Ecuador & Galapagos Islands
Friday departure from JFK with Avianca to Quito. Ecuador, via Bogotá. Assistance on arrival and transfer to Hotel Plaza Sucre (or similar), conveniently located in the Old town. Check-in for 3 nights. Welcome dinner at a local restaurant.
Saturday is the best day of the week to visit the Otavalo Market. This big indiginous market is 57 miles from Quito. The drive is about 1 hour 1/2 and the market is a paradise for shoppers and photographers. We’ll find colourful textiles, panchos, leather goods, Jewelry and much much more…Located in the centre of a farming community it is surrounded by peaks and volcanoes reaching more than 15000 feet.
Full day guided tour of Quito. We’ll start driving north of the city to visit the Middle of the World Monument where we’ll experience various strange facts and where you can set one foot on the northern hemisphere and the other on the southern hemisphere. We’ll continue to the colonial area where we’ll have a walking tour through the streets of Quito’s historical center. We’ll visit Plaza de la Independencia, comprising the main buildings which govern the political and religious life of the city and the country. We’ll also visit La Compañía Church where we can appreciate its magnificent architecture and the San Francisco Church. The tour finishes with views from the Panecillo Hill, a landscape where the winged Virgin of Quito stands. The statue built in aluminum overlooks and guards the city of Quito.
After breakfast and check out from the hotel. We’ll be transferred to Quito’s airport for our flight to the Galapagos Islands.
Our morning flight with Avianca arrives around 12 noon
Reception and transfer to Puerto Ayora. Ferry crossing to Santa Cruz Island (10min-ride). Arrive to Santa Cruz Island. Stop at highlands of Santa Cruz where we’ll visit a Giant Tortoise Reserve, and take an easy hike to observe to Giant Tortoises in their natural habitat. Transfer to the hotel and check in for one night at Casa Natura Galapagos Lodge.
This morning we will take a 3 1/2 hour boat tour around Santa Cruz Bay. First going to ‘Loberia’, so named for the large sea lion colony where snorkeling is possible. It is a good place to spot multi-coloured fish and maybe see sea turtles, crabs, pelicans, marine iguanas and other marine birds.
This afternoon our boat will cross the open waters to nearby Isabela island where we’ll spend the next two days. The largest of the Galapagos Islands, Isabela is formed from five volcanoes, of which two are still active. An idyllic paradise of white sand beaches and swaying palms, it is home to the second largest caldera on earth and the highest point in the archipelago. We’ll base ourselves in the small town of Puerto Villamil, spend 2 nights at Gran Tintorera, and take excursions out around the island.
Our second day on Isabela affords us the opportunity to explore the island more fully: we’ll have various options to hike, either up the Sierra Negra or the Sierra Chico Volcano.
Sierra Negra volcano dominates the southern half of the island. The walk to the top is 6 hours return, but the panorama from the top, presenting us with some spectacular views across the island and towards Santiago Island to the northeast, is well worth the effort. A shorter walk to Sierra Chico Volcano is possible.
This afternoon we may also have the chance for snorkelling at Concha y Perla. Overnight Gran Tintorera.
After breakfast, morning excursion to Tintoreras. We will take a small boat to the nearby Tintoreras islets. These islets were formed from the lava flows from volcanoes and are fantastic for viewing wildlife. The bay in front of the island is home to a colony of white tip sharks. As we walked around we may see a vast array of birdlife and an abundance of marine iguanas (only found in the Galapagos) whilst in the water giant turtles, Galapagos penguins and sea lions may be swimming around.
2 PM departure from the port of Isabela to navigate to Santa Cruz Island by speedboat. The journey takes about 2 to 2 ½ hours. Arrival in Santa Cruz and transfer to your hotel. Check-in at Casa Natura Galapagos Lodge for the next 3 nights.
Today we plan to take a full day excursion to Seymour Island. Here there are land iguanas, and sea lions to view playing in the water just off shore. The island is also renowned for its population of magnificent red throated frigate birds and the blue footed boobie. Time permitting we will also have the opportunity for some snorkeling. Lunch will be served onboard.
This morning we will take a walk to Tortuga Bay (3 miles return walk) where we have the opportunity to swim at one of the most spectacular beaches in the Galapagos Islands and an important turtle nesting ground.
In the afternoon visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station where you’ll learn by first hand, the conservation and research efforts in the Galapagos Islands. See the tortoise hatchlings and breeding programs which are saving several races of tortoises from extinction.
Morning at leisure with free time until transfer to Baltra airport. Possibility to enjoy a morning at Garrapatero Beach for swimming or kayaking. Flight from Baltra to Quito with Avianca. Assistance on arrival and transfer to hotel.
Farewell dinner at a local restaurant.
Transfer to airport for your return flight to the US with Avianca. Short stop over in Bogota.