Private Journeys

Family Ecuador and Galapagos

13 days from £6,530pp

Ecuador & Galapagos Islands / The Amazon

Itinerary

map marker Map

Day 1

Transfer to your hotel in the historic centre of Quito.

Transfer to your hotel in the historic centre of Quito, the Andean capital of Ecuador. The active volcano Guagua Pichincha, to the east, glowers over the dynamic city which, at 2,850m, is one of highest capital cities in the world. Quito is divided into two contrasting districts. The modern zone is characterised by towering glass buildings and houses banks, international companies, hotels, shops and restaurants, while the central colonial area has well-conserved and recently spruced-up white-washed architecture, open air markets and graceful Spanish-style mansions and churches.

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Day 2

Guided walking tour of colonial Quito.

This 2-3 hour walking excursion takes in the colonial highlights of Quito - the first city ever to be named a World Heritage Site. Narrow cobblestone streets are lined with whitewashed walls and rising above, the steeples and cupolas of the city's numerous spectacularly decorated historic churches. Walk through the main plaza, where you will see the Government Palace, the Cathedral and some of the most important churches built around the 16th and 17th centuries including the monastery of San Francisco and Basilica del Voto Nacional, most famous for its quirky gargoyles.

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Day 3

Fly to Coca in the Amazon and board your expedition boat Manatee.

Arriving in Amazonia is exotic and exciting enough, but imagine the thrill of boarding your expedition boat, the design of which is based on the old Amazon vessels which used to be the only form of communication between isolated riverside communities. The river's waters are too shallow to allow the MV Manatee to travel up to Coca itself so you will travel by motorised canoe to where the larger ship is anchored in deeper water.

You’ll get settled in your air conditioned cabins with private balcony and floor-to-ceiling picture windows. The boat then sets sail down the Napo river, one of the Amazon’s most important tributaries. Pop up to the observation deck  for spectacular views as you navigate downstream, and with a little luck you will be welcomed by one of the Amazon Basin’s amazing sunsets. After dinner, enjoy a nocturnal walk into the forest to discover the jungles nightlife -such a thrill for the children, and magical for adults as well. 

Day 4

Explore the Amazon jungle by canoe.

After breakfast, you climb into smaller craft for the first daylight close encounter of the tropical rainforest. Learn about the relationship between plants and animals as you spot birds flitting between the high rainforest trees. Later, Manatee navigates towards the heart of the Yasuni National Park along one of the most pristine water courses in the Ecuadorian Amazon. You can observe the many exotic plants and colourful birds which thrive in the Cuyabeno reserve. With luck you’ll see the star of the show, the pink river dolphin, ducking and diving alongside river turtles, black caiman and the enigmatic Amazonian anaconda.

The river bank vegetation is also home to red howler monkeys, the black tamarind monkey, three-toed sloth and leaf-eating bird known as the stinky turkey. A canoe trip upstream will reveal the overwhelming beauty of this aquatic jungle habitat. If feeling adventurous, you may also spend the night camping beside the river (at extra cost). 

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Day 5

Visit an indigenous Amazonian community.

The Amazon is not uninhabited, even if only 5% of the country’s population live there. You have the privilege of visiting one of the indigenous communities to meet the people and learn about their way of life, visit a school, talk to the children and learn about the educational system of a remote jungle community. 

Afterwards, navigate upstream watching the world go by, or participating in one of the on-board activities such as learning how to make fibre handicrafts or listening to a lecture by a naturalist guide about Amazon:  its culture, biodiversity, geology, oil resources and sustainability. Stop along the way to explore one of the largest river islands on the Napo river.

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Day 6

Climb and observation tower, visit a bird-filled biological reserve.

This morning you’ll climb a 30m observation tower for a bird’s eye view of the forest canopy as you look out across the verdant vastness of the Amazon Basin. Later visit the Limoncocha Biological Reserve, home to over four hundred species of birds. As night falls, there’s yet another adventure as you set out to seek out black caiman by torch light, spotting their livid red eyes reflecting the beam. Scary or what?

Day 7

Fly back to Quito and continue to your ranch in the Andean highlands.

It’s an early departure from the Manatee for your trip back to Coca by canoe and your return flight to Quito. From the airport you are whisked off to the northern Andean highlands, where the high-altitude grasslands, snow-dipped volcanoes and chilly, glassy lakes create a very different environment from what you have just lived through in the jungle.

You are staying at a grand old colonial hacienda, Zuleta, once the home of an Ecuadorian president. A working farm and ranch, it is famous for its stable of over 100 horses (you have the chance to ride; they are suitable for children and novices). It is renowned not only for its stable –there’s also a trout farm, orchards and a cheese-making facility. The property is also a participant in community projects and a condor rescue project – you may get to see one of these magnificent birds up close.

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Day 8

Optional activities from the hacienda.

You have a choice of activities today. You may wish to visit nearby Otavalo, a quintessential Andean town with a world famous market selling agricultural produce, household goods and artisan crafts. Depending on the day you are there, you may catch its livestock market too.  There are many other craft villages in the vicinity including Zuleta, where exquisite embroidery is produced.

Otherwise you can go walking, riding, or cycling in beautiful unspoilt Andean countryside. If the farm’s activities interest you, you might even have a go at milking a cow… 

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Day 9

Transfer to Quito and fly to the Galápagos Islands (around 2 hrs).

You are staying at Finch Bay, an award-winning hotel across the bay from Puerto Ayora, the Galápagos' main town on Santa Cruz Island. The amenities and facilities are pretty comprehensive and perfect for families: each room has air conditioning, wooden blinds, black out curtains, and a hairdryer. There’s a large pool, outdoor Jacuzzi, restaurant, bar and spacious sun terrace – it’s easy to settle in here!

View from Bartolome Island

Days 10-12

Explore the Galápagos on land and by boat.

There’s something here for everyone. Finch Bay offers an array of relaxing, active and expeditionary excursions including snorkelling, diving, sea kayaking, mountain biking, hiking and day trips by boat to other islands. Some activities are complimentary, others are charged locally, according to equipment used. Excursions will be timetabled when you are there.

Whatever you choose to do, the chance to meet right up close the trusting wildlife is always the highlight. Sea lions sprawl across the road in town and on the beaches, blue-footed boobies can be ogled from an arm’s length, and the undersea world pageant offers snorkellers a kaleidoscope of colour. Wrinkly iguanas, colourful and skittish Sally Lightfoot crabs add to the huge cast of characters in this theatre of wildlife. 

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Day 13

Fly back to the mainland and connect with your international flight.

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