Experience culture and volcanic scenery
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This stunning tour combines Ecuador with and the amazing nature of the Galapagos Islands. Experience culture and volcanic scenery before flying to the beautiful Galapagos Islands to see some of the world's most unique and fascinating wildlife.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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'.
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.
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.
Please note that while every departure of this tour will feature the same excursions, the order may differ from that shown above.
Provisional departure and return times, where available, can be found together with our dates and prices by clicking on the 'Prices & Availability' button. We write to all booked customers approximately 10 weeks prior to the start of their tour to advise the exact departure and return time for their particular group.
British Citizens do not require a visa to enter Ecuador
An escorted experience with all travel arrangements
Comfortable accommodation in your destination
Delicious meals included
Exciting excursions and free time to explore
Enhancing your tour
Experience culture and volcanic scenery