- Dive into Quito’s rich colonial past in the city’s UNESCO-listed historical core.
- Hop between hemispheres at the Middle of the Earth Equator marker.
- Chat with local artisans and hunt for a bargain at Otavalo, the setting of South America’s oldest, largest and most famous market.
- Gain premier access to one of the most exclusive lodges within the rainforest, as you experience vibrant nature at its best.
- Enjoy a luxury island-hopping tour in the Galapagos Islands – where Charles Darwin’s revolutionary theory of evolution was born.
- Face to face encounters with exotic wildlife such as the Giant turtles, the Blue-footed Boobies and much more all throughout the Galapagos Islands!
- Discover hidden treasures as you snorkel pristine beaches.
- Take your pick from a range of luxury hotels, lodges and accommodations.
- DAY 1 - Welcome to Ecuador!
- Day 2 - The History of Quito
- Day 3 - Native Towns
- Day 4 - Mashpi Lodge
- Day 5 - Mashpi Lodge
- Day 6 - Mashpi to Zuleta
- Day 7 - Cotopaxi National Park
- Day 8 - Beautiful Scenery
- Day 9 - To the Galapagos Islands!
- Day 10 - Galapagos Islands
- Day 11 - Galapagos Islands
- Day 12 - Galapagos Islands
- Day 13 - Galapagos Islands to Guayaquil
- Day 14 – Guayaquil to Home
Quito, the capital of Ecuador, is one of the most beautiful cities of Ecuador. It is divided into the old or colonial city and the modern city. The Colonial Quito is still reminiscent of how it was 450 years ago, even though it is a small island surrounded on all sides by a fast-growing modern city. In colonial Quito are narrow cobblestone streets lined with whitewashed walls over which the steeples and cupolas of historic churches and a cathedral sites. The integrity of colonial Quito was assured in 1978 when the United Nations declared the city a World Cultural Heritage Site.You will find us waiting for you when your international flight arrives in Quito. We will escort you to your hotel, check you in and help you get settled. You’ll then be able to rinse away the feeling of a long flight and enjoy a good night’s rest!
On this one-day tour, we will visit the historic district of the Ecuadorian capital, enjoying this urban jewel and its artistic and architectural treasures. One of the largest and best preserved colonial centers in South America, Quito’s “Old Town” area was declared the first “World Heritage Site” by UNESCO, in 1978. The visit to the historic center begins with the Basilica del Voto Nacional, one of the largest churches in Ecuador and one of the most important works of Ecuadorian neo-gothic architecture. While the outside of the building stands out for its stone carvings that represent plants and animals of the country, the inside consists of 24 chapels.
We will continue on to the always vibrant Plaza Grande (“Independence Square”), which is surrounded by the Cathedral, the Presidential Palace, the Municipal Building and the Archbishop’s Palace. We will then visit the church of the “Compañia de Jesus” to find its impressive interior inlaid in gold. Your tour of historic Quito will end with a birds-eye view of the city from the panoramic “Virgin of Quito” monument atop El Panecillo Hill, which overlooks the capital. This will give you a chance to appreciate Quito from above, and – if the weather permits – to catch a view of the spectacular “Volcano Avenue,” two parallel mountain ranges containing eight of the country’s ten highest peaks.
From here, we will continue our journey 15 miles north of Quito to the Mitad del Mundo (“Middle of the World”), the monument on the equator that was built to commemorate the French scientists who in the 1830s made history by determining the shape of the planet thanks to their studies at this location.
The highlight of this visit is the equatorial line running along latitude of 0° 0’ 0.” Here, you will be able to stand with one foot in each of the earth’s hemispheres – a great photo op! We will also visit the Intiñan Solar Museum, where you will have the opportunity to perform various unusual experiments like balancing an egg on a nail, losing weight in a second, or straddling the equatorial line that separates the two hemispheres. After the visit, we will drive you back to your hotel.
