A Journey to the Past of Ecuador & Galapagos

15D / 14N

Experience a luxury tour of Ecuador that will connect you with some of the country’s
most exciting sights, sounds, and experiences. This whirlwind adventure will take you
through the most picturesque parts of the country, from charming coastal towns to
lush Andean peaks.

Get up close and personal with Ecuador’s “Volcano Alley,” and meet local artisans in the vibrant town of Otavalo. Travel
to one of the world’s most coveted wildlife havens, the Galapagos Islands, cruising the archipelago while making new
friends with rare animal species. Discover the fascinating culture and history of this South American destination with
the ultimate luxury tour of Ecuador, an unforgettable way to travel to Ecuador.

BEST TIME TO TRAVEL
JUN - SEPT

IDEAL TRIP LENGTH
15 DAYS

Highlights

  • Step aboard the luxury Tren Crucero for your journey from the Pacific to the Andes.
  • Marvel at the series of majestic peaks of the Avenue of Volcanoes.
  • Mingle with local artisans and hunt for a bargain at Otavalo, the setting of South America’s oldest, largest, and most famous market.
  • Step into the UNESCO-recognized history of Ecuador’s rich colonial capital of Quito.
  • Hop between hemispheres at the Middle of the Earth Equator marker.
  • Relax with a luxury tour of the Galapagos Islands – where Charles Darwin’s revolutionary theory of evolution was born.
  • Observe remarkable wildlife such as dawdling giant tortoises, strutting blue-footed boobies, and plenty of other curious creatures.
  • Go in search of hidden treasures as you snorkel on pristine beaches.
  • Indulge in the comfort of boutique, sustainable accommodations, ranging from characteristic lodges to luxury hotels.

Itinerary

Welcome to Ecuador! An enriching adventure awaits in Quito.

Meet your Kuoda host upon arrival and head to your hotel where you can enjoy a restful evening before the excursions begin in the morning.

Guayaquil Private City Tour

After a delicious breakfast, discover the charm of Guayaquil, the gateway to the Galapagos. The city has been trans­formed over recent years with its newly restored historic neighborhood characterized by centuries-old houses and narrow lanes.

After wandering the colorful streets of Las Peñas, the city’s oldest district, you’ll be guided up 444 steps to the summit of Cerro Santa Ana for panoramic vistas of the city. There is a multitude of exciting activities you may want to include during your day tour. Visit a stately cathedral, explore Iguana Park, or visit the modern Malecon 2000 which hugs the Guayas River and is home to the towering Moorish Clock Tower! Wander the botanical gardens and Chamber of the Rotunda, a monument that marks the historic meeting between Simon Bolivar and José de San Martín in the 19th century.

All aboard Ecuador’s award-winning Tren Crucero

This morning after breakfast in your hotel, you will arrive at the Durán train station to begin your luxury South American train ride. Settle in and relax as the restored vintage locomotive pulls you through coastal plantations brimming with bananas, sugar cane, and rice. The Tren Crucero is part of a larger Ecuadorian project to promote sustainable development through railway tourism, and this revamped narrow-gauge line is helping to revitalize the small towns dotting the tracks.

Constructed between 1897 and 1908, this railway once formed the backbone of Ecuador, but unfortunately fell into disrepair and neglect in the 1990s. By boarding this train, you play a big role in the Ecuadorian railway renaissance aboard the Tren Crucero!

At the pueblo of Yaguachi, you’ll switch trains and continue onward to Naranjito, the “little orange pueblo.” After you disembark the Tren Crucero, savor an excursion to San Rafael Ranch. Here you’ll learn about local cacao production and the indigenous community of Shuar. In the evening, you’ll make your way to the charming lodging site for an evening spent at leisure.

Ride on the Devil’s Nose tracks aboard the Tren Crucero

Wake up and smell the cloud forest air while enjoying breakfast in your hotel before boarding the Tren Crucero at the Bucay station. Begin the day’s ride with a dramatic ascent into the Andes Mountains, riding along 34 miles of track and ascending over 9,600 feet. There will be a short stop at the Pistishi viewpoint, where you can gaze out over the astounding feat of engineering that is the Devil’s Nose. Known as one of the world’s most difficult railway construction projects, the Devil’s Nose took four years to complete in the early 1900s, and also took the lives of almost 4,000 impoverished workers. Climb aboard and begin your final ascent, zig-zagging directly up the mountainside, chugging onward to the quaint Andean village of Alausi. Disembark for an authentic lunch and cultural visit, but be sure to return in time to watch the change-over of the steam and diesel-electric engines at Colta.

Upon arrival to Riobamba, you’ll have time to visit an indigenous artisan market before going to a traditional hacienda for the night.

Day three aboard the Tren Crucero

This morning after breakfast you’ll take a short bus ride to the Urbina train station. Here, you’ll have the spectacular opportunity to meet Baltazar Uscha – Ecuador’s last traditional ice trader. As his father and grandfather did before him, Baltazar makes the daily trek with his donkeys to carry ice down from the glacier to sell to juice vendors in town.

