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Paloma: Andean Ecuador and land based Galapagos

Day 1

UK clients depart, arriving Quito, Ecuador, the same day.

On arrival you will be met and transferred to the group hotel in the centre of Quito.

Day 2

Tour of the historic centre of Quito.

The active volcano Pichincha glowers over Quito, a 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 where your hotel is located has well-conserved and recently spruced-up white-washed architecture, open air markets and graceful Spanish-style mansions and churches.

There’s a walking tour to explore this UNESCO world heritage site, where we will survey the grand buildings of the cathedral and government palace, as well as some of the other ornate baroque churches which cluster in the historic core.

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Day 3

Travel to Riobamba via Cotopaxi National Park.
Travel by road into the Avenue of the Volcanoes towards Cotopaxi National Park, dominated by the superbly photogenic volcano of the same name - a (very occasionally active) soaring peak of shimmering ice surrounded by rumpled skirts of highland moor with a tundra-like vegetation of altitude-resistant shrubs and flowers. The park is inhabited by over 90 species of bird from pocket-sized hummingbirds to giant condors and a variety of hardy mammals including deer, rabbits, Andean foxes and puma, which shelter from view in the lacy veils of frequent swirly mists.

You can put the flora and fauna into geographical context at the park’s interpretation centre before hiking a trail that curves beside Lake Limpiopungo, its tranquil surface perfectly mirroring the snow-draped cones that rise above it. After lunch at Chilcabamba lodge, we continue onto Riobamba for a night at a rural hacienda.
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Day 4

Devil's Nose train and Inca ruins of Ingapirca.

Set off early morning for the small town of Alausi and one of South America's most iconic stretches of rail, the Devil's Nose that descends a near-vertical Andean mountainside via an impressive set of switchbacks. It's an ambitious feat of railway engineering, and as you weave alongside perilous drops on century-old tracks you may be reminded more of a rollercoaster ride than a traditional train journey. There's also spectacular scenery to add to the drama, as the train cuts through a classic Andean panorama of looming mountains and timeless open grasslands.

In the afternoon we continue on to the the ruins of Ingapirca, one of the most significant vestiges of the Inca empire to be found in Ecuador. Occupying a hilltop lookout, Ingapirca had both military and religious functions. Today the most striking building within the complex is the Temple of the Moon, with its curved stone walls enclosing a large sacred rock. The temple was built so as to filter the sunlight through a small doorway to the inner sanctum on the solstices, while the walls were constructed in the typical Inca style: chiselled to fit so precisely that no mortar was needed to fix them together. Travel onto Cuenca your base for the fourth and fifth nights of the tour.

Day 5

Tour of Cuenca.
Cuenca, Ecuador

Cuenca, set in the southern sierras at 2,550m, is a quintessential Spanish colonial city. It has the cobbled streets, leafy plazas, baroque churches and whitewashed façades with heavy wooden doors that you’d expect, but the pale-stoned centre is particularly beautiful. This university town is also a centre for artisan work, notably the panama hat, which originated here, but also ceramics, basket ware, jewellery and ponchos. You'll be able to admire the architecture during a morning tour of the city, and in the afternoon relax in one of many cafés and restaurants that line the pleasant squares.

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Cuenca, Ecuador

Day 6

Drive from the Andes to the tropical coast at Guayaquil. Stop on the way at Las Cajas National Park.

Today we travel from the mountains down through the tropical lowlands to the port city of Guayaquil. It is a spectacular drive that truly contrasts the scenery in this small country, as you pass from Andean villages to banana plantations. On the way we stop at the Las Cajas National Park. Beautiful trails pass through this rugged, high-altitude wilderness of grasslands, jagged hills and glacial lagoons. You will be sure to pass herds of serene, grazing llama, and perhaps spot a spectacled bear, a puma or a tigrillo (relative of the ocelot), all of which inhabit the area, as do many species of bird, including the Andean condor and, at the other end of the scale, the tiny hummingbird.

Day 7

Fly to the Galápagos.
Today we head off to the airport for our flight to the Galápagos Islands (2hrs). Baltra is a tiny island which hosts the Islands’ principal airport.

We dive straight into our Galápagos adventure exploring the turquoise waters of the Itabaca Channel which separates Baltra from Santa Cruz island where you'll be based for your stay in the archipelago. You may kayak, snorkel and practice stand-up paddling while observing for the first time some of the uniquely adapted wildlife such as blue-footed boobies, sea-lions, brown pelicans, a variety of herons and white-tipped reef sharks. Glide serenely through red mangrove forests and alongside lava rock cliffs. Later we head inland, up to the grassy highlands to one of the private reserves bordering the Galápagos National Park where giant tortoises roam in the wild. Continue onto your hotel in the small town of Puerto Ayora. This town, the largest in terms of population and size in the Galápagos, offers a range of restaurants and tourist services, but maintains a laidback Ecuadorean coastal feel. Home to the famous Charles Darwin research centre and a number of sea lions who hang around the waterfront and Pelicans that swoop in the bay, its a tranquil and friendly base for 3 nights.
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Day 8

Sail to the Plaza Islands for a day of exploration and snorkelling.
Board a motor yacht for the short voyage to the Plaza Islands. These are two tiny islands formed by lava streaming up from the sea-bed, home to a large number of species. They are famous for a cactus forest populated by land iguanas and for the extraordinary ground vegetation which changes its colour from intense green in the rainy season to orange and purple in the dry season. Disembarking on South Plaza you are greeted by a colony of sea lions, before continuing along the trail gradually leading to the southern cliff where you can observe nesting swallow-tailed gulls, tropicbirds and the famous blue footed and Nazca boobies.

