Hidden Treasures of Ecuador : From Quito to the Galapagos Islands

Unforgettable 20-Day Journey: Exploring Ecuador's Hidden Gems from Quito to Galapagos

Experience a mesmerizing journey that will take you across the two hemispheres. Immerse yourself in the captivating beauty of Ecuador, from the stunning slopes of Cotopaxi volcano at sunrise to encountering hummingbirds at a renowned National Geographic-listed lodge.

Explore the enchanting primary forest along the Napo River and culminate your adventure in a magical safari tent on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos Archipelago. This extraordinary trip promises unique experiences and memories that will last a lifetime.

Length of stay: 21 days

Kind: Luxury

Fix: For all public

Countries visited: Ecuador

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64 travelers reviews 4.8 / 5

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Day 1 : Quito Airport

Welcome to Ecuador !

A proverb says *Traveling leaves you speechless at first, before turning you into a storyteller*

… Let the adventure start in the country of the middle of the world ! Chulla vida ! Reception at the airport by an english-speaking guide. Private transfer with spanish-speaking driver from Quito airport to your hotel. Night at Illa Experience hotel in Master Suite Panecillo room.

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Day 2 : Quito Historic Center

English-speaking guide in a private transport. Quito stands out for its topography spread out from north to south, in an Andean corridor flanked by the Pichincha volcano and the valley where the airport is located. But it is above all the largest and most preserved colonial city on the continent.

Then you will visit the colonial and republican center of Quito :

– the Panecillo, the statue of the Virgin of Quito, located on top of a hill overlooking the city;
– the Church of the Society of Jesus (of the Jesuits), the most gold-laden church in South America;
– the Church of San Francisco (of the Franciscans) and its convent/museum;
– the Plaza Grande where the Presidential Palace (Carondelet) and the Cathedral of Quito are located;
– the district of La Ronda for its craftsmen. *To’ak Chocolate, born and based in Ecuador, throught the selection of the oldest and rarest cocoa variety on the planet and different aging methods, produces extremely limited editions of Ecuadorian dark chocolate of unique origin, considered the most expensive in the world.*

You will discover To’ak factory by a private tour, sharing the behind the scenes of this exclusive brand, aging process and history around cacao.

You wil continue the visit with a tasting of this hight quality chocolate guided by a reconized expert.

You will taste three editions (corresponding to the years of the cocoa harvest) as well as three vintage chocolates.

If you wish, you will be offered the opportunity to pair this chocolate with a rum, whisky or similar. Night at Illa Experience hotel in Master Suite Panecillo room.

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Day 3 : Quito

English-speaking guide in a private transport. Departure from Quito to follow a scenic road through the Equatorial cloudy forest to the Mindo area, a unique place for its biodiversity. You will arrive at the entrance of the Mashpi Reserve, a forest that extends over 1,300 hectares, a paradise of wildlife and biodiversity. The activities offered to you will depend on factors such as the size of the group, your physical condition, weather conditions and your arrival and departure times.

You will have the choice between:

– guided forest walks, day or night,
– visit the butterfly farm,
– exploration of the canopy from an observation tower or a suspended gondola,
– visit by cable car. Lunch, dinner and night in Mashpi Lodge in Suite Yaku room.

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Day 4 : Mashpi Lodge

English-speaking guide in a private transport. Today, you can do the options not done the day before. Lunch, dinner and night in Mashpi Lodge in Suite Yaku room.

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Day 5 : Mindo

English-speaking guide in a private transport. Trip to Otavalo, famous for its handcrafts. You will visit the indigenous market of Otavalo, the most famous Ecuadorian handicraft market in the Andes.

There you will meet the indigenous Otavaleños wearing espadrilles, brown felt hats and a blue poncho on their shoulders. They are the most prosperous indigenous people in Ecuador and are formidable traders.

