The Best of Ecuador & Galapagos 12 days
A truly unique lifetime adventure blending the spectacular geography of Ecuador's mainland of active volcanoes, immense canyons, vast tropical rain forests and powerful waterfalls, with the enchanted Galapagos Islands, where the magic diversity of fearless animals flourishing in a volcanic ecosystem create an awe-inspiring atmosphere. This is a perfect combination that includes a wide variety of outdoor activities, while discovering the highlights of Ecuador in the same journey.
SNORKELING WITH SEA TURTLES, RAYS, PENGUINS AND SEA LIONS
KAYAK TO VIEW WILDLIFE
TINTORERAS AND LAVA TUNNELS
CHARLES DARWIN RESEARCH STATION
ENCOUNTER WITH WILD GIANT TORTOISES
SIERRA NEGRA VOLCANO
SPEND TIME WITH A LOCAL INDIGENOUS FAMILY IN THE JUNGLE
COTOPAXI VOLCANO TREK
CLOUD FOREST BIKING AND HIKING
AMAZON WHITE WATER RAFTING
AMAZON TROPICAL RAIN FOREST CANYONING
PAPALLACTA HOT SPRINGS
Day 1: Arrival day
Welcome to Quito! The largest, best-preserved colonial city of America - declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. The city is considered the Cultural Capital of South America and is located on the equator in a valley at the foothills of the Pichincha volcano.
Depending on arrival time, you can spend your day exploring the old town of Quito and the surrounding area. ADVENTURE JOURNEYS can help you to organize a day trip (please request in advance). In the evening, one of our trip leaders will meet you at the hotel’s lobby for a welcome briefing at 18:00 hours. At this time we will discuss the details and questions you may have regarding the adventure. Our first day is an acclimation and information day.
Accommodation: Swissôtel Quito.
Day 2: Galapagos Isabela
Day 3: Snorkel at Lava Tunnels
Explore the amazing formations of lava created by the last eruptions of the volcanic island along the seashore. This magical place has historically been filmed by BBC and National Geographic for their documentaries. It is a labyrinth of lava arches comprised of crystal clear water full of sea turtles, eagle rays, sea lions, sharks and more. The turtles navigate their own highway from the mangroves to the open sea through "Los Tuneles". Here, we will have the best snorkeling opportunity with all these beautiful animals, including the curious Galapagos penguins playing around.
Before or after the trip, you can enjoy some optional activities such as snorkeling at "Concha de Perla", taking surfing lessons, biking or just relax on the exotic white-sand beaches of Isabela Island. We recommend you to take some time to visit the giant tortoise breeding center located walking distance from the hotel.
Boat ride to the Lava Tunnels time: 1 hour each way
Snorkeling time: 2 times of 1 hour each
What to wear today: shorts, water long sleeve t-shirt, sandals or tennis shoes, bathing suit, hat or baseball cap, sun cream, mosquito repellent, buff.
Accommodation: Cormorant or similar.
Day 4: Hike and Kayak
After driving up from Puerto Villamil to the trail head, we will prepare our backpacks for the hike into a young forest ecosystem, a world of recent geological history. Our destination is the rim of Sierra Negra Crater, an active volcano which last erupted in June 2018.
Upon arrival, we take in breathtaking views and explore the circumference of the massive, lava-filled crater, a caldera that is over six miles across at its widest point. If we feel energetic enough, we can continue our hike to Volcan Chico, a secondary crater that has a wild landscape of puffing fumaroles and colorful lava formations; great examples of the dramatic geological events that have formed the Galapagos Islands over millennia. In the afternoon we will visit Tintoreras Islet, located at a short distance from Puerto Villamil and home to a great variety of wildlife. Its turquoise, crystalline waters are inhabited by white-tipped reef sharks, Galapagos Penguins, marine turtles and sea lions. One of its beaches, surrounded by mangroves, is one of the few sites where marine iguanas can reproduce successfully.
Hiking time: 4 hours both ways
Hiking distance: 6 miles (9.6 km) (10 miles -16 km- optional to Volcan Chico)
Hiking elevation gain: 950 feet (289.5 meters)
Maximum elevation while hiking: 3687 feet (1124 meters)
What to wear today for hiking: shorts, t-shirt, tennis shoes, rain jacket, hat, buff, sun cream, mosquito repellent.
Kayaking time: 2 hours
Snorkeling time: 1 hour
What to wear today for kayaking and snorkeling: sandals, shorts, water long sleeve t-shirt, bathing suit, hat, sun cream, mosquito repellent.
Accommodation: Cormorant or similar.
