MAGICAL JOURNEY TO GALAPAGOS AND THE SOUTHERN ECUADOREAN ANDES  – MARCH 11 – 21, 2020

  • Experience all four seasons during a single trip.
  • Discover why Ecuador is one of the ten countries preferred in the world to retire.
  • Find the hidden symbols and meanings on Quito’s historic buildings, convents, and churches.
  • Drive the loop around the world’s highest mountain and enjoy not only the spectacular moonscape views but also see herds of vicuñas.
  • Ride the train to the Devil’s Nose as an enjoyable trip down the rocky slopes of the Andes through some of Ecuador’s most breathtaking scenery. It is a fantastic feat of engineering with spectacular views.
  • Tour the Inca Ruins of Ingapirca.
  • Stay at luxurious boutique hotels and old haciendas.
  • Enjoy gourmet meals with flavors unique from each region of this country.
  • See Ecuador’s three most important cities: Quito, Guayaquil, and Cuenca.
  • Visit craft shops with fabrics, jewelry, leather goods, and top-quality hats.
  • Learn about flora and fauna of the paramo landscape of the Ecuadorian Andes.
  • Find yourself surrounded by the fascinating wildlife in the famous Enchanted Islands, the Galapagos Islands. Be part of the largest living lab in the world.
  • Explore the “Enchanted Islands” on board of our private Catamaran First Class Cruise, built for sailing on the Galapagos Islands, preserving its fragile ecosystem, and of course its beauty.
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THE ITINERARY

DAY 1 – WEDNESDAY – MARCH 11: ARRIVAL TO QUITO

  • Arrival at 10:30 pm (Delta Airlines, American Airlines, Jet Blue, and United Airlines arrive at similar times)
  • Transfer to a boutique hotel only 15 minutes from the airport.
  • Cristina will be there to pick you up and take you to the hotel

DAY 2 – THURSDAY, MARCH 12: EXPLORING QUITO

The city of Quito has a lot to offer in its historic center, but nowhere will you find a day dedicated to discovering the hidden symbols and meanings in its streets, as well as the opportunity to enter in secret passageways to observe the city from above.

We will also have the chance to visit a private art collection and to watch how chocolate is made, from seed to chocolate bar.
Lodging in Quito

  • Type of weather to expect: Autumn
  • Meals included: Breakfast

DAY 3 – FRIDAY, MARCH 13: CHIMBORAZO

We will leave in the morning heading south, through the Pan-American Highway to make our first stop at the foothills of the highest mountain in the world, the Chimborazo.

This majestic snow-capped mountain is populated by elegant vicuñas (cousins of llamas and alpacas), and we will have the opportunity to see them graze on the roadside.

After a delicious lunch at a rustic mountain chalet, we will continue our way to our place of lodging near the city of Riobamba.
Dinner and lodging at a historic hacienda that has been transformed into a beautiful hotel, where we can relax until the next day.

  • Type of weather to expect: Winter
  • Meals included: Breakfast buffet, lunch and dinner

DAY 4: SATURDAY, MARCH 14: DEVIL’S NOSE AND INCA RUINS

Early departure to the small village of Alausí where we will board the train to the Devil’s Nose, and experience how the train descends 1,500 ft deep into the river gorge – using a zig-zag switchback system at the steepest point.

Then, on our private bus, we will drive south to Cuenca, first stopping at Ingapirca, the the Inca/ Cañari archaeological ruins.

Accommodation at a luxury boutique hotel in Cuenca.

  • Type of weather to expect: Autumn
  • Meals included: Breakfast, box lunch, dinner

DAY 5: SUNDAY, MARCH 15: CUENCA – FARMERS MARKET, HERBS, HANDCRAFTS

We will tour the charming city of Cuenca to discover why this city draws so many expats. Those who want can try a Andean spiritual cleansing. This traditional healing involves the use of native Ecuadorean herbs. It is meant to rid everything terrible from body and soul. A fantastic cultural experience!

In the afternoon, visit the artisanal towns of Gualaceo and Chordeleg to admire and buy delicate fabrics, the famous straw hats toquilla (Panama Hats) and beautiful jewels in gold and silver.

  • Type of weather to expect: Spring
  • Meals included: Breakfast, dinner

DAY 6: MONDAY, MARCH 16: CAJAS – GUAYAQUIL

We go west, towards the port city of Guayaquil, but first we will make a stop to admire one of the most beautiful landscapes of this country: the Cajas National Park, with its polylepis (paper trees) forest and wide variety of fauna and flora. Here we will have a gourmet meal at a hacienda surrounded by waterfalls and lakes.

