Ecuador Highlands & Galapagos


From the heights of the Andes to the depths of the Amazon Jungle to the amazing wildlife, both on land and underwater. Tour the Galapagos' outstanding natural beauty and interesting history by foot and boat on this active adventure. You’ll also walk through the Amazon Jungle with an Indigenous guide leading the way, hike in Cotopaxi National Park – home to one of the world’s largest active volcanos – and canoe to your river-side eco-lodge accommodation on the edge of the rainforest. You’ll also get a glimpse into everyday life during a homestay with a local family where you’ll connect with them, lending a hand with chores, doing seasonal activities and maybe brushing up on your Espanol. There’s so much to see, do and learn in this South American paradise.

17 days, from

$5,055

per person

GROUP SIZE

16 people max

ACTIVITY LEVEL

3
Trip code: GGSIC
Style: Original
Theme: Explorer

Details

Countries Visited:  Ecuador
Accommodation: Hotel (12 nights), Jungle Eco Lodge (2 nights), Homestay (2 nights)
Transportation: Plane , Speed Boat , Private Vehicle , Taxi , Public bus
Included Meals:

  • 16 breakfasts
  • 7 lunches
  • 4 dinners

Group size: Minimum 1, Max 16

  • Stay on the edge of the Amazon Rainforest in eco lodge-style accommodation on the banks of the Arajuno River and enjoy a special evening walk through the jungle under the night sky.

  • Walk in the rainforest with an indigenous guide by your side to lead the way, point out local birds and teach you about the incredible plant life that thrives here. Then, visit an Amazon animal rescue centre.

  • Marvel at the snow-capped Cotopaxi volcano – one of the largest active volcanos in the world – while hiking through Cotopaxi National Park.

  • Live like a local as you’re welcomed into a family home in a sustainable community high in the hills of Ecuador, getting your hands dirty and helping with everyday tasks like reforestation projects, organic gardening or jam making, to name a few.

  • The Galapagos Islands played a profound role in forming Charles Darwin's Theory of Natural Selection. Explore the islands on this in-depth adventure, coming face-to-face with some of the most extraordinary wildlife on earth

  • Get your blood pumping as you scale a volcano on Isabela Island, get up close and personal with giant tortoises on Santa Cruz Island. These nearly extinct creatures are one of the greatest drawcards to the Galapagos

  • This is a land based Galapagos trip, we use locally owned hotels on the islands. On this trip you will have more opportunities to interact with the locals as opposed to staying on a boat.

Itinerary

Show Full Itinerary

Day 1: Quito

Bienvenido! Welcome to Ecuador. Your South American adventure begins in the country’s capital of Quito – high in the Andes. You can expect to be greeted by the relaxed atmosphere that Ecuador does so well. You’ll notice a mix of modern and traditional houses dotted halfway up the surrounding mountain peaks that frame the city and an Old Town with ancient architectural jewels just waiting to be explored. Our trip officially kicks off with a welcome meeting at 6 pm this evening, where you’ll meet your group leader and travel pals. If you arrive with time to spare, we recommend taking a wander through the cobblestone streets, checking out the eclectic market stalls or perhaps joining an Intrepid Urban Adventure tour through the city’s historic centre. Discover more here: Quito Legends and Culture Tour (urbanadventures.com)

Day 2: Tena - Amazon

After breakfast this morning, you’ll wave goodbye to the country’s capital as we switch up the pace and make our way from the Andes to the Amazon on a local bus bound for Tena. Your lodge-style accommodation in Tena, on the banks of the Arajuno River, is only accessible by canoe so you can expect a little bit of adventure for the last leg of today’s trip – welcome to the jungle. You'll spend the afternoon at your leisure, perhaps exploring the eco-lodge, built with all-natural materials, and soaking up the atmosphere of this magical place surrounded by rainforest. In the evening, you’ll enjoy dinner at the eco-lodge, listening to the singing sounds of jungle insects and the flicker of the fireplace. Then, wander the area under the twinkling night sky on a special night walk with your locally-based leader guiding the way.