Day 5: Charles Darwin Research Station
In the morning, traverse from Isabela to Santa Cruz Island to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station. During our island crossing, we will be on the lookout for dolphins and whales (July to October). Once we arrive, we will check in at the hotel. We will then visit the Charles Darwin Research Station to Learn more about many of the endemic species seen in the wild, as well as the ongoing conservation and management efforts on the Galapagos Islands. In the afternoon, we will head to the 'El Chato' reserve in the highlands of Santa Cruz, home to the famous Galapagos tortoises. Hiking through El Chato's beautiful landscape with these lumbering giants is an unforgettable experience! We will also see other highland wildlife such as pintail ducks, egrets, flycatchers, finches and frigatebirds, which gather to wash the salt off their feathers at a fresh water lake. Afterwards, return to Puerto Ayora to spend the evening in Galapagos' most populous town.
What to wear today: shorts, t-shirt, tennis shoes or sandals, hat, rain jacket (for the boat ride), sun cream.
Accommodation: Silberstein or similar.
Day 6: Flight back to Quito
After our final breakfast on the Galapagos Island and the last photos taken of sea lions, we have a transfer to Baltra's airport in time to catch the flight back to the mainland.
What to wear today: Pants, t-shirt, fleece top, tennis shoes, hat.
Accommodation: Swissôtel Quito.
Day 7: Free day in Quito
Today is a day on your own to explore the beautiful surroundings of Quito, ADVENTURE JOURNEYS can help you to organize a day trip.
COLONIAL CITY TOUR & THE EQUADOR LINE
DISCOVER QUITO UNESCO CITY ON TWO WHEELS!
MINDO CLOUD FOREST
OTAVALO MARKET FAIR
Accommodation: Swissôtel Quito.
Day 8: Hike in Cotopaxi
After breakfast, we leave Quito driving southwards along the gorgeous Avenue of Volcanoes, getting the chance to see the colorful Andean fields. On our way, we will reach 12,000 feet. (3657 meters). After arriving at the Cotopaxi National Park, we will go hiking around Limpiopungo lagoon of the foot hills of the Rumiñahui volcano. From here, we have the best views of Cotopaxi, the highest active volcano in the world. If the weather conditions permit, we will attempt to trek to the basecamp at 16000 ft. (4876 m).
In the afternoon we continue our drive towards the Llanganates National Park, known as the sacred mountain, until we reach the town of Baños, located at the entrance of the Amazon. Here we can enjoy the best night life by drinking cocktails and dancing salsa.
Trekking Activity Level - Moderate, this adventure is at high elevation, make sure you drink a lot of water or coca tea (in case of altitude sickness). The trail is on dirt surrounded by bushes and grass.
Trekking Time: 3 hours
Trekking Distance: 4 miles (6.4 km)
Elevation Gain: 1200 feet (366 meters)
Minimum Elevation: 12700 feet (3870 meters)
Maximum Elevation: 13850 feet (4222 meters)
NOTE - In case the weather and physical conditions are good you may trek to the Basecamp and the maximum elevation would be 16000 feet. (488 meters). What to wear today: Pants, t-shirt, fleece, hiking shoes, gloves, hat, buff, bring rain jacket and pants, water bottle, sun cream, binoculars.
Accommodation: La Floresta or similar.
Day 9: Biking in The Cloud Forest
This morning we cross country mountain bike from the Llanganates National Park down to the Pastaza River Canyon, enjoying the beauty of the special cloud rain forest climate. The road brings us through some Andean farms and a great canyon with many waterfalls.
While descending into the jungle, we will have a breath-taking view of Baños, a town well known for its spectacular location right at the foothills of the Tungurahua volcano, which has been active since 1999. The volcano is the main attraction of this region. In the afternoon we will have some time to explore the town and also go to The Swing of the End of the World, where the winner of the 2014 National Geographic photo contest took his photo.
Biking Activity Level - Moderate, mostly downhill, the first 45 minutes up hill and then afterwards just down. You will be riding on cobblestone and dirt roads for the first two hours, and 1 hour on asphalt.
Biking Time: 3 hours
Biking Distance: 20 miles (32.18 km)
Elevation Gain: 500 feet (152 meters)
Minimum Elevation while Biking: 5500 feet (1676 meters)
Maximum Elevation while Biking: 10450 feet (3185 meters)
NOTE - In case you want to avoid the uphill, there will always be the support of our transportation, and our driver will be happy to give you a ride till you decide to join the biking group. What to wear today: Shorts, t-shirt, fleece, tennis shoes, buff, bring rain jacket and pants, water bottle, sun cream, mosquito repellent.
Accommodation: La Floresta or similar.
