Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands

29 Apr - 11 May 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, Solaris, in the Galápagos, all at an ideal time of year in the company of naturalist tour leader, Jan Beccaloni. Jan will also give specialist talks ranging from butterflies and spiders to Darwin and Wallace, giving context to your visits along the way. 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, Jan Beccaloni

Jan Beccaloni

Jan Beccaloni is a museum curator specialising in spiders and their relatives and a respected natural historian. She is the Meetings Secretary of the British Arachnological Society, the former Secretary of the Wallace Memorial Fund and the author of the acclaimed book “Arachnids’. Jan is an experienced and popular tour leader who enjoys travelling and has conducted scientific fieldwork in the UK, Brunei, Madagascar and Costa Rica.

Need more information?

  • Tel: (Toll Free) 1-8777-398-764
  • Mon-Fri: 9am-5pm
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Itinerary at a glance

  • Day 1: Quito (Fri, 29 April) Arrive Quito and transfer to the Hilton Colon Hotel. Welcome dinner.
  • Day 2: Quito (Sat, 30 April) 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 (Sun, 1 May) 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. Talk: “The Beautiful World of Butterflies” - Jan Beccaloni (JB).
  • Day 4: Mindo (Mon, 2 May) 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. Talk: “An introduction to spiders and their relatives” - JB.
  • Day 5: Mindo / Papallacta (Tues, 3 May) 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 (Wed, 4 May) 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 (Thurs, 5 May) Visit the local market at Sangolqui, a pretty colonial village in pastel hues, and browse among the stalls with the locals. Talk: “Darwin and Wallace - the pioneers of evolutionary biology” - JB.
  • Day 8: Papallacta / San Cristobal Island, Galápagos (Fri, 6 May) Your next stop is Ecuador’s ecological wonderland – the Galápagos Islands. Fly to San Cristobal Island and board the Solaris private yacht for four nights cruising around Española, Floreana, Santiago, Bartolomé and Santa Cruz Islands. Tour the Interpretation Centre and see giant tortoises. This evening's talk is "Evolution in Practice".
  • Day 9: Española Island (Sat, 7 May) 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, white-tipped reef sharks and playful sea lions. Opportunity to snorkel. Land at Punta Suarez to spot sea lions, red and green marine iguanas, Española lava lizards and diverse seabirds including Galápagos hawks, mockingbird, finches, Galápagos doves, blue-footed and Nazca boobies, swallow-tailed gulls, red-billed tropicbirds and waved albatross.
  • Day 10: Floreana Island (Sun, 8 May) Visit Cormorant Point to see Galápagos flamingos and many other birds. Continue to Champion islet to see to see marine turtles, sea lions and many fish. Options for swimming and snorkelling. Visit Post Office Bay, where you can still post a postcard in the historic post barrel, and a lava tube.
  • Day 11: Santiago Island - Sullivan Bay and Bartolome (Mon, 9 May) Visit Sullivan Bay on Santiago Island, with its dramatic lava field. Option to snorkel. Continue to Bartolomé Island for wonderful views and lava cones. See lava lizards, sea lions, Galápagos penguins, herons, finches.
  • Day 12: Santa Cruz / Quito (Tues, 10 May) Visit Black Turtle Cove, a mangrove estuary, home to sea turtles, black-finned reef shark, white-tipped reef shark, Galápagos shark, spotted rays, egrets, pelicans, herons and various plants. Transfer to airport for flight back to Quito and check into the Hilton Colon Hotel. Farewell dinner.
  • Day 13: Quito (Wed, 11 May) 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 (Wed, 11 May) Transfer to the airport for flight to Coca. Transfer by river to Sacha Lodge. Nocturnal guided tour.
  • Day 14: Sacha Lodge, Amazon (Thurs, 12 May) 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 (Fri, 13 May) 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 (Sat, 14 May) Transfer to Quito and check into Hotel Hilton Colon.
  • Day 17: Quito (Sun, 15 May) Depart Quito after breakfast.

Tour cost

$7,812 per person (excluding international flights and transfers)

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