Ecuador & the Galapagos

Quito, Otavalo, Santa Cruz, South Plaza, Santa Fe & San Cristobal Islands

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

Overview

Itinerary at a Glance
Ecuador & Galapagos Islands
Day Destination
1 USA/Quito
2 Quito
3 Otavalo Excursion
4 Quito, Baltra & Santa Cruz
5 Galapagos Cruise: South Plaza & Santa Fe
6 Galapagos Cruise:
Pitt Point & cerro Brujo, San Cristobal
7 Quito
8 Depart Quito
Departs Los Angeles (LAX), New York Kennedy (JFK), San Francisco (SFO), Miami (MIA), Washington Dulles (IAD), Philadelphia (PHL), Chicago O'Hare (ORD), Detroit Metro (DTW), Logan (BOS); other gateways on request
Highlights Quito, Otavalo, Santa Cruz, South Plaza, Santa Fe, & San Cristobal Islands
Included Features
  • Round trip flights from Miami via scheduled carriers, including fuel surcharges and taxes and fees with other gateways available on request
  • All ground transportation & transfers
  • Accommodations in Superior & Deluxe hotels with private bath
  • Three-night Galapagos Cruise aboard the Galapagos Legend in superior outside cabins with portholes
  • 7 breakfasts, 4 lunches & 3 dinners
  • Comprehensive guided sightseeing and entrance fees
  • Galapagos National Park Fee ($100) & Transit Control Card ($10)
  • Professional English-speaking tour directors & guides
Travel Style This fast-paced, locally hosted tour involves a significant amount of walking or hiking, often on uneven terrain, and reaches high altitudes requiring a high level of physical fitness to fully enjoy the trip. This tour also includes long scenic drives between destinations and may have limited rest stops.

LAN Airlines

Quechua girl Discover the wonders of Ecuador & the Galapagos Islands, a remarkable collection of landscapes, people, cultures, animals, plants, and more. Our Galapagos Islands tour covers the highlights of this incredibly diverse country. You'll visit the capital city and UNESCO World Heritage Center of Quito and the colorful and bustling Otavalo market. Round out your tour with a cruise through the Galapagos Islands, a unique, living laboratory, where Darwin, and those who followed, studied evolutionary changes that led to a new understanding of life on earth.

This Galapagos Islands adventure vacation is truly a once in a lifetime trip that you'll never forget. Your Galapagos tour will be filled with 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!


As seen in:

Detailed Itinerary

Ecuador & the Galapagos tour itinerary Day 1: USA/Quito. Your exciting tour to begins today as you depart Miami for Quito, Ecuador's capital city. Your guide will greet you upon arrival and escort you to your centrally located hotel for check-in. Accommodations: Sheraton Quito.

Day 2: Quito. After the morning at leisure, enjoy a panoramic city tour of Quito this afternoon. Arguably one of 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.

Plaza de la Independencia, Quito  © ihana.com 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.

Convent of San Francisco, Quito 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. Breakfast provided.

Vendor, Otavalo Market Day 3: Otavalo Excursion. After breakfast this morning, set out on a drive along the Panamerican Highway to Otavalo to explore one of the best local markets in Latin America. 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. You'll love the explosion of color from the many fabric, fruit and craft stalls that line the plaza and side streets. But the true beauty of Otavalo lies in its people, the Otavaleño Indians. 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. Return to Quito this afternoon and enjoy the rest of the day at leisure. Breakfast & lunch provided.

Day 4: Quito, Galapagos Cruise: Baltra & Santa Cruz. 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 nearby Santa Cruz Island. Here you will land on beautiful Bachas Beach. Located behind the beach lie two small flamingo ponds with iguanas, coastal birds, Darwin finches, mockingbirds and gulls, as well as interesting endemic vegetation, red and black mangroves, salt brushes and much more. This beach is one of the main nesting sites of sea turtles in the Galapagos. Take advantage of some terrific snorkeling and swimming in these pristine waters before returning to the ship. Accommodations: MV Galapagos Legend. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Cactus forest Day 5: Galapagos Cruise: South Plaza & Santa Fe. This morning land on South Plaza Island. Take a walk through the impressive cactus forest surrounded by land and marina iguanas. As you reach the highest point, be on the lookout for tropical birds and a colony of bachelor sea lions. On South Plaza Island there is also a colony of approximately 300 land iguanas. They feed on all kinds of vegetation, but during the dry season they survive on the fruits and flowers of the native Opuntia cacti.

Cruise on to Santa Fe Island, landing on a white sand beach famous for its sea lion colony. Continue walking through a cactus forest to visit a colony of Santa Fe land iguanas, the largest in the Galapagos and noticeably paler in color. This island is home to a number of endemic species including the Galapagos Hawk, Galapagos Snake, rice rates, a variety of finches and one of the four species of Galapagos mockingbirds. Enjoy some deep water snorkeling or swimming before continuing on your journey. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Blue-footed booby Day 6: Galapagos Cruise: Pitt Point & Cerro Brujo, San Cristobal. Today you will land on San Cristobal Island at Pitt Point. This is the first island of the Galapagos that Charles Darwin visited in 1831. Here you will hike along a trail that includes an olivine beach with a path to the top of a volcanic tuff, with several magnificent viewpoints along the way. This may be the only site in the Galapagos where all three species of Galapagos booby can be seen together: Nazca, Blue-footed, and Red-footed. You can also see two species of frigate birds and a colony of sea lions. Pitt Point is also an excellent place for dinghy rides and snorkeling.

