Ecuador is a country of rich indigenous cultures and spectacular natural scenery. From the moment you land in Quito, one of the most beautiful cities in South America, until your departure from Guayaquil, you will delight in one stunning vista after another. A highlight of your tour is sure to be a five-day cruise of the lush tropical landscapes of the Galapagos, teeming with exotic wildlife, including fur seals, marine iguanas, giant tortoises and blue-footed boobies.
Day #1 Quito, Ecuador - Behold the incredible vistas of Ecuador – where indigenous cultures and natural scenery create an enchanting backdrop. A five-day cruise of the Galapagos Islands showcases exotic wildlife in its tropical habitat, including fur seals, marine iguanas, giant tortoises and blue-footed boobies. Your journey begins today in Quito, one of South America’s most beautiful cities overlooking the Andes.
Day #2 Quito - Otavalo - The province of Imbabura is an enchanting region of lakes and farmlands. See how traditions thrive as local artisans create “Mazapan” bread dough figurines and talk about their unique art form. This evening enjoy accommodations at a 300-year-old Andean hacienda that offers warm hospitality and Old World elegance. An introductory lecture is followed by a welcome reception and dinner.
Day #3 Otavalo - This morning travel through lush valleys and stunning highlands to tour a rose plantation hacienda. Surrounded by the colors and fragrance of roses, learn about the varieties and production of one of Ecuador's major exports. Afterwards, take in the sights and sounds of the famous Otavalo Market as you browse the colorful displays. Get to know some of the local people and customs during a lunch followed by a folkloric show featuring indigenous music and dance. Then, watch local artisans create apparel using traditional techniques and enjoy a demonstration and tasting of “helado de paila,” a local ice cream specialty.
Day #4 Otavalo - Andes Mountain Train - Quito - The breathtaking beauty of the Andes is on display today. Begin your day with an unforgettable train ride through this region’s mountainous landscapes. View fertile valleys of fruit and sugar plantations and typical indigenous villages. Your train ride ends in the community of Salinas where a lunch is held featuring regional specialties as well as traditional Afro-Ecuadorian music and dance. This evening, return to Quito, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Day #5 Quito - Quito’s mild climate and dramatic mountain landscapes make it a pleasure to explore. Spend your morning touring the charming colonial center including the Presidential Palace and 17th-century church of La Compañía, with its breathtaking gilded altars. Next, visit the Equatorial Line Monument and Museum and cross from one hemisphere into another! The remainder of the day is at leisure to experience this historic city on your own.
Day #6 Quito - Baltra Island, Galapagos - Embark Ship - Bartholome Island - Today begins your adventure in the Galapagos! A morning flight takes you to Baltra Island. Enjoy lunch aboard the m/v Galapagos Legend. This afternoon, disembark at Bartholome Island, known for its spectacular volcanic formations. At the summit of the island, enjoy a panoramic view of the surrounding islands and Pinnacle Rock. Hike to the summit and see colonies of marine iguanas, lava lizards, tequila, and various cacti en route. You will also have the opportunity to snorkel to see Galapagos penguins, sea turtles, and white tipped sharks – from a safe distance!
Day #7 Isabela Island (Urbina Bay) - Fernandina Island (Espinosa Point) - Visit Isabela Island, where you will see the incredible fossil beach and coral area. After a nature walk, snorkel in the warm waters of Urbina Bay. Sail on to wondrous Fernandina Island where you will see oversized marine iguanas, Sally Lightfoot crabs, sea lions and Galapagos penguins. Look for brachycereus cacti, dramatic lava formations and vast mangrove beds that extend into the sea.
Day #8 Santiago (Egas Port) - Rabida (Jervis) - Arrive at Santiago, whose landscape is characterized by tuff-stone layers and lava flows. Look for hunting herons, great blue herons, lava herons, yellow crowned night herons, and oyster catchers. You may also see marine iguanas grazing on algae beds, fur seals frolicking in deep pools of cool water, and coral-colored crabs. Your next stop is the island of Rabida. Its volcanic beach is covered in dark red sand and sea lions. Hike to the scenic salt water lagoon, frequented by graceful flamingos. The eccentric boobies and nine species of Darwin’s finches can also be seen here. Cap off your day of sightseeing by stargazing from the deck of your ship.
Day #9 Santa Cruz (Charles Darwin Research Station and Highlands) - Visit the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island. See the famous giant tortoises that are part of the station’s breeding program. Later, trek through the highlands to visit breathtaking Cerro Chato to see more of the giant tortoises that gave the islands their name. Finally, you may choose to walk inside the dormant lava tubes.
Day #10 Santa Cruz (Bachas Beach) - Disembark Ship - Baltra Island - Guayaquil - Today, experience Bachas Beach, a stunning white sand beach located on the north side of Santa Cruz Island. Among the sand and surf, you’re bound to find many of the sea birds, marine iguanas and sea turtles that make their home here. You’ll also have the opportunity to take a dip in the clear turquoise waters. Later, return to the Galapagos Legend to check out and transfer to Baltra’s airport. Your afternoon flight brings you to Guayaquil.
Day #11 Guayaquil - Tour Concludes - Guayaquil is known as the “Pearl of the Pacific.” Enjoy a city tour showcasing the picturesque waterfront area and the 19th-century neighborhood of Las Peñas, with its colorful, Spanish-style wooden houses. Finally, visit the Botanical Garden where you can observe over 73 bird species and 60 species of butterflies. Then, transfer to the airport for your evening flight home.