Depart to Quito. After passing through immigration and customs, proceed to the reception area, where our representative will be holding a sign with your name on it. You will be greeted and then transferred to your hotel. Overnight in Quito.
Otavalo, Avenue of the Volcanoes, and 4 Day Galapagos Legend Cruise
12 Days/11 Nights
From $3,739 pp
- If you want an expert to plan the perfect vacation for you...
- We can customize this tour to suit your requirements.
- We can also book your airfare at below published rates.
Combining the Highlands of Ecuador with the Galapagos Islands is a great way to experience the cultural and natural wonders of this small Andean country. The itinerary includes a city tour of Quito, a visit to the Otavalo Market, an overnight stay at the Magdalena Karanki Community, and a drive along the Avenue of the Volcanoes to Cuenca, with stops in Banos, Riobamba, and the Ingapirca ruins. The last part of the trip is a four day Galapagos Islands cruise aboard the Galapagos Legend.
Lodging, Meals, and Airfare: This tour includes accommodations for 11 nights (4 nights in Quito, 1 night at the Magdalena Karanki Community, 1 night in Riobamba, 1 night in Cuenca, 1 night in Guayaquil, and 3 nights aboard the Galapagos Legend), 19 meals (11 breakfasts, 4 lunches, and 4 dinners), and domestic airfare in Ecuador.
Best Time to Go: Year-Round.
Note: The route and program may vary according to National Park policies and regulations, weather conditions, seasonal changes, safety reasons and wildlife encounters.
Dry Landing: Guests step from the dinghy directly onto rocks or a dock.
Wet Landing: As the dinghy edges onto a sandy beach, guests step into knee-deep water and wade ashore.
In the morning, you will have a city tour of Quito. You will explore the bustling streets and squares of the largest historical centre in the Americas, and visit some of its most important churches such as the majestic La Compania and iconic San Francisco, guardians of a stunning multi-ethnic artistic and cultural heritage. You will drive through the traditional neighborhood of San Juan and finish the morning at the Panecillo hillside, with its breathtaking views of the old and modern parts of the city.
Following the city tour, you will be driven to the “Middle of the World City” complex, which is located 11 miles north of Quito. Here, you will see the monument of the equatorial line, a 98 ft high stone trapezoidal monument with a brass globe on top. The monument forms the focal point of a park and leisure area with gift shops and restaurants. Overnight in Quito. (B)
Depart Quito to the northern highlands of Ecuador, with stunning views of valleys such as Guayllabamba and Pisque. This is a unique “in situ” opportunity to learn about the formation of the Andes Cordilleras. Photo stops of the snowcapped volcanoes Cayambe and (with some luck) Cotopaxi. You will drive through rose farms and quilt-patched country side with corn, potato, quinoa, and broad bean fields on the way to the province of Imbabura, the “lake province of Ecuador”. The Otavalo market is one of the best known markets in South America, and you will see Otavalo Indians attired with beautiful and unique costumes.
After the market, you will continue further north to the city of Ibarra to start the train ride that travels on an early 20th century railroad system, built to connect the northern Andes and the Pacific coast. A two-hour ride, dropping from over 8,000 feet to almost half this altitude, embraces high altitude vegetation, dry zones with bromeliad and pear cacti, ending in a sub-tropical zone with sugar cane plantations. The main attraction of this ride is travelling through tunnels and bridges following the Ambi River Canyon. Upon arrival in Salinas, an Afro-Ecuadorian village, you will enjoy lunch and an enriching cultural experience.
You will spend the rest of the day in Magdalena, an agricultural, cattle and sheep raising community located in rolling hills east of the Imbabura volcano. The women of the region traditionally have embroidered the blouses of their costumes, now you can purchase utilitarian goods with this beautiful multicolored embroidery. Learn about their everyday activities such as morning cow milking, shepherding and in season, ox plowing. Stand face-to-face with people untouched by the urgencies of modern life. Overnight at the Magdalena Karanki Community. (B,L,D)
Late morning, you will begin the return drive back to Quito with stops at the village of Cotacachi and the Cuicocha Crater Lake. Cotacachi is known for artisans that specialize in leatherwork, including bags, jackets, hats, and gloves. Lunch in the village (not included). Afterwards, you will drive to the picturesque Cuicocha Crater Lake, where you will have a chance to walk around, and your guide will inform you about how the lake was formed, and the flora and fauna of the area. Overnight at Hotel Quito in Quito. (B)
Depart south along the “Avenue of the Volcanoes”. Weather permitting, you will be able to observe Cotopaxi Volcano, the world´s highest active snow covered volcano, along the way. Heading east, you start to descend to the valley of Patate, to the sub-tropical region where Baños is located. Baños is known as the “gateway to the Amazonia”.
