The Best of Ecuador & Galapagos Active Excursion 11 days
Unique lifetime adventure blending the fascinating geography of Ecuador's mainland, made of active volcanoes, big canyons, large tropical rainforests and huge waterfalls, with the mythical Galapagos Islands, where the magic diversity of fearless animals and the stunning landscapes of the volcanic islands create a unique atmosphere. This is a perfect combination that includes a wide variety of outdoor activities, while discovering the highlights of Ecuador. Enjoy trekking into Cotopaxi National Park and biking down the slopes of the eastern range of the Andes while having amazing views of the Tungurahua active volcano, explore the lush Amazon forest by canyoning and rafting, discover your adventurous spirit by sharing activities with the most unusual animals on the Galapagos Islands. Hike with giant tortoises to the top of Sierra Negra Volcano, swim with sea lions, turtles, penguins and sharks at lava tunnels, find the tracks of Charles Darwin in his world-known Research Station, and finally relax in volcanic hot springs.
This volcano is the most beautiful in the Ecuadorian Andes, with 5897 meters is considered the tallest active one on earth, while exploring this reserve it is common to view wild horses, bulls and few species of birds, with luck you may even spot a condor.
Biking in Llanganates National Park
This adventure will take you down the slopes of this reserve with about 5000 feet of downhill, getting through a magical forest, and an amazing view of the Tungurahua volcano, active since 1999.
Swing of the End of the World
With no harness, net, or any other safety feature the swing (nothing more than a plank suspended by two ropes) arcs riders out into the air over the canyon. This place became famous after winning the 2014 National Geographic Photo Contest.
Making chocolate with your own hands
While sharing time with a family from the Amazon you will have the opportunity to make chocolate and learn a lot about the cocoa beans.
Rafting in the Amazon
Rafting on the Jatunyacu River it is amazing, because of the great class III rapids, and also views of the beautiful landscape of pristine forest that you enjoy by paddling.
Near the paramo and hot springs of Papallacta, is a paradise for hummingbird lovers and photographers. Seeing 14 species of this colorful creatures within an hour is not uncommon, and the Sword-billed hummingbird with it's unique, long bill is sure to amaze you.
Snorkel with Sea Lions
Sea lions are a common sight in the Galápagos, be they flopped out on a sandy shore or darting through the ocean with their rubberized twists and turns. Even on a short trip to the Galápagos, then, you should see their muzzles popping up near your boat or, better still, be able to wander among their beached forms, especially on Santa Cruz, Isabela and Española.
This is the largest Island of The Galapagos by having about the 50% of the whole Archipelago, it is also one of the youngest and has the most incredible wildlife easily seen while walking along the beach, snorkeling or kayaking in the different allowed spots, or just while siting and having a drink at the outside of your hotel.
Los Tuneles is an area of naturally occurring underwater stone tunnels, they are the remainder of lava tubes and make the landscape look like something out of a different world, here while snorkeling you can spot some of the best wildlife of the Archipelago.
Staying on the Islands
This is really nice, because you will spend time learning about the local people, have the chance to go see how the fishermen arrive with the fresh sea food, and also experience the local gastronomy while having a delicious dinner at family run restaurants, all this plus staying on beautiful hotels and practicing sustainably travel.
Charles Darwin Research Station
Is it a very important visit to have an educational walk while seeing many different species of tortoises, as well as learning about the trip of Charles Darwin and to have a better understanding of the evolution of the species.
This are the most representative animals of the Galapagos Islands, These tortoises can weigh as much as 417 kg (919 lb) and can grow to be 1.3 m (4 ft 3 in) long. These amazing reptiles originally made their way to islands from the mainland; while doing this trip you will have the opportunity to be really close to this creatures in their natural habitat.
Sierra Negra Volcano
This is a large shield volcano at the south eastern end of Isabela Island that rises to an altitude of 1.124m. It is one of the most active of the Galapagos volcanoes with the most recent historic eruption in October 2005.
