Ecuador: Flavors of Ecuador

Discover the sights, sounds and flavors of Quito, founded in the 16th century as you explore the historic city center, and take a private cooking class. Meet farmers and fishermen. Enjoy a four-night, land-based exploration of the amazing Galapagos Islands. Snorkel, dive, hike and kayak in these fabled islands.

Country Information

Ecuador & The Galapagos Islands

Ecuador: Flavors of Ecuador

(Countries Visited)

Ecuador & The Galapagos Islands

(Interest Type(s))

Adventure Travel

(Tour Length)

13 Days

Tour Highlights

Call for Rates
  • Enjoy the sights, sounds and flavors of Quito, founded in the 16th century, as you explore the historic city center and take a private cooking class to sample some delicious local dishes
  • Visit an indigenous market to watch farmers and tradesmen sell their goods; view the selection of local crops, including potatoes, corn and wheat; and stop at a working hacienda to see how they are planted and harvested
  • In a small fishing village, watch the fishermen return with their daily catch, and select your own fresh fish that you will help prepare later at a private home
  • Savor a four-night, land-based exploration of the amazing Galapagos Islands
  • Take advantage of opportunities to snorkel, dive, hike and kayak in unique environments of these fabled islands

Day 1:  Arrive Quito
Welcome to Ecuador!  After claiming your luggage, you will be met by your Big Five Ecuador representative and transferred to your hotel.  Situated in a newly-restored historic mansion overlooking Plaza San Francisco, the three-story Casa Gangotena encompasses 31 rooms that are a showcase of eye-catching style; a combination of contemporary design, charming antiques, and modern technologies.  Beautifully and eclectically appointed, the hotel invites guests to savor the environment – the glassed-in patio, flower garden, wood-panelled library, and the panoramic third-floor terrace.  Casa Gangotena Hotel – Plaza view room

Day 2:  Quito
The capital of Ecuador, Quito lies at an elevation of 9,000 feet in the province of Pichincha surrounded by the Andes Mountains.  One of the most beautiful capitals in the world, the city was founded as San Francisco de Quito in 1534 by Spanish conquistadors.  It is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site.  The historic “Old City” of Quito is replete with narrow, winding cobblestone streets, magnificent churches and wide-open squares.  The buildings that line the streets reflect Spanish colonial influence with their balconies, tile roofs, thick columns and central patios.  Ecuador is a world power when it comes to the culinary arts.  Today you will enjoy shopping at a local market for the freshest fruits and vegetables.  You will discover a variety of organic produce used in traditional Ecuadorian recipes that are not found abroad.  Explore some of old Quito´s splendid architecture and hidden patios on the way to a cooking class, where an expert Ecuadorian chef will teach you some of the most delicious dishes the country has to offer.  Next, you will enjoy a lunch that includes the dishes you helped prepare.  In the afternoon we will continue with our excursion through the city, topping it off with the San Diego Cloister, now a museum housing art treasures of the past.  Dress in layers (T-shirt, blouse, sweater, coat).  Take a sweater even if the day is warm and sunny.  Rain protection advised in the afternoon.  This tour includes walking at an altitude of 2,800 meters/9,200 feet and climbing stairs.  Sun protection (SPF 40) is important as are good walking shoes.  Casa Gangotena Hotel (B,L)

Day 3:  Quito / Cotopaxi
This morning drive south to visit an indigenous market.  Market days are when all the local people come down from the mountains to sell their crops.  You will learn firsthand about the range of products that grow in the area.  The main crops are potatoes, corn and wheat.  You have the opportunity to visit a working hacienda to see how these foods are planted and harvested.  The rich volcanic soil helps the plants grow, even at 12,000 feet.  Afterwards, drive to the hacienda San Agustin del Callo.  Built on the site of an Inca palace, it is one of the two most important archaeological Inca sites in Ecuador.  It is the point furthest north where you will find the Inca’s Cuzco Imperial style of construction.  This working farm offers an unrivalled glimpse into Ecuador's rich and colorful past.  Since the 15th century, San Agustin de Callo has served as Inca fortress, Augustinian convent and temporary home for members of the French Geodesic Mission, whose scientific results helped to determine the true shape of the planet.  Jorge Juan and Antonio de Ulloa were appointed by the King of Spain to host the Geodesic Mission in 1736, which was led by Charles-Marie de la Condamine.  Alexander von Humboldt, the German scientist and renowned naturalist and explorer, and the English mountain climber Edward Whymper.  Here at the hacienda, you can learn to make “locro,” a potato soup with cheese and avocado.  San Agustin del Callo (B,L,D)

