14-DAY ECUADOR & GALAPAGOS: NATURE & CULTURE
14-DAY ECUADOR & GALAPAGOS: NATURE & CULTURE
This combined tour in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands offer travelers the opportunity to experience both the natural and cultural features of the country. Admire the lush vegetation of Mindo cloud forest, surrounded by waterfalls, butterflies and hummingbirds, and visit a chocolate factory to discover the secrets of cocoa processing. Explore the country’s indigenous heritage with a visit to the world famous Otavalo market, where the indigenous people in traditional dress offer their wonderful textiles, native paintings, ceramics, jewelry, tapestries and more at bargain prices.. Hike around the Cuicocha crater lake to enjoy the spectacular landscapes of the Andes, before you have a change of scenery and fly out to the majestic Galapagos Islands. Enjoy a week of nature and wildlife in four of the Islands as you snorkel through lava tunnels, encounter giant tortoises, iguanas, sea lions and a wide variety of sea-life, and learn about the history of the archipelago.
- Learn how to prepare chocolate in the traditional way at a chocolate factory in the tropical cloud forest.
- Snorkel through lava formations with sea turtles, penguins, sea horses, sea lions and sharks at Lava Tunnels.
Welcome to Quito! The biggest, best-preserved colonial city of America was declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. The city is considered the Cultural Capital of South America and the second most important city of the old Inca Empire. 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. In the evening, one of our trip leaders will meet you at the hotel for a welcome briefing and there will be plenty of time to discuss details and answer any questions you may have regarding the adventure. Our first day is an informational and acclimation day.
On the first day of our adventure, we will drive northwest of Quito to a view of the Pululahua crater, the third largest inhabited volcano crater in the world, hosting more than 400 people. After, we will reach the little town of Mindo, nestled into the cloud forest. This area is filled with a wide variety of plants and animal life – perfect for a nice introduction to the diversity of Ecuador. Mindo and its surrounding cloud forest are a birdwatcher's paradise, especially for hummingbirds! In the afternoon we will visit a chocolate distributor, where you can take a tour of the process of the cocoa, from harvesting the seed to the final product, like as a delicious brownie or a cup of real hot cocoa.
We will start our day driving back towards Quito to visit the Equator monument complex. The visit to the middle of the world is mandatory once you are in Ecuador, the place where you will be able to stand on both sides of the hemispheres, north and south at the same time and feel the neutral forces of the equator. Afterwards, we will drive north through dramatic mountain sceneries. On our way we will stop at a viewpoint to admire Imbabura Volcano and Lake San Pablo.
Once in Otavalo, you will have plenty of time to stroll along the narrow cobblestone streets, filled with Otavalo Indigenous people wearing the typical blue ponchos, white trousers and long braided hair and to learn all about their daily activities, typical food and native language. You will explore their famous handicraft market, with its wonderful textiles, alpaca throws and rugs, knitted clothing native paintings, ceramics, jewelry, tapestries and more at bargain prices. We will then continue to Peguche, a small village known for its waterfalls and wind instruments production. Finally we will go to Cotacachi, famous for its leather articles.
Hands on cultural experience – AJ Sustainable Sacha WarmiKuna women project
For lunch, we will head to Pijal, a small village located in the heart of the Andes to visit one of the AJ sustainable projects called Sacha WarmiKuna (women from the mountain). This is one fantastic effort developed by AJ and the local women with the main purpose to support their families and encourage the position of the women in the local society, providing them an alternative side work beside housekeeping, as a new option for an in-come. Once at the project you will experience an unforgettable cultural encounter, immersing yourself in the true spirit of the South-American woman and their skills for textiles and a deep culinary knowledge coming from the past generations. You will be part of the preparation of “Aji”, a local spicy salsa which is part of their identity, you will also share precious time with them and a tasty traditional lunch in which local women have used the fresh products harvested the same day from the surrounding organic fields. Later we will learn more about the weaving process of their textiles. Don’t miss the amazing opportunity to have the chance to give back, by buying handmade scarfs here. Later we will arrive at the beautiful, historical hacienda of Pinsaqui where we will stay overnight. Enjoy a typical Andean cocktail as welcome, and learn about the history of this place. .
