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Family Ecuador and Galapagos

13 days from £5,066pp

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Family Ecuador and Galapagos:
Trip Dossier

Tiny Ecuador is a perfect destination for families. The country is compact and easy to get around, so journeys tend to be short and scenic. Sitting at the crossroads of the equator and the high Andes, Ecuador encompasses an extraordinary diversity of geography and climate. Here your family will have a truly exotic and educational experience, with lots of fun built in, mind boggling landscapes and trusting wildlife.

Quito sits amid a bowl of snow-capped mountains and volcanoes and is the capital of Ecuador. You get to explore the old city and also to spend a couple of days in the highlands, staying at a hacienda (ranch) dating back to Spanish colonial times, from which you can explore the prairies on foot or on horseback.

Between these adventures you travel to Ecuador’s Amazonia  - it  sounds remote but in fact it is easily reached. Your family has a unique opportunity to spend a few days on a cruise following the jungle-fringed banks of the Napo, a major tributary of the vast Amazon river.

 Fly to the Galápagos Islands, but instead of taking a conventional cruise you will stay on one of the main islands, Santa Cruz, close to the town of Puerto Ayora with its many facilities. You can choose from a menu of optional guided explorations offering plenty of opportunities to marvel at the giant tortoises, swim and snorkel with sea-lions and eyeball prehistoric-looking iguanas.

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Transfer to your hotel in the historic centre of Quito.

Day 2

Guided walking tour of colonial Quito.

Day 3

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

Day 4

Explore the Amazon jungle by canoe.

Day 5

Visit an indigenous Amazonian community.

Day 6

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

Day 7

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

Day 8

Optional activities from the hacienda.

Day 9

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

Days 10-12

Explore the Galápagos on land and by boat.

Day 13

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

Detailed itinerary

Day 1

Transfer to your hotel in the historic centre of Quito.
 
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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quito

Day 2

Guided walking tour of colonial Quito.
 
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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quito

Day 3

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

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Manatee

Day 4

Explore the Amazon jungle by canoe.
 
manatee daytime 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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manatee daytime canoe

Day 5

Visit an indigenous Amazonian community.
 
manatee family

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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manatee family

Day 6

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

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?

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manatee observation tower

Day 7

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

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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Zuleta Valley

Day 8

Optional activities from the hacienda.
 
Zuleta Valley

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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Zuleta Valley

Day 9

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

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!

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Finch Bay

Days 10-12

Explore the Galápagos on land and by boat.
 
Blue Footed Booby

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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Blue Footed Booby

Day 13

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

Essential information

Transport

4 flights (longest 2hrs); 2 motorised river canoe rides (90 mins each); 2 road journeys, less than 2hrs each..

Accommodation

This holiday incorporates a small mid-range hotels with character in Quito,  a countryside lodge, a mid-range Amazon expedition vessel and a smart family-friendly hotel with many facilities in the Galápagos Islands. .

Meals

Breakfast daily, full board days 3-12.

Guides

We carefully select our local partners, some of whom we have worked with for over 30 years. Their English-speaking guides understand the expectations of our clients very well, and are consistently singled out for praise by the latter on their return.

Included excursions

• Walking tour of Old Quito. 
• All excursions from the Manatee river boat. 
• Activities from Hacienda Zuleta in the Andean highlands..
• Activities from your hotel Finch Bay in the Galápagos Islands. 
• Swimming and snorkelling around the Galápagos Islands.

Summary of nights

13 days, 12 nights: Quito 2; Amazon cruise 4; Otavalo 2; Quito 1; Galápagos: Santa Cruz Island 4.

Included in the journey price

• Services of our team of experts in our London office.
• Services of Journey Latin America local representatives and guides.
• All land, river and air transport within Latin America.
• Accommodation as specified.
• Meals as specified.
• Excursions as specified.

Not included in the journey price

• International flights to Latin America.
• Tips and gratuities.
• Meals other than specified.
• Airport taxes, when not included in the ticket.
• Optional excursions.
• Galápagos National Park entry fee.

Currency

The unit of currency in Ecuador is the US dollar; in the Galápagos it is the US dollar.

Daily spend

It is very difficult to give a guideline for essential expenses but note that almost all meals are included on this holiday. You may wish to purchase activities locally from the hacienda and thin the Galápagos (activities involving equipment especially may incur a charge). Otherwise, it's just drinks and souvenirs. 

How to take it

Cash machines are available in Quito. There are also ATMs in Puerto Ayora but they may not be reliable.  Taking a debit or credit card with a PIN number is the most convenient way of withdrawing money while on your trip, and in some shops and restaurants you can also pay by card. However, since cards can get lost, damaged, withheld or blocked, you should not rely exclusively on a card to access funds. 

