Ecuador & Galapagos Quest 10 Days
- October, 20-29
- November, 12-21
- December, 03-12
Activities: Mountain Biking, White Water Rafting, Hiking, Ocean Kayaking, Snorkeling, Beach Exploration, Indigenous Encounters and Wildlife Seeking.
Ecuador & Galapagos Quest 10 Days
Discover astonishing diversity of flora and fauna, landscapes and Andean towns. Experience the thrill of nature cycling down the highest active volcano on the planet, raft the warm waters of a lush jungle river, sea kayak and snorkel with sea turtles, sea lions, and Galapagos sharks.
Be part of this adventure ride that includes rafting, biking, kayaking and trekking. Certified naturalist and adventure guides will lead your journey with the highest quality adventure gear.
- Explore a whole country in just 10 days.
- Adrenaline-charged jungle rafting down one of Ecuador´s best one-day river run (class III-III+).
- Immerse in Andean hot springs for incredible relaxation.
- Learn the secrets of textile weaving from Otavalo Indians.
- Galapagos Kayak and Snorkel with turtles, rays, sea lions, marine iguanas, and other amazing sea creatures.
- Walk among Giant Galapagos Tortoises in their natural habitat.
- Relax on stunning beaches among sea lions and marine iguanas.
DAY 1: Quito – Cuicocha Lake Trek – Otavalo Market
DAY 2: Papallacta Hot Springs Trek – Rain Forest
DAY 3: Jungle Rafting on the Jatunyacu River
DAY 4: Baños and Waterfall Exploration
DAY 5: Hike at Pasochoa Wildlife Refuge
DAY 6: Fly to Galapagos – Hike And Snorkel at San Cristobal Island
DAY 7: Sea Kayak and Snorkel the Coast
DAY 8: Mountain Bike the Coastline And Explore Tintoreras in Isabela Island
DAY 9: Volcano Hiking in Isabela´s Highlands
DAY 10: Flight to Baltra & Return to Quito
Optional 2 Day Extension at Santa Cruz Island
DAY 10: Hike with Giant Tortoises; Explore Los Gemelos and Visit the Charles Darwin Research Station
DAY 11: Sea Kayak in Punta Estrada and Hike to Tortuga Bay – Santa Cruz
DAY 12: Transfer to Baltra and return Flight
DAY 1: QUITO – CUICOCHA LAKE TREK – OTAVALO MARKET
Early morning we depart Quito and head north to the Lake province of Imbabura. After a two-hour drive we reach Cuicocha, a crater lake and a nature reserve located on the slopes of the Cotacachi Volcano. Cuicocha Lake is surrounded by rim walls and its name translates to Lake of the Guinea Pigs due to the shape of its two center islets. This combines paramo and Andean forest covered by species such as Pumamaqui, Quishuar, chilca, bromarea, fushia, lupins, calcelaria, and colorful flowers of the Andes. This hike known as the Orchid Trail runs around the crater rim with stunning views to the lake and the Cotacachi, Mojanda and Imbabura volcanoes. We watch for rodents, mammals, marsupials and birdlife such as guans, hummingbirds, tanagers, wild turkeys, ducks, buzzard eagle and the great Andean Condor. A healthy, refreshing picnic lunch awaits us along the trail. In the afternoon we visit the town of Cotacachi, famous for its leather market. We also visit the Otavalo Indian Market, one of Ecuador´s most important indigenous bazaars brimming with handmade arts, clothes, tapestries, jewelry, ceramics and wood carvings. This colorful market now runs every day of the week and is considered one of the most important ethnic markets in South America. (L, D)
DAY 2: PAPALLACTA HOT SPRINGS TREK – RAIN FOREST
We drive early morning through the Inter-Andean valleys for a great 2 hour hike in the Cayambe Coca Ecological Reserve, located across the Atlantic – Pacific continental divide. The reserve is composed of endemic highland paramo with cloud forest patches. The large amount of water retained in this sponge-like environment is the source of the largest water system in the world. When return to a rewarding hot spring soak at Termas de Papallacta, where we can relax in any of the 9 different thermal pools, ranging in temperature from 97ºF to 104ºF (36ºC to 40ºC). Cloud Forest Mountains and an occasional snowcapped volcano surround these pools, with their mineral rich waters from underground geothermal springs. After lunch we travel to the Amazonian town of Tena where we enjoy a peaceful evening listening to the sounds of the rainforest. (B, L, D)
DAY 3: JUNGLE RAFTING ON THE JATUNYACU RIVER
After breakfast we head to Llanganates National Park, which extends from the high Andes to the Amazon basin. This area is considered a Biosphere Zone by the United Nations. The water collected in this area forms the Jatunyacu River, considered one of Ecuador´s best one-day river runs. We begin with a short walk through rainforest scenery and reach incredibly beautiful natural swimming holes and waterslides. After a safety brief, we take a trip down the crystal clear Jatunyacu River and glimpse into indigenous communities living along the shores in small bamboo and wood houses. Jatunyacu is famed for its big waves, fun holes, and high water volume. (Class III – III+). (B, L, D)
DAY 4: BAÑOS & WATERFALL EXPLORATION
In the morning, we drive to the edge of Llanganates National Park, gaining altitude until we reach one of the best views of Tungurahua, Ecuador´s most active volcano. This is an especially scenic route, where high rock walls give way to deep cloud forest canyons. We reach the colorful town of Baños, known for its hot springs and rugged landscape where we have lunch. Afterwards, we take a cable car across amazing gorges to explore the trail of waterfalls, as this is the only way to reach them. We´ll see the most scenic ones: Pailon del Diablo (Devil´s Cauldron) and Manto de la Novia (Bride´s Veil). (B, L, D)
Day 5: HIKE AT PASOCHOA WILDLIFE REFUGE
After breakfast, we’ll make the drive back into the highlands, passing two of Ecuador’s most active volcanoes along the way. The towering Tungurahua Volcano keeps watch over Baños and has been active since 1999. In more recent news, the Cotopaxi stratovolcano recently exploded back to life in August of 2015 and can be seen emitting ominous plumes of ash and smoke from the Panamerican Highway, which we will use to get back to into the mountains. Just North of Cotopaxi National Park, we will arrive in the striking Pasochoa Wildlife Refuge*, a reserve that protects 500 hectares of temperate forest, upper mountain forest, and paramo grasslands. With an elevation ranging from 2,800 to 4,210 meters above sea level, this area is our next stop as we journey to the western slopes of the extinct Pasochoa Volcano.
