Quito – Otavalo – Papallacta – Tena – Baños – Galápagos
February 14 – March 01, 2019
Discover Ecuador’s natural wonders and amazing biodiversity on this unique tour – the UNESCO-listed City
of Quito, the Amazon jungle, vibrant markets, hot springs, volcanoes, and a 4-night private cruise through
the southern and eastern islands of the Galápagos, home to some of the best snorkelling spots and most
diverse and impressive marine wildlife around.
• Witness the amazing biological diversity of the tropical rainforest, home to a vast array of birds and plant species, from your jungle lodge on the Amazon
• Get up close and personal with some of the world’s most unique animals on a 4-night Galápagos Island cruise – sea lions, tortoises, prancing blue-footed boobies, marine iguanas and a host of unusual species both on land and sea
• Explore Quito, situated high up in the snow-capped Andean mountains, for a taste of Ecuadorean culture and Spanish colonial history and architecture
• A small group tour of 16 people makes it an intimate and personalised experience, allowing you to truly immerse yourself in the discovery of this diverse country
Depart for Ecuador.
After an early arrival at Quito Mariscal Sucre International Airport, transfer to your hotel by private vehicle. Morning at leisure. This afternoon, enjoy a city tour of Ecuador’s capital, Quito, visiting key sites including the Old Town, the Cathedral of Quito and the Panecillo. Explore the Mitad del Mundo (‘Middle of the World’), where you can straddle both sides of the Equator. Tonight, join your tour leader and fellow travellers for a welcome meeting.
Quito Plaza Grande © Ecuador Travel
Drive to the highlands with a stop at the small weaving community of Peguche for a local lunch. Continue to Otavalo and visit the largest handicraft market in South America, famous for its amazing local art, tapestries and textiles. The market dates back to pre-Inca times when jungle products were transported from the eastern lowlands and traded for highland goods. Villagers from the surrounding countryside come here every week to sell handmade goods as well as livestock, fruits and vegetables. Wander the stalls to meet local artists, find one-of-a-kind souvenirs and try your hand at haggling – it is expected for every purchase. One of the most obvious signs of the Otavaleños’ cultural integrity is their traditional dress, worn throughout their daily life. Overnight at a historic highlands hacienda. (B,L)
Visit the home and studio of Don Miguel, a man working to keep his culture’s traditions alive. For thousands of years the indigenous people of the Otavalo region have used the backstrap loom to create their woven goods, however, new technologies have slowly been pushing out the tradition. Learn how Don Miguel and his family are working to help revive this ancient art as he demonstrates every step of the process, from cleaning the wool, to naturally dyeing it, to backstrap weaving. Afternoon at leisure at the Papallacta Hot Springs Resort. Relax in the natural hot springs and enjoy the mountain views. Optional spa treatments are available, as well as a hiking excursion in the areas surrounding Papallacta (not included; to be booked locally). (B)
Excursion to Guango private cloud forest reserve, where you will learn about the unique flora and fauna of the region. A bird lovers’ paradise, keep your eyes peeled for a variety of parrots, toucans, tanagers and more. Enjoy the orchid garden lunch at the lodge and observe a multitude of dive-bombing hummingbirds. Seeing 14 species of hummingbirds within an hour is not uncommon, and the Sword-billed hummingbird with its unique, long bill is sure to amaze you. Visit the cheeky Capuchin monkeys at Misahuallí. Continue to Tena to catch a motorized canoe to your Amazon lodge, located along the bank of the Arajuno River approximately 40 min from Tena. Stay in comfortable cabañas next to the river, which have private bathroom with hot water in the rainfall shower, electricity and a balcony. From your balcony, you can relax in a hammock or deck chair and observe hummingbirds, shore river birds and butterflies. In the evening, listen to the night music of the multitude of frogs and other nocturnal creatures. The lodge also has an open-air lounge with pool and full-service bar, all connected by a raised and roofed boardwalk to guests rooms. The lodge is dedicated to protecting the pristine jungle environment and has a dedicated recycling program, energy conservation program and offer biodegradable amenities including shampoo and shower gel in the bathrooms. After settling in, receive a briefing from the local naturalist guide about the lodge and the area, before embarking on a night walk to learn about nocturnal creatures of the Amazon. A flashlight and camera are the most important tools on this excursion; search out bats, owls, a variety of insects, tarantulas, toads and frogs, and possibly snakes, and hear the nocturnal sounds of the forest. If the sky is clear, you might have the chance to do some stargazing. (B,L,D)