We begin today’s trip to the town of Otavalo, home to Ecuador’s largest indigenous market and one of the best known in all of Latin America. The market sets up every day, allowing you to spend a few hours wandering through these bustling handicrafts center, in addition to its food stalls.
On the way, we will make a brief stop in the town of Cayambe to visit a rose plantation. Owing to the quality and variety of its roses, Ecuador is considered one of the countries with the best of these flowers for export. Because of these flowers’ beauty, many nurseries have also decided to become involved in tourism activities, showing off the more than 300 varieties of roses grown here – some with stems extending more than six feet high!
We will then visit a family of weavers in the nearby village of Peguche who not only have amazing wares but will actually demonstrate how they weave on their traditional back-strap looms and show you their techniques for making striking colors from local plants. Around the corner lives a family of musicians, where you’ll get a feel for Andean music and watch as perfectly tuned Andean flutes are crafted in minutes.
We will have lunch in a typical Ecuadorian restaurant before going to Cotacachi town, famous for its leather crafts, and then visit the nearby beautiful volcanic Cuicocha Lake where we can have a short hike and an optional boat ride around the lake. Your hotel is located in Cotocachi where you will spend the night.
After breakfast, the guide will pick you up at your hotel and drive you to Mashpi Lodge in the North West of Quito. After having comfortably settled in your room, you will be greeted by one of the lodge’s naturalists, who will give you an introductory talk about the cloud forest and its conservation. You will plan together the activities for the next days, and will give you some helpful tips about what to wear and what to take on the excursions.
After lunch, we will head out on the Napa Trail, which cuts through areas where the forest is regenerating large patches of pristine forest. Because of this, the trail is ideal for demonstrating ecological processes and for explaining the importance of forest conservation for the surrounding Choco region. This trail also possesses great scenic beauty and is good for bird watching. Later this evening, for those guests interested in learning more about cloud forest ecology, a presentation will be given by one of the lodge’s naturalists or its resident biologist. Topics include “the Secret Mashpi Wildlife,” “The Trap Camera Project,” and “Choco as a Biological Hotspot.”
When darkness falls, a new troupe of creatures emerges: your guides will accompany you in search out tiny (and some transparent!) frogs, snakes, insects and even tarantulas during a night walk.
For this morning’s activity, we will head out on the Howler Monkey Trail, which goes through an ancient forest where many age-old trees survive, with the “copal” tree being the most well-known. While hiking along this trail, the local guide will point out whatever wildlife might appear – from colorful birds to elusive howler monkeys. Also during this trek, the guide will explain the ecology of the forest and discuss conservation efforts being made to protect it. This hike will lead you to the lodge’s Life Center, a place where you can learn even more about the plants and wildlife that inhabit this region. At the center, you will find out more about the butterflies of the area by being shown the growth process of these creatures from eggs to larva or caterpillar to chrysalis to winged wonders. But in addition to being a site for learning and discovery, the center is also a place where visitors can disconnect by contemplating the views from the expansive wooden deck. You will also have a chance to visit a garden close to the center where you will find many varieties of bushes and fruit trees, including banana and plantain trees, manioc, cacao, hot chili peppers, coffee and wild raspberries.
Later in the morning, we will head back to the lodge, where you will have time to rest or maybe enjoy a relaxing massage or the comfort of the Jacuzzi in the Wellness area. At around noon, lunch will be ready; after which you will have time to rest until the afternoon excursion.
The afternoon activity will be a hike along a trail is named after the Cucharillo tree (Magnolia striatifoliai), which in Spanish means teaspoon. Common on this trail are these trees, which are endemic to Ecuador and threatened because of their value as timber. This Cucharillo Trail is of moderate difficulty because of its steep climbing, but at the end of the trail is a large waterfall and rocky riverbed with beautiful ponds and smaller falls.
