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Step back in time in Ecuador’s capital city, Quito, staying in the heart of the gorgeous historical centre. Travel to an Indigenous community in the Amazon to explore the jungle’s diverse flora and fauna, while learning about Kichwa traditions & history. Explore stunning waterfalls & the medicinal hot springs in the spa town of Baňos. Straddle the official Equatorial Line with one foot in each hemisphere & have fun doing experiments that only work on the Equator. View spectacular waterfalls, butterflies, birds and other wildlife, on nature hikes through the biodiverse cloud forests of Mindo. 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 to discover the incredible landscapes and endemic wildlife the Galapagos Islands are 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: Papallacta Hot Springs & Travel to the Amazon
Day 4: Nature Hike & Kichwa Cultural Activities
Day 5: Travel to Baňos & Avenue of Waterfalls
Day 6: Spa Day in Baňos
Day 7: Middle of the World & Travel to Mindo
Day 8: Butterflies, Orchids & Chocolate
Day 9: Cloud Forest Hike & Return to Quito
Day 10: Fly to Galapagos & Boat to Isabela Island
Day 11: Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre & Snorkeling with Sea Turtles
Day 12: Concha Perla & Charles Darwin Research Station
Day 13: Santa Cruz Highlands & Tortuga Bay
Day 14: Birds of Seymour & Sail to Bachas Beach
Day 15: Return Flight to Quito
Day 16: Fly to Lima, the City of Kings
Day 17: Fly to Cusco, Heart of the Inca Empire
Day 18: Travel through the Sacred Valley to Pisac & Ollantaytambo
Day 19: Ollantaytambo Ruins & Train to Aguas Calientes
Day 20: Magnificent Machu Picchu
Day 21: Markets of Chinchero & Return to Cusco
Day 22: Cusco’s Treasures
Day 23: Fly to Lima & Return to Canada
· Length: 23 Days/22 Nights
· Upcoming Departures: Saturday, October 13 – Sunday, November 4, 2018
· Group Size: Minimum 6, Maximum 16
· Price: $9,825 CAD**, includes all taxes, all internal flights (Quito-Galapagos-Quito-Lima-Cusco-Lima); all activities and entrance fees specified in itinerary, almost all meals (detailed below), all accommodations, full-time bilingual tour leaders, and transportation throughout.
**$1,250 CAD single supplement (or we can try to match you up with someone).
**A non-refundable deposit of $2,000 CAD is required at time of booking.
** Price does not include tips for guides, alcoholic beverages, optional activities during free time, some meals or your international airfare.
· Activity level: there is a lot of activity included in this trip, including some strenuous climbing. There is opportunity to add more on or likewise sit any part out. If you have any questions or concerns about your ability to do any of the activities included in this trip, we would be happy to discuss them.
· We want to make this the best experience possible for you, so be sure to let us know about any concerns you have or just as important, if you have a particular interest or passion – there may be the ability to add it into the itinerary for you.
Day 1: Arrive in Quito (-/-/-)
A friendly face from EarthTreks will be at the Quito airport awaiting your arrival. 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 2,800 meters (almost 10,000 feet) above sea level. You may feel the altitude a little right away, so take the opportunity to acclimatize. The old city is full of beautiful historical buildings, squares, and churches, many of which are a very short walk from the hotel.
Day 2: Explore Historic Quito (B/L/D)
Enjoy breakfast with a gorgeous view looking up at the city’s iconic statue, el Panecillo. Then we will get to business: a detailed orientation of all of the wonderful sites and activities the next three weeks hold in store. Our tour leader will also cover some more boring items, such as health and safety tips and other trip logistics. Then it’s time to put on some sunscreen before 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 city’s most beautiful historical squares and churches are right in the 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 we will head out for dinner on La Ronda, the pedestrian walkway around the corner from our hotel that comes alive with buskers, live Salsa music, and other artists on the weekend.
Day 3: Papallacta Hot Springs & Travel to the Amazon (B/L/D)
This morning we will head off bright and early to make our way to the Amazon basin, a journey with several legs. The trip will be broken up with a stop at Papallacta Hot Springs – the best hot springs in South America, set in a gorgeous natural setting at a very high pass through the Andes – high enough to possibly catch site of the elusive Condor in flight. After a good soak in the medicinal waters, we continue on the journey. As we descend toward the Amazon basin, you will notice the change in both climate and scenery, with waterfalls dotting each side of the highway. We will make one stop on the way to our next hotel, to be outfitted in rubber boots for our activities in the tropical rainforest the next day. Later in the day, there will be time to relax and acclimatize to the tropical temperatures, and rest up for a full day of amazing natural scenes and cultural activities the following day.