Day 10: Canyoning in the Amazon
This morning we will hit the road of the waterfalls. The first stop will be at the Bride´s Veil waterfall, where we will take the Tarabita (cable car) to get across the Pastaza River. Then we will hike down to the Pailon del Diablo waterfall, the second highest in Ecuador.
Later, we will go deeper into the jungle inside the Llanganates National Park. The name “llanganates” comes from “beautiful mountain” in the local native language. Here, 600 years ago, the Incas hid their golden treasures. Many explorers have spent years looking for these treasures, some have even disappeared with no luck in this dense pristine jungle.
During a hike through the tropical rain forest, we will climb through several waterfall canyons. Our local native guide will teach about the incredible flora and fauna that thrive in this unequaled habitat.
We will spend the night at the Local Basic Jungle Lodge run by a kichwa indigenous family.
Canyoning Activity Level - Moderate, the jungle exploration will be done while hiking on the canyon that has been formed by the waterfalls and the Pimpilala river, so you will be hiking on irregular terrain and water surrounded by rain forest. The weather can be hot and humid which would make this a very refreshing activity. The highest waterfall to climb is 16 feet (4.87 meters) and the rest are smaller, we will use helmets, ropes and bring optional harnesses for people that want to use them.
Canyoning Time: 3 hours
Canyoning Distance: 2 miles (3.22 km)
Elevation Gain: 500 feet (152.4 meters)
Minimum Elevation while Canyoning: 2000 feet (609.6 meters)
Maximum Elevation while Canyoning: 2500 feet (762 meters)
What to wear today: Shorts, water long sleeve t-shirt, water sandals, rain jacket, water bottle, sun cream, mosquito repellent.
Accommodation: Amazon Homestay
NOTE - This is a very basic accommodation, you will have your own room but will have to share the bathroom. The rooms are very clean and all the beds have mosquito nets. There is no electricity in the room but there is a social area where you can have access to power to charge your batteries.
Day 11: Rafting in The Amazon
Day 12: End of Services
- Activities: Hiking to the top of sierra negra active volcano, snorkeling and kayaking in tintoreras, snorkel at the lava tunnels, visit the charles darwin research station, hiking in santa cruz highlands, 3 hours hiking in cotopaxi national park in the andes, 3 hours biking in the llanganates national park, 4 hours white-water rafting on jatunyacu river in the amazon rainforest, 3 hours canyoning at pimpilala waterfalls, bird watching and hiking exploration in the cloud forest, soaking in papallacta hot springs, share time with local indigenous people in the amazon, making chocolate, salsa lesson.
- Accommodation based in double occupancy: First class hotel in quito, 4-star hotels in The Galapagos, 4-star hotel in baños, home stay in the amazon, 5-star spa resort in papallacta.
- Transportation: Airfare quito – galapagos round trip, comfortable land and sea transportation.
- Gear: For snorkeling: fins and mask, trekking or hiking: black diamond trekking sticks, biking: trek x-caliber mtb (hydraulic disc brakes, front rock shock suspension), bontrager helmets, biking gloves, canyoning: rubber boots, ropes, black diamond harnesses, rafting: aire and nrs 7-people- rafts, nrs life jackets, nrs paddles, splash jackets.
- Trip leader: certified aj expert english-speaking adventure trip leader and local guides
- International flights
- Galapagos Ingala Card - $ 20 USD
- Galapagos National Park Fee - $ 100 USD
- Isabela Pier Fee - $ 10 USD
- My own room supplement - estimated budget $785 USD
- Airport transfers
- Travel insurance (mandatory)
- Meals not described in the itinerary - estimated budget $200 USD
- Tips for guides, drivers and hotels. - estimated budget $180 USD
In this journey you will experience a great diversity of ecosystems, including snowcapped mountains, high elevation paramo, middle elevation clould forest, Tropical Rain Forest or Amazon, and the Galapagos Islands, this means you must be ready for all kinds of weather as it depends very much in the altitude, the higher you go the colder it gets and the lower you go the warmer it gets. So please see the list below for what we recommend as packing list.
We recommend the use of a duffel bag (60 liters) for the main luggage and a daypack (20 liters) with rain cover for the outdoor activities.
REMEMBER: IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO TRAVEL LIGHT!
