Testimonials

THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING!! The trip was outstanding; all the arrangements were perfect – from the time we were met at the airport in Quito – to the time we were returned to the airport in Guayaquil.
The luxury Cruises like lapinta, Isabela, and santa cruz cruise are ultimate luxurious ships. these cruises will make your journey a pleasant one.
Alan and I had a truly wonderful experience in Ecuador. Santiago and the rest of staff were excellent hosts, as was the La Pinta and its staff. We had an amazing trip.
Hannah, we are back from our fabulous vacation, and I am so very thankful to you for setting it all up. Please provide me with your supervisor's name and email address so I can give you proper credit! Dilger couple, Custom Galapagos Land Based, March 2012





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Galapagos and Andes Tours

The archipelago is located 603 miles / 972 km from continental Ecuador.  It comprises 13 large islands and over 40 small islands, islets and rocks. The total land area of the Galápagos Islands is 3,043 square miles, about half the size of the state of Hawaii.

“The sheer number and variety of life forms both on land and in the water in the Galápagos is quite awe-inspiring. Nearly 9,000 species call the islands and their surrounding waters home. The isolation of the Galápagos has resulted in some of the highest levels of endemism in the world. Endemic species – found nowhere else in the world – are common throughout the islands, and many are nearly unchanged since prehistoric times” WWF (World Wildlife Fund)

There are plenty of options to explore the Galapagos Islands, from 5 to 8 or more day cruises, to land based luxury hotels or villas with daily tours to nearby islands or to destinations within the same island,  or a combination of cruise and land programs.  You may extend your stay up to 15 days without visiting the same site twice.

Flight connections to-from Galapagos are from Quito or Guayaquil.  The basic Galapagos program requires 2 nights in mainland Ecuador, although it is always recommended to arrive at least 2 nights before in case of flight or luggage delays.

Galapagos and Andes Tours – GALAPAGOS BASIC

Day 1.  Arrive in Quito, transfer to selected hotel

Day 2.  Departure to Galapagos

Day 6.  Arrive in Quito, transfer to selected hotel

Day 7.  Departure for international flight

TOUR 1. BASIC GALAPAGOS PLUS 1 DAY IN THE ECUADORIAN HIGHLANDS

Ecuador is crossed north/south by a volcanic section of the Andean range,  with a total of 70 volcanoes in 2 main mountain ranges, being Chimborazo the tallest with 6,310, and a third secondary one in the Amazon basin.  The mountain ranges are squeezed between the Amazon basin to the east and the coastal plain to the west.  The main characteristic of the highlands are its fertile valleys and lush forested ridges overseen by towering mountains, some of them permanently snow caped.  As a result there is an incredible array of microclimates that would allow a visitor to move from the snow line of the high mountains  to agricultural fields and indigenous communities, then on to cloud or tropical forests great for birdwatching in just a few hours.

The following destinations are up to 1 ½ hours outside of Quito, and cover a wide range of  options, from native cultures and artwork to amazing natural  areas.

 

OPTION  1.  Otavalo indigenous market and craft villages

Otavalo is a land rich in friendly and colorfully attired indigenous people, historic working haciendas, cristal clear lakes reflecting towering volcanoes with verdant slopes. Our first stop is the food market, where you will find traditional prepared food quite appreciated by the locals, as well as the agricultural products of the area. Then follow to the weavers market where you will find a variety of handicrafts sold by the Otavalo Indians. After lunch we proceed to a weaving demonstration at a native’s home and, depending on the hour, we will also visit Peguche waterfall.

 

OPTION 2.  Birdwatching at Tandayapa

Tandayapa is dominated by humid cloud forest, has some of the highest diversity of epiphytes anywhere in the world, holding about 80  epiphytic orchids and bromeliads, tree ferns, and moss-covered trees.  Most of the valley’s forest is still intact, its terrain characterized by steep slopes clad in primary and secondary forest, and locally holding extensive stands of Chusquea bamboo. The valley forms the most easily accessible part of the threatened Chocó Endemic Bioregion of southwest Columbia and northwest Ecuador, which hosts about 500 bird species, with 61 range-restricted birds, and 9000 plant species (more than 10 percent of the Neo-tropical flora!).

