Otavalo, Chaski Route Train, and 5 Day Galapagos Legend Cruise
10 Days/9 Nights
From $3,969 per person
(Dbl. Occupancy, Not Incl. Airfare)
This popular tour begins in Quito, the first city to be included on UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritage list due to its art and architecture. It includes an overnight at the indigenous Magdalena Karanki Community, an excursion to Otavalo, South America’s largest and most famous indigenous market, and a ride on the Chaski Route train from Ibarra to Salinas. The last part of the tour is a five day Galapagos Islands cruise aboard the Galapagos Legend.
Lodging, Meals, and Airfare: This tour includes accommodations for 9 nights (4 nights in Quito, 1 night at the Magdalena Karanki Community, and 4 nights aboard the Galapagos Legend), 19 meals (9 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.
Day 1 (Sun): 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 (Mon): 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 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)
Day 3 (Tue): Quito-Peguchi-Cotacachi-Magdalena Karanki Community.
Today you depart Quito to the northern highlands of Ecuador, featuring stunning views of Guayllabamba and Pisque valleys. You will have a unique “in situ” opportunity to learn about the formation of the Andes Cordilleras. There will be a photo stop for the snowcapped Cayambe volcano, and you will drive through rose farms and a quilt patched country side with corn, potatoes, quinoa and broad bean fields before arriving in the province of Imbabura, the “lake province of Ecuador”.
You will visit the village of Peguche, which is known for its Otavalo weavers, who continue to work with their traditional and Spanish introduced looms. Sheep´s wool is mainly used in the making of wall hangings, ponchos, sweaters and more. A family that handcrafts wind instruments will demonstrate how they are made and perform native music.
Cotacachi, is a small town at the foot of a volcano of the same name. The kindness of its people, the temperate weather and the artistic abilities of its inhabitants, have made of this small town a retirement retreat for many foreign nationals. The “trade mark” of Cotacachi is the manufacture of leather goods: jackets, bags, belts, wallets and much more. Quality and reasonable prices are on the “menu” of this industrious destination!
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. An authentic Andean home-cooked dinner will be served. Overnight at the Magdalena Karanki Community. (B,D)
Day 4 (Wed): Magdalena Karanki Community-Otavalo Market-Chaski Route Train-Quito.
The Otavalo market is one of the best known markets in South America. It dates back to pre-Inca times when indigenous people would arrive from all over Ecuador to trade or sell their goods. You can shop for textiles, jewelry, musical instruments, leather goods, and hand-painted platters and trays, and experience a mix of traditional and modern Ecuadorian culture.
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. Overnight at Hotel Quito in Quito. (B,L)
Day 5 (Thu): Quito-Baltra Airport-Bachas Beach (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.
Bachas Beach (wet landing). On the north side of Santa Cruz; behind the beach lies two small flamingo ponds where iguanas sunbathe, see coastal birds, Darwin finches, mockingbirds, and gulls, as well as interesting native vegetation like red and black mangrove, and salt bushes. This beach is one of the main sea turtles nesting sites in the Galapagos. A turtle can lay eggs 3 or 4 times per season with an average of 70 eggs each time. At this paradisiacal site, you will also find the remains of barges that sank a long time ago, when the United States Navy operated a base during World War II on Baltra Island. Local people modified the word barges to “Bachas”. (Duration: one hour walk / one hour snorkeling/beach time). Overnight aboard the ship. (B,L,D)
Day 6 (Fri): Egas Port (Santiago)-Rabida.
Egas Port (wet landing). Egas Port is a black volcanic sand beach, visited by Darwin in 1835. The first section of the trail is formed of volcanic ash (eroded tuff) and the other half is an uneven terrain of volcanic basaltic rock. The unique, truly striking layered terrain of Santiago shore is home to a variety of animals including the bizarre yellow-crowned night heron and marine wildlife including lobster, starfish and marine iguanas grazing on algae beds alongside Sally light-foot crabs. It is easy to see colonies of endemic fur seals swimming in cool water volcanic rock pools. (Duration: 1.5 hour walk/one hour snorkeling).