Day 1: ARRIVAL IN QUITO
ECUADOR'S CAPITAL CITY
Welcome to Quito! The biggest, best-preserved colonial city of America was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. The city is considered the Cultural Capital of South America and the second most important city of the old Inca Empire.
Depending on arrival time, you can spend your day exploring the old town of Quito and the surrounding area. Adventure Journeys can help you to organize a day trip, please do a request with time in advance. In the evening, one of our trip leaders will meet you at the hotel’s lobby for a welcome briefing at 18:00 hours, and there will be plenty of time to discuss details and questions you may have regarding the adventure. Our first day is an informational and acclimation day.
Mercure Hotel or Similar
Day 2: COTOPAXI NATIONAL PARK - BAÑOS
TREKKING ADVENTURE ON THE HIGHEST ACTIVE VOLCANO
After breakfast, we leave Quito driving southwards along the beautiful Avenue of Volcanos, while getting the chance to see the colorful Andean fields. On our way we will reach 12,000 feet (3657.6 meters). After arriving at the Cotopaxi National Park, we will go hiking around Limpiopungo lagoon of the foot hills of the Rumiñahui volcano, from here we will have the best views of the Cotopaxi Volcano, highest active volcano in the world, and depending on the weather conditions we may try to trek to the basecapm at 16000 feet (4876.8 meters).
In the afternoon we continue our drive towards the Llanganates National Park, which is known as the sacred mountain, until we reach the town of Baños, located at the entrance of the Amazon. Here we can enjoy the best night life by drinking cocktails and dancing salsa.
- Trekking Activity Level.- Moderate, this adventure is at high elevation, make sure you drink a lot of water or coca tea, the trail is on dirt surrounded by bushes and grass.
- Trekking Time.- 3 hours
- Trekking Distance.- 4 miles (6.4 km)
- Elevation Gain.- 1200 feet (365.76 meters)
- Minimum Elevation.- 12700 feet (3870.9 meters)
- Maximum Elevation.- 13850 feet (4221.4 meters)
NOTE.- In case the weather and physical conditions are good you may trek to the Basecamp and the maximum elevation would be 16000 feet (4876.8).
What to wear today.- Pants, t-shirt, fleece, hiking shoes, gloves, hat, buff, bring rain jacket and pants, water bottle, sun cream, binoculars.
La Floresta or Similar
Day 3: BAÑOS - LLANGANATES NATIONAL PARK
BIKING Trough the cloud forest
This morning we cross country - mountain bike from the Llanganates National Park down to the Pastaza River Canyon, enjoying the beautiful scenery of the cloud forest. The road brings us through some Andean farms and a beautiful canyon with many waterfalls.
While descending into the jungle, we will have a breath-taking view of Baños, very well known for its spectacular location right on the foothills of the Tungurahua volcano, active since 1999, which is the main attraction of this region. In the afternoon we will have some time to explore the town and also go to The Swing of the End of the World, where the winner of the National Geographic 2014 photo contest took his picture.
- Biking Activity Level.- Moderate, mostly downhill, the first 45 minutes up hill and then just going down, you will be riding on cobblestone and dirt roads for the first two hours, and 1 hour on asphalt.
- Biking Time.- 3 hours
- Biking Distance.- 20 miles (32.18 km)
- Elevation Gain.- 500 feet (152.4 meters)
- Minimum Elevation while Biking.- 5500 feet (1676.4 meters)
- Maximum Elevation while Biking.- 10450 feet (3185.16 meters)
NOTE.- In case you want to avoid the uphill, there will always be the support of our transportation, and our driver will be happy to give you a ride till you decide to join the biking group.
What to wear today.- Shorts, t-shirt, fleece, tennis shoes, buff, bring rain jacket and pants, water bottle, sun cream, mosquito repellent.
