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Grand Ecuador, including Amazon + Galapagos Cruise


EPC16Q
16 NIGHTS
FROM £5,995
International flights quoted separately
Explore Ecuador in depth on this amazing holiday. Travel by boat into the rainforests of Yasuni National Park, deep in the Amazon, and explore the landscapes and cultures of the Avenue of the Volcanoes & Cuenca with your own private guide. Complete your holiday with an expedition cruise in the marine-rich Galapagos Islands. Galapagos flights, all transfers & marine fees included.
Photo Grand Tour Ecuador Amazon Galapagos Quito Cuenca Yasuni
• 
Quito
• 
Yasuni National Park
• 
Amazon Rainforest
• 
Avenue of Volcanoes
• 
Cotapaxi National Park
• 
Devils Nose Train
• 
Cuenca
• 
Expedition Cruise
• 
Galapagos Islands
• 
Quito
• 
Yasuni National Park
• 
Amazon Rainforest
• 
Avenue of Volcanoes
• 
Cotapaxi National Park
• 
Devils Nose Train
• 
Cuenca
• 
Expedition Cruise
• 
Galapagos Islands
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
This morning transfer to Quito Airport for your light aircraft flight across the Andes to Coca (Puerto Francisco de Orellana) - the gateway to the Amazon.
 
You will be met at Coca Airport and transferred to the Napo River for your 2-hour motorised canoe ride deep into the Amazon Basin - the world's largest body of fresh water, with lunch box provided. Along the way you will see an active volcano and many birds, including herons and kingfishers.
 
At the Napo Wildlife Centre dock we disembark and transfer into a dug-out canoe, paddling peacefully for 1 to 2-hours along a narrow creek, with trees overhead. Here there should be excellent opportunities to spot monkeys, as well as large birds such as toucans, parrots and macaws. In the late afternoon we disembark and walk 30-minutes to our Amazon lodge, overlooking beautiful Añangu Lake.
 
After dinner, there is the option of a boat ride on the lake to search for a caiman (a type of small alligator).
 
Note: There are no Amazon transfers on a Sunday.
Day 4
Explore the birds and wildlife of the amazing Amazon Basin today - a 2,7-million sq.mile (6.7 million sq.km) conservation area that is the largest in the world, spreading across eight countries - Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela.
 
We rise early and walk 1-hour to a Parrot Clay Lick, where most activity happens between 07.30 and 08.30. Up to 11 different species of parrots, parakeets and macaws may be seen feeding on the rich minerals in the soil, although their activity is weather dependant.
 
Later on we walk with our naturalist guide along the trails that wind through the rainforest and visit the Kichwa Añangu community to learn about their ancestral customs and every-day life.  We then continue to a second clay lick, with lunch box provided.
 
As you walk through these woods and waterfalls, you can marvel at the magnificent trees and the extraordinary variety of orchids, bromeliads, ferns, begonias, lichens and mosses that grow here. You may see caimans, turtles, woolly monkeys, tufted brown capuchin monkeys, a variety of frogs and many other reptiles and insects. You may also be fortunate enough to see some of the colourful birds of the rainforest such as the brilliant golden-headed quetzal, grey-breasted mountain toucan, blue-crowned motmot, umbrella bird, blue-banded toucanet, fruit-eating tanager, red-crested cotinga, banded-tail fruit-eater and a variety of flycatchers.  We return to our lodge in the late afternoon.
 
Note: Daily programme is subject to change, according to the weather and your interests. A headlamp is recommended in the Amazon.
Day 5
After an early breakfast, we walk 30-minutes to climb a 36 m Canopy Tower on the Napo River, with amazing views of the jungle. As you ascend the 12-floor tower, you will pass through different levels of the forest and emerge on top of a huge Ceiba tree. Here you cross onto a wooden platform that is built into the tree, to experience views normally reserved only for the birds. Flocks of colorful tanagers may pass right through the treetop canopy, blue-and yellow macaws fly past and spider monkeys searching for fruit. Two species of large toucans can be seen calling in the early mornings and afternoons and birds that are virtually impossible to see from the forest floor are suddenly right beside you, oblivious to your presence.
 
