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Ecuador & The Galapagos Islands

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Experience culture and volcanic scenery

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2019 Tour code: EQJ19

Itinerary

Days 1-2 - To Quito

We depart London Heathrow and fly via Amsterdam to Quito, the capital of Ecuador. From here we transfer to our hotel. On Day 2, we embark on a guided city tour of historic Quito, which at 2,850m above sea level, is the highest capital in the world. Our tour takes us through the vibrant Old Town, the first location in the world to earn UNESCO Heritage status. The historic centre is rich in monuments and classical Latin American architecture. We pass a number of Quito's stunning religious buildings, including the 19th century Cathedral of Quito and the impressive Basilica del Voto Nacional. One of the highlights of the tour is arguably the 200-metre tall El Panecillo, a hill topped with a statue of a Madonna. We also make the short journey just outside of the city to visit the Middle of the World monument, an imposing structure that marks the location of the equator.

Quito Old Town
Day 3 - Cotopaxi National Park

Today we board tour coach bound for Cotopaxi National Park, stopping en route for a guided tour of Sangolquí's traditional Andean market. At Cotopaxi National Park, we enjoy an accessible hike around the glacial lake Limpiopungo along with a lunch of traditional Ecuadorian cuisine. Next is a journey by coach through the Avenue of Volcanoes to Riobamba. These volcanic ashfields rage for over 200 miles and are home to Chimborazo, the region's highest peak standing at 20,565 feet above sea level.

Cotopaxi National Park
Day 4 - The Devil’s Nose Train

This morning we board the 'Nariz del Diablo', or Devil's Nose Train, making the return trip to Alausi. Finally completed in 1902 after twenty-five years of failed attempts and frustrated plans, the railway line is a truly staggering feat of engineering. The most difficult stretch of track to build was the near-vertical wall of rock known as El Nariz del Diablo (The Devil's Nose). Facing a 130km wall of rock, engineers devised an ingenious and nail-biting switchback system to scale the summit. This involved carving a series of tight zig-zags out of the rock, allowing the train to climb the side of the mountain by going forwards then climbing backwards up the next section of the tracks. The Devil's Nose Train climbs 800m at a gradient of 1-in-18, one of the steepest rail climbs in the world. Continuing by coach to Ingapirca, we visit the ancient Incan ruins before making our way to Cuenca.

Devils Nose Train
Day 5 - Cuenca sightseeing

Ecuador's third largest city is regarded as its most beautiful, retaining the charm of a small town despite a large a growing population. The city was founded partly on top of an existing Inca settlement, which itself had developed in place of a previous Cañari town. Today the city boasts a wealth of preserved colonial buildings and architecture which we explore on a guided tour that includes the Plaza of San Sebastian, Museum of Modern Art, a local flower market, as well as the city's main square, the landscaped Plaza Abdon Calderon. After lunch together at a local eatery, we explore Cuenca's longlived crafting history with visits to both a ceramics factory and Panama hat workshop.

Cuenca Cathedral
Days 6-7 - Cajas National Park and the Galapagos

Travelling by coach, we make our way to Cajas National Park, known for its high-altitude cloud forests and a plethora of intriguing wildlife. The native habitat of indigenous rabbits, ducks and trout, this enormous park also plays hosts to more intriguing species such as giant hummingbirds, bears, pumas, Andean tapir and condors. The history of this protected area is also captivating and has been visited for centuries, originally for religious purposes by the Cañari tribe who's people were moon worshipers and found this area an optimum spot for communing with both nature and the gods. Continuing to Guayaquil, we stop for lunch before checking into our hotel, the Wyndham, for 2 nights. We take a tour of Guayaquil on Day 7, visiting some of its main sights including Centenario Park and the Moorish clock tower. This afternoon is at leisure.

Cajas National Park
Day 8 - To Baltra and a Galapagos Cruise

This morning, we leave Guayaquil and fly to Baltra Island. We transfer to our ship, the Galapagos Legend. We begin our cruise of the incredible Galapagos Islands in Mosquera Islet, where we might see a large, resident colony of sea lions. There is also the chance to go swimming or snorkelling here, before re-boarding the boat for dinner.

