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Visit the Ecuadorian highlands and unveil the rich historic and cultural heritage of this unique land: Walk along Quito’s historic district, observe the beautiful buildings from the colonial era and admire ornate churches and monasteries; in Otavalo, check the “silent” Indian market, bargain for exclusive hand-made textiles and handicrafts and savor a traditional meal in a historic hacienda. Then depart for the Galapagos Islands, one of the top 10 destinations in the world for animal sightings and a paradise for photographers, snorkelers and birdwatchers. Watch giant tortoises at close range, snorkel with penguins and white-tipped sharks, share the beach with sea lions and marine iguanas and hike on lava fields and up to lookout points for amazing views of the archipelago.
1 Arrive in Ecuador’s capital city (Quito)
After clearing customs and immigration, proceed to the reception area, where our guide will be holding a board with your name on it. You will be greeted with a “Bienvenidos a Ecuador” and immediately transferred to your hotel located in the heart of the city. Overnight.
2 Colonial and Amerindian Art at its best (Quito)
In the company of a local guide we set out for a unique visit to Quito’s most precious treasures. Our first stop is at the Guayasamin House-Museum, the celebrated Ecuadorian artist who gained fame with his expressive paintings celebrating the culture and traditions of the Pre-Columbian man. We spend some time browsing his private art collection and famous paintings and other art works. Opportunity to acquire a lithograph or replica of one of his peculiar works. Then we continue to the recently revamped colonial district, the largest and most beautiful in Latin America. The old quarter is a rich mixture of architectural styles and decorative arts that transports visitors back to the time of the colonies. In the company of our knowledgeable guide we stroll around the quarter, learning about the fascinating history of Ecuador, admiring the rich colonial architecture and paying visits to two of the best representatives of Baroque art in the Americas: La Compañia Church and the Monastery of San Francisco. After the tour we transfer you back to the hotel or you may continue your visit to the old quarter, have lunch in one of the trendy restaurants and visit the museums or hunt for handicrafts.
3 Cotopaxi: The perfect volcano (Quito)
We leave the city behind and head out for the highlands of Ecuador, a lovely blend of Indian markets, small villages, growling volcanoes and ancestral traditions. Following the steps of German explorer, Alexander Von Humboldt, we drive towards what he baptized as the Avenue of the Volcanoes, where the active Cotopaxi rules with its 19,547 feet. We visit the Cotopaxi National Park, an ecological sanctuary of 88,920 acres, especially attractive for nature lovers. A lovely hike through the Andean moorlands renders views of snowcapped peaks, mountain lakes and local and endemic animals such as llamas and perhaps deer, rabbits, frogs and lizards. Bird life includes the Andean gull, ducks, several species of hummingbirds and, with some luck, you may even spot the majestic condor. Lunch will be served at La Cienaga, a traditional hosteria from the highlands. On Monday and Thursday departures you may substitute this tour for a full day excursion to Otavalo Market.
4 The enchanting Galapagos: Bartholomew (Galapagos)
Early this morning a representative transfers us to the airport in time for the two-hour flight to Galapagos. This incredible archipelago is made up of 13 large islands, six smaller ones, and over 40 islets. Its wonders span from the most varied and incredible geological formations, lava flows, blowholes, spatter cones and lava tunnels, to beaches of olive, black, or white sand and the most diverse species of plant life. However the most surprising sight for visitors is perhaps the varied species of animals which inspired Charles Darwin on his visit in 1835: Sea lions, penguins, tortoises, iguanas, several species of marine birds, many of them endemic, and a rich underwater fauna. This afternoon we set sail and begin our explorations with a dry landing at Bartholomew Island. Arriving at this island seems as if you were walking on the moon, the volcanic formations on this island including lava bombs, spatter cones and cinder cones. There is a steep hike to the summit aided by wooden steps, from where you will have an impressive view of the archipelago, including Pinnacle Rock, an eroded tuff cone. On your way to the top admire a large colony of marine iguanas and lava lizards. Later on you may go snorkeling with the possibility of spotting Galapagos penguins, marine tortoises (January through March) and white-tipped sharks.
5 Fernandina and Isabela (Galapagos)
Today we arrive in Fernandina Island with its black volcanic rocks draped with hundreds of marine iguanas. We disembark at Punta Espinoza where we can observe sea lions dash in and out of the inlets and flightless cormorants walk tipsily along the beaches, joining pelicans and penguins. Later we continue our journey to Isabela, the largest island in Galapagos accounting for half of the total landmass of the archipelago. In Isabela we visit Tagus Cove, a protected natural harbor where centuries ago whalers safely spent the night. Isabela is famous for its large colonies of penguins, Galapagos hawks, frigate birds, flightless cormorants, marine iguanas, sea turtles, manta rays, hammerhead sharks, white tipped sharks, Galapagos sharks, eels, groupers and snappers.
6 Isabela Island (Galapagos)
After cruising through the Bolivar Channel for a possible observation of whales and dolphins, we board a dinghy and disembark at Moreno Point (dry landing). Here we take a medium-length walk in search of giant tortoises, brightly colored land iguanas, flamingos and oystercatchers. Later we can swim and snorkel where you can spot hammerhead sharks, white tipped sharks, Galapagos sharks, eels, groupers and snappers. Return on board for lunch. In the afternoon visit Urbina Bay (wet landing), a nesting site for the Brown Pelican and the Flightless Cormorant.
7 Santa Cruz (Galapagos)
Santa Cruz is the second largest island of the archipelago, colonized in the 1920’s. We will spend a full day in the island. In the morning enjoy a hike in the lush scenery of the Santa Cruz highlands, where occasionally it is possible to see giant tortoises grazing in the pastures of local farms. Lunch at a typical restaurant. In the afternoon, we will pay a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station where we can see giant tortoises in captivity and learn about the importance of this station for the survival of the archipelago. Later we will have free time to enjoy the small town of Puerto Ayora and maybe do some shopping.
8 Back to the continent (Quito)
Today, after a morning excursion, our Galapagos odyssey concludes and we return to the airport for our flight back to the continent. Back in Quito, you have a last opportunity to wander those ancient cobblestone streets and dine on Andean fare. Overnight
9 Depart Ecuador
Farewell Eco Voyagers! Today our local representative will be transferring you to the airport in time for your departing flight. We wish you a pleasant trip back home and hope to enjoy your company in another exciting adventure very soon.
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