Day 3: Tena- Amazon

Fuel up on breakfast this morning – we have a big day of adventures ahead. First up, you’ll get the chance to hike into the rainforest with an indigenous guide leading the way. Listen carefully as they point out local bird species and teach you about the incredible plant life that thrives here. You’ll be surrounded by one of the most magnificent landscapes on Earth, teeming with wildlife, so make sure you take a moment to breathe it all in. After lunch, you’ll visit an animal rescue centre to learn more about the local wildlife (and how we can help to protect them).

Day 4: Banos

Take the opportunity to mingle with the locals and, perhaps brush up on your Spanish, on a public bus to Banos today. Surrounded by towering verdant mountains, home to hot springs and etched with waterways that lead to thundering waterfalls – we think you’re going to like it here. On arrival, stretch your legs with a leader-led walking tour of the city to find your bearings and get the inside scoop on the best places to grab a bite to eat. Then, in the afternoon opt to visit Pailon del Diablo, one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the area. The 80-meter-high falls have a mighty strength that whips up a spray of water – showering anyone in its path. Expect stairs - a lot of them - but expect to forget all about them when you reach the view of Pailon del Diablo.

Day 5: Cotopaxi National Park- Yunguilla Community Stay

Rise bright and early this morning as we hit the road for Cotopaxi National Park. This national park is home to three volcanos, including one of the largest active volcanos in the world – the park’s namesake, Cotopaxi. We’ll take to the winding trails that meander through the park for a hike through the area that sits below the dominating, snow-capped volcano. Keep your eyes peeled for foxes, white-tailed deer and Brazilian rabbits that call this area home. After some time to explore, you'll head to Yunguilla village, where members of the community will be waiting to welcome you to their home and show you a glimpse into their lives. This evening, enjoy a traditional homemade dinner and a chance to get to know your host family.

Day 6: Yunguilla Community Stay

Today, you’ll be immersed in the local way of life as you spend the full day alongside your host family. There will be different jobs to participate in and experiences to enjoy depending on the time of season you travel. You may be invited to get your hands dirty with reforestation projects or organic gardening, you might learn to make jam or cheese or even get a little creative and work on traditional handicrafts. Whatever you get up to, the best part of today is simply spending time with the local family, getting to know their way of life, learning about their culture and even learning a new Spanish phrase, or three. This is your chance to feel like a local for a day and dive into the customs and cultures of this sustainable community high in the hills of Ecuador.

Day 7: Otavalo-Quito

You’ll say adios to your newfound family and friends after breakfast this morning and make your way to Otavalo Market – this is one of the biggest markets in all of South America for handicrafts. Do you know what that means? It’s one of the best places for you to haggle for souvenirs. You can expect to find hats, tapestries, ceramics, textiles and so much more. And if shopping isn’t your thing – don't worry, simply watch as the bustling markets beat with the drum of locals busily selling their goods. After working up an appetite at the manic market stalls, you’ll grab a bite to eat (own expense) before making tracks back to Quito for the evening. This evening, perhaps rally your travel companions together for one final dinner before your trip comes to an end tomorrow. Ask your group leaders for recommendations on the best street eats or bars in the city.

Day 8: Quito

Have free time to today to explore Quito before a meeting to welcome any new travellers joining you on the next stage of your adventure.
We recommend taking a wander through the cobblestone streets, checking out the eclectic market stalls or perhaps joining an Intrepid Urban Adventure tour through the city’s historic centre. Discover more here: Quito Legends and Culture Tour (urbanadventures.com)

Day 9: Isla San Cristobal, Galapagos

Early this morning, catch a flight to Isla San Cristobal, your gateway to the galapagos Islands!

After joining up with your fellow travellers who are starting and ending their trip on the Islands, head to La Loberia where you'll put on snorkelling gear for the first time and go for a swim among sea lions, perhaps spotting sea turtles too. Return to town for a free evening. Perhaps head out with the group and enjoy some of the fresh seafood available.

Day 10: Isla San Cristobal

Today begins with a 45-minute boat ride to Leon Dormido (Kicker Rock). On the way we might be able to spot nesting frigates and blue-footed boobies. There is also potential to swim among playful young sea lions. At Leon Dormido you can snorkel and look for sea turtles, manta rays and maybe the odd harmless Galapagos shark. Currents can be quite strong so it's important you are a confident swimmer to participate in this activity. If you have any concerns, please ensure you speak with your leader. Eat lunch on the boat then head to the Interpretation Center. Learn about the history of the 'Enchanted Islands' and the conservation projects which seek to preserve them. Continue to Frigatebird Hill (Cerro Tijeretas), which is located two kilometres from the Interpretation Center. It's quite a climb to the top, but well worth the amazing views of the bay. Return to town in the late afternoon or early evening.

