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Step back in time in Ecuador’s capital city, Quito, staying in the heart of the gorgeous historical centre. Take day trips from there to explore the amazing culture and nature the country has to offer. Soak in the beautiful views at Cotopaxi National Park. Travel to the Indigenous markets of Otavalo, the sacred Peguche Waterfalls & the leather village of Cotocachi on another day trip. Straddle the official Equator line with one foot in each hemisphere & have fun doing experiments that only work there. View spectacular waterfalls, butterflies, birds and other wildlife in the biodiverse cloud forests of Mindo, while getting an authentic taste of local culture. Then travel to the world’s number one bucket list destination, the Galapagos Islands, from the comfort of a hotel room on two different islands. Discover the incredible landscapes and unique endemic wildlife the archipelago is famous for. Come face-to-face with giant tortoises, marine iguanas, Galapagos penguins, playful sea lions, soaring frigate birds, showy blue-footed boobies and so much more. Their total lack of fear will make you feel like you are starring in a nature documentary and offer incredible wildlife photo opportunities. Next it’s onto Peru to discover the mystical realm of the Incas. Visit the “City of Kings”, capital city, Lima. Encounter endless Inca ruins as you wander the cobbled streets of ancient Cusco. Take in the lush Sacred Valley and the majestic ruins of Ollantaytambo. Travel to Aguas Calientes by train and be awestruck by the power and beauty of Machu Picchu. This incredible adventure will be led by three different tour leaders, each experts on their respective homes of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands and Peru. All you have to do is relax and enjoy this magical travel experience as it unfolds one day at a time.
Day 1: Arrive in Quito
Day 2: Explore Historic Quito
Day 3: Cotopaxi National Park
Day 4: Day Trip to Otavalo, Peguche & Cotocachi
Day 5: Equator, Pululahua & Cloud Forests of Mindo
Day 6: Butterflies, Orchids & Chocolate
Day 7: Nature Hike, Reforestation Project & Dia de los Difuntos
Day 8: Fly to Galapagos & Boat to Isabela Island
Day 9: Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre & Snorkeling with Sea Turtles
Day 10: Concha Perla & Boat to Santa Cruz
Day 11: Santa Cruz Highlands, Charles Darwin Research Station & Tortuga Bay
Day 12: Birds of Seymour & Sail to Bachas Beach
Day 13: Return Flight to Quito
Day 14: Fly to Lima, the City of Kings
Day 15: Fly to Cusco, Heart of the Inca Empire
Day 16: Travel through the Sacred Valley to Pisac & Ollantaytambo
Day 17: Ollantaytambo Ruins & Train to Aguas Calientes
Day 18: Magnificent Machu Picchu
Day 19: Markets of Chinchero & Return to Cusco
Day 20: Cusco’s Treasures
Day 21: Fly to Lima
Day 22: Return to Canada
**$1,565 CAD single supplement (or we can try to match you up with someone).
**A non-refundable deposit of $4,000.00 CAD is required at time of booking.
**Balance is due two months or more prior to departure date.
**Price does not include tips for guides, alcoholic beverages, optional activities during free time, some meals (detailed below) or your international airfare.
**Please review our Booking Terms and Conditions HERE.
A friendly face will be at Quito’s airport awaiting your arrival with an EarthTreks sign with your name on it. Depending on what time you check into the hotel, located in the heart of the historical centre, you may have the opportunity to catch your first glimpses of the capital city. Quito is considered one of the most beautiful cities in the western hemisphere, separated into the old colonial centre, where your hotel is located, and the newer more commercial centre. The long, skinny city sits almost directly on the equatorial line, nestled among volcanoes, at over 2,850 meters (almost 10,000 feet) above sea level. You may feel the altitude a little right away, so take the opportunity to acclimatize. The natural remedy of coca tea is at your disposal in the hotel lobby, as needed. The old city is full of beautiful historical buildings, squares, and churches, many of which are a very short walk from the hotel. Accommodations: Casa Montero (Quito).
Enjoy breakfast with a view of the city’s iconic statue, el Panecillo. Then you will be joined by your guide who will provide you with an overview of all of the wonderful sites and activities the week holds in store, as well some more boring items, such as health and safety tips and other trip logistics. During the trip you will receive a daily briefing every late afternoon or early evening, outlining what you will need to wear and take with you for the next excursion. This morning, the most important items are sunscreen and comfortable walking shoes or sandals, as you will be heading out on foot to explore some of the city’s most beautiful sites – the reason this was the first city in the world to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many of the city’s finest historical squares and churches are right in the area of the hotel, and your knowledgeable tour leader will be able to tell you all about them and other aspects of the culture. This evening you will head out for dinner on La Ronda, the pedestrian walkway around the corner from your hotel that comes alive with buskers, live Salsa music, and other artists on the weekend. Accommodations: Casa Montero (Quito).