La Floresta or Similar
Day 4: AMAZON
ROAD OF WATERFALLS AND CANYONING IN THE AMAZON
This morning we will hit the road of the waterfalls. The first stop will be at the Bride´s Veil waterfall, where we will take the Tarabita (cable car) to get across the Pastaza River. Then we will hike down to the Pailon del Diablo waterfall, the second highest in Ecuador.
Later, we will go deeper into the jungle inside the Llanganates National Park. The name “llanganates” comes from “beautiful mountain” in the local native language. 600 years ago, the Incas hid here their golden treasure. Explorers have spent many years looking for this treasure, but some have disappeared with no luck in this dense pristine jungle.
During a hike through the Amazon Tropical Rain Forest, we will climb along several waterfalls. Our local native guide will tell us about the incredible nature and wildlife that live here. We will spend the night at the Local Basic Jungle Lodge run by a kichwa indigenous family.
- Canyoning Activity Level.- Moderate, the jungle exploration will be done while hiking on the canyon that has been formed by the waterfalls and river Pimpilala, so you will be hiking on irregular terrain on rocks and water surrounded by pristine Amazon Tropical Rain Forest, the weather can be hot and humid which would make a very refreshing activity, the highest waterfall to climb is 16 feet (4.8 meters) and the rest are smaller, we will use helmets, ropes and bring optional harnesses for people that want to use them.
- Canyoning Time.- 3 hours
- Biking Distance.- 2 miles (3.2 km)
- Elevation Gain.- 500 feet (152.4 meters)
- Minimum Elevation while Canyoning.- 2000 feet (609.6 meters)
- Maximum Elevation while Biking.- 2500 feet (762 meters)
- What to wear today.- Shorts, water long sleeve t-shirt, water sandals, rain jacket, water bottle, sun cream, mosquito repellent.
NOTE.- this is a very basic accommodation, you will have your room but will have to share the bathroom, the rooms are very clean and all the beds have mosquito net, there is no electricity in the room but there is a social area where you can have access to power to charge your batteries.
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 5: AMAZON - JATUNYACU RIVER - PAPALLACTA HOT SPRING
JATUNYACU RIVER RAFTING AND VOLCANIC HOT SPRINGS
We greet the day by preparing our gear to paddle the wild waves of the Jatunyacu River, located just a 5 minutes drive from the Homestay, the beauty of this river will inspire you and reveal the magic of the Amazon rainforest.
After a very important safety briefing from our rafting guides, we will start our class III rafting expedition down the Jatunyacu River, well known for its clean water and awesome rapids. We will have a lot of fun playing some games and also exploring one of the canyons. The end of the journey offers us a stop for a picnic, prepared by our guides.
We conclude our day with a drive back up to the Andes, stopping to visit the paradise of hummingbirds in Guango Reserve and finally continuing up to the volcanic hot springs resort, where we will spend the night.
- Rafting Activity Level.- Moderate, this is consider as a class III river for white water rafting, there is some awesome waves and also plenty of flat water to go swimming, the river is surrounded by amazing views of the Amazon landscape.
- Rafting Time.- 4 hours, depending of the level of the water can be less time.
- Rafting Distance.- 18 miles (28.9 km)
- What to wear today.- Shorts, water long sleeve t-shirt, water sandals, water bottle, sun cream, mosquito repellent.
Papallacta Hot Springs or similar
Day 6: GALAPAGOS - ISABELA
TRAVEL DAY TO GALAPAGOS
Today we get ready to explore the most amazing archipelago in the Pacific coast and the place where Charles Darwin based its theory of the evolution of species. We board a morning flight from Quito to the island of Baltra. Once arrived, we head to the town of Puerto Ayora, the biggest town in Galapagos. From here we take a fast boat to Isabela, the largest island in the archipelago and the place where the most volcanic activity in the Galapagos is reported. The island is formed by six shield volcanoes, Alcedo, Cerra Azul, Darwin, Ecuador, Sierra Negra and Wolf, five of them still active, and therefore the island is one of the most volcanically active places on earth. During our island crossing, we will be on the lookout for dolphins and whales (July to October).
