Take a fantastic trip to Ecuador with a visit to the active Cotopaxi volcano and the mysterious Quilotoa crater lake. The adventure ends with island hopping in the magical Galapagos Islands.
Take a fantastic trip to Ecuador with a visit to the active Cotopaxi volcano and the mysterious Quilotoa crater lake. The adventure ends with island hopping in the magical Galapagos Islands.
Comprehensive package of excursions:
Ecuador is a relatively small South American country – but don’t let its size fool you! Ecuador houses a treasure trove of experiences including high mountains, active volcanoes, green crater lakes, exciting colonial history and indescribable wildlife on the magical Galapagos Islands.
In the capital city of Quito, you will enjoy your first encounter with the impressive Andes Mountains. The capital, which is located at an altitude of 2,850 metres, is surrounded by breathtaking mountains and volcanoes. You will stay in the UNESCO-listed Old Town, where you will discover the well-preserved colonial-era churches and buildings on a guided tour.
After that, Cotopaxi National Park awaits, where the 5,897-meter-high snow-capped cone volcano Cotopaxi towers in the midst of the landscape. You will also visit the fabulous Quilotoa crater lake, where the colour of the water varies according to its mineral content and the season.
The tour rounds off with 6 days of island hopping on the unique Galapagos Islands, where you will visit 3 different islands. Look forward to experiencing the cosy atmosphere of the islands and, of course, the breathtaking scenery and fascinating wildlife. Animals you may see include the huge Galapagos tortoise, sea lions, sea iguanas, land iguanas, reef sharks, sea turtles, flamingos and blue-footed boobies, to name but a few.
The tour heads to Quito, the capital of Ecuador, with connecting flight(s) on the way. Even before landing, you can admire Quito’s location in a beautiful valley at an altitude of 2,850 metres in the midst of the mighty Andes.
You will be picked up from the airport by an English-speaking driver/guide who will be holding up a sign with your name on it. He will drive you to your hotel, which is centrally located in the Old Town. The drive takes around 1 hour but, as in all other major cities, this depends on the traffic.
You have the afternoon to yourself to relax after the long flight or to go for a little walk in the Old Town. Remember to take it easy and drink a lot of water so your body can slowly acclimatise to the altitude.
Look forward to a guided tour of the historic district, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which offers a treasure trove of architectural gems from the colonial era.
The Spanish arrived in Quito, then a wealthy Inca city, in 1526. When the Inca general Rumiñahui realised it was a battle that could not be won, he decided to lay waste to the entire city to ensure there was nothing left of value for the Spanish. The Quito (formally San Francisco de Quito) you will visit on today’s guided tour was founded in 1534 on top of the remains of the old city by Spanish Lieutenant Sebastián de Benalcázar.
The tour starts with a visit to Plaza de la Independencia (Independence Square), which is surrounded by 4 important buildings: The Presidential Palace, the Government Building, the Archbishop’s Palace, and the Metropolitan Cathedral of Quito.
You will also visit the famous La Compañía Church, the inside of which is decorated with the purest gold leaf, and Quito’s oldest church, Iglesia San Francisco.
From the Old Town, you drive up Panecillo hill, where the 45-metre-high aluminium statue called Virgen del Panecillo stands, and from which you enjoy a beautiful view of the city. You then continue to the northern part of the city where the equator is located, which the country is named after. Ecuador means equator in Spanish.
The area around the equator is known by the Ecuadorians as La Mitad del Mundo, which translated means “the centre of the world”. The 30-metre-high Equator Monument stands here, which you can climb and look out over the area. There are lots of exhibitions, a small planetarium, a cocoa museum, a brewery, and lots of stalls selling food and souvenirs here. It has become a something of a crowd-puller and a pleasant destination for the locals, too.
The location of the equator monument has proved to be a little off due to inaccurate measurement methods in the olden days. A few 100 metres from La Mitad del Mundo is the cosy little Intinãn Museum, which according to GPS is in the correct location. At the museum, you can try out fun experiments testing the earth’s gravity and magnetic forces.
On the tour, you’ll also have the chance to visit the characteristic 115-metre-high basilica, the Basílica del Voto Nacional, which is built in neo-Gothic style and is the largest of its kind in the Americas.
After the city tour, you will be driven back to your hotel, and the rest of the day is yours to do as you please.
There are no activities planned for today, so you can explore more of the beautiful capital on your own or purchase an extra excursion.
On a clear day, we recommend taking the 2.5-kilometre-long cable car called TelefériQo up to Cruz de Loma, a lookout point at an altitude of 4,100 metres on the Pichincha volcano. From here, you enjoy a fantastic panoramic view of the city with the surrounding mountains and volcanoes forming a beautiful backdrop.
