Ecuador & the Galapagos in Depth

An All-Encompassing Adventure

Central & Southern Ecuador, Ecuadorian Amazon, Galapagos Islands, Quito & Northern Highlands

Duration: 18 nights

Price: From $11,950 per person in low season based on two adults travelling together and including internal flights in economy class, accommodation, some meals, private transfers, Galapagos cruise and taxes

For those visiting Ecuador and the Galapagos for the first time, it can be hard to know where to begin. This holiday will see you experiencing Ecuador and the Galapagos in depth, taking in colonial cities, Amazonian wildlife and indigenous culture and staying in hotels which are comfortable yet affordable. You’ll begin in the colonial city of Quito, before heading into the heart of the Amazon rainforest for wildlife spotting in Napo. Next you’ll stay on a working cattle ranch on the slopes of Otopaxi, before leaving the Valley of the Volcanoes for colonial towns of Riobamba, Cuenca and Guayaquil.
Perfect forCouples travelling to Ecuador and the Galapagos for the first time, who want to experience the country in depth.
In the knowTravel from Quito to Guayaquil aboard the Tren a las Nubes instead of going by road.

Best for

  • Adventure
  • Couples
  • First-timers
  • Off the Beaten Track

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Itinerary details

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2 nightsQUITO

Your journey begins in Ecuador’s capital, Quito. Famed for the colonial architecture of its old town, Quito is just as noteworthy for its dramatic setting, perched high in the Andes. Your hotel, La Casona de la Ronda, is a homely heritage property in the heart of the city’s historic old town. This area was once renowned as a bohemian hub full of artists and musicians; the Museo Guayasamin is an extensive collection of the famous painter Oswaldo Guayasamin. To get a feel for the weight of history which permeates Quito, head to El Museo Francisco, a historic convent containing exhibitions of art, sculpture and furniture dating back to the 16th century.
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3 nightsNAPO

Taking a short flight from Quito to Coca, you’ll spend the rest of the morning on a picturesque boat trip down the Napo River to your home for the next three nights: the La Selva Jungle Lodge. On a three-night inclusive itinerary, you’ll enjoy safe, fun and educational activities on land and water, led by the lodge’s expert guides. A highlight is a visit to the parrot clay licks, where thousands of the colourful birds descend on walls of clay to feed on minerals. You’ll also spot monkeys, lizards and snakes on forest walks, and explore the river on peaceful paddle canoe rides.
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2 nightsCOTOPAXI

You’ll spend the morning flying back to Quito and taking a quick private transfer to the foothills of the mighty Cotopaxi, one of the world’s tallest volcanoes. You’ll spend the next two nights at Hacienda el Porvenir, a working cattle ranch high in the hills. This place is all about experiencing Andean farm life, surrounded by the stunning scenery of the ‘Valley of the Volcanoes’. You’ll stay in rustic but comfortable lodgings, with adobe walls and thatched roofs, built in line with the hotel’s eco-friendly ethos. This is a great place to get out and breathe some mountain air, with a range of guided activities on offer. Horseback rides on the slopes of Cotopaxi, treks to nearby Pasochoa, and wildlife hikes with an expert naturalist are just some of the ways to take in the beautiful landscapes.
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The next morning will be spent on a scenic drive south to your next stop, the city of Riobamba. Riobamba has a picturesque setting, in a valley surrounded by mountains; one of them, Chimborazo, is the highest in Ecuador. You’ll overnight at Mansion Santa Isabella, a boutique hotel in a restored colonial mansion. The hotel is well placed for exploring Riobamba’s historic centre, with many well-preserved buildings dating back to the Spanish colonial period in the 1800s. The Museum of Religious Art is older still, originally built as a convent in the 16th century and now home to collections of religious art spanning the years since. Other points of interest include the Basilica, notable as Ecuador’s only round church, and the attractive Parque Maldonado.
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2 nightsCUENCA

The next day you’ll continue south with a morning’s journey to Cuenca. This historic town, much of which dates back to the 16th century, gives Quito a run for its money in terms of colonial architecture. Relics survive of the pre-European Incan ruins, incorporated by the Spanish into their new city. Among Cuenca’s highlights is the Museo Pumapungo, home to both modern art and exhibitions documenting indigenous culture from across Ecuador; eerie shrunken heads are among the curios here. The whitewashed El Sagrario cathedral dates from 1557, while the city’s skyline is dominated by the domes of the 19th-century Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Your home for the next two nights is Mansion Alcazar, a boutique hotel in the historic centre of town. In the valleys around Cuenca are traditional ‘craft villages’, where you can visit skilled craftspeople and pick up an authentic Panama hat.
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The next stop on your journey is Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city. Well worth a visit is the Parque Historico: part nature reserve, part living museum, this is a unique city attraction. In the wildlife section, iguanas scuttle up the trees and crocs lurk in the mangroves; in the ‘traditions zone’, rural culture and customs are documented and re-enacted. Your home for a night in Guayaquil is Oro Verde, a stylish hotel acclaimed for its gourmet cuisine.
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The final leg of your journey will see you exploring one of the world’s most iconic and unique wildlife destinations, with a seven-night cruise through the Galapagos Islands. Flying from Guayaquil to the island of Baltra, you’ll board your home for the next week, the Ocean Spray. The boat’s seven-day itineraries follow two different paths, one focusing on the central and western islands, and the other taking in the eastern, southern and northern ones. This is for conservation purposes, in order to give the wildlife a break from human interaction.  If you choose the first cruise, you’ll visit the large island of Isabela, where you’ll snorkel in a sheltered bay home to diverse sea life: watch out for seahorses, sea-turtles and sunfish. On land, you’ll spot marine iguanas, Sally Lightfoot crabs and sea lions. You’ll also head to Santa Cruz, where you’ll disembark to explore the highlands, home to the iconic giant tortoise, mockingbirds, and many other species. The western cruise also includes Espanola, one of the most wildlife-rich parts of the Galapagos, where you’ll spot red-billed tropicbirds, lava lizards, and Galapagos hawks, among many other creatures. You’ll finish up on San Cristobal, where you’ll spot sea lion colonies, marine iguanas, and endemic species such as lava lizards and blue- and red-footed boobies. The eastern cruise begins on San Cristobal, before heading to Floreana, where you’ll observe a flamingo colony in a saltwater lagoon. It then proceeds to Santa Cruz, and Bartholomew, home to the volcanic formation of Pinnacle Rock. You’ll also stop at Genovesa, where seabird colonies live atop huge, jagged rocks. Santiago, flanked by black beaches, is home to marine iguanas, Sally Lightfoot crabs, and, in the past, British pirates. Whichever cruise you choose, you’ll experience an astonishing array of Galapagos wildlife. Both of them include visits to the habitats of giant tortoises, blue- and red-footed boobies, and marine iguanas, among many others. The Ocean Spray is a luxurious catamaran with a stylish, modern design, and its design means it is well balanced to prevent seasickness. All the cabins have private balconies, and there are comfortable communal areas where you can relax and chat to your fellow guests.
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