Day 1. QUITO (Saturday start)
Arrival in Quito, reception and transfer to a choice of deluxe hotels, either the historical Patio Andaluz in colonial Quito, the deluxe Swissotel in modern Quito or the beautiful Mansion of del Angel. Dinner at your hotel.
Day 2. QUITO
After breakfast, a full day's guided visit of colonial Quito, declared by UNESCO as a world heritage site in 1978. A visit to the Old Town, including the Plaza de la Independencia. The President still conducts business here, so access to the inside may be limited. It is the home of the tomb of Sucre and also houses interesting 17th and 18th century paintings.
A visit to the Parque Alameda that houses the oldest astronomical observatory in South America, as well as an impressive monument of Simon Bolivar.
The Plaza de San Francisco was constructed by the Spanish in 1553, and the church has a high altar made of gold and beautifully carved ceilings. You shall also visit La Compaņia, the finest of all Jesuit churches. Damaged through the years by fires and earthquakes, it has since been restored and has a richly sculptured facade and interior.
If there is time, we will visit some of the markets, including the Indian market at Avenida de 24 de Mayo at the base of El Panecillo and the Ipiales market. These are best visited on Wednesdays and Saturdays, the main market days.
Lunch at Café Mosaico; affording excellent views of Quito from its incredible location above Quito. Continue the tour to the middle of the world monument before returning to your hotel for dinner and accommodation.
Day 3. QUITO - COCA - KAPAWI LODGE
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for the flight to Coca, a 25-minute flight that takes you over the Andean Mountains' majestic snow-covered peaks and down over 8500 feet (2600 metres) into the Amazon Region. The flight destination is the port town of Puerto Francisco de Orellana, locally known as Coca, where you will transfer to another aircraft for the flight to Kapawi, which takes one more hour. This flight lands on the Kapawi's Achuar Community airstrip where the guides and native staff will be waiting to receive all guests and help carry your luggage. You will have a short hike of 10 minutes through the village followed by a canoe ride of approximately 15 minutes. During this journey passengers can appreciate this part of the Amazon rainforest, with many species of bird, butterflies and dolphins.
Once in Kapawi an introductory talk will be giving by the resident manager.
The Kapawi project was initiated in 1993 in partnership with the FINAE, the Federation of Achuar Indigenous People in Ecuador, where in an area of 5000 square kilometres there is a population of 4,500 people in 56 communities.
The lodge accommodates up to 50 visitors with double and triple accommodations and was built in accordance to the Achuar concept of architecture.
Kapawi is the largest community-based project ever developed in Ecuador, away from oil exploitation and other destructive practices.
At the moment up to 70% of all the employees that work at the lodge are Achuar.
Day 4. AMAZON JUNGLE
A day in Kapawi starts at 6AM with hot drinks and a light snack before a short hike into the forest or an early morning canoe trip for bird watching on the banks of the Capahuari River to visit the parrot's salt lick. You will be back for breakfast at 8:00, and then at 9:00 AM passengers depart for their morning activity which will return them back to the lodge at 13:00 for lunch. Alternatively you can take the lunch along to enjoy a beautiful picnic in the forest and be back at the lodge for 17:00 PM. For passengers who decide to have lunch at the lodge they will start their afternoon activity at 15:00. At 19:00 a briefing with the guides will be scheduled every day. Dinner is served at 19:30. At 20:30 passengers will have the opportunity to do a night hike, caiman watching or to receive a lecture about the rainforest or the Achuar life. Sleep at night in the community or camping are also available upon request to the guides.
The Lodge provides multiple activities in programs that are characterized by their flexibility. These allow you to design day by day, with the rest of your group and your guide, the most suitable program for your interests and desired activity level. Most itineraries include visits to the Achuar communities, hikes in the rain forest, canoeing, bird watching, and other activities. According to your interests and physical condition (but not your age!), there will be three alternative programs: easy, moderate, and difficult. These programs depend mainly on the distance and time you would like to spend on the trails.
Easy path: These are short hikes in the rainforest (up to 2h 30 hours) on well-defined trails, including visits to the Achuar communities, trips in canoes and excursions on raft and kayaks.
Moderate path: Medium distance hikes in the rain forest (up to 4 hours) and sometimes crossing flooded areas.
Difficult path: Demanding hikes of over 4 hours and in some cases all day or more, in poorly defined, hilly, and often flooded trails. Porters will carry food and supplies for longer expeditions. Excellent physical condition is required and supplies for longer expeditions.
Day 5. AMAZON JUNGLE
Free day with a variety of tour options.
Day 6. AMAZON JUNGLE
Free day with a variety of tour options.
Day 7.AMAZON JUNGLE - COCA - QUITO
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for the return flight to Coca and transfer over to the final flight to Quito and accommodation at your hotel. Dinner at your hotel.
Day 8. QUITO - OTAVALO - COTOCACHI
After breakfast, we head north for a visit to the colourful Indian market of Otavalo, some two hours drive from Quito. With its many impressive arts and crafts of the local people, especially weavings, the market dates back to pre-Inca times when jungle products from the east were traded with highland products. Traditional dress is observed throughout the market. The trip continues to Cotocachi, and the marvellous La Mirage Garden Hotel and Spa, the only Relais & Chateux group member in Ecuador. Lunch before time to visit the wonderful town, the leather capital of Ecuador. Here you will have ample opportunity to purchase fine leather products. Return to La Mirage; with an elegant and unique covered Pool and Spa Area, decorated in Roman Style, La Mirage Spa offers 11 different types of massages and treatments, including reflexology and aromatherapy. Choose among the many spa treatments or just relax and enjoy the setting of the spa. Dinner and overnight accommodation.