We recommend that you take a reasonable quantity of US dollars cash (no more than is covered by your insurance). Dollar bills should be in good condition, soiled or torn bills may be refused. You can take sterling, but the exchange rate to dollars is not always competitive or even available, restricting the number of places where you can change money.

Tipping

Tips are welcomed and local guides often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income. On the river cruise it is common practice to put your preferred amount into an envelope to be divided among the crew. For other activities and excursions it is normal to tip the guide and driver. The amount will depend on how many there are in your group plus of course your assessment of the service you have received. 

Most service industry workers will expect a tip of some kind and so it is useful to have spare change for hotel porters, taxi drivers and the like. It is common to leave 10 - 12% in restaurants.


Insurance

Travel insurance is essential. 

Details of our recommended policy can be found on our Travel Insurance page. 

Airport taxes

If you have purchased your flights through Journey Latin America, the international departure tax is usually included in the ticket.

Journey grade

This holiday is suitable for all able, reasonably fit families. Parents with children under the age of 10 may find some days challenging, especially on the river cruise.

Climate

Lying at 2,850m on the Equator, the highlands have a permanent spring-like climate. The rainy season in the Andes runs between January and April when there are showers most afternoons. The dry season is June, July and August when the sun is strong during the day, but at night the temperature drops dramatically (maybe as low as freezing point.). May, September and October are less predictable, with both rainy and sunny spells. Given the proximity to the equator, altitude is the determining factor with regard to temperature. In the mountains at any time of year you should expect a variation between 15°C and 25°C.

The jungle in the Oriente (Amazonia) is hot, humid and wet all year, with temperatures averaging about 30°C.

In the Galápagos, from January to April it’s hot and the sun is relentless, with some sudden showers. May to July, and October to December is cloudier; August and September it’s often cloudy and cool, and a stiff breeze makes the waters choppier for your speedboat transfers. High and Low seasons reflect demand rather than the best time to go.

Altitude

Several days are spent at high altitude (over 2.500m). You may notice the effect of high altitude; symptoms vary: most common are mild headaches and breathlessness. If you drink plenty of water and allow your body to acclimatise (don’t exert yourself or drink alcohol) in the first couple of days after arrival, you will minimise your chances of being adversely affected.

Please refer to our Briefing Dossier for further information.


Clothing and special equipment

For day-to-day wear you should go prepared to encounter all seasons. A light fleece jacket and a Gore-Tex outer shell makes a good combination. Trousers, skirt or shorts made from light, quick-drying synthetic materials work well on the Galápagos Islands. 

For your visit to Amazonia, in addition to lightweight clothing, long-sleeved shirts and lightweight trousers will protect you from insects. Bring shorts and T shirts. You may prefer an umbrella to a rain-jacket as the humidity is high.

Strong, comfortable footwear is essential and you should bring insect repellent, sun block, hat and sun glasses. You should take swimwear for ocean swimming (Galápagos). Snorkelling equipment is available but you may prefer to bring your own. Aqua-socks or rubber sandals are useful for swimming among the rocks. Bring a light waterproof jacket in case of rain. For June to November departures, wetsuits are recommended, as the waters can be chilly for snorkelling. 

Don’t forget your binoculars, camera, charger and cards.

Please get in touch with the office before departure if you have any doubts. Good equipment is very important and hard to come by in South America and Galápagos.

Vaccinations

Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following: typhoid; polio; tetanus; hepatitis A. You should consult your GP for specific requirements.

For admission to the Galápagos a yellow fever certificate is required for anyone over 1 year old coming from an area with risk of yellow fever transmission. 

You can also find helpful information on the Masta Travel Health website. 

Visas

Holders of a full British passport do not require a visa, although passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the trip begins.  Anyone with a different nationality should enquire with us or check with the relevant consulate.

APIS and ESTA - important flight information:

ESTA - if flying to the US, or via the US you will need to fill in your application to ESTA online at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/esta.html
This costs $14 per person. This must be applied for by you personally.

Passports must also be biometric e-passports. with digital chip. Avoid locking suitcases if transiting the USA, as their customs authorities retain the right to break into them.

APIS - Many countries now oblige airlines to provide additional information about passengers prior to the flight departure. This Advance Passenger Information (APIS) must be supplied to us promptly in order to issue tickets and avoid fare increases. We will provide the airlines with the relevant details if we are booking your international flights. If the information is not provided you may be denied boarding.
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