If your body is not yet fully acclimatised to the altitude, you can visit the cosy botanical garden, Jardín Botánico de Quito, instead and explore all the exciting plants and flowers.
You also have the option of purchasing an excursion to the misty cloud forest in Mindo, which is famous for its profusion of birds, with more than 500 species registered there.
Another day trip you can purchase takes you to the cosy town of Otavalo, where many of the old traditions are still upheld by the townspeople. The town is known for its colourful indigenous market where you can buy fine hand-woven scarves, ponchos and blankets in all the colours of the rainbow. The drive to and from Otavalo takes you through the beautiful Andean landscape with scenic lakes and towering volcanoes.
New adventures await you today in Cotopaxi National Park. From Quito, you head south along the beautiful Avenida de los Volcanes, which is surrounded by beautiful nature with lush green mountains with crops and grazing cows. On either side of the road, the volcanoes come one after another, and if you’re lucky, the Cotopaxi volcano will also peep out from behind the clouds to reveal its beautiful cone shape and snow-capped peak.
When you arrive at the national park, your guide will take you on a walk around Lake Limpiopungo, which is located at an altitude of 3,850 metres. The guide will tell you about the area’s interesting flora and fauna and about the exciting myths and legends about Cotopaxi and the other big volcanoes in the area. In the national park, there is a chance you will see brocket deer, Andes foxes, wild horses and the guanaco, which is related to the llama. Rarer animals that live here include pumas and spectacled bears.
After the tour, you will be driven to your accommodation in Pedregal, located just outside the national park.
To truly experience and enjoy the wonderful Andean landscape, you enjoy today on your own at the cosy Hacienda El Porvenir, where you spent the night.
You can choose to go for a walk in the area along marked trails or participate in some of the activities offered by the hotel. These include horseback riding, mountain biking and cooking classes. The hotel also has its own day spa where you can treat yourself to wellness treatments and relaxing massages.
The tours are conducted by local Spanish speaking staff, but instruction in, for example, horse riding, is given in English before departure, so you don’t need to be able to speak Spanish.
All activities are booked and paid for locally when you arrive at the hotel. However, the horseback ride is so popular that we recommend you purchase it from home.
The tour continues through the mountainous landscape to the fabulous Quilotoa crater lake. The lake is located at the top of the Quilotoa volcano and is approx. 250 metres deep, with a diameter of around 3 km. The colour of the water in the lake can change from completely turquoise to almost yellow, depending on the season and the mineral content of the water. The water in the lake cannot be drunk for the same reason.
You have the opportunity to walk down to the lake via a marked zigzag path. It takes around 30 minutes to walk down, but it can take up to 2 hours to walk up the steep path again. For an additional fee, you can hire a donkey to bring you back up to the top if it gets too hard. You can also choose to stay at the top and enjoy the absolutely stunning panoramic views of the area and the picturesque lake.
After lunch, you head back to Quito. On the way, a stop is made in the small town of Tigua, which is known for producing fine Ecuadorian paintings and masks.
You are back in Quito in the evening, where you will be staying a little way outside the city, close to the airport, so you don’t have to get up too early the next day when you leave for Galapagos.
Today sees the start of the second part of your tour, which takes you in the footsteps of Charles Darwin to the magical Galapagos Islands, where unique nature and wildlife experiences await you.
In 1831, the young Charles Darwin embarked on a journey that would change his life as a scientist. In the Galapagos Islands, he discovered that the finches were different to those back home. Could it be that they had the same ancestor but had gradually evolved to adapt to the environment in which they lived? The theory began to form in his head, and his work On the Origin of Species is still considered to be the most important contribution to the understanding of biological evolution.
You will be picked up from your hotel and driven to the airport, where you will be required to pay 20 USD (cash) for a Transit Control Card before you can check in. The flight to Galapagos takes around 2.5 hours.
Upon your arrival at Baltra Airport in Galapagos, you will be required to pay an entry fee of 100 USD (cash). Your guide will be waiting for you outside the airport, and you will take the bus together down to the Itabaca Channel, where a boat will take you across to the main island, Santa Cruz. The ticket for the bus and boat is payable in cash (6 USD).
The first stop is at Los Gemelos, which is also known as the twin craters. However, it is a bit of a misleading name, as they are not craters, but two massive sinkholes. Here, you will experience a profusion of birds in the lush forest of sunflower trees (scalesia).
You will then meet the huge Galapagos Tortoise, which lives in the wild around the Hacienda Primicias ranch. It is a wild experience getting right up close to the large animals that slowly move around the landscape and spend most of the day eating and sleeping. The tortoises can live to the age of 100 and weigh more than 250 kg.
