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Walking in Ecuador and Galapagos

12 days from £4,619pp

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Walking in Ecuador and Galapagos

12 days from £4,619pp

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

 

Private Journey

 

Day 1

Arrive Quito, continue by road to Otavalo.
 
mojanda

Upon arrival at Quito’s lofty international airport you’ll be whisked off into the rugged Andean countryside beyond the capital en route to Otavalo, renowned market town in the north of the country.  Your rustic, family-run accommodation with its cottages and open fireplaces, provides a warm welcome and glorious views of the mountain landscape.

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mojanda

Day 2

Visit Andean craft villages and Otavalo market.
 
otavalo

Today you have a mixture of moderate hiking with visits to some of the little towns and villages which stud the plains and valleys of this picturesque region. The people here lead a slow-paced, traditional lifestyle, some raising hardy crops and livestock on their pocket-sized farmsteads while others are artisan craftsmen and women, producing intricate textiles and leather goods which are sold in the many local markets as well as on the international stage.

Walk an age-old track from Mojanda to reach the lively town of Otavalo. Your guide will help you understand more about the local economy, but you are at leisure to explore at your own pace. Otavalo 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 wild array of colours, as well as traditional musical instruments and leather goods. You're bound to find something to take home.

Move on to explore on foot some small communities including Agato, where we will be hosted by a family which preserves the tradition of weaving on a backstrap loom. Later you will head deeper into the countryside, learning about small-scale agriculture and meeting local farmers. Spend the night at a lakeside resort and spa, Medina del Lago.

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otavalo

Day 3

Trek from Zuleta to Cotopaxi.
 
Zuleta Valley

Today you head out by road for the start of a day of fairly gentle high-altitude walking (4-5 hrs) across mountain trails and past remote homesteads into the Zuleta valley beyond. This agricultural area is famed for its traditional embroidery, dairy products, alpaca farming and highland crops such as wheat, maize, potatoes, lentils and quinoa.

The people of Zuleta jealously protect their culture and traditions, and wear a different costume from the striking blue and white attire of the Otavalo indians. The strong sense of community was fostered by the liberal reformist agenda of the aristocratic family who owned one of the larger haciendas in the area; their enlightened helped create a thriving local community which is now one of the country’s premier eco-tourism destinations. 

In Zuleta, you will learn how to prepare a typical Andean lunch, coached by a local family in their welcoming home. In the afternoon, you are driven south (2-3hrs) to Hosteria La Alegria, in the heart of Ecuador’s volcano country.

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Zuleta Valley

Day 4

Climb Pasochoa peak 4,200m.
 
Lodge to lodge trek Ecuador Tropic

Today is a serious hiking day, where you’ll be on foot for a total of around seven hours, including a climb up to Pasochoa peak, which is measured at a challenging 4,200m. However you’ll be walking at a leisurely pace, initially over grassland trails. Your efforts to reach the peak will be rewarded with a spectacular view of the Pasochoa crater, and beyond you’ll survey the mountains surrounding Quito, including identifiable snow-draped volcanoes including the imperious Cotopaxi.

Later you descend to the Pita river canyon, a downhill walk of about 3 hrs through grasslands and low forests, ending at your rural lodge, Chilcabamba, situated at an altitude of about 3,500m, with tantalising views of Cotopaxi beyond. 

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Lodge to lodge trek Ecuador Tropic

Day 5

Hike the Pedregal Trail in Cotopaxi National Park.
 

Today is a definite highlight: you head into Cotopaxi National Park, one of the most delightful protected areas of Ecuador.  When the weather cooperates, views of the volcano Cotopaxi ‘s ice-clad, near symmetrical cone are awe-inspiring. You start at the Pita river, fed by the volcano itself and which you follow for much of the walk.

 The hike enters the Cotopaxi National Park near an archaeological site - Pucara de Salitre - where you will be able to observe a variety of migrant and resident Andean birds. On the way, you might also spot some of the wild horses, deer or llamas which make the park their home, as well as gorgeous seasonal mountain wildflowers and wild and remote highland scenery. Finish your walk at Lake Limpiopungo, speckled with birdlife. During this adventure, you will stop to enjoy a picnic in the crisp alpine environment, and return by road after the day’s exploration to your cosy mountain lodge, Chilcabamba.

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Day 6

Climb to the snowline on Cotopaxi volcano, 5,100m.
 
Cotopaxi

This is the culmination of all your efforts: the final push up to the snowline on the majestic slopes of Cotopaxi. From the lodge you will drive in your private vehicle to the parking area of the Cotopaxi mountain refuge. You will then walk for approximately an hour before reaching the mountaineers’ lodge, and hike from there to the edge of the glacier, a further hour beyond.

From this point the northern side of the mountain offers a spectacular panorama. You will be able to identify (with the help of your guide) all the ground you have covered since the first day of your adventure.

