This itinerary you show you very best of Ecuador. Visit the spot where the Middle of the World is marked. Then get marvel at the beauty of Cotapaxi Volcano and surroundings. To finish the journey in the peninsula, a colorful and fun visit to Otavalo market. Your journey to the remote Galapagos Islands will begin aboard a superb cruise, to get closer and understand more about the islands' marine world.

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SHARED EXPERIENCES

Day 01 Quito

Reception at the airport and transfer to the selected Hotel.

Overnight at selected hotel

Day 02 Quito

SCENIC TOUR AND MIDDLE OF THE WORLD:

A 4 hours visit to downtown Quito to relish in this urban jewel and its treasures of art and architecture. Quito’s colonial quarter, the largest and best preserved of South America, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The visit starts at the Independence Plaza, flanked by the Cathedral, the Presidential Palace, the Municipal Building and the Archbishop’s Palace. Visit the temple of La Compañía de Jesús and its awesome gilded interior. Continue on to the Monastery of San Francisco, one the of great religious buildings of the New World; its impressive façade and atrium that lead to its Baroque interior influenced by Moorish style, with the winged Virgin of Quito at its main altar. Then continue to the Equatorial Monument, 25 kms. (16 miles) North of Quito, which marks the exact Middle of the World, latitude 0º, where you can stand with a foot on each hemisphere. Visit the Ethnographic Museum inside the monument, which shows the different Native American groups living in Ecuador. Beside the monument there is a colonial-style town, complete with main square, church, post office, bullring, cafeterias, restaurants and many gift shops with postcards and souvenirs. You will get a certificate for having crossed the Equator.

Overnight at selected hotel

Included: Breakfast

Day 03 Quito

COTOPAXI NATIONAL PARK:

Early departure from Quito by motorcar on the Pan-American Highway to the south, to visit the Cotopaxi National Park, an ecological sanctuary of 88,920 acres, around the magnificent Cotopaxi Volcano, which rises 5897 meters (19,347 feet) above sea level. The evergreen landscape of the Ecuadorian highlands is one of the main attractions, along valleys and mountains covered by multicolored fields. After an hour and a half, the entrance to the park is reached and then it’s up a dirt road for approximately one hour. Upon arrival to the park there is an introductory briefing about the habitat of the Andean paramo or moorlands, its flora and fauna in the small Interpretation Center. Continue on to Limpiopungo Lagoon to observe a variety of birds and occasionally wild horses. On clear days, the Cotopaxi Volcano is the magnificent backdrop. A short walk around the lagoon allows the observation of the Andean flora. Lunch is at a restaurant of the area before returning to Quito in the afternoon. The entrance fee to Cotopaxi National Park is extra.

Overnight at selected hotel

Included: Breakfast, lunch

Day 04 Quito

OTAVALO - NATIVE FAIR - PEGUCHE:

This full day excursion goes north, to the land of the Otavaleños and South America’s most famous Indian fair. Early departure from Quito towards Calderón, a small village that keeps the tradition of making colorful dough figurines of Indian dolls, llamas, flowers and even great Christmas ornaments. Guests can observe how each figure is molded by hand, with dough of different colors carefully put together; then it is baked and varnished. Continue on the Panamerican Highway through dramatic mountain scenery to the textile market of Otavalo, where guests will enjoy visiting the many stalls full of ponchos, scarves, blankets, wall hangings, woven belts (fajas), hats, handbags and much more. Here Otavaleños barter in silence, in marked contrast to the raucous noise of other markets; take your time to negotiate the best bargains. Then, proceed to Peguche, an Indian village very near Otavalo that is home to the artisans who do the weaving in their homes; guests can learn about their culture and beliefs. Lunch is at one of the charming country inns or haciendas of the area like Pinsaqui, Puerto Lago or Cusin. Private Service.

Overnight at selected hotel

Included: Breakfast, lunch

Day 05 Quito

Transfer from the hotel to the airport.

Flight from Quito to Galapagos.

MONDAY
BALTRA ISLAND

Morning arrival to Baltra Island by plane and immediate transfer to the dock to board the M/V Santa Cruz. Welcome introductory briefing and lunch.

LAS BACHAS (SANTA CRUZ ISLAND)

After WWII, US military barges were beached and abandoned here. Locals referred to the beach as the barges beach, a name that morphed to “Bachas”. Today it is an important nesting area for the east Pacific green sea turtle. Located on the north shore of Santa Cruz Island, it is a glorious white beach (wet landing), with several brackish lagoons only a few steps away from the sea. These lagoons are the feeding grounds of various wading birds, from stilts to flamingos. This is a great opportunity to get acquainted with snorkeling gear and techniques.

