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Private Journeys

Trailblazer Ecuador & the Galapagos

14 days from £6,990pp

Ecuador & Galapagos Islands / Galapagos Islands

Itinerary

map marker Map

Day 1

Arrive in Quito, transfer to your hotel

Arrive in Quito, capital of Ecuador and gateway to the highlands of the mainland and famed Galapagos islands. You’ll meet your friendly guide at the airport and drive to your hotel on the outskirts of Quito allowing you to access everything the region has to offer, whilst also giving you fresh-air and space away from the city.

We stay in a small family run hotel on the slopes of Ilaló Volcano offering spectacular views of the Cumbayá and Tumbaco valleys, as well as lush gardens where you’ll be able to spot hummingbirds. There is an onsite restaurant, as well as nearby options for eating out.

Avenue of the Volcano

Day 2

Walk on Ilaló Volcano. Optional afternoon excursion to Quito old town

Today you’ll stay local and explore the Ilaló volcano. This long-extinct volcano is located 8 kilometres east of Quito on a fertile green valley blessed with a mild climate and temperatures. Ilaló splits this valley in two: Valle de Los Chillos to the south and Valle de Tumbaco to the north.

Walking from our hotel, the relatively easy trail to the top passes 14 white crosses marking a pilgrimage route to the crater. There are plenty of opportunities to spot the regions emblematic hummingbirds and avian species. At the end of the walk you’ll be greeted by the final cross, the Cruz del Ilaló and you’ll be treated to stunning views over the Valle de Los Chillos and the southern part of Quito.

In the afternoon there is the option of a visit to Quito old town, a city of narrow cobblestone streets lined with whitewashed walls and, rising above, the steeples and cupolas of the city´s many spectacularly decorated historic churches. The city has one of the best preserved colonial centres in all South America, and its importance was confirmed in 1978 when the United Nations declared Quito as one of the first World Cultural Heritage sites.

Quito

Day 3

Discover Otavalo and surrounding area, including a cooking class with a local family

Drive north 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. Your guide will give you an overview of this historic market town and, if you wish, give you time to explore the stalls and enjoy some interaction with the good-humoured stall-owners. You’re bound to find something to take home.

Next, you’ll have the chance to learn how to make some traditional Ecuadorian food as you join a local family at their home to enjoy a wonderful cooking class based on the foods eaten in the Andes. Many of the recipes have been handed-down through the generations and can be traced back to their ancient ancestors: a healthy blend of natural ingredients, traditional know-how and delicious results.

After a filling lunch you’ll drive to the Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecological Reserve where you’ll be greeted with an outstanding view of the Cuicocha lagoon, a deep-blue crater lake on the lower southern flanks of Cotacachi Volcano. You can choose to take a short hike around the lagoon and visit the interpretation centre. On the way back to the hotel you’ll pass through picturesque colonial town of Cotacachi, famed for its leatherwork.

Cotachi

Day 4

Visit Cotopaxi National Park and explore the trails

Today you’ll travel south to Cotopaxi National Park down the Avenue of the Volcanoes. As the 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.

Cotopaxi National Park is dominated by the superbly photogenic volcano of the same name (5,897m), an 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. Horse riding is also possible – please ask us if interested.

ShutterStock ©

Day 5

Experience Ecuador’s magnificent cloud forest then a soak in volcanic hot springs

Today is a chance to visit yet another ecosystem, again within close driving distance. Taking one of the country’s many scenic roads past ice-clad Andean peaks, you soon find yourself in a contrasting natural cloud forest – an environment of spidery, moss-smothered trees, orchids and giant ferns.

Spend the morning exploring this ancient cloud forest, where the greenery is punctuated by the vibrant colours of orchids, bromeliads and heliconias, making this a particularly scenic setting for nature walks. This is one of Ecuador’s most biodiverse areas with over 350 species of birds alone, and is particularly known for its abundant hummingbirds.

In the afternoon you’ll visit Papallacta’s famous natural thermal springs, which sit in a favoured position on what is exotically called the Cinnamon Trail. You’ll really feel enveloped by nature here, benign and gentle, bursting with life. You can soak in the delicious warm waters of the series of steaming pools, moving between water’s different temperatures, or maybe you’ll having set off on one of the marked trails on the property, which follow the valleys of tumbling streams or head into the shady forests beyond the grassy páramo (grasslands).

Rainforest

Day 6

Fly to the Galápagos Islands and board your cruise

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.

Galápagos Islands

Day 7-12

Excursions around the archipelago

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.

Marina Iguana

Day 13

Fly to Guayaquil and transfer to your hotel

Fly to the coastal city of Guayaquil, a marked contrast from the mountain capital Quito. Here you’ll spend the night in the luxurious Hotel del Parque which is located outside the main city in the heart of Guayaquil’s largest park, the waterfront Parque Histórico. This leafy protected area is a refuge for wildlife and also has various buildings dating back to the era of the Spanish Empire: offering space and comfort for your final night in Ecuador returning home.

Day 14

Depart Ecuador for your flight home

Inspired by this trip

Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.

Papagaio

Your edit for Latin American inspiration

Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.

View Extraordinary Inspiration

Real Latin America Experts

  • Chris Rendell Dunn
    Chris Rendell-Dunn - Travel Expert

    Anglo-Peruvian Chris grew up in Lima and spent much of his adult life in between London and Cusco as a tour leader, before settling permanently in our London-based Tailor-made and Group Tours sales team.

  • Hannah Waterhouse
    Hannah Waterhouse - Travel Expert

    Hannah had an early introduction to Latin America when her family moved to Ecuador and she returned to study in Buenos Aires for a year before backpacking across the continent.

  • Sophie Barber
    Sophie Barber - Travel Expert

    Sophie lived in Chile before joining us and has travelled extensively across Latin America, from Mexico to the furthest tip of Patagonia and beyond to Antarctica.

  • Ben Line
    Ben Line - Travel Expert

    Ben fell in love with Latin America on a six month backpacking trip from Colombia to Mexico in 1995. Since then he has explored most of South America, including living in Peru for a year. He is now Head of Sales.

  • Mary Anne Nelson
    Mary Anne Nelson - Travel Expert

    Born in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, Mary’s insider knowledge and dry sense of humour make her a highly valued member of the Tailor-made Holidays and Group Tour sales team.

  • Lina Fuller
    Lina Fuller - Travel Expert

    Lina's passion for the continent where she was born really took off when she moved to Córdoba (Argentina) to study, spending the holidays travelling between Argentina and her native Colombia.

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