We continue our way to Guayaquil where we will stay at a first-class hotel, to be ready for the trip to Galapagos

  • Type of weather to expect: Winter in the morning, summer at night
  • Meals included: Breakfast

DAY 7: TUESDAY, MARCH 17: GALAPAGOS – LOBOS ISLAND

Early transfer to the airport to take the flight to San Cristobal Island in Galapagos.
Transfer to Puerto Baquerizo to board the catamaran. Welcome cocktail and lunch.

PM: LOBOS ISLAND: Here, we can walk, swim and snorkel among the seals, frigates, marine iguanas, lava lizards, and the small endemic Galapagos snake.

  • During our cruise onboard the catamaran, all meals are included.
  • Snorkeling is an optional activity, and sometimes, just by swimming in the ocean, you’ll see beautiful corals and colorful schools of fish.
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DAY 8: WEDNESDAY, MARCH 18: SANTA FE ISLAND – SOUTH PLAZAS

With 24 km2 and 60 m of height above sea level, this central island is a unique place to visit. It has an incredible bay of turquoise water, protected by a natural barrier of rocks. You will see colonies of seals as hawks fly overhead. This island is home to one of the two species of land iguanas found in the Galapagos. Their primary food source is the leaves and fruit of the giant, thick cactus found here.

Crabs, nocturnal herons, marine iguanas, cucuves and land doves are seen frequently. The Bay is an excellent place to swim and to do snorkel. Marine tortoises, rays, sea lions and tropical fish are a fantastic attraction! Snacks and refreshing beverages are waiting for you on board. Lunch

PM – SOUTH PLAZAS: are two small islands, created by an uplifting of the land. The land iguanas are smaller here; they nest during the warm season. The hike goes along an extraordinary cliff where sea-birds nest. There are approximately 1000 sea lions (Zalophus Wollebaeki) located on the south side of the Plazas.

  • During our cruise onboard the catamaran, all meals are included.
  • Snorkeling is an optional activity, and sometimes, just by swimming in the ocean, you’ll see beautiful corals and colorful schools of fish.

DAY 9: THURSDAY, MARCH 19: NORTH SEYMOUR – MOSQUERA ISLET

AM – NORTH SEYMOUR: dry landing. The lifting of volcanic marine lava formed Seymour. Marine fossils dating back to the Pleistocene period were found on this island.

In 1932, Captain Alan Hancock and his crew took 72 malnourished land iguanas from Baltra Island to North Seymour Island so that the iguanas could live in better conditions. In 1934, colonists verified that the iguanas were in good condition.
The vegetation of North Seymour is bushy and is host to nesting Real Frigates of the Galapagos. Return to EcoGalaxy. Lunch

PM – MOSQUERA ISLET: This islet is located between Baltra Island and North Seymour. Here, we find the most significant sea lion colony; it is also possible to observe several species of birds.

  • During our cruise onboard the catamaran, all meals are included.
  • Snorkeling is an optional activity, and sometimes, just by swimming in the ocean, you’ll see beautiful corals and colorful schools of fish.

DAY 10: FRIDAY, MARCH 20: GENOVESA ISLAND – DARWIN BAY – BARRANCO

AM – GENOVESA ISLAND – DARWIN BAY:

Genovesa is a small island in the north of the Galapagos. Near the beach is a mangrove swamp where we will find a colony of frigates, marine iguanas, red-footed boobies and mask boobies, the great terrestrial finch, seagulls, herons, and cactus finch. Following the land visit, our passengers can enjoy a swim in the bay. Snacks and refreshments are available. Lunch

PM – GENOVESA ISLAND – BARRANCO:

Also known as Prince Felipe’s stairs. Here, we will have a walk for the Barranco path. In our journey, we will observe tropical birds, petrels, common frigate, red-foot boobies, mask boobies, doves, and finches.

  • During our cruise onboard the catamaran, all meals are included.
  • Snorkeling is an optional activity, and sometimes, just by swimming in the ocean, you’ll see beautiful corals and colorful schools of fish.

DAY 11: SATURDAY, MARCH 21: GIANT TORTOISES – BACK TO QUITO

Where we will find the giant tortoises in their natural habitat, this is a natural spectacle.

PM – TRANSFER TO BALTRA AIRPORT

We will board our flight back to Quito.

Between your arrival to Quito and your flight back to the US, we will take you to dinner at a restaurant nearby.

  • Meals included: Breakfast and lunch
The Galapagos itinerary is subject to change without notice; due to seasonal changes, weather conditions or Galapagos National Park regulations.

PRICE AND WHAT INCLUDES

The regular price of this itinerary is $5,700 per person.

