ECUADOR - GALAPAGOS ADVENTURE
Get to explore the Amazon as well as the Galapagos, for some of the most incredible wildlife viewing opportunities that the world has to offer. After your comfortable stay in the Amazon, you will also be able to explore some Andean Cloud Forest, as well as go horse riding, or perhaps relax in some hotsprings set amidst the Andes mountains.
Day 01: Arrival Quito
Arrival in Quito and transfer to your chosen hotel.
Preferred hotels are Hotel Anahi or Patio Analuz; both are really nice boutique hotels with character:
Day 02: Quito
Quito City Tour: Gargoyles, History, Cloisters, Art, sweets and more...
From your hotel we will step back in time into the picturesque neighbourhood of San Juan as we make our way toward the Historic Centre. We will walk down quaint cobbled streets lined with beautiful brightly coloured colonial houses roofed in old tiles with balconies dressed in flowers, watched over by the winged virgin of Quito sitting up on the ‘Panecillo’. The ‘Panecillo’, so named for its bread like shape, is actually a parasitic crater formed by magma from Pichincha Volcano.
Our first stop is at La Basilica, whose architectural features include symbolic gargoyles inspired by Ecuadorian fauna. The legend behind its construction will leave you wondering at this still unfinished yet imposing church blessed in 1985 by Pope John Paul II.
From here we continue along Benalcazar Street, past the house of conqueror Sebastian de Benalcazar and onto Garcia Moreno Street. This street, also known as the Calle de las Siete Cruces (street of the seven crosses) was an Incan route to the Panecillo, a hill thought to have been a centre of worship to the Sun and Moon Gods. This Incan avenue was transformed into the street most heavily influenced by Christianity in Quito when the Spanish arrived. They erected seven crosses along the avenue in an effort to make the indigenous people believe in their God. We walk along this street to the Plaza de la Independencia.
On the south side of the square lies one of the oldest cathedrals in South America and the sacred heart of the city: La Catedral de Quito, an impressive white walled building with green glazed ceramic domes. Look out for the plaque marking the spot on which President Gabriel Garcia Moreno was killed.
The symmetrical Palacio de Carondelet, the Presidential Palace, runs along the western side of the square, its overhanging balconies a gift from the French Government and originally from the Palace of the Tuilleries in Paris.
We look in at the ancestral interior courtyard of the Centro Cultural Metropolitano, whose previous lives include: tobacco factory, prison and university. A few buildings up past the Biblioteca Nacional is the incomparable Iglesia de la Compañia, a Jesuit church overflowing in Baroque art, its tragic history covered in gold concealing the devastating fire and earthquake that shook it.
The great Plaza de San Francisco and its church have been a centre of activity since pre-Incan times when the square was the Tianguez (main market place). We will search for the mythical stone of Cantuñas legend in the church’s vestibule and visit the museum, which houses four thousand pieces including sculptures and oil paintings from the Éscuela Quiteña’. The works of art on display by artists like Miguel de Santiago, ‘Caspicara’and Bernardo de Legarda show the mix of indigenous and European styles: angels with Andean features and virgins dressed in wide skirts shaped like volcanoes.
Before moving on we will take a break at the café Tianguez, where you can enjoy Ecuador’s high altitude coffee and shop for souvenirs at the fair-trade bazaar offering an incredible variety of handicrafts from all over Ecuador.
We continue along Bolivar Street toward the Arco de la Reina and the Covento del Carmen Alto where, through a revolving turret, sweets and holy wine are sold. You can taste the traditional sweet, Desamargados, made by the cloister nuns to a 500 year old recipe.
Our last stop of the day is to the charming street of La Ronda, the first street to be built in Quito. The street was established by the indigenous who settled there by the banks of the stream that descended from the waters of Pichincha. Named in honour of the traditional night time rondas, (rounds or walks) as taken in the Spanish custom, La Ronda became a haven for artists, poets and bohemians. Recently restored, this historical place is now full of cafes, galleries and stores.
