Ecuador & the Galapagos Islands

Quito, Otavalo, Amazon, Baños, Patate, Cotopaxi & a Galapagos Cruise

This intinerary is for a past tour program.
Check out our new Ecuador & Galapagos tour.

Quichua girl Discover the wonders of Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, a remarkable collection of landscapes, people, cultures, animals, plants, and more. Our 11-day tour covers the highlights of this incredibly diverse country. You'll visit the capital city and UNESCO World Heritage Center of Quito, the colorful and bustling Otavalo market, the natural springs in Baños, the volcanic peaks of Cotopaxi National Park, and one of the world's most biologically diverse rainforests—the Amazon. Round out your tour with a cruise through the Galapagos Islands, a magical, unique, living laboratory, where Darwin, and those who followed, studied evolutionary changes that led to a new understanding of life on earth.

This is truly a once in a lifetime adventure you'll never forget, full of discovery, beauty, history, culture and more fun than you can imagine. And while there are no compromises in the quality of the hotels and the scope of touring included in our program, it's yours for a price that's as amazing as the trip itself!

Detailed Itinerary

Aerial view Day 1: USA/Quito. Your exciting tour to Ecuador begins today as you depart for Quito, Ecuador's capital city. Your guide will greet you upon arrival and escort you to your centrally located hotel. Enjoy some down time to relax after your flight before joining your travel companions for dinner in town. Sheraton Quito Hotel Dinner provided.

Day 2: Quito & Otavalo. Start your first full day in Ecuador with a panoramic tour of Quito, a UNESCO World Heritage site whose elevation gives it a wonderful springlike climate despite being very close to the Equator. Arguably among the loveliest of South American cities, Quito enjoys a spectacular setting surrounded by mountains and several snow-capped volcanoes, including the still-active Mt. Pichincha.

Old town Quito The real beauty of Quito is in its wonderful Old Town, where you'll find blocks of colonial architecture, some of it dating from the mid-1500s when the Spanish founded the city. Before the Spanish arrived, Quito was an important Inca settlement, and before the Inca, other tribes lived at the site. Vintage facades line the streets and large open plazas are surrounded by cathedrals and stately public buildings, including the Government Palace, the first stop on your tour.

Even more breathtaking than the exteriors are the interiors of some of the buildings, particularly the churches, many of which gleam with real gold leaf. La Compania, the next stop on your tour, has the most ornate and richly sculptured facade and interior, complete with colored columns, 10-sided altars, and gilded balconies. Several of its most precious treasures, including a painting of the Virgen Dolorosa framed in emeralds and gold, are kept in the vault of the Banco Central del Ecuador and appear only at special festivals. Continue to the Monastery of San Francisco, Quito's oldest church. Built in the 16th century, the monastery is an exact replica of the Escorial Palace of Madrid.

Otavalo market vendor After lunch at a local restaurant, drive to Otavalo, whose beauty lies in its people, the Otavaleño Indians, and their market, undoubtedly one of the best in all of Latin America. Unlike other indigenous people who have given up their traditional dress for jeans and t-shirts, Otavaleños are still easily identified by their distinctive dress: women wear intricately embroidered blouses and a wealth of beaded necklaces, while men have long, braided hair and wear calf-length white trousers, ponchos and sandals.

Otavalo marketplace The market takes place in the main Plaza, but don't hesitate to wander into the side streets, where the goods on display start to diversify and the prices get lower. Enjoy the cacophony of sounds as Spanish, and Quichua, the native language of the area, mix together with Andean pipe music and the explosion of color from the many fabric, fruit and craft stalls that line the plaza and side streets. Puerto Lago or similar. (B, L, D)

Toucan, Ecuadorian Amazon Day 3: Papallacta/Amazon. The Amazonian segment of your tour begins today as you travel along the Andes Mountain range and then slowly descend to the basin of one of the biggest rivers of the world—the Amazon River.

Friendly Planet travelers in the Ecuadorian rainforest
Friendly Planet travelers
The first stop en route is Papallacta, a small town tucked away in a high Andean valley at the entrance to the Amazon jungle. Enjoy lunch at the Termas Papallacta Restaurant, and then continue your journey along a scenic stretch of road that overlooks lush green valleys and sparkling waterfalls as you descend into the Amazon region.

View from the Casa del Suizo Arrive at Punta Ahuano, a tiny port town on the north bank of the Napo River, where canoes await you for a short ride downstream to your lodge. After check-in, sip a refreshing welcome cocktail as you watch the sunset. Casa del Suizo (B, L, D).

Squirrel monkeys Day 4: Amazon. Enjoy a full day exploring the wonders of the Amazon. Your tour guide will offer a variety of optional excursions to help you maximize your time. Wildlife aficionados will delight in the optional tour to Amazoonico, a rescue center for wounded and displaced tropical rainforest animals. You'll be able to observe coatis, tapirs, and several species of monkey, snakes, and a variety of birds, many of which wander around freely!

Friendly Planet travelers on homemade rafts in Ecuador
Friendly Planet travelers on homemade rafts
Adventure lovers can enjoy the ultimate rafting experience on the Napo River. Not only will you have the chance to enjoy a refreshing ride down this Amazonian tributary, you'll actually learn how to make your own raft by tying balsa logs together.

