Otavalo, Avenue of the Volcanoes, and 4 Day Galapagos Legend Cruise
12 Days/11 Nights
From $4,139 per person
(Dbl. Occupancy, Not Incl. Airfare)
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.
Day 1 (Mon): Quito.
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.
Day 2 (Tue): City Tour of Quito-Middle of the World.
In the morning, you will have a city tour of Quito. You will explore the bustling streets and squares of the largest historical center 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)
Day 3 (Wed): Quito-Otavalo Market-Chaski Route Train-Magdalena Karanki Community.
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 snow-capped 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 traveling 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)
Day 4 (Thu): Magdalena Karanki Community-Cotacachi-Cuicocha Crater Lake-Quito.
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 in Quito. (B)
Day 5 (Fri): Quito-Baños-Riobamba.
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 in Riobamba. (B)
Day 6 (Sat): Riobamba-Devil’s Nose Train-Ingapirca Ruins-Cuenca.
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 in Cuenca. (B)
Note: The Devil’s Nose Train ride does not operate on Mondays.
Day 7 (Sun): Cuenca-City Tour-El Cajas National Park-Guayaquil.
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 in Guayaquil. (B)
Day 8 (Mon): Guayaquil-Baltra Airport-Highlands Tortoise Reserve (Santa Cruz).
Morning transfer to the airport in Quito 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 Tortoise Reserve (dry landing). In the mountains of Galapagos you can observe different kinds of birds, including tree and ground finches, vermillion flycatchers, paint-billed crakes, yellow warblers, and cattle egrets (usually standing on the tortoises’ shell). The journey to the reserve also offers a great opportunity to see contrasting ecosystems. The road goes from the coast through the agricultural zone and straight up to the dense humid forests. Often, Galapagos Giant Tortoises are seen on the way, wandering through pastures in the paddocks. This spot is a bird watchers’ haven since almost every land bird present on the island lives or migrates here. (Duration: 45 minute drive/1.5 hour walk). Overnight aboard the ship. (B,L,D)
Day 9 (Tue): El Barranco (Prince Philip’s Steps)-Darwin Bay (Genovesa).
El Barranco (Prince Philip’s Steps). You will marvel at the variety of sea life that uses the crevices of the lava cliffs for shelter. Red-billed Tropicbirds fly overhead, switching between their nests and the bay, and a small colony of fur seals may be found near the landing site. You will be dropped off at a steep stairway that begins on rocks at the foot of a path that leads through a seabird colony full of Nazca and Red-footed Boobies. At the plateau, the trail continues inland allowing you to see more nesting booby colonies in the thin Palo Santo forest. Near the end of the trail, over a rocky lava plain, Wedge-rumped Storm-Petrels can be observed flying in all directions. If you are lucky, you may catch a glimpse of a Short-eared Owl. (Duration: 45-minute walk).
Darwin Bay. Disembark onto a small sand and coral beach. A short trail heads west along a tidal lagoon and then up a rocky hill that leads to a point overlooking the cliffs and Darwin Bay. Along the trail near the tidal lagoon, visitors will see pairs of Swallow-tailed Gulls, Lava Gulls, Yellow-crowned and Lava Herons. The trail continues through Palo Santo trees, Opuntia cacti, and Saltbushes inhabited by Great Frigate birds and Red-footed Boobies. This is one of the few places in the islands where visitors are guaranteed to see Red-footed Boobies. It is estimated that more than 200,000 live in the trees and bushes of Genovesa. (Duration: 2.5 hour walk). Overnight aboard the ship. (B,L,D)
Day 10 (Wed): Dragon Hill (Santa Cruz)-Santa Fe.
Dragon Hill (dry landing). Walk by a brackish lagoon to see flamingos. The trail leads across typical dry zone vegetation. Keeping up until Dragon Hill, see an important nesting ground for endemic land iguanas, offering lovely views of the anchored boats and neighboring islands. The forest is home to mockingbirds, Darwin’s finches, yellow warblers, and Galapagos doves. (Duration: 2 hour walk).
Santa Fe (wet landing). Santa Fe shows white sand beaches surrounded by sea lion colonies; through the island path, an endemic cactus forest is passed, home of the Santa Fe land iguanas (the largest in the islands). This island is also the habitat for a number of species, including the Galapagos hawk, Galapagos snakes, rice rats (one of the few endemic Galapagos rodents), a variety of finches and one of the four mockingbird species of the archipelago. (Duration: 1.5 hour walk/one hour deep water snorkeling). Overnight aboard the ship. (B,L,D)
Day 11 (Thu): Mosquera Islet-Baltra Airport-Quito.
Mosquera Islet (wet landing). This flat, sandy island is located between North Seymour and Baltra Island, and has a large colony of sea lions. It is also an excellent site to observe shorebirds such as herons and lava gulls. There is no trail on the islet and visitors can enjoy the open area. Most of the islet is covered with sand and barren lava rock. Very little sesuvium portulacastrum plants grow on the sand. (Duration: 1.5 hour walk and snorkeling).
After the visit, passengers will be transferred to Baltra Airport for their return flight to Quito. Upon arrival, you will be transferred to your hotel. Overnight in Quito. (B)
Day 12 (Fri): Quito.
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||$4,139||n/a|
- The above prices are valid until December 10, 2020.
- Minimum of two passengers required for this tour.
- Hotel upgrades are available upon request.
Alternating Monday 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.
- Domestic airfare ($475).
- Fuel surcharge for the ship ($50).
- 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 Galapagos Traveler Conservation Fund: South American Vacations is an active member of IGTOA (International Galapagos Tour Operators Association). In support of IGTOA’s Galapagos Traveler Conservation Fund, 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.
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