Best of Ecuador & Galapagos
This 22-day program covers the absolute highlights of the Ecuadorian Andes, the Amazon and the Galapagos islands! In three weeks’ time you will discover stunning colonial city centers, breathtaking Andean landscapes and meet indigenous communities as well as visit one of the most extraordinary places on earth: The Galapagos islands. We included the must-do activities for you that you definitely shouldn’t miss out on and are leaving it up to you to choose the activities that you feel like doing on your free days. The convenience of using private transportation throughout the whole trip makes that you can really focus on enjoying your holiday without having to worry on how to get to the next destination. Plus, with the help of our personally put together welcome package you will always know where to go for lunch and dinner and what to do and see at every destination. Let the Best of Ecuador & Galapagos amaze you!
Day 1: Quito airport – Otavalo
Upon your arrival at the airport in Quito, you will be welcomed by your Spanish speaking driver. You will start your journey by discovering the landscapes of the Imbabura region during a 2-hour drive. You will spend the night in the indigenous city of Otavalo where you will encounter a lot of townspeople dressed in their traditional indigenous clothing, in which especially the Otavalo women stand out with their dresses and golden accessories. In your welcome package you will find all detailed information about your trip, tours and background information on the places that you will visit. Because of the elevation (2500 m /8,202 ft) we recommend to take it slow today.
Day 2: Otavalo (B)
After your breakfast you will have the whole day to get to know Otavalo and its surroundings on your own account. Otavalo’s market is known to be the biggest Andean artisan market of the continent. Every day, the main square Plaza de Ponchos is filled with stands selling all kinds of handicrafts, wool clothing, jewelry, souvenirs and food. Wednesdays and Saturdays are especially recommended as more vendors are present in the town and all streets around the plaza become part of the market too. You can also decide to visit the nearby village Peguche and its waterfall, the town Cotacachi, which is famous for its leather products or the Cuicocha crater lake. You will spend a second night in Otavalo.
Day 3: Otavalo – Quito (B)
This morning you will still have some time to enjoy Otavalo before you will leave for Quito. On the way, you will make a stop at the Quitsato solar clock on the equator. At this large sundial you come to understand the apparent movements of the sun. Afterwards, you will be brought to Quito where you will spend the night.
Day 4: Quito – Cuyabeno (B)
Today you will have free time to explore Quito on your own. Located in the Andean mountains, Quito is the world´s highest capital city with an altitude of 2850 m (9,350 ft). Its well-preserved historical center was declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. Besides wandering around the old town you can also visit one of the many city parks, or take the cable car up to the Pichincha volcano for a unique view over the city. Late in the evening the night bus that will take you – together with other passengers for the jungle excursion – to the Cuyabeno Reserve, where you will arrive early in the morning.
Day 5: Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve (B, L, D)
Today your adventure in the Ecuadorian Amazon will start. Breakfast will be served upon arrival at the entrance of the reserve. Afterwards you will embark the motorized canoe for a two-hour canoe ride over the Cuyabeno river to the lodge. During the canoe ride you will get a first glimpse of the amazing plants and wildlife found in the jungle. Along the beginning of the river you can observe some species of monkeys and birds from up close because this part of the river is narrow. Once arrived at the lodge, the staff will show you around the lodge. After dinner your naturalist bilingual guide will give you a briefing on the upcoming activities for the next few days and about the area.
Day 6: Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve (B, L, D)
The days start early in the Amazon because the brisk morning hours are the best time to see the rainforest’s thriving activity. Today you will trek into the rainforest together with your naturalist guide who shares his wealth of knowledge about the flora and fauna in this area. You also have the opportunity to learn about how life in the tropical rainforest co-exists in a fragile balance. During the hike you may encounter some species of amphibians, butterflies, centipedes and millipedes, snakes, birds, monkeys or any footprints of mammals in the trail. In the afternoon you will head out in the canoe again to find different species of monkeys and with some luck the freshwater pink dolphins. In the evening you will go on an exciting night walk in search of species of insects, spiders, tarantulas, snakes or colourful frogs.
Day 7: Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve (B, L, D)
This morning you will head out in the canoe again, navigating the river in search of different species of monkeys and birds. After breakfast you will follow the taricaya (turtle trail) to visit the Seoqueya Community, where some local families of the Siona indigenous group live. Here you will learn more about their lifestyle, local traditions and cultures from the past. Late in the afternoon you will navigate to Laguna Grande where you can admire the flooded forest. Take a refreshing dive in the lake and observe the spectacular sunset. Before returning to the lodge we venture downstream to search for caimans (alligator family) and fishing bats.
Day 8: Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve – Quito (B, L)
Today is already your last day in the jungle. After breakfast and one last morning excursion to enjoy the sunrise over the jungle and to spot different species of birds it is time to prepare your luggage for the journey back to Quito. You will embark the canoe to navigate upstream to the Cuyabeno bridge where you have lunch. At the entrance the bus will be waiting for all passengers of the jungle excursion to bring you back to Quito, where you will arrive in the evening and spend the night.
