Day 1: Depart U.S. for Quito, Ecuador We arrive late this evening in Ecuador’s capital and transfer directly to our hotel.
Day 2: Quito After a morning briefing about the journey ahead, we set out to discover Ecuador’s capital. Set against a backdrop of staggering Andes peaks, Quito boasts a well-preserved historic center considered the finest in Latin America. Tour highlights include Plaza la Independencia, the city’s central square; La Compañía, Ecuador’s most ornate church; the 16th-century el San Francisco church complex; and the artisan area of La Ronda. This afternoon: the Middle of the World Monument, where we can stand with one foot in each hemisphere. Tonight, we gather for a welcome dinner at a local restaurant. B,L,D
Day 3: Quito/Otavalo We travel today to Otavalo in the Andean highlands to visit one of the largest indigenous markets in Latin America. As we wander the lively and colorful lanes of Otavalo Market, we have time to marvel at the expertly woven textiles, wood carvings, silver jewelry, and other handcrafts on display. We visit with local weavers and Andean musical instrument craftspeople then visit a historic rose hacienda to learn more about Ecuador’s thriving rose industry. B,L
Day 4: Quito/Cuenca This morning we fly to Cuenca in Ecuador’s highlands. Upon arrival, we begin our tour of this captivating colonial city, a UNESCO site. Sightseeing highlights include the New Cathedral; the Old Cathedral, now a museum; and the romantic Tomebamba River. We reach our hotel this afternoon. B,L
Day 5: Cuenca We dive in to this city’s artisan scene on this morning’s tour. First, we visit a ceramics artist, where we learn about the different techniques used to create pottery and household ornaments. Then we meet a jeweler who uses centuries-old methods to fashion traditional earrings. Last, we tour the Homero Ortega Panama hat workshop and museum. B,D
Day 6: Cuenca/Cajas National Park/Guayaquil En route to Guayaquil, we visit a private hacienda inside Cajas National Park, a network of lakes and lagoons set in a series of valleys in the tundra landscape. Continuing on, mid-day we reach Guayaquil, Ecuador’s “Pacific Pearl.” After some free time for lunch on our own, we explore the city this afternoon: Parque Seminario, Old South Market, the Malecon 2000 waterfront district, and the Barrio de las Penas neighborhood. B,D
Day 7: Guayaquil/San Cristobal, Galapagos Islands/Board Ship This morning we fly to the Galapagos island of San Cristobal then travel by coach to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the islands’ port capital. Here we have some free time to explore on our own before we embark our catamaran. This afternoon, we visit the David Rodriguez Breeding Center, dedicated to conserving and increasing the population of the Galapagos giant tortoise. B,L,D
Day 8: Cruising – Española Island Today, we visit remarkable Española Island, disembarking at Suarez Point for a nature walk through this landscape teeming with wildlife. The island is the world’s only nesting site for the waved albatross. We also pass nesting sites for Nazca and blue-footed boobies and mockingbirds, and are sure to see Española’s unique red and green marine iguanas. Later, we cruise to Gardner Bay, a pristine white sandy beach on the island’s north shore. We may spot sea lions, and the waved albatrosses who use this beach as a breeding site. Those who wish may opt to kayak, paddleboard, or take a panga (dinghy) ride to a nearby snorkeling spot. B,L,D
Day 9: Cruising – Floreana Island/Champion Islet/Post Office Bay Today we tour several locations on or near Floreana Island, starting with Cormorant Point. We visit both colorful beaches here: one with green-tinted sand from the high content of olivine crystals, and another with pure white sand (dubbed “Flour Beach”) derived from pulverized coral. Afterward, we take a panga ride to snorkel at nearby Champion Islet, whose waters abound with diverse fish. Next, we cruise to Post Office Bay, where we have time to snorkel or kayak, and may also walk through an extinct lava tube. Then we continue on to the volcanic rock formation of Baroness’ Lookout. Tonight, we enjoy a farewell dinner aboard our luxury catamaran. B,L,D
Day 10: Cruising – Mosquera Islet/Santa Cruz Island/Quito/Depart for U.S. Our first stop today is Mosquera Islet, where we’re free to explore the beautiful surroundings. Next, we cruise to Santa Cruz Island to see the huge twin craters of Los Gemelos, followed by a visit to the highlands to see full-sized Galapagos giant tortoises in their natural habitat. Then we fly back to Quito where, upon arrival, we transfer to our airport hotel. There’s time to relax before tonight’s flights to the U.S. B
Day 11: Arrive U.S. We arrive in the U.S. and connect with our return flights home.
Please note: This trip involves considerable walking on uneven terrain and includes both wet and dry landings in the Galapagos. The elevations of Quito (9,300 ft.) and Cuenca (8,400 ft.) could pose problems for travelers with certain health conditions. You should consult your personal physician if you have concerns.
B = Breakfast included L = Lunch included D = Dinner included