We will visit a family that makes beautiful coloured, flower-shaped candles that are used in religious processions throughout the year. Another family, hatmakers, invites us to see their workshop and afterwards you can take photos in typical colonial dress; a great way to end a busy day in the Historic Centre of Quito.
Day 03: Quito - Yasuni National Park (4 day program at Napo Wildlife Center)
Departing from Quito, 30 minute flight to Coca over the eastern Andes mountain range. After landing, about mid morning, and airport procedures a 5 min transfer in local chiva (hired bus) or local taxi from airport to Port Francisco de Orellana will drive us to embark onto a comfortable covered motor boat. Here we start a canoe ride along the Napo river for about 2 . hours approx, lunch box in route.
Along the way birds like herons, kingfishers and others can be spotted. After arriving at NWC’s entry dock we disembark for restroom then take a majestic and peaceful 1 . hours dugout canoe ride surrounded by trees overhead, paddling along a narrow creek that connects to the lake where the lodge is located. Good possibilities of monkeys sights of various species as well as large birds like toucans, parrots or even macaws. Late afternoon arrival to the NWC lodge by the overwhelming view of the Añangu lake, welcome drink and facilities. After dinner optional cayman (alligator) observation around the lake and natural sounds at night.
Day 04: Yasuni National Park
Early wake up to reach the best and easy access parrot clay licks in Ecuador, about 1 hour away from the lodge, guests reach there just before parrot activity kicks off at the clay lick between 7:30 to 8:30. A total of 11 species of parrots, parakeets and macaws can be seen. A visit that depends on weather conditions but usually successful. Later, hike along forest trail to visit to the Quichua community of Añangu and sharing time with a family on their activities. Return to the creek and hike through a Terra Firme Forest for about 30 minutes until we arrive to the second parrot clay lick where if the weather conditions help will be able to find different species of parrots, parakeets and even macaws. Box lunch at the parrot clay lick observatory. Late afternoon arrival to the lodge.
Day 05: Yasuni National Park
After early breakfast, depart from the lodge to the finest experience at a canopy tower on the Napo. A 36m high canopy tower opened to guests in November 2004, a great way to experience the life above the forest floor. This is the second tower at the Napo Wildlife Center (the first is attched to the dining hall and allows great views of the lake). The canopy tower is located about 20 minutes from the lodge deep within the terra firme forest. As you ascend the 12-story tower, you pass through different levels of the forest and emerge on top of a huge Ceiba tree.
Here you cross onto a wooden platform that is actually built into the tree and experience the view formerly reserved only for the birds. The metal tower itself was constructed to the highest standards, galvanized, and carefully inspected by engineers. Safety is the priority. The platform at the top of the tree was constructed by tree platform specialists as well.
From top to bottom, there is no finer canopy experience in Eastern Ecuador. Flocks of colorful tanagers pass right through the canopy of the tree, Blue-andyellow Macaws fly past, in nearby trees Spider Monkeys search for fruit, two species of large toucans call in the early mornings and afternoons, and the life of the forest canopy opens before you. Birds that are virtually impossible to see from the forest floor far below are suddenly right beside you, oblivious to your presence.
The canopy tower opens a whole new world to guests of the Napo Wildlife Center!! Served lunch at the lodge. Afternoon visit to a terra firme trail, hike along primary forest to discover the forest interior, posibilities of finding lizards, colorful manakins or the unique and endemic Golden mantle tamarin monkeys. After the hike, explore the lake and creeks by dugout canoe with great possibilities of running into a Giant otter family on the way...
Day 06: Yasuni National Park - Quito
Early departure and last excursion canoeing back to the Napo river, the creek may reveal new sights of Giant otters, Monk Saki monkeys or many other rare birds. Entry docking area, use of restrooms and embarking on motorized canoe in order to return back to Coca, arrival approximately after 2 hours boat ride up river, in order to check for Coca – Quito flight, schedule to be announced according to departure details and arrangements.
Additional Day(s): Optional excursions such as hikes through different trails and forest types. Canoe rides exploring deeper areas of surrounding creeks with more wildlife possibilities, additional mammal clay lick excursion, handicraft workshop with the local community among other options.