Day 9: Quito – Cotopaxi National Park – Lasso (B)
Today you will leave Quito early in the morning and head South to visit the iconic Cotopaxi volcano, an absolute must see on your journey through Ecuador. With 5897 meters (19,347 ft) is Cotopaxi the highest active volcano in Ecuador and the second tallest mountain in the country. Once arrived at the Cotopaxi National Park, you will have a short but intensive guided hike of about an hour that will take you to the refuge hut at 4800 m (15,958 ft). You will spend the night in the surroundings of the volcano, before continuing your journey further South the following day.
Day 10: Lasso – Quilotoa – Baños (B)
After breakfast you will depart for a 2-hour drive to the breathtaking Quilotoa lake. This emerald color lagoon is located inside a volcano crater at 3800 m (12,467 ft). It’s the minerals in the water that make the lagoon a spectacle of different tones: green, turquoise and blue. You can walk down to the shore of the lake where you can go kayaking or just enjoy the landscape. The ascent you can do walking or you can rent mules. After lunch in Quilotoa your journey continues to the town of Baños de Agua Santa where you will spend the night.
Day 11: Baños (B)
During your free time in Baños you have a lot of activities to choose from. Located in a valley, this small town in the Andes is the perfect spot for both adrenaline junkies and those who are seeking relaxation. White water rafting, canopying and conyoning are only a couple of the adventures activities you could undertake here. All of them are easily booked on the spot in one of the many little travel agencies in town. If you are looking to take it a bit slower you can rent a mountain bike to ride down the waterfall route towards the impressive Pailon del Diablo waterfall in Rio Verde. Relive your childhood by going on the so-called ‘swing to the end of the world’ or have a relaxing day at the city’s volcanic hot springs, where the town’s name derives from. You will spend a second night in Baños.
Day 12: Baños – Chimborazo – Guamote (B)
After breakfast you will leave for Guamote, a small indigenous town high up in the mountains where time seems to have stood still. The guamoteños live a simple life and mainly maintain themselves with the income of agriculture and their cattle. If the weather conditions are good, you might be able to spot the snow covered peak of Ecuador’s highest volcano: The Chimborazo (6263 m / 20,547 ft). Your driver knows the perfect spot to make a short stop to admire the full view of this impressive volcano and this is also the prefect moment to take some pictures. Then your journey continues to Guamote, where you will spend the night in a guesthouse that is closely involved with local communities through their educational and social projects.
Day 13: Guamote (B)
Today you will take part in a guided tour through Guamote and its surrounding communities. You will visit the kindergarten and educational center of the guesthouse, where they teach sewing, computer and English classes. Afterwards you will take off for a beautiful ride by car through the mountains while learning more about the history of this region, the indigenous culture and traditions. You will make a stop at a primary school where children – on school days – will tell you about the daily school life. Next you will go to the house of a traditional weaver who will show you how they make their typical ponchos from sheep and alpaca wool. At last you will visit an Indigenous family and see their authentic housing (choza) to get an idea about how people live in the mountains. On Thursdays, the tour is combined with a visit to Guamote’s animal market, where people from all surrounding towns come to buy and sell their livestock. With very few tourists around you will get a very authentic glimpse of this weekly spectacle. After the community tour, there will be time left to walk around the general market where mainly food and clothes are being sold (Thursdays only). You will spend another night in Guamote.
Day 14: Guamote – Ingapirca – Cuenca (B)
Today the journey continues towards the southern Ecuadorian Andes. Along the way you will make a stop at the Ingapirca archeological site, which contains the most and best-preserved Inca ruins in Ecuador. Back in the days Ingapirca was an important religious, political, scientific, military, and administrative center. You will learn about the Cañari and Inca cultures that lived peacefully together here, which was a very uncommon situation. After this guided visit, you will continue your trip until Cuenca where you will spend the night.
Day 15: Cuenca (B)
Today you will have free time to explore Cuenca on your own. Cuenca is the third largest city of the country and according many by far the most beautiful. Enjoy the day wandering around the churches, museums and markets in the charismatic city center that, just like Quito, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its well preserved colonial buildings that are in abundance. Don’t forget to pay a visit to the Panama hat factory to observe the complete manufacturing process of the iconic Panama hat that has its origins in Ecuador. You will spend a second night in Cuenca.
Day 16: Cuenca – El Cajas National Park – Guayaquil (B)
After breakfast you will leave for the El Cajas National Park, where you will have a moderate guided hike through the paramo of approximately 2 hours. El Cajas is formed by wetland from glacial origins with more than 200 lakes and lagoons that make for beautiful views. The area is home to a large variety of animals, some of which are endemic or highly endangered such as the South American condor. After the hike your drive continues to Guayaquil, while you can witness a great change of scenery. You will pass from the Andean mountain landscapes to the banana fields, cocoa fields and shrimp ponds of the coastal region. You will spend the night in Guayaquil, Ecuador’s biggest city.