Return to the lodge for lunch and in the afternoon we hike along trails in the primary forests of Yasuni National Park looking for lizards, colorful manakins and endemic Golden Mantle Tamarin monkeys. We also explore the black water Añangu Lake by dugout canoe, travelling along streams that are home to different species of fish and mammals such as the giant otter.
 
Note: Daily programme is subject to change, according to the weather and your interests. A headlamp is recommended in the Amazon.
Day 6
As you depart from the Amazon Basin by canoe this morning, there is the final opportunity to search for giant otters, monk saki monkeys and birds along the Napo River.
 
Then enjoy your 2-hour motorised boat transfer to Coca for your flight Quito Airport, where you will be met and transferred to your hotel.
 
Note: There are no Amazon transfers on Sundays.
Day 7
We depart from Quito this morning and head south through the magnificent Avenue of the Volcanoes, travelling 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.
 
After visiting Cotopaxi National Park, we travel through the evergreen landscapes of these altiplano (high altitude moorlands) and valleys, patchworked with multicolored fields. Here you can see llamas and admire 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 8
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 (own account) 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 9
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 through stunning Andean landscapes, before reaching the Inca archaeological complex at Ingapirca - the best preserved pre-Colombian ruins in all of Ecuador. Built on a promontory high above the Cañar valley, this ancient Inca stone fortress has several trapezoidal doorways and stone walls that fit perfectly together, without the use of any mortar. A large elliptical platform, known as the Temple of the Sun, was once used for religious and astronomical purposes. You can view the barracks, the stone Inca Face and various carvings of gods with animal forms. There is also a small on-site museum.
 
After exploring the ruins, we drive 2-hours to the beautiful colonial city of Cuenca.
Day 10
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 city, including the Plaza of San Sebastian - a colourful artisans’ market where handicrafts are sold, including Ecuador's famous Panama hats. We visit the Museum of Modern Art, originally a House of Temperance where alcoholics were imprisoned behind these thick walls in an effort to cure them.  
 
Our next stop is at Plaza San Francisco, where small handcraft shops can be visited and the exquisitely embroidered skirts of the local Cholas Cuencanas can be purchased. We also visit the Flower Market, situated on a 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.
 
After visiting the multi-layered ruins at Todos Santos, your tour ends with a drive along the Tomebamba River to admire the city’s overhanging houses, with washing spread out to dry on the river banks, and the great views from Turi Hill. Your afternoon is at leisure to explore Cuenca independently.
Day 11
Today we travel 4-hours from Cuenca to the port city of Guayaquil, with boxed lunch included.
 
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 quinoa 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 12
Transfer to Guayquil Airport for your flight to the spectacular Galapagos Islands.
 
You will be met at Baltra Airport and transferred by bus to the boarding jetty. Here you will embark by panga boat (zodiac) on your Expedition Cruise through this magnificent archipelago, situated on the equator in the Pacific Ocean some 560 miles (900 km) west of the Ecuador mainland.
  
These 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 by natural selection. Check in and relax in this astonishing marine reserve, where the unique wildlife does not seem perturbed by human visitors - allowing for extremely close-up encounters.
 
Please note that you need to be relatively mobile to enjoy an expedition cruise in the Galapagos, as you will be embarking and disembarking by panga boat (zodiac). All sightseeing with a naturalist guide, marine fees, snorkelling and medical care aboard the boat are included, but not the cost of medicines. Wetsuits are available for hire. Children < 6 years are not allowed on an expedition cruise.
Days 13 To 15
Enjoy cruising through the marine-rich waters of the world-famous Galapagos Islands, with shore excursions each day with a naturalist.
 
Your exact routing will depend on your departure date and the vessel you have selected.
Day 16
Disembark from your Expedition Cruise and transfer to Baltra Airport for your flight to Guayaquil.
 
You will be met at Guayaquil Airport and transferred to your hotel in this important port, that is the largest city in Ecuador. Here the vibe is Caribbean, in marked contrast to the Andean region.
Day 17
Transfer by shuttle to Guayaquil Airport for your flight home.

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