Exotic wildlife sightings, the cobblestoned city of Quito, misty cloud forest, and historic hacienda life come together in this custom Ecuador + Galapagos Islands trip. Travel alongside this adventurous group of five couples as they embark on a journey through Ecuador.
Renee, a Knowmad Trip Specialist and expert on all things Ecuador, guided Pauline and William through the custom trip planning process, collaborating with them to craft an experience that would fit the travel style of everyone in their group and include a variety of regions and activities. Pauline explains it best herself:
“Our trip was a memorable and a once in a lifetime experience!!! Knowmad did an exceptional job in coordinating all of the lodging and transfers! It was very smooth and never a concern about moving from one place to another. Each destination was unique and wonderful!!” – Pauline
Do you want to travel to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands? We’re regional experts here at Knowmad Adventures and pride ourselves in building custom trips that are a perfect fit for our travelers. If you’re interested in crafting your own custom Ecuador + Galapagos Islands adventure, don’t hesitate to reach out to our Trip Specialists at 612-315-2894 or [email protected] to begin planning your trip today!
Custom Ecuador + Galapagos Islands Trip
Day 1 USA – Quito
You will fly from the USA to Quito, most likely arriving in the evening. Upon your evening arrival in Quito you will be met at the airport by a Knowmad Adventures guide and transferred to your accommodations.
- No meals – Casa Gangotena or similar
Day 2 Quito
Enjoy a half-day guided tour of Quito as you walk down quaint cobblestone streets lined with brightly colored colonial houses and balconies dressed in flowers. Visit the Plaza de la Independencia (also known as Plaza Grande) and the impressive La Catedral de Quito, one of the oldest cathedrals in South America. Then seethe Presidential Palace along with other historically and architecturally-rich buildings lining and surrounding the square. Visit some of the most important churches built around the 16th and 17th centuries, including the monastery of San Francisco, which was started just five days after the founding of Quito in 1534. Afterwards, visit a small chocolate shop for a tasting of different varieties of world-renown Ecuadorian chocolate. While exploring the sites you will also visit Casa del Alabado, a pre-Columbian museum with a collection of nearly 5,000 pieces, some of which date back to over 4,000 years ago. At the end of the excursion you will be returned to your accommodations to enjoy the evening at your leisure.
- B – Casa Gangotena or similar
Day 3 Quito
Enjoy a morning of independent exploration or relaxing at your accommodations. In the afternoon you will depart from Quito to the Middle of the World complex. This monument, 30-meters high, is located at latitude 0 ́0”, and gives you the unusual opportunity of standing in both the northern and southern hemispheres at the same time while straddling the Equator. Next you will visit the fascinating Intiñan museum, dedicated to the promotion and study of the nations that inhabited the equatorial area. Enjoy the artifacts, totems, sundials, and portions of an original village at this museum, as well as the marvel of being at the center of the world on the equator. Spend the rest of your evening enjoying the charms of Quito independently.
- B – Casa Gangotena or similar
Day 4 Quito – Mashpi
In the morning you will be met at your accommodations by and taken in shared group transfer through breathtaking countryside on an approximately 3-hour drive to the Mashpi Nature Reserve. This reserve extends over 1,300 hectares (3,212 acres) – a haven for wildlife and biodiversity. While at Mashpi Lodge you will be able to choose from a wide range of excursions, as well as enjoy scrumptious food as part of their inclusive program. Upon arrival at Mashpi Lodge in the early afternoon you will be given a short briefing aboutthe reserve as well as the options of activities available. After a delicious lunch, begin to explore the cloudforest by choosing from optional activities such as trails to waterfalls, an orchid garden, an aerial canopy tram, wildlife spotting and much more. We have also included the Dragon Fly cable car as part of your stay.At the end of the day enjoy dinner and a relaxing evening at your leisure.
- B, L, D – Mashpi Lodge
Day 5 Mashpi
Continue to enjoy the wide range of excursions throughout the reserve and your stay at Mashpi Lodge. For those who want to witness the beauty and magic of dawn in the forest – which is when most birds are active and calling, as well as when views are often most spectacular – early morning activities are organized before breakfast. Following breakfast, head out from the lodge to explore, returning for lunch and a rest, and continue enjoying an afternoon amid nature. Enjoy a delicious dinner and a relaxing evening, or head out fora night walk to close out the day.
- B, L, D – Mashpi Lodge
Day 6 Mashpi – Quito
Today you will enjoy an early breakfast, followed by a choice of morning activity. An early lunch will also be served before you depart back eastwards, winding up the Andes towards the capital and arriving in Quito in the late afternoon (shared group transfer). Enjoy an evening back at your luxury Quito accommodations.
