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Quito + Avenue of Volcanoes + Galapagos (on land)


EYB13Q
13 NIGHTS
FROM £3,994
International flights quoted separately
Combine Quito & a hotel on the Galapagos Islands, with this weekly escorted tour through the dramatic Avenue of the Volcanoes, that runs in a parallel chain southwards from Quito to Riobamba, including riding the train down the amazing 'Devils Nose'. All transfers, marine fees & specified sightseeing with English guides included. Diving options available on request.
Photo Santa Cruz Island Tours Galapagos Finch Bay Hotels Ecuador
• 
Quito
• 
Centre of World Monument
• 
Avenue of Volcanoes
• 
Devils Nose Train
• 
Cuenca
• 
Guayaquil
• 
Santa Cruz, Galapagos
• 
North Seymour Island
• 
Giant Tortoises
• 
Charles Darwin Centre
• 
Quito
• 
Centre of World Monument
• 
Avenue of Volcanoes
• 
Devils Nose Train
• 
Cuenca
• 
Guayaquil
• 
Santa Cruz, Galapagos
• 
North Seymour Island
• 
Giant Tortoises
• 
Charles Darwin Centre
Day 1
You will be met at Quito Airport and transferred to your hotel in this historic Spanish colonial city that straddles the equator and is today a World Heritage Site.
 
Check in and relax in this capital city in the Andean Highlands, with its many museums, monasteries and churches with golden altars. The prosperous centre of the Kingdom of Quitus during the 13th century, and later the northern capital of the Inca Empire, it has a setting that few cities in the world can match.
Day 2
This morning we visit the equatorial monument that marks the Centre of the World at latitude 0º - about 16 miles (25 km) north of Quito. Here you can stand with a foot on each hemisphere and visit the Intiñan folk museum that showcases the different Native American groups living in Ecuador, their culture and traditions. There is also a colonial-style tourist village complete with main square, church, post office, bull ring and gift shops.
 
Afterwards enjoy a walking tour through the streets and main square of the historic Colonial Quarter, the largest and best preserved in South America. Take in its magnificent colonial architecture - including the Cathedral, President's Palace, Archbishop's Palace and the Municipal Building flanking Independence Plaza. You will see many mansions, monasteries and churches, and visit the Church & Convent of Santo Domingo. The city also has many cosmopolitan galleries and boutiques filled with contemporary paintings, sculptures and exquisite traditional crafts.
 
Please note: Quito walking tour is conducted at an altitude of 2,800 m and includes climbing stairs. As you will be visiting churches (except on Sundays, when this is not permitted), do not wear shorts or mini-skirts as these are not allowed.
Day 3
Our small group tour departs from Quito this morning, as we head south through the magnificent Avenue of the Volcanoes and travel 2.5-hours to Patate.
 
The Avenue of the Volcanoes is formed by two parallel chains of the Andes Mountains that travel the length of Ecuador, rising to dramatic peaks. Eight of the highest mountains in the country are found in this spectacular region, as well as several dramatic volcanoes. The snow-capped Cotopaxi Volcano dominates the landscape and on clear days offers a magnificent backdrop. It is an almost perfect cone rising to 19,347 ft (5,897 m), making it the highest active volcano in the world.
 
We travel through the evergreen landscapes of these high altitude moorlands (altiplano) and valleys patchworked with multicolored fields. After an included lunch at a local hacienda, you can mingle with the llamas or stroll through the rose plantations. Ecuador is world-famous for its rose exports.
 
We then descend to the town of Patate, to spend the night at a 300-year old hacienda hidden in the mountains, where the afternoon mists descend. Check in for dinner and overnight.
Day 4
This morning we travel the spectacular route along the gorge of the Pastaza River to the town of Baños (meaning 'Baths'), situated at the foot of Tungurahua Volcano. This is the source of the hot thermal springs that give this town its name.  
 
We drive along the Route of the Cascades to the Devil's Cauldron (El Pailón del Diablo), where you can appreciate the sound and force of this waterfall from a lookout point. If you are adventurous, you can descend to see the cascades up close, surrounded by tropical foliage and orchids. After lunch at a local hacienda enjoy a short stroll in Baños, where the Sanctuary of the Virgin of Holy Water is a local pilgrimage site.
 
From here the route to Riobamba ascends through cloud-filled mountains and high paramo (alpine tundra), where vicuñas graze and scamper. The imposing Chimborazo Volcano, the highest mountain in Ecuador, is found here. On a clear day, seeing Chimborazo Volcano outlined against an amazing sunset is spectacular.
 