Obviously this market has a very developed tourist aspect, but it is one of the country’s must-sees. From here, you get out from the classical road to take the old way that joined Ibarra to Cayambe, passing through the oldest haciendas of the country. Therefore let’s forget the Panamerican Highway for a while to go inside a region deeply indigenous with the Cayambe volcanoe on your left, just before reaching Zuleta. Lunch, dinner and night at the Hacienda Zuleta in Standard room .

This place is a kind of historical summary going from the Caranquis period, a pre-inca population (800 b. J.C.), to the modern era (adquired by a former ecuadorian president). Passing through the Inca occupation at the end of the 15th century and later with the Jesuits during the colonial period. This property of 2112 hectares is an ecological and culinary destination. You can visit the cheese factory, the organic production areas, go trekking in the pre-incas area or on the tracks of the condors.

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Day 6 : Zuleta

English-speaking guide in a private transport. Departure on horseback from the hacienda Zuleta, for a 1 to 2 hour ride on the paths of the property. Zuleta is an exceptional playground because it contains an archaeological site and a natural reserve of condors, surrounded by peaks such as the Cayambe and Imbabura. You will stop picnicking in nature. Lunch, dinner and night at the Hacienda Zuleta in Standard room .

This place is a kind of historical summary going from the Caranquis period, a pre-inca population (800 b. J.C.), to the modern era (adquired by a former ecuadorian president). Passing through the Inca occupation at the end of the 15th century and later with the Jesuits during the colonial period. This property of 2112 hectares is an ecological and culinary destination. You can visit the cheese factory, the organic production areas, go trekking in the pre-incas area or on the tracks of the condors. Massage of one hour to relax. These therapies employ methods based upon natural sciences to achieve the best results for the promotion of healing and

well-being. Detail of the different massages that can be offered:

REFLEXOLOGY

A massage to the base of the foot stimulating the areas reflective of the entire body’s physical organism, freeing physical and energy blocks.

BACK, NECK AND HEAD MASSAGE

This helps to relieve tension in the spine and neck, massaging the [cervical] articulations connecting to the skull, helping to relieve pain in the case of migraines.

INDIGENOUS MASSAGE

A holistic traditional Indigenous whole body massage, which focuses upon re-aligning the boy’s natural energies. It releases negative and balances positive energies, soothing and relaxing the entire body and mind.

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Day 7 : Cayambe

English-speaking guide in a private transport. You will spend 2 hours at the hacienda of the *Compañia de Jesús*, a French neo-classical style property.

At the heart of this experience: the roses with a visit to the adjoining plantation. We will explain the whole process from cultivation to the preparation of the bouquets before export. You will also learn the technique of colouring the roses.

Ecuadorian roses are reputed to be the most beautiful in the world, due in part to the mineral elements from the volcanoes.

To top it all off, visit the showroom! The old stables have been adapted for the pleasure of the eyes by offering an impressive show of hundreds of roses of different varieties. Stop at Quitsato, on the genuine 0° latitude: a giant sundial marks the line of the Equator. We will explain to you the phenomena observable from this authentic place in our opinion and of importance for the civilizations that preceded us. You will be able to discover how the local people integrate seasonal rhythms and activities into the agricultural calendar and what it means, between sky and nature. On the way to the eastern cordillera, you will reach a pass at 4200m. before getting to Papallacta. Mountain lakes, viewpoints on the green valleys, Antisana volcano on your right if clear, will animate this journey in the Andes. Night at Termas Papallacta hotel, two steps from the thermal baths, in Standard room.

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Day 8 : Papallacta

English-speaking guide in a private transport. You will leave Papallacta to arrive to the Cotopaxi Nacional Park. Lunch, dinner and night at the Hacienda San Agustin in Suite room, in the Casa Cotopaxi.

It is the only Hacienda built on Inca ruins and having preserved part of these vestiges. For your lunch a picnic will be organized with hot beverages and typical snacks in the heart of the Cotopaxi Park.

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Day 9 : Cotopaxi Park

English-speaking guide in a private transport. Today, visit of the Cotopaxi national park with Ecuador’s second highest summit at 5897 meters. It is also the highest active volcano in the world although it mainly shows a few fumaroles from its ice covered crater. But sometimes it launches a huge column smoke and ashes right upon its center.

