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Signature Ecuador and Galapagos: Volcanoes to the ocean

Day 1

Arrive in Quito and transfer to hotel.
 
Quito

Transfer to your hotel in 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 old town

Guided walking tour of old Quito. Visit the colonial centre of the capital, the first city ever to be named a World Heritage site. High on the agenda is a walk through the main plaza, the Plaza de Independencia, 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.

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Quito old town

Day 3

By road to Otavalo in the Andean highlands, visit Otavalo market overnight in hacienda.
 
Otavalo market

By road through rolling highland moors to Otavalo, a prosperous town set in a pretty landscape of lakes and volcanoes. The town hosts one of the largest and most vibrant indigenous markets in South America. Stalls are laden with tapestries and woollen goods, some intricate, some brash, and all in a breath-taking array of colours, as well as traditional musical instruments and leather goods. You're bound to find something to take home.

Overnight in a traditional colonial hacienda, adapted to receive visitors but retaining many of its historic features.

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Otavalo market

Day 4

Guided excursions to Lake Cuicocha
 
Cuicocha Lake

Morning at leisure on the hacienda, which has lovely flowery grounds in which to relax. In the afternoon, drive to Cotacachi Cayapas Ecological Reserve for the start of a 3hr hike on the volcanic rim around Cuicocha, a deep-blue crater lake with an island marooned in the centre set on the southern flanks of Mount Cotacachi. Enjoy fine views of the surrounding volcanoes Cayambe and Imbabura.

The countryside is extremely pretty, with adobe farmsteads sheltering under columns of silvery eucalyptus shading ancient cobbled lanes and tracks. Birdlife that can be spotted includes ruddy ducks, giant hummingbirds and silvery grebes. After the hike, stop at the picturesque colonial town of Cotacachi, famous for its leather work before heading back to Quito.

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Cuicocha Lake

Day 5

By road or rail down Avenue of the Volcanoes; visit Cotopaxi National Park, overnight at an hacienda.
 
Ecuador volcano

If you are travelling Monday to Wednesday, head south by road out of Quito on a spellbinding journey along the aptly-named Avenue of Volcanoes. From Thursday to Sunday, you can make the journey south from Quito to Cotopaxi National Park down the Avenue of the Volcanoes partly by train.

Originally an important artery of public transport this railway is now designated solely for visitors, with musical entertainment and an explanatory commentary by a local guide. There are regular refreshment and toilet stops and the trip also takes about 2 hrs. Either way, as its name implies, the route passes an imperial guard of conical snow-draped volcanic cones, surrounded by lush pastures pitted with colonial market towns and tiny indigenous villages.

Visit Cotopaxi National Park, dominated by the superbly photogenic volcano of the same name (5,897m), a (very) occasionally active 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'll visit the interpretation centre and have the opportunity to walk the trail surrounding the stunningly reflective Lake Limpiopungo, ringed by bird-filled reed beds. If inspired to hike some more, you can climb towards the Cotapaxi snowline for bird's-eye views over the Andean peaks.

Overnight at a countryside hacienda. It is very much a working ranch, specialising in wild Andean fighting bulls and dairy cattle, and visitors are invited to take part in farm activities.

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Ecuador volcano

Day 6

Visit local artisan markets, overnight in Riobamba.
 

At leisure on the ranch. There's a lot to do here – if you have a penchant for the outdoors you can go horse riding, mountain biking, zip-lining, venture out on self-guided hikes on well-marked trails or get involved in farm-based activities. Children are invited to make chocolate and help feed the animals. You might make an expedition to visit local markets.

Later, continue by road to Riobamba. If you have time you may wish to visit the town to wander the cobbled streets and relax in one of the leafy plazas.

Day 7

Take the train down the Devil’s Nose, continue via Ingapirca ruins to Cuenca.
 
Devil's nose
Travel by road to Alausi and board the train for the exhilarating journey down towards the Devil's Nose, named after the shape of one of the mountains as it rises steeply from the bottom of the valley. This part of the track drops dramatically in altitude, the train descends on a series of switchbacks as you slowly leave the crisp mountain air and scenery for the warmer tropics of the lowlands.

Upon return to the town of Alausí you alight and continue by private vehicle to Cuenca, via Ecuador's principal Inca ruins of Ingapirca. The remains of the buildings in this raised site date back to the end of the 15th century, before the Spanish conquistadores. The architecture bears hallmarks of Inca construction, with some fine mortar-less stonework. Archaeologists believe that the main structure, known as The Temple of the Sun, was used for religious and ceremonial purposes. Today, however, it simply provides welcome shade for grazing llamas and the occasional tourist.

Cuenca is a beautiful 16th-century town, built on the site of an ancient Inca settlement, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Devil's nose

Day 8

At leisure in colonial Cuenca, Ecuador’s second city.
 