This morning, you are off to visit Cotopaxi National Park – its central feature being the third highest active volcano in the world at 5,879 meters. With its perfectly symmetrical cone covered in snow and ice, it is one of the country’s icons. As you hike through the park, you may see wild horses grazing on the open plains and if really lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the infamous condor in flight. You will hike to the beautiful Limpiopungo Lagoon, where the image of the volcano is reflected in the waters below. When you feel tired, it’s time to keep moving, back to Quito for the night. Accommodations: Casa Montero (Quito).
After an early breakfast this morning, you will travel to the small Indigenous town of Otavalo, famous for its handcrafts and markets. You will be set free to explore the beautiful culture of this town, full of artisans selling handcrafted items, from clothing and jewellery to hammocks, tablecloths, and blankets. Seeing all of the women dressed in beautiful traditional clothing is worth the trip alone. Bulky items can be stored at your hotel in Quito while in the Galapagos, but will need to be taken to Peru. Next you will travel through the countryside to see a few small towns in the region. The first is a short trip to visit the sacred site of Peguche Waterfalls, where the Shamans observe summer solstice every year. Then it’s onto the popular retirement destination of Cotacachi, famous for its leather stores that line both sides of the long main street, noting that they can tailor a beautiful leather jacket to fit you perfectly on the spot. The boots and purses are also fantastic. Then it’s back to Quito for an evening on your own. Your guide will be happy to suggest where you might want to eat. Accommodations: Casa Montero (Quito).
After breakfast, you will pack up to travel to the cloud forests of the beautiful Mindo region. En route you will stop off at the ‘Mitad del Mundo’ or ‘Middle of the World’ – the equatorial line and museum called Intiňan, where you will be able to take your picture with a foot in each hemisphere and do some interesting experiments that only work when you are right on the actual Equator line. You will also stop to see a village built in a volcanic crater, called Pululahua. Then it’s on to the picturesque valley of Mindo, where you will be staying for the next two nights. You will settle into your rooms before having a brief walking tour of the village and a delicious dinner at a restaurant belonging to some of Alison’s extended family in town – all cooked in a wood-fired oven. After dinner, a few other family members will teach you how to make empanadas – for desert. Eat them while they’re hot! Mmmmmmm. Accommodations: Chaquiňan (Alison’s house in Mindo).
After breakfast, head out to the Mariposario (the butterfly gardens) to at view butterflies at every stage of life and experience the exhilaration of them flying all around you. Hopefully you will have the chance to see a big blue Morpho, an Owl Eye, or a Monarch as they are drying off their wings, fresh from their chrysalis. Then you will visit Mindo’s Orquideario (orchid gardens) to see some of the over 4,000 species growing in Ecuador – more species than anywhere in the world. Some free time will allow you to fit in a walk, a glass of wine, some shopping, or some down time in a hammock by the river. Just be sure to be back in time for 5:00, as you don’t want to miss the chocolate tour at the Quetzal – the local artisanal chocolate factory that is right next door – wrapping up with some yummy sampling. After the tour you will enjoy a wonderful dinner prepared on site by one of the area’s best chefs (recommendation: beef tenderloin in coffee sauce – trust me). Accommodations: Chaquiňan (Alison’s house in Mindo).
After breakfast this morning, you will explore a network of trails on a private nature reserve with a local naturalist whose knowledge of the natural surroundings will astound you. Learn about the flora and fauna of a cloud forest and be surrounded by a variety of hummingbird species swirling all around at feeders. Next it’s onto EarthTreks’ reforestation project, where you will see some of the 13,500 trees planted there. Planting your own tree there is also an option, to be arranged ahead of time – please advise if that sounds fun. Then head back to the village to pack up, have a quick lunch, say good-bye to your friendly hosts before returning to Quito. After checking back into your hotel, the rest of the day is yours to take where you choose, from relaxing to shopping to doing some more exploring of this beautiful city. Options abound within ten minutes radius of the hotel. Today is the national holiday “Dia de los Difuntos” translated as the “Day of the Dead” or “Day of the Ancestors” – a day when locals honour the deceased through cheerful celebration. Two recommendations to take in during your free time this afternoon in Quito: 1. Have a cup of Colada Morada, a sweet hot drink made specifically for this holiday from blackberries and other fruit, and accompanied by Guagua de Pan (bread rolls shaped like children). 2. Take a taxi to visit the San Diego Cemetery, one of Quito’s oldest cemeteries and an exquisite example of colonial architecture where you will find local families singing, dancing and eating around the graves of their loved ones to celebrate the Day of the Dead. Dinner is on your own tonight, and a guide will be dropping by your hotel later in the day to prepare you for your early morning start to the Galapagos the next day. Accommodations: Casa Montero (Quito).