Papallacta Hot Springs
Depart early by canoe to visit a parrot clay lick (Saladero) with a naturalist guide. This unique site is where parrots and parakeets gather to eat mineral-rich clay that will help them digest the fruits or seeds they have consumed. Return to the lodge for breakfast. Continue on to AmaZOOnico, an animal rescue centre that rehabilitates, reintroduces and cares for animals who are victims of illegal trafficking. See large cats and reptiles up close, and learn all about the important work of this sanctuary. Enjoy a truly unforgettable cultural experience with a local Ecuadorian family who will welcome and host you for the afternoon at their home in the jungle. Discuss their traditions, beliefs and history and hear about what daily life is like for them in such a unique environment. Go fishing with them and then watch and listen as they prepare lunch and share insight about their deep connection to nature, as well as their thoughts on the encroachment of the modern world on their traditional way of life here. (B,L,D)
Monkey - Courtesy of Itamandi EcoLodge
Depart the Amazon to Baños, a stunning town surrounded by volcanoes. Along the way, visit the Omaere Ethnobotanical Park and discover ethnobotany – the study of the relationship between cultures and the plants around them. Plants are integral to the lives of Amazonian indigenous groups who use them for shelter, nourishment, medicine, and in spiritual practices. Set out on the trails with an expert guide to learn about the diverse plant life and the local Shuar and Waorani people, and enjoy unique botanical experiences like tasting cinnamon and being painted with Achotillo sap. Baños is one of the most popular spots in the country. Many Ecuadorian families vacation here. One look at this delightfully green mountain town and you will know why. Baños means ‘baths’ and this is precisely what the town is famous for. Some are thermal springs from the base of Tungurahua Volcano, which means ‘little hell’ in Quichua. Other baths have melt water running into them from Tungurahua’s glaciated flanks. Optional horseback ride to explore Baños’ beautiful countryside (not included; to be booked locally). (B)
Free day to further explore Baños at your own pace. The town is the perfect setting for outdoor pursuits. Optional activities include horseback riding, canyoneering, hiking, mountain biking, climbing and rafting on the River Patate (not included; to be booked locally). (B)
Banos - Ecuador Travel
Drive back to Quito along the scenic Avenue of Volcanoes and visit to Cotopaxi National Park en route. The beautiful cone-shaped, snow-covered Cotopaxi Volcano stands at 5,897 metres and is Ecuador’s second highest peak and the highest active volcano in the world. Keep an eye out for park wildlife, including condors, foxes, deer and spectacled bears. (B)
Spend the day at your own leisure, or join an optional full day tour to Mindo Cloud Forest (not included; to be booked locally). Drive northwest for 2 hours, enjoy the dramatic change of vegetation heading down from the Andes into the cloud forest. Mindo is a tiny town set amidst some of the most beautiful and peaceful countryside in the entire country. It is a centre for both nature and adventure activities. Walk through the cloud forest and enjoy the peace and tranquility of the different waterfalls, take time to ride up the cable car, visit a butterfly farm and see an array of colourful hummingbirds for which Mindo is renowned. In the afternoon, opt for an organic chocolate tour and tasting. Later this afternoon, meet your tour leader for a briefing on the next portion of your tour. (B)
Transfer to Quito Mariscal Sucre International Airport. Take an early flight to Seymour Airport in Baltra, in the Galápagos Islands (with a short refuelling stop in Guayaquil; you will not disembark the plane). Embark on the Yolita, your home for the next 4 nights, in time for lunch. This afternoon, visit North Seymour Island, teeming with wildlife. Follow trails to see all the action; you may need to give way to a passing sea lion or marine iguana while walking. See blue-footed booby nests where mating pairs perform their courtship dance. Head to a rocky shore to see flocks of pelicans having lunch in a dive bomb feeding frenzy, then turn inland to a large nesting site of magnificent frigate birds. These huge, dark acrobats have two-metre wingspans, and males, with their puffed up scarlet throat sacks, sit precariously perched in low bushes to watch over their equally large chicks. Top off the excursion with a snorkel among sea lions and rays. Dinner and overnight on board the Yolita. (B,L,D)
Yolita Exterior © G Adventures Inc.