After lunch head for the calm waters of Punta Carrión, where you can swim and snorkel - spotting a variety of tropical fish and white tip reef sharks that rest peacefully on the clear sandy bottom.

Day 9

Explore Bartolomé Island.
Bartolome Island

Bartolome Island offers one of the most emblematic sceneries in the entire island chain, and that is where we head today. This tiny island, an extinct volcano, has some of the most beautiful landscapes of red, orange, green, and black volcanic formations which, along with other islands, you can view from its easily-climbed cone. After the walk a dingy ride along the coastline will give us the opportunity to see the Galápagos penguin, which nest amongst the fissured lava flows.

Another short journey onboard the yacht and we arrive in Sullivan Bay on the eastern side of James Island, where peaceful waters allow for perfect snorkelling opportunites. Return to Puerto Ayora in the early evening for a final night in the Galápagos.

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Bartolome Island

Day 10

Fly to Guayaquil, connect with your extension or your international flight home.

UK clients arrive home the following day.

Speak to an expert Travel Consultant or send us your enquiry today.

Tailor-made holiday

Our specialists have been expertly crafting award-winning tailor-made holidays to Latin America for over 37 years.
We would be delighted to create a truly personalised trip which perfectly matches your wishes and requirements.

97% of our clients rated their experience with us as Excellent or Good.

Speak to an expert Travel Consultant or send us your enquiry today. Paloma: Andean Ecuador and land based Galapagos

  • Mindo cloud forest 4 days from £1,133pp

    Mindo, Ecuador’s premier bird watching region, is only a 90 minute drive from the chilly highland capital with volcano views as the road descends over 1,300m and the vegetation is transformed from cold-resistant grassland to lush, humid cloud forest. This accessibility, and the chance of not only observing wildlife and a mass of exuberant plants but also taking part in a choice of exhilarating outdoor adventures, makes it an attractive destination for all lovers of nature and the outdoors: families, singles, couples and friends of all ages. There are a number of eco-friendly lodges welcoming visitors. 

    For this holiday extension we have chosen for your base the simple and sociable El Monte Lodge, close to the village but with a real wilderness feel.  We have hand-picked some excursions for you, but in your free time you might take various guided adventures including guided nature walks, visit butterfly farms and even an artisan chocolate “factory”. More adventurous options (charged extra) include downhill mountain biking, river rafting, tubing and zip-lines.  

    Overnight at the hotel Casona de la Ronda in Quito.

    Day 2:  Transfer to Mindo and el Monte Lodge. Afternoon at leisure: you might explore the nature trails or take an optional excursion.

    Day 3:  Take a guided walk at dawn to visit the cock-of-the-rock lek, an area of trees where scores of these colourful, exotic birds congregate to feed.  Afternoon at leisure. 

    Day 4: Morning at leisure. After lunch visit a house where 24 species of hummingbird are known to frequent the feeders in the back of a private house. The proprietor is an expert on the birds and their songs. Return to Quito.  

    Full board days 2-3, breakfast and lunch day 4.

  • Ecuadorian Amazon 4 days from £1,073pp

    The rainforest of the Amazon of Ecuador, whence spring rivers which flow down to the Amazon proper, is conveniently accessible from Quito. Following a short flight and canoe trip you arrive at Sacha Lodge to begin your jungle adventures.

    Day 1: A 35min flight takes you over the snow-capped Andes to Puerto Francisco de Orellana, known locally as Coca. Please note that luggage is restricted to 20kg.

    On arrival, it is a short transfer to the docks where motorised dugout canoes are waiting to take you down the Río Napo, the largest river in the Ecuadorian Amazonia. Head deep into the rainforest - with opportunities to spot an array of wildlife along the riverbanks – to the reserve where Sacha Lodge is situated (2.5hrs). You’ll then set off on a guided expedition along a raised boardwalk through dense flooded palm forest to Lake Pichicocha (30mins) before crossing the motionless black-water lagoon by canoe to arrive at the lodge.

    Day 2: There’s a varied menu of activities and excursions to choose from at the lodge. They are conducted in small groups led by an English-speaking naturalist guide, and take place in the early morning when the wildlife is at its most active, in the afternoon as the sun sets leaving a mellow glow draped over the forest, and at night when the nocturnal insects and frogs join in a melodious chorus.

    Day 3: Waterborne adventures include a trip to a parrot lick, where the colourful and agitated birds gather to feed. There’s also a 300m canopy walkway suspended 30m above the jungle floor, giving you a canopy-level view of the wildlife which inhabits the trees, while an overall panoramic view is available from the top of the observation tower. Go fishing for piranha, and at night, set out on the dark waters in search of alligators.

    Breakfast daily, full board days 1-3.

Please note


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Start Date

1 Nov 2019

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10 Nov 2019

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