Meals included:Breakfast, Dinner.
Today our challenge will be a 5-hour hike around the Cuicocha crater lake, with breathtaking views of the active volcano and of the amazing valleys located in Cotacachi-Cayapas ecological reserve. On this trek, we will reach an altitude of 11880ft and hike 9 miles around the crater. At the end of our hike, we will take a boat ride to the centre of the crater to observe the activity of this volcano, watching bubbles coming up from the centre of the caldera. In the afternoon we will drive back to Quito. In the evening, one of our trip leaders will meet you at the hotel for a briefing about your Galapagos adventure.
Meals included:Breakfast, Lunch.
Today we will get ready to explore the most amazing archipelago in the Pacific coast and the place where Charles Darwin based its theory of the evolution of species. We will board a morning flight from Quito to the island of San Cristobal. Once arrived, we have a transfer to the hotel in the town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno and a short briefing about the next days, before the adventure begins.
In the afternoon we head to "La Loberia", which is both home beach and Galapagos sea lions. We can spot them launching over rocks or just lazy dozing in the sand. We also get to see yellow warbler birds, frigate birds, and several species of Darwin finches along the beach. Inbetween the rocks we can find marine iguanas, which you can only see in Galapagos. We also have the time to go for a refreshing swim, explore the waters with our snorkel equipment and enjoy the beach.
In the morning, we will take a speed boat to Kicker Rock, also known as the Sleeping Lion (Leon Dormido) because of its resemblance. This site is located off the coast of San Cristobal. The remains of a lava cone eroded by the sea, two vertical rocks rising 500 feet above the ocean, form a small channel that is navigable by small boats. This Galapagos Islands natural monument has become a favorite sight due to the many tropicbirds, frigate birds and boobies that fill the sky in this area. Beneath the sea, the crystal waters offer a brilliant show of colorful tropical fish, such as rainbow fish, and sharks, like hammerhead-, reef- and white tip sharks. After lunch, we will visit Sea Lions Island (Isla de Los Lobos). This appropriately named island is ripe with noisy, frolicking, jolly sea lions who will welcome us to their home with open fins. This island also offers great snorkeling opportunities as well as the chance to see blue-footed and Nazca boobies.
Meals included:Breakfast, Lunch.
In the morning, we will take a short flight to Isabela Island, the largest island in the archipelago and the place where the most volcanic activity in the Galapagos is reported. The island is formed by six shield volcanoes, Alcedo, Cerra Azul, Darwin, Ecuador, Sierra Negra and Wolf, five of them still active, and therefore the island is one of the most volcanically active places on earth.
In the afternoon, we head out on our mountain bikes to explore the beautiful coastline on an exclusive trail, taking us through an incredible ecosystem with a wide variety of wildlife. We start with a visit to the Wall of Tears, a massive wall built with lava rocks. This site dates back to the '50s, when Isabela was used as a penal colony and prisoners were forced to build the wall to keep them from going mad, because of the isolation they experienced. As we continue our ride along the coast, we will explore pristine, white sand beaches, mangrove forests and lagoons. This area is filled with birdlife, including American oyster catchers, herons, flamingos, finches and many shore birds, as well as the ubiquitous sea lions and marine iguanas. After dinner we can enjoy a breathtaking sunset on the beach of Puerto Villamil.
We explore the incredible ecosystem and wildlife of the island, enjoying great views of flamingos and marine iguanas in the salt water lagoons, white sand beaches and mangrove forests. This area is filled with birdlife, including American oyster catchers, herons, flamingos, finches and many shore birds, as well as the ubiquitous sea lions and marine iguanas.
One of the highlights of today is the Tortoise Breeding Centre, where we will see the giant tortoises in the various stages of development, from eggs to small hatchlings, to juveniles to sub adults. After dinner we can enjoy a breath-taking sunset on the beach of Puerto Villamil.