Situated a thousand kilometres off the west coast of Ecuador in South America, the Galapagos Islands, an archipelago of thirteen volcanic islands, is a destination truly unlike any other on earth. It is not simply their barren, unspoilt beauty that makes these islands so special, nor is it their fascinating history, but, as the naturalist Charles Darwin discovered upon arrival in the early nineteenth century, it is the wildlife of the archipelago that makes this destination both unique and unforgettable. Here, sun-kissed golden beaches are crowded not with people but with basking sea lions that are totally unafraid of humans. Evolutionary isolation from the attentions of human beings have freed the many rare mammals, bird and reptile species that inhabit the Galapagos Islands from fearing man, meaning it is this spot that allows for man and beast to coincide more peacefully than anywhere else in the world.

Galapagos Legend
Day 9 - Santiago and Rabida Islands

This morning, we journey to Puerto Egas on Santiago Island, where we swim and snorkel with marine turtles. We then take a walk on the Island to witness the incredible array of birds that live amongst the rippling black lava flows. Then, following lunch on board, we land on Rabida Island and take a boat ride along the shore, soaking in the almost martian red sands of the beaches, and looking out for seals, yellow warblers, and the Darwin finch, named for naturalist Charles Darwin, whose exploration of the Galapagos Islands helped inspire his revolutionary book, 'On the Origin of Species'.

Rabida Island
Days 10-11 - Isabela & Fernandina Islands

A highlight of our time on the Galapagos Islands is today's stop at Urbina Bay, the natural habitat of the indigenous giant tortoise, as well as many other unusual animals. On the other side of the Isabela Island, this afternoon we learn about the topography of the area. Day 11 includes time at Espinosa Point and the opportunity to snorkel in the rich waters of the Bolivar Channel.

Giant Galapagos Tortoise
Days 12-13 - The Journey Home

This morning we enjoy a final excursion into the highlands of Santa Cruz Island, the best place to spot the largest tortoise species in the world. That afternoon we transfer to Baltra for our flight to Guayaquil. Here we join our flight to London, via Amsterdam, arriving on Day 13.

Return to the UK
Days 1-2 - To Quito

We depart London Heathrow and fly via Amsterdam to Quito, the capital of Ecuador. From here we transfer to our hotel. On Day 2, we embark on a guided city tour of historic Quito, which at 2,850m above sea level, is the highest capital in the world. Our tour takes us through the vibrant Old Town, the first location in the world to earn UNESCO Heritage status. The historic centre is rich in monuments and classical Latin American architecture. We pass a number of Quito's stunning religious buildings, including the 19th century Cathedral of Quito and the impressive Basilica del Voto Nacional. One of the highlights of the tour is arguably the 200-metre tall El Panecillo, a hill topped with a statue of a Madonna. We also make the short journey just outside of the city to visit the Middle of the World monument, an imposing structure that marks the location of the equator.

Includes
  • Scheduled flights
  • In-flight Meal
  • Day 2 - Breakfast, Dinner
Quito
Day 3 - To Otavalo

Today, we head towards Otavalo, where we board the Tren Crucero to Quito. Enjoy a nostalgic journey through the exquisite Andean landscape of Ecuador in beautifully restored carriages, pulled by a steam engine. Along the way, we stop off to visit skilled woodcavers, who still practice their art in the traditional Escuela Quiteña, or 'School of Quito' style, which has been used here for over 450 years, as well as weavers, musicians, and healers. We stay in Quito overnight.

Includes
  • Tren Crucero
Tren Crucero
Day 4 - The Chimborazo Ice Merchant

This morning, we head to Latacunga to reboard the train and continue onwards, stopping at Cunchibamba, to visit the nationally renowned flower plantation here, home of the famous Ecuadorian Rose. The train then continues on to Ambato, where we stop for lunch.