 

OPTION 3.  Antisana Ecological Reserve

A pristine highland wilderness where it is possible to find bird species non seen at lower altitudes, like the Condor, Ecuadorian Hillstar, Tyrants.   Once the huge open plain is reached, Carunculated Caracaras are common, the very difficult to find Black-faced Ibis, plenty of Andean Gulls,  Lapwings, Cinclodes,  the only Yellow-bellied Siskins, Hawks,  Falcons and others.  All of these with the magnificent backdrop of the Antisana volcano snow covered volcano, and a fantastic highland scenery.

 

OPTION 4.  Quito, a UNESCO city

The colonial section of Quito is a living museum of grand Spanish colonial architecture; its mansions, cathedrals and squares have been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. On a walking tour along its cobblestone streets we’ll have the chance to view buildings from the 16th to the 18th centuries. We’ll also visit Independence Square where the Presidential Palace is located, and marvel at the ornate interior of the Baroque/Moorish Church of San Francisco as well as the golden interior of La Compañia church.

 

OPTION 5.  Quito and Equator Monument

 

This program covers the colonial section of Quito on a walking tour along its narrow streets among buildings from the 16th to the 18th centuries. Independence Square where the Presidential Palace is located, the ornate interior of the Baroque/Moorish Church of San Francisco as well as the golden interior of La Compañia church.   We will then proceed to the Equator Monument, built to mark the meridian arch of the planet at 0º latitude—better known as the Equator— visit to the marvelous Ethnographic Museum, which traces the history and archeology of Ecuador’s native peoples back to the Pleistocene, or the Intiñan Museum, for fun experiments on the Equator

TOUR 2. BASIC GALAPAGOS PLUS 2 OR 3 DAYS AT ECUADORIAN HIGHLAND HACIENDAS OR MOUNTAIN LODGES.


The majority of rural population in the highlands live from small scale agriculture and dairy farms, turning their weekly markets a great place to visit and get in close contact with different native communities.   Haciendas are the best places to stay in the highlands countryside as they offer a hint of upscale rural life during colonial times, and serve as base camp for activities like horseback riding, hiking, mountain bike.  For guests more interested in birdwatching at cloud forest, Mashpi lodge is the best option, with a minimum 3 day stay.

 

OPTION 1.  Hacienda Cusin

We depart from Quito directly to Otavalo region.  Check in at hacienda Cusin and then enjoy a relaxed hike to Peguche waterfall, on the slopes of the Imbabura volcano, a wonderful area of farmland and small indigenous communities that will give you a hint of old agricultural traditions; visit an indigenous weaver and then return to the 17th century hacienda for a relaxed evening among its beautiful gardens.   The following day visit Cuicocha Lake for a short hike,  then follow to Cotacachi for fine leather shopping and finally visit the Otavalo indigenous handcraft market and finish the day with a late lunch at a local hacienda.

 

OPTION  2.  Hacienda Zuleta

We travel directly from Quito to hacienda Zuleta, considered to be among the most beautiful haciendas, the 17th century adobe construction and surrounding agricultural fields and woods had been in the same family of renown Ecuadorian politicians for the last 4 generations.   Besides the agricultural fields the property has a large organic garden, a cheese factory, a special breed of horses, a condor recovery program, pre-Inca archaeological remains and embroidery center. The hacienda offers a variety of activities including hiking, mountain bikes and horse riding within the property. At this elegant home, you will be greeted by a family member.  The program includes a visit to the famous Otavalo handcraft market.

 

OPTION 3.  Hacienda La Alegria

Arrive at hacienda La Alegria around mid-morning.  Test horses and the equipment that will use the following days.  Ride around the haciendas of the area enjoying the green pastures as well as the outstanding scenery of the Central Andes.  Today’s activities are more focused on you adapting to high altitude and getting familiarized with your horse. On the second day ride for about 5 hours and ascending El Corazon volcano up to 4,000 meters high, with an astonishing view of the fertile valley of Machachi, then descend through extensive  agricultural fields back to the hacienda and on to Quito.