This morning we will be picked up by motorized canoe to travel down the Napo River for about 45 minutes to the nature reserve we will be exploring. The pace of the hike will be fairly easy, with many things to explore along the way – from the various uses of medical plants to other traditional uses of plants in artwork and construction. Depending on the group, the hike usually takes between three to four hours, during which you will have opportunity to spot different kinds of flora and fauna, including some of the insects and birds that are part of this precious ecosystem. You will also learn about the various uses of medical plants and uses of other trees and plants in artwork and construction. After the hike, we will enjoy a traditional lunch. Then a guide will take us on a walk to learn about the local food cultivation. We will finish the afternoon learning how to make chocolate from harvesting the cacao beans to roasting them over a fire, grinding and finally making chocolate sauce. After dinner we will have the pleasure of participating in the community’s welcome dance, a wonderful demonstration of traditional dress and dance around a bonfire at the river’s edge. There may be opportunity during the day to also try out your hunting skills in a blowgun competition.
Day 5: Travel to Baňos & Avenue of Waterfalls (B-L–)
After an early breakfast, it will be time to continue on the journey through the Amazon to our next destination, Baňos, named for its medicinal hot springs. After checking into our hotel rooms in Baňos, we will head out on a brief walking tour of the small city, so that you know how to find the best hot springs in town (close to the hotel), as well as to point out the best local tour company to arrange any activities you may want to include the next day (you can do the bookings at the end of the day). This is also the time to book any spa services you may want to take in the next day – right in the hotel. Next we will head out to the Avenue of Waterfalls, a dramatically beautiful highway that boasts 19 waterfalls in total. We will get out to hike the most beautiful of them, called the Pailon del Diablo (the Devil’s Cauldron) – the place where the Rio Verde joins the Rio Pastaza (pictured on the left). We will also get out to see another spectacular waterfall, the Manto de la Novia. Next we will head up to a lookout close to the active volcano, Tunguragua, to catch a beautiful view of the town below. The evening is yours to explore the town at your own pace, including dinner at your choice among a variety of traditional and international options.
Day 6: Spa Day in Baňos (B/-/-)
Soaking in the medicinal hot springs as the sun is rising (about 6:00 a.m. regardless of the time of year) is a wonderful way to start the day, but you can fit that in when the timing is right. There are so many different activities to do in this spa town – and we will help you to find the most interesting thing(s) to make this an unforgettable day, and send you off on your way. Choose to soak in the hot springs following a massage and other spa treatments right in our hotel. Head out on horseback to taste the mineral-rich spring water bottled locally. Explore a list of other more adventurous options that can likewise be arranged.
Day 7: Middle of the World & Travel to Mindo (B/L/D)
After breakfast, we will pack up to travel to the cloud forests of the beautiful Mindo region. En route we will stop off at the ‘Mitad del Mundo’ or ‘Middle of the World’ – the newly established equatorial line and visit the 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. We will also stop to see a town built in a volcanic crater with spectacular views. Then it’s on to the picturesque valley of Mindo, where we will be staying for the next two nights. We will settle into our rooms before enjoying a traditional Ecuadorian meal and having a brief walking tour of the village. After dinner, we will learn how to make empenadas – for desert.
Day 8: Butterflies, Orchids & Chocolate (B/L/D)
For those who are up for an early start to the day, there is the option of a birding trip in one of the world’s top birding destinations (cost $45 USD), departing just after 5:30 a.m. You can see the Cock-of-the-Rock, among other rare and beautiful feathered friends. Or you may choose to forego the early morning, enjoying a leisurely breakfast while you wait for others to return. There are three more activities planned today, so there will be no shortage of things to take in. Mid-morning we will head out to the Mariposario (Butterfly Gardens) to experience the exhilaration of butterflies flying all around and at every stage of life. 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 the chrysalis. Then after lunch, we will visit the 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 hike, shopping, or some down time. 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 – wrapping up with some yummy sampling and dinner cooked by one of the best chefs in the region.
