Day 1: Quito, Ecuador
Welcome to Ecuador! After claiming your luggage, you will be met by your Big Five Ecuador representative and transferred to your hotel. Beautifully and eclectically appointed, Casa Gangotena's newly restored interiors draw the eye with Art Nouveau and contemporary touches combined with original Neo-Classical architecture. During the restoration process, huge efforts were made to preserve and restore the mansion's original details, assuring an air of history and sophistication dressed in understated luxury.
The hotel has 31 guest rooms, some with Plaza views. On the third floor is a wide terrace on the third floor with impressive views over the Old Town, the bell towers and spires, the Panecillo hillside, the Pichincha Volcano, and special events such as the Easter procession from the San Francisco Church. The hotel's cozy glass-roofed patio is ideal for relaxing with a patio-garden planted with orchids and flowers just beyond. The ground floor restaurant is decorated in harmony with the rest of the property and the cuisine is a modern international take on traditional Andean and coastal ingredients. Casa Gangotena
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 on December 6th, 1534 by the Spanish conquistadors. Today, it is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site. The historic center of Quito, known as the "Old Town" is the largest and best-restored historical center in the Americas. It is as you would imagine – eccentric, narrow, winding cobblestone streets, magnificent churches and wide, open plazas lined with shops of all kinds. The buildings reflect the rich Spanish colonial influence in the balconies, tile roofs, thick columns and central patios. Explore Old Town on foot for a personal experience of this magnificent area. Your local resident guide is part of the neighborhood and a member of a grassroots NGO organization, the San Roque Heritage Guardians. This group of neighbors, artisans and merchants are actively interested in sharing the daily life and work of the neighborhood. They see this the best way to recover and strengthen their heritage, and by doing so, leave a legacy for the local and global community.
Enjoy with your family, walking along the nearby streets, up the hill on Calle Rocafuerte; browse San Francisco Market, one of the oldest in the capital, to learn about the Ecuador’s fresh fruit and vegetables, and how they are traditionally used. You also have the chance to meet one of the local herbal healers, who has a shop in the market. Walk downhill to the street of La Ronda, considered one of the flagship regeneration projects in the city. You meet a variety of artisans in their workshops, shopkeepers, hat makers and candy makers that are a part of the Manos en La Ronda Project.
You will see how candy was made in colonial times! This is not the candy you know back home. Made by traditional techniques that date back centuries, it is prepared simply in huge pot. You’ll delight in a visit to a chocolatier, where you taste some of the finest chocolate in the world, which, of course, comes from Ecuador! In fact, Ecuador is one of the world’s main exporters of cocoa. Learn about the cocoa fruit and its many surprising uses beyond chocolate, including various ointments. You can sample chocolate combined with everything from tree tomatoes to blackberries. And then there’s the ice cream shop where you can try local traditional flavors such as humitas con café. You can visit a healer and learn about the superstitious and folklore of Ecuador. See how springer children’s toys, are made and how kids in Ecuador still play with old-fashioned wooden toys. Casa Gangotena (B,L)
Day 3: Quito / Santa Cruz Island / Isabela Island, Galapagos
This morning you are transferred to the airport to board your flight to the Galapagos Islands. Upon your arrival, you will board a small plane to Isabela Island. The Enchanted Islands are seldom seen from above. We fly you to Isabela on a small propeller plane for a bird’s-eye view of the archipelago’s volcanic formations. The semi-submerged craters, turquoise waters, rocks and islets are breathtaking. Isabela is the largest island in the Galapagos, and one of the most volcanically active places on earth.
After lunch visit los Humedales, a complex with various trails where you can find the four species of mangroves existing in Galapagos. This area is characterized by solitary beaches, lava tunnels, natural pools and estuaries where you can see flamingos and other birds.
You will also visit the Turtle Breeding Center where the national park is breeding turtles in danger of extinction. Some of this giant turtles have been released by the park and can be found on the trails. At the end of the road you will visit a historic site of Isabela, The Wall of Teasras, El Muro de las Lagrimas. It was built from huge blocks of lava by exile inmates during 1945 to 1959 as a punishment while Isabela was a penal colony. Iguana Crossing Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 4: Isabela Island
Spend the morning exploring Sierra Negra, a large shield volcano at the southeastern end of the island and one of the most active of the Galapagos volcanoes. Hike the extraordinary 16 km/10 mi trail to the caldera over petrified lava flows with impressive views of the island. In the afternoon, visit Tintoreras, a rock formation that is home to a great variety of wildlife with crystalline waters inhabited by white tip reef sharks, Galapagos penguins, turtles, blue footed boobies, and sea lions that are a joy to snorkel with. You may also tour the Tortoise Breeding Centre, exhibiting the different stages of development for the Galapagos tortoise. Iguana Crossing Lodge (B,L,D)
Day 5: Isabela Island / Santa Cruz
You will fly back to Baltra. Your family’s private naturalist guide from Galapagos Safari Camp, will welcome you and transfer you to your hotel. Galapagos Safari Camp features nine luxury tents plus a special family suite. The family unit is next to the main lodge and sleeps six, featuring a master bedroom and two twin rooms, all with en suite bathrooms. Twin beds can be joined to become a queen bed, and a sofa bed can be added for children under 12. The en suite bathrooms are tastefully designed with hot power showers and flush toilets. All the tents have a large balcony with a hammock and chairs to take in the wonderful view. The infinity pool is ideal for a refreshing swim on hot days, or for simply relaxing in this tranquil setting. The camp borders the Galapagos National Park in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island.