In the afternoon, you will tour the Pastaza river canyon, known as the “Waterfall Avenue” where you find Cascada de la Virgen, Inés María, the Bride´s Mantle, Path of Machay, and the Devil´s Cauldron (Pailón del Diablo). With some luck, you can observe the active volcano Tungurahua ejecting its impressive fumaroles. Back again on the Pan-American high way you continue driving along the foothills of the Chimborazo Volcano, the highest point in Ecuador, at over twenty thousand feet, until you reach Riobamba. Overnight at Hosteria Abraspungo in Riobamba. (B)
From Riobamba, you’ll travel to Alausí, stopping for a walk-through of la Balbanera, the first Spanish church built in the country. In Alausí, you will take a spectacular train ride through the Devil’s Nose, a true feat in railway engineering of the early twentieth century. Box lunch. You continue south and experience a dramatic landscape change with deep canyons and small green valleys to reach the village of El Tambo, and detour to visit the Incan Archaeological site of Ingapirca, which means “Wall of the Inca”. This is the most important Incan relic in Ecuador. The citadel was built in the fifteenth century on the Inca trail that connected Quito to Cusco. The Solar Temple and the surrounding buildings follow the system of construction found in the ancient Incan capital of Cusco. Overnight at Hotel Carvallo in Cuenca. (B)
Note: The Devil’s Nose Train ride does not operate on Mondays.
In the morning, you will have a walking tour of the old city of Cuenca, the third largest city of Ecuador, which along with Quito is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The old city is known for its numerous churches, such as Del Carmen de la Asunción, done in a modified baroque style, and Santo Domingo, done in a renaissance style, as well as colonial style houses and beautifully carved doors. You will visit the Parque Calderon, the main plaza, in the heart of Cuenca, which is dominated by the New Cathedral that was built in an eclectic style and holds a sampling of the marbles found in the area. Cuenca is also known for handicrafts, including pottery, embroidery, filigree jewels, and the Panama hat.
On the drive to Guayaquil, you will pass through El Cajas National Park. This area is known for its beautiful landscapes with at least 200 lagoons, including the famous La Toreadora. This path takes you from 13,123 ft. to sea level in three hours, making it possible to observe the different habitats in Ecuador, the moorlands, the Andean forest, the subtropical forest, and the rainforest. After lunch in Cajas, you will drive to Guayaquil. Overnight at Hampton Inn Guayaquil. (B)
Morning transfer to the airport in Guayaquil for the flight to Galapagos. Passengers are picked up at the airport by our guides and taken on a ten minute bus ride to the pier to board the M/V Galapagos Legend.
Highlands of Santa Cruz and Pit Craters (dry landing). A 45-minute bus ride will take you to the Highlands of Santa Cruz, located to the northwest of Puerto Ayora, where you will find a natural reserve with giant tortoises. These enormous and slow-moving reptiles are responsible for the island’s name and therefore approaching them in their humid and forested abode is always an inspiring adventure. They can weigh between 250 and 300 kg and can live up to 150-200 years. Additionally, you can walk inside surprising lava tubes; you will also visit Pit Craters, created from the collapse of surface materials into chamber fissures underground. It’s a great place to spot Vermilion Flycatcher as you walk inside an endemic Scalesia forest. Overnight aboard the ship. (B,L,D)
Wet landing on a beach of black volcanic sand, visited by Charles Darwin in 1835. The first section of the trail is comprised of volcanic ash (eroded tuff) and the other half of partially uneven terrain is comprised of volcanic basaltic rock abutting the shoreline. The unique, truly striking layered terrain of Santiago’s shores is home to a variety of resident and migrant birds, including the bizarre Yellow-crowned Night Heron and an astounding array of marine wildlife including lobster, starfish and marine iguanas grazing on algae beds alongside Sally Light-foot Crabs. Colonies of endemic fur seals swimming in cool water pools formed by volcanic rocks are also a highlight. Snorkeling here offers rarities such as octopus or squid. Optional visit to the Strong>Salt Mines where you can observe the two species of sea lions: fur and Galapagos sea lions.
Bartolome (dry landing). You will discover a fascinating moonscape formed by different volcanic parasitic cones-lava bombs, spatter, cinder cones-as you hike to the summit for impressive views of the surrounding islands, including the eroded tuff cone Pinnacle Rock. You will also encounter marine iguanas, and lava lizards. Beach time is a great opportunity to snorkel and see (perhaps swim with) Galapagos penguins, sea turtles and White-tipped Reef Sharks among a great variety of colorful fish. For many visitors, this may turn out to be the best of snorkeling experiences; the water here is generally clear, without too much surf and full of marine life. Due to its geographical location, the lack of vegetation is immediately noticeable. Pioneer plants are observed, so called because they are the first to establish roots on new ground. They include Tiquilia nesiotica (which is endemic to the island), and Chamaesyce (known as sand mat or spurge in English), lava cactus, and Scalesia bushes. Behind the beach are dunes covered by mangroves. Overnight aboard the ship. (B,L,D)
Dry landing. You will walk by a brackish lagoon where feeding flamingos can be occasionally found. The trail leads across typical dry zone vegetation up to Dragon Hill, an important nesting ground for the endemic land iguanas, offering lovely views of the anchorage and neighboring islands. The forest is home to mockingbirds, Darwin’s finches, Yellow Warblers and Galapagos Doves.