Day 9: Cloud Forest Hike & Return to Quito (B/L/-)
After breakfast this morning, we will explore a network of trails on a private nature reserve in the cloud forest with a local naturalist whose knowledge of particularly the flora will astound you. We will learn about the characteristics of a cloud forest and be surrounded by a variety of hummingbird species swirling all around at feeders. Then we will head back to the village to pack up, have a quick lunch, say good-bye to our friendly hosts in Mindo, and return to Quito. After checking back into our hotel, the rest of the day is yours to take where you choose, from relaxing to shopping to visiting any one of a variety of museums or just doing some more exploring of the capital city. Options abound within ten minutes radius of the hotel.
Day 10: Fly to Galapagos & Boat to Isabela Island (B/L/D)
Early in the morning we will be transferred to the Quito airport for our flight to Baltra Island, Galapagos (approx 3.5 hours in total). Departure time will be between 8:20 AM and 10:30 AM, depending on the flight schedule. We may not have time to have breakfast in the hotel, but there will be options for a quick snack at the airport. Our flight will stop once in Guayaquil to pick up more passengers and last about 3 ½ hours in total. Upon arrival, we 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). Our guide will be at the airport to welcome us and transfer us to Puerto Ayora to take the speed boat (2.5 – 3 hrs) to Isabela Island, the largest island on the Archipelago, and arguably the most beautiful. Upon arrival on Isabela, we will get settled into our rooms at the hotel, and when ready, our guide will take us on an orientation walk. As with everywhere you go on the Galapagos, be sure to keep your eyes wide open, as you never know what species you will run into. Before dinner on the town, enjoy a sunset drink on the beach – something Isabela is famous for.
Day 11: Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre & Snorkeling with Sea Turtles (B/L/D)
Start the day with a visit to the Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre for a close encounter with these placid giants. Here we will be able to see tortoises at different stages of development as well learn about the preservation program of this unique species. Next we 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 we 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 close to the equator and the smallest in the world. We will hop off for a short walk on this isolated islet and popular iguana nesting site that’s home to hundreds of marine iguanas. We will be able to observe their unique ability to forage in the sea. Next we 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 Galapagos 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!
Day 12: Concha Perla & Charles Darwin Research Station (B/L/D)
In the morning before you take the speed boat to Santa Cruz, you can enjoy a little more snorkeling on Isabela at a spot known as Concha Perla – the ideal place to practise snorkeling, offering a shallow bay with calm, transparent water, providing good visibility to observe the fascinating marine fauna of the Galapagos. After lunch, we’ll take the speed boat to Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz. Although the town is the most populated urban centre in the Galapagos, it remains the small, sleepy town it has always been. Here we will get a chance to view some typical Galapagos Island life. The main street, Charles Darwin Avenue, is dotted with typical restaurants and fine boutiques on either side, offering locally-made goods for sale. 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. Later in the afternoon, we will have the opportunity to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station, where we 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’ fragile ecosystem through the conservation efforts of scientists, researchers, and volunteers. It also provides a study location for international scientists and training site for the local naturalist guides.
Day 13: Santa Cruz Highlands & Tortuga Bay (B/L/D)
After breakfast, we will head to the Highlands of Santa Cruz Island, where we will be able to observe giant tortoises roaming in their natural habitat! We will also see lava tunnels that have created a unique habitat for wildlife. Then after lunch, we will put on comfortable hiking sandals, hats, and lather up in sunblock for a 3.5 km walk to Tortuga Bay. This is a gorgeous beach accessible only by foot, where we will have the option of swimming, relaxing on the beach, snorkeling, kayaking, or a combination of all of those activities. We will encounter a wide variety of animal and birdlife along the beach, amongst the numerous marine iguanas, which may include seeing some of Darwin’s finches, mockingbirds, lava lizards and possibly blue-footed boobies.
Day 14: Birds of Seymour & Sail to Bachas Beach (B/L/D)
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 we will also spy other sea birds like swallow-tailed gulls and shearwater, as well as many tropical birds. After the walk we will 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 flamingoes can occasionally be seen. You may also choose to strap on your mask again for some snorkelling through the beautiful waters.
