The Wilds of Ecuador and the Galapagos
Ecuador is full of unabashed beauty. From thick unchartered jungle to prehistoric landscapes, its wildernesses are truly ravishing. Spend 12 days exploring the Amazonian rainforest and the pristine Galapagos archipelago, with a dose of city slicking in Quito in between. You'll find that there's more than meets the eye.
Itinerary at a Glance:
- Head deep into the Ecuadorian Amazon for a few days at an eco-lodge
- Get under the skin of fascinating Quito
- Follow in Darwin's footsteps exploring the Galapagos Archipelago by boat
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When To Travel
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Day 1: Quit the UK for Quito
Your flight to Madrid leaves early this morning and takes two-and-a-half-hours. Connect on to the direct flight to Quito, which takes 11-and-a-quarter-hours, arriving into the Ecuadorian capital in the early evening.
A private transfer will be waiting to take you into the colonial part of the city. Check in to your historic mansion hotel and head straight out to the plethora of bars and restaurants at your doorstep. Wandering around the cobblestone streets is a lovely way to get to know the city and our detailed destination Dossier will give you some top-notch recommendations for dinner.
Day 2: Into the Amazon
After breakfast, a private chauffeur transfer will take you to the airport for your half-hour flight over the eastern Andes to Coca (the gateway to the jungle). Upon landing, a guide will be waiting to take you to the nearest port.
Your adventure begins on a motorised canoe travelling down the Napo River. As you traverse the tributary, you'll see the pour opening up before your eyes. After a couple of hours of amazing scenery, exchange the boat for a dugout canoe and enjoy a peaceful paddle right up to your lakeside lodge. You arrive just in time for a cold drink at sunset.
Day 3: Wild Encounters
It's an early start this morning but a visit to a clay lick is worth the wakeup call. As the sun reaches its zenith watch parrots and macaws in rainbow hues arrive in their hundreds to lick the clay walls to extract the salt.
Later on, your guide will accompany you hiking into the forest to visit the Kichwa Anangu community where you'll gain unparalleled insight into their ancestral customs and traditional way of life. After spending time with the families, set off on a hike through the thick forest where you'll soon reach another clay lick for another bird spectacle. End your day back at the lodge where a home cooked dinner awaits.
Day 4: Natural Highs
After breakfast, take to the skies (or rather a treetop-viewing platform). Gaze out over jungle canopy stretching from horizon to horizon. You'll be even closer to the flocks of vibrantly coloured tanagers and large toucans flying by.
The afternoon will take you deep into the forest where if you're lucky, you'll catch a glimpse of golden mantle tamarins hiding in branches or giant otters slipping in and out of the black water lakes.
- Take a canoe ride out onto the river for in depth exploration
- Join in a traditional ceremony with the indigenous Kichwa Anangu community
- Hiking in the swamp forests
Day 5: Back to Quito
Say goodbye to the jungle and after an early breakfast, return to Coca via canoe. Board the flight to Quito and you'll arrive at around lunchtime.
As before, a private chauffeur transfer will take you into the city where you have the rest of the afternoon to explore at your leisure. We know the best places for a pisco sour at sunset and will send you off with our little black book before you go.
Day 6: City Sweep
Possibly the best-preserved colonial city in Latin America, we highly recommend a day exploring Quito with a private guide. There's no better way of getting beneath the skin of its multi-layered history.
Start with panoramic views of the city and remember to charge the camera battery! Then head down to discover the 16th century buildings lining the bustling Independence Square. You'll no doubt be dazzled by San Francisco and La Compania churches whose ornate altars are some of the most beautiful in South America. Then onto the modern district, stopping at La Capilla del Hombre, where you can marvel at works by indigenous painter Oswaldo Guayasamin. You can also take a peek of his former house and workshop, well-curated and restored after his death.
Day 7: Fly to the Galapagos
This morning a private chauffeur will take you to the airport in good time for your flight to Baltra in the Galapagos. Arrive in the afternoon and a transfer will take you to a small ferry where you'll cross the channel to Santa Cruz, renowned for its roaming giant tortoises.
Travel to the island's reserve where you can see these seemingly prehistoric creatures wallowing in the shallow pools while your guide can give you an overview of the archipelago's extraordinary biodiversity. After spending some time here, it's time to head to the port to board your vessel for the next four nights.
Day 8: Ecological Eden
This morning take a zodiac ride to Eden Island where you can see its blue-footed boobies diving into the water and basking reef sharks. The turquoise waters are a delight for a snorkel and for those who would rather keep head above water, a glass-bottom boat ride offers wonderful perspectives of the marine world.
Onto Sombrero Chino Island, with a volcanic cone backdrop. Take a walk around the coast across its black lava fields and colourful pioneer plants growing through the tuffs. You may also see the flashing red-hues of Sally Lightfoot crabs and lava lizards scurrying along the rock. At the end you can stop for a swim in the tranquil bay, hopefully with some playful sea lions.
Day 9: Iconic Islands
There's nothing better to start the day than a climb up Bartolome clifftops. Trust us, the view is worth it and the hike, over ash fields and solidified lava flows, is superb. From the summit, you can marvel at the colossal Pinnacle Rock, a volcanic cone that has become somewhat of a natural landmark.
For a closer look, a zodiac inflatable dinghy ride can take you around its jutting rock face. After lunch on board, step off at Sullivan Bay on the east coast of Santiago Island. Its white coral beach is perfect for swimming or the more adventurous can hike over the century-old lava field. Keep your eye out for oystercatchers fishing in the tidal pools.
Day 10: Darwin (Bay) and Genovesa
After waking up to brisk sea views, continue your exploration at Darwin Bay where sharp lava creates dramatic formations.
Feeling adventurous? Why not take a sea kayak along the coastline? The afternoon's activities start with a zodiac ride from your ship to the shores of Genovesa Island where you can climb up its famous Prince Philip's Steps for ultimate views. Birders will no doubt be in seventh heaven - the cliffs are alive with endemic Nazca boobies, frigate birds and even the elusive short-eared owl.
Day 11: Baltra Island
All good things come to an end. After a leisurely breakfast and saying goodbye to the crew, it's time to disembark for your flight to Quito.
Arrive in the late afternoon when a private driver will be waiting to take you the short distance to your hotel in the countryside. Gaze out to views of bucolic landscape, drink in hand and then enjoy the last supper.
Day 12: Fly Home
You have the day to soak up the rural scenery before your evening departure. A private chauffeur transfer will take you back to the airport for your overnight flight to Madrid. After a one and a half hour layover, board the plane to the UK where you'll arrive in the late afternoon.
Ollie is our expert for this itinerary and, as a seasoned traveller, has the inside track on the most memorable adventures.