While here, our hike will allow us to enjoy this magnificent Andean forest, as we wander through fields of different colorful flowers and a great diversity of birds, including hummingbirds, woodpeckers, and many species of birds endemic only to this region. We might even be lucky enough to see a soaring condor once we reach the mountain top. At some point during the hike, we will stop and enjoy our box lunch as you breathe in the fresh mountain air of this sacred natural treasure. In the afternoon, we head back to Quito, where you can explore the landmarks and night life of this buzzing colonial city. (B, L)
*Since Cotopaxi National Park has been closed due to the risk of volcanic mudflows on the slopes of Cotopaxi Volcano, we have replaced our one-day Cotopaxi trek with the Pasochoa Wildlife Reserve hike. Although Pasochoa doesn’t receive as much press as the ancient guardian Cotopaxi, it has just as much history and majesty and serves as a very adequate replacement for Cotopaxi while it is erupting.
DAY 6: FLY TO GALAPAGOS – HIKE AND SNORKEL AT SAN CRISTOBAL ISLAND
After breakfast we fly to Galapagos. Once in San Cristobal Island, we brief you over lunch at a sea side restaurant. Our Galapagos Land Based adventure begins at the Interpretation Center learning about Galapagos´ unique wildlife, geology, history, and social dynamics. We hike to Frigate Hill along lava rock trails. On the way, your naturalist guide explains all about the Galapagos cotton, palo santo, acacia, and cacti. You also spot blue-footed boobies, frigate birds, pelicans, herons, gulls, warblers, mockingbirds, and finches among the vegetation and sea cliffs. In addition to unique species, the hike provides marvelous views of the rugged coastline and the coastal town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. We stop for a refreshing snorkel or swim at beautiful Carola Beach. Here, you find sea turtles, sea lions, and marine iguanas, as well as surfers riding some world-class waves. After dinner with a gorgeous sunset as our background, we recommend you take a stroll down the boardwalk to view the immense colony of endemic Galapagos sea lions. (L)
DAY 7: SEA KAYAK & SNORKEL THE COAST
We go to sea in our kayaks and explore coastal bays and coves full of wildlife. We may visit Leon Dormido (Kicker Rock), Punta Pitt or Cerro Brujo as the Galapagos National Park determines the week day when each site may be visited. Still, we will find blue-footed boobies, frigate birds, sea lions, and sea turtles everywhere. Underwater and with some luck we will find spotted eagle rays, golden rays, Galapagos sharks, starfish, clams, and fish of every shape, size, and color, look out for hammerhead sharks! (B, L)
DAY 8: MOUNTAIN BIKE THE COASTLINE AND EXPLORE TINTORERAS IN ISABELA ISLAND
After breakfast, we take a short plane ride to Isabela Island. This is the largest island in Galapagos formed by 6 shield volcanoes in real time. Without a doubt, Isabela is one of the most volcanically active spots on the planet. We take our bikes and visit El Muro de las Lagrimas (Wall of Tears). Isabela was once a penal colony and prisoners constructed a massive wall of lava rocks for no other purpose than to keep busy. We continue biking along white sand beaches, mangroves, brackish lagoons, and a lava tube. The area is filled with giant tortoises and birdlife. We also have a chance to spot flamingos! After lunch, we share a speed boat to explore Tintoreras, a set of small islets filled with hidden coves and beaches where we find the endemic Galapagos penguin as well as reef sharks, sea turtles, and sea lions. In the late afternoon feel free to take a leisure stroll down the seemingly endless beach or join the bustle on the sand streets of this idyllic beach town. (B, L)
DAY 9: VOLCANO HIKINGIN ISABELA´S HIGHLANDS
We drive up to the highlands to the end of the road, grab our daypacks and hike into a world of recent geological history, enjoying the incredible views of the surrounding volcanoes and sea. When we arrive at the rim of Volcan Sierra Negra, you´ll be awestruck! This is the second largest active caldera on the planet. We walk along the rim of this enormous 30 square mile crater, and if feeling energetic, continue our hike into the caldera of Volcan Chico, an otherworldly landscape with endless hues of oranges, reds, blacks, and yellows. Here, we explore puffing fumaroles and spectacular lava formations. After a day on what seems like another planet, we return to paradise on earth. Enjoy the evening as you please, relaxing in the hotel or cruising the town. (B, L)
