The Best of Ecuador combines all the regions of the country. You will explore highlands of Ecuador home of volcanoes, Indian markets, colonial cities, Indian communities, impressive landscapes, rivers and lakes. You will also visit the exotic and mysterious Amazon Jungle, a unique and one of the richest rainforest environments on earth. Explore this gigantic and mysterious jungle home to a rich diversity of animals, plants and Indian communities. Discover and explore the most famous national park in the world, The Galapagos Islands, home of exotic and endemic animals, where Charles Darwin found a great setting to develop this theory on evolution.
When you arrive in Ecuador, you will be met by our representative and transferred to your charming hotel in Quito, where you will receive your full itinerary and information about Ecuador and your trip. Accommodation Hotel Mercure
After breakfast, your will visit “Quito” the most beautiful and colonial city in South America, declared by UNESCO part of the Cultural Heritage of mankind. You will explore the colonial part of the city and you will start in the Independence square, with the presidential palace, the city hall, the Sagrario church and the Cathedral. You will then, visit San Francisco church and museum-monastery (1535), the San Agustin monastery and the finest example of baroque art in America, La Compañía church (1605) and its breathtaking gilded altars. You will then visit the art & crafts gallery of Tianguez and finally, drive up to the Panecillo hill and enjoy an amazing view of Quito from above, and admire the only winged-Virgin statue in South America. This is a great spot to take pictures above Quito;
After visiting the Colonial center of Quito you will arrive to the Middle of the World Monument and Museum, which is located 25 km north of Ecuador’s capital. There you will find the monument on the equatorial line marking latitude 0° 0´0”, where you will have the opportunity to stand in both hemispheres and take wonderful pictures. Here you can also visit the ethnographic museum on site as well.
You will transfer to the airport to take a brief flight east of Quito to the jungle town of Coca, here you will take a canoe ride to arrive to the Lodge located in a Primary Rainforest where you will enjoy rare and exotic wildlife with intriguing insects, unique species of birds and butterflies and magical sceneries. Here in the next 4 days you will explore one of the most diverse, unique and richest rainforest environments in the world. Explore this gigantic and mysterious jungle visiting the rain forest tower (135 ft). You will visit Ecuador’s largest butterfly farm and the parrot clay lick, which attracts a host of colorful birds. Meet native communities that have inhabited in this land for over 10,000 years. You will find those specially designed trails for bird waiting with a specialist guide that will let you unveil the secrets of the rainforest making the best of your jungle journey. Accommodation La Selva Lodge or Sacha Lodge (B - L - D). On the morning of the 6th day, you will be transfer to the airport to return to Quito. Accommodation Hotel Mercure (B)
Your adventure will start driving south of Quito where you will admire the Cotopaxi (19,347 feet) the highest active volcano on earth, and its National Park. Upon you arrival to the park you will visit the interpretation center where you will find history about the last Cotopaxi eruption as well as information about the flora & fauna of this beautiful national park. Afterwards you will visit the Limpiopungo Lake and admire the Andean moorlands with its birds or you can start climbing up to the snow line and arrive to the first shelter of the mountain located at 15,744 ft. After lunch you will admire Ecuador’s highest mountain the snow capped Chimborazo (20,697 ft.) in your way to Riobamba which is the birthplace of Ecuador’s first constitution (1830). Here you will have a brief tour of the city, which includes its French-influenced plazas, the Cathedral, admire the city from Quito hill and learn about Ecuador’s history from its murals. Accommodation Hacienda Abraspungo (B - L)
After an early breakfast you will continue your excursion south passing by a picturesque Indian area in the highlands of Ecuador. Here you will admire the oldest Catholic chapel in the country “Balbanera chapel”. Then, you are going to arrive to Alausi train Station. If the train is available, you will experience the Devil’s nose route going from the highest Andes to the low lands. This is an unforgettable experience where you will have an opportunity to ride through the Andes and pass through several towns, rivers of the region. After a Box lunch on the road you will arrive to Ingapirca ruins, the most important religious and political complex of Inca ruins in Ecuador. Afterwards, you will continue your drive to the beautiful city of Cuenca (Ecuador’s third largest city), for an overnight stay. In the evening you can enjoy a free night to roam through this charming city in the South of Ecuador. Accommodation Hotel Santa Lucia or Carvallo in Cuenca (B - Box Lunch)
Discover one of the most beautiful colonial cities in Latin America “Cuenca” which is located at 2,500 meters above sea level in a valley surrounded by 4 rivers and mountains with a very colorful countryside. Cuenca is famous for its art and history; there you will be able to admire its beautiful marble Cathedral, its cobblestone streets, graceful wrought-iron balconies, flowered plazas and museums. The people of Cuenca are known for their great hospitality. After lunch in the afternoon you will transfer to Guayaquil by car. Accommodation Grand Hotel Guayaquil (B - L)
Today you will visit Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city and one of the most important ports in the Pacific Coast of South America. Visit the living tradition of the “Las Peñas” neighborhood, walk around the riverfront Malecon 2000 with its botanic gardens, and monuments with a view to the Guayas River. Walk up to the Santa Ana hill to have a spectacular views of Guayaquil, and drive through the “9th of October” Avenue to see the “Centenario” park and discover the spirit of this cosmopolitan city and Ecuador’s economic center. After Lunch you will visit the Natural Historic Park of Guayaquil, a place where it is possible to admire local flora and fauna like Caymans, Iguanas, Arpee Eagles and a beautiful segment of mangrove forest. On the cultural side, visit a replica of a late nineteenth century Guayaquil neighborhood. Accomodation Grand Hotel Guayaquil (B - L)
After an early breakfast you will be transferred to the airport to take your flight to the magical Galapagos Islands. Here you will board your exclusive cruise for your Galapagos experience. Your jet flight to Galapagos will take approximately two hours. You will be greeted by the Legend’s staff and be taken by bus to board your vessel. (B - L - D)
Departure from Quito or Guayaquil to Baltra Island (2 ½ hours flight) Passengers are picked up at the airport by our naturalist guides and taken on a ten minute bus drive to the pier to board the M/V Galapagos Legend.
