Arrive in Quito. You will be met at the airport and transferred to your city hotel. Relax after your flight. The old part of the city is still very much as it was at the end of the colonial period, but entering the new city you find a very modern place with few relics from the past.
In the morning you have a guided tour of the city. Quito is a city of two halves - old and new - with each having its attractions, and it is home to 1½ million people. Quito is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, and so modern building is now strictly controlled. The afternoon is free for further exploration or relaxation. Perhaps do some shopping in the excellent craft and art shops in the new town?
Quito To Cotopaxi
Today you depart Quito and head south to Cotopaxi with your driver/guide. You will arrive at Tambopaxi lodge for lunch. At 5897m, Cotopaxi is the highest active volcano in the world and the views you get during your lunch are simply outstanding! In the afternoon you can explore the park by car and also by foot, perhaps going to Limpiopungo Lake, maybe taking a short hike, but really it's up to you what you fancy doing. Tonight you stay at a small hacienda called Santa Ana which is near Cotopaxi.
Cotopaxi To Banos
This morning you travel from Cotopaxi to Banos with your driver/guide which will take about 2 hours. You have the option of a free morning in Cotopaxi, or you can stop en route at local villages. On arrival check into your hacienda and maybe take a stroll around the lovely gardens.
Today you have a full day in Banos with your guide to advise you on the attractions and activities. You can take a walk around the colonial town, visit hot springs and waterfalls and explore the are by bike, as you wish. It's a lovely area!
Banos To Cuenca
An early start as you drive to Alausi with your driver/guide. Here you board the famous Devil's Nose train. The Devil's Nose is a near vertical nub of rock 100 miles from Guayaquil, on the railway linking the port to Quito. An ingenious series of switchbacks was laid to climb the cliff face, requiring the train to travel both forward and backward as it ascends. After your thrilling ride, visit the Inca ruins at Ingapirca before reaching your hotel in Cuenca. Relax after your long day.
In the morning you have a guided tour of Cuenca. Founded in 1557, Cuenca is one of Ecuador's most beautiful cities. With its cobblestone streets, whitewashed buildings and huge cathedral, it has preserved its old-world architectural charm and colonial period atmosphere. UNESCO recently named it a World Heritage Trust site. The afternoon is free for relaxation or further exploration.
Cuenca To Guayaquil
Today you travel to Guayaquil with your driver/guide, stopping at Cajas National Park on the way for a picnic lunch and time to admire the craggy mountains and beautiful valleys. Guayaquil is a busy port town and its airport is one of the major gateways to the Galapagos Island.
Guayaquil To Galapagos
You will be taken to the airport for your flight to Baltra in the Galapagos Islands. You are met on arrival and transferred to the Beluga, your home for the next 8 days. Your Galapagos wildlife adventure starts this afternoon with a visit to Cerro Dragon on Santa Cruz island. The super-salty lagoon here is home to flamingoes, pintail ducks and other birds, and not far away is a big colony of land iguanas.
Santa Fe & South Plaza
Today we visit Santa Fe and South Plaza. Try some snorkelling or swimming with sealions in Santa Fe's cove with its white sandy beach and turquoise waters. Giant prickly pear cactus plants are common here, and there is good variety of birdlife. South Plaza is like a massive tilted plate with one side dipping into the water. Red-billed tropic birds, sealions and swallow-tailed gulls love it here!
Visit Punta Pitt and Isla Lobos on San Cristobal. Here we will find frigatebirds, boobies, finches, sealions and pelicans. Punta Pitt is the eastern-most point in the Galapagos. It is unique in being the only place in the Galapagos where you can find all three types of booby - blue-footed, red-footed and masked - as well as the frigatebirds.
Today we are at Espanola, the most southerly island in the archipelago, and a particularly interesting island. This is the only place where the marine iguanas change colour during the breeding season, the only place you find the hood mockingbird, and most notably it's where the waved albatrosses come to nest. Come here between about May and December and you stand a good chance of seeing the albatross, and perhaps see their comical ritual mating dance! We visit the visitors sites of Gardner Bay and Punta Suarez, possibly one of the best sites in the Galapagos.
This morning we visit the Charles Darwin Centre on Santa Cruz. Here you can find out about the natural history and issues of the islands, and visit the tortoise breeding project. Later we explore the Highlands where you might see giant tortoises in the wild.
We move to Santiago today and visit either Espumilla or Tagus Cove and Sullivan Bay. Fur seal grottos, superb lava flows and tidal pools are all awaiting you depending on the sites you visit, as well as some great wildlife of course - lava lizards, Sally lightfoot crabs, herons, hawks, penguins ...
Having sailed quite far north, today we visit Darwin Bay and Prince Philips Steps on Genovesa Island. Genovesa is particularly known for the largest colony of red-footed boobies, but also has big colonies of frigatebirds plus masked boobies, lava gulls, many finches, herons, mockingbirds and more.
Galapagos To Quito
On the last day of your cruise you visit Black Turtle Cove in the morning. On the northern tip of Santa Cruz we hope to see white-tip reef sharks, sea turtles and rays. Then we head back to Baltra, where the cruise sadly ends. You will be transferred to the airport for your flight back to Quito and then on to your city hotel.
You will be transferred to Quito airport in time for your flight home.
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