December 20 / Monday: Quito
Arrival to Quito. Reception and transfer to your hotel.
December 21 / Sunday: Quito - Baltra - Santa Cruz Island
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for the flight to Baltra Island. You will be met at the airport by the ship's crew for the start of your Galapagos tour. 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 lush green scenery of the Santa Cruz highlands is a welcome contrast to the aridity of the lower islands.
December 22 / Monday: Santa Fe & Plazas Island
Santa Fe has one of the most beautiful coves of all the visitor sites in the archipelago. A turquoise lagoon with two small white sandy beaches are protected by a peninsula where sea lions rest. A trail runs along the side of the coast and then crosses through an Opuntia Forest. These prickly pear cacti are the largest found anywhere in the Galapagos. The Santa Fe species of land iguanas are also larger and of a paler yellow than on the other islands. After the hike you can swim or snorkel in the bay in the company of sea lions. Located in the east of Santa Cruz, the main characteristics of the small island of South Plaza are the Opuntia cacti and the carpets of red sesuvium, a succulent plant that turns green in the rainy season. The cactus is the main food of land iguanas, which are usually, found resting in the cacti's shade. The island contains one of the largest sea lion colonies of the Galapagos, along with swallow-tailed gulls and red-billed tropicbirds. Boobies are also found roosting on the southern cliffs of the island.
December 23 / Tuesday: Rábida & Santiago Island
Today, a visit to Puerto Egas on Santiago begins with a wet landing on the dark sand beaches of James Bay. The visit begins with a walk along the rocky coast giving visitors the opportunity to view some of the Galapagos Island's best tidal pools. Sponges, snails, hermit crabs, barnacles and fish including the endemic four-eyed blenny can be seen. The walk also presents visitors with a variety of shore birds, marine iguanas, sally light foot crabs and sea lions. In the afternoon, a trip to the beach of the small volcanic island of Rabida. A small path will lead to a small lagoon populated with flamingos.
December 24 / Wednesday: Bartolome & North Seymour Isla
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 sand beach and 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 the yacht and head towards North Seymour, an uplifted island which used to be on the ocean floor. Afternoon trip to North Seymour observing bird colonies of blue-footed boobies, frigate birds, and also sea lions and marine iguanas.
* Special Christmas Dinner
December 25 / Thursday: Quito
After breakfast early morning flight to Quito. Rest of the day at leisure.
December 26 / Friday: Quito - Otavalo
Today, after breakfast, transfer to Otavalo for a visit to the colourful Indian market of Otavalo, with its many impressive arts and crafts of the local people. 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. In the afternoon, a visit to Cotacachi, famous for its leatherwork. Return in the evening to Quito.
December 27 / Saturday: Quito - Cotopaxi
After breakfast, we start our journey south through the spectacular avenue of the volcanoes towards Cotopaxi, the most famous of all Ecuatorian volcanoes. We shall pass Pasochoa, Ruminahui and Corazon volcanoes along this spectacular journey. Arrival to the magnificent Hacienda Cienega, one time residence of the German scientist Von Humboldt. After lunch at the hacienda, we shall visit the Hacienda San Agustin de Callo at the very foot of Cotopaxi. This Hacienda has been written about by the Spanish chronicler, Cieza de Leon (1553) and is one of only two major Inca sites in Ecuador.
The temple was built around 1440 AD by one of the last Inca emperors, Huayna Cápac, and to this day the remaining rooms prevail as a magnificent sample of the unique style of Inca construction. The site is currently being investigated by Dr. David Brown of the University of Texas, the funding of which was provided by the National Geographic Society. Previously unknown portions of Inca walls and foundations have been discovered throughout the restoration process of the house. Since the 15th century San Agustin de Callo has served as an Inca fortress, Augustinian convent and temporary home for the French Geodesic Mission whose scientific results helped to determine the true shape of the planet. Continue the tour into the Cotopaxi National Park for a closer view of the volcano. Before returning to Quito, time permitting, we shall visit one of the Indian Markets, either Pujilí or Saquisilí. These are amongst the most authentic markets in Ecuador with their colourful displays of spices, fruits and hand woven ponchos. Return to Quito.
December 28 / Sunday: 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 Compañia, 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 Cochabamba Restaurant. Continue the tour to the middle of the world monument before returning to your hotel.
December 29 / Monday: Quito
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your return flight home.
End of services.