Highlands – Pit Craters - Santa Cruz Island dry landing
A 45-minute bus ride will take us to the Santa Cruz highlands, located to the northwest of Puerto Ayora, where we will find a natural reserve with giant tortoises. These enormous and slow-moving reptiles are responsible for the island’s name and therefore approaching them in their humid and forested abode is always an inspiring adventure. They can weigh between 250 and 300 kg and can live up to 150-200 years. Additionally, travelers can walk inside surprising lava tubes; we also visit Pit Craters created from the collapse of surface materials into chamber fissures underground. It’s a great place spot to spot vermilion flycatcher as we walk inside an endemic Scalesia forest. (B - L - D)
Difficulty level: easy Type of terrain: flat & muddy sometimes (depending on season) Duration: 45 minutes’ drive / 1h30 walk
Wet landing on a beach of black volcanic sand, visited by Darwin in 1835. The first section of the trail is comprised of volcanic ash (eroded tuff) and the other half of partially uneven terrain is comprised of volcanic basaltic rock lounging the shoreline. The unique, truly striking layered terrain of Santiago’s shores is home to a variety of resident and migrant birds, including the bizarre yellow-crowned night heron and astounding array of marine wildlife including lobster, starfish and marine iguanas grazing on algae beds alongside Sally light-foot crabs. Colonies of endemic fur seals swimming in cool water pools formed by volcanic rocks are also a highlight. Snorkeling here offers rarities such as octopus and squid. We organize optional visits to the Salt Mines where you can observe the two species of sea lions: fur and Galapagos sea lions.
Difficulty level: intermediate Type of terrain: the first part flat and then semi rocky Duration: 1h30 walk / 1 hour snorkeling If Salt Mines are chosen: 2h30 walk / 30 minutes snorkeling
Bartolome Island Dry landing. We discover a fascinating moonscape formed by different volcanic parasitic cones —lava bombs, spatter, cinder cones —as we hike to the summit for impressive views of the surrounding islands, including the eroded tuff cone Pinnacle Rock. We also encounter marine iguanas and lava lizards. Beach time is a great opportunity to snorkel and see (perhaps swim with) Galapagos penguins, sea turtles and white-tipped reef sharks among a great variety of colorful fish. For many visitors, this may turn out to be the best of snorkeling experiences; the water here is generally clear, without too much surf and full of marine life. Due to its geographical location, the lack of vegetation is immediately noticeable. Pioneer plants are observed, so called because they are the first to establish roots on new ground. They include Tiquilia nesiotica (which is endemic to the island) and Chamaesyce (known as sand mat or spurge in English), lava cactus, and Scalesia bushes. Behind the beach we have dunes covered by mangroves. (B - L - D)
Difficulty level: intermediate Type of terrain: trail made of steps (370 steps) Duration: 1h30 walk / 1 hour snorkeling
Dry landing. We walk by a brackish lagoon where feeding flamingos can be occasionally found. The trail leads across typical dry zone vegetation up to Dragon Hill, an important nesting ground for endemic land iguanas, offering lovely views of the anchorage and neighboring islands. The forest is home to mockingbirds, Darwin’s finches, yellow warblers and Galapagos doves
Difficulty level: intermediate Type of terrain: rocky Duration: 2 hours walk
North Seymour Island Dry landing. This is perhaps one of the busiest tourist destinations on the archipelago. Off of Baltra Island (where the airport is located) and not far from Santa Cruz, North Seymour is the most accessible for day trips out of Santa Cruz’s main port, Puerto Ayora. An approximately two hour walk amidst large nesting colonies of blue-footed boobies, magnificent and great frigate birds, and swallow-tailed gulls for an in depth encounter with sea bird breeding cycles and as well as sea lions. You will also encounter sea lions, land iguanas, and on a lucky day, you might even come across a Galapagos snake. (B - L - D)
Difficulty level: intermediate Type of terrain: rocky Duration: 2 hours walk
In the morning you will go straight to the airport for return flight to Quito. Upon arrival to Quito, you will be met by your Latin Frontiers representative and be transferred back to your hotel for your last night in Ecuador. Accommodation in Hotel Mercure (B)
After breakfast you will be transferred to the airport for your flight home (B)