Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands

7 - 19 Nov 2022
  • Cultural Tours

About the tour

Ecuador is a compact country with enormous cultural and natural diversity. Its bio-diversity includes the extraordinary Galápagos Islands and its cultural legacy encompasses the descendants of Spanish conquistadores and many distinct indigenous communities, markedly different in dress and lifestyle. The beauty of this tour is that it encapsulates this great variety without the need to cover long distances, including four nights on a private charter yacht, Tip Top II, in the Galápagos, all at an ideal time of year. There is an optional excursion into the Amazon after the tour.

Travel from stunning colonial Quito, the second highest capital city in altitude in the world after La Paz in Bolivia, into the enchanting cloud forests of Mindo with its jewelled hummingbirds and unique eco system for two nights. Continue into the Andean highlands to the thermal hot springs of Papallacta and see condors soaring over magnificent snowcapped mountain scenery. Visit a traditional Andean market and continue to the jewel in Ecuador's bio-crown - the Galápagos Islands.

Sail on an exclusive private charter yacht for four nights, visiting a wide range of islands, each offering a unique experience. The remote island group is a land of cool lava landscapes, cactus forests, lush green highlands, turquoise coves and perfect white sand beaches, and is the only place in the world where it is possible to swim with penguins and tropical parrot fish at the same time.

Fly back to Quito after the cruise, where there is the option to take an extension into the unspoiled Amazon forest to stay at a luxury eco lodge.

Your tour leader

Picture of JBT tour leader, ​Professor John Pearn

​Professor John Pearn

Professor of paediatrics and child health at the University of Queensland since 1986, Professor John Pearn truly a renaissance man, renowned for his many hats, diverse interests and unquenchable energy. He has been an academic and clinical teacher for 50 years in Medicine and Health Sciences. He is the author of some thirty books and more than 200 published papers on the history of medicine and health. As Major General John Pearn, he served in the Defence Reserves for 35 years, ultimately in the appointment of Surgeon General of the Australian Defence Force. He commanded the 2 Field Hospital, formerly No. 1 Casualty Clearing Station which was the pivot medical unit on the beach at Gallipoli, 25 April 1915.

Professor John Pearn was a founder, later President and then Honorary Life Member of the Australian and New Zealand Society of the History of Medicine. He is an historian of the Order of St John. He has been a Member of the Council for the International Society of the History of Medicine for many years; and its Vice President for the last four years.

John Pearn is equally well known for his broad range of amateur interests, as an enthusiastic scholar of medical history and botany, as a collector of fossils, stamps and coins, and as a prolific writer and orator on all of these subjects, includings botany, orchids, plants and healing. He is also an experienced tour leader with great natural charm and attentiveness to each member of the group.

Need more information?

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  • Mon-Fri: 9am-5pm
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Itinerary at a glance

  • Day 1: Quito (Mon, 7 Nov) Arrive Quito and transfer to the Hilton Colon Hotel. Welcome dinner.
  • Day 2: Quito (Tue, 8 Nov) Explore Quito on a guided tour. Walk through the attractive, palm-shaded Plaza de la Independencia, visit the gorgeously ornate 16th century church of La Compania de Jesus and visit Monasterio de San Francisco, one of the oldest churches on the American continent. Dinner at Urku – a modern Ecuadorian restaurant.
  • Day 3: Quito / Mindo (Wed, 9 Nov) Drive to Mitad del Mundo - the ‘Middle of the World’ – and straddle the equatorial line. Drive up to the rim of the biggest volcanic crater in South America, the extinct Pululahua Volcano, for wonderful views and lunch. Lunch by the crater with spectacular views. Continue to Mindo cloud forest, where you will stay at the Sachatamia Lodge, and take a nature walk.
  • Day 4: Mindo (Thur, 10 Nov) The cloud forests are a unique ecosystem fed by the misty clouds sitting on the slopes of the Andes. Rise early the following morning to watch an incredible variety of birdlife, including hundreds of species of jewelled hummingbirds. Visit the Mariposario Mindo Butterfly Farm. Take a cable car high above the cloud forest valley and the Rio Nambillo below. Walk with a naturalist guide along trails through delicate clusters of wild orchids, ferns and waterfalls wreathed in silver mists, amidst swarms of vivid birds and butterflies. Take a night walk to see spiders and other nocturnal creatures.
  • Day 5: Mindo / Papallacta (Fri, 11 Nov) Rise early again to spot the early bird activity in Mindo. After breakfast drive to the high Andes of Ecuador, into the paramo and the montane forest, rich in unusual flora and fauna such as the rare, gnarled Polylepis tree - one of the oddest and rarest trees on the planet. Continue to Papallacta, a thermal area high in the Andes where hot springs bubble up next to the Papallacta River. Check into Termas de Papallactas thermal resort, where the waters reputedly have healing properties.
  • Day 6: Papallacta (Sat, 12 Nov) Visit the Antisana Ecological Reserve in the central highlands, located at the feet of the 5705 metre high volcano, Mount Antisana. Explore the dramatic altiplano landscapes with spectacular snow capped mountains as backdrop and look out for the various species of birds, and the Andean condor, that inhabit the area. Return to Papallacta and spend the rest of the day at leisure enjoying the hot springs. Have dinner at Guango Lodge before setting out on a nocturnal nature walk.
  • Day 7: Papallacta (Sun, 13 Nov) Visit the local market at Sangolqui, a pretty colonial village in pastel hues, and browse among the stalls with the locals.
  • Day 8: Papallacta / San Cristobal Island, Galapagos (Mon, 14 Nov)