Day 4:  Cotopaxi / Riobamba
This morning you are transferred to the airstrip for your flight to Shell and then continue to Riobamba.  En route, you visit the home of a local family to see how they prepare their food. Hacienda Abraspungo (B,L,D)

Day 5:  Riobamba / Puerto Lopez
The landscapes evolve as you drive from the highlands to the coast.  You’ll begin to see tropical vegetation such as mango, oranges, bananas, papaya, pineapples and passion fruit.  You will also see coffee, rice and cocoa plantations.  En route, stop at a small farm to learn what agricultural methods they use.  Arrive in Puerto Lopez in the afternoon, where the remainder of the day is at leisure.  Mantaraya Lodge (B,L,D)

Day 6:  Puerto Lopez
This morning, drive to a fishing village to watch the fishermen return from their pre-dawn excursion with their daily catch.  The beach becomes a temporary market with stalls nearby that gladly prepare the fresh caught fish.  You have the chance to select your own fish and take it to a private home where your hostess will demonstrate how to prepare a stewed fish served with rice and plantain with a coconut sauce.  In the afternoon enjoy time at leisure on the beach.  Mantaraya Lodge (B,L,D)

Day 7:  Puerto Lopez / Guayaquil
Today, you explore the wonders of Isla de la Plata, an outstanding wildlife sanctuary for seabirds and other marine life.  Your day-long sea adventure begins at Puerto Lopez's tranquil harbor, where you board the comfortable Mantaraya boat for ah hour and a half trip to the island.  Once there, you can hike the trails with your guide to learn more about the natural, geological and cultural history of La Plata.  You may see the famous red- and blue-footed boobies, albatross frigate birds and others.  You can also opt to relax on the beach or go snorkeling around Drake’s Bay.  A box lunch and water will be provided during this trip.  If you are interested in scuba diving, that can be arranged ahead of time.  Isla de la Plata has excellent locations for divers that are rich in marine life, rocky coral reefs, rays and occasionally sharks.  Hilton Colon (B,L)

Day 8:  Guayaquil / Galapagos
Today you will be transferred to the airport for your flight to Baltra Island in the Galapagos Islands.  Upon arrival, you are welcomed by your naturalist guide who will accompany you for lunch and a complete tour of the highlands.  Visit Los Gemelos, collapsed twin craters that were formed by a series of eruptions long ago.  This area is one of the few where the rare Scalesia forest is almost intact.  You catch sight of indigenous tortoises as well as finches and vermilion fly catchers.  You can experience total darkness in the lava tunnels and learn about the formation of these fascinating islands.  Then go to your accommodations at Galapagos Safari Camp.  The camp is set on a 55-hectare farm in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island bordering the national park.  Just 30 minutes from the sea, the farm is rich in birdlife with finches, warblers, egrets, mockingbirds, Galapagos doves and owls as well as tortoises that frequent the farm.  It has many local species of trees, including scalesia, guayabillo and palo santo, which are rapidly regaining a foothold after years of cattle farming had forced them out.  The camp has eight luxury safari tents perched on a hill, providing comfort and privacy in the wilderness.  All tents have a balcony with views of the park and the ocean, and they are spacious, attractively decorated.  Each has a private bathroom, with hot shower and toilet.  Guests can gather by the fireplace in the main room to view the sunsets, and sample the chef´s creative dishes that cater for the international palate in the panoramic dining room.  You can also enjoy the tranquility of the infinity pool with fabulous ocean scenery.  Galapagos Safari Camp (B,L,D)