Flight back to Quito, Transfer to Papallacta Hotsprings, Overnight at Papallacta. A very good place for relaxing and already near to next days destination Antisana. Chill out in the hotsprings surrounded by the andes
We head out from the capital city of Quito and down into the valley with stunning views of the Avenue of the Volcanoes. Once out of the city we will pass through the Valle de los Chillos named for the ´Chillo´ trees (Guaba fruit) that grow in this temperate valley. On to the highland town of El Tingo, famous locally for its therapeutic thermal waters and ‘Hornado’, a typical Ecuadorean highland dish of roast pork. We continue our journey passing through Alangasi, where the central plaza, church and park are the stage for many religious festivals.
Day 07: Quito
Here we can do hiking, horseback riding, biking and glacier climbing.
As we pass through the main square in Pintag, your guide will tell you the story of the fight between the Inca Huayna Capac and the Caranqui Chief, Pintag. After a taste of the exotic local fruits including the chirimoya when in season, we arrive at some of the best preserved páramo, highland moor, in the world. As we wind our way up through the páramo, a giant path of broken rocks from a relatively young lava flow will lead us up to Humboldt’s sleeping place and Hacienda Antisana (at 4120m). Here we will stop for a short break and try the ´sunfo´tea, a herb locally renowned for its medicinal benefits, especially in alleviating the symptoms of altitude sickness.
The flora and fauna of the zone is sparse in comparison to other regions due to the extreme conditions of life on the páramo. The herbaceous plants and shrubs have adapted to their environment, to the cold temperatures and strong sunlight. Some plants have extra thick hairy leaves to protect them from the icy wind and the animals have full coats of dark coloured fur to keep them warm.
The bus will drop us off at the Antisana River gorge, a small stream at this altitude, of melt water from the Antisana glacier. From here we will walk one hour north to the base of the old Chuzalongos, three peaks formed by an ancient horseshoe shaped crater sitting to the west of Antisana. The name of these three peaks, Chuzalongos, comes from an indigenous legend that speaks of mountain goblins.
We will walk through a cove to the seasonal lake of Santa Lucia where many highland animals come to the water. A beautiful path winds its way through the cold, humid, lichen covered cove crossed by a system of very small streams from glacial melt water.
In Los Chuzalongos look out for the great Andean Condor and curiquinges sheltering in these three rocky peaks. We will stop for a short break and an energizing snack before heading back to the Hacienda Antisana.
For lunch we will have a páramo picnic of warming soup, stunning views, homemade sandwiches and dessert with a steaming hot cup of tea. We head back down towards Quito; the landscape of the highlands all the more stunning under the late afternoon sky; or onto to your next adventure in the Avenue of the Volcanoes.
Day 08: Mindo
Cloud Forest Adventures in Mindo
To the north-west of Quito the landscape becomes dry and sandy and in this desert like place we come to the Mitad del Mundo, the middle of the earth as calculated and measured by the French Geodesics Mission.
We will pass by the small towns of San Antonio de Pichincha and Calacalí. The road winds down some 1000m into the cloud forest of the western flanks of Pichincha. As we drive down you can see how the vegetation becomes denser and the leaves of the plants and trees, larger.
At the archaeological site of Tulipe are the ruins of ceremonial pools used for ritual baths and sacraments by the Yumbos, a pre-Incan population. Here an explanation of their way of life and their organization of an important trading route between the coast and the highlands will be given. The Yumbos and the Spanish conquerors were contemporaries and at the Museum a guide will tell you more about how the arrival of the Spanish affected the Yumbo people.
At the Molienda, a traditional mill, they use horse power to turn the mill, crushing the sugarcane in order to extract the sweet juice. You can have a go too turning the mill and collecting the extracted juice. The juice is then used to make Guarapo, sugarcane alcohol and panela, brown sugarloaf.
From here we travel to the town of Pueblo Nuevo to taste their dulce de guayaba (guayaba sweets), dulce de leche (caramel) and bee’s honey.