Rabida Island (wet landing). Dark-red sand covers the unique beaches of this island, home to sea lion colonies; Rabida is considered the epicenter of the Galapagos Islands due to the diversity of its volcanic geology. Nesting brown pelicans are found from July through September plus nine species of the famous Darwin’s finches. Here a dinghy ride along marine cliffs is done, to observe nesting seabirds. Snorkel off the coast, where marine life is particularly active. (Duration: 1.5 hour walk/one hour snorkeling/one hour dinghy ride). Overnight aboard the ship. (B,L,D)
Day 7 (Sat): Urbina Bay-Tagus Cove (Isabela).
Urbina Bay (wet landing). Volcanic black beach, depending on the season, it is possible to find giant tortoises, land iguanas, and the unusual flightless cormorant. After a short walk inland it´s snorkeling time, a chance to swim with sea turtles, sea lions, and countless tropical fish. Urbina Bay features a wide variety of plants with the different range of colors in flowers, attracting different insects, birds, and reptiles. One of the highlights of the island is the uplifted coral reef that resulted from the 1954 seismic activity; here the views of Alcedo Volcano are remarkable. When navigating from Urbina to Tagus Cove whale watching is possible from May to December. (Duration: 1.5 hour walk/one hour snorkeling).
Tagus Cove. Dry landing on Galapagos’ largest island where you will learn about the eruption of the five volcanoes that form it. The trail leads to Darwin’s salt-water crater-lake and excellent views of lava fields and volcanic formations. You will return by the same path for a dinghy ride along a shoreline full of marine wildlife, where you will admire a variety of seabirds, such as Blue-footed Booby, Brown Noddy, terns, Flightless Cormorant and depending on the season, a large number of Galapagos Penguins which are only 35 cm tall; the only penguin species in the world to live in the tropics.
The population of penguins on the islands is about 2,000 individuals, most of which live on this western portion of Isabela; others are scattered further south. You will have an opportunity to snorkel in deep water. Graffiti believed to have been left by 19th-century pirates is a curious reminder of an intriguing past. (Duration: 2 hour walk/40-minute dinghy ride/one hour deep water snorkeling). Overnight aboard the ship. (B,L,D)
Day 8 (Sun): Espinosa Point (Fernandina)-Vicente Roca Point (Isabela).
Espinosa Point (dry landing). From Espinosa Point, it is possible to admire a wide view of Isabela Island across the Bolivar Channel. This area boasts some of the highest diversity of endemic sea fauna in the Galapagos. Here, the largest, most primitive-looking marine iguanas are found mingling with sea lions and Sally Lightfoot crabs. Fernandina offers a wonderful opportunity to encounter flightless cormorants at their nesting sites, Galapagos penguins and the “King” of predators on the islands, the Galapagos hawk. Pa-hoe-hoe and AA lava formations cover the majority of Fernandina terrain. Vegetation is scarce inland, with few brachycereus cacti and in the shore mangrove can be found. (Duration: 1.5 hour walk/one hour snorkeling).
Vicente Roca Point. Experience great deep-water snorkeling at one of the richest marine havens on Earth, the Bolivar Channel. Accessible by water, you take a dinghy ride along the coast to observe a great diversity of sea and coastal birds; Nazca and blue-footed boobies, noddies, brown pelicans, penguins, and flightless cormorants. The upwelling of cold water currents in this part of the Galapagos gives rise to an abundance of marine life, a perfect place for deep snorkeling. (Duration: one hour snorkeling/one hour dinghy ride). Overnight aboard the ship. (B,L,D)
Day 9 (Mon): Highlands Tortoise Reserve (Santa Cruz)-Baltra Airport-Quito.
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).
After the visit, you will be transferred to Baltra Airport for your return flight to Quito. You will be greeted and then transferred to your hotel. Overnight in Quito. (B)
Day 10 (Tue): 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||$3,969||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 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.
- 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, Magdalena Karanki Community is 10,170 feet, Otavalo is 8,399 feet, Ibarra is 7,231 feet, and Salinas is 5,282 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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