Day 15: Return Flight to Quito (B/L/-)
On our last day on Isla Santa Cruz, take some time to do a little more wildlife viewing or souvenir shopping before being transferred from Santa Cruz to Baltra Island for our return flight to Quito. Flight departures from Baltra to Quito are usually mid-morning. We will arrive back at our hotel in Quito around 5:00 p.m., leaving us the evening to prepare for our departure for Peru in the morning. Dinner is on our own this evening, with lots of options in close proximity to the hotel.
Day 16: Fly to Lima, the City of Kings (B/L/D)
Welcome to Lima, referred to as the “City of Kings”. Upon arrival at the airport, we will be transferred to our hotel, where our local guide will provide a welcome briefing and some tips for our 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. In the afternoon, our tour leader will take us on a walking tour of downtown Lima, including the city’s historical centre. We will take a walk through the old streets to get a feel for colonial life. Flanked by streets of ornate colonial mansions, palaces and churches, Plaza Mayor is the best place to start any exploration of Lima.
Day 17: Fly to Cusco, Heart of the Inca Empire (B/L/D)
This morning we will be transferred to the airport for our flight to Cusco, the historic heart and former capital of the Inca Empire. Cusco is simply beautiful. As we wander the streets and side alleys of the city we will be able to see the perfectly engineered Inca stonework that provides the foundations for many of Cusco’s colonial and modern buildings. The city itself is the continent’s oldest continuously inhabited city and 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 we will head out on a guided walking tour to explore some of the many Baroque churches and ancient temples that dot the city. We will visit the most sacred and important temple of the Inca Empire, called the Temple of Qoricancha, which according to archaeologists housed over 1,000 priests and attendants, and was built over an Inca palace dedicated to the worship of the Sun. Then, we will visit the heart of the city, the Plaza de Armas, surrounded by colonial arcades and four churches. Finally we will explore the San Pedro Market where we will find vegetables, meats, local cheeses and chocolates, herbal medicines and many local handicrafts. The market is a great place to purchase souvenirs, and also a place where many locals go to eat ‘mystery soups’. Some may be just chicken, however, the most popular amongst the locals are usually the more unusual ones like frog soups or soups that contain noses or tails of different animals. This tour also includes a “Tourist Ticket”, which will allow us entrance into a variety of different museums and historic ruins.
Day 18: Travel through the Sacred Valley to Pisac & Ollantaytambo (B/L/D)
In the morning, we will be picked up from our hotel to start our journey through the spectacular Sacred Valley. Along the way we will stop at a point known as El Mirador, from which we 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 with 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, we will learn about some different aspects of Inca culture and observe impressive stonework and agricultural terraces all over. In the actual village of Pisac, we 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, we will drive along the Urubamba River towards the town of Ollantaytambo. When we arrive in Ollantaytambo we’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 we get there we will visit the ruins of Ollantaytambo, an important Inca construction and extraordinary archaeological site. Besides the ruins you may also see an amazing rock formation representing the Inca god, Wiracocha.
Day 19: Ollantaytambo Ruins & Train to Aguas Calientes (B/L/D)
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 Urubamba River until reaching the cloud forest. The train ride to Aguas Calientes takes just under two hours.
Day 20: Magnificent Machu Picchu (B/L/D)
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 if you want a stamp at the ruins. A short bus ride up a steep, zigzagging road will lead us to the impressive Lost City of the Incas. Upon entering the amazing ruins, our tour guide will show us the most important sectors of this great Inca City, such as the great Intiwatana (sola
r 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 we have all day to explore its magnificence.
Day 21: Markets of Chinchero & Return to Cusco (B/L/D)
This morning we 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. Chinchero is also believed to be the birthplace of the rainbow. The last stop is back at our hotel in Cusco.
Day 22: Cusco’s Treasures (B/L/D)
Today is yours to take wherever you want, as this free day is strategically placed between two travel days and you may need to either rest or do lots of exercise. You have a tourist pass that will provide you with free access to a variety of different ruins in the area, such as Sacsaywaman. You may also choose to just spend time looking around this lovely city or explore other places of interest, such as the Shaman’s Market, where area Shamans head to buy their healing plants. The city of Cusco itself is very beautiful with much to explore. Our guide will help us to pick which direction best to head.
Day 23: Fly to Lima & Return to Canada (B)
We will be transferred to the airport in lots of time to catch our flight to Lima, which we will try to time just right to get you on your flight home without too long of a wait. 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!