Ecuador: Uncovering the Andes & the Galápagos Islands
“All you need is Ecuador” – the country’s famous tourism slogan does not disappoint. While the country may be small, it’s home to an incredible amount of microclimates and ecosystems. From the arid Andes mountain range to the thick and sticky Amazon rainforest and finally the mega-diverse Galápagos Islands 600 miles off the coast of mainland Ecuador, you can find almost anything under the sun. And don’t forget the sun itself, as you get up close and personal con el sol on the equator line.
Not only does Ecuador offer an impressive amount of diversity with its flora, fauna and landscapes but also culturally and linguistically. Like many Latin America countries, Ecuador has a variety of native indigenous populations along with a long and complicated history from ancient times, through colonialism, and into the present day, making it not only a beautiful and fun destination to visit, but a fascinating one as well.
We look forward to sharing this adventure with you!
Itinerary subject to small changes at the discretion of The Heart of Travel guides in order to provide you with the safest, and most comfortable and enjoyable travel experience possible.
Monday, December 7th, 2020 – Sunday, December 20th, 2020
DAY ONE: MONDAY, DECEMBER 7th: D included
Arrive in Quito: Upon arriving at the airport your Program Director will be waiting to escort you to your hotel and give you a brief orientation of the city. Simply follow the exit signs after customs and immigration, and they’ll be waiting inside the airport for you.
If you need any assistance going to the bank, store, pharmacy, etc. your Program Director will be more than happy to accompany you. In the event you arrive early in the morning and would like to coordinate any specific activities during the day just let us know so we can accommodate your requests.
7:00 pm: Welcome dinner (included) and overnight stay at Casa Gardenia in Quito.
DAY TWO: TUESDAY, DECEMBER 8th: B & D included
On our first full day in Ecuador, we will adjust to the altitude by enjoying a fun and low key day in the city of Quito. During our city tour, we will visit a variety of historical points such as La Compañia de Jesus Church, Plaza Grande, La Basilica, Middle of the World City and the Intiñan Museum along with lunch in the hip La Floresta neighborhood.
We will also visit the equator line this day as we straddle both sides of the world and return to the Casa Gardenia in the evening to rest up for tomorrow’s journey higher into the Andes.
DAY THREE: WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 9th: B & L included
Enjoy breakfast and the hotel before beginning the short 2-hour journey to the nearby town of Otavalo, with a stop at a rose farm along the way. Otavalo is a charming part of Ecuador rich in culture as well as natural beauty as it serves as an agricultural and handicraft hub. Your guide will pick you up at your hotel to begin the journey to Otavalo via a private shuttle. On the way to Otavalo, you can stop to try “bizcochos con manjar” (yummy flaky pastries that you dip in dulce de leche/cajeta).
Once in Otavalo, we’ll spend the following days leisurely doing the following activities:
- Visit our friend and local medicine man, Mario, and his wife, Rosalinda’s. In addition to working as a local healer, Mario and his wife are also weavers and tend to a small farm. (highly recommend)
- Family of local musicians to listen to music and learn more about how Andean instruments are made.
- Visit our friend Antonio’s home for a traditional lunch
- Visit local craft market in the town center.
- Visit our friends at Cava Caran for a yummy meal (bar-style food, but totally family-friendly during the day and earlier in the night)
- Visit the Cava Caran brewery outside of town to learn more about craft beer in Ecuador
- Visit father/daughter duo and their organic farm and homestead 3-hour hike around Cuicocha Lagoon
You’ll spend this evening just outside of town at the beautiful Hacienda Pinsaqui. This hotel was once a large hacienda that at times served as a rest stop for Simón Bolivar among other figures in South America’s fight for independence. The rooms are impressive, the grounds are beautiful and the staff is super friendly.
DAY FOUR: THURSDAY, DECEMBER 10th: B included
DAY FIVE: FRIDAY, DECEMBER 11th: B & L included
After breakfast, we will finish our morning activities in Otavalo before starting the 3-hour journey to the Cotopaxi National Park, but first, we will have a delicious lunch at the gorgeous San Agustin del Callo Hacienda.After lunch, depending on how the group is feeling, and taking into account the higher altitude, we can choose from a variety of activities at the base of the Cotopaxi volcano such as horseback riding, hiking around Limpiopungo Lake (2 hours) or a more strenuous trek (3 - 3.5 hours). We will then arrive at our charming hacienda for an evening of relaxation by the fire!
