Follow the route established by Alexander von Humboldt, the foremost natural scientist of the early 19th century. In fact, Charles Darwin described him as “the greatest scientific traveler who ever lived.” Embrace his discoveries, and those who followed collecting and recording geological, zoological and botanical specimens, including 60,000 rare tropical plants. Explore the region’s biodiversity – the delights of ancient volcanoes in the Andean Highlands, dense cloud forests alive with macaws, monkeys and sloths, and Darwin’s own working laboratory, the Galapagos Islands. By land, air and ship – your travels will be more comfortable, but no less exciting because Ecuador still holds in its deepest depths untold wonders.
Very Active. May involve strenuous hikes, severe stair climbing, arduous activities, in some cases in extreme weather conditions, heat, high elevation and humidity.
This is truly a destination that is great to travel to year-round. In the Galapagos, the climate is generally pleasant. Due to mist, cloud cover and cool Pacific breezes, conditions are rarely hot. In Quito, over 9,000 feet above sea level, the temperature ranges from 55ºF at night to 78ºF at noon. The Coast’s climate (Guayaquil) is generally warm and can be quite humid.
Arrive this evening in Quito where you will be escorted to your historic boutique hotel in the heart of ‘Quito Antiguo.’ Next day, tour this vibrant colonial city with its churches and Spanish gold-glittering altars. A traditional dinner at a typical Ecuadorian restaurant completes your day. HOTEL PATIO ANDALUZ. (B,D)
Get set to discover the amazing landscapes of Ecuador as you drive to the lush cloud forest on the Western slopes of the Andes. Arrive at the archaeological complex of Tulipe to learn of the pre-Incan community of the Yumbos. Continue to the 2,725-acre Mashpi Rainforest Biodiversity Reserve, considered one of the richest hotspots of biodiversity on Earth, featuring an exceptionally high level of endemism. Walk the trails and you may come across hundreds of hummingbirds, toucans and parrots, exotic butterflies, monkeys and critters that call the mountainside their home. Learn from the researchers about the Reserve’s flora and fauna and visit the ‘leks’ of stunning Manakin, Cock-of-the-Rock and Umbrellabirds. Go out in search of Howler Monkeys. Your eco-friendly lodge features a minimalist, upscale design with glass walls the only separation between you and the wildlife. The restaurant serves organic Ecuadorian cuisine using exotic ingredients from the rainforest such as naranjilla, papaya, heart of palm, coffee, chocolate and plantain. MASHPI LODGE. (B,L,D Daily)
Start your day with a visit to Inti Nan Museum for a look into the world of Andean-Cosmo vision, culture and traditions before driving off to the Otavalo area, and your home for the next two nights. Here, your hosts will be the descendants of the former President of Ecuador, the late Galo Plaza Lasso on an estate that houses a dairy farm, cheese factory, organic garden, tree nurseries, trout farms, embroidery workshop and condor-raising project, and horseback riding. Also visit South America’s most famous Indian fair, the Otavalo Market, centered around the ‘Poncho Plaza.’ Search for merchandise varying from fresh produce to intricate jewelry. HACIENDA ZULETA. (B,L,D Daily)
Visit Cuicocha Lake at the foot of Cotacachi Volcano where you’ll enjoy lunch at a local hacienda, and return to Quito and your charming home in the afternoon. PATIO ANDALUZ. (B,L)
Fly to Baltra Island and get set for your Galapagos adventure. In 1825 Charles Darwin spent five weeks aboard the HMS Beagle exploring the Galapagos Islands. How he would envy your nights aboard the M/V SANTA CRUZ, a 90-passenger luxury expedition vessel with private facilities, exceptional food and expert naturalists, built specifically for exploring the Galapagos Islands. First visit on the islands is to Las Bachas, located on the north shore of Santa Cruz Island, a glorious white beach with several brackish lagoons only a few steps away from the sea, the feeding grounds of various wading birds, from stilts to flamingos. (B,L,D)
Explore the coastline along the impressive cliffs of Buccaneer Cove, learning about the area’s distant and recent history. The cove is home to a large number of marine birds, sea lions, and inter-tidal organisms. Once you disembark at the beach of Puerto Egas in the afternoon, you can enjoy a swim or snorkel amid a rocky shoreline, usually in the company of marine turtles, then head off on a walk to see land and marine birds amid a landscape of tuff-stone layers and lava flows. (B,L,D)
Land on Rábida Island’s red-colored beach, caused by the unusually high content of iron in the volcanic material. Your walk brings you close to a large colony of sea lions, marine iguanas, mockingbirds, Yellow Warblers and several species of Darwin’s finches. During navigation to the next island, dolphins are often spotted! Land at Bartolomé for a hike to the summit of this diminutive island that boasts fantastic views of the archipelago. This is a moderately steep climb aided by a wooden staircase, resting platforms and handrails – the view from the top is worth the effort! Take pangas and the glass bottom boat for a ride around the colossal Pinnacle Rock, and then land at the beach to enjoy swimming, snorkelling or just relaxing (possibly with Galápagos penguins in attendance).
Start with a panga ride along the cliffs, followed by landing with a steep climb (90 feet) up some stairs to reach a flat plateau. Along your walk, observe large colonies of Nazca Boobies, Red-footed Boobies, Great Frigatebirds and Storm Petrels. Afterward, snorkel along the dramatic cliffs with chances of spotting hammerhead sharks. In the afternoon, land at Darwin Bay to enjoy swimming and snorkelling, and take an easy stroll to observe hundreds of birds, mainly frigatebirds, Red-footed and Nazca Boobies, gulls, herons, finches and mockingbirds.
See the breeding program of giant tortoises at Cerro Colorado and learn about this endangered species and its promising recovery. Afterward, fly to Guayaquil, Ecuador’s port city, and transfer to your dayroom at the ORO VERDE HOTEL, or if time is short to dinner. Later in the evening, return to the airport for your overnight flight to the USA, bringing with you memories of the unique wildlife you experienced on the Galapagos Islands!
Fly to Guayaquil and connect to Lima, where you’ll be introduced to the heart of urban Peru. Fly to Cusco and drive to Yucay in the sacred valley of the Incas, a place of adventure, natural beauty, and rich history. Explore remarkable ruins, lively markets, and the beautiful rivers and forests before heading on by rail to Machu Picchu, through some of the most breathtaking landscapes imaginable. Get a taste of the legendary Inka Trail with a short morning trek, and explore Cusco itself, the oldest continuously-inhabited city in the Western hemisphere, before returning to Lima and your flight home.
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