DAY 10: FLIGHT TO BALTRA & RETURN TO QUITO
Today we board a public speed boat to Santa Cruz Island and continue by bus to Baltra, where we board our flight back to the continent. (B)
OPTIONAL 2 DAY EXTENSION AT SANTA CRUZ ISLAND
DAY 10: HIKE WITH GIANT TORTOISES; EXPLORE LOS GEMELOS AND VISIT THE CHARLES DARWIN RESEARCH STATION
Today we transfer on a public speed boat to Santa Cruz Island. Once we arrive, we will go to El Chato reserve in the highlands which is the natural habitat of the Galapagos tortoise. We hike in this reserve to learn about these lumbering giants. We come across highland wildlife such as pintail ducks, egrets, flycatchers, finches, and frigate birds bathing in freshwater lakes. We also explore some amazing volcanic tunnels that were created by flowing lava. As we walk in these underground geological formations we revive tales of buccaneers hiding Inca gold. We continue to Los Gemelos, two volcanic craters near the top of the Island. We walk around these deep craters through a beautiful Scalesia forest covered with epiphytes and ferns. In this habitat we will seek for the short-eared owl, one of the two owls that live in the Islands. After lunch we will have time to explore the Charles Darwin Research Station to learn about conservation and management efforts in the archipelago. (B, L)
DAY 11: SEA KAYAK IN PUNTA ESTRADA AND HIKE TO TORTUGA BAY – SANTA CRUZ
In the morning we take our kayaks and paddle around Divine Bay and Punta Estrada. We kayak through calm turquoise waters that wind through high-walled lava channels. Within the channels, white-tipped sharks and rays tour beneath the clear water, while colonies of blue-footed boobies, tropic birds, herons, crabs and marine iguanas perch along the jagged cliffs. In the afternoon, we hike to Tortuga Bay, a beautiful white sand beach area, nesting site to thousands of marine turtles. This trail is 3½ miles (6 Km) long and crosses through a dry forest lava habitat home to hundreds of iguanas. We return to Puerto Ayora to spend the evening at leisure in Galapagos´ most populous town. (B, L)
DAY 12: TRANSFER TO BALTRA AND RETURN FLIGHT
Today we say goodbye to the Galapagos Islands, we finally transfer to Baltra Island for our airport connection back to the continent. (B)
**PLEASE NOTE** The services described on the itinerary will be provided on sharing basis. This itinerary is subject to change without notice due to seasonal changes, last-minute weather conditions and adjustments of National Parks policy.
Lodging: Tourist superior hotels.
INCLUDED: Accommodations in tourist superior hotels; meals as described; all adventure and protective equipment (including front-suspended deore mountain bikes, expedition kayaks, rafting equipment, gloves, helmets, water bottles, and dry bags); professional English-speaking guide; professional Galapagos naturalist guide; land, sea, and inter-island air transportation.
NOT INCLUDED: Airfare to/from Galapagos; INGALA Transit Card, Galapagos National Park Entrance Fee; hotel and restaurant beverages, tips, gratuities and personal expenses.
TRAVEL TIME: 1 to 5 hours per day
PADDLE, HIKING, OR ACTIVITY DURATION: 2-4 hours per activity
SEASON: All year
ALTITUDE: 1,500 to 15,500 feet (500 to 4,800 meters)
AVERAGE TEMPERATURE – ANDES: DAY 46-75ºF / 8-24ºC, NIGHT 41-53ºF / 5-12ºC
AVERAGE TEMPERATURE – CLOUDFOREST: DAY 60-86ºF / 16-30ºC, NIGHT 60-68ºF / 16-20ºC
AVERAGE TEMPERATURE – AMAZON: DAY 68-95ºF / 20-35ºC, NIGHT 64-71ºF / 18-22ºC
AVERAGE TEMPERATURE – GALAPAGOS: December to May: 80ºF to 90ºF / 25ºC to 30ºC. June to September: 60ºF to 70ºF / 15ºC to 20ºC. October to December: 70ºF to 80ºF / 15ºC to 25ºC.
GALAPAGOS WATER TEMPERATURE: The waters in the Galapagos Islands are a unique mixture of warm & cold water, ranging between 65ºF and 85ºF / 18ºC and 30ºC
SUGGESTED ITEMS TO PACK: Water sandals, walking shoes, rain jacket, water bottle, non-cotton trekking gear, bathing suit, sun block, hat, and mosquito repellent.