed to volcanic) island and therefore is generally flat and strewn with boulders. There are good nesting sites here for a large population of magnificent frigate birds. Blue-footed boobies perform their courtship dance in the more open areas and swallow-tailed gulls perch on the cliff edges. Despite the tremendous surf that can pound the outer shore, sea lions haul out onto the beach and can be found bodysurfing.

Do watch your step as the boobies don’t worry much about where they nest, and you might just step on one. The trees are dotted with male frigate birds trying to attract the attention of the ladies by inflating their bright red skin flaps. They sometimes fly in the air to call more attention to themselves. There’s a circular path that takes you through the island to a beautiful, rocky shore where the waves crash a silvery-blue.

PM: Mosquera Islet is located between Baltra and North Seymour. This is a small islet formed by a geological uplift, with a reef of rocks and coral and a great white sand beach, where lie a big population of sea lions. You can also observe several species of shorebirds. This site offers great snorkeling and swimming. Along the rocks it is common to see the Red Lava crabs and Sally light-foot crabs.

Meals: (B, L, D)

Pelican on the rocks next to tidal pool
Location
Treasure Galapagos Cruise
Day
12 / 14

South Plaza & Cerro Brujo

AM: South Plaza is located to the east of Santa Cruz Island, and forms part of a pair of islands known as “Islas Plazas”. Despite its small size, some of the most interesting and outstanding species of the Galapagos are found here. The Plaza’s land iguanas are smaller than their relatives found on other islands. Throughout the island, there are several hybrid iguanas, a result of crossing a marine iguana with a land iguana. They are unique and recognizable at first glance by their black/gray color, with a land iguana’s crest, but the face and tail of the marine iguana. The big population of iguanas is due to the presence of “tunas”, their favorite food. Swallow-tailed Gulls nesting in the rugged cliffs is seen along with other sea birds as Audubon shearwaters, red-billed tropicbirds, frigate birds, and brown pelicans.

PM: The primary attraction of this site is the coral sand beach. It is an excellent place to swim and snorkel. Cerro Brujo is the remains of a tuff cone. It is one of the first sites visited by Charles Darwin. Captain Fitzroy climbed to the top of the hill to scout out reefs. It has an impressive landscape, where it is often possible to see coastal and migratory birds, including pelicans, Blue-footed Boobies, and Swallow-tailed Gulls, as well as sea lions and marine iguanas. At times the lagoon is completely dry and deposits of salt may be found in the bottom. The people of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno used to use the lagoon as a salt mine.

Meals: (B, L, D)

South Plaza Island with cactus trees
Location
Treasure Galapagos Cruise
Day
13 / 14

Disembarkation

AM: The Galapagos National Park Visitor Center lies close to the port town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. The center explains a series of natural circumstances such as the volcanic origins of the islands, their remoteness from the continent, its ocean currents, its special climate, the arrival of different species, and their establishment, among others.

Afterward, you will be transferred to San Cristobal airport for your flight back to Guayaquil or Quito.

Meals: (B)

woman enjoying jacuzzi on treasure boat
Location
Return Home
Day
14 / 14
1 / 14

Accommodations

Cruises & Lodges

Treasure of Galapagos

A mega catamaran with private balconies and personal attention, perfect for special occasions.
16 Guests
9 Cabins
View

Hotel Options

5 Star

Mama Cuchara

Quito
Boutique

Chilcabamba Mountain Lodge

Cotopaxi
Boutique

Tambopaxi

Cotopaxi
Boutique

Sangay Spa

Baños
Boutique

El Monte Lodge

Mindo
5 Star

Wyndham Quito

Quito