Quito – Otavalo – Papallacta – Amazon – Baños – Cotopaxi – Galápagos
January 21 - February 6, 2022 (17 days)
✔ Explore the breathtaking city of Quito, situated high up in the snow-capped Andean mountains, the vibrant market of Otavalo, and Ecuador’s natural wonders, including hot springs, waterfalls and volcanoes.
✔ Discover the largest rainforest in the world, home to a vast array of wildlife and plant species, from your jungle lodge in the Amazon basin.
✔ Witness the amazing biodiversity of the Galápagos on a unique 4-night private cruise through the southern and eastern islands of the archipelago, home to some of the best snorkelling spots and most diverse marine wildlife around. Get up close and personal with sea lions, tortoises, prancing blue-footed boobies, marine iguanas and a host of unusual species both on land and sea.
✔ A small group tour of 16 people makes it an intimate and personalized experience, allowing you to truly immerse yourself in the discovery of this diverse country.
✔ Optional extension to Peru including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Machu Picchu.
Depart for Ecuador.
After arrival in Quito, transfer to your hotel. Time to rest until dinner. (D)
Independence Square, Quito © Alfonso Tandazo
Embark on a half-day tour of the historic centre. Visit the Basílica del Voto Nacional, one of the most important works of Ecuadorian neo-gothic architecture. Rather than gargoyles, turtles and iguanas protrude from the church’s side. Explore the vibrant Plaza Grande (“Independence Square”), surrounded by Quito’s Cathedral, the Presidential Palace, the Municipal Palace and the Archbishop’s Palace.
Visit the intricately detailed Church of la Compañía de Jesús and the Church of San Francisco, the city’s largest colonial structure. Head to El Panecillo for a view over the city and the Avenue of Volcanoes – two parallel cordilleras containing eight of the country’s ten highest peaks. Conclude the tour with a visit to the Guayasamín Museum, dedicated to the sculptor and painter Oswaldo Guayasamín in the artist's former hillside home. Remainder of the day at leisure. (B,L)
Iglesia de San Francisco, Quito
Drive to the highlands and stop at Miralago for the superb view of Lake San Pablo and a sample of their traditional bizcochos, delectable local pastries baked in a wood-fired clay oven and covered with local cheese or dulce de leche.
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. Optional short hike around the beautiful Lake Cuicocha. Overnight at a historic highlands hacienda. (B,L)
Travel to the Mojanda Lakes, a series of three crystal-clear crater lakes located at an elevation of roughly 3,500 metres above sea level. Proceed to the small weaving community of Peguche to meet a family of weavers and get a feel for Andean music as you watch perfectly tuned Andean flutes being crafted in minutes. (B,L,D)
Mojanda Lakes © Kerem Ozcan
Today proceed to the Papallacta Hot Springs Resort. Relax in the natural hot springs and enjoy the mountain views. Optional spa treatments are available (not included; to be booked locally). (B,L,D)
Papallacta Hot Springs
Drive along a scenic stretch of road overlooking lush valleys and sparkling waterfalls to the Amazon region. The road ends at Punta Ahuano, on the north bank of the Napo River, where you will take motorized canoes for the 15-minute journey downstream to La Casa del Suizo, your Amazon lodge. Your comfortable room comes with its own terrace and hammock, exquisite river and jungle views, ceiling fan, 24-hour electricity and hot water. After settling in, enjoy the sunset from the swimming pool with a welcome cocktail. (B,L,D)
Jungle excursion, La Casa del Suizo © F. Delventhal
After an early breakfast, enjoy a guided rainforest walk; see distinct species of birds and insects as well as a great variety of trees and medicinal plants. Follow in the footsteps of Francisco de Orellana, the Iglesia de San Francisco, Quito Papallacta Hot Springs Spanish discoverer of the River Amazon, as you build your own raft, known as a balsa, using the same technique indigenous communities have for centuries, and still use to this day. Take it to the water and paddle downstream back to the lodge.