Later, our journey continues through Volcanic ashfields, travelling upwards of 3,000m above sea level. After lunch in Ambato we move on to the town of Urbina, where we visit the last ice-merchant, Baltasar Ushca, who for over half a century has harvested the glacial ice of the active Chimborazo volcano. This afternoon we reach Riobamba, where we overnight.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
  • Excursions
Chimborazo Volcano
Day 5 - Across the Devil’s Nose

This morning we visit the Church of La Balbanera, the oldest Spanish-built church in Ecuador. We then continue on the Tren Crucero to the town of Guamote. Every Thursday the town hosts an incredibly lively, colourful market, which we have time to explore. This afternoon we travel along the route of the incredible 'Nariz del Diablo', or Devil's Nose. Completed in 1902, the railway line is a truly staggering feat of engineering which traverses the wild mountainous terrain via its famous switchback. We continue by train to Bucay, where we stay overnight.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
  • Excursions
  • Devils Nose Train
Nariz del Diablo
Day 6 - To Guayaquil

We continue onwards by rail to Naranjito, passing alongside verdant tropical rainforests. Upon arrival in Naranjito, we visit a local cocoa plantation to learn about the world-famous plant and the process of turning it into chocolate, there's also a chance to taste some of the plantation's produce. Later, we continue to Guayaquil, Ecuador's most populous city, via Yaguachi and Duran.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
  • Excursions
Guayaquil
Days 7-8 - Exploring Guayaquil

We begin today with a tour of Guayaquil, starting at the Centennial Plaza, built to celebrate the independence of the city. We go on to visit the Moorish Clock Tower and Bolívar Park, which is also known as the 'park of the iguanas'. This afternoon, and Day 8, are at leisure to keep exploring the city at your own pace.

The Malecon, Guayaquil
Day 9 - To Baltra and a Galapagos Cruise

This morning, we leave Guayaquil and fly to Baltra Island. We transfer to our ship, the Santa Cruz II. We begin our cruise of the incredible Galapagos Islands in Las Bachas, where we can see many different and colourful birds, including the fabulous pink flamingo. There is also the chance to go swimming or snorkelling here, before reboarding the boat to enjoy a welcome cocktail on board.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
  • Excursions
Turtle Bay
Day 10 - Buccaneer Cove and Puerto Egas

Buccaneer Cove is our first expedition this morning, where we are told about the history of the area. Here, we may see the 'Elephant Rock', a beautiful rock formation that looks like an elephant dipping its trunk into the water. There is a further opportunity for swimming or a ride in a glass bottomed boat, before we enjoy lunch on board.

This afternoon, we journey to Puerto Egas on Santiago Island, where we swim and snorkel with marine turtles. We then take a walk on the Island to witness the incredible array of birds that live amongst the rippling black lava flows.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Turtle
Day 11 - Darwin Finches and Bartolome Island

We land on Rabida Island this morning and take a boat ride along the shore, taking in the almost martian red sands of the beaches, and looking out for seals, yellow warblers, and the Darwin finch, named for naturalist Charles Darwin, whose exploration of the Galapagos Islands helped inspire his revolutionary book, 'On the Origin of Species'. Our afternoon excursion is to Bartolome Island, where we see the Pinnacle Rock. There is also an optional hike up to the summit of the island, for views over the archipelago.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
  • Excursions
Charles Darwin Centre
Day 12 - Darwin Bay

This morning, we begin at Prince Phillip's Steps on Genovesa Island. Here, there is an optional climb up to the plateau to see birds like Nazca Boobies and Storm Petrels. Another choice is to take a boat trip or kayak along the cliff s. After lunch, we depart for Genovesa Island and Darwin Bay, which features a lovely beach, and hundreds of different species of birds. Here is the perfect area for one last swim , snorkel, or glass boat expedition in the stunning turquoise waters of the Galapagos Islands.

Nazca Boobies
Days 13-14 - The Journey Home

This morning we enjoy a final excursion into the highlands of Santa Cruz Island, where we visit a Tortoise Reserve, home to some of the Galapagos Island's most famous inhabitants, the Galapagos Tortoise, natures incredible giants with a lifespan that can go well over 100 years. That afternoon we transfer to Baltra for our flight to Guayaquil. Here we join our flight to London, via Amsterdam, arriving on Day 14.

Includes
  • Scheduled flights
  • In-flight Meal
  • Breakfast, Lunch
Return to the UK