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 5 Day Galapagos Legend Cruise
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 five day Galapagos Islands cruise aboard the Galapagos Legend.
Lodging, Meals, and Airfare: This tour includes accommodations for 12 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 4 nights aboard the Galapagos Legend), 22 meals (12 breakfasts, 5 lunches, and 5 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 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)
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 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)
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)
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)
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.
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)
Morning transfer to the airport in Quito for the flight to Galapagos. Passengers are picked up at the San Cristobal Airport by our guides and taken on a ten minute bus ride to the pier to board the M/V Galapagos Legend.
Interpretation Center. Dry landing in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the capital of the Galapagos Islands. You will visit the Interpretation Center, an excellent place to learn about islands’ history in the Museum of Natural History which displays information about the volcanic origins of the islands, their remoteness from the continent, ocean currents, climate, the arrival of the different species and their colonization, among other points of interest. The human history is also showcased, chronicling the most significant events related to the discovery and the island’s colonization. (Duration: one hour visit/one hour walk)
Tijeretas Hill involves a high-intensity walk amidst beautiful landscapes and a magnificent view at the foot of a frigate bird nesting colony. (Duration: one hour visit). Overnight aboard the ship. (B,L,D)
Gardner Bay, Gardner & Osborn islets. Wet landing on a beautiful white coral sandy beach guarded by a colony of sea lions. There are no trails, so you stay along the shore where you can spot Galapagos hawks, American Oystercatchers, Galapagos Ground Doves, Hood mockingbirds, Yellow Warblers, lava lizards, marine iguanas, and three species of Darwin’s finches: a subspecies of the Large Cactus Finch, which is similar to the large ground finch, the Small Ground Finch (Geospiza fuliginosa) and the Warbler Finch (Certhidea Olivacea), another endemic subspecies. Swimming and snorkeling offer the opportunity to see a great variety of the Galapagos’ marine wildlife: king angelfish, Creole fish, damsel fish, parrotfish, manta rays, and white-tipped reef sharks. (Duration: one hour walk/one hour snorkeling).
Suarez Point (dry landing). An island of geological interest, you will explore volcanic formations and a riveting wildlife: large sea lion colonies and seabirds including the Española mockingbird, Nazca Boobies, and the spectacular Red-billed Tropicbird. You will also encounter marine iguanas, lava lizards, and the colorful Sally Lightfoot Crabs.
A somewhat lengthy hike will bring you among Nazca and Blue-footed Boobies, right up to nesting grounds that sometimes overlap the trail. Other birding favorites include Galapagos Dove, Galapagos Hawk, Swallow-tailed Gulls and the world’s largest colony of Waved Albatross, an unequivocal highlight during mating season (May-December). Admire the island’s dramatic backdrop, featuring the famous “Soplador”, a seaward blowhole that shoots up water up to 23 m (75 ft.) in the air. (Duration: 2.5 hour walk). Overnight aboard the ship. (B,L,D)
Post Office Bay (wet landing). Located on the north side of Floreana, the bay was named because in 1793 Captain James Colnett installed a wooden barrel which served as an informal post office for sailors passing through, who would take letters with them back to their destinations. Today, visitors continue the tradition by placing unstamped postcards inside the barrel, hoping that some other traveler, going to the letter’s destination, will take it back for free. The chances are that the letter posted can take a long time to arrive at its destination. However, there have been cases where it has arrived before the sender.
You may also encounter Darwin’s finches, Yellow Warbler and Lava Lizards. There are great snorkeling opportunities with Green Pacific Sea Turtles. As well, the island is best known for its endemic vegetation: Scalesia villosa, Lecocarpus Pinnatifidus, and the Galapagos Milkwort. Snorkelers can practice on the main beach among playful sea lions. (Duration: 30 minute walk/one hour snorkeling).
Cormorant Point, Devil’s Crown, and Champion. Wet landing on an olivine green, sanded beach. You will hike from the black mangrove beds to a brackish lagoon, which usually holds one of the largest flamingo populations in the Galapagos. This island features some endemic plants such as Scalesia villosa, white and black mangrove, and holy stick. The trail continues to a beautiful white sandy beach, one of the most important nesting sites of Green Pacific Sea Turtles. It is important to avoid walking in the water due to the Sting Rays that may be hiding in the sand, which can be dangerous if accidentally stepped on. From the beach, one can spot sea turtles, blue-footed boobies plunging into the water, and small reef sharks floating along the shoreline in the search for food.
This coral-sand beach marks the end of our trail, and we head back to the olivine beach we landed on, to swim or snorkel among sea turtles, reef fish, sea lions and, on a good day, white-tipped reef sharks. A small colony of penguins resides on Floreana and can sometimes be observed as well. (Duration: one hour walk/one hour snorkeling). Overnight aboard the ship. (B,L,D)
Charles Darwin Research Station & Fausto Llerena Breeding Center (dry landing). You will visit the Station where the Galapagos giant tortoise breeding program takes place as part of the efforts to preserve the fragile Galapagos environment and where the famous Lonesome George (the last surviving specimen of his species) lived for decades. Admire a prickly-pear cactus forest and variety Darwin’s finches and other land birds. The Darwin Station also works providing environmental education to the communities, schools, and tourists visiting the Galapagos Islands. You will also have some free time to visit the town of Puerto Ayora and shop for souvenirs. (Duration: 1.5 hour visit)
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)
Carrion Point. This rocky cliff offers a great opportunity to further explore the marine biodiversity of the islands. You can snorkel among a variety of colorful fish, stingrays, and if lucky, the magnificent White tipped shark. (Duration: 2 hours snorkeling).
After the visit you will go to Baltra Airport for your return flight to Quito. Upon arrival, you will be transferred to your hotel. Overnight in Quito. (B)
B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner
Prices & Dates
Price per Person
|Standard Plus Cabin||n/a||$4,409||n/a|
- The above prices are valid until December 10, 2018.
- Minimum of two passengers required for this tour.
- Hotel upgrades are available upon request.
Alternating Thursday 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 ($449).
- 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.