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Private Journeys

Walking in Ecuador and Galapagos

12 days from £4,390pp

Ecuador & Galapagos Islands


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Day 1

Arrive Quito, continue by road to Otavalo.

Upon arrival at Quito’s lofty international airport you’ll be whisked off into the rugged Andean countryside beyond the capital en route to Otavalo, renowned market town in the north of the country.  Your rustic, family-run accommodation with its cottages and open fireplaces, provides a warm welcome and glorious views of the mountain landscape.

Day 2

Visit Andean craft villages and Otavalo market.

Today you have a mixture of moderate hiking with visits to some of the little towns and villages which stud the plains and valleys of this picturesque region. The people here lead a slow-paced, traditional lifestyle, some raising hardy crops and livestock on their pocket-sized farmsteads while others are artisan craftsmen and women, producing intricate textiles and leather goods which are sold in the many local markets as well as on the international stage.

Walk an age-old track from Mojanda to reach the lively town of Otavalo. Your guide will help you understand more about the local economy, but you are at leisure to explore at your own pace. Otavalo hosts one of the largest and most vibrant indigenous markets in South America. Stalls are laden with tapestries and woollen goods, some intricate, some brash, and all in a wild array of colours, as well as traditional musical instruments and leather goods. You’re bound to find something to take home.

Move on to explore on foot some small communities including Agato, where we will be hosted by a family which preserves the tradition of weaving on a backstrap loom. Later you will head deeper into the countryside, learning about small-scale agriculture and meeting local farmers. Spend the night at a countryside 17th century hacienda.

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Day 3

Trek from Zuleta to Cotopaxi.

Today you head out by road for the start of a day of fairly gentle high-altitude walking (4-5 hrs) across mountain trails and past remote homesteads into the Zuleta valley beyond. This agricultural area is famed for its traditional embroidery, dairy products, alpaca farming and highland crops such as wheat, maize, potatoes, lentils and quinoa.

The people of Zuleta jealously protect their culture and traditions, and wear a different costume from the striking blue and white attire of the Otavalo indians. The strong sense of community was fostered by the liberal reformist agenda of the aristocratic family who owned one of the larger haciendas in the area; their enlightened helped create a thriving local community which is now one of the country’s premier eco-tourism destinations.

In Zuleta, you will learn how to prepare a typical Andean lunch, coached by a local family in their welcoming home. In the afternoon, you are driven south (2-3hrs) to Hosteria La Alegria, in the heart of Ecuador’s volcano country.


Day 4

Climb Pasochoa peak 4,200m.

Today is a serious hiking day, where you’ll be on foot for a total of around seven hours, including a climb up to Pasochoa peak, which is measured at a challenging 4,200m. However you’ll be walking at a leisurely pace, initially over grassland trails. Your efforts to reach the peak will be rewarded with a spectacular view of the Pasochoa crater, and beyond you’ll survey the mountains surrounding Quito, including identifiable snow-draped volcanoes including the imperious Cotopaxi.

Later you descend to the Pita river canyon, a downhill walk of about 3 hrs through grasslands and low forests, ending at your rural lodge, Chilcabamba, situated at an altitude of about 3,500m, with tantalising views of Cotopaxi beyond.


Day 5

Hike the Pedregal Trail in Cotopaxi National Park.

Today is a definite highlight: you head into Cotopaxi National Park, one of the most delightful protected areas of Ecuador.  When the weather cooperates, views of the volcano Cotopaxi ‘s ice-clad, near symmetrical cone are awe-inspiring. You start at the Pita river, fed by the volcano itself and which you follow for much of the walk.

The hike enters the Cotopaxi National Park near an archaeological site – Pucara de Salitre – where you will be able to observe a variety of migrant and resident Andean birds. On the way, you might also spot some of the wild horses, deer or llamas which make the park their home, as well as gorgeous seasonal mountain wildflowers and wild and remote highland scenery. Finish your walk at Lake Limpiopungo, speckled with birdlife. During this adventure, you will stop to enjoy a picnic in the crisp alpine environment, and return by road after the day’s exploration to your cosy mountain lodge, Chilcabamba.

Day 6

Climb to the snowline on Cotopaxi volcano, 5,100m.

This is the culmination of all your efforts: the final push up to the snowline on the majestic slopes of Cotopaxi. From the lodge you will drive in your private vehicle to the parking area of the Cotopaxi mountain refuge. You will then walk for approximately an hour before reaching the mountaineers’ lodge, and hike from there to the edge of the glacier, a further hour beyond.

From this point the northern side of the mountain offers a spectacular panorama. You will be able to identify (with the help of your guide) all the ground you have covered since the first day of your adventure.

For many of you, this will be the highest place on earth you have ever reached, some 5,100m above sea level and the sense achievement will be great. The descent, which will take approximately 2 hrs, follows the same route back to the vehicle and we head back to Quito.