Special Price: $4,695 per person in single or double room

INCLUDES

Accommodation:

  • 2 nights accommodation in first-class hotel in Quito
  • 1 night luxury hacienda accommodation in Riobamba
  • 2 nights accommodation in luxury boutique hotel in Cuenca
  • 1 night accommodation in first-class hotel in Guayaquil
  • 4 nights aboard a luxury private catamaran in the Galapagos Islands

Meals:

  • 6 breakfasts, 2 lunches on the mainland
  • All meals in the Galapagos Islands

Tickets:

  • Tickets to parks and museums on the mainland
  • Train tickets to the Devil’s Nose

GUIDED VISITS:

  • Guided tours on the continent
  • Daily guided tours with a bilingual naturalist guide in the Galapagos Islands
  • Transfers in Quito and Guayaquil

Transportation

  • Private transportion on the mainland
  • Transfer from San Cristobal airport to the boat and boat to Baltra airport in the Galapagos Islands
  • Flight Guayaquil – San Cristobal – Baltra – Quito  – this is an exception because usually tours to Galapagos do not include airfare ($550 – $620)
  • Transit Migration Card ($20)

DOES NOT INCLUDE

  • $100 Galapagos Park National Park Fee (paid in cash at the time of arrival on the islands)
  • Wetsuits and snorkeling equipment
  • Tips, drinks, and meals not mentioned in the itinerary
  • Air flights to Ecuador

PAYMENTS

  • Reserve deposit: $1,000 per person through December 30th, 2019
  • Payment of $2,675 per person through January 30th, 2019
  • Final payment of $1,000 per person through February 15th, 2020
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Why travel with us?

It has always been our wish to take our friends to visit our country and let them know their charms from a local perspective, taking our guests to places that only few people visit.

We started by taking a group of friends in May 2018. This year, we have already traveled with two more groups in February and May 2019. Now more and more friends are signing up to join in our adventures.

We take care of every detail during the trip, from giving you ahead of time a list of what to wear every day, to watching for your health, will give you recommendations of what is safe to eat and what is not.

Cristina and Martin’s background

Cristina’s love for her country led her to college to become a tour guide and tour operator. From 1987 to 1997 she organized trips in Ecuador for groups of German and Swiss tourists, and she guided them through the country and the Galapagos Islands where she’s traveled 15 times.

Later, she became a spa consultant, and she helped create and develop the spas in many unique resorts around the country. You’ll get to stay at some of these properties.

Martin grew up in a home where Ecuadorean politics was part of their daily life. Martin’s father was a lawyer and became Attorney General and President of the Supreme Court of Justice. There are lots of anecdotes he’ll share with you about those times. One of his brothers, Juan Manuel, an artist, and an ornithologist, was the director of Quito Zoo for many years and is currently one of Quito’s city councils.

Ecuador

Straddling the equator and bordered by Colombia, Peru, and the Pacific Ocean, Ecuador is South America’s tiny country and is easily one of the most diverse on the planet with 25,000 plant species, 1,600 bird species, the mighty Andes, the lush Amazon, and nine national parks – including the unique Galápagos Islands. Packed with heritage, colonial architecture, rainforest, mountains, historic cities, and palm-fringed beaches, it is little wonder that Ecuador is known as ‘the microcosm of South America.’

Ecuador is divided into three continental regions: Coast, Andes Mountains (Sierra), Amazon Rainforest – The Galapagos Islands are also part of Ecuador.

FREQUENT ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ)

Do we need travel insurance?

Yes. It is essential to buy a fully covered personal travel insurance to protect against financial loss due to 1) Trip Cancellation 2) In-country Emergency Medical and Dental assistance 3) Emergency Medical Transportation 4) Missed Connection/Travel / Trip Delay 5) Baggage lost, stolen, damaged or delayed coverage – we recommend the insurance offered by our American Express Card, the Silver coverage.

YOU MUST HAVE TRAVEL INSURANCE WITH A MINIMUM MEDICAL, EVACUATION AND REPATRIATION COVERAGE OF US$100,000

Do we get a refund if we cancel the trip?

Once you make the first payment, we enter into a contract with hotels, transportation, and restaurants on your behalf and we must pay for those services.  If you cancel the trip 60 days or more in advance, 50% of the deposit value will be refunded. If the cancellation is received less than 60 days before the start of the trip, you will forfeit 100% of the total tour value.

Do I need to be in good health to travel to Ecuador?

Yes. No sophisticated medical facilities are on our itineraries or locations to which we travel. Our tours are intended for persons in reasonably good health and with full mobility. Passengers who are not fit for long trips for any reason, including mobility issues, disability, heart or other health condition are advised not to join the tour, which would entail an unreasonable risk to your health and the enjoyment of all those aboard.

