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Touring: Ecuador and Galapagos


COMPLETE ECUADOR - 21 OCTOBER - 4 NOVEMBER, 2017


TOUR OVERVIEW


Ecuador is one of the smallest countries in South America BUT has the greatest bio-diversity of any country on the planet!

This exciting 15 day tour has more highlights than I’ve had hot dinners! Forward Travel and I have again created what we think is a very exciting tour. Highlights are:
7 nights on the Galapagos Islands
4 nights in beautiful Quito
a visit to the Equator
a visit to the Cloud Forest, an ecological paradise
4 day train trip from Quito to Guayaquil including descending the breathtaking Zig Zag Railway
the Avenida de los Volcanes
all breakfasts - 28 meals overall

TOUR ITINERARY - starts in QUITO

Day 1. 21 Oct – QUITO
Welcome to Quito. Our guide will meet us at the airport and take us our hotel in the vibrant New Town.

Day 2. 22 Oct – QUITO AND EQUATOR (B,D)
This morning we’ll be guided through all the delights of the World’s first UNESCO World Heritage City, starting in its oldest Street, La Ronda. Here we’ll be introduced to the gastronomic and artisanal traditions of Ecuador, before we explore the historic centre and some of its impressive churches. The 17C La Compañia de Jesus (XVII Century) is one of the most beautiful baroque churches in South America, and the Church of San Francisco still has some original features from the 16C.

We’ll then drive 30km north to where the world is divided into two. We’ll stand on the actual Equator and have some unique equatorial fun trying the various activities. Try to balance the egg on a nail, and keep your balance as you ‘walk the line’. You’ll also see water going round the drain in different directions, just metres apart.

This evening we’ll walk the few blocks to Achiote for an authentic Ecuadorian welcome dinner.

Day 3. 23 Oct - CLOUD FOREST (B)
We’ll head north west to Mindo, an ecological paradise where the humidity rising up from the coast forms a mist that is known as the Ecuador Cloudforest. It’s an ecological paradise where hiking through the forest lets us enjoy the diverse flora and fauna, with an exceptional variety of birds. We’ll also visit an Orchid garden and chocolate factory before we drive back to Quito.

Day 4. 2 4 Oct. ALL ABOARD TREN CRUCERO (B,L,D) NORTHERN VILLAGES AND VOLCANOES
We depart Quito early in the morning for a one-and-a-half drive north. In Otavalo, home of a millinery market, a carefully restored steam engine awaits us.
At a slow pace we will discover the many wonders hidden in this part of the country: musicians, painters, weavers and the skillful woodcarvers who keep the renowned Quito School style alive. After a tasting of traditional Andean cuisine and a visit to very special export-class rose plantation we return to Quito.

Day 5. 25 Oct - AVENUE OF THE VOLCANOES (B,L,D)
We board our train at Quito Chimbacalle station and begin our journey south along the Avenue of the Volcanoes. If the weather permits, we can spot up to twenty volcanoes from the train, most extinct or dormant for centuries.
Here, the Andes range splits into two arms that run parallel down south. The fertile valley trapped between these stone walls hosts a treasure trove of biodiversity. From the comfort of our panoramic cars we watch the change of vegetation and landscape as we slowly climb the Andean highlands to Urbina, the highest point on our journey at 3,575m. In the skirts of mount Chimborazo we meet the last ice-merchant and learn the story of his ancestral trade.

Day 6. 26 Oct - MARKETS AND DEVIL’S NOSE (B,L,D)
We depart Riobamba towards Colta, where the Spanish conquerors built their first settlement in Ecuador. We cross colourful quinoa fields painted in purples, yellows and reds, alternating with endemic species of flora and wildlife, indigenous settlements and the remains of ancient cultures.
We visit Guamote market, one of the last indigenous markets in the Andes, before continuing south to the mythical Devil’s Nose pass. A vertiginous descent of 450m zig zag takes us from the Andean highlands down towards the coastal plains.
We continue our descent along the narrow Chanchán river gorge and crossing an impressive cloud forest to Bucay.

Day 7. 27 Oct - LOWLANDS AND GUAYAQUIL (B,L,D)
The landscape changes as the train leaves the tropical forest. Rice, sugar cane, pineapple and banana plantations pass before our eyes.
We have lunch at a traditional hacienda, where we can learn about the growing and harvesting of the best cocoa bean in the world. Later, the steam engine wends its way across the fields towards the shores of the Pacific Ocean and the end of our trip in a hotel in Guayaquil for overnight.

Day 8. 28 Oct – GALAPAGOS – HIGHLANDS (B,D)
Transfer to the airport and fly to The Galapagos. Arriving to Baltra we will take a shuttle across Santa Cruz to the highlands. The road climbs through the agricultural zone and into the mist-covered forests. We’ll call in to one of the ranches, where we are able to wander the grounds in search of tortoises. After lunch we’ll continue to Puerto Ayora for the rest of the afternoon at leisure.