As the sun starts to go down, the cloud forest begins to transform; the sounds of croaking frogs, the calls of night birds and the incessant buzz of insects all intensify. And if you turn off your flashlight, you’ll discover sparkling fireflies and sense bats fluttering by. Looking carefully on the ground, all around you’ll also see the faint glow of bioluminescent fungi (foxfire or fairy fire). Continuing this nighttime safari, you’re likely to hear rustling in the branches above as raccoon-like “kinkajous” scramble through the trees in search of fruit. Following this intriguing excursion, we will return to the lodge to enjoy a delicious dinner.
Just before the break of dawn, the cloud forest becomes filled with the sound of thousands of birds in search of food. So, for those “early bird” travelers wanting to experience this daily event, they can do so from the lodge’s terrace. Guides will share their skill in handling the telescope to reveal this incredible diversity of bird species and the essential beauty of the cloud forest. Accompanied by a cup of hot chocolate, coffee or tea, this activity begins at 6.30am and lasts an hour, after which time you can enjoy a full breakfast. Following your meal, you can begin packing up for your checkout.
Your private guide, will then arrive to take you to the famous Hacienda San Agustin de Callo, in the Cotopaxi Area.
There are few places in Ecuador that make such an impression when visiting them. From its archaeological relevance to the delicacy with which each room has been decorated and arranged – with fireplaces to warm the bathrooms or artistically painted walls to distinguish each space – San Agustín de Callo is a place of fascination. Llamas enliven the central patio, while they look for carrots during their lunch hour and flowery gardens are lit in front of the vision of Cotopaxi, when it emerges from a clear sky. But it is, perhaps, the Inca site on which this lodge stands, with its prodigious carved stone walls, that really makes this Andean hacienda unique. Add to it the excellent food, the rural and secluded setting, walks in the moor, visits to the orchard, cycling and horseback riding… in short, a place to treasure a lifetime.
After a delicious breakfast, you will have the chance of witnessing Cotopaxi colossus, which is covered by layers of snow and ice, and is known for its perfectly symmetrical cone. This imposing giant is often the backdrop for the landscapes of the central highlands and possesses a history of dramatic eruptions, which are reasons why many people visit this mountain. However, its beauty and the physical and technical challenge that it represents for mountaineers is what makes it special among those who engage in this sport.
The volcano, which has recorded several eruptions in its history and is now moderately active, is situated within Cotopaxi National Park, located on the beautiful plateau of the Ecuadorian highlands. Here, you can find wild horses grazing on vast plains at the foot of the volcano or gathering to drink the calm waters of Lake Limpiopungo. Enjoy this incredible view and experience the intense and unique feelings that inevitably evoke contemplation of this mountain landscape. If you love the mountains, this tour will be an ideal introduction to one of the world’s challenging volcanoes.
In the afternoon, we will have the unique opportunity of horseback riding in the surroundings of the local hacienda. The views are magnificent, with rocky, rounded, glacier-covered and snow sprinkled volcanoes lining the central valley.
Today we will take a two-hour car journey through the western Andes mountain range, one of the most impressive areas of Ecuador. Heading south, the tour will take us to Zumbahua, a small colourful town consisting of just 40 families.
Ten kilometers farther lies the blue and green Quilotoa Crater Lake, one of the most beautiful volcano lakes in the Ecuadorian Andes. From the crater you can see various snow-topped volcanoes in the distance. After a 1-1/2 to 2-hour hike down to the bank of the lake, you will enjoy a traditional lunch. Later we will continue driving back to Quito.
The Galapagos Islands are among the most amazing natural places in the world, and this group of 13 major islands and dozens of smaller islets and rocks, all the result of volcanic activity, certainly appears to be out of this world. The islands are in fact, an unpredictable wilderness, a living laboratory of evolution filled with an extraordinary population of unique species, which have developed apart from human influence. For nature lovers, the perfection is even greater, birds and more birds, playful sea lions, exotic plant life, volcanoes and haunting land seascape.
