Discover Paradise: Ecuador & the Galapagos (12 days)

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specialExplore the lushness of Ecuador on foot, by bus, boat, canoe, zipline, raft and yacht in this active adventure tour. With more than 1600 species of birds, plus 38 more in the Galapagos, 106 endemic reptiles, 138 endemic amphibians, and 6,000 species of butterfly, it is paradise for nature lovers. Explore colonial Quito and shop at the colorful Otavalo market. Discover the Amazon rainforest. Visit Cotopaxi, a National Park known for its wild horses and the elusive condors. Sail the Galapagos Islands and visit the Darwin Research Center. Discover Paradise: Ecuador & the Galapagos is a wildlife adventure not to be missed.
Photo courtesy of Gate 1 Travel

DAY 1, Sunday – Depart the USA, Arrive in Quito (Ecuador)
Depart from USA for Ecuador. Arrive in Quito and transfer to your hotel. The Quito airport is approximately a 1-2 hour drive from the city. Rest of the day at leisure
Overnight: Quito

DAY 2, Monday – Quito City Tour & Visit to Middle of the World
In the morning meet with the tour manager for an orientation. The morning’s tour of Quito begins with a view of the Congress Building, whose outside stone mural records Ecuador’s history. Continue to Quito’s colonial section to walk along the narrow cobblestone streets and feel the charm of 16th-century Quito. See the Independence Plaza, the Cathedral, Presidential Palace, and the Archbishop’s Palace before visiting La Compañia Church or the Church of San Francisco**. Afterward, see the Middle of the World Monument, located at a latitude of 0º, and stand with one foot in the Northern and one in the Southern Hemisphere. This afternoon, transfer by bus to Otavalo.

**Please note that the itinerary may vary slightly based on local conditions and holidays, therefore La Compañia Church may be replaced with a visit to the Church of San Francisco

Overnight: Otavalo
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

DAY 3, Tuesday – Otavalo Market, Transfer to Papallacta
This morning, enjoy a tour of the market in Otavalo, one of the largest in South America and run by the local Otavaleño Indians. Here, enjoy the lively market atmosphere and browse the various stalls for traditional goods such as hand-woven clothes and rugs, jewelry, fruits, vegetables and more. If time permits there may be a visit to a local school in Otavalo.

Then, visit the surrounding towns of Cotacachi, known for its leather handicrafts, and Peguche, known for its beautiful waterfall. This afternoon, transfer to Papallacta located in the Andes Mountains. The balance of the day is at leisure to explore Papallacta’s spas and hot springs, for which it is famous.

Optional: Termas de Papallacta Spa Package (PM)

Overnight: Papallacta
Meals: Breakfast

DAY 4, Wednesday – Transfer to Amazon Resort
After breakfast, transfer by bus to La Punta Ahuano on the Napo River where you will board a canoe that will take you to your Amazon lodge. Enjoy the serene tranquility that the lodge has to offer and prepare to be amazed by both the wildlife and the culture inherent to the Amazon.

In the afternoon, visit Ahuano to have the opportunity to meet a local Quechua family and learn about their way of life first hand before returning to the hotel.

**Please note upon arrival the lodge is approximately a 5-10 minute walk uphill from where passengers will exit the canoe

Overnight: Amazon
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 5, Thursday – Full Day Amazon
This morning, you can hike to the Napo river for approximately two hours while viewing the beautiful flora and fauna up close. The Amazon rainforest is the world’s largest ecosystem, so be sure to keep an eye out for the innumerable species of tropical plants and flowers, insects, and butterflies. Enjoy the views as you cross suspended bridges and fly through the jungle on a short zipline basket ride. At the end of the hike, enjoy a rafting trip on a traditional balsa log raft. Enjoy the afternoon at leisure.