Bid Baltazar and historical Urbina farewell as you climb onto Tren Crucero and begin your descent into Ecuador’s Avenue of the Volcanoes. If the weather favors you with clear skies, you’ll be able to glimpse up to 20 volcanoes that dot the Andean mountain range. One of today’s excursions will be to the foothills of the iconic Cotopaxi volcano, so lace up your walking shoes!

After your excursion along an Andean forest trail, you’ll reboard the Tren Crucero for the final journey leg toward Quito, Ecuador’s capital city and UNESCO World Heritage site. You’ll stay overnight in one of Ecuador’s most historic haciendas, constructed in 1580.

Final day aboard the Tren Crucero, visiting artisans in small communities

Begin your final day aboard the Tren Crucero with a ride across Ecuador’s northern valleys toward Otavalo. This will bring you to the front door of some of Ecuador’s finest artisan shops; the artists themselves have been practicing their craft for decades, and their families for generations before them.

First, in San Roque, you’ll be able to listen to traditional music and meet expert weavers. In Andrade Marín you’ll enjoy a delicious sampling of traditional food and visit the Imbabura cultural center and museum. Woodworkers will demonstrate their craft for you in San Antonio, and you’ll enjoy a traditional lunch at the Hacienda la Compañia before boarding the train to arrive in Quito. Bid farewell to your South American train journey and settle into historic Quito for the night – tomorrow your adventure continues!

Private tour of Quito

This morning, your guide will collect you from your hotel and bring you to Quito’s historic Old Town, where you’ll wander through the Main Plaza, visiting the Government Palace, the city’s main Cathedral, and some of the most important churches from the 16th and 17th centuries.

From here, you’ll continue northward toward the Equator Line. Archaeological evidence indicates that the equatorial line, known as “Mitad del Mundo” in Spanish, was recognized and worshipped by both Incan and pre-Incan civilizations. Take your turn standing on both the Northern and Southern hemispheres simultaneously! Upon conclusion of your tour, you’ll have the remainder of the afternoon to continue exploring Quito at your own pace.

Quito – Cayambe – Zuleta

After breakfast, you will head north along the Pan-American Highway making a brief stop in the town of Cayambe to visit a rose plantation and learn about the beautiful floral export of Ecuador. With over 300 varieties of roses growing here, there are plenty of amazing opportunities to see fields of this lovely floral species.

Next, you will head east until you reach the Hacienda Zuleta after an afternoon drive through lush highlands pastureland. On your way, peer out the window to enjoy breathtaking views of the snow-capped Cayam­be Volcano just a few miles away from Zuleta. After checking into your room, your Zuleta host will explain the activities offered at the Hacienda. Sip on a warm cup of afternoon tea or coffee with you together while discussing any of your personal preferences, needs, or questions.

Get situated with your accommodations with a tour of the property, learning more about Zuleta’s his­tory, the private library of Ecuador’s ex-Pres­ident Galo Plaza Lasso, and wandering through the beautiful gardens and chapel.
As the sun sets and cool air rolls into Zuleta, enjoy some wine and farm-made Ecuadorian cheese by the fireplace before taking a soothing, warm bath and resting for the night.

A day in a beautiful Andean reserve

After an exquisite breakfast of eggs, pancakes, muesli, fruit, and homemade bread, you will be able to visit the cheese factory. Here, you can learn more about Zuleta’s semi-aged, handmade Ecuadorian cheeses and how production has changed throughout history.

As mornings are usually sunny in this part of Ecuador, it is best to take advantage and use this time to take the Condor Tour, by hiking or biking to the condor reserve. You may even spot a wild condor flying by on your commute. The reserve is located 3 km from the guesthouse, in a native forest valley.

The route back takes us through pastureland where we pass between ancient pyramids of the Caranqui culture; seeing both small burial mounds dating back to 700 A.D., and giant ceremonial truncated ramp pyramids from the 13th century.

If you love horseback riding, make sure you take advantage of the hacienda’s stables. This is an activity offered at extra cost and can be booked in person upon arrival.

Fly to the Galapagos Islands and explore Santa Cruz: Dragon Hill

Today you will begin an unforgettable tour of the Galapagos Islands, one of the world’s most incredible natural spectacles. Early this morning we will escort you to the national airport in order to board your flight to the wondrous Galapagos Islands (approximately 2.5 hours). Upon landing, a member of your ship’s crew will then welcome and accompany you to your boat.

After a little downtime getting your sea legs, you will explore the northern coast of Santa Cruz Island and visit Dragon Hill, which is an excellent spot for observing lava lizards, Darwin finches, and wading birds. On the way to Dragon Hill, we will rest at a small lagoon that’s a popular feeding place for colorful birds and flamingos. Your first day in the Galapagos will culminate with a quiet night resting before the expedition truly begins.

