Starts any day. January to December8 days from $5495.00
Arrive Quito, Ecuador
Welcome to Quito! You are met upon arrival and taken to your designer hotel in the newer, northern part of the city.
Quito, at 10,000 feet above sea, is nestled deep within the valley of towering snow-capped Andean volcanoes. The rest of today is at leisure to relax or explore Quito on your own.
Baltra & Santa Cruz Islands, Galápagos Islands
This morning, take a 90-minute flight to Baltra Island in the incredible Galápagos. You are met by your naturalist guide and then driven across the narrow Itabaca Channel to Santa Cruz Island. Enjoy a hearty lunch at a farm in the highlands before beginning your tour of the area.
Discover the various vegetation zones and microclimates, as you walk around pit craters, and through lava tunnels, getting acquainted with endemic Scalesia and Guayabillo forests. At the Tortoise Reserve, observe the emblematic giant tortoises in their natural habitat and the abundant highlands bird life.
Late afternoon, arrive at Galápagos Safari Camp, your home for the next five nights. Enjoy a sunset cocktail followed by dinner. (B,L,D)
The Galápagos Islands
The magical, mystical Galápagos National Park consists of 13 larger islands, 17 smaller islands and over 40 islets that have official names. This Archipelago is isolated from other landmasses (South America is 600 miles east), and the marine reserve covers nearly 28,000 square miles. The Galápagos Islands are located on one of the most active volcanic regions on earth. The unique wildlife in the region includes giant tortoises, iguanas, flamingos, penguins, Darwin finches and the memorable Blue-Footed Boobies.
Enjoy two days taking boat excursions to explore the neighboring islands - North Seymour, Bartolomé, Plazas, Santa Fé, Floreana or Isabela. Each island has its own particular natural habitat.
North Seymour Island – An island teaming with life, and a good nesting site for frigate birds and blue-footed boobies, and swallow-tailed gulls. Watch for marine iguanas, large flocks of pelicans, and snorkel with sea lions and rays.
Bartholomew Island – Hike to the top of the dormant volcano for panorama views of lava flows and neighboring islands. Walk, hike and swim and snorkel with tropical fish, sea lions, and the Galápagos penguins (the only species of penguin found north of the equator). Also watch nesting sea turtles.
South Plaza Island - One of the smallest islands, with rich wildlife including unparalleled bird observations, and a huge sea lion colony. Wildlife includes: land iguanas, swallow tailed gulls, red-billed tropical birds, marine-land iguana hybrids, and sea lions.
Santa Fe Island – Perhaps the oldest island in the Galápagos. Go swimming or snorkeling. Wildlife includes: sea turtles, sea lions, Galápagos White-tipped Shark, Galápagos Hawk, frigates, pelicans, Manta Rays, and species of land iguana.
Floreana Island – A historic island offering tales of pirates, whalers, convicts. See Devil's Crown, home to a myriad of marine species including corals, pencil sea urchin, angelfish, and more - making for some of the best snorkeling in the Galápagos. Walk to a salt-water lagoon full of pink flamingoes, or through a lava tube.
Isabella Island - The largest island in the archipelago. Home to a great variety of wildlife including the giant land iguanas, giant tortoises, white-tipped reef sharks, Galapagos Penguins, sea turtles, dolphins, whales, blue-footed boobies, brown noddies, and pelicans. Walk, hike, snorkel, swim, and sunbathe.
Your excursions are accompanied by an expert naturalist to explain the evolutionary marvels of each destination, and guide you on nature walks and hikes.
The Galápagos Marine Reserve is the second largest in the world – dive in and snorkel off the boat to experience the richness of the aquatic species found here. (SCUBA certified divers may replace the boat trips with a diving excursion.) (2B,2L,2D)
Santa Cruz Island
Today enjoy a land excursion on Santa Cruz Island, the second largest island in the Galápagos. Your guide takes you up to Cerro Mesa on the eastern part of island. At 1600 feet, it offers dramatic views. It also has the largest crater on Santa Cruz, and is home to numerous endemic plants, seven subspecies of finches, and the Vermillion Flycatcher.