Credit or debit card
1 Warm Jacket
1 Fleece top
1 Rain jacket
1 Rain pants
1 Long sleeve water t-shirt
2 Long trousers or light hiking pants
2 Swimming suit
2 Extra formal clothing for the nightlife
1 Sport sandals (Chacos, keens or similar)
1 Flip flops
1 Hiking shoes
1 Tennis shoes
1 Warm gloves
1 Warm hat
1 Watch or alarm clock
1 Insect repellent
1 Sun cream 50 SPF
1 Flash light
1 Sun hat or baseball cap
1 Camera – waterproof if possible
1 Water bottle
First-aid kit(should contain lip salve, Aspirin, Band Aids, anti-histamine, Imodium or similar tablets for mild cases of diarrhea, re-hydration powder, extra prescription drugs you may be taking)
It is our intention to adhere to the itinerary described; however, due to our travel style, on occasions it may be necessary or desirable to make small changes. Weather conditions and unpredictable local circumstances may lead us to make alterations to the route and/or travel times. Hotels and flight schedules might change according to availability. Any mention to specific wildlife in the itinerary or trip details is not a guarantee that it will be seen during the trip.
2h 45 min each way from Quito to Galapagos. Regular size aircraft. About 140 passengers
2 - 3 hours a day while in mainland
45 minutes Airport transfers in Quito
45 minutes Airport transfers in Galapagos
45 minutes each way in Sierra Negra
2 hours each way from Isabela to Santa Cruz
45 minutes each way - Lava Tunnels
Sierra Negra: 30 minutes easy uphill; 1 and a half hours on flat terrain; 30 minutes downhill; 2 hours same way back.
Cotopaxi: 2 hours moderate uphill; 1 hour downhill.
Cloud forest: 1 hour easy uphill; 1 hour downhill same way back.
2 hours total.
1 hour moderate uphill; 2 hours downhill (terrain: cobblestone, dirt, muddy and asphalt)
From 3 to 4 hours depending on water level.
Tintoreras: 1 hour.
Lava Tunnels: 2 times of 1 hour each.
Pichincha, Galapagos, Cotopaxi, Tungurahua, Pastaza, Napo.
Andes highlands, Amazon rainforest and Galapagos Islands in Ecuador.
Quito: 2800 m (9,186 ft.)
Quilotoa: 3962 m (13,000 ft.)
Baños: 1820 m (5,971 ft.)
Amazon: 510 m (1,640 ft.)
Papallacta: 3300 m (10,827 ft.)
Galápagos: From sea level (most activities) to 1200 m (3,937 ft.) - Sierra Negra Volcano.
Day 15-34ºC / 59-93ºF - Night 12-17ºC / 53-62ºF.
Moderate to Challenging: Hiking in Sierra Negra is moderate but long and muddy during the wet season (from July to November); snorkeling is easy. In the cloud forest the uphill biking part can be challenging but there is always a truck behind supporting the team; the whitewater rafting on the Jatunyacu is Class III; the trekking in the cloud forest is moderate.
Traveling with Adventure Journeys you will have the possibility to experience and taste local food and snacks. Your guide will help you identify typical food and suggest the best places to enjoy it. Some meals are not included in order to give you some flexibility about where, what and with whom to eat. You have the option to share these meals with the group, however there is no obligation to do this. If you have any allergies or food restrictions, please inform AJ prior to your departure.
Vegetarians, Vegans and Gluten Free people are very welcome in our trip, our guides are always ready to coordinate with chefs and restaurants for substitute meals for them, as Ecuador is very well known for its great diversity of gastronomy.
The waters of the Galapagos Islands are a unique mixture of warm and cold water, ranging between 65ºF and 85ºF
All prices are based on double-occupancy. If you are traveling solo, you will be matched with another participant of your same gender. If you prefer to have a single room, please contact AJ prior to your departure to arrange your accommodation at an extra cost.
YOUR TRIP LEADERS AND GUIDES
All AJ guides and trip leaders are highly experienced, licensed from the Tourism University to operate in Ecuador and certified as Wilderness Adventure First Aid respondents. They all have approved several extra training courses for kayaking, rafting, biking and horse riding, besides this they all are Ecuadorian and have a fantastic personality. We always carry a complete first aid kit in our trips.
In some locations and for some activities, local guides join the trip leaders to provide an added service and make sure we practice sustainable tourism involving local indigenous people in our operation.
In the Galapagos Islands, minimum 4 participants for the AJ trip leader service are required.
SUSTAINABLE ECO AND CULTURAL TOURISM
Clients receive interpretation and education about the ecology and conservation of the Andes, Amazon Rainforest and Galapagos Islands, and learn about the factors that threaten it. We aim to promote long-term conservation of both local people cultural identity and the environment. We transport out and recycle all non-organic garbage and we prefer to work with local suppliers. Your visit will encourage the local communities to support responsible eco-tourism as a sustainable alternative for their living.
Please inform AJ of any existing medical conditions (i.e. pregnancy, diabetes, etc). Yellow fever, Hepatitis B vaccination and Malaria Medication are recommended when traveling to the tropics. Please ask your doctor for advice.