Explore Kicker Rock, San Cristobal, and Lobos Island

Start the day as Charles Darwin once did, follow his exact route sailing around the massive tuff-rock called “Kicker Rock,” which is a nesting site for hosts of seabirds. Here, you will be able to find Blue-footed boobies, pelicans, and frigate birds. This is a great site for scuba diving, and spotting hammerhead sharks swimming beneath the surface. Later, we will make a wet landing on San Cristobal Island to visit Cerro Brujo, or “Wizard Hill”. This fascinating lava hill is located on the northeastern coast of San Cristobal Island and offers exceptional views of Kicker Rock and the southern part of San Cristobal. Wildlife darting around here include Blue-footed boo­bies, seagulls, Black-necked Stilts, Ruddy Turnstones, Whimbrels, other sandpiper species, White-cheeked pintails, and some pelicans. The protected bay is also popular among young sea turtles and rays, which makes swimming and snorkeling here particularly exciting.

In the afternoon, embark on a visit to Lobos Island, located across from San Cristobal Island. This is a seasonal nesting spot for Blue-footed boobies and Frigate birds. You also can enjoy swimming and snorkeling with sea lions in the island’s calm bay.

Journey to Española Island and Suarez Point

Your voyage today starts with Española Island, the southernmost, oldest, and one of the most bio-diverse islands of the Galapagos archipelago. Its English name is “Hood Island,” in honor of the British admiral Samuel Hood. Be­cause of its isolated position, there is tons of unique wildlife to be observed here. You will also find great snorkeling along the island’s beautiful beaches. Gardner Bay is noted for its turquoise-colored waters and its magnificent beach, making it an ideal stop for the afternoon. See what species of fish you can spot around the bay’s small Gardner and Osborn islets, and maybe you’ll get to see some local sea turtles and gentle sharks. The bay is also frequented by a transient colony of Galapagos sea lions who love to swim with people.

Later, to end the day, you will visit Suarez Point, one of the archipelago’s most outstanding wildlife areas. This site boasts a long list of species along its cliffs and its sand and pebble beaches. In addition to five species of nesting seabirds, the curious and bold Española Island mockingbirds are found here, as are other birding favorites that include Galapagos doves, Galapagos hawks, Swallow-tailed gulls, and the world’s largest colony of Waved albatross. Several types of reptiles are unique to this island, including the marine iguana and the oversized lava lizard. This is also the only site where you will be able to see “red” sea iguanas. In addition, when heavy swells are running, Suarez Point is the site of a spectacular blowhole whose thundering spray shoots 30 yards up into the air for a magnificent ending to your day in the wondrous natural world.

Discover Santa Fe Island and the Charles Darwin Research Center

Today we will visit Santa Fe Island, a tiny rocky island covered in small Palo Santo trees and six-meter-high opuntia cactuses. The island is inhabited mainly by large yellow land iguanas, Galapagos buzzards, Blue-footed boo­bies, and pelicans. If you want to enjoy some snorkeling, you can observe the many inhabitants of this underwater world, including countless tropical fish, rays, sea turtles, and sea lions.

Next, we will head for one of the most visited spots in the Galapagos, the Charles Darwin Research Station, an international scientific research center on the out­skirts of Puerto Ayora. Learn about the geology, climate, natural history, and conservation efforts of the Galapagos Islands. The highlight of your visit here will undoubtedly be the research facility’s Fausto Llerena Tortoise Breeding Center, which breeds giant tortoises.

These enormous reptiles live up to 200 years and weigh between 250 and 300 kg. The tortoises you will see here are accustomed to hu­mans, so it’s an excellent spot for visitors to take photographs with them and learn how you can help make a positive impact on the longevity of these majestic species.

Explore South Plaza Island before your flight to QuitO

For your final day in the Galapagos South Plaza Island, located just east of Santa Cruz Island. Encounter colonies of sea lions and land iguanas when you step on land, as native birds like the Tropicbirds and Fork-tailed seagulls swirl overhead. Best of all, you will soak up some majestic views of the island where opuntia cactuses grow, changing color throughout the year.

Savor one last look at the Galapagos Islands as you board the plane at Baltra Island airport for your return flight to the Ecua­dorian mainland. Once you arrive in Quito your guide will pick you up and transfer you to your hotel where you will spend your last night in Ecuador.

Going home is the worst part of any luxury tour of Ecuador, but at Kuoda, we’ll do our best to make it as smooth and hassle-free as possible. Your host will meet you at the hostel and transport you to the airport for a relaxing start to your journey home! Buen Viaje! 

PRICE & INCLUSIONS

Each journey is tailored to your specific needs and desires, and so our prices vary depending on the number of people
traveling, level of accommodations desired, and activities included, among other factors.

Our travel designers will curate a journey specifically for you. If you have a budget you want us to work with, please let
us know, and we will do our best to achieve it.

PRICE INCLUDES

  • Personalized itinerary planning
  • A Kuoda host to assist you in every location
  • The majority of meals in the itinerary
  • Daily activities and excursions as indicated in the itinerary

NOT INCLUDED

  • International flights to and from your home country
  • Travel insurance
  • Meals not specified
  • All gratuities

ACCOMMODATIONS

From luxury properties to boutique hotels, our staff handpicks your ideal stay to ensure you get the ultimate comfort during your travels.

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Note: Trip costs vary by destination, number of days, and number of people traveling

Your Trip Begins Here

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Note: Trip costs vary by destination, number of days, and number of people traveling

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Sustainable Travel

This sample itinerary was tailored to show the impact of your trip and how
you can take concrete actions toward sustainable travel.

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