Optional: visit a Butterfly farm

**Please note this is an active hike and sections of the path include steps. Also, those who participate in the rafting trip will need to step through the water to reach the raft and will get wet during the ride

Overnight: Amazon
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 6, Friday – Baños & Patate
This morning, board a canoe for the short trip back to La Punta Ahuano and transfer to Patate via motor coach. En route, stop in the towns of Puyo, nicknamed “City of the Clouds”, and Baños, noted for its thermal springs and beautiful highland scenery for a short tour of each. In Baños, you will be treated to a demonstration on vegetable ivory, a traditional craft that utilizes palm nuts to make jewelry and animal carvings. Along the way, you will have the opportunity to view El Pailon del Diablo or “The Devil’s Cauldron”, one of Ecuador’s most beautiful waterfalls. In the late afternoon, check into your hotel in Patate. Enjoy the rest of the day at leisure.

**Please note that it is an active hike to and from El Pailon del Diablo waterfall

Overnight: Patate
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 7, Saturday – Cotopaxi National Park
Today enjoy a visit to Cotopaxi National Park, home to some of the highest altitude volcanoes in the world. The picturesque Cotopaxi Volcano, rising more than 19,000 feet above the plains, dominates the scene. The park is also home to a wide variety of local wildlife including wild horses and the elusive Andean Condor.

You have the opportunity to take an hour-long hike around Limpiapungo Lake and take in the beautiful scenery of the surrounding plains and volcanoes, followed by a visit to the park’s Interpretation Center. After the excursion, continue to Quito, nestled high in the Andes Mountain.

**Please note the hike length at Cotopaxi National Park is subject to weather conditions

Overnight: Quito
Meals: Breakfast

DAY 8, Sunday – Afternoon on Santa Cruz Island
This morning, transfer to the airport for your flight to the Galapagos Islands. Arrive at Baltra Island, and then cross the Itabaca Channel to the island of Santa Cruz. Via coach, travel to the Santa Cruz highlands with your Galapagos naturalist guide to visit the Rancho Primicias reserve, where you will see the Giant Tortoises in their natural habitat. A stop will be made to view Los Gemelos (Spanish for “The Twins”), great depressions of sunken lava formed thousands of years ago. Afterwards, enjoy a box lunch en route to the Finch Bay Eco Hotel, where you will spend your next three nights. Rest of the day at leisure

**Your Galapagos island itinerary is subject to change. Different islands and sites may be substituted

Overnight: Galapagos
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 9, Monday – Sail to North Seymour Island
Today enjoy a special boat route to North Seymour Island, a bird-lovers paradise. On this small uplifted island, you can see basking land and marine iguanas as well as a vast variety of endemic tropical birds, including blue-footed boobies, swallow-tailed gulls, lava gulls, and the largest frigate bird colony in the Galapagos. The cliffs along the island’s north side are home to a large colony of fur sea lions, many of which can be seen bodysurfing the curling waves. In the afternoon, visit the Las Bachas beach, where marine iguanas lounging in the sand and flamingos in the nearby lagoon are often seen. Enjoy time to relax on the beach or, weather and ocean conditions permitting, enjoy a swim or snorkeling. Rest of the day at leisure.

Overnight: Galapagos
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 10, Tuesday – Sail to Plaza Island
After breakfast, travel by yacht to Plaza Island. Full of fascinating wildlife along the shores and rocky cliffs, this small island is home to Opuntia cacti and other types of vegetation which change colors with the seasons. Enjoy time at leisure on the island. There will be time for snorkeling along the shoreline or in the nearby bay, weather and ocean conditions permitting.

Overnight: Galapagos
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 11, Wednesday – Visit Charles Darwin Research Station
Early morning departure to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station, a specialized breeding and rearing center for the endangered Galapagos Giant Tortoise. The Darwin Station is a working branch of the international, non-profit Charles Darwin Foundation which works to protect and maintain the Galapagos’ precious ecosystems. Following your visit, transfer to the airport in Baltra for your flight to Guayaquil. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel and enjoy the balance of the day at leisure.

Overnight: Guayaquil
Meals: Breakfast

DAY 12, Thursday – Depart Guayaquil
Transfer to the airport for your departure flight homebound.
Meals: Breakfast

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