For many of you, this will be the highest place on earth you have ever reached, some 5,100m above sea level and the sense achievement will be great. The descent, which will take approximately 2 hrs, follows the same route back to the vehicle and we head back to Quito.

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Cotopaxi

Day 7

Quito: walking city tour.
 
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.

In the morning there’s a walking tour of colonial Quito, where you 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. You have the afternoon at leisure to continue exploring, or just relax.

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quito

Day 8

Fly to Baltra in the Galápagos Islands.
 
Giant tortoise-spotting

Today you head off to the airport for our jet flight to the Galápagos Islands, which takes from 2-3 hours, depending on whether there is a stop in Guayaquil.  Baltra is a tiny island which hosts the Islands’ principal airport.

You dive straight into your Galápagos adventure exploring the turquoise waters of the Itabaca Channel. You can 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.

Continue to Santa Cruz Island. You 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.

Perched high on a hillside overlooking the ocean, Magic Galápagos Tented Camp will be your base for the next two nights. Feast your eyes on the rugged mountains and forest surrounding the lodge, and enjoy the tranquillity of having the entire hillside to yourselves (with the exception of the resident tortoises).

A favourite after dinner activity is to take a walk to the natural lava tubes on the reserve for a night cap in the one-of-a-kind Lava Lounge.  It’s the perfect spot to relax around an open fire.

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Giant tortoise-spotting

Day 9

Explore a neighbouring island.
 
Galapagos Sealions

Board a small motor yacht, Sea Finch, for a trip to a neighbouring island. The Sea Finch, which carries up to 16 guests, has outdoor seating areas and an air-conditioned dining lounge. Where you will go depends on the day of the week, but will be one or two of the following islands:

Mon & Thu - North Seymour and Bachas beach

North Seymour is a tiny, boulder-strewn island home to large colonies of seabirds, including frigate birds and blue-footed boobies, and there is always a courting, mating or nesting ritual to see. Other inhabitants of this wildlife-rich Island include sea-lions, marine iguanas, lava lizards and Galápagos snakes. At Las Bachas beach the stretch of white sand is a major egg-laying site for sea turtles. Land iguanas dot the shoreline and flamingos feed in the lagoon behind the beach.

Tue & Fri - South Plaza Island

South Plaza is one of the smallest islands in the archipelago and home to a large colony of sea-lions and a small cactus forest populated by land iguanas. Swallow-tailed gulls, tropicbirds and shearwaters nest along the cliff edge.

Wed - Santa Fé Island

Santa Fé may well be the oldest island in the Galápagos and some of the best snorkelling and swimming is here. The crystal clear waters abound with sea lions, Galápagos white-tipped shark and sea turtles.

Sat & Sun - Bartolome and (Sat) Sullivan Bay

The small island of Bartolomé  is just off Sullivan Bay. A viewpoint atop the summit, accessible via a wooden walkway, offers views of Santiago Island and Sullivan bay to the west and the island's strange lava 'moonscape' and Pinnacle Rock far below. On the east coast is Sullivan Bay, where solidified black lava flow stretches to the sea; there is a white sand beach with excellent opportunities for swimming and snorkelling.

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Galapagos Sealions

Day 10

Discover Isabela's giant tortoise breeding centre
 
Isabela

Take an early morning speed boat to Isabela Island. Once you have checked in at your accommodation you will visit the Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre, a 1km walk along a hand built walkway from Puerto Villamil, passing salt water mangrove lagoons inhabited by flamingos and marine iguanas. Isabela is the only island with several species of tortoises. The distances between the volcanoes and the different environments have allowed five different species to evolve. At the breeding centre you can see these different examples of tortoises up close at various stages of development from small hatchlings, to juveniles, to sub adults until they are eventually ready to be introduced to the wild where they can live to be over 100 years old and weigh a hefty 200kg.

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Isabela

Day 11

Hike to Sierra Negra Volcano.
 
sierra negra hike

Volcanic eruptions created all the islands of the Galápagos, and you will get to witness this geologic process first-hand as you explore Isabela, one of the youngest and most volcanically active islands of the archipelago. This 16km hike usually begins with some morning fog and rain but not to worry, the sun will be shining by the time you reach the rim of the Sierra Negra Volcano. This vast crater which is the largest in the archipelago and the second largest in the world is one of the most active volcanoes in the Galapagos, last erupting in 2005.

The crater views are so expansive photographs struggle to convey its size, but you should bring your camera and binoculars anyway. Head towards Volcan Chico through a martian landscape of black and pinkish rock desolate of vegetation and at first appearance void of all life, though on closer inspection reveals small lizards scurrying among the rocks. Enjoy a picnic lunch with spectacular views over central and northern parts of Isabela and in the distance the islands of Fernandina to the west and Santa Cruz to the east before returning to your hotel.

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sierra negra hike

Day 12

Return to the mainland for your international flight.
 

UK clients arrive home the following day. 

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About Private Journeys

Private Journeys are pre-planned holidays crafted by our experts, featuring routes and combinations that are proven to work well.


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