The Galapagos Islands is located 600 miles (965.6 km) from the coast of Ecuador, it is really important to understand that you will have to take several air, road and sea transportation to get there.
- Flying time.- 3 hours (including the stop at Guayaquil city on the way to Baltra airport)
- Speed boat time from Santa Cruz to Isabela.- 2 hours (If you normally get seasick is very important to take medication before getting on the boat)
- What to wear today.- Light pants, t-shirt, fleece top, tennis shoes, hat, sun ceam.
Cormorant or Similar
Day 7: LAVA TUNNELS
SNORKEL IN LAVA TUNNELS & FREE TIME
Today, we explore the amazing formations of lava created by the last eruptions of the Volcanic Island along the seashore. This magical place is been used by the staff of BBC /National Geographic for their documentaries. It is a labyrinth of lava arches inside the breakers with crystal clear water full of huge sea turtles, eagle rays, sea lions, fish, white tipped reef sharks and more. Turtles navigate their own highway from the mangroves to the open sea through "Los Tuneles".
Over here, we will have the best snorkeling opportunity with all these beautiful animals, including the curious Galapagos penguin playing around. Before or after the trip, you can enjoy some optional activities such as snorkeling at "Concha de Perla", taking surfing lessons, biking or just relax on the exotic white-sand beaches of Isabela Island. We recommend you to take some time to visit the giant tortoise breeding center located walking distance from the hotel.
- Boat ride to the Lava Tunnels time: 1 hour each way
- Snorkeling time: 2 times of 1 hour each
- What to wear today.- shorts, water long sleeve t-shirt, sandals or tennis shoes, bathing suit, hat or baseball cap, sun cream, mosquito repellent, buff.
Cormorant or similar
Day 8: SIERRA NEGRA
HIKING TO SIERRA NEGRA AND KAYAKING IN TINTORERAS
After driving up from Puerto Villamil to the trailhead, we prepare our backpacks and hike into a young forest ecosystem, a world of recent geological history, our destination is the rim of Sierra Negra Crater, an active volcano which last erupted in October 2005.
Upon arrival, we take in breathtaking views and explore the circumference of the massive, lava-filled crater, over six miles across at its widest point. If we feel energetic enough, we can continue our hike to Volcan Chico, a secondary crater that has a wild landscape of puffing fumaroles and colorful lava formations, great examples of the dramatic geological events that have forged the Galapagos Islands over millennia.
In the afternoon we will visit Tintoreras Islet, located at a short distance from Puerto Villamil and home to a great variety of wildlife. Its turquoise, crystalline waters are inhabited by white-tipped reef sharks, Galapagos penguins, turtles and sea lions. One of its beaches surrounded by mangroves is one of the few sites where marine iguanas can reproduce successfully.
- Hiking time.- 4 hours both ways
- Hiking distance.- 6 miles (9.6 km) (10 miles -16 km- optional to Volcan Chico)
- Hiking elevation gain.- 950 feet (289.5 meters)
- Maximum elevation while hiking.- 3687 feet (1124 meters)
- Kayaking time.- 2 hours
- Snorkeling time.- 1 hour
- What to wear today for hiking.- shorts, t-shirt, tennis shoes, rain jacket, hat, buff, sun cream, mosquito repellent.
- What to wear today for kayaking and snorkeling.- sandals, shorts, water long sleeve t-shirt, bathing suit, hat, sun cream, mosquito repellent.
Cormorant House or Similar
Day 9: CHARLES DARWIN RESEARCH STATION
CHARLES DARWIN RESEARCH STATION VISIT & GIANT TORTOISES
In the morning we embark on a fast boat from Isabela to Santa Cruz Island. During our island crossing, we will be on the lookout for dolphins and whales (July to October)
We will have time to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station to learn more about many of the endemic species we met during our adventure, as well as the ongoing conservation and management efforts on the Galapagos Islands, lunch is on your own and in the afternoon, we head to the 'El Chato' Reserve in the highlands of Santa Cruz, home to the famous Galapagos tortoise, hiking through this beautiful scenery with those lumbering giants is an unforgettable experience! We also see other highland wildlife such as pintail ducks, egrets, flycatchers and finches on our hike.
