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Bienvenidos a Ecuador! Upon arrival you will be met at the international airport and transferred to your hotel in Quito where the rest of the day is free for you to independently explore Quito or relax in your hotel.
Today enjoy a visit to downtown Quito and its architectural treasures on a private city tour. Quito’s UNESCO-listed colonial quarter is one of the largest and best-preserved in South America. Your stroll takes you through Independence Plaza, past the Cathedral and the Presidential Palace, and on to the temple of La Compañia de Jesús with its dazzling gilded interior and the impressive façade of the Monastery of San Francisco. Then continue to the Equatorial Monument, which marks the exact Middle of the World where you can stand with a foot on each hemisphere. Visit the Ethnographic Museum inside the monument, which shows the different Native American groups living in Ecuador.
Leaving Quito today on a shared touring basis your first stop will be Sangolqui, where a stop is made to explore the traditional Andean market, full of animals, produce and people: a great introduction to the Andean way of life. Onward we drive to Cotopaxi National Park, an ecological sanctuary of 88,920 acres that harbours the magnificent cone of the Cotopaxi Volcano. We continue along the Pan American Highway, up and down the slopes of the famous Avenue of the Volcanoes. Last stop, Urbina Train Station, high up at the foot of imposing Chimborazo Volcano where we can witness a magnificent sunset if the sky is clear. We then continue to the hotel in Rio Bamba.
Continuing with the group, depart early this morning for a dramatically scenic journey along ravines and river gorges, and Indian villages and cultivated fields, arriving to the small town of Alausí. Here you will board a train following the Devil’s Nose route, an 800-metre descent along zig-zagging railway line culminating at the Condor Puñuna museum run by the local Nizag community. The round trip brings you back to Alausí where you continue by coach to the Inca Fortress of Ingapirca. Enjoy lunch in the area before proceeding to Cuenca, the colonial jewel of the south.
Set above the grassy banks of the Río Tomebamba, Cuenca is an attractive mix of cobblestone streets, whitewashed buildings and handsome plazas. Today enjoy a tour of Plaza of San Sebastian, a colourful artisans market where you can pick up local handicrafts. The Museum of Modern Art features an impressive collection of contemporary fine art whilst nearby the main square is home to the imposing blue-domed Cathedral. Admire the city’s overhanging houses before stopping for lunch. In the afternoon visit a ceramics handicraft shop and the production of Panama hats at a local factory. Say goodbye to your tour group with a transfer to your hotel in Cuenca.
Today is a free day for you to explore Cuenca further independently.
We drive you to the airport in time for the flight to Guayaquil. Arriving here, our trusty local driver will assist you to your hotel.
Early this morning transfer (shared basis) to the airport for your flight to the Galápagos. Arriving on Baltra Island transfer to the dock to board the M/V Santa Cruz for an introductory briefing and lunch. Set sail for North Seymour Island for an amazing walk along the coast observing bird colonies of blue-footed boobies and swallow-tailed gulls. You’ll also spot sea lions and marine iguanas. Welcome cocktail and dinner on board.
Enjoy a coastal exploration of Isabela Island (Punta Vicente Rosa) on board a panga, a small watercraft, while the naturalist guide explains the dramatic geology of the area with remains of lava flows and tuff stone layers. Depending on the weather conditions it may be possible to do a bit of snorkelling along the cliffs of partly-sunken Ecuador Volcano, near the northern tip of the island. After lunch back on board continue to Punta Espinoza, the youngest island of the archipelago. A mile-long walk across dark lava will introduce you to the remarkable barrenness of the island and the surprising amount of native wildlife including sally light-foot crabs and hawks.
Exploration of Isabela Island continues today at the secluded Tagus Cove, a favourite anchorage for pirates and whalers over the centuries. Old graffiti can even be seen carved on the cove’s walls. A panga ride along the volcanic shore of the cove offers wildlife spotting opportunities and maybe even swimming and snorkelling. After lunch on board disembark at Urbina Bay, located at the foot of the Alcedo and Darwin volcanoes. Here you can find corals, shells and many other calcareous organisms exposed above water.
This morning visit the Charles Darwin Research Station, the headquarters of scientific investigation, conservation and the National Park administration in the Galápagos. Meet the giant tortoise residents and visit the impressive giant prickly-pear cactus forest, home to many land birds. The afternoon brings with it several different options for land and water based activities. Trek along trails amid miconia forest, mountain bike down to Garrapatero Beach, sea kayak or visit an organic coffee plantation. There’s also the option to spend the day SCUBA diving, at an additional cost.
Be part of a unique Galápagos tradition with a morning visit to Post Office Bay. After, explore the north shore of Floreana Island along narrow channels with a short walk to Baroness’s Lookout for amazing views of the island and a history lesson on the island’s first settlers. Enjoy a spot of swimming or snorkelling off a sandy beach before lunch. Continue snorkelling around the volcanic Champion Islet or stay dry aboard a glass-bottom boat. Later we land on the olivine-crystal beach at Cormorant Point. An easy walk brings you to a brackish water lagoon where greater flamingos, pintail ducks, common stilts and herons gather.
This morning disembark back at Baltra Island for your flight back to Quito. On arrival you will be transferred to your hotel where the rest of the day is free for you to enjoy at leisure or head out to La Mariscal for last-minute souvenir shopping.
This morning a 30 minute flight over the Andes Mountains leads you to the bustling oil town called Coca located in the Amazon Basin. From here, a bite to eat is followed by a boat trip to your lodge. This afternoon from the lodge enjoy a hike to and swim in Lake Pilchicocha.
Spend today and tomorrow hiking and canoeing in the forest with your expert guide taking in the fantastic canopy walkway and make stops for lunch and to learn about all the plants and animals of the forest.
Sadly your journey has reached its conclusion. Make your way back by boat to Coca where you will fly to the city of Quito. Arriving here, go ahead and collect your bags and make your way to check in for your flight home.