Day 17: Guayaquil – Baltra airport – Santa Cruz (B, L)
Upon arrival at Baltra airport you will be met with our English speaking representative. At the airport you will first take a shuttle transfer to the Itabaca Channel. A short ferry ride will get you to the other side of the channel in a couple of minutes. From here you will be brought in private transportation to Puerto Ayora, the town of Santa Cruz island. On the way you will make a short stop at the Twin Craters and visit the El Chato Reserve where you can observe the giant tortoises. You will have lunch on the private ranch in the El Chato Reserve before continuing the drive to your hotel in Puerto Ayora. In the afternoon you will have free time to explore the island on your own. You can visit Las Grietas, a narrow crack between tall lava rock walls where you can take a swim or visit the Charles Darwin Research Station where you can observe more giant tortoises and a couple of yellow land iguana in captivation.
Day 18: Bartolome, North Seymour, South Plaza or Santa Fe (B, L)
Today you will go on a full day excursion to one of these four special uninhabited islands. Which island you will visit will be communicated with you before departure and depends on availability. Besides a visit on land you will also get the opportunity to go snorkeling during the tour to discover the underwater wildlife of Galapagos.
Day 19: Santa Cruz – San Cristobal (B)
This morning you will have time off to spend on your own. We highly recommend a visit to Tortuga Bay. This white-sand beach gets its name from the black sea turtles that lay their eggs here. In the afternoon you will take the speedboat to San Cristobal island, which takes about 2,5 hours. Upon arrival in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, chances are high that you will be welcomed by many sea lions that are resting on a small part of the beach right next to the port. After checking in at your hotel, you’ll have the rest of the evening off.
Day 20: Kicker Rock or San Cristobal Island Tour (B,L)
For today’s excursion you can choose between a full day snorkel tour to Kicker Rock or an excursion on the island of San Cristobal itself. Kicker Rock is a striking rock formation where Blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies and frigate birds often rest. It’s also the perfect snorkel spot as you could encounter different sharks, tropical fish, turtles, manta rays and sometimes even hammerhead sharks here. During the San Cristobal Island Tour you will visit the El Junco lagoon, the giant tortoise breeding center La Galapaguera, Puerto Chino beach, the Interpretation Center, Playa Punta Carola and Tijeretas Hill.
Day 21: San Cristobal – Guayaquil (B)
Enjoy your last morning on the Galapagos Islands strolling around the boulevard or nearby beach Playa Mann. You will be picked up from your hotel and brought to the San Cristobal airport, from where you will fly back to Guayaquil. Upon arrival you will be picked up and brought to your hotel in Guayaquil.
Day 22: Guayaquil – Guayaquil airport (B)
Today your holiday will come to an end. Depending your flight, you can enjoy a free morning and afternoon to visit the city’s main attractions. Walk around the colonial neighborhood Las Peñas or visit the Iguana Park to take photos of very easily approachable iguanas that reside here. Walk over the modern Malecon 2000 boulevard along the Guayas river for a pleasant breeze in this humid and hot coastal city. Afterwards you will be transferred to the airport of Guayaquil for your international flight back home.
Budget & Standard accommodation
USD $3377 p.p. (based on accommodation in double room)
Standard & Comfort accommodation
USD $3699 p.p. (based on accommodation in double room)
- Accommodation based on double room with private bathroom
- Meals as described in the itinerary (B = breakfast, L = lunch, D = dinner)
- Private transport with Spanish speaking driver, except for the shared bus transport to the Cuyabeno Reserve and the shared shuttle service from/to the Guayaquil airport
- Flights Guayaquil – Galapagos islands – Guayaquil
- Excursion to the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve (4D/3N)
- Visit Cotopaxi National Park with a Spanish speaking guide
- Visit Quilotoa with a Spanish speaking driver
- Community tour in Guamote with an English speaking guide
- Visit El Cajas with an English speaking guide
- Galapagos Island Hopping program (5D/4N)
- Permit Cotopaxi National Park
- Permit Ilinizas Ecological Reserve
- Permit El Cajas National Park
- Welcome package with tips, tour descriptions and background information
- 24/7 Travel Assistance by phone and Whatsapp (English/Dutch/Spanish)
- Activities on own account on free days
- Meals not specified in the itinerary (B = breakfast, L = lunch, D = dinner)
- Entrance fee Mitad del Mundo (±$5 p.p.)
- Contribution to the jungle community (±$5 p.p.)
- Entrance fee Ingapirca (±$2 p.p.)
- Galapagos National Park entrance fee (±$100 p.p.)
- Transit Control Card (±$20 p.p.)
- Transportation between your hotel and port when travelling between islands (we recommend to take a taxi; some hotels are at walking distance from the port)
- Water taxis (±$1 p.p.)
- Personal expenses
What to bring?
- Travel insurance that covers medical costs during your stay in Ecuador
- Raincoat or poncho
- Sunscreen and sunglasses
- Hat or lightweight scarf
- Warm and layered clothing for in the Andes
- Long-sleeve shirts and long pants (quick-drying) for in the jungle
- Light clothing for the Galapagos islands
- Bathing suit and towel
- Hiking boots
- Sandals and sneakers
- Travel adapter (110-120 V)
- Insect repellent
- Plastic (zip-lock) bags for your camera etc.