For a cultural and wildlife adventure a little closer to home and your own time zone, journey to the enchanted isles of the Galapagos. Begin with 3 nights on the mainland discovering UNESCO World Heritage marvels in Quito, snow-capped mountains and fantastic shopping in Otavalo, and friendly people every step of the way. Then board your vessel for a 4-night cruise aboard the Coral I or II, to experience close encounters with animals found nowhere else on earth. Feel the wind in your hair as you motor in an open panga between the boat and the next island, where your hikes will be accompanied by knowledgeable guides eager to share their knowledge and enthusiasm for this world treasure.
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.
Fly to Quito, where you are escorted to your historic boutique hotel in the heart of ‘Quito Antiguo.’ Next day, tour this vibrant colonial city with its churches and Spanish goldglittering altars, including the colonial quarter, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and enjoy a welcome dinner at a local restaurant. The last day, depart for South America’s most famous Indian fair – the Otavalo Market. As you stroll the streets, immerse yourself in the colorful and vibrant culture listening to Andean pipe music and Quechua, the native tongue from Incan times, drifting across the marketplace. Enjoy a traditional Andean lunch at a local hacienda and continue your shopping adventure in Cotacachi, the center of Ecuador’s leather industry, and Calderon for bread-dough handicrafts. PATIO ANDALUZ. (No meals; B,D; B,L)
Fly to San Cristobal 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 CORAL I or CORAL II , a 36 or 20-passenger vessel with private facilities, exceptional food and expert naturalists. First visit on the islands is to the Breeding and Rearing Center for young tortoises which opened in 2004 and was named after a famous settler. Located in Cerro Colorado, this state of the art center is dedicated to the reproduction of the giant tortoises. Learn about the history of the islands at the Interpretation Center with its exuberant gardens and ocean views. The oldest museum on the natural history of the Galapagos, you’ll learn about the geological and human history of these fragile islands, as well as conservation facts. (B,L,D)
A wet landing this morning at Cerro Brujo, a beautiful beach of white coral sand where you can swim and snorkel in the company of sea lions and birds. This is the first coast where Charles Darwin walked in 1835; in this marvelous lava landscape, he too must have seen seabirds such as the Blue-footed Boobies, Nazca Boobies, herons, frigatebirds and other shore birds. Look for the endemic Chatham Mockingbird and San Cristobal lava lizards, the Pajaro Brujo tiny bird, and young tortoises in the wild. After lunch land at Punta Pitt for a high intensity hike on rocky terrain to an olivine beach and a path that climbs to the top of a volcanic tuff, through several magnificent viewpoints. This is probably the only site where the three booby species of the Galapagos can be seen together: Nazca, Blue-footed and Red-footed, as well as the two species of frigatebirds. (B,L,D)
Explore Mosquera Islet, a flat, sandy island that has a large colony of sea lions. I tis also an excellent site for observing shorebirds such as herons and lava gulls. There is no trail on Mosquera Island, so any visitor can enjoy the open area. In the afternoon, 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! Following your walk, take to the pangas for a ride around the colossal Pinnacle Rock, and then land at the beach to enjoy some swimming, snorkeling or just relaxing (possibly with Galápagos penguins in attendance). (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. Very close to the beach, a salt pond hosts migrating Greater Flamingos at certain times of year. This is a great place to snorkel from the beach, both for beginners as well as for experienced snorkelers, due to the unique combination of underwater species and submarine landscapes. During navigation to the next island, dolphins are often spotted! In the afternoon, land at Sobrero Chino, so named because it is shaped like a Chinese hat when seen from the distance. Enjoy a scenic hike starting from a white sandy beach around the cove where a colony of sea lions can be seen along with American Oystercatchers, marine iguanas, lava lizards and Sally Lightfoot crabs, then follow the trail through delicate well-preserved remnants of volcanic rock that are not found elsewhere in this condition. The snorkeling is fantastic – you have the opportunity to swim among colorful tropical fish, sea lions, Galapagos Penguins and white-tipped reef sharks. Mating eagle rays flopping in the water might also be seen. (B,L,D)
Drop anchor at Puerto Ayora at Santa Cruz Island and head to the highlands to visit a private farm and natural tortoise reserve – ‘El Chato’, where giant tortoises are found in their natural habitat as well as land birds such as Tree and Ground Finches, Vermillion Flycatchers, Paint-billed Crakes, Yellow Warblers and Cattle Egrets. Afterwards, transfer to Baltra Island and fly to Guayaquil, where you enjoy dinner before returning to the airport for your flight home, bringing with you memories of the unique wildlife you experienced on the Galapagos Islands! (B,D)
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.
Does not include international or domestic flights. Prices are based on 10 or more travelers, and are subject to change.
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