Yolita Side Deck © G Adventures Inc.
North Seymour Frigatebird © Daniel Sendecki, G Adventures Inc.
Morning landing at Cerro Brujo on San Cristóbal. Explore its coastline, and look for sea lions, marine iguanas and seabirds along the beach. Learn about the human and natural history of the area from your naturalist guide. Take a refreshing dip in the turquoise water, and head out on a short walk to a freshwater lagoon – a great place to see flamingos. Lunch on board. In the afternoon, continue to the dramatic Kicker Rock, one of the most stunning landmarks in the Galápagos Islands that is home to an incredibly diverse range of marine life that inhabits the nutrient-rich water. Embark on a snorkelling adventure and explore the rock which rises 150 metres above the ocean’s surface, and is divided into two parts by a narrow channel. See an array of sharks and fish that are drawn to the rock. Kicker Rock provides some of the best snorkelling in the Galápagos. Continue to Isla Lobos, where you can snorkel right off the beach, amid the families of sea lions and their inquisitive pups looking to play. Take a panga ride to view the sea and shore birds nesting and feeding. Spot a small colony of blue-footed boobies as well as two species of sea lions. (B,L,D)
Underwater Wildlife © Attit Patel, G Adventures Inc.
Sail into Gardner Bay, an excellent swimming and snorkelling site. Its magnificent white sandy beach is home to sea lions and seabirds. Enjoy fantastic snorkelling in the turquoise water of the bay; spot young sea lions and large schools of surprisingly big tropical fish, including yellow-tailed surgeonfish, king angelfish and bumphead parrot fish. Further out towards Tortuga Rock and Gardner Island, see schools of large colourful tropical fish. Spot an occasional manta ray gliding by as well as whitetip reef sharks napping on the bottom. Also, get the chance to swim with the sea lions! This afternoon, head to Punta Suarez on Española Island. The southernmost island in the Galápagos archipelago is home to several wildlife species, including masked and blue-footed boobies. Hike to the top of the cliff for spectacular photo opportunities. Follow the trail through a rookery and learn the geological history of the island from the naturalist, including its dramatic volcanic features, climate, flora and fauna. (B,L,D)
Sally Lightfoot Crab © Stephanie Kretzschmer, G Adventures Inc.
Ocean Red Shrubs © Sarah Schlederer, G Adventures Inc.
Visit Santa Fé Island; hike towards the cliffs along the island’s northern shore to view the forest of giant prickly pear cactus (Opuntia), which is home to endemic land iguanas. It is also one of the best locations to see sea turtles, swim with sea lions, and get a glimpse of a white tip reef shark. Continue to South Plaza, one of the smallest islands in the Galápagos, which has one of the largest populations of land iguanas. Walk along a path through a cactus forest and view a combination of dry and coastal vegetation on this lively island, home to a wide range of fauna, including incredible birdlife. Spot red-billed tropicbirds and indigenous swallow-tailed gulls resting on the cliffs, and sea lions playing in the waters. (B,L,D)
Santa Fe Island Beach Sea Lion © Daniel Sendecki, G Adventures Inc.
In the morning, visit the Charles Darwin Research Station, a scientific organization initiated in 1964, which works to preserve the Galápagos’ ecosystem through the conservation efforts of scientists, researchers and volunteers. The station is also a great place to observe many species of tortoises and land iguanas in captivity in the Fausto Llerena Breeding Centre. Brought back from the brink of extinction, see the famous Galápagos tortoise up close – a corral houses adult tortoises, and a nursery cares for the young until around age three when their shells have hardened. Wander through Puerto Ayora before transferring to Seymour Airport for your flight back to Quito. Upon arrival at Quito Mariscal Sucre International Airport, transfer to your hotel. Evening at leisure. (B)
Turtle in Puerto Ayora © Daniel Sendecki, G Adventures Inc.
Make your way to Quito Mariscal Sucre International Airport for your return flights to Canada (not included; to be booked locally). (B)