DAY SIX: SATURDAY, DECEMBER 12th: B & L included
After breakfast at our gorgeous mountainside hacienda we will stop by a local elementary school to meet with the directors and students. The Heart of Travel will be donating a portion of the trip proceeds to donate items requested by the school director. If you’d like to donate additional funds to this cause or supplies (such as pencils, pens, notebooks, jackets, etc.) it would be greatly appreciated but is not obligatory. Feel free to reach out to me for more information on this aspect of the trip!
After our visit to the school, we will then return to Quito for a night of rest at Casa Gardenia after our adventures high up in the Andes.
DAY SEVEN: SUNDAY, DECEMBER13th: B included
A free day to explore Quito at your own pace or rest before heading to the Galápagos Islands the following day. Just let us know if you need any assistance planning or coordinating any activities. We will pick your laundry up early in the morning to have it cleaned for you (complimentary) and returned that evening in time to pack!
DAY EIGHT: MONDAY, DECEMBER 14th: B, L & D included
After a delicious breakfast at your hotel, you’ll head to the Quito airport to catch your flight to Baltra. Upon arriving in Baltra you’ll be greeted at the airport and from there you’ll make your way to (small hotel with pool on-site and close to the main drag in Santa Cruz) on Santa Cruz island. You’ll stop at Rancho Manzanillo to observe and learn about the famous Galápagos giant tortoise on your way into town.
After getting settled into our lodging in Galápagos we'll have some downtime to relax before dinner. Seafood anyone?!
DAY NINE: TUESDAY, DECEMBER 15th: B, L & D included
Tortuga Bay - Transfer to Isabela
On your first full day in Gálapagos, you’ll spend the morning on a beautiful nature walk to one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen, Tortuga Bay. Enjoy breathtaking views or go for a quick swim at this incredible beach before taking an afternoon boat ride to Isabela Island where you will spend two nights. Isabela Island, while less developed than Santa Cruz Island, is the starting point for many of the Galápagos' most impressive tours and is definitely worth the journey.
You’ll arrive in the late afternoon and be escorted from the dock to your hotel to get settled in. The following day will be a long one full of adventure, so we recommend getting a good night’s rest.
DAY TEN: WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 16th: B, L & D included
Breakfast at the hotel.
Take the boat to Tuneles where you will go on a light hike on these beautiful lava rock formations and observe many blue-footed boobies and various cacti before heading over to one of the best snorkeling sites in all of the Galápagos where you’ll swim alongside sea turtles, seahorses, white tip sharks and a large variety of fish.
You’ll have lunch aboard the boat before returning back to Isabela for dinner and downtime.
DAY ELEVEN: THURSDAY, DECEMBER 17th: B, L & D included
Take the boat to Tintoreras where you will go on a nature walk and later snorkel. On this day you’ll observe many marine iguanas and white-tipped sharks at Tintoreras before snorkeling once again with sea turtles and a vast array of fish.
After finishing your visit to Tintoreras you’ll head back via boat to Santa Cruz island for dinner and getting settled into your hotel.
DAY TWELVE: FRIDAY, DECEMBER 18th: B, L & D included
Breakfast at the hotel.
Take a boat ride to North Seymour island which offers some of the best wildlife observation in the region with an abundance of birds, crabs, marine iguanas sea lions. Return for a relaxed evening in Santa Cruz island before flying back home the following day.
DAY THIRTEEN: SATURDAY, DECEMBER 19th: B & D included
After an exciting four days, it will be time to fly back to Quito to rest and relax, but first, we will visit the Charles Darwin Scientific Station. Upon arriving in Quito we will check into Hotel Quito and all head out for a farewell dinner to celebrate another great trip exploring unknown territories and making new friends along the way :)
DAY FOURTEEN: SUNDAY, DECEMBER 20th: B included
Your shuttle will pick you up to take you to the airport for your outbound flight. For those looking to extend their stay, I highly recommend adding on a 4 day/3 night stay at an Amazon lodge or if you’d like to sharpen your Spanish skills I’d be happy to help you coordinate an extra week in an immersion program in Quito, Cuenca, Montañita, Manta or the Amazon.
Tour Review Scores And Score Breakdown