    Your next stop is Ecuador’s ecological wonderland – the Galápagos Islands. Fly to San Cristobal Island and board the Tip Top II private yacht for four nights cruising around Floreana, Espanola, Gardener Bay and Santa Cruz Islands. Visit the highlands which may include nesting Waved Albatross. Cruise to Kicker Rock, a nesting site for many sea birds. Optional snorkelling. Cruise onto Cero Brujo to walk on a white sand beach, and observe sea lions, brown pelicans marine iguanas and blue footed boobies. Options for swimming, snorkelling or kayaking.

  • Day 9: Floreana Island (Tue, 15 Nov) Visit the historic site of Post Office Bay, where you can still post a postcard in the historic post barrel, the ruins of the house of Baroness Eloisa von Wagner, and a a lava tube. Visit the Devils Crown a submerged volcano and the best site for snorkelling in the Galapagos. Continue to Point Cormorant and see the Flamingo Lagoon. Onto La Picona beach to see marine turtles. Options for swimming and snorkelling.
  • Day 10: Española Island (Wed, 16 Nov) Land at Punta Suarez to spot sea lions, red and green marine iguanas, Española lava lizards and diverse seabirds including Galapagos hawks, mockingbird, finches, Galapagos doves, blue-footed and Nazca boobies, swallow-tailed gulls, red-billed tropicbirds and waved albatross. Wet landing at white-sand Gardener Bay, home to sea lions, three species of Darwin’s finches, Española mockingbirds, green sea turtles, colorful tropical fish, including yellow-tailed surgeon fish, angelfish, parrotfish, manta ray, whitetipped reef sharks and playful sea lions. Opportunity to snorkel.
  • Day 11: Santa Cruz Island (Thur, 17 Nov) Drive into the highlands of Santa Cruz Island to visit the forests to see the Giant Tortoises in the wild. Visit the Charles Darwin Research Station, a nonprofit organization which has been working for decades together with the Galapagos National Park to preserve the biodiversity. Learn about the projects that both institutions carry together to protect the native species and eradicate the invasive ones which are threatening the Galapagos environment. One of the most important and emblematic projects has been reproducing giant tortoises in captivity. The visit is mostly outdoors in a beautiful dry native forest with giant cactus and many other interesting native plants. It is also a fantastic place to find several endemic Darwin finches.
  • Day 12: Galapagos / Quito (Fri, 18 Nov) Visit Black Turtle Cove to observe white tipped sharks, marine turtles, spotted eagle rays and yellow cow-nosed rays. Disembark the yacht and transfer to the airport. Fly to Quito. Transfer to airport for flight back to Quito and check into the Hilton Colon Hotel. Farewell dinner.
  • Day 13: Quito (Sat, 19 Nov) This morning is at leisure before transferring back to the airport for your flight home or take the Amazon extension.

Extension into the Amazon

  • Day 13: Quito/Sacha Lodge, Amazon (Sat, 19 Nov) Transfer to the airport for flight to Coca. Transfer by river to Sacha Lodge. Nocturnal guided tour.
  • Day 14: Sacha Lodge, Amazon (Sun, 20 Nov) Take dugout canoes past bromeliads and palm trees, looking for wildlife such as the pygmy marmoset, the ocelot and puma. Trek through pristine forest, with 150-foot kapok trees and roots forming huge buttresses. Look out for the crest owl and howler monkeys. Optional night walk after dark.
  • Day 15: Sacha Lodge, Amazon (Mon, 21 Nov) Travel by motorised canoe along Napo River to visit the traditional Yasuní community. See the 'parrot disco' on the clay lick. Take the treetop canopy walk. Optional night canoe trip to see caiman.
  • Day 16: Quito (Tue, 22 Nov) Transfer to Quito and check into Hotel Hilton Colon.
  • Day 17: Quito (Wed, 23 Nov) Depart Quito after breakfast.

Tour cost

Tour cost $8,091 per person (excluding international flights and transfers)

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