Lunch is enjoyed at the ranch, and afterwards, you’ll head down into one of the spectacular lava tunnels which Galapagos is famous for. All of the Galapagos Islands are created by volcanic activity, and your guide will provide fascinating information about the islands.
The tour ends at Charles Darwin Research Station, which is located in the port of Puerto Ayora.
The station was established in 1964 for research and educational purposes. Here, you will be given an introduction to the unique flora and fauna of the Galapagos Islands as well as an exciting insight into the many important projects that scientists, biologists and volunteer helpers are involved with to protect the fragile nature of the islands.
You have the evening to yourself to explore the pleasant port of Puerto Ayora, which is the largest city of Galapagos with approx. 20,000 inhabitants. It buzzes with life here along the city’s main street Avenida Charles Darwin, which runs along the waterfront and is lined with shops, cafés and great restaurants.
Look forward to more nature experiences on an exciting full-day boat trip to one of the nearby islands. As the local authorities decide which islands are open to visitors to protect the vulnerable nature, we can’t guarantee which island you will be visiting. But we can guarantee that it will be a wonderful nature experience, no matter which of the 4 islands below you visit.
The day before, your guide will inform you of the meeting place and time of your excursion. Transportation to and from the meeting place is not included as it is within walking distance of your hotel in Puerto Ayora.
North Seymour (Seymour Norte):
North Seymour is located north of Santa Cruz, and you will be driven from Puerto Ayora up to the Itabaca Channel, from which you will sail out to the island – a trip of around 45 minutes.
If the excursion takes you to North Seymour, you can look forward to seeing large colonies of frigate birds and blue-footed boobies, which like to nest here. You will always have a skilled nature guide with you who tells about the island’s flora and fauna, and on this island, you can experience varied wildlife, including many different sea birds, sea lions and land and sea iguanas.
On the way back to Santa Cruz, you will stop at the beautiful isolated beach, Playa Las Bachas, where you can snorkel in the clear water and experience life beneath the waves. Near the beach is a small lagoon inhabited by flamingos.
South Plaza (Plaza Sur):
South Plaza is located on the eastern side of Santa Cruz and is one of the smallest islands in the Galapagos archipelago. Despite its size, the island is home to a large number of animal species and known for its unique flora.
Pretty much wherever you look on South Plaza, you will be able to see fig cacti as well as the plant sesuvium edmonstonei, which can only be found on Galapagos. The island is also home to land iguanas, and you might be able to spot one waiting in the shade of a fig cactus for its fruit to fall to the ground. At the water’s edge, you are in with a chance of seeing sea lions and seabirds such as dovetail gulls and red-billed tropicbirds.
Before your arrival in South Plaza, you will stop at Punta Carrion, which is a great place for snorkelling. Here, you may be lucky enough to see rays, sea lions and whitetip reef sharks.
Bartolomé is one of the most beautiful islands in the Galapagos archipelago. It has a unique landscape painted in shades of red, orange, green and black, and is famous for the pointed volcanic rock named Pinnacle Rock.
From Puerto Ayora, you will be driven up to the Itabaca Channel, and from here, there is a 2-hour boat ride to the small island, which is located north of Santa Cruz. Accompanied by your nature guide, you will hike to the top of the island from which you can enjoy the stunning panoramic views of the volcanic landscape, the neighbouring island of Santiago and Pinnacle Rock.
After the hike, you can relax on the white sandy beach or go snorkelling and enjoy the fantastic marine life with a chance of encountering colourful fish, sea turtles, whitetip reef sharks and perhaps even spot the Galapagos penguin, the second smallest penguin in the world, found only in Galapagos.
Santa Fé is located south-east of Santa Cruz, and from Puerto Ayora, you have a 1.5-hour boat ride out to the island, where you will be welcomed by a large sea lion colony on the white sandy beach.
The landscape here is also bedecked with fig cacti and sesuvium edmonstonei, and you will also be able to see the greyish tree palo santo, the Spanish name of which means “holy wood”. A lot of different bird species live here, both land and sea birds, and the island is known for the Santa Fé land iguana.
Lunch is enjoyed back on the boat, and then it’s time for snorkelling in the clear water where beautiful colourful fish await you. One of today’s absolute highlights is swimming with the curious and playful sea lions.
There are many different things to do in Puerto Ayora, and you have the day today on your own in the town. You might like to go scuba diving or rent a bike and explore the island if you feel the need to be active.
You can also just stroll around Puerto Ayora and experience the life around the small fish market on Avenida Charles Darwin, often visited by hungry and curious sea lions and pelicans. Down at the pier, the water is awash with colourful crabs, rays and whitetip reef sharks, as well as sea iguanas on the rocks.