Quincha face painting Another option offers a unique opportunity to visit a local Quichua family who will explain various aspects of their traditional culture, including a special lesson on making chicha, a beverage typical of the region. Or, if you are in the mood for a more laid-back afternoon, we recommend a stroll through the artisan village of Ahuano, where you can watch traditional Quichua ceramics being created. (Note: Excursions are offered on a group basis only). Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Friendly Planet travelers travelling by piragua (canoe), Ecuador
Friendly Planet travelers in a canoe
Day 5: Puyo, Baños & Patate. After breakfast this morning, set out in piraguas (canoes) to return to La Punta. Continue by coach to Puyo, the most important city in Ecuador's Oriente region. En route, view the spectacular Rio Verde falls, better known as El Pailón del Diablo (The Devil's Cauldron). Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant.

Waterfall near Banos
Waterfall near Baños
Then head to nearby Baños, a small town famous for the hot springs that give it its name (baths). Its mild climate, verdant landscape, and mineral-rich natural springs make Baños an oasis of tranquility and relaxation. Sparkling waterfalls, rolling hills, and scenic bridges complete this picturesque setting. Before leaving, be sure to sample some of the town's trademark taffy, called melcocha. Hacienda Leito Los Llanganates Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Cotopaxi volcano Day 6: Cotopaxi/Quito. Today's excursion takes you to another one of Ecuador's treasures-Cotopaxi National Park, home to the highest active volcano in the world (19,500 feet above sea level). Spanning an impressive 84,000 acres, this natural reserve protects a diverse array of flora and fauna, including llamas, deer, wild horses, as well as many rare species endemic to the region. Be sure to keep your eyes peeled and your cameras ready for a lucky sighting of the mythical Andean condor. After lunch at a local restaurant and a visit to a native paint store, begin the return journey to Quito. Sheraton Quito Hotel Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Blue-footed Boobie Day 7: Quito, Galapagos Cruise: Baltra & North Seymour Island. Transfer to the airport for your flight to Baltra, gateway to the Galapagos Islands. Board your first class cruiser, the M/V Galapagos Legend, your home for the next three nights. Settle into your cabin and set sail for North Seymour Island, home to one of the largest colonies of magnificent frigate birds. Other island residents include playful sea lions and, from May to November, blue-footed boobies. MV Galapagos Legend. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Galapagos tortoise Day 8: Galapagos Cruise: Santa Cruz & Punta Cormoran (Charles Island). Today, explore beautiful Santa Cruz Island. This is sure to be the highlight of your visit to the Galapagos Islands, as this is the place to see giant tortoises, both in the wild and in captivity. Follow the trail to Dragon Hill, which offers a breathtaking view of the bay. Thanks to the island's Charles Darwin Research Center, this area is also an important nesting site for a large population of land iguanas.

Male frigate bird Later, land at Punta Cormoran (Charles Island), home to one of largest flamingo lagoons in the Galapagos. Be on the lookout for various other species of shorebirds, including common stilts and white-checked pintail ducks. This island is also unique for its high percentage of endemic plants and for its two distinct beaches: the "Green Beach," named after the olivine crystals in the sand; and the "Flour Sand Beach," a dazzling white coral sand beach. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Sea lions Day 9: Galapagos Cruise: Española & San Cristóbal Island. Land at Suarez Point on Espanola Island, where you'll walk over rugged volcanic rocks to see colonies of sea lions and throngs of marine iguanas sunning themselves. At an overlook, you'll see many sea birds, including fork-tail frigate birds, hawks and mockingbirds, but you'll have to look carefully to spot the saddleback tortoises, native to this island, which despite their large size manage to hide in the bushes. The most spectacular of the sea birds are the waved albatrosses, the largest birds in the Galapagos. From March through November, you can usually watch the birds' elaborate courtship ritual, as they bow, click their bright yellow bills, circle and honk at one another before mating for life. It's quite a show. After raising their young, the birds head out to sea, where they often spend three or four months without touching land. End this morning's excursion viewing the famous blowhole, where the water spurts about 75 feet into the air.

Pinnacle Rock, Galapagos Islands This afternoon, continue to San Cristobal, the easternmost Galapagos Island. Stop for an informative visit at the island's Interpretation Center, located in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the capital of the Galapagos Province. Built with the cooperation of the Spanish Science Center, this center provides an excellent overview of the history and biodiversity of the Galapagos. (B, L, D)

Day 10: Quito. Transfer to the airport for your flight to Quito. Enjoy some final leisure time in Quito before joining your travel companions for dinner in town. Sheraton Quito Hotel Breakfast & dinner provided.

Day 11: Depart Quito/Arrive USA. Bid adios to Ecuador as you board your return flight to the USA Your exciting South American adventure ends as you touch down in Miami today. Breakfast provided.

About your ship, MV Galapagos Legend

MV Galapagos Legend The recently refurbished M/V Galapagos Legend is one of the most talked about additions to the expanding Galapagos cruising fleet. The 5-star, expedition-style Legend offers all of the comfort and amenities of a larger cruise vessel, but is small and specially designed to navigate the waters of the Galapagos.  With a passenger capacity of only 100, the Legend provides an intimate cruising adventure that allows you to experience up-close the unrivalled beauty of the Galapagos Islands.

The Legend’s bright and spacious cabins are comfortable and well-appointed. All cabins feature adjustable climate controls, closet, safety deposit box, and a private bathroom with shower and hairdryer. Click here for information about your ship.

Destination FAQs

For quick answers to Frequently Asked Questions about travel to Ecuador, click here.

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