Welcome Cocktail, expedition plan for Tuesday and dinner.

Overnight at M/N Santa Cruz Cruise

Included: Breakfast, lunch and dinner

Day 06 Islas Galapagos

TUESDAY
BUCCANEER COVE (JAMES ISLAND)

After breakfast, enjoy a coastal exploration along the impressive cliffs of Buccaneer Cove. Learn about the history of Santiago Island, its relevance for the whalers, pirates and early researchers, including Darwin’s epic voyage in 1835, and the conservation projects aimed at eradicating feral species (a fence stretched along the rocky outcrop is visible to save native plants from the once existing enormous goat population). Today the island is free of feral goats, and the cove is home to a large number of marine birds, sea lions, and inter-tidal organisms. Enjoy fantastic natural formations such as the “Elephant Rock”, “The Bishop” and an impressive natural cave. This is a great site for snorkeling too! Lunch on board.

PUERTO EGAS (JAMES ISLAND)

Wet landing for a mid-length walk. Most of the landscape is tuff-stone layers and lava flows. This is a great opportunity to see land and marine birds. At low tide, marine iguanas graze upon the algae beds and there is a colony of fur-sea lions. Opportunity for snorkeling and swimming from the beach after the walk.

Expedition plan for Wednesday and dinner.

Overnight at M/N Santa Cruz Cruise

Included: Breakfast, lunch and dinner

Day 07 Galapagos Islands

WEDNESDAY
RÁBIDA ISLAND (JERVIS)

Disembark at Rábida Island (wet landing) on a red-coloured beach, due to the unusually high content of iron in the volcanic material. A gratifying stroll along the beach of this small island (1.9 sq. mi.) allows the observation of a large colony of sea lions, marine iguanas, mockingbirds, yellow warblers and several species of Darwin’s finches. Very close to the beach, hidden behind a strip of green saltbush, is a salt pond where at times greater flamingos migrate. This is a great place to snorkel from the beach, both for beginners as well as for experienced snorkelers, due to the unique combination of underwater species and submarine landscapes. Non-snorkelers will enjoy a ride on the glass bottom boat. During navigation to our next island, dolphins are often spotted. Lunch on board.

BARTOLOMÉ ISLAND

Disembark at Bartolomé Island (dry landing) for a hike to the summit. This is a moderately steep climb aided by a wooden staircase resting platforms and handrails; the view from the top is worth the effort. Dinghy ride around colossal Pinnacle Rock, then time to enjoy the beach (wet landing) and some snorkeling, possibly with Galápagos penguins, or else a ride in the glass-bottom boat for great views of the underwater world.

Expedition plan for Thursday and dinner.

Overnight at M/N Santa Cruz Cruise

Included: Breakfast, lunch and dinner

Day 8 Islas Galapagos

THURSDAY
PRINCE PHILIP'S STEPS (TOWER/GENOVESA ISLAND)

The morning starts with a panga ride along the cliffs of this dramatic island, followed by landing with a steep climb (90 feet) up some stairs to reach a flat plateau. Along our walk, we can observe large colonies of Nazca boobies, red footed boobies, great frigate birds and storm petrels. Those not wishing to disembark can enjoy a longer panga ride along the cliffs (depending on weather conditions). After the walk, we can snorkel along the dramatic cliffs where there are chances of spotting lots of fish, including hammerhead sharks.

DARWIN BAY (TOWER/GENOVESA ISLAND)

In the afternoon, a wet landing for an easy stroll observing hundreds of birds, mainly frigate birds, red footed and Nazca boobies, gulls, herons, finches and mockingbirds. Optional walk over sharp lava and uneven terrain for dramatic views, or else return to the beach to enjoy swimming and snorkeling at this beautiful natural harbour, or join us in a Glass Bottom boat ride.

Farewell Cocktail, departure briefing and dinner.

Overnight at M/N Santa Cruz Cruise

Included: Breakfast, lunch and dinner

Day 09 Islas Galapagos

FRIDAY
PUERTO BAQUERIZO MORENO (SAN CRISTÓBAL (CHATHAM)     ISLAND)

After breakfast, optional departure to see the breeding programme of giant tortoises at Cerro Colorado. Learn about his endangered species, and its promising recovery. This site is 45 minutes by bus, on the south shore of San Cristóbal Island. Return to town and transfer to the airport to take the flight back to the mainland.

Flight from Galapagos to Quito.

Reception at the airport and transfer to the selected Hotel.

Overnight at M/N Santa Cruz Cruise

Included: Breakfast

Day 10 Quito

Transfer from the hotel to the airport.

Included: Breakfast

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