Day 11: Isla Floreana/ Isla Isabela

Take an early morning boat ride towards Isla Floreana, which should take about 2.5 hours. Along the way keep your eyes peeled for wildlife such as dolphins and whales. On arrival to the island, snorkel in the clear blue waters and then break for lunch. Afterwards venture to a black-sand beach which belongs to the Witmers, decedents of some of the first settlers on the Galapagos. The town here, Puerto Velasco Ibarra, has about 150 residents and an intriguing history involving deaths, disappearances and murders. Later in the afternoon, wave goodbye to Floreana and continue to Isla Isabela (approximately 2 hours). From Isabela Port it's a short transfer to the hotel where we will spend the night (approximately 15 minutes).

Day 12: Isla Isabela

Start your second day on Isla Isabela with a short bus ride (approximately 15 minutes) to the Arnaldo Tupiza Tortoise Breeding Center where you'll observe giant tortoises in all stages of development. The centre has almost a thousand giant tortoises preparing for life on their own. Afterwards, head to a brackish lagoon to observe flamingos. In the afternoon, board a small Zodiac (panga) and cruise to Las Tintoreras (Shark Alley), where your naturalist guide will help you look out for blue-footed boobies and the famous Galapagos penguin. On arrival, take a short walk on this isolated islet and popular iguana nesting site. Snorkel in a calm inlet with colourful fish and winding underground lava tubes. This area is frequented by green sea turtles that like to rest on the calm, sandy bottom. In the late afternoon return to town in search of your own sandy resting spot and enjoy your first Isabela sunset, arguably the most beautiful of all the islands.

Day 13: Isla Isabela

Start your last day on Isla Isabela by heading towards the Sierra Negra Volcano (approximately 45 minutes by bus), one of the most active volcanoes in the Galapagos and the second-largest crater in the world. Weather permitting, take a challenging hike of around 17 kilometres up the rocky mountain, which takes 5—6 hours. After the hike, make your way back to town for some free time to curl up with a book or venture down to the water for a relaxing swim before dinner.

Day 14: Isla Isabela / Isla Santa Cruz

Start the day with a kayak around Isabela before transferring by private speedboat to Isla Santa Cruz. Once you arrive on Santa Cruz head to a restaurant that offers a typical Eduadorian lunch package, simply referred to as ‘Menu’. This usually this consists of a fresh juice, a basic entree (usually a soup) and a main meal. These lunch deals are very popular throughout Ecuador so it’s a great way to eat like a local. In the afternoon visit a locally owned sugar cane farm. Here the farmers will show us the ways sugar cane is processed and turned into alcohol. Along the way, keep an eye out for eagle rays, sea turtles and blue-footed boobies. Later, head back to Puerto Ayora.

Day 15: Isla Santa Cruz

In the morning enjoy the Tortuga Bay walk. Visit the highland of Isla Santa Cruz to observe the giant tortoise roaming the wild – your naturalist guide will fill you in on the lives and habits of these fascinating creatures. In the afternoon enjoy free time to further explore the town or go on an optional excursion to the Charles Darwin Research Centre.

Day 16: Isla Santa Cruz, Galapagos/ Quito

We say goodbye to the Galapagos today and take a flight back to Quito (Please note the flight will make a stop in Guayaquil)
You'll arrive back to Quito later afternoon. Perhaps head out for a final group dinner.

Day 17: Quito

This morning your adventure comes to an end in Quito. As there are no activities planned for the final day, you can depart the accommodation at any time. Because there is little time spent in Quito on this trip, we recommend staying a few extra days to see more of Ecuador. If you choose to stay on, we’d be happy to assist you with booking accommodation.
Ecuador has some of the most beautiful churches in the Americas, including the lavish La Compania de Jesus, which is decorated with seven tonnes of gold. Not far from the capital, there are volcanoes, hot springs and Incan ruins to explore. Consider doing one of our one-day sightseeing tours of Quito, which can include the Old Town, markets and the city's culinary delights (see urbanadventures.com).