 

OPTION 4.  Hacienda San Agustin de Callo

Built on the site of an important Inca fortress, the original Inca walls have been incorporated into the structure of this unique colonial hacienda.  Since the 15th Century it has served as an Inca fortress, Augustinian monastery, a temporary home for Alexander Von Humboldt, and permanent country home for two former presidents of Ecuador.  The house offers a luxurious ambiance.  We will use this hacienda as the base camp to explore the Cotopaxi National Park with its tundra-like environment, flora and fauna, and a non-tourist indigenous market; your senses will be overwhelmed by the variety of colors, textures, fragrances and noise of a typical Andean market

 

OPTION 5.  Mashpi Ecolodge

MASHPI LODGE

The Chocó hotspot is a region that reaches Panama in the north, all the way down to Peru and from the Pacific coast up to an elevation of 2200 m.  With a high level of precipitation and condensation, the Chocó has an amazingly high biodiversity and is home to numerous endemics.  Approximately a quarter of all plant species found here are endemic, in the mountain ranges it is almost 50%.  Compared to other continental regions the highest concentration of birds can be found here, and is one of the world’s 10 most important biodiversity hotspots.  Due to the separation of the Andean range, the Chocó is biologically different than the Amazon Basin rain forest.

Built at 900 m (3,116 feet) above sea level and surrounded by lower montane rainforest and cloud forest, Mashpi is surrounded by a profusion of plant species, from ferns and bromeliads to hundreds of orchid species, many newly-discovered. A staggering 500 species of birds – including some 36 endemics – are estimated to inhabit the forest. Monkeys, peccaries and even puma make their homes inside the Reserve crisscrossed with waterfalls between dramatic, verdant hills.

Among its special attractions Mashpi offers self-guided trails, an observation tower, an aerial bicycle, a canopy gondola, leks, trails, waterfalls, a life center with grogs and toads terrariums, and electrically powered buggies used within the reserve.  Minimum recommended stay is 3 days, starting at Quito.

TOUR 3. BASIC GALAPAGOS PLUS AMAZON BASIN


This adventure takes you to the Amazon jungle excursion in an eco-lodge in the Napo region, just a short flight from Quito and one of the most biologically diverse areas on the planet. For small groups, couples or families, this trip is the perfect mix of outdoor activity, cultural exploration and natural history.  Depart from Quito around mid-morning, after a 30 min flight arrive at Coca airport, a small town in the Ecuadorian rain forest.  Board a motorized canoe and travel for about 2 hours through the Napo River, one of the many tributaries to the mighty Amazon River.  Afterwards we switch to a dugout canoe and, with the assistance of a native guide and the English speaking naturalist guide, start discovering why the Amazon basin is considered one of the most bio-diverse regions in the planet..  Minimum stay 4 days

 

OPTION 1.  Napo Wildlife Center

Quietly glide up a black water creek to arrive at the lake where our thatch roofed lodge sits on the shore of a lake. The journey can be accomplished in an hour but slowing to view monkeys, kingfishers, hoatzins, jacamars, hawks and more can slow our progress.

The great luxury eco-hotel in Amazonian Ecuador which includes the conservation of approximately over 82 square miles (53,500 acres – over 21,400 hectares) of the most pristine Amazon Rain Forest within the Yasunì National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and the largest tract of tropical rain forest in Ecuador.  The lodge was built, owned and managed by the Añangu community on the shores of the Añangu Lake.  Among its particular attractions are its small size as it offers accommodation for up to 35 guests in standard cabins or suites,  the kapok towers for great views of the canopy,  the parrot clay licks, and of course, the incredible number of animal species seen in its protected forest.

 

OPTION 2.  Sacha Lodge

A typical day in a jungle lodge begins at sunrise or earlier, in order to take advantage of the cool morning hours when the rainforest’s animals are most active.  Activities are spread out over a wide area and allow visitors to explore several distinct but equally fascinating habitats. Several trails lead through pristine terra firma forest, where 150 foot kapok trees tower above and roots form huge buttresses to give trees support. Others follow strategically raised boardwalks in seasonally flooded forests, where walking on the ground would be nearly impossible during most of the year due to groundwater. One trail many choose to follow even leads across fallen tree trunks and a steel cable zip-line through rich swampland!

Sacha Lodge is built on the shores of Pilchicocha Lake, within a 5000 acre private ecological reserve; its main attractions are the 135 foot kapok tree observation tower, the 940 foot long canopy walk at approximately 90 feet above the ground, and the butterfly house.

 

OPTION 3.  La Selva  Lodge

Built on the shores of Pilchicocha Lake, the lodge has recently gone through extensive renovation and currently offers standard cabins as well as suites.  A very special new attraction is the butterfly spa in the old butterfly farm, at walking distance from the lodge.
One of lodge’s original attractions and an all-time favorite of guests is the 135-foot (43-meter) kapok observation tower. Situated on a hill and constructed around a giant kapok tree for stability, this tower allows guests an opportunity to climb into and above the rainforest canopy for a magnificent view of the surrounding area. This tower has been a faithful delight for birdwatchers, where the specialist bird guides have on many occasions reported seeing more than 80 species in a single morning with the aid of a powerful telescope provided by your guides.