Afterward, you will walk around the Limpiopungo laggon with stunning view on the Cotopaxi. You will appreciate the flora and some fauna, typical of the paramo , those wide plains swept by the cold winds of the Andes.

After driving up to the car park at 4600 meters you will continue by foot to the José Rivas hut 200 meters higher.

The most motivated can also go and reach the snowline. Road to Riobamba, a peaceful andean town. Night at La Andaluza hacienda in Suite Simon Bolivar.

In honour of the liberator Simon Bolivar, this suite was named after him. It has a magnificent view of the Chimborazo, a small room, a fireplace, a king size bed, an abin room with bathtub. You will find on an antique wooden table the poem My delirium on the Chimborazo , written by the liberator, who visited the Hacienda Chuquipogio in 1822 and marvelled at its beauty. According to the writings, he would have stayed and slept in this place, which was the main bedroom of the old house of the Hacienda.

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Day 10 : Riobamba

English-speaking guide in a private transport. On the way to Ingapirca, you will have a stop at the Colta lake and the Balbanera church, the first built in Ecuador in 1534. Visit of Ingapirca. It is the most important Inca site in Ecuador and here the stone is full of history and legends. Ingapirca was built by the Inca Huayna Capac in the 15th century. It was an imposing fortress housing a temple, warehouses and an observatory made of stones assembled without mortar. This complex was certainly a tambo (relay) along the Inca royal road from Quito to Cuenca. The locals also see the shape of a puma.

There is a path near the site where Inganahui is located, the face of the Inca that rain and wind carved into the rock, probably inspired by Inca powers. You will then reach the beautiful city of Cuenca, by a road winding through the middle of the Andes and offering magnificent panoramas of the colorful patchwork of typical agricultural crops and the last high volcanoes of southern Ecuador. Night at Mansion Alcazar hotel in Premier Suite Deluxe room.

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Day 11 : Cuenca

English-speaking guide in a private transport. The city of Cuenca has an indefinable charm. This colonial city, classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, combines a warm and lively atmosphere with splendid historical buildings, with colonial and republican style.

To appreciate its warm colors, you will stroll among the paved streets, lined with white houses with Romanesque tile roofs and flowered wrought iron balconies. Cuenca is also unique for the treasures of colonial art that it shelters in the heart of its churches and convents of the 17th and 18th centuries.

During this half-day visit, you will discover

– the old town and the colonial houses;
– the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and the old Cathedral;
– the flower square with its market;
– the local markets to soak up the local life;
– the city’s churches, such as Santo Domingo or San Francisco. It’s time for the cooking class. An opportunity to discover Ecuadorian flavors and especially ingredients that you may not know. Taking home these little touches, which will make a difference with your friends, is a useful souvenir. And of course you will have lunch with what you have prepared. Night at Mansion Alcazar hotel in Premier Suite Deluxe room.

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Day 12 : Cuenca

English-speaking guide in a private transport. You will follow up Western cordillera to Cajas park where you will enjoy stunning views over the many lakes of this protected area. Cajas National Park is located in the southern Ecuadorian Andes and comprises a complex of 235 lagoons of glacial origin, connected to each other by small rivers.

The park includes several stretches of the Qhapaq Ñan, the famous Royal Inca Trail, which connects the coast with the highlands, the north to the south, and served as a network for the management of the empire.

You will be able to hike with a local guide. The choice of the path will be made on the spot according to the duration and difficulty. Journey to get to Guayaquil, Ecuador’s biggest city and economical capital.

Down from the mountains you will pass by fertiles lowlands with huge orchards and banana plantations before arriving to Guayaquil. Night at the Hotel del Parque in Deluxe room (Standard category).

