Day 1: Quito
The journey begins in Quito as you arrive and are transferred to your Le Parc Hotel. This interesting and renovated city tour starts with a visit of the Itchimbia neighborhood, which is a place that offers a spectacular view of the old and new city. Then you will visit the old colonial Quito starting in Santo Domingo Plaza walking through one of the oldest streets in the town “La Ronda Street” where you will see how the colonial houses were built and how the Quitenos lived in the sixteen hundreds. Your walk takes you through the city museum to San Francisco Plaza, making a quick stop to try the typical sweets of Quito. San Francisco is the oldest church in Quito and it is full of history and legends.
Before visiting the church we highly recommend to visit the USHINA jewelry, a place where you will find fine art and exclusive designs made of silver, definitely a must in our city tour. After this, a visit to La Merced church is organized to see the arabesque and baroque style that was used to decorate this church. Finally a visit to the main square, presidential palace, the main cathedral and some other important buildings can be appreciated. La Compania de Jesus church is one of the most beautiful churches in South America or perhaps the world, this is the last treasure to be visited in our program before your guide takes you back to the hotel or just continue the day to a visit of the Equator.
Day 2: Cotopaxi
Today you will be met by your guide early in the morning for a drive of about 60 km south of Quito along the Pan-American Highway - also named the Avenue of the Volcanoes by Alexander Von Humboldt. In this area you will find the magnificent, Cotopaxi volcano (19.460ft above sea level), considered the highest active volcano in the world! You will have an opportunity to take short hikes and learn about the flora and fauna of the Paramo, Also, depending on the weather conditions, visit to the "refuge" (4.800m - 15.840ft). Lunch is at Tambopaxi base camp with a fantastic view of this most scenic volcano. In the afternoon, transfer to Hacienda San Agustin del Callo. One night, one room (double occupancy), including breakfast, hotel tax and service charge.
Day 3: Cotopaxi & Baños
This morning after your breakfast you will be ready to continue your trip through the avenue of the volcanoes, characterized by striking volcanic peaks and rugged Andean scenery. We will pass cities located in the Central Highlands where you will see how the daily life of the inhabitants is. In the afternoon you will arrive to Baños one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Andes of Ecuador. Its full name, Banos de Agua Santa (literally, baths of the holy waters) reflects the natural hot spring running off neighboring Volcan Tungurahua (16,480 ft). The town is surrounded by a curtain of bright green mountain rich in waterfalls, flora and fauna. You will stay at Samari Hotel. One night, one room (double occupancy), including breakfast, hotel tax and service charge.
Day 4: Baños & Riobamba
This day you will explore the surroundings of Baños, an area rich in waterfalls and lush vegetation. Our guide will follow the main highway along the "Avenue of the Waterfalls" where you will enjoy of the majestic view of the countryside. Once you have passed several other waterfalls on your way a few kilometers outside of Baños you will find El "Pailon del Diablo", the Devil's Cauldron considered the top attraction of this natural area. Later on you will return to the town of Baños to continue our journey to Riobamba. You will stay at Abraspungo Hotel. One night, one room (double occupancy), including breakfast, hotel tax and service charge.
Day 5: Riobamba, Devil’s Nose & Cuenca
This day you will wake up very early to be on time at the train station. Train journeys in Ecuador are a sure adventure, the Trans-Andean Railroad is a spectacular tourist attraction for the variety of climates and fantastic natural and cultural scenery along the journey, more over the trains themselves are a colorful part of the landscape. The train leaves from the station, and pass through Cajabamba and the Colta lagoons, and the small Guamote village then it climbs to a little picturesque town in the highlands called Alausi. Then comes the most exhilarating part of the journey; said to be one of the most spectacular in the world. The train zigzags up and down 45 degree gradient called "Devil's Nose" in a breathtaking experience. The train goes backwards on the way down, and then returns to Alausi. After lunch we will continue on road, we will arrive to Cuenca where we will stay at the Santa Lucia Hotel. One night, one room (double occupancy), including breakfast, hotel tax and service charge.
Day 6: Cuenca & Galapagos Islands
Cuenca was declared as a World heritage Site in 1999, this city is the third largest in the country and it is called the Athens of Ecuador for its many contributions in the literature field. The city is located in the south of the country and is crossed by four rivers which give it a unique landscape. The historic centre is the most visited site in the city because it comes from the 16th century. Its architecture is an eclectic mix of European styles, mainly Spanish and French. After lunch your guide will transfer you at the airport of Cuenca on time for your flight to the Galapagos Islands (connection in Guayaquil) transfer to the Galapagos Safari Camp on Santa Cruz Island.
Day 7: Galapagos Safari Camp
Today we will be seeking giant tortoises accompanied by a bilingual naturalist guide who will take you to a farm in the highlands for a tasty lunch. You will then do a complete tour of the area, exploring various vegetation zones and microclimates, walking around pit craters, through lava tunnels and getting acquainted with endemic Scalesia and Guayabillo forests. At the Tortoise Reserve, you will observe the emblematic giant tortoises in their natural habitat and the abundant bird life of the highlands. Your tour will end at Galapagos Safari Camp where you can enjoy a sunset cocktail followed by dinner.
Days 8-9: Galapagos Safari Camp
You will enjoy two days of sea exploring neighboring islands by boat. After an early rise, you will take a boat trip to explore one of the neighboring islands (North Seymour, Bartolomé, Plazas, Santa Fé, Floreana or Isabela). Each island has its particular natural habitat and you will be guided through the evolutionary marvels of your destination. The Galapagos Marine Reserve is the second largest reserve in the world; you will be able to snorkel off the boat and experience the richness of the aquatic species. Alternatively, if you are SCUBA certified we can replace one or both day trips with diving.
Day 10: Galapagos Safari Camp
Today we will explore the east side of Santa Cruz. In the morning you will be driven to the eastern part of the island. At 490mts. above sea level, Cerro Mesa offers dramatic views, has the largest crater on Santa Cruz and numerous endemic plants as well as up to 7 subspecies of finches and the Vermillion Flycatcher. After lunch you will visit Garrapatero, a pristine beach where the contrast of mangroves, black lava, white sand and turquoise water, in addition to the buzzing coastal bird life and the small pink flamingo lagoon is sensational. Kayaking and mountain biking is available.
Day 11: Otavalo
On your last day in the Galapagos Islands you can tour the farm at your leisure or enjoy the sunrise from our viewpoint before your airport transfer. Flight to Quito and private transfer to Otavalo. Just an hour and a half north of Quito lie the lush volcanic highlands. This land is rich in friendly and colorfully attired indigenous people, historic working haciendas, and towering volcanoes with verdant slopes. Our destination is the Otavalo Indian craft market. As we pass into the highlands, we’re treated to a sweeping view of Imbabura and Cotacachi Volcanoes rising above San Pablo Lake. Our first stop is Calderon where the locals make bread dough figures as part of a big tradition of the country. Then it’s on to the Otavalo market, which dates back thousands of years and is famous throughout the Andes for its handicrafts, textiles, tapestries and local traditions. Although the main day of the market is on Saturdays you can enjoy of a less crowded plaza from Sundays to Fridays. Lunch will be served at one of the local haciendas built between the 17th and 18th centuries with a typical Andean ambience. After lunch we’ll visit the village of Peguche where native weavers demonstrate their craft, as they have for centuries. Overnight at Hacienda Zuleta.
Day 12: Otavalo
Open day of leisure to enjoy the Otavalo hacienda and surrounding areas. Late afternoon transfer out to Quito for a late return flight home.