We continue to Riobamba, a small town surrounded by five volcanoes and known as the "Sultan of the Andes", where we check in for dinner and overnight.
Day 5
This morning we depart early and travel 2-hours to the small town of Alausí.
 
Here we board a restored 100-year old train, in a tourism initiative designed to involve the local Indian communities. The highlight is the thrilling 2,630 ft  (800 m) descent of the Devil’s Nose, via a series of zigzag switchbacks cut into the rock. At the bottom is the newly renovated Sibambe Station, where we visit the local Puñuna Condor museum run by the Nizag community, with its display of local handcrafts, fruit and medicinal plants. The train whistle will call you back on board for the return journey to Alausí Station.
 
We continue driving south passing through stunning Andean landscapes, before reaching the Inca Fortress of Ingapirca - the largest known Inca ruins in Ecuador. Lunch is served in the area.
 
After exploring the ruins, we drive 2-hours to the beautiful colonial city of Cuenca.
Day 6
Cuenca is the third largest city in Ecuador, yet retains a pleasant provincial air with its red-tiled roofs, cobblestone streets, flowery plazas and museums. The centre of the city is a World Heritage site.
 
This morning enjoy a tour of this beautiful colonial city, including the Plaza of San Sebastian - a colourful artisans’ market where handicrafts are sold.  We also visit the Museum of Modern Art and the Flower Market at the small plaza in front of the carved stone entrance to the church of El Carmen de la Asunción. From here it is a short stroll to the main square, surrounded by the imposing blue-domed Cathedral, the Court of Justice, the Municipal Palace, the Governor’s Palace and the Church of El Sagrario.
 
We then drive along the Tomebamba River to admire the riverbank houses of this city. Enjoy lunch at one of the excellent restaurants in Cuenca, followed by a visit to a ceramics handcraft shop and a Panama Hat factory, to observe the process of making these famous hats of high-quality toquilla straw.
 
Afterwards you will be dropped off at your hotel in Cuenca at the end of your tour.
Day 7
At leisure to independently explore the old colonial city of Cuenca.
Day 8
Today we travel 4-hours from Cuenca to the port city of Guayaquil.
 
Along the way we stop at El Cajas National Park, a protected area starting at 10,000 ft (3,000 m) above sea level. This tranquil region, with its stunning landscapes, shows the remains of intense volcanic activity and glaciation. Although the wind and drizzle can make it very cold, the scenery surrounding these 235 lakes is splendid for walking and observing flora, fauna and bird life. The cold lakes are full of trout and the dwarf forests of quinua trees (a high protein grain) are home to many species of birds, including hummingbirds and gray-breasted mountain toucan. The highest point is reached at Three Crosses watershed, from where rivers flow into either the Pacific or the Atlantic Ocean. A jacket and good walking shoes are essential today to explore this region.
 
We continue downhill to tropical Guayaquil on the Pacific Coast. Here the vibe is Caribbean, in marked contrast to the Andean region. Check into your hotel in this important port, that is the largest city in Ecuador.
Day 9
This morning enjoy a half day tour of the cosmopolitan port of Guayaquil, the largest city in Ecuador. This prosperous city has a rich historical background, wonderful museums and a modern shopping district with many good restaurants.
 
You will see the splendid Moorish Clock Tower and La Rotonda, a historical monument on the waterfront walkway. Santo Domingo church, built by Dominican friars, is the oldest in the city. Also view the Las Peñas neighbourhood, the artistic centre of the city, and beautiful Guayaquil Historical Park on the waterfront walkway, which is a haven for wildlife, history and architecture.
 
Afternoon is at leisure to relax or explore more of the city on your own.
Day 10
This morning transfer to Guayaquil Airport for your flight to the spectacular Galapagos Islands.
 
You will be met at Baltra Airport on this magnificent archipelago, is situated on the equator in the Pacific Ocean some 560 miles (900 km) west of the Ecuador mainland. Its volcanic islands are famous for their vast number of endemic species, studied by Charles Darwin during his historic voyage on the Beagle, which contributed to his Theory of Evolution. In this astonishing marine reserve, the unique wildlife does not seem perturbed by human visitors - allowing for extremely close-up encounters.
 
Upon arrival, transfer to your yacht and enjoy lunch onboard as we sail to North Seymour Island. This island was lifted from the ocean floor by a seismic event, and its origins as a seabed accounts for its low flat profile. Cliffs only a few meters high form the shoreline, with swallow-tailed gulls sitting among the rocks and ledges. A tiny forest of silver-grey Palo Santo trees stand just above the landing, usually without leaves, waiting for the rains to burst into bloom.
 