Day 9:  The Galapagos Islands
Today you will spend the day visiting North Seymour Island aboard the yacht Narel on a shared basis.  The boat has capacity for 16 passengers.  The island was lifted from the ocean floor by a seismic event, and its origins as a seabed give the island its low, flat profile.  Cliffs only a few meters high form the shoreline, where swallow-tailed gulls perch on ledges.  A tiny forest of silver-grey palo santo trees stand just above the landing, usually without leaves, waiting for the rain to bring them into bloom.  You might have to give way to a passing sea lion or marine iguana.  Blue-footed booby nests sit beside the trail, where mating pairs perform their courtship dance.  Further along, the rocky shore mixes with white sand, and large flocks of pelicans mass to begin a dive-bombing feeding frenzy in the waters nearby.  The trail turns inland to reveal the largest nesting site in the Galapagos of the magnificent frigate bird.  These huge, dark acrobats have two-meter wingspans, and males, with puffed up scarlet throat sacks, sit precariously perched in low bushes to watch over their equally large chicks.  In the afternoon, you may visit Las Bachas (depending on conditions), a sandy white-coral beach that is a major egg-laying site for sea turtles.  On the shore, there are many marine iguanas and in the lagoon, flamingos are commonly seen.  This beach is also a good place for swimming and snorkeling.  Galapagos has been a place where people from the highlands, the coast and even the jungle immigrated to, and they have influenced the food as well.  Tonight, the owner of Safari Camp will open her kitchen and teach you some of the traditional dishes of the region.  Galapagos Safari Camp (B,L,D)

Day 10:  The Galapagos Islands
Today aboard the yacht Narel, you set out for Bartolome Island, about a two-and-a-half hour trip each way.  The beach landing is wet.  Take some insect repellent.  A short ten-minute walk across a sand dune takes you to the southern beach, where harmless black-tipped reef sharks and rays are often seen in the warm, shallow water.  Snorkeling is banned here to protect the marine life.  Ghost crabs creep over the sand and disappear as you approach.  Look up at the sky and often you may see a juvenile Galapagos hawk hovering overhead.  The summit trail begins with a dry landing, though sea lions make the purpose-built dock more exciting.  The trail is a dusty walk through volcanic ash.  The only vegetation are pioneer plants, grey tiquilia and greenish chamaesyce.  These are vital in binding the ash that fans down from the hill.  The park wardens have built wooden steps up the hill to prevent further erosion by humans.  The reddish spatter cones were minor eruptions of highly viscous material that cooled rapidly.  The summit is such a cone; it seems higher than 114m as you climb the steps.  The eastern side has many small lava tubes.  The hike is better before 10:00 am or after 16:00 pm, when the light is softer.  If you look carefully you can make out sunken craters in the sea below.  In the distance you can see most of the central islands, the peaks of Isabela to the west, and on a clear day Marchena and Pinta to the north.  Galapagos Safari Camp (B,L,D)

Day 11:  The Galapagos Islands
Today you will be driven to the Eastern part of the island to enjoy the morning in the beautiful and pristine Garrapatero Beach.  The contrast of mangroves, black lava, white sand, pioneer cacti and turquoise water are a spectacle, particularly with the buzzing coastal bird life and the small lagoon near the beach where you often spot pink flamingos and bahama ducks.  Kayaking is possible.  You have lunch at a local restaurant in Bellavista or a picnic, if you prefer, before doing  touring the area by foot or mountain bike.  You stop at a coffee farm to savour and learn about islands grown coffee.  Galapagos Safari Camp (B,L,D)

Day 12:  Galapagos / Quito
Today you will be transferred back to Baltra airport to take the flight back to the mainland, where upon arrival you will be met and transferred to your hotel.  Casa Gangotena – Plaza View Room (B)

Day 13:  Quito / Depart
You will be transferred to the airport for your flight out.  (B)

Land price, per person, double occupancy:  From US$600 per person, per day.

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