We can also observe frigate birds which gather to wash the salt off their feathers at a fresh water lake. We return to Puerto Ayora to spend the evening in Galapagos' most populous town, your guide will help you organize a great last dinner on the Islands.
- What to wear today.- shorts, t-shirt, tennis shoes or sandals, hat, rain jacket (for the boat ride), sun cream.
Silverstain or similar
Day 10: BALTRA - QUITO
TRANSFER TO BALTRA AIRPORT - FLIGHT BACK TO QUITO
After our final breakfast on the Galapagos Island and the last photos taken of sea lions, we have a transfer to Baltra's airport in time to catch the flight back to the mainland.
- What to wear today.- Pants, t-shirt, fleece top, tennis shoes, hat.
Mercure Alameda Hotel or similar
Day 11: QUITO DEPARTURE
DEPARTURE & END OF SERVICES
International departures, end of services. Take with you memories and photos and leave a piece of your heart, as you will want to return to Ecuador soon to experience more of this enchanted land. We wish you a “buen viaje”!
Activities: 3 hours hiking in Cotopaxi National Park in the Andes, 3 hours biking in the Llanganates National Park, 4 hours white-water rafting on Jatunyacu River in the Amazon rainforest, 3 hours canyoning at Pimpilala waterfalls, bird watching and hiking exploration in the cloud forest, soaking in Papallacta hot springs, 5 hours trekking the loop of Cuicocha Crater Lake, share time with local indigenous people in the Amazon, making chocolate, salsa lesson, snorkeling in the Lava Tunnels, hiking to the top of Sierra Negra active volcano, snorkeling and kayaking in Tintoreras, visit the Charles Darwin Research Station, hiking in Santa Cruz highlands.
Accommodation based in double occupancy: First Class hotel in Quito, 4-star hotel in Baños, home stay in the Amazon, 5-star Spa Resort in Papallacta, 4-star hotels in Galapagos
Transportation: Airfare Quito – Galapagos round trip, comfortable land and sea transportation.
Trekking or Hiking: Black Diamond trekking sticks
Biking: Trek X Caliper MTB (hydraulic disc brakes, front Rock Shock suspension), Bontrager helmets, full finger gloves
Canyoning: rubber boots, ropes, harnesses
Rafting: Aire and NRS 7-people- rafts, NRS life jackets, NRS paddles, splash jackets
Snorkeling: Mask and fins
Trip Leader: Certified EPL expert English-speaking adventure trip leader and local guides
What is not included?
My Own Room supplement - estimated budget USD $ 685 USD
Travel insurance (mandatory)
Meals not described in the itinerary - estimated budget USD $250 USD
Tips for guides, drivers and hotels. - estimated budget USD $200 USD
In this journey you will experience a great diversity of ecosystems, including snowcapped mountains, high elevation paramo, middle elevation clould forest, Tropical Rain Forest or Amazon, and the Galapagos Islands, this means you must be ready for all kinds of weather as it depends very much in the altitude, the higher you go the colder it gets and the lower you go the warmer it gets. So please see the list below for what we recommend as packing list.
We recommend the use of a duffel bag (60 liters) for the main luggage and a daypack (20 liters) with rain cover for the outdoor activities.
REMEMBER: IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO TRAVEL LIGHT!