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Day 13 : Guayaquil Airport

English-speaking guide in a private transport. Private transfer to Guayaquil airport. Morning check-in at Guayaquil or Quito international airports. The flight time from Quito to Guayaquil is 40 minutes. There is a 40-minute transit in Guayaquil Airport. Flight time from Guayaquil to the Islands is 1 hour and 40 minutes.

You will have access to the VIP Lounge at Baltra Airport. Our guides meet you and take you from the Itabaca Channel for a seven-minute ferry crossing to Santa Cruz Island, followed by a 40-minute scenic trip in private transport to Pikaia Lodge.

– Check-in at The Lodge.

– Light lunch at Evolution Restaurant or on the Pool Terrace.

– Briefing with a complementary welcome cocktail is offered at DNA Bar.

– Guests are given a chance to relax and familiarize themselves with The Lodge environment and facilities. We recommend walking, jogging or cycling the 3.5km of trails within the boundaries, or a swim in the pool.

– Guests may participate in a land exploration on Santa Cruz Island.

– Dinner at Evolution Restaurant.

Night at Pikaïa Lodge.

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Day 14 : North Seymour

ISLA SEYMOUR NORTE – PLAYA BACHAS
The yacht cruise is a full day program on board our exclusive PIKAIA Yacht. Private cabins are assigned and full American breakfast served. On arrival at the island, the morning offers hiking, or snorkeling activities, until early afternoon. A lunch buffet is served while the yacht sails to the next point of visit, for an afternoon of hiking, or snorkeling. While sailing, our guests can rest, shower, or freshen up in their air-conditioned private cabins, soak in the Jacuzzi, watch a Galapagos documentary, join a discussion with guides, sunbathe on the sundeck or look out for dolphins.

Return to the hotel for dinner.

NIght at Pikaïa Lodge.

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Day 15 : Santa Cruz

Each morning activity is planned according to satellite weather imagery and tide charts. Guest will join groups of maximum 16 people for a land tour.

LAND ACTIVITIES INCLUDED IN THE PACKAGE : Gemelos & Scalesia Forest, Giant tortoise farm, Volcanic craters and giant tortoises at Cerro Mesa

Lava tunnels, Tortuga Bay Beach, Charles Darwin Scientific Research Center, Garrapatero Beach, Snorkeling at Pikaia II

ACTIVITIES NOT INCLUDED Scuba Diving, Sea Kayaking , Mountain Biking , Catch & Release Fishing

Guests can relax and enjoy their days at The Lodge independently as well. Mountain bikes, helmets, snorkelling equipment and wetsuits are available without charge at the front desk or onboard our yacht. It is recommended to pre-book early 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, depending on activity and time.) Please note that these optional programs are not carried out by the hotel. While we work with wellknown and specialized local tour operators, we cannot accept any responsibility for their activities or services.

7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. : Full American breakfast

10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. : Morning exploration program

1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. : Lunch at The Lodge

2:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. : Afternoon excursion

7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. : Dinner

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Day 16 : Bartolomé

Morning: departure early in the morning to transfer in 40 minutes the port of Itabaca to with your boat. Breakfast on board.

The Bartolomé Island could have served as a backdrop to the novel Mysterious Island of Jules Verne. The landscape is indeed lunar, with a universe with a strange atmosphere, composed of frozen lava and black volcanic sand.

It’s a small island located across from Sullivan Bay. It also offers a beautiful beach in a bay with calm and transparent waters. After a short climb (the summit is only 115 m), you reach the top of the island: the view is amazing.

To the east, we can see a series of small ejection cones giving the impression of a ravaged red desert.

In the West, stands Pinnacle rock , a rocky needle that gives all its character to the island. The only trace of vegetation is represented by coldenia, a small white plant and brachycereus, the lava cactus.

The underwater fauna is very rich there, especially around the walls of Pinnacle frequented by schools of multicolored fish and penguin colonies. A path through the mangroves and thorn bushes leads in a few minutes to the south beach where swimming is prohibited: dozens of small white-finned sharks patrol a few meters from the shore.