TOUR 4. BASIC GALAPAGOS PLUS CUENCA


The Southern part of the Ecuadorian highlands hold a different type of geological formations, where the mountains are not as high as in the Northern or Central Andes, this creates a special environment with an abundance of very fertile valleys where its inhabitants combine their agricultural choirs with very skillful abilities for handcraft creations, thus having created a particular culture on its own.  The vicinity of a great National Park is just an additional attraction.  It is possible go reach Cuenca area with flights from Quito or Guayaquil, or by road from Guayaquil.  The recommended minimum stay is 3 days.

 

OPTION 1  Cuenca, a UNESCO city

Cuenca is ideal for those looking to blend into the relaxed setting of a truly romantic colonial city. Walking along its cobblestone streets or watching the people go by in its tropical town square before the great cathedral is both peaceful and inspiring.  Declared a Cultural Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999, crisscrossed by 4 rivers, it is considered one of the most beautiful cities in the country due its architecture, surroundings and small town ambiance with colonial constructions, popular markets and archeological ruins.  The hotels here are especially romantic, the best ones are colonial houses built around a central plaza with a fountain, while others look out onto one of the rivers.

 

OPTION 2.  Inca Ruins of Ingapirca

One-and-a-half hours north of Cuenca, passing by small Andean towns and indigenous villages, surrounded by rich agricultural fields is the Inca astronomical observatory and fortress of Ingapirca. This is the most important Inca site in Ecuador, where the Inga and his entourage would rest during trips to this northern part of the Inca Empire. The structure of the Central Temple offers classic Inca architecture: walls formed by square or polygonal blocks, trapezoidal doorways, niches and windows, rectangular rooms, and the typical circular highland fortress of that period.

 

 

OPTION 3. Gualaceo & Chordeleg craft villages

 

Close to Cuenca, located in enchanted valleys bathed by rivers, there are two particular small towns famous for its craftsmanship where most of the population is dedicated full or part time to the handcraft production, we will have the opportunity to get in direct contact with weavers of Panama hats, ikat shawls, straw baskets, filigree jewelers, embroiderers, pottery manufacturing and much more.  We will also visit a local produce market if it is being held I the area the day we visit these villages.  We will have lunch at one of the local haciendas of the area.

 

OPTION 4.  El  Cajas National Park

About 1 hour out of Cuenca is the rugged and beautiful El Cajas National Park, with over 200 lakes and ponds formed by the remains of a glacial, it has a total extension of 28,800 hectares with altitudes going from 300 to 4,500m / 984 to 14,764ft above sea level, although most of it is over 3,000m/9,843 ft above sea level.  It is home to hummingbirds, partridges, condors, hawks, spectacle bears,  white tail deer, tapir, and many other Andean species, surrounded by the typical tundra-like environment of the paramo among amazing geological formations.

TOUR 5. BASIC GALAPAGOS PLUS GUAYAQUIL

Guayaquil is Ecuador’s main port and most populated city, it is also an important city and center of commerce with national and regional influence in the commercial, financial, political and cultural areas.  Located on the Pacific coast, the city was built on the Guayas River estuary, which gives the city its particular attractions.  As he main port in a rich agricultural area, Guayaquil history is directly related to the great development during the coffee and cacao boom.

 

OPTION 1.  Guayaquil coastal city

Enjoy a general view of the city with a combination of panoramic views and visits to specific attractions like Parque Seminario, locally known as The Iguana’s Park, here you will have an opportunity to see hundreds of large iguanas living peacefully among the park visitors.  Continue to the Guayas River Waterfront, walk from the Cristal Palace to the Rotonda, passing by the classical Moorish Tower and  the Governor’s office.

 

 

OPTION 2.  Guayaquil Historical Park

Located outside of the city, this park includes the Urban.Architecture zone that intends a reconstruction of the urban life of Guayaquil during the 19th and early 20th centuries.  Fashion and clothing from Guayaquil; the manufacture of sweets, tobacco and other products derived from agricultural activities.  The Traditions Exhibition zone lets you meet face to face with the past rural world that often feels too far away for us to ever really know, there are also almost 4 hectares that  recreate the natural habitat of animals that lived in this region and houses more than 50 species of birds, mammals and reptiles.