On to the town of Mindo and its cloud forest which has more than 400 species of bird and the second highest number of endemic species of butterfly in the country.
Now it is time for our canopy adventure. A team of professional and prepared guides will take us on an amazing journey above the cloud forest on a series of zip lines. So harness up and enjoy the forest from above and the adrenalin of flying through the air with the birds. After a safe landing we head to Hostería Sachatamia for lunch.
In the afternoon we will visit a Butterfly Farm and see the different phases of a butterfly’s life cycle. From here we will take a short walk into the cloud forest, keeping an eye out for exotic birds, and mammals amongst the lush vegetation and listen to the gentle background hum of life in this mega diverse place.
As the afternoon light fades we travel back up into the mountains and up to Quito.
Flight out to Galapagos and start cruise
Day 09: Puerto Ayora and Darwin Research Station
Santa Cruz Arrival at Baltra airport; we will transfer to Puerto Ayora and embark on the Mary Anne. After lunch, we visit the Charles Darwin Research Station, home to legendary Lonesome George, the last remaining individual of his species; an inspiring introduction to the ecological relevance of the Galapagos Islands. Breeding and reintroduction programs of giant tortoises and land iguanas have proven increasingly successful. We spend the late afternoon strolling along the main thoroughfare of Puerto Ayora.
Day 10: An initiation to the western islands
We travel to Isabela, the largest island in the Galapagos. After breakfast, we step ashore at Punta Moreno (dry landing) onto a superb pahoehoe lava flow surrounded by giant shield volcanoes, some still active!
Panga ride in and around Elizabeth Bay, a salt-water lagoon surrounded by the largest red mangroves of the Galapagos.
Day 11: Marine abundance
We disembark at Urbina Bay (wet landing) onto a black sand beach, nesting site for Green Sea Turtle. We take a brief hike inland in search of land iguanas and giant tortoises (seasonal) that migrate to and from the highlands. At the beach, we will admire the remains of a geological uplift exposing coral heads and marine fossils; a wonderful snorkeling site.
We cross Bolivar Channel to Fernandina Island, one of the world’s most unspoilt sites, and disembark (dry landing) at Punta Espinosa. Strolling along the shoreline, we will be on the look out for Flightless Cormorants, Galapagos sea lions, sooty-coloured marine iguanas and bright red-orange Sally Lightfoot Crabs.
Day 12: Pirate’s abode
Dry landing near Tagus Cove, historic pirate hideaway where names of countless ships are recorded for posterity on the cliff face. Hike through beautiful Galapagos landscapes to Darwin Lake, a salt-water crater lagoon surrounded by tuff stone.
At Punta Albemarle (dry landing), Flightless Cormorant and the largest marine iguanas of the Islands await to greet you at a site virtually untouched by Man.
Day 13: Grottos and fur seals
After three days exploring the fabulous western islands, we head to central Santiago to disembark at Espumilla (wet landing), onto a golden-coloured sand Green Sea Turtle nesting site. A forest trail will take us through some of the largest specimens of Palo Santo on the islands to observe Yellow Warblers, the unbelievably tame Galapagos Flycatcher and the ever-intriguing Darwin’s finches.
At Puerto Egas (wet landing) we disembark on a dark sand volcanic beach with an interesting history of human settlement. Sleepy Galapagos fur seals lounge under arches of lava carved by the ocean and occasionally dip into the crystalline pools, also known as “grottos”.
Day 14: The bird’s den
Prior to reaching Baltra airport, we disembark on North Seymour (dry landing), a small uplifted island, where we will walk right up to bird nesting colonies of the two species of Frigatebirds, Blue-footed Boobies and Swallow-tailed Gulls, and experience, depending on season, spectacular displays.
On the final day the yacht sails on to the Baltra airport, where you will board a flight back to Quito or Guayaquil. Upon arrival you will be met and transferred to your hotel.
Day 15: Quito/Guayaquil
Transfer to airport for flight back home.
Price per person sharing: ---- GBP (subject to change and availability)