Buffet lunch served on the boat at 13:00. When sailing to Sullivan Bay, guests will have access to a shower, cabins with air conditioning and jacuzzi.

Afternoon: visit Santiago, one of the largest islands of the archipelago. The volcanic landscape is amazing.

You will dock in Sullivan Bay, where you can swim and snorkel.

Back to the lodge for the sunset.

Dinner and overnight at Pikaya Lodge.

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Day 17 : Quito Airport

Reception at the airport by a french-speaking guide. Private transfer with spanish-speaking driver from Quito airport to your hotel. An unforgettable experience to share without moderation with those we love.

It is the end of the day in Quito, the lights are shining on the colonial houses of the century neighbor, full of mysteries and legends. In the steps of your guide, almost coming from a book of History, with his period clothes and sayings, let’s go to the historical center for going back the old loves stories of Quito.

You guide will invit you to discover the house of María Agusta Urrutía, a philanthropist aristocrat from XXth century, who knew lots of secrets from contemporary lovers.

Then, follow your guide and climb the numerous steps, take the hand of your lover and close your eyes.

Surprise: Quito is shining down, Quito is yours.

Visited places: the house of the María Augusta Urrutia museum, the cupolas of the *Compañía de Jesús* church and the cathedral of Quito.

*NOTE* *:* *the visit starts at 7:00pm – ends around 9:30pm.* Night at Casa Gangotena hotel in Plaza View room.

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Day 18 : Quito Airport

Transport with an english-speaking guide from your hotel to Quito’s airport. Private transfer with spanish-speaking driver to Quito airport. Domestic flight Quito – Coca (around 40 minutes). Cruise on the Anakonda of 4 days – 3 nights.

CRUISE ON THE ANAKONDA:

*Morning:* early this morning, you will visit a type of indigenous dwelling to immerse yourself in the way of life in this region with its particular climate. Then you will return to the boat.

Return by canoe to the town of Coca from where you will take your flight to Quito.

*NOTE:* *The itinerary described above is generic, i.e. it is subject to change due to the inherent constraints of the Amazon region. The activities will however be carried out, but in a sequence that may differ. Also note that are not included during the stay the entrance fees to the communities and natural parks (70 us$ per person), the access to the wifi and the drinks.* You will have access to Internet thru Wifi by satellite.

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Day 19 : Limoncocha

*Morning:* you will continue your navigation until you arrive at the mouth of the Pañayacu (Piranha River). You will take a canoe trip on the Piranha River to discover the curiosities of this protected forest. We will be able to see freshwater pink dolphins, numerous and agile Saïmiris monkeys. The rivers and lakes here are the perfect habitat for the famous piranha, black arowana (monkey fish) and white caimans. For your lunch you will enjoy a typical Amazonian barbecue.

*Afternoon:* you will explore the forest and the banks of the river, to continue your discovery of the fauna and flora of this region, before going back on board.

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Day 20 : Pañacocha

*Morning:* After breakfast served on board, you will visit an indigenous community to learn more about their way of life. It will also be an opportunity to discover their traditional crafts. You will then go to the parrot cliff where hundreds of birds of different species gather to swallow the kaolin found there, a unique spectacle!

*Afternoon:* you will explore other trails in the middle of the Amazon rainforest and depending on the conditions, you can canoe down the Rio Napo and observe the surrounding fauna and flora.

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Day 21 : Pañacocha

*Morning:* *early this morning, you will visit a type of indigenous dwelling to immerse yourself in the way of life in this region with its particular climate. Then you will return to the boat.*

Return by canoe to the town of Coca from where you will take your flight to Quito.

*NOTE:* *The itinerary described above is generic, i.e. it is subject to change due to the inherent constraints of the Amazon region. The activities will however be carried out, but in a sequence that may differ. Also note that are not included during the stay the entrance fees to the communities and natural parks (70 us$ per person), the access to the wifi and the drinks.* You will take a 40 minutes domestic flight from Coca to Quito. Free connection for your international flight from Quito. According to your flight schedule, you will dispose of more or less free time.

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