After lunch, visit El Garrapatero, a pristine white beach set among contrasting green mangroves, black lava formations, and inviting turquoise water. Watch the buzzing coastal birdlife and the pink flamingos in the small lagoon. Kayak, mountain bike, or take a cruise with the local fishermen. (B,L,D)
Baltra to the Andes Mountains
Bid farewell to the Galápagos this morning as you are taken to Baltra for your flight to Quito. You are met upon arrival, and then escorted on a 3-hour scenic drive up 9,600 feet through the Andean mountains.
Early afternoon, arrive at the Hacienda Zuleta, a splendid 17th century colonial home belonging to a politically prominent Ecuadorian family. Set on 5,000 acres, the property is a working dairy farm, specializing in producing delicious cheese. It also features lush forest, pastureland, and one of the most exclusive horse stables in Ecuador. Its Zuleteño horses are a unique breed of Spanish-Andalusian, English and Quarter horses – robust and noble with a perfect disposition for trail riding. (B,L,D)
The Flight of the Condor
Today explore the trails of the Condor-Huasi route, grassy trails ideal for horse riding, hiking and mountain biking. See the ancient pyramids constructed by the pre-Incan Caranqui Indians. Learn about the aviary dedicated to the rehabilitation of the endangered Andean Condor. Admire the beautiful embroidery work at the museum and at Zuleta’s own non-profit workshop. (B,L,D)
Depart the Andes & Quito
Enjoy a visit to the organic farm this morning. Feed the calves and sheep, watch the vaqueros (cowboys) in action, and see the cheese factory.
You are then transferred back to the Quito airport for your flight home or on to your next destination. (B)
Casa Gangotena, Quito
Casa Gangotena occupies a pivotal place in Quitos historic heart, at the corner of Plaza San Francisco. Its history stretches back to the time of the Incas when, according to the early Spanish chroniclers, in the 15th century the square featured Inca temples, one of them on the site of the present house. Situated in a newly-restored historic mansion overlooking Plaza San Francisco, the three-story Casa Gangotena features 31 rooms, a showcase of eye-catching style, contemporary design, antiques, fine furnishings, modern technologies and quintessential comforts. Beautifully and eclectically-appointed, the hotel invites its guests to explore and to relax, whether in the dining room, glassed-in patio, garden redolent with the perfume of native flowers, wood-paneled library, or atop its panoramic third-floor terrace.
Galápagos Safari Camp, Santa Cruz Island
The Galápagos Archipelago is one of the last places on the planet to be relatively untouched by man. With only three percent of the landmass inhabited, the islands support a remarkable ecosystem and have one of the planets most important marine reserves. Galápagos Safari Camp is a new way to see the Galápagos; the eco-luxury tented camppioneering in Latin Americafollows the African safari tradition in which guests enjoy total comfort under canvas while experiencing nature in its purest form. The stylish central lodge is perched on a hill with panoramic views from its spacious veranda. Guests can relax in the lounge and bar with their cozy fireplace or savor the local and international dishes created by creative chefs with home-grown produce in the dining room.
Hacienda Zuleta, Tamayo y Colon
Zuleta is a colonial working farm of 4,000 acres that has belonged to the family of Mr. Galo Plaza Lasso, a former president of Ecuador, for more than 100 years. It was chosen as one of the world's Top Ten Finds by Outside magazine and named as one of the best Ecuador Hotels by National Geographic Traveler. The Hacienda has 15 beautifully decorated bedrooms, all with their own fire place; antique gardens along with cozy living and reading rooms offer a peaceful atmosphere. Delicious and traditional Ecuadorian cuisine is offered daily, prepared with organic vegetables, trout and dairy products produced at the Hacienda. For extracurricular activities guests may consider horseback riding, a ride in a horse-drawn carriage, or a visit to the Condor Huasi Project that works for the rehabilitation of the Andean Condor.