Day 7

Quito: walking city tour.

The active volcano Pichincha glowers over Quito, a dynamic city which, at 2,850m, is one of highest capital cities in the world. Quito is divided into two contrasting districts. The modern zone is characterised by towering glass buildings and houses banks, international companies, hotels, shops and restaurants, while the central colonial area where your hotel is located has well-conserved and recently spruced-up white-washed architecture, open air markets and graceful Spanish-style mansions and churches.

In the morning there’s a walking tour of colonial Quito, where you will survey the grand buildings of the cathedral and government palace, as well as some of the other ornate baroque churches which cluster in the historic core. You have the afternoon at leisure to continue exploring, or just relax.

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Day 8

Fly to Baltra in the Galápagos Islands.

Today you head off to the airport for our jet flight to the Galápagos Islands, which takes from 2-3 hours, depending on whether there is a stop in Guayaquil.  Baltra is a tiny island which hosts the Islands’ principal airport.  You’ll be collected and taken by boat to Puero Ayora, the principal town on Santa Cruz Island, where your hotel sits in an oasis of tranquility not from the centre of all this lively little resort’s activity.

You have time to explore the town, its little shops, bars and restaurants (you may need to step over the odd iguana), head off to the snow-white beach where sea-lions laze, or visit the world-famous Charles Darwin Research Centre, a brisk 1.3km walk from the hotel on the edge of town.

Founded in 1959, the Charles Darwin Foundation is dedicated to the preservation and conservation of the Galápagos Islands and its flora and fauna. There are many projects going on at any given time, such as the removal of introduced species, monitoring the health of certain animal or plant populations, and helping set fishing limits.

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Day 9

Explore the Galápagos seas - snorkelling and kayaking

In geological terms, ‘grieta’ means crevasse or crack. Las Grietas is a place where you can swim or snorkel (equipment provided) in cool ocean waters between two high cliffs where the earth has opened a fissure.Take a water taxi from the pier at Puerto Ayora to a point from where you walk to La Grietas, following a short trail which begins sandy and rocky and winds up crossing over a jagged lava field, through a cactus forest, and up a sandy path once again. Upon arriving at Las Grietas walk down narrow wooden steps to a jumble of large boulders. From there, you can climb carefully into the calm, crystal-clear water, which shimmers with a gem-bright, aquamarine glow. There’s a short tunnel from one pool to another, allowing you an adventurous swim underwater.

Following a picnic lunch, walk for 2.5km through a forest to one of the most beautiful beaches on the island, blessed with fine white sand – follow the beach to Playa Mansa for a guided kayak ride in the sheltered waters of Tortuga Bay.

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Day 10

Discover Isabela's giant tortoise breeding centre and Tintoreras Island.

Take an early morning speed boat to Isabela Island. Once you have checked in at your accommodation you will visit the Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre, a 1km walk along a hand built walkway from Puerto Villamil, passing salt water mangrove lagoons inhabited by flamingos and marine iguanas. Isabela is the only island with several species of tortoises. The distances between the volcanoes and the different environments have allowed five different species to evolve. At the breeding centre you can see these different examples of tortoises up close at various stages of development from small hatchlings, to juveniles, to sub adults until they are eventually ready to be introduced to the wild where they can live to be over 100 years old and weigh a hefty 200kg.

After lunch, continue on to Tintoreras, a group of small islands near the village of Puerto Villamil. The islands are named after the white tipped ‘Tintoreras’ reef sharks which swim in these calm waters. On Tintoreras you will also see almost all of the archipelago’s signature wildlife: sea-lions, turtles, rays, penguins, pelicans and blue footed boobies. After walking on the island, you can snorkel in the bay. Don’t be surprised if some of the penguins or sea-lions jump in to play alongside you in the water! You will have the pleasure of sharing the experience with other Galápagos visitors.

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Day 11

Hike to Sierra Negra Volcano.

Volcanic eruptions created all the islands of the Galápagos, and you will get to witness this geologic process first-hand as you explore Isabela, one of the youngest and most volcanically active islands of the archipelago. This 16km hike usually begins with some morning fog and rain but not to worry, the sun will be shining by the time you reach the rim of the Sierra Negra Volcano. This vast crater which is the largest in the archipelago and the second largest in the world is one of the most active volcanoes in the Galapagos, last erupting in 2005.

The crater views are so expansive photographs struggle to convey its size, but you should bring your camera and binoculars anyway. Head towards Volcan Chico through a martian landscape of black and pinkish rock desolate of vegetation and at first appearance void of all life, though on closer inspection reveals small lizards scurrying among the rocks. Enjoy a picnic lunch with spectacular views over central and northern parts of Isabela and in the distance the islands of Fernandina to the west and Santa Cruz to the east before returning to your hotel.

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Day 12

Return to the mainland via Baltra for your international flight.

UK clients arrive home the following day.

Inspired by this trip

Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.


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Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.

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