North Seymour Island is teaming with life. You might have to give way to a passing sea lion or marine iguana; blue-footed boobys nest beside the trail and mating pairs perform their courtship dance. Further along the rocky shore, large flocks of pelicans mass for a dive-bomb feeding frenzy. The trail then turns inland to reveal the largest nesting site in the Galapagos of the magnificent frigate bird. These huge dark acrobats have 2m (6 ft) wingspans. The males, with puffed up scarlet throat sacks, perch in low bushes as they watch over their large chicks. This is a walking excursion, involving a dry landing on uneven rocky terrain.
 
After our visit, the yacht sails to the Itabaca channel, where we disembark and travel by road across the highlands of Santa Cruz Island to Puerto Ayora, the largest town in the Galápagos. Here we board a panga boat for the short ride to our hotel. Check in and enjoy the swimming and bar, as well as the magnificent white coral beach out front.
Day 11
Today we travel to the highlands of Santa Cruz Island, where we visit the Manzanillo Tortoise Reserve. Here you can see giant tortoises in their natural habitat - a once in a lifetime experience.
 
Manzanillo is on the annual tortoise migration path, as these huge animals move slowly to higher moist ground during the dry season (June-September) then descend again to the warmer lowlands during the wet season. Giant tortoises can be seen grazing here on the vegetation and wallowing in muddy banks or in small red-coloured ponds. The surrounding area is teeming with bird life - including chirping small-tree, large-tree and woodpecker finches, mockingbirds and flycatchers, as well as ducks, herons and gallinules. Make sure you wear suitable outdoor clothing and sturdy footwear.
 
After an included lunch served in the highlands, with stunning views over Santa Cruz Island, we visit a small farm where coffee, sugar cane and cocoa beans are grown and harvested – all in an organic and sustainable way. We can taste the products and learn about the island spirits. Balance of afternoon is free to relax at your hotel.
Day 12
We explore Santa Fe Island today with its beautiful sheltered coves and turquoise lagoon, protected by a peninsula of tiny islets, that provide an ideal anchorage. This island lies to the southeast of Santa Cruz, within sight of Puerto Ayora.
 
Like North Seymour Island, Santa Fe was uplifted from the ocean floor and you can see where underwater lava once cooled off. A wet landing on a sandy white beach will take us close to one of the many sea lion harems, with bulls vying for dominance. We will also see a large species of land iguana native to this island. Chocolate brown in color, with dragon-like spines, these huge iguanas resemble pre-historic dinosaurs. Galápagos hawks are often seen perched on salt bushes, as well as indigenous species of rice rat and the harmless Galápagos snake. You can also see the giant prickly pear cactus, with huge tree-sized trunks.
 
After your nature walk, enjoy swimming in the calm waters of the bay and snorkelling among the marine life.
Day 13
Only a short distance from Academy Bay and the bustle of Puerto Ayora, we discover the quiet and wildlife-rich Divine Bay that provides a wonderful natural shelter. Named after one of the islands first settlers, this cove is protected from ocean swells by natural volcanic reefs on one side, a gallery of mangrove trees on the other side, and ancient cliffs created by the uplift of the lava plateau.  
 
Every morning hundreds of herons cross Divine Bay on their daily foraging trips, returning before sunset to perch on the trees. Noddy terns use the natural burrows in the cliffs for nesting, while Galápagos brown pelicans prefer the evergreen mangroves, under the watchful eyes of blue footed boobies perched along the cliffs. Beneath the sea sea turtles graze on sea weed, hundreds of species of reef fish swim in the lava crevices and young reef sharks and rays hide from large predators in the brackish streams.
 
We explore this lovely cove by boat or, if you are more adventurous, by tandem kayak straight from the hotel’s beach. You can also snorkel in a calm section of the cove. We also explore Punta Estrada, where a dry landing and short walk will take us to a small beach called 'Playa de los Perros' (or Dog Beach) on the south shore of the island. This is a great place to see marine iguanas and their nesting sites. Nearby there is a natural terrace, from where young white tipped reef sharks can be observed as they swim in the lava crevices.  
 
We return to our hotel for lunch and to freshen up, before visiting the Charles Darwin Research Station in the afternoon. Accompanied by a guide, stroll through the grounds of the research station with its famous giant tortoise breeding programme that includes celebrities such as Diego (now the world’s most famous giant tortoise, following the death of Lonesome George in 2013). Land iguanas are also a highlight, with the opportunity to learn more about their conservation.
Day 14
This morning we visit the Twin Pit Craters, a great geological depressions of volcanic material formed by a long process of slow sinking of the ground. Here you can see exceptional Scalesia trees, ferns, mosses and orchids.
 
Continue to Baltra Airport for your flight to Quito and onward flight home.

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