This afternoon, enjoy a one-hour walk around a flat river island to discover different plants and insects, before a visit to the Mariposario (Butterfly House). (B,L,D)
Tour at La Casa del Suizo
Leave the jungle behind and proceed to Baños via the "Waterfall Route". The narrow road, etched into a steep hillside, follows the course of the Pastaza River and passes spectacular waterfalls along the way, such as the impressive Pailón del Diablo. Explore Baños, a stunning town surrounded by volcanoes and one of the most popular spots in the country, known for its thermal baths, its magnificent basilica and its adventure sports. Afternoon arrival in Cotopaxi. (B,L)
Monkey © La Casa del Suizo
This morning head to Cotopaxi National Park. Stop at Lake Limpiopungo for the spectacular view of the beautiful cone-shaped, snow-covered Cotopaxi volcano. Standing at 5,897 metres, it is Ecuador’s second-highest peak and the highest active volcano in the world. Enjoy a short walk around the lake. Keep an eye out for wildlife, including condors, foxes, deer and spectacled bears. (B,L)
Cotopaxi volcano © Alfonso Tandazo, Surtrek
Transfer to Quito Airport for your flight to San Cristóbal Island, the easternmost island in the Galápagos. Embark on the Seaman Journey, your home for the next 4 nights, in time for lunch.
This afternoon, visit San Cristóbal Island Interpretation Centre, which provides excellent information about the settlement history of the archipelago, its climate, the arrival of different species, the volcanic origins of the islands as well as their human history. Dinner and overnight on board the Seaman Journey. (B,L,D)
Brought back from the brink of extinction, see the famous Galápagos tortoise up close at the Tortoise Breeding Centre. Lunch on board. Afternoon wet landing at Cerro Brujo, a fascinating lava hill on San Cristóbal Island. Enjoy exceptional views of Kicker Rock as well as the southern part of San Cristóbal and the coast. Look for blue-footed boobies, seagulls, black-necked stilts, ruddy turnstones, whimbrels, white-cheeked pintails and pelicans. The protected bay and its turquoise water is also popular among young sea turtles and rays, which makes swimming and snorkelling here particularly exciting. (B,L,D)
Blue-footed boobies, Galápagos
Española is the southernmost, oldest and one of the most biodiverse islands of the archipelago, home to several endemic wildlife species. Sail in to Gardner Bay, an excellent swimming and snorkelling site. Its magnificent white sandy beach is frequented by a transient colony of friendly sea lions. Enjoy fantastic snorkelling in the turquoise water of the bay; spot large schools of surprisingly big tropical fish, including yellow-tailed surgeonfish, king angelfish, bump-head parrot fish, the occasional manta ray as well as whitetip reef sharks napping on the bottom. Also, get the chance to swim with the sea lions!
In the afternoon, head to Punta Suarez, famous for its magnificent blowhole, spurting water some 25 metres high into the air. The area is great for spotting blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, waved albatrosses, Española mockingbirds, oystercatchers and the impressive Galápagos hawk. Punta Suarez is also home to sally lightfoot crabs, brightly coloured marine iguanas, lava lizards and sea lions. Hike to the top of the cliff for spectacular photo opportunities. (B,L,D)
Punta Suarez, Española © Serena Tang
Today visit Floreana Island, considered to be one of the most exotic in the archipelago. Cormorant Point is the first point of call and offers probably the best flamingo lagoon in the Galápagos. Various species of shorebirds can also be observed, such as common stilts, white-checked pintail ducks and other migratory birds. The "Green Sand Beach" contains olivine crystal, while the "Flour Sand Beach" is made up of coral. Continue to the Champion Islet – a great place to snorkel with sea lions, schools of stingrays and tropical fish. Occasionally, dolphins are sighted as boats approach the shore.
In the afternoon, head to Post Office Bay, established in the 18th century by British whalers to send letters to and from England. After a wet landing, walk just off the beach, pop your mail in the barrel and see if it reaches its destination. Snorkellers can take a dip on the main beach among the playful sea lions and green sea turtles. Next, visit the Baroness’ Lookout Point, where the controversial “Baroness” Eloisa de Wagner – one of the first human inhabitants in the Galápagos Islands in the mid-30s – would spend several hours daily observing whales and dolphins. (B,L,D)
This morning learn about the geology, climate, natural history, protection and conservation of the Galápagos at the Charles Darwin Research Station and visit the facility’s tortoise breeding centre. Head to the Santa Cruz Highlands and see the Twins Craters surrounded by scalesia forest. Transfer to Seymour Airport on Baltra Island for your return flight to the mainland. Those joining the optional extension will connect onto their flight to Peru.
After arrival in Quito, transfer to your hotel. Tonight celebrate the conclusion of the tour with a farewell dinner at a local restaurant. (B,D)
Transfer to the airport for your flight(s) back home. (B)