Cuenca weavers

At leisure in Cuenca. Its narrow cobblestoned streets, red tiled roofs and well-preserved Romanesque buildings give it an air of sedate and quiet respectability. It's a peaceful place to wander around, with coffee shops and interesting little shops. The colonial centre has been beautifully restored; colourful flowers tumble from ironwork balconies and the whitewashed houses have grand wooden doors. The climate here is temperate and you'll enjoy relaxing with a coffee in a leafy square.

Cuenca is a great place to wander or relax in but if you want to get out of the city you could visit the nearby market towns of Gualaceo, Chordeleg, and colonial Sigsig, set in the foothills of the western cordillera.

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Cuenca weavers

Day 9

By road down to the tropical coast of Guayaquil via a stop at Las Cajas National Park.
 
Las Cajas National Park
Today you 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 you stop at the Las Cajas National Park. Beautiful trails pass through this rugged, high-altitude wilderness of grasslands, jagged hills and glacial lagoons.

Guayaquil, Ecuador's largest city has gone through a transition in the last few years. The expanse of waterfront has been made into an outdoor architectural showpiece, and restoration work has taken place along the city's main thoroughfare and in the historical neighbourhood of Las Peñas.

Time permitting, you can take a walk from the frenetic, noisy open market at La Bahia, and past the colonial naval shipyard to the Malecón (the waterfront promenade), Guayaquil's crowning jewel. Stroll past tropical gardens, markets and street cafés, and head to Santa Ana Hill and Las Peñas, a district of brightly-coloured wooden houses and ramshacklestreets dating back to the 16th century.

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Las Cajas National Park

Day 10

Fly to the Galápagos Islands, board Galápagos Odyssey
 
Galapagos islands

Transfer to the airport for your flight to the Galápagos Islands (2hrs) where you will embark on your upper mid-range cruiser, Galápagos Odyssey), for your 5-day cruise around the archipelago. Your naturalist guide will be waiting to take you to the quayside. It’s a sleek, contemporary yacht with plenty of light and space. There are top class facilities, furnishings and fittings and a whirlpool on the sundeck. 

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Galapagos islands

Days 11-14

Land excursions from the cruise around the Galápagos Islands.
 
Galapagos
The Galápagos Islands emerged in the Pacific Ocean 6 million years ago following a spate of volcanic activity and, isolated from the continental mainland, have become home to unique plant and animal species. Without fear of humans, they are sufficiently trusting to allow you to approach them and observe them up close. The islands were the inspiration for Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, which formed the basis for his revolutionary book ‘On the Origin of Species’, published in 1859.

Although geologically constantly on the move, these islands remain suspended in time, with Giant tortoises, iguanas, penguins, Frigate birds, Waved albatross and Blue-footed boobies and a wealth of rare flora all thriving there. For many, the fascinating and unique wildlife and natural beauty of the islands are matched by the thrill of being at sea. Find a spot on deck as you make your way through the ocean, often trailed by flocks of birds and playful dolphins.

The itinerary for your days in the Galápagos will depend on your date of departure,and is subject to change. There are normally two landings a day to seek out the different wildlife that inhabits the islands.

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Galapagos

Day 15

Fly to Guayaquil, connect with international flight home.
 

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. Signature Ecuador and Galapagos: Volcanoes to the ocean

  • Galapagos on land - Finch Bay 4 days from £645pp

    How do you round off a busy holiday in Ecuador, Peru or Colombia? You might think a trip to the Galápagos Islands a trifle ambitious – not to say costly. And a cruise may well be. But if you have a few days to spare you can stay at a congenial hotel on one of the larger, more interesting and varied islands, Santa Cruz, where in addition to a wide array of the famous trusting Galápagos wildlife, you can experience the verdant volcanic highlands, the white sand beaches and the shops and restaurants of the laid-back capital Puerto Ayora.

    The property has a beautiful setting at Punta Estrada, across the bay from the town.

    Day 1: Fly from the Ecuadorian mainland to Baltra in the Galapagos Islands. Transfer to your hotel Finch bay, on the outskirts of Puerto Ayora.

    Days 2,3: You have two full days where your wishes are catered for individually. The hotel organises an impressive choice of activities and excursions including snorkelling, diving, sea kayaking, mountain biking, hiking and day trips by boat to surrounding islands. We recommend a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station which is home to 11 species of tortoise.

    Day 4: Depart for the Ecuadorian mainland and connect with your international flight.

    Breakfast only.
    NB: the cost of flights from Ecuador, Peru or Colombia to the Galápagos Islands are not included in the price.

  • 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.

  • 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.

 
Please note
Explore the dates and prices of this unique holiday to Latin America.

Due to flexible pricing and minimum room night requirements during peak times (such as New Year, Carnival and Easter) we may not always present all the dates we have available.

If your ideal travel date is not shown, call us on 020 8747 8315, or click on the 'Make an Online Enquiry' button to the right.

Prices exclude international flights at the beginning and end of the trip.

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Signature Ecuador and Galapagos: Volcanoes to the ocean

16 days from £6,612pp

Price excludes international flights at the beginning and end of the trip

 

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