Credit or debit card
1 Warm Jacket
1 Fleece top
1 Rain jacket
1 Rain pants
1 Long sleeve water t-shirt
2 Long trousers or light hiking pants
2 Swimming suit
2 Extra formal clothing for the nightlife
1 Sport sandals (Chacos, keens or similar)
1 Flip flops
1 Hiking shoes
1 Tennis shoes
1 Warm gloves
1 Warm hat
1 Watch or alarm clock
1 Insect repellent
1 Sun cream 50 SPF
1 Flash light
1 Sun hat or baseball cap
1 Camera – waterproof if possible
1 Water bottle
First-aid kit(should contain lip salve, Aspirin, Band Aids, anti-histamine, Imodium or similar tablets for mild cases of diarrhea, re-hydration powder, extra prescription drugs you may be taking)
It is our intention to adhere to the itinerary described; however, due to our travel style, on occasions it may be necessary or desirable to make small changes. Weather conditions and unpredictable local circumstances may lead us to make alterations to the route and/or travel times. Hotels and flight schedules might change according to availability. Any mention to specific wildlife in the itinerary or trip details is not a guarantee that it will be seen during the trip.
2h 45 min each way from Quito to Galapagos. Regular size aircraft. About 140 passengers
2 - 3 hours a day while in mainland
45 minutes Airport transfers in Quito
45 minutes Airport transfers in Galapagos
45 minutes each way in Sierra Negra
2 hours each way from Isabela to Santa Cruz
45 minutes each way - Lava Tunnels
15 minutes each way - Tintoreras
Cloudforest: 2 hours easy uphill; 1 hour downhill same way back.
Sierra Negra: 30 minutes easy uphill; 1 and a half hours on flat terrain; 30 minutes downhill; 2 hours same way back.
1 hour moderate uphill; 2 hours downhill (terrain: cobblestone, dirt, muddy and asphalt)
From 3 to 4 hours depending on water level.
Tintoreras: 1 hour.
Lava Tunnels: 2 times of 1 hour each.
Pichincha, Cotopaxi, Tungurahua, Pastaza, Napo, Galapagos.
Andes highlands, Amazon rainforest and Galapagos Islands in Ecuador.
Quito: 2800 m (9,186 ft.)
Quilotoa: 3962 m (13,000 ft.)
Baños: 1820 m (5,971 ft.)
Amazon: 510 m (1,640 ft.)
Papallacta: 3300 m (10,827 ft.)
Galápagos: From sea level (most activities) to 1200 m (3,937 ft.) - Sierra Negra Volcano.
Day 15-34ºC / 59-93ºF - Night 12-17ºC / 53-62ºF.
Moderate to Challenging: In the cloud forest the uphill biking part can be challenging but there is always a truck behind supporting the team; the whitewater rafting on the Jatunyacu is Class III; the trekking in the cloud forest is moderate; the hiking in Sierra Negra is moderate but long and muddy during the wet season (from July to November); snorkeling is easy.
Travelling with Adventure Journeys you will have the possibility to experience and taste local food and snacks. Your guide will help you identify typical food and suggest the best places to enjoy it. Some meals are not included in order to give you some flexibility about where, what and with whom to eat. You have the option to share these meals with the group, however there is no obligation to do this. If you have any allergies or food restrictions, please inform AJ prior to your departure.
The waters of the Galapagos Islands are a unique mixture of warm and cold water, ranging between 65ºF and 85ºF
All prices are based on double-occupancy. If you are travelling solo, you will be matched with another participant of your same gender. If you prefer to have a single room, please contact AJ prior to your departure to arrange your accommodation at an extra cost.
YOUR TRIP LEADERS AND GUIDES
All AJ guides and trip leaders are highly experienced, licensed to operate in Ecuador and certified as Wilderness Adventure First Aid responders. We always carry a complete first aid kit in our trips. In some location and for some activities, local guides join the trip leaders to provide an added service. In the Galapagos Islands, minimum 4 participants for the AJ trip leader service are required.
SUSTAINABLE ECO AND CULTURAL TOURISM
Clients receive a conservationist interpretation of the ecology of the Andes, Amazon Rainforest and Galapagos Islands with the factors that threaten it. We aim to promote long-term conservation of both Local People cultural identity and their environment. Your visit will encourage them to support responsible ecotourism. We transport out and recycle all non-organic garbage.support responsible eco-tourism as a sustainable alternative for their living.