Early this morning we will escort you to the national airport in order to board flight to the wondrous Galapagos Islands (approximately 2.5 hours). Upon your arrival you will have VIP access into the lounge there. A Pikaia representative will meet you in the lounge and accompany you first to the Itabaca Channel for a seven-minute ferry crossing to Santa Cruz Island. From there, you will take a scenic 50-minute trip in private transportation to the Pikaia Lodge.
After checking in, you will have lunch in the lodge’s Evolution Restaurant or on the Pool Terrace. The rest of the afternoon, you will have a chance to relax and familiarize themselves with the lodge’s environment and facilities. We recommend walking, jogging or cycling the 3.5 km of trails on the lodge’s grounds, or you can take a swim in the pool. This afternoon is also a good chance of encountering resident tortoises on the lodge’s grounds. Later — with a complimentary welcome cocktail offered at the DNA Bar — a tour briefing will be held to review the week’s activities and special features about Pikaia Lodge and Galápagos. Additionally, after dinner, a 3-D HD documentary on the Galapagos Islands, filmed by Sir David Attenborough, will be shown in the Pikaia’s Explorers Lounge for those interested in additional information about this unique archipelago.
AM: Today we will go on a full-day yacht cruise on board the lodge’s Pikaia I yacht. Private cabins are assigned and guests have the option of having breakfast onboard Pikaia I. Upon arrival on South Plaza Island, the morning offers hiking or snorkeling activities until midday. Lunch buffet with typical Ecuadorian food is served while the yacht sails to North Seymour Island. Here, you will find fascinating flora and fauna that includes abundant birdlife, hordes of sea lions, Hammerhead sharks, sea turtles, land and marine iguanas, a colony of frigatebirds, Blue-footed Boobies.
PM: We will later visit the beautiful Bachas Beach (Santa Cruz Island) to walk along the white sand bordered by an outcropping of lava rocks and Blackish lava water lagoons. You will also have a chance to see Pacific green sea turtles, flamingos, Lava gulls, Sally Lightfoot crabs, and small non-aggressive sharks at the edge of the water. Optional swimming and snorkeling. Two hours before sunset the yacht will set sail for Pikaia Lodge. While sailing, you can relax, shower, or freshen up in their air-conditioned private cabins, as well as soak in the Jacuzzi, watch a Galapagos documentary, join a discussion with guides, sunbathe or watch for dolphins.
AM/PM: Like every morning, today’s day’s activities will be planned using satellite weather imagery and tide charts. Most likely, we will go on a land tour on Santa Cruz Island (maximum group size: 16 people), experiencing one of the many beaches on the island. With luck, the calm waters will allow you to see different types of sharks (like the Whitetip reef shark) and schools of golden-colored Mustard rays. There are a number of mangrove forests in these areas as well.
PM: Later, we can later head to one of the most visited spots in the islands: the Charles Darwin Research Station, which is primarily an international scientific research station situated on the outskirts of Puerto Ayora. You will be taken to its visitor center to learn about the geology, climate, natural history and the conservation of the Galapagos Islands. However, the highlight of your visit here will undoubtedly be the research facility’s Fausto Llerena Tortoise Breeding Center, which breeds giant tortoises. These enormous and slow-moving reptiles can live up to 150- 200 years and weigh between 250 and 300 kg. Approaching them in their humid and forested spaces is always an inspiring adventure. For decades, the Fausto Center was home to “Lonesome George,” who finally died in 2012 as the last of his particular species. The tortoises you will see here are accustomed to humans, so it’s an excellent spot for visitors to take photographs with them. Remember that looking at the animals is allowed, but touching is not, and it’s absolutely forbidden to jump over the walls or open the pen doors at any time.
Alternatively, guests are free to relax and enjoy their day at the lodge independently, spending the day at your leisure. Mountain bikes, helmets, snorkeling equipment and wetsuits are available without charge at the front desk or onboard the lodge’s yacht. (It is recommended to pre-book to take advantage of any optional third-party activities not included in the package. All extra activities might have an extra cost [e.g. taxis, equipment, guides].
