Quito, Otavalo Highlands, 4-night Galapagos cruise
11 days /
From $4,712 per person, double occupancy for 2013
Day 1: Quito arrival
Airport reception and transfer to your Quito hotel. Overnight accommodations at the Hotel Patio Andaluz, breakfast included.
Day 2: Quito – Otavalo Market
Pick up at your hotel this morning for a scenic ride through the Ecuadorian Highlands to the Imbabura Province; along the way, stop at the village of Calderon, where you may buy small figurines and ornaments made from colorfully painted bread dough. If it is the season you can eat the Chirimoyas (a very sweet Andean fruit) in the Guayllabamba valley. Your next stop is at a small monument of the equator. Continuing down the road you make a stop in Cayambe for biscuits and cheese. Take the ancient road to Ibarra passing by great landscapes close to the snow-capped Cayambe Mountain, making stops to observe the local people way of life, especially in the towns of Olmedo, Pesillo and Zuleta, where you will visit a center for the embroidering of blouses. Arrive at Ibarra, and in the afternoon, descend to 1,600 m (5,248 ft) in the Chota Valley, a warmer place inhabited of Afro-Ecuadorian people who still conserve their ancestral traditions as well as their construction techniques. Return to Chachimbiro, accommodation in a typical hacienda. (B,L,D)
Day 3: Otavalo
Depart from Chachimbiro and stop for a short city tour of Ibarra (the capital of Imbabura province) where you can try the famous "helados de paila" (fruit ice cream whipped in a big brass pan) and visit the village of San Antonio de Ibarra, where fine wood carvings are made. Drive up to Cuicocha Lake for a short hike around this flooded volcanic crater with its twin islets. Here you will observe a particular specie of orchid that grows at this altitude (3,220 m./10,562 ft). Later on visit Cotacachi, a leather goods center, famous for its handmade designs; here you can buy leather clothing direct from local designers at low prices. Accommodations in a typical hacienda or country inn. (B,L,D)
Day 4: Otavalo - Quito
Visit the village of Iluman, a town of witch doctors and family-run hat workshops, drive to Peguche where wool tapestries are made and Agato where the locals make the indian sandals (alpargatas). Return to Quito visiting Calderon, famous for its handmade bread-dough figures.
Overnight at Patio Andaluz, breakfast included - 2 nights.(B,L,D)
Day 5: Quito City Tour
Set off with your private guide for a drive around one of the most charming cities in all of Latin America. Enjoy the colonial center of Quito, and the stone-carved facade of Ecuador’s House of Congress depicting scenes from Ecuadorian history. The tour ends with a trip to the Panecillo Hill, which commands a striking view of Quito, the surrounding valley and the snow-capped mountains beyond. (B)
Day 6: Quito – Galapagos – Baltra, Bartolome
Please note: Galapagos itinerary is subject to change due to National Park restrictions.
This morning, fly to Galapagos and board your ship, the M/Y Coral I/II. Accommodations in a Moon Suite Cabin. Shortly afterward, set sail.
As you cruise through the waters of the Galapagos, look from the deck for dolphins, whales and perhaps a hammerhead shark. The boat is also likely to be accompanied also by tiny Audubon's shearwaters and playful sea lions.
After a wet landing, passengers walk to a hypersalinic lagoon behind the beach. Observers report a high number of Pink Flamingos. The trail then leads up to Dragon Hill, which offers a beautiful view of the bay. This area is a nesting site for a big number of reintroduced Land Iguanas, again thanks to the Charles Darwin Research Station. There is also a bizarre Scalesia tree forest. (B, L, D)
Day 7: Rabida (a.k.a. Jervis) - Santiago
You will arrive at Rabida (Jervis). This small island has plenty of things to see: pink flamingos, large-billed flycatchers, Galapagos doves and pelicans, boobies and Darwin finches. There is sparse vegetation here except for prickly pear cactus trees. On the northern coast, you may swim with the sea lions on a magnificent red sand beach, which offers an opportunity to observe their behavior. Dominant males mark out territories along the shore and patrol them noisily, defending against other males who might want to invade the "harem."
In the afternoon, you'll land at Puerto Egas of James Bay on the west side of the island of Santiago. Here, there is a long flat black lava shoreline, where eroded shapes form lava pools, caves and inlets which house a great variety of wildlife. This is a great place to see colonies of marine iguanas basking in the sun. These fascinating reptiles dive for extended periods feeding on seaweed and are the only lizard known to eat algae. The tide pools contain hundreds of brilliantly colored red sally-light foot crabs, which attract hunting herons of all the commonly found species. These inlets are also the favorite haunts of the Galapagos fur seal and you can snorkel with them along with the many species of tropical fish. (B, L, D)
Day 8: Fernandina (a.k.a. Narborough) - Isabela (a.k.a Albemarle)
After a dry landing at Espinosa Point, passengers will see the largest colony of Marine Iguanas mingling with Sally-light Foot Crabs. They also will enjoy the Flightless Cormorants nesting sites, the Galapagos Penguins, Galapagos Hawks, and Sea lions. Among the flora and volcanic formations observers will note Brachycereus Cactus, “pa-hoe-hoe” lava, and other unusual lava formations. Travelers will see recent lava flows from a safe distance. Also numerous mangrove beds extend into the sea, depicting a healthy and thriving eco-system.
Another possible excursion is at Point Vicente Roca, on Isabela Island . There are no landings for this excursion. Only open for dinghy sightseeing, snorkeling, and scuba. Travelers will enjoy high cliffs with tuff stone, ash, and other lava formations. Caves and plenty of nesting sites for Brown Noddies and Blue Footed Boobies. Up close encounters with the occasional Dolphin. (B, L, D)
Day 9: Bartolome - Santa Cruz
Dry landing on Bartolome. Arriving on this island, passengers will see volcanic formations including lava bombs, spatter, and cinder cones. After a hike to the summit visitors will have an impressive view of the surrounding islands, including the eroded tuff cone of Pinnacle Rock. During the ascent travelers will often see a large colony of Marine Iguanas and Lava Lizards. Red Mangroves, Tiquilla, and various cacti all add to the experience. Visitors also enjoy a chance to cool off while snorkeling. Here travelers often see the Galapagos Penguin, Sea Turtles, and White Tipped Sharks from a safe distance.
Arrive in the afternoon at Black Turtle Cove located near Las Bachas beach in the north of Santa Cruz Island. This excursion provides passengers with a "panga" ride though the mangrove, during which the outboard motor of the small boat is turned off. This allows the close observation of Sea Turtles, White Tipped Reef Sharks, Spotted Eagle Rays, and Yellow Rays. (B, L, D)
Day 10: Santa Cruz, Galapagos - Quito
This morning, enjoy a visit to the Island of Santa Cruz. This 968 square km. island is the second largest and the most populated of the Archipelago. Puerto Ayora is the main town along the south coast and it is just a 20-minute walk by road northeast to the Charles Darwin Research Station, one of your visit sites. The Station is a center for research and conservation of the Galapagos species, especially the 11 surviving species of tortoise. Admire the impressive giant prickly-pear cactus forest and many land birds. Fly back to Quito. Overnight accommodations at Patio Andaluz, breakfast included. (B)
Day 11: Int'l departure
Hotel pickup and transfer to the airport. (B)