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Paloma: Andean Ecuador and land based Galapagos

10 days from £3,147pp

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Paloma: Andean Ecuador and land based Galapagos:
Trip Dossier

We start our journey in mainland Ecuador in colonial Quito before we set off down the Avenue of the Volcanoes travelling through glorious mountain scenery, stopping at Inca ruins and boarding one of the world's most exciting rail rides.   

Having explored historical Cuenca, dotted with leafy plazas and baroque churches, we fly to the Galápagos Islands to spend a few gently active days discovering a selection of the contrasting islands from your base on Santa Cruz, with walks, kayaking, snorkelling and short trips by motor launch. The famous trusting wildlife is everywhere to be seen, both from afar and way up close.   

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

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

Day 2

Tour of the historic centre of Quito.

Day 3

Travel to Riobamba via Cotopaxi National Park.

Day 4

Devil's Nose train and Inca ruins of Ingapirca.

Day 5

Tour of Cuenca.

Day 6

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

Day 7

Fly to the Galápagos.

Day 8

Sail to the Plaza Islands for a day of exploration and snorkelling.

Day 9

Explore Bartolomé Island.

Day 10

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

UK clients arrive home the following day.

Detailed itinerary

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.

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Day 2

Tour of the historic centre of Quito.
 
mojanda

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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mojanda

Day 3

Travel to Riobamba via Cotopaxi National Park.
 
Cotopaxi
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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Cotopaxi

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.

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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.

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Day 7

Fly to the Galápagos.
 
Turtoise
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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Turtoise

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.
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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.

Essential information

Transport

2 flights (2hrs each); 3 scenic road/rail journeys; short journeys by motor yacht in the Galápagos.

Accommodation

Mid-range hotels, a traditional hacienda and small hotel in the Galápagos.

Hotels include:

• Quito: Hotel Casa Gardenia
• Riobamba: Hacienda Abraspungo
• Cuenca: Hotel Victoria
• Guayaquil: Unipark
• Galapagos: Villa Laguna

Meals

Breakfast daily; lunch days 4, 7, 8 and 9. Full board on day 3.

Included excursions

• Quito: city tour
• Cotopaxi: National Park and Limpiopungo lake
• Alausi: Devils Nose and Ingapirca ruins
• Cuenca: city tour
• Cuenca: Las Cajas National Park
• Galápagos Islands: Full day Santa Cruz itinerary
• Galápagos Islands: Full day Plazas itinerary
• Galápagos Islands: Full day Bartolome and James Islands itinerary

 

Summary of nights

10 days, 9 nights: Quito 2, Riobamba 1, Cuenca 2, Guayaquil 1, Galápagos 3 (Santa Cruz).

Included in the journey price

• Local tour leaders. One for mainland and one for Galápagos.
• All land transport and Galápagos flights
• Accommodation as specified
• Meals as specified
• Excursions as specified
• International departure tax

Not included in the journey price

• Tips and gratuities
• Galápagos entrance fees ($100pp + $20 for transit card)
• Meals other than specified

Travelling alone

There is no extra cost for single travellers who are willing to share a room. You will be accommodated with a same-sex member of the group who is usually also travelling solo. For single travellers who wish to be sure of having their own room there are a limited number of single rooms available, which carry a surcharge.

Currency

The unit of currency in Ecuador is the US dollar.

Budget

A daily budget of $25-$35 should cover extra expenses for meals, a few drinks and the odd souvenir.

How to take it

Cash machines are easily available in Quito, Cuenca and Guayaquil so taking a debit or credit card with a PIN number is the most convenient way of withdrawing money while on your trip, and in most 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 additionally you take a reasonable quantity of US dollars cash (no more than is covered by your insurance), which you can spend as the dollar is the local currency especially in the Galápagos, and possibly some travellers’ cheques (American Express are the most widely accepted), though these are gradually falling out of use. Dollar bills should be in good condition, soiled or torn bills may be refused. You can take sterling, but the exchange rate is not always competitive or even available, restricting the number of places where you can change money.

Tipping

Tips are normally welcomed and expected. Local guides often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income. We recommend approximately $US5-10 (or local equivalent) per person for each of guides and drivers, depending on the size of the group.

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

There are some early mornings and some fairly long days of travel. All walks are optional, as is swimming, snorkelling and kayaking in and around the Galápagos Islands and you can discuss with your guide which are suitable for you. This holiday is suitable for all able, reasonably fit visitors.

Climate

There are only two seasons, wet and dry. The dry season in the Andean highlands lasts from June to September and on the coast from May to December. Although February to April is traditionally the green (wet) season, there is a chance of showers throughout the year. Due to altitude Quito and the highlands can be chilly in the evenings.

Guayaquil is especially hot and humid from January through to April.

The Galápagos Islands are on the Equator, but the tropical heat is tempered by ocean breezes. You may require a light sweater for the evening and between November and March there is a chance of rain. In August and September you may experience garúa (mist), but the rest of the year skies should be clear and sunny, though we would suggest that you take a waterproof just in case.

Altitude

Several days are spent at high altitude (over 2,500m). A small minority of visitors may suffer temporarily from altitude sickness. Symptoms vary; most common are mild headaches, slight nausea and breathlessness. If you don’t recover in a day or two speak to our representatives; in very rare instances it is necessary to descend to lower altitudes. Most people are unaffected and 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 suffering any symptoms.

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. Both warm clothing and a sun hat are essential at altitude; 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 and in the jungle. Long-sleeved shirts will protect you from insects.

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). You can hire snorkelling equipment but may prefer to bring your own. Aqua-socks or rubber sandals are useful for embarking and disembarking on wet landings. Bring a light waterproof jacket in case of rain.

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

Reduce plastic waste

Journey Latin America has partnered with Water-To-Go to offer JLA Group Tour passengers the opportunity to purchase 75cl filtered water bottles for a 50% discount. The bottle can be refilled at any water outlet and has a filter that eliminates 99.9% of bacteria and viruses, allowing the water to be safe to drink. Please call your contact at JLA to add it your booking and it will be delivered to your address. More information about this initiative can be found on our website here.

Vaccinations

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

Cases of Zika virus have been reported in parts of Latin America. If you’re pregnant, or planning to be, you should follow the advice of the National Travel Health Network and Centre.

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. Clients with a different nationality should enquire or check with the Ecuadorian Consulate.

Esta - if flying to the US, or via the US you will need to fill in your application to ESTA onlineThis costs $14 per person. This must be done by you personally. Passports must also be digital e-passports with embedded 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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