This afternoon continue to Cerro Brujo, an eroding tuff cone that at several locations is composed of AA lava formations. With its beautiful white sand beach, it is a great place for snorkeling and sunbathing. Visit a lagoon where a variety of different migratory birds can be seen: Black-necked Stilts, Ruddy Turnstones, Whimbrels as well as many other sandpiper species. Cerro Brujo offers a beautiful view of Kicker Rock, the southernmost point of San Cristobal, and the adjacent coast. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Tortoise Day 7: Cerro Colorado Tortoise Reserve & Quito. This morning you will disembark and visit the Cerro Colorado Tortoise Reserve where you will have a great opportunity to see a giant tortoise up close. Here you will learn about the National Park’s conservation programs and have a chance to visit some shops for souvenirs. Continue to the airport for your flight back to Quito. Enjoy the balance of the day at leisure. Accommodations: Sheraton Quito. Breakfast provided.

Day 8: Depart Quito. Today bid adiós to Ecuador as you transfer to the airport to board your return flight to the USA. Depending on your flight schedule, optional tours may be available for purchase locally. Late check-out is also available for a supplement for flights departing Quito this evening. (See Dates & Prices.) Breakfast provided.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The high altitudes reached on this trip (Quito is at 9,200 feet above sea level) and the amount of walking involved, often on uneven terrain, require that you be in good physical condition to fully enjoy the trip. We strongly suggest that you consult your physician if you have any concerns regarding your ability to handle these conditions.


Alternate Itinerary

Ecuador & the Galapagos Sep 7, Nov 16 & Dec 14, 2012 tour itinerary Days 1-3: Same as above.

Day 4: Quito, Galapagos Cruise: Baltra & Santa Cruz. 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 beautiful Santa Cruz Island. The trail to the highlands of Santa Cruz leaves from Bellavista and passes through the agricultural zone, near the National Park boundary, the Miconia Zone and then goes to the Fern and Sedge zone. With clear weather this area affords beautiful scenes of rolling hills and extinct volcanic cones covered with grass and lush greenery all year round.

The scenery will continuously change as you ascend through all seven vegetation zones of the Galapagos. 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. Accommodations: MV Galapagos Legend. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Male frigate bird Day 5: Galapagos Cruise: Puerto Egas (Santiago Island) & Bartholomew. Today land in James Bay at the western end of Santiago Island. Nearby Puerto Egas with its black sand beaches was the site of small salt mining industry in the 1960s. A hike inland to the salt crater is an excellent opportunity to sight land birds such as finches, doves, and hawks. A walk down the rugged shoreline, especially at low tide, will turn up many marine species. Iguanas bask on the rocks and sea lions laze in the tide pools. At the end of the trail there is a series of grottoes or sea caves where fur seals and night herons are found resting on shady ledges. You may be able to see colorful sea creatures like octopus and starfish caught in the small pools as the tide goes out. You may also see various birds specific to this area like great blue heron, a lava heron, oyster catchers and yellow crowned night heron. If the tide is low, you’ll see marine iguanas grazing on the exposed green algae. Our walk ends at the grottos, deep pools of clear water where we encounter the fur sea lion, once thought to be on the verge of extinction.

Snorkeling with a penguin Continue to Bartholomew, a small barren island, located in Sullivan Bay off Santiago Island. Bartholomew has two important sites. At one of them it is possible to climb to the summit of the island, where you will be able to observe a variety of volcanic formations, spatter and tuff cones, lava flows and lava tubes. The moon like landscape provides the most scenic panorama in the archipelago. At the other site, you may swim and snorkel from a beautiful beach or walk across the isthmus to another beach that faces south, where swimming is prohibited. Multicolored fish and occasionally penguins may be seen at the base of the tall pinnacle rock, which dominates Bartholomew’s landscape. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Sea lions Day 6: Galapagos Cruise: Santa Cruz & North Seymour Island. Early in the morning after landing on Santa Cruz Island, you will walk to a hypersalinic lagoon behind the beach. Here you may have the opportunity to view Pink Flamingos. The trail then leads up to Dragon Hill, which offers a beautiful 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.

Continue north of Baltra to North Seymour Island, a flat and low-lying island formed as a result of the uplift of a submarine lava formation. The vegetation is mainly low and bushy, and contains the largest colony of magnificent frigate birds in the Galapagos. There is also a large population of blue footed boobies nesting from May to November and by the coastline resides a colony of playful sea lions. Breakfast, lunch & dinner provided.

Day 7: Quito. Today you will disembark and transfer back to the airport in Baltra for your flight to Quito. Enjoy the balance of the day at leisure. Accommodations: Sheraton Quito. Breakfast provided.

Day 8: Same as above.


The Galapagos Legend

See specifications, deck plans & photos of the ship.

Galapagos Legend The recently refurbished 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.

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