We highly recommend packing your backpack, lacing your walking boots and walking out to the beautiful beach, Tortuga Bay. From the south-western part of Puerto Ayora, a paved path leads to the beach. The walk takes around 45 minutes each way. Tortuga Bay is very popular with surfers, but if you want to swim in calmer water, you should continue to the end of the beach (around 2.5 km), where the picturesque Playa Mansa beach is located in a small lagoon surrounded by mangrove forest. You can relax here or rent a kayak and paddle around in search of sea turtles and sea iguanas which live in the lagoon.
Please note that there are no facilities out here, so be sure to bring plenty of water, food and sunscreen for the whole day.
This morning, your Galapagos adventure continues to the neighbouring island of Isabela. The boat to Isabela departs from the pier in Puerto Ayora, which is a few minutes’ walk from your hotel. A guide will meet you at your hotel and accompany you to the boat. You will be required to carry your own luggage. The crossing takes around 2 hours.
Covering an area of 4,640 km2, Isabela is the largest island in the Galapagos archipelago and it is also where you will find the highest point of the islands, the 1,707-metre-high Wolf Volcano. Only a couple of thousand inhabitants live on the island, however, and you can look forward to unwinding as a truly relaxed island atmosphere prevails here.
Upon your arrival in Isabela, you will be required to pay a harbour tax of 10 USD (cash). A driver will meet you and drive you the short distance to your hotel in the main town, Puerto Villamil.
In the afternoon, an exciting excursion to one of the island’s wetlands awaits, where you may get to see flamingos and other interesting birds such as the black-winged stilt, the moorhen and the white-cheeked pintail.
You will also visit the historic Muro de las Lágrimas (The Wall of Tears), which is a 25-metre-high wall built by prisoners from the island’s former penal colony between 1945 and 1959. The name came from the hard toil that caused prisoners to cry from the pain and unfortunately also cost many lives.
A stop is also made at the beautiful Playa del Amor beach, where large groups of sea iguanas often lie basking in the sun after hunting for food in the sea.
The last stop on today’s excursion is at the Arnaldo Tupiza Tortoise Breeding Centre, where volunteers work to increase the tortoise population on the island. You will see hundreds of cute tortoises here, from the newly hatched to the huge Galapagos tortoises weighing several hundred kilos.
In the evening, you can stroll through the town, the main street of which is a sand track, and enjoy your dinner at one of the cosy little restaurants.
Today, there are no activities planned in advance. You can rent a bicycle and explore the island yourself or simply relax at one of the many beautiful beaches.
You could also purchase a hike to the 1,124-metre-high Sierra Negra Volcano. This shield volcano has one of the largest volcanic craters in the world with a diameter of over 9.5 km.
Just off Puerto Villamil are the small Las Tintoreras islands, a popular snorkelling spot. The crevices in the rocks are home to reef sharks, sea lions, penguins and sea turtles. So if you haven’t yet had your fill of Galapagos’ unique underwater life, we highly recommend this tour.
Your Galapagos adventure has come to an end, and early this morning, you will head back to the mainland to Ecuador’s largest city, Guayaquil.
You will be picked up from the hotel and driven to the port of Puerto Villamil and sail back to Santa Cruz. Upon your arrival in Santa Cruz, an English-speaking rep will pick you up, drive you to the Itabaca Channel and sail with you across to the airport island, Baltra, from which you will take the bus to the airport. The flight from Baltra to Guayaquil takes around 1.5 hours.
Guayaquil is Ecuador’s commercial and financial centre. The city has more than 2 million inhabitants, but despite its size, it manages to charm its guests with beautiful cathedrals, cobbled streets and a cosy harbour promenade, Malecón 2000, overlooking the Guayas River.
On your arrival, you will be picked up at the airport and driven to your hotel. The rest of the day is yours to do as you please.
Your tour has come to an end, and today your journey home to the UK begins. Depending on your flight departure, you may have some time on your own in the morning in the city before being picked up and driven to the airport.
If you haven’t already visited the old town of Las Peñas, we highly recommend it. The cityscape here is characterised by cobbled streets, colourful buildings and cosy restaurants. A 444-step staircase leads you up from the harbour promenade to the district, which is situated on the top of a hill. If you have any energy left, you can continue up to the city’s lighthouse and enjoy a magnificent 360-degree panoramic view of the entire city.
A stroll through the Parque Seminario park is also recommended. The park is better known as Parque de las Iguanas (“Iguana Park”) and received this name due to the many colourful land iguanas that live here. You may even get to share a bench with one of these dragon-like animals.