Can you honor specific dietary requests?

All food allergies and dietary restrictions must be disclosed to us at the time of booking. We will use reasonable efforts to accommodate special requirements, but this is not always possible given the nature of the destinations we visit. We cannot guarantee that dietary needs or restrictions can be accommodated.

Are Meals Included?

Some meals are included as specified in each itinerary. Meals are based on the hotel’s or restaurant’s buffet or set menu.

What is the Currency in Ecuador?

The Ecuadorian currency is the U.S. American dollar, which replaced the former sucre in the year 2000. All commercial and economic transactions are made with US dollars. The most widely used notes are the $1, $5, $10, and $20, while the $50 and $100 bills are mainly for big transactions. You should try to take small denominations of bills or coins and be aware that some businesses (gas stations, some restaurants, and even some shops) do not accept bills over $20.

On the other hand, it is generally very easy to pay with all major credit cards, most commonly Visa and MasterCard, but only in the more important towns.

The unit money in Ecuador is the USA $1 bill, or the USA $1 coin (also known as the Sacagawea dollar); both are widely used. Ecuador mints its own 1 cent, 5 cents, 10 cents, 25 cents, and 50 cent coins, and they have the same size, shape, and weight of the USA coins. Ecuadorian coins feature different designs than those of the US American coins and are of no value outside Ecuador. US coins can be used in Ecuador.

You can use your credit card to withdraw money from ATMs located everywhere in major cities

How much cash should we take for the trip?

It depends on how much shopping you want to do. For the meals that are not included in the price, you will need around $500 per couple for the whole trip, but all those meals can be paid with a credit card.

For tips: see below

What about taxes and tipping?

For the bus driver, we suggest a tip of $10 per day per couple. Our driver always keeps the bus clean, he’s very knowledgeable of the roads and drives very safe.

A hotel’s bellboy receives $1 per bag and housekeepers about $1 as well.

Spa staffs $3 – $5 per hour of treatment.

The governmental tax is 12% (VTA) and applies in most cases for goods that visitors buy. An extra 10% applies for services at restaurants. By law, the 12% IVA tax is included in all prices for the public.

If a restaurant doesn’t add 10% service charge on the bill, we suggest a 10% tip in cash that you give directly to your server.
If you had excellent service and want to add a tip on top of the 10% service, you can offer a small tip of 5% in cash.

Are there any passport and visa requirements?

Ecuador requires visitors of all nationalities to have a valid passport with an expiration date of at least six months after the date of departure from Ecuador. Visas are not required for USA tourists.

What’s the best way to fly to Quito?

The following airlines fly directly to Quito:

DELTA AIRLINES: Atlanta – Quito:  6:30 pm

Quito – Atlanta: 11:30 pm

AMERICAN AIRLINES: Miami – Quito: 6:10 pm

Quito – Miami: 11:55 pm

JET BLUE: Fort Lauderdale – Quito: 7:20 pm

Quito – Fort Lauderdale:11:45 pm

UNITED AIRLINES: Houston – Quito: 6:20 pm

Quito – Houston: 12:35 am*( *You need to make the reservation for October 13th as this flight at 12:35 am)

October is considered low season so you can find reasonable airfares for $650 or less.

What Time Is It in Ecuador?

Mainland Ecuadorian time is GMT -5 hours, which is the same as US Eastern Standard Time Zone (ET). Ecuador does not use daylight savings time and, because of this, there’s 1-hour difference in October.

Since Ecuador is near the equator, you can expect approximately 12 hours of daylight each day. It is dark by 6:30 pm.

Galápagos Islands time is GMT -6 hours, which is the same as Central Standard Time.

Will I need an adaptor for my electronic devices?

Ecuador electricity is 110 V A.C. 60 Hz and the outlets are type A – the same as in the US.

How available are Wi-Fi spots?

Free Wi-Fi is standard in populated locations in Ecuador. So many Ecuadorians own smartphones and rely on Wi-Fi connections to use apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp that restaurant, hotels, and cafes often provide Wi-Fi without a password.

How safe is Ecuador?

Ecuador is a beautiful country, but like most destinations, pickpocketing is particularly problematic for tourists, especially in the cities.

Petty thievery in Ecuador’s cities is not higher than in any large city in the US. Common sense is important. Use the safety deposit box at your hotel for your passport and extra money (carry only as much as you might spend) and leave jewelry and expensive watches at home.

What’s the weather like in Ecuador?

