Private Journeys

Value Ecuador and Galapagos: At a glance

9 days from £2,340pp

Ecuador & Galapagos Islands

Itinerary

map marker Map

Day 1

Arrive Quito high in the Andes. Transfer to first class hotel.

As soon as you arrive at Quito’s high altitude airport you are whisked off to your modern first class Hilton hotel  set on the edge of a park just 10 minutes from the colonial core of this historic city.

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Day 2

Full day guided tour of the Andean highlands and market towns.

Set off on a variety-packed full day exploration of the Andean highlands, discovering traditional villages and mountain landscapes as well as the world-famous market town Otavalo.

Cayambe is a large town overlooked by the snowy bulk of the volcano of the same name.The mountain’s icy flanks contrast with the gentle dairy cattle pastures and flower plantation below. Your route then takes you alongside the silvery waters of Lake San Pablo, the largest natural lake in the country. 

Continue to Otavalo, a growing, bustling town with tourism at its core. Long celebrated for its Saturday and Tuesday market, its main square is flooded with stalls and salespeople on those days. Originally the articles sold were household goods, livestock, foodstuffs and traditional clothing for the population of the town and the villages within its hinterland, and business was done by bartering. The indigenous Otavaleños, easily identified by their striking blue and white attire, are famous for their business acumen and have for many decades travelled beyond the country’s frontiers seeking our new markets. 

Nowadays the market is well absorbed into the cash (and credit card) economy, and alongside the colourful textiles, intricate jewellery, woollen bags and paintings of bucolic local landscapes you will find Manchester United football shirts and base-ball caps made in China. 

Move on to Peguche, a settlement famed for the manufacture of Andean musical instruments – visit a traditional workshop here - and thence to Cotacachi, where the speciality is leather goods. You might pick up a bargain here.

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Day 3

Guided city tour of Quito

Today you will explore the historic centre of Quito, the first heritage site to be UNESCO listed. It may well be the largest in South America, and is certainly one of the best preserved: no attempt has been made gratuitously to gentrify the residencies and commerce: there is still a medley of old-style upmarket mansions and more humble homes, interspersed along narrow cobbled streets by tiny grocery shops and traditional bars. It’s all very atmospheric – the more so as you will travel on one of the city’s trolley buses, replicas of the trams which circulated in the capital Quito in the last century.

Visit the Basilica del Voto Nacional Church, with its ornate Gothic exterior, and move on to the viewpoint on Panecillo hill, an iconic spot from where you can survey the whole city and which you will share with the giant statue of the Winged Virgin.

Later, continue to two of Quito’s emblematic squares, graceful Plaza de San Francisco and Plaza Grande, the historical and political centre of the city fringed by some of the capital’s most important buildings including the Cathedral, the Government Palace, the Archbishop's Palace and La Compañía church, as ornate in its gilded interior as it is without. The tour ends in the traditional La Ronda neighbourhood, where you’ll find artisan workshops where the crafts and trades of yesteryear are still thriving.

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Day 4

Full day excursion to the Avenue of the Volcanoes,Cotopaxi and Quilotoa.

It’s a long day (12 hours door to door) but on this guided tour you will really be able to enjoy the privilege of seeing the top highlights of Ecuador’s glorious Andean landscapes. The country’s consists of a string of snow-capped volcanoes, viewed from the stretch of the Panamerican Highway known as the Avenue of the Volcanoes, along which they stand sentinel. Climb out of the bowl in which Quito is situated rising through ethereal cloud-forest, to reach a plain of farms and pastures pitted with many small colonial market towns and indigenous indian settlements linked by a network of rural roads.

Soon, on a clear day, you will witness the towering and sometimes smoldering form of active Volcan Cotopaxi – enter the national park to get close-up views. Pop into the park’s museum, stroll along the shores of the bird-flecked lake Limpiopungo, and walk through an upland forest at a cool 4,200m. Drive on to Quilotoa volcano which has at its heart a stunning turquoise lagoon, and climb to a viewpoint over the crater.

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Day 5

Fly to the Galápagos Islands, transfer to hotel on Santa Cruz Island.

Drive back to Quito’s airport and fly to the Galápagos islands (2-3hrs, depending if there is a stop in Guayaquil on the way).  From the  airport at Baltra there’s a speedboat ride over to the archipelago's mountainous principal island, Santa Cruz, which hosts the capital, Puerto Ayora.  Transfer to your hotel, Mainao, which is in the lively town.