Early in the morning you will be transferred to the Quito airport for your flight to Baltra Island, Galapagos (approx 3.5 hours in total) with one stop in the city of Guayaquil en route. You will likely not have time to have breakfast in the hotel, but there will be options for a snack at the airport. The Galapagos National Institute has introduced a Transit Control Card, which costs $20 USD and must be purchased by every individual travelling to there. Your guide will assist you with the purchase of this card upon arrival to the airport, prior to checking in to your Galapagos flight. Upon arrival on Baltra Island, you will need to go through immigration and pay the Galapagos National Park entrance fee of $100 USD each in cash (please have small bills of $20 or less ready to pay this fee). A new guide will be at the airport with an EarthTreks sign with your names on it to welcome you. Then you will be transferred to Puerto Ayora to take the speed boat (2.5 – 3 hrs) to Isabela Island, the largest island on the Archipelago. This trip can sometimes be on the bumpy side (and sometimes very bumpy). Therefore, if you are prone to sea sickness, this would be a good time to start taking medication to prevent being sick. Some find motion sickness wrist bands to be effective too. Upon arrival to Isabela Island you will get settled into your rooms at the hotel, and when you are ready, your guide will take you on an orientation walk. As with everywhere you go on the Galapagos, keep your eyes wide open, as you never know what species you will run into. Before dinner this evening, you may want to enjoy a sunset drink on the beach. Isabela’s sunsets are arguably the most beautiful of all the islands! Accommodations: San Vicente (Isabela Island).
Start the day with a visit to the Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre for a close encounter with these placid giants. Here you can see tortoises at different stages of development as well learn about the preservation program of these unique species. Next you will travel west of Puerto Villamil to the various salt and brackish lagoons which house an impressive variety of coastal and sea birds. Here you should also have an opportunity to see the largest concentration of flamingos in the Galapagos. The Great Galapagos Flamingos are a small, isolated population (approximately 300) and do not migrate, which is why they are considered endemic to the islands. Then you will board small pangas for Tintoreras or Shark Alley. On the way, keep on the lookout for blue-footed boobies, pelicans, sea lions, eagle rays and the Galapagos penguin – the only penguin found north of the equator (just a little…). You will hop off for a short walk on this isolated islet and popular iguana nesting site that’s home to hundreds of marine iguanas. You should also be able to observe their unique ability to forage in the sea. Next you will go snorkeling in a calm inlet that’s home to a variety of colourful fish and winding underground lava tubes. This area is often frequented by green sea turtles that like to rest on the calm, sandy bottom. Even the sea turtles have no fear of people in the Galapagos, so you may be lucky enough to swim along with one of them. Underwater cameras are highly recommended! Accommodations: San Vicente (Isabela Island).
In the morning before taking the speed boat to Santa Cruz, you will have time to enjoy a little more snorkeling on Isabela at a spot known as Concha Perla – a shallow bay with calm, transparent waters, providing good visibility to observe the fascinating marine fauna of the Galapagos. After lunch, you will take the speed boat to Santa Cruz and you can relax at the town after the check in. A few minutes’ walk from the hotel sits the local fish market, where fishermen bring in their catches of the day to this small dock, and where pelicans wait patiently for any extras. Here you will get a chance to view some typical Galapagos Island life. Although Puerto Ayora is the most populated urban centre in the Galapagos, it remains the small, sleepy town it has always been. Charles Darwin Avenue is dotted with typical restaurants and fine boutiques on either side, offering locally-made goods for sale. Accommodations: Lobo del Mar (Santa Cruz Island).
After breakfast, you will head to the Highlands of Santa Cruz Island, where you will be able to observe the iconic giant tortoises roaming in their natural habitat! You will also see the amazing lava tunnels that have created a unique habitat for wildlife. Next you will put on comfortable hiking sandals, hats, and lather up in sunblock for a 3.5 km walk to Tortuga Bay. En route you will make a stop to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station, where you will be able to learn about the success they have seen in repopulating the islands with the once endangered land iguana and several species of giant tortoise. This research station works to preserve the Galapagos’ ecosystem through the conservation efforts of scientists, researchers, and volunteers. It also provides a study location for international scientists and training for local naturalist guides. The station is also a great place to observe many species of tortoises and land iguanas in captivity, brought back from the brink of extinction. Then it’s onto Tortuga Bay, a gorgeous beach accessible only by foot, where you will have your option of swimming, relaxing on the beach, snorkeling, kayaking, or a combination of all of those activities. You will encounter a wide variety of animal and bird life along the beach, which may include seeing some of Darwin’s finches, mockingbirds, lava lizards, marine iguanas, and possibly blue-footed boobies. Accommodations: Lobo del Mar (Santa Cruz Island).