Day 9. QUITO - GALAPAGOS ISLANDS - ISLA LOBOS
After breakfast, return to Quito and direct to the airport for the flight to San Cristobal. You will be met at the airport by our operator for the start of your Galapagos tour. A visit to Isla Lobos, where a large population of sea lions make their home. This island is also a great place for snorkeling opportunities as well as to view blue-footed boobies.
Day 10. ESPAŅOLA - GARDNERBAY - PUNTA SUAREZ
A visit to the isolated Espaņola where there is a high percentage of endemic fauna. GardnerBay, on the eastern shore has a magnificent beach. The beach is frequented by sea lions, and is a major nesting site for marine turtles. Around the small islets nearby, snorkelers will come across many species of fish, turtles and perhaps even sharks. On a trail leading to the western part of the island, several nesting sites of the waved albatross will be encountered. These huge birds nest here from April to December. Finally at Punta Suarez, along with many nesting seabirds there are mockingbirds, Galapagos doves and Galapagos hawks. Several types of reptile, including the marine iguana and the lava lizard, are also inhabitants of the island. Here you may also see a spectacular blowhole, which shoots spray 30 metres into the air.
Day 11. PUNTA CORMORANT - FLOREANA - POSTOFFICEBAY
First stop is at Punta Cormorant, a small island with a large inland lagoon, home to many flamingos and other wading birds. The sandy beach cove has numerous turtles, rays and seabirds, whilst off the coast is Devil's Crown, a half submerged volcanic crater, which is a great site for snorkeling as you will see starfish, sea urchins and tropical fish in the shallow centre as well as larger fish like sharks and rays outside the rocky area. A trip to Floreana, the sixth largest island, and a main settlement with a few hundred inhabitants. With one of the most interesting human histories of the islands, it was one of the earliest islands to be inhabited. In 1793 a post office barrel was erected on Floreana to facilitate delivery to the United States and Europe.
Day 12. SANTA CRUZ - CHARLES DARWIN STATION - HIGHLANDS
A visit to the second largest island in the Galapagos, Santa Cruz. With six different zones of vegetation: Coastal, Arid, Transition, Scalesia, Miconia, and Pampa Zones. The Charles Darwin Research Station and the Galapagos National Park offices are also based here. The station is also a tortoise breeding centre, where tortoises of different species are prepared for reintroduction to their natural habitats. The most famous inhabitant is probably Lonesome George, the only survivor of this specific turtle species. The lush green scenery of the Santa Cruz highlands is a welcome contrast to the aridity of the lower islands.
Day 13. SANTIAGOISLAND - PUERTO EGAS - RABIDA
Today, we take a small path from the visitor centre at James' Bay on Santiago Island passing the ruins of a former salt mine and seeing along the way sea lions, lizards, herons and fur seals. In the afternoon, a trip to the small volcanic island of Rabida where you will follow a small path which will lead to a small lagoon populated with flamingos.
Day 14. BARTOLOMEISLAND - SULLIVAN
Before breakfast, we disembark at Bartolome Island for a hike to the summit and a spectacular panoramic view. Later there will be a chance to snorkel with Galapagos Penguins. Continue on to Sullivan Bay, a white coral sandy beach to begin your walk over lava that flowed less than 100 years ago. This is the perfect place to see and feel the volcanic origin of the Galapagos. Return to your yacht.
Day 15. NORTHSEYMOUR-SOUTH PLAZAS ISLAND
A visit to North Seymour, an uplifted island was once on the ocean floor. Afternoon trip to the NorthSeymourIsland in order to observe bird colonies such as blue-footed boobies and frigate birds. An opportunity also to see sea lions and marine iguanas. Continue onto SouthPlaza, one of the smallest islands and only 130 metres wide and 800 metres long. Here there is a large colony of sea lions, with over 1,000 occupying the smooth rocks. The small cactus forest is populated by land iguanas, where they can be seen sunning themselves or feeding on Opuntia pads and fruits. Along the cliff edge, nesting swallow-tailed gulls are the predominant seabirds, along with tropic birds.
Day 16. SAN CRISTOBAL - SANTA CRUZ
The last day aboard the yacht, when we follow in the path of Charles Darwin and navigate close by Kicker Rock, a small islet whose cliffs are home to many sea birds. A visit to the Interpretation Centre at Puerto Baquerizo Moreno before arriving to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno for the transfer to the airport and flight to Santa Cruz Island. Transfer to the deluxe 5* Royal Palm Hotel and accommodation in a villa. Lunch and dinner at the hotel with plenty of opportunity to relax and reflect on the previous week's sightings.
Day 17. SANTA CRUZ
Optional free day at the Royal Palm or return to the Ecuadorian mainland.
Day 18. SANTA CRUZ - QUITO
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for the flight to Quito. Transfer to your hotel.
Day 19. QUITO -IBARRA
After breakfast, excursion to Ibarra and to the Hacienda Primavera, located in the El Choco rainforest reserve, a mixture of both rainforest and cloud forest. With spacious rooms, a swimming pool and spa along with a stable, this hacienda is the most deluxe cloud forest lodge in northern Ecuador. Solar panels are used to produce the heating and lighting.
The El Choco rainforest reserve has primary and secondary forest, and guests are certain to see a variety of tropical birds such as parrots and toucans. Animals found in the area include the mantled howler monkey, guatines, Hoffman's two toed sloth, giant anteaters, and armadillos. The rivers are also teeming with trout and catfish and local fishing equipment can be provided.
Day 20. IBARRA - QUITO
Morning at the hacienda for various excursions before lunch followed by a late afternoon return to Quito for your last night in Ecuador.
Day 21. QUITO
After early breakfast, transfer to the airport for your return flight home.