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Day 6

A motor yacht day trip to neighbouring islands.

Embark a small motor yacht and enjoy a full day exploring more remote islands from the sea, accompanied by a welcoming crew and knowledgeable naturalist guide. The itinerary will vary day to day but you will visit either North Seymour and Bachas, South Plazas, or Bartolome and Sullivan Bay. Each island has its own characteristics,  but all are characterised by rocky lava fields, white sandy beaches and a plethora of wildlife.

North Seymour is a small island covered in boulders and scrubby bush. Large colonies of seabirds (frigates, blue-footed) breed here and there’s always a courting, mating or nesting ritual to see.

Santa Fe is one of the most beautiful islands, with a lovely turquoise lagoon. Some of the giant cacti there grow up to 10m high. There are land iguanas, sea-lions and lava lizards.

South Plaza  is famed for its lovely flora, including the prickly pear, Depending on the season, the ground vegetation changes colour from intense green to orange and purple. You’ll also see colonies of land iguana, and nesting birds such as the tropicbird.

Bartolome is a small, arid island with blue-black lava flows and white-sand beaches fringed by mangroves. You can spot penguins and go snorkelling there.

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Day 7

Full day tour with a local resident

Set out to sea on the motor yacht Niña Bella with an ex-fisherman, his welcoming crew and a knowledgeable naturalist guide for a full day excursion to experience the waters close to one of the Galápagos more remote islands. Recent history has transformed the Galapagos Islands, reshaping the local economy from one of subsistence fishing and small-scale agriculture to one where tourism employs some 40% of local residents. Their lives have been transformed from harvesting sea life to introducing the rich marine ecosystem to visitors, while also helping to preserve them.

Heading out toward Santa Fe Island and its marine reserve you will have the chance to appreciate the biodiversity unique to this area. You’ll enjoy a variety of marine activities including swimming with sharks and snorkelling where you can observe colourful fish and sea cucumbers. All the while, you will enjoy watching wildlife in its natural state - including the chance to view one of the most important sea lion colonies in the entire reserve.

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Days 7-8

At leisure in the Galápagos, optional excursions.

There are also sporting activities you might dip into including mountain biking, introductory scuba diving classes, snorkelling, sea kayaking and hiking.

You can also explore further Puerto Ayora, where you are staying. It's lively but laid-back place' bursting with shops, cafés, restaurants and banks. It’s a busy harbour, with tourist yachts and fishing boats coming and going, and the bay is full of fearless pelicans, iguanas and blue-footed boobies. Spend some time on the beach there and you may well be joined by a sea-lion or two. Nearby is the Charles Darwin Research station, where you can learn about the history of the islands and conservation projects, and Tortuga Bay, where you might spot giant tortoises and reef sharks.

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Day 9

Fly to Guayaquil; connect with international flight.

Transfer back to Baltra airport and fly to Guayaquil on the Pacific coast. Connect with your international flight. UK clients arrive home the following day.

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Inspired by this trip

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Real Latin America Experts

  • Carrie Gallagher
    Carrie Gallagher - Travel Consultant

    A former JLA tour leader, Carrie brings a wealth of on-the-ground experience to our London-based Escorted Groups team.

  • Kathryn Rhodes
    Kathryn Rhodes - Travel Consultant

    Kathryn backpacked across Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru before joining us. She has a degree in Philosophy and French and is a keen netball player.

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    Chris Rendell-Dunn - Travel Consultant

    Anglo-Peruvian Chris grew up in Lima and spent much of his adult life in between London and Cusco as a tour leader, before settling permanently in our Sales team.

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    Ben Line - Travel Consultant

    Ben fell in love with Latin America on a six month backpacking trip from Colombia to Mexico in 1995. Since then he has explored most of South America, including living in Peru for a year. He is now Manager of the Tailor-made Department.

  • Sophie Barber
    Sophie Barber - Travel Consultant

    Sophie lived in Chile before joining us and has travelled extensively across Latin America, from Mexico to the furthest tip of Patagonia.

  • Paul Winrow Giffen
    Paul Winrow-Giffin - Travel Consultant

    After graduating in Computer Science, Paul spent seven months travelling from Colombia to Argentina and came home hooked on Latin America.

Meet the team