Today, we will explore the amazing formations of lava created by the last eruptions of the Volcanic Island along the seashore. This magical place is been used by the staff of BBC /National Geographic for their documentaries. It is a labyrinth of lava arches inside the breakers with crystal clear water full of huge sea turtles, eagle rays, sea lions, fish, white tipped reef sharks and more. Turtles navigate their own highway from the mangroves to the open sea through "Los Tuneles". Over here, we will have the best snorkeling opportunity with all these beautiful animals, including the curious Galapagos penguin playing around.
Before or after the trip, you can enjoy some optional activities such as snorkeling at "Concha de Perla" 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 centre.
Meals included:Breakfast, Lunch.
In the morning, traverse from Isabela to Santa Cruz Island to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station. 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.
Santa Fe Island is a popular day trip for wildlife enthusiasts in the Galapagos. Home to rare iguanas, a giant cactus forest, and great snorkeling opportunities, the island has a lot to offer, and this day trip from Puerto Ayora lets you effortlessly explore its highlights. Tour Santa Fe Island with a guide who can share lots of insight about the local ecosystem and travel from your hotel with peace of mind. The disembark will be in groups, make sure to bring water and a camera. The trail starts at the beach and leads you into a giant cactus forest while the Galapagos hawk overfly in the light blue sky. Crabs, nocturnal herons, marine iguanas, mockingbirds and Galapagos doves are often spotted in this unique island. The snorkel will take place in a bay called Fisherman Bay in Santa Fe Island; here you may spot sea turtles, rays, sea lions, fishes, Galapagos sharks and many more in this rocky reef.
Meals included:Breakfast, Lunch.
Today, you can experience the Galapagos at your pace! As an option, you can go on a self-guided exploration walk through a dry forest to Tortuga Bay (about 3 ½ miles long), a beautiful white sand beach and nesting side to thousands of marine turtles. This beautiful place invites for swimming or snorkeling. Alternatively, you can join any of the optional activities (at an extra cost), such as a trip to Floreana Island, Bartolome Island or a scuba-diving day trip, just to mention a few.
After our final breakfast on the Galapagos Island and the last photos taken of sea lions, we will have a transfer to Baltra's airport in time to catch the flight back to the mainland.
- Transportation: Airfare Quito - Galapagos - Quito round trip, airport transfers (national flights), one way flight San Cristobal-Isabela, sea transportation Santa Cruz - Isabela islands, private and comfortable land and sea transportation.
- Accommodation based in double occupancy: 5* hotel in Quito, 3+ star lodge in Mindo, colonial hacienda in Otavalo, 3+ star hotels in Galapagos.
- Meals: 13 breakfasts, 4 lunches, 1 dinner.
- Activities: In Ecuador mainland: Visit to the Middle of the World, hiking in the cloud forest, chocolate factory, indigenous Market, encounter with indigenous people, hiking around Cuicocha lake. In Galapagos: snorkeling at Kicker Rock and Isla de los Lobos, tortoise breeding center and flamingo lagoon in Isabela Island, snorkeling in Lava Tunnels, Wall of Tears, Charles Darwin Research Station, hiking in Santa Cruz highlands, day trip to Santa Fé.
- Gear: Hiking sticks, snorkeling mask and fins, life vest.
- Trip Leader: Certified AJ expert English-speaking adventure Trip Leader and naturalist local guides in Galapagos National Park.
What is not included?
- My Own Room supplement $980 USD.
- International flights.
- Airport transfer (international flights).
- Travel insurance (mandatory).
- Meals not described in the itinerary - estimated budget USD $280.
- INGALA transit card: USD $20 per person, cash only (subject to change).
- Galapagos National Park fee: USD $100 per person, cash only (subject to change).
- USD $10 pier-use fee at Puerto Villamil (subject to change)
- Wetsuit for rent: USD $10.
- Tips for guides and drivers - estimated budget USD $180.
- 2 hour a day while in Mainland.
- 45 minutes Airport transfers in Quito.
- 45 minutes Airport transfers in Galapagos.
- 45 minutes each way to Sierra Negra
- 2 hours from Isabela to Santa Cruz.
- 45 minutes each way - Lava Tunnels.
- 45 minutes each way - Kicker Rock.