August, 2016: Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands Tour - Private
After doing three 21-day European tours for one of our best clients, including Christmas markets of Central Europe and Bavaria, Battlefields of Europe, highlights and hidden gems of England, Wales, Ireland, Norway, and Iceland, we were requested to put together a trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. Applying our signature touch for quality, local lodgings with a heavy dose of class and uniqueness, this is the final product:
Days 1 - 3: (August 15, 16, and 17) Arrival and settling in.
We've chosen a spectacular location, which sits high on a mountainside and overlooks Quito. Our guests will be driven from the airport to this incredible, upscale mountain lodge for a perfect three nights of wonderful relaxation.
We'll take daily trips into Quito to explore and enjoy all that this charming city has to offer, including meals and sights around the Plaza Grande in the heart of the old town, before sinking back into the plush environment of this perfect hotel.
Days 4 - 5: (August 18 and 19) Heading north for some back-country sights and exploration.
With a 45 minute drive to our next hotel, we'll head up after breakfast and check in, before exploring some of the sites in the area, including the famous Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World), a world heritage site located on the Equator, and the ruins of Rumicucho, a military and religious site for the Incan culture of old.
Rumicucho was a stone fortress that dates back even to pre-Incan times, built as one in a chain of defenses that showed the expanse of the Incan Empire, in pre-Hispanic times. The fortress is over 1,000 feet long and dates back to the 1400s... which we will likely tour on horseback!
Days 6 - 8: (August 20, 21, and 22) A Get-Away from the Get-Away...
We'll strike two hours further north up the Avenue of the Volcanoes to a remote mountaintop wellness hotel and resort, after first heading to the famous Saturday market of Otavalo. Plaza de los Ponchos is a rainbow of textiles. Blankets, wall hangings, handbags, table runners, alpaca-wool sweaters and scarves beam as brightly as the equatorial sun, lighting up the largest and finest craft market in South America. Filled with a significant portion of indigenous peoples, textiles have been made here since pre-Incan times.
After a fun morning and lunch at the market, we'll head over to our charming hotel to check in and get settled for three days of relaxation, incredible cuisine, and exploration among waterfalls, towering volcanic peaks, and a famous healing tree. Our hotel will include an outdoor jacuzzi with an unbeatable view...
Day 9: (August 23) A Day and Night in a unique Ecuadorian City.
We'll pack up and drive 40 minutes north to our final destination outside of Quito during our time in Ecuador.
The capital of Imbabura province and the largest city north of Quito moves to the everyday rhythms of its working residents, a mix of Afro-Ecuadorians, indígenas and mestizos. Known as la Ciudad Blanca (the white city), Ibarra's downtown streets are lined with finely detailed, whitewashed colonial architecture. Although most of the building's ground floors have been turned into bustling shops, several quite beautiful plazas with towering palms and baroque churches lend it a distinctively sophisticated feel.
Volcán Imbabura looms impressively nearby and Laguna de Yahuarcocha (in Kichwa it means 'Lake of Blood' for the nearly 30,000 Caranqui warriors killed by the forces of Incan emperor Huayna Capac) is only 3km to the northeast. Today, it's joggers, cyclists and paddleboaters who occupy the lakeshore. Throw in a couple of small, interesting museums, a worthwhile train journey, good cafes and proximity to other indígena villages, and you'll be amazed that not more travelers visit here. This should offer a perfect local, urban experience.
Day 10: Drive back to Quito and a Night on the Town:
We'll check out of our hotel, take in some last sights, and make the two-hour drive back to Quito for an overnight in the city, proper. The afternoon will be free for further exploration of the beautiful old town center, and we'll certainly be dining in style before a proper night of rest in preparation for our flight out to the Galapagos Islands the next morning.
Days 11 - 13: (August 25, 26, and 27) Galapagos Islands
We'll head off to the airport to hop a flight out to the famous Galapagos Islands! Arriving into the airport on Isla Baltra, we'll head over by taxi to a superb, waterfront luxury hotel for three nights of all-inclusive treats, drinks, and eats.
Every day, we'll have the option of various tours around the island of Santa Cruz - including the famed Reserva El Chato and its tortoises and iguanas, sea kayaking, the Charles Darwin Research Center, or take a boat tour to some of the surrounding islands... This will be the highlight of the tour, and we'll be doing it in style!
Days 14 - 15: (August 28 and 29) We'll fly back to Quito, Ecuador and enjoy one last afternoon and evening before the morning flight back home!