After lunch, explore this 135-acre farm, and try your hand at picking tropical fruit, harvesting cacao and spotting local birds. Before sundown, see the deep lava tunnels by flashlight and seek out giant tortoises roaming the National Tortoise Reserve adjacent to the camp. Galapagos Safari Camp (B,L,D)
Day 6: Santa Cruz Island
Continue your Galapagos Islands exploration today.
Bartolomé Island: At 6.30am, you will drive with your group to the Itabaca Channel for the 2.5 hour boat trip to Bartolomé. The island is one of the smallest in the archipelago, with two very different visitor sites. The first landing is wet, followed by a short ten-minute walk across a sand dune that takes you to the southern beach, where black tip reef sharks and rays are often seen in the shallow water. Ghost crabs creep over the sand and disappear as you approach. Between January and March, marine turtles come ashore to nest in the sand.
The second visitor site is a dry landing for a trek up to the island's summit, from which there are spectacular views. The hike is better in early morning or late afternoon, 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. You will also have the opportunity to snorkel with penguins and tropical fish. Return to your hotel in late afternoon. During the evening, the chef teaches the secrets of the Ecuadorian cuisine. Ceviche is one of the most emblematic Ecuadorian plates and you will learn how to prepare, and later have it for dinner. Galapagos Safari Camp(B,L,D)
Notes: Land tours are operated on a privately guided basis. Boat excursions are on a shared basis, NOT exclusively for Galapagos Safari Camp guests This itinerary is subject to change due to National Park regulations or force majeure. We advise our guests to buy travel insurance in their country of origin. Flights from mainland Ecuador to the Galapagos Islands can be arranged upon request.
Day 7: Santa Cruz Island - Experience the East
A morning drive takes you to the eastern part of the island. At 490 m/1,608 feet above sea level, Cerro Mesa Reserve offers spectacular views of the largest crater on Santa Cruz Island, exotic plants, and seven unique subspecies of finch and the elusive vermilion flycatcher. After lunch, explore Garrapatero Beach, with stunning contrasts of mangroves, black lava, white sand, and turquoise water - including a flamingo lagoon. Kayaking and mountain biking are optional. During the late afternoon you can join an art class run by a local artist or cooking classes with area chefs. Galapagos Safari Camp– (B,L,D)
Day 8: Santa Cruz Island
North Seymour Islet: At 8.00 am, you drive with your group (shared excursion) to the Itabaca Channel for the 1.5 hour boat trip to North Seymour. Created by seismic uplift, rather than being of volcanic origin, North Seymour is a low island consisting of submarine lava. The dry landing is rich in wildlife: sea lions, swallow-tailed gulls, lava gulls, tropicbirds, brown noddy terns and pelicans. Heading along the shore, you will traverse a wide expanse of sand, which is a nesting area for marine iguanas. Just off the trail, frigate birds guard their nests in the saltbush clumps, and another trail leads to a flat area that is a nesting site for blue-footed boobies. There is a lovely Palo Santo forest, which is very arid during the dry season, but it turns green almost overnight once the rains begin. Other endemic plants include the Opuntia cactus, Croton, Castela, and Sesuvium.
In the afternoon you might visit Las Bachas Beach, depending on conditions. Its soft, white sand is derived from decomposed coral, making it a favorite nesting site for sea turtles. Behind the beach there is a small brackish lagoon, where you can see flamingos and other coastal birds. This beach is also ideal for swimming and snorkeling. You return to your hotel in late afternoon. Galapagos Safari Camp (B,L,D)
Day 9: Santa Cruz Island / Depart
Transfer to the airport to board your flight back to Quito, where you will connect your flight back home (B)
Land price, per person, double occupancy: From US$790 per person, per day. Domestic Air: Quito/Galapagos/Quito USD$520; Galapagos National Park USD$100; Ingala card: USD$20