The small island of North Seymour is home to many different species of animals, and is the best place to see frigate birds with the males’ puffed out red throats, as well as the best place to catch the iconic blue-footed boobies dance, spot land and marine iguanas, and search for Galapagos sea lions and fur seals. On a two-hour walk around this magical island you may also spy other sea birds like swallow-tailed gulls and shearwater, as well as many tropical birds. After the walk you’ll return to the boat for lunch, then sail to Bachas beach on Santa Cruz Island. This is a nesting area for sea turtles and there’s a small lagoon where flamingos can occasionally be seen. You are encouraged to strap on your mask again for some snorkeling through the beautiful waters. Accommodations: Lobo del Mar (Santa Cruz Island).
On your last day on Isla Santa Cruz, take the opportunity to do a little more exploring around town before being transferred from Santa Cruz to Baltra Island for your return flight to Quito. Flight departures from Baltra to Quito are usually mid-morning. You will arrive back at your hotel in Quito around 5:00 p.m., leaving you the evening to prepare for your departure for Peru in the morning. Accommodations: Casa Montero (Quito).
Welcome to Lima, referred to as the “City of Kings”. Upon arrival at the airport, you will be met with an EarthTreks sign with your name on it and transferred to your hotel, where your Peruvian tour leader will provide an overview of the next week of activities and some tips for your stay in Lima. While Peru’s capital was officially founded in 1535, when Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro founded the city on the Day of the Three Kings, settlements have been scattered through the valley since before the time of the Incas. The city was built on top of an existing palace and temples that belonged to the local chief, who was given little choice but to relocate. Lima was in its prime during the Spanish colonial days and many of the city’s attractions now lie within its well-preserved historical centre, which you can take in during a guided walking tour. Flanked by streets of ornate colonial mansions, palaces and churches, Plaza Mayor is the best place to start any exploration of Lima. Take a walk through the old streets to get a feel for colonial life. On one side of the plaza is the cathedral, which houses the remains of Lima’s founder, Francisco Pizarro. You will also visit the Parque del Amor or Park of Love for a view out to the ocean and the beaches and surfing school down below. Tonight you will head out on the town to enjoy some of the gastronomy the country is famous for. Accommodations: Tambo II Hotel (Lima).
After breakfast you will head to the airport for your flight to Cusco, which takes about an hour and a half. As you fly into the Andes and you catch your first glimpses of Cusco, you will be amazed at the stunning beauty of this city, once the capital of the Inca Empire. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the undisputed archaeological capital of the Americas and the continent’s oldest continuously inhabited city, Cusco is the gateway to the Sacred Valley of the Incas, Machu Picchu and a variety of other Inca sites in the region. As you wander the streets and side alleys of the city you will see the perfectly engineered Inca stonework that provides the foundations for many of Cusco’s colonial and modern buildings. The city was the home of the Inca Empire for two centuries before the Spanish built their first capital here. Today Cusco is a fascinating combination of both cultures. Take the time to acclimatize to the altitude, as the city sits at 3,450 meters (11,150 feet), high up in the Andes. After lunch you will head out on a guided walking tour to explore some of the baroque churches and ancient temples that dot the city. You will visit the most sacred and important temple of the Inca Empire, called the Temple of Qoricancha. According to archaeologists it housed over 1,000 priests and attendants, and was built over an Inca palace dedicated to the worship of the sun. Then, you will visit the heart of the city, the Plaza de Armas, surrounded by colonial arcades and four churches. Finally explore the San Pedro Market where you will find vegetables, meats, local cheeses and chocolates, herbal medicines and many local handicrafts. This tour also includes a “Tourist Ticket”, which will allow you entrance into many museums and historic ruins. Accommodations: Warari Hotel (Cusco).