North Seymour (dry landing). This is perhaps one of the busiest tourist destinations on the archipelago. Located off of Baltra Island (where the airport is located), and not far from Santa Cruz, North Seymour is the most accessible for day trips out of Santa Cruz’s main port, Puerto Ayora. The visit consists of a two hour walk amidst large nesting colonies of blue-footed boobies, magnificent and great frigate birds, and swallow-tailed gulls for an in depth encounter with sea bird breeding cycles, as well as sea lions. You will also encounter land iguanas, and on a lucky day, you might even come across a Galapagos Snake. Overnight aboard the ship. (B,L,D)
Bachas Beach. Wet landing on the north side of Santa Cruz. Behind the beach lie two small flamingo ponds with iguanas, coastal birds, Darwin finches, mockingbirds, and gulls, as well as interesting native and endemic vegetation, red and black mangroves, salt bushes, and much more. This beach is one of the main nesting sites of sea turtles in the Galapagos. A female can lay eggs three or four times with an average of 70 eggs each, but then spend 3 or 5 years without breeding. At this site, you will also find the remains of barges that sank long ago, once property of the United States Navy when they operated an airbase on Baltra Island during World War II. That is why the beach is called “Bachas” because the word “barges” in English was hard to pronounce for the local people.
After disembarking in the morning, you will go straight to the airport for your return flight to Quito. You will be greeted and then transferred to your hotel. Overnight in Quito. (B)
Transfer to the airport for your return flight to your final destination. (B)
B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner
Prices & Dates
Price per Person
|Standard Plus Cabin||n/a||$3,739||n/a|
|Balcony Suite Plus||n/a||$4,859||$4,549|
- The above prices are valid until December 10, 2016.
- Minimum of two passengers required for this tour.
- Hotel upgrades are available upon request.
Alternating Sunday departures throughout the year.
- South American Vacations’ expert pre-departure planning services and documentation.
- Airport/hotel transfers including baggage handling.
- Hotel accommodations including service fees and taxes.
- Accommodations on board the M/V Galapagos Legend.
- All meals scheduled on board and others as indicated on the itinerary.
- Excursions to the islands conducted by English-speaking naturalist guides.
- Evening briefings.
- Use of snorkeling equipment.
Price Does Not Include
- International airfare.
- Quito-Galapagos-Quito airfare ($449).
- Fuel surcharge for the ship ($90).
- Galapagos National Park Entrance Fee ($100).
- Transit control card ($20).
- Meals not indicated on the itinerary.
- Gratuities to ship crew and guides.
- Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
- Gifts and personal items.
- Travel insurance.
We will be happy to quote the cost of international airfare and travel insurance, and to make these arrangements for you.
Group Private: All services included in this tour are operated on a group basis.
Elevations: Quito is 9,350 feet above sea level, Otavalo is 8,399 feet, Ibarra is 7,231 feet, Salinas is 5,282 feet, Magdalena Karanki Community is 10,170 feet, Banos is 5,905 feet, Riobamba is 8,333 feet, Cuenca is 8,300 feet, and El Cajas NP is 13,123 feet.
IGTOA’s Traveler Funding Program South American Vacations is an active member of IGTOA (International Galapagos Tour Operators Association). In support of IGTOA’s Traveler Funding Program, we contribute $20 for each passenger that we send to the Galapagos Islands. You’ll travel knowing that you support the lasting protection of Galapagos Islands. Sixty percent of the funding of this program goes directly to the Charles Darwin Foundation for science, conservation, and education. Their work, carried out through the Charles Darwin Research Station and Galapagos National Park, is vital to the preservation of the islands. You can visit their web site to learn more www.darwinfoundation.org. The remainder goes toward IGTOA’s mission of creating a model of responsible and sustainable tourism.
Passport/Visa: U.S., Australian, Canadian, and EU citizens require a passport valid for at least six months from date of entry and return ticket for stays of up to 90 days. Citizens of other countries are advised to contact the Ecuadorian embassy in their country before traveling.
Travel Insurance: In order to protect your travel investment from unforeseen circumstances that may arise before or during your trip, we strongly recommend that you purchase travel insurance. We offer Allianz Global Assistance’s Classic Comprehensive and other plans. The Benefits and Coverage Limits are summarized on our Travel Insurance page. Call your travel counselor if you have any questions or to purchase a plan.
To Book This Trip: We require a non-refundable deposit of $1,000 per person plus the cost of the international airfare (if we make the arrangements for you). The balance of the trip cost is due 60 days prior to departure.