AM: After a hearty breakfast on board the Pikaia I yacht, we will make a dry landing on Bartolome Island. Arriving on the island, you will discover a fascinating moonscape formed by various volcanic formations — including lava bombs, spatter, cinder cones — as we hike to the island’s summit for striking views of the surrounding islands, Sullivan Bay and the towering Pinnacle Rock. As the beaches at the foot of the Pinnacle Rock boast some of the finest snorkeling in the islands, you can discover a marvelous underwater world here and have a good chance of finding sea turtles gliding gently alongside you. On the rocks beneath Pinnacle Rock, it’s quite possible to spot some of the quick-as-an-arrow Galapagos penguins; at around 25 centimeters tall, these are members of the second smallest species of penguin in the world. Likewise, you’re likely to see harmless Whitetip reef sharks sunning in these waters. For many visitors, this may turn out to be the best of snorkeling experiences, as the water here is generally clear, without too much surf and full of marine life.
PM: In the afternoon we will travel to Sullivan Bay (Santiago Island) to observe its lava flow forms, hornitos and driblet cones, Lava cactus, mollugos and other plants. Located on the eastern coast of Santiago Island, the bay’s shore is covered with lava cactuses as well as a variety of contrasting lava landscapes that resulted from both an older eruption and a newer one that occurred during the last quarter of the 19th century. After exploring these lava flows, you can swim or snorkel with playful sea lions.
AM: Concluding these amazing experiences in the Galapagos Islands, you will be driven to the Baltra Island airport and assisted with checking in for your return flight to the Ecuadorian mainland.Enjoy your last look back at the “enchanted islands,” a unique paradise with inspiring natural wonders. From Baltra, you will fly back to mainland Ecuador to Guayaquil.
Arriving in Guayaquil in the afternoon, you will be driven to the Boutique Hotel del Parque. Imagine a veritable time capsule hidden away from the hustle and bustle of the great Pacific port of Guayaquil. In the 1980s, historic buildings threatened with destruction were moved, rebuilt and renovated plank-by-plank on the banks of the Daule river. Hotel del Parque was one of these buildings. Today, you can discover it standing elegantly, wrapped in the tropical bosom of a vast botanical garden. Sitting on the waterfront, the hotel’s restaurant, Casa Julián, specializes in the finest seafood and freshest fish. Having embraced the local culinary tradition of soups and stews, its chef is also known to skillfully play with the flavors and textures of avocado, banana and cocoa.
Guayaquil, the financial center of Ecuador, has been transformed over recent years with its newly restored historic district characterized by centuries-old houses and narrow lanes. Las Peñas is the city’s oldest district, and once you’ve navigated its colorful streets you’ll be guided up 444 steps to the summit of Cerro Santa Ana for panoramic vistas of the city.
As well as this Guayaquil cradles a string of excellent attractions: a stately cathedral, Iguana Park (named after the resident creatures here) and the modern Malecon 2000 which hugs the Guayas River and is home to the towering Moorish Clock Tower, botanical gardens and Chamber of the Rotunda. This monument marks the historic meeting between Simon Bolivar and Jose de San Martin in the 19th century, reflecting a huge turning point in the history of the country.
In the afternoon according to your flight schedule we will take you to the airport for your international flight home.
Thank you for traveling with Kuoda Travel, and buen viaje!
Like the sound of this Ecuador private tour? Get in touch with Kuoda and we’ll start devising your very own customized Ecuador private travel experience.
- Personalized itinerary planning
- A Kuoda host to assist you in every location
- Domestic flights
- The majority of meals in the itinerary
- Daily activities and excursions as indicated in the itinerary
- Galapagos National Park Entrance Fee & Transit Control Card
- All gratuities
- International flights to and from your home country
- Travel insurance
- Meals not specified
Talk with your Kuoda Travel expert to help find the right hotels for you during your personalized luxury tour.
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