The weather in Ecuador is tough to predict. There are countless microclimates due to extremely varied topography causing highly diverse weather in neighboring geographical locations. Weather patterns are different west and east of the Continental Divide. It is important to remember that Ecuador is located right on the Equator and, therefore, it does not have four seasons but two, somewhat different, climate periods during the year—a rainy and a dry season.

In Quito, we wake up with cold weather (50 F) and the temperature slowly rises to around 65 F–72 F, and then it can drop down to the 40s. Since we are right on the Equator when the temperature is in the 70s, you’ll feel a lot warmer because it’s dry and closer to the sun.

The temperature in the cloud forest can go up to the 80s, and it’s very humid. It is essential to dress appropriately. Many adventure companies, such as Columbia, produce high-quality pants and jackets that are light and quick-drying.

The temperature in Cuicocha and Papallacta is very cold, so think about a jacket and maybe a scarf.

We will provide you with a day by day list of what to wear and what to bring.

What is Ecuadorian Food Like?

Ecuador has a vibrant, plentiful, and varied gastronomic culture. Ingredients, seasonings, and influences from elsewhere in South America, Europe and other parts of the world have blended to create some unique tastes. Unlike the much spicier Mexican cuisine to the north, Ecuadorians generally do not like highly spiced food. The Ecuadorian “salsa picante” or “Ají” is made of chili peppers and is served in a small side dish.

Ecuadorians typically eat a diet rich in carbohydrates. In addition to potatoes, Ecuadorians cook and serve meals with corn, quinoa, barley, and hominy. Some varieties of corn have large kernels, and these often round out simple, rustic meals. Soups and stews are served as a main dish or appetizer. Ceviche, a local favorite, is a cold seafood soup soaked in lemon juice. Roasted and fried pork, fish, potato pancakes, and grilled steak are also typical.

A typical and most delicious way to serve potatoes is in thick soup with cheese and avocados that is called “Locro de Papas.” Another tasty potato dish is “Llapingachos.” These are potato pancakes made with mashed potatoes, cheese and onions. Corn (maíz) is another staple usually served on the cob (Choclo) or boiled large-grained corn with a light texture (Mote). Another traditional meal is cornmeal seasoned and steamed in the corn leaf known as “humitas,” which is like a kind of tamale. Cuy is grilled guinea pig served with baked potatoes and salad, which is another Ecuadorian specialty.

We take excellent care of your health and will give you recommendations of what is safe to eat and what is not.

Is It Easy to Get a Sunburn in Ecuador?

It’s easy to get sunburned in Ecuador because the country is right along the equator (the sun is stronger the closer you are to the equator). It’s especially easy to get burned while at high altitudes like Quito and its surrounding towns. Bring your SPF lotion and hats.

The sun in Ecuador can be very intense, particularly around midday. Intensity is highest near large bodies of water such as the ocean, rivers, and lakes. At high elevations, the effect of the sun’s rays is more intense, mainly when reflected by snow, water, or sand. You can get a serious sunburn in less than an hour even under misty conditions or overcast skies.

Is the water safe to drink?

Tap water is generally not safe to drink in Ecuador. Bottled water is readily available at tourist sites, hotels, and restaurants. We even recommend using bottled water to brush your teeth, to be on the safe side. When ordering juice, it’s essential to ask whether it was made with bottled water. Always remember to order your drink without ice, by saying “sin hielo” (sounds like seen yellow).

We will have plenty of purified water to refill your reusable water bottles.

What about altitude sickness?

Quito sits at nearly 10,000 feet (or 2850 meters) altitude above sea level. And we will be visiting sites at 12,000 feet on several occasions. Some people can feel the effects of the altitude upon arriving there, although there is a good chance you may not feel anything.

If you do, you may experience shortness of breath, fatigue in your muscles, and possibly headaches – sensations that can feel similar to sleep deprivation. These symptoms are not usually long-lasting. It just takes a little time (a day or so) for your body to acclimatize to the new heights.

If you suffer from altitude sickness, you may want to ask your doctor for high altitude medication such as Acetazolamide or Dexamethasone.

What about stomach bugs?

Martin and I have a lot of experience with foreigners and know pretty well what you can eat and what you can’t. However, it won’t hurt if you bring some medication (Pepto Bismol and Immodium) for stomach bugs and diarrhea, just in case.

Do we need malaria vaccinations?

A malaria vaccine is not necessary for the areas that we are going to visit.

What happens if the itinerary changes?

We have planned this trip in detail, but we must consider that there may always be circumstances of force majeure such as protests, strikes, natural disasters, decisions of the public authority or another extreme event. We, therefore, we may need to cancel or modify the itinerary.

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