The Andes & the Galápagos
Discover the majesty of the mountains as you explore Quito, visit scenic market towns, and travel across the highlands to colonial Cuenca—the perfect blend of history, tradition, and awe-inspiring natural beauty. After your Andean adventure, set off on an unforgettable 8-day journey through the Galápagos, where you’ll get to hike and swim up close to an incredible array of endemic species.
Best time to visit: December-June
Ideal for: Couples, Families
Day 1 – Arrive In Quito
Arriving in Quito late in the evening, you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel in Old Quito.
Day 2 – The Middle of the World
Embark on a private, full-day tour of Quito’s natural, cultural, and historical highlights. Enjoy panoramic views from Panecillo Hill and San Juan Mirador; explore the churches and colonial buildings of the city center; and travel to the Middle of the World Monument in the afternoon. Discover the beautiful Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve before returning to Quito.
Day 3 – Otavalo Craft Market
Drive north of the city with your private guide on a scenic journey through the Ecuadorian Highlands to the town of Otavalo. Along the way, stop at village crafts markets to shop and sample local foods before arriving in Otavalo in the afternoon. A town known predominately for its huge, colorful outdoor market, Otavalo is also situated near the magnificent Laguna de Cuicocha.
Day 4 – Cotopaxi National Park
Today you will drive south through the Highlands to visit Cotopaxi National Park, home to the tallest snow-capped volcano in the world, continuing onward to the town of Riobamba. Make stops along the way in picturesque towns to shop at artisan markets and enjoy a traditional meal.
Day 5 – The Devil’s Nose & Cuenca
Depart after breakfast on a scenic drive through small towns and terraced mountain slopes to the village of Alausi. Here you will embark on one of South America’s most dynamic train rides as you travel from the highlands through Devil’s Nose Canyon along steep switchbacks and deep gorges to the town of Simbambe. Return to Alausi and continue driving south to the ancient fortress of Ingapirca before arriving in Cuenca.
Day 6 – Cuenca City Tour, Travel to Guayaquil
Set off on a private, half-day guided tour of Cuenca, a colonial city known for its handicraft markets, whitewashed adobe walls, red-tile roofs, cobblestone lanes, and colorful churches. Visit the massive gothic Cuenca Cathedral on the central plaza, La Merced Church and Convent, and the Remigio Crespo Toral Museum. Or, explore the lagoon-studded Cajas Wilderness near Cuenca on a guided hike through Andean páramo, a beautiful, windswept alpine landscape. In the afternoon, drive to the port city of Guayaquil and prepare for your Galápagos adventure.
Day 7 – Fly to the Galápagos
Fly to Baltra Island, where you will meet your National Park Guide and head down to the waterfront to board your yacht—your home for the next week. Make your first landing at Bahia Ballena, or Whaler’s Bay, home to one of the archipelago’s few historical settlements. Hiking to a rocky promontory you will find marine iguanas, frigate birds, blue-footed boobies, and enjoy magnificent views. Head back to the beach and dive into turquoise waters to discover the Galápagos’ renowned diversity of marine life before settling in for dinner and drinks aboard the yacht.
Day 8 – Santa Fe Island & South Plazas Island
Start the day with a hike on Santa Fe Island, landing in one of the most serene coves in the archipelago, its crystalline waters sheltered by a peninsula of tiny islets. Ascending toward the cliffs past a forest of prickly pear cacti, you will have panoramic views and the chance to spot large land iguana from the top of the hill. Return to the cove to snorkel with sea lions, sea turtles, and a rainbow of tropical fish, or opt for a challenging sea kayak route.
Sail to South Plaza Island for an afternoon hike, where you will find yellow land iguanas, swallow-tailed gulls, sea lions, and a variety of other bird species.
Day 9 – Tower Island & Darwin Bay
The first landing of the day is at Prince Phillip’s Steps on Tower Island, also called Genovesa, whose southeastern side is an ocean-filled caldera. Hike along the cavities and holes of the island’s lava field, which provide an ideal nesting ground for storm petrels and predatory short-eared owls. After the hike, put on your wetsuit for some incredible snorkeling with large tropical fish.
The next landing is on the white sands of Darwin Bay, whose sheltered pools and towering cliffs are home to great frigate birds, yellow-crowned herons, nocturnal swallow-tailed gulls, and many more bird species. Explore the base of the cliffs on a panga ride and deep-water snorkeling.
Day 10 – Fernandina Island & Urbina Bay
Start the day with a panga ride along Punta Espinosa on Ferandina Island, below La Cumbre which is one of the world’s most active volcanoes, towering nearly 5,000 feet high. Here you can kayak, snorkel, and swim with marine iguanas, Glapagos penguins, and flightless cormorants. In the afternoon, land at Urbina Bay on Isabela Island to spot giant land iguanas, giant tortoises—in the wet season—and snorkel with sea turtles right from the beach. Enjoy an evening at anchor in the Bolivar Channel, which is one of the archipelago’s best places to see whales and dolphins.
Day 11 – Isabela Island
Spend today exploring the archipelago’s largest landmass, Isabela Island—formed by six shield volcanoes—starting with a landing in Tagus Cove, where you will hike around the saltwater crater which forms Darwin Lake. Tagus Cove also offers some of the best snorkeling on the island, with its algae-rich sea floor providing prime feeding for marine life. Next up, discover the partially submerged cave at Punta Vicente Roca, and then head north to explore Punta Albemarle’s mangrove oasis.
Day 12 – Santiago Island
Today’s first landing at Espumilla Beach on Santiago Island offers a glimpse of Darwin’s first encounter with the Galápagos, which would help him to form his seminal works on evolution. Walk along the beach to a lagoon frequented by flamingos and then sail south to the cliffs and deep waters of Buccaneer Cove, a favorite landing for pirates and whalers who needed meat and fresh water.
In the afternoon, head to James Bay and Puerto Egas and hike to the rim of an extinct volcano and a series of inland lagoons, before snorkeling with sea turtles right from shore.
Day 13 – Santa Cruz Island & Puerto Ayora
Today you will land in the small port town of Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island, and travel to the Wild Tortoise Reserve in the Santa Cruz Highlands. See giant tortoises in their natural setting, and then explore one of the island’s many underground lava tubes. At Los Gemelos, a landscape formed by two collapsed lava tubes, you will find endemic Scalesia forest which provides habitat for many native species. Return to Puerto Ayora and visit the Charles Darwin Research Center, with the evening free to enjoy the restaurants and shops around town.
Day 14 – San Cristóbal Island & Fly to Quito
Enjoy your final morning aboard the yacht, passing the towering rocks of Leon Dormido, or Kicker Rock, before landing at Wreck Bay on San Cristóbal Island. Recap the wildlife and unique geology you have seen and experienced over the past week at the Galápagos National Park Visitor Centre, take a stroll around town, and then head to the airport for your flight back to Quito, where you will spend your last evening in Ecuador.
Day 15 – Departure
Transfer to the airport for your international flight home.
Remarkable Journeys has partnered with Lost World Adventures to create this journey. We partnered with Lost World due to their well-mannered relationships with tour guides, hotellers, airlines, and ground management services in the region. In our opinion, they offer the best value and experience in the region.
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