In the morning, you will be picked up from your hotel to start your journey through the spectacular Sacred Valley. Along the way you will stop at a point known as El Mirador, from which you will be able to see the whole Sacred Valley and garner some good insight into Inca history. The Sacred Valley was undoubtedly a key settlement area for the Incas, combining a comfortable climate and fertile plains that provided unusual abundance for the high Andes. Here the Incas sculpted the mountain flanks with vast contoured terracing and irrigation channels that offer beautiful photo opportunities along the way. Upon arrival to the ruins at Pisac, you will learn about some different aspects of Inca culture and observe impressive stonework and agricultural terraces all over. In the actual village of Pisac, you will have a chance to wander through the local market, known for its multi-coloured textiles, local foods, and indigenous clothing – a great opportunity to pick up some souvenirs as well as take some great photos. In the afternoon, you will drive along the Urubamba River towards the town of Ollantaytambo. When you arrive in Ollantaytambo you’ll see it’s a magnificent example of Inca urban planning. It’s one of the few places where the Incas defeated the Spanish. Once you get there you will visit the ruins of Ollantaytambo, an important Inca construction and extraordinary place. Besides the ruins you may also see an amazing rock formation representing the Inca god, Wiracocha. Accommodations: Tunupa Lodge (Ollantaytambo).
This morning is free, to roam the streets of this beautiful town, return to the incredible ruins there or just relax – whatever you feel like before the next leg of our journey, which is by train. Next stop is Aguas Calientes, the closest settlement to the sanctuary of Machu Picchu. The train ride to Machu Picchu is one of the most beautiful journeys to enjoy in Peru. After passing through the Sacred Valley of the Incas, the train starts to gradually descend along the edge of the loud, rushing Urubamba River until reaching the cloud forest. The train ride to Aguas Calientes takes just under two hours and the town offers wonderful sightseeing opportunities around every corner. Accommodations: Intipunku Machupicchu (Aguas Calientes).
There is no question that this will be one of the trip highlights for everyone, so best to make the most of the day with an early departure. Note: Don’t forget your passport – not only is it required for entry, you can also get a stamp validating your visit to the ruins. A short bus ride up a steep, zigzagging road will lead you to the impressive Lost City of the Incas. Upon entering the amazing ruins, your tour guide will show you the most important sectors of this great Inca City, such as the great Intiwatana (solar clock), the Sun Temple, the urban sector, and the agricultural sector (among others). Machu Picchu was long thought to be legendary until the year 1911, when explorer Hiram Bingham was made aware of its remains. Machu Picchu sits at 2,430 meters above sea level in the middle of a tropical mountain forest, in an extraordinarily beautiful setting – you will be amazed by the gorgeous views from the top – they make it well worth the climb. Machu Picchu was probably the most amazing creation of the Inca Empire at its peak, and you have all day to explore its magnificence. Accommodations: Intipunku Machupicchu (Aguas Calientes).
This morning you will travel back to Ollantaytambo by train and then continue on to Cusco, with a stop at the small rustic town of Chinchero, sitting at 3,762 meters above sea level. The Vilcabamba range of the Andes and famous snow-capped peak of Salcantay tower above. Chinchero offers a great display of Inca architecture, ruins and megalithic carved rocks, and is also home to a colourful market famous for its Peruvian weaving, as local women entertain tourists with weaving demonstrations, showing how they produce different colours for the wool they spin and weave. Chinchero is also believed to be the birthplace of the rainbow. The last stop is back to your hotel in Cusco to freshen up before dinner, which is on your own this evening, with lots of excellent options within a short walk from the hotel. Accommodations: Warari Hotel (Cusco).
This morning you will head to ruins in the area known as Sacsaywaman (jokingly referred to as Sexy Woman due to the similar sound), offering some of the greatest Inca ruins in the Cusco region, revealing some of the Incas most extraordinary architecture and monumental stonework. Massive blocks of limestone and other types of stone were brought from as far as 32km (20 miles) away. Like all Inca constructions, the stones fit together perfectly without the aid of mortar. You will return to the hotel to take the day in whatever direction you want, including lunch on your own. You have a tourist pass that will provide you with free access to a variety of different ruins in the area. You may also choose to just spend time looking around this lovely city or sit on a bench people watching. The city of Cusco itself is very beautiful with much to explore. Your tour leader will help you to pick what direction is best to head. Accommodations: Warari Hotel (Cusco).
You will be transferred to the airport to catch your flight to Lima later in the morning, allowing you a little more time to explore Cusco by foot in the morning, and providing you with the opportunity to choose from different activities upon your arrival in Lima. Make your way down to the closest part of the ocean to your hotel and take in a surfing lesson or go for a swim in the ocean (being careful of the strong tide) or choose to visit museums or other attractions. One recommendation is the Larco Museum, which offers a large collection representing a span of thousands of years of ceramic, textile and precious metal artifacts, in addition to exploring the store rooms to see what is not on display. Enjoy this city at your leisure today.
You will be transferred to the airport to catch your flight home at just the right time. Now you can start reflecting on the tremendous number of wonderful experiences you have had over the last three weeks in Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands and Peru – what an adventure!