Day 9. 29 Oct – PUERTO AYORA – TORTUGA BAY (B,L)
This morning we’ll take a walk 1hr to Tortuga Bay. This walk goes through a dry zone with many land birds to be seen along the way. The first beach is beautiful and expansive but another 20 minutes will take us to “Playa Mansa” ideal for swimming and home to many marine iguanas.
Take time to explore the town this afternoon. Judy, on last year’s tour, rated the fish markets a fantastic place to visit.

Day 10. 30 oct - FLOREANA – SNORKELLING (B/L)
This morning we’ll take our speed boat to Floreana Island, a 2.5hr journey. This Island was the first island inhabited and descendants of the original inhabitants still live here. We’ll be face to face with history and legends to give us an understanding of the human development in the Galapagos Islands. This afternoon we’ll walk for 30 minutes to la Loberia, a sea Lion breeding space. Here in the bright turquoise waters, we can swim with sea lions, marine turtles, manta rays and a variety of colourful coral fishes. Later we’ll relax in the lodge, share stories with the locals and hopefully meet some members of the original families.

Day 11. 31 oct HIGHLANDS – PIRATES – ISABELA (B,L)
This morning we’ll take a “Chiva”- traditional old fashioned bus to the highlands, learning some of the islands colourful history. We’ll hear about the Wittmers, the Baroness, the Pirates that visited, and the “Enigma of Floreana”, involving the mysterious deaths of several of the Island´s inhabitants, a riddle that has never been solved. Dave will tell you about them too as he has long been fascinated with the story.

We’ll explore pirate caves, visit fresh water springs that supply the islanders, and see Giant tortoises. We’ll take our speed boat the 2.5hrs to Isabela. Time for a leisurely lunch and relax for the rest of the day in the pristine beaches of the biggest and one of the newest Islands.

The afternoon we’ll pick up a bike and ride to the “Wall of tears”, a 6km ride, each way. Half way to the Wall, the trail passes a white sand beach where the surrounding lagoons are home to all four species of mangroves found in the Galapagos. The trail continues through the dry zone until reaching the Wall. A penal colony existed on Isabela from 1944 to 1959. The Wall of Tears was built by the prisoners to keep them busy. It stand 5-6 m high, 3 m wide and is approximately 100 m long. It is a testament to a period of cruelty and torture. We return for accommodation in a selected hotel.

Day 12. 01 NOV - VOLCANOES (B,L)
We travel to the base of the Sierra Negra Volcano, and walk about 2 hours to reach the crater of the volcano. There we will have a wonderful view into the crater and with a little bit of luck will be able to see the sparrow hawk of the Galapagos. We will get to know the geology of the Sierra Negra Volcano. Most of the part of this island was formed by lava. We will have a box lunch and visit el Chico Volcano.

The afternoon visit is to the Tintoreras Islets, located a short distance from Puerto Villamil. They are home to a great variety of wildlife. Its turquoise, crystalline waters are inhabited by white-tipped reef sharks, Galapagos penguins, marine turtles and sea lions. One of its beaches, surrounded by mangroves is one of the few sites where marine iguanas can reproduce successfully. Reaching the Isle of Tintoreras, we will get to know a lot of these species. Most of the part of this island is formed by lava.

Return to the hotel.

Day 13. 02 NOV - FLAMINGO LAGOON - TUNELES (B,L)
Our guide will take us to visit the Flamingo’s Lagoon. This is a 2km trail where we will explore the vegetation and geology of this young Island. Arriving at the Flamingo lagoon we hope to see Flamingos feeding in this lake.

This afternoon we will visit a unique place in the islands, “Los Tuneles”. We take a 45 minute boat trip to this treasure hidden from most Galapagos visitors. The Tunnels were formed millions of years ago when liquid lava rivers ran across the island reaching the coast. The cold water froze their superficial layer isolating the interior while liquid lava kept flowing into the sea. When the eruption finished, a hollow structure was formed and its wall later broke allowing water to come inside and creating a tunnel. Our guide will join us along hundreds of tunnels while we snorkel and discover the marine life such as sharks, lobsters, penguins, sea lions, boobies, marine turtles among other endemic species from Galapagos. A snack will be served on board our boat. If lucky enough, we will have the chance to witness giant manta rays feeding in open waters. Afternoon return to Isabela for our final night.

Day 14. 03 NOV – fly back to Guayaquil (B)
This morning as a final treat we’ll fly back to Santa Cruz to connect with our flight to Guayaquil where we’ll be met and taken back to the Wyndham Hotel for our final night in Ecuador.

Day 15. 04 Nov – Onward travel.
Transfer to the airport for our onward journey.

END OF ARRANGEMENTS

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Ecuador and Galapagos
Dates and costs
21 October - 4 November, 2017
Cost per person AUD$8,870 twin share
Single supplement AUD$1523

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