- B, L – Casa Gangotena or similar
Day 7 Quito – Galapagos
You will be met at your accommodations by a Knowmad Adventures guide and transferred to the airport in accordance to your flight to the Galapagos and will have assistance checking in for your flights. You will arrive at Baltra Island in the morning. After passing through immigration and baggage claim you will be met by Petrel staff and transferred to the yacht. You will be shown to your cabin where you will have some time to settle in before lunch and a welcome briefing.
PM. North Seymour Island
Galapagos Sea Lions, Blue-footed Boobies and Magnificent Frigatebirds are abundant on North SeymourIsland. The island was formed by a series of submarine lavas containing layers of sediment that were uplifted by tectonic activity. The island is characterized by its arid vegetation zone.
- B, L, D – Petrel
Day 8 Isabela & Fernandina Islands
AM. Vicente Roca Point (Isabela Island)
The largest in the archipelago, this seahorse-shaped island is also one of the youngest and most volcanically active. The morning visit is to Vicente Roca Point. Comprised of two separate coves, this site is a large bay with spectacular sea life. Keep an eye out for seahorses, sea turtles, and the strange yet fascinating Mola-mola (sunfish).
PM. Espinosa Point (Fernandina Island)Crossing the Bolivar Channel that divides Isabela and Fernandina Islands, we will land at Espinosa Point. After walking past a colony of marine iguanas and a group of sea lions, we’ll reach the island’s highlight: the Flightless cormorant nesting site. This area also provides a great opportunity to see the Galapagos Hawk.
- B, L, D – Petrel
Day 9Isabela Island
AM. Tagus Cove (Isabela Island)
Tagus Cove is located across from Fernandina Island, near the Bolivar Channel dividing the two islands. This spot has been frequented by ships since the 1800s, using the area as an anchorage site. Trails winding byLake Darwin up to a ridge display wonderful views. Punta Tortuga, just north of Tagus Cove, is another lovely beach surrounded by mangroves.
PM. Urbina Bay (Isabela Island)
Urbina Bay is located at the base of Alcedo Volcano on the west coast, between Tagus Cove and Elizabeth Bay. This area experienced a major uplift in 1954, causing the land to rise over 16 feet. The coast expanded half a mile out, leaving marine life stranded on the new shore. This area is also a great place for snorkeling.
- B, L, D – Petrel
Day 10 Isabela Island
AM. Elizabeth Bay (Isabela Island)
Elizabeth Bay is located on the east coast of Isabela Island. The bay contains many islets, which can be visited by dinghy. Penguins and Blue-footed Boobies can be spotted on the rocky islets. With an abundance of marine life and clear water, the area is perfect for snorkeling and viewing schools of colorful fish, sea lions, and perhaps even sharks.
PM. Moreno Point (Isabela Island)
Moreno Point is located near Elizabeth Bay on the west coast of Isabela Island. The plethora of birds seen during a dinghy ride along the striking rocky shores or a hike along path through lava rock leading to tide pools and mangroves create a birdwatcher’s delight. In the tide pools green sea turtles or white-tip sharks can be spotted.
- B, L, D – Petrel
Day 11 Isabela Island
AM. Sierra Negra Volcano (Isabela Island)
The Sierra Negra Volcano boasts the largest basaltic caldera in Galapagos at 9 x 10km. The site offers impressive views and the opportunity to observe up to 7 species of finch and a rich display of vegetation.The north side of the caldera provides evidence of its most recent volcanic activity in 2005.
PM. The Wetlands (Isabela Island)
The Wetlands of Isabela Island are located just outside of Puerto Villa mil. The Wetlands consist of lagoons, swamps, and mangroves and are home to a variety of unique bird species such as Common Stilts,Whimbrels, White-Cheeked Pintails, and Gallinules. The Wetlands can be visited on foot via a path that winds through the swamps.
PM. The Wall of Tears (Isabela Island)
From 1945-1959, a penal colony hosted prisoners who were forced to build this wall, stone by stone, in isolation. This now historical site (El Muro de las Lagrimas), towering at 65 feet (25m) high, took the lives of thousands during its construction. Locals claim to hear cries emanating from the heavy energy surrounding the site.
- B, L, D – Petrel
Day 12 Galapagos – Quito – Zuleta
AM. Charles Darwin Station (Santa Cruz Island)The Charles Darwin Research Station is home to turtles ranging from 3-inches (new hatchlings) to 4-feet long. Sub-species of turtles interact with one another and many of the older turtles are accustomed to humans, stretching out their heads for a pet. The babies are kept until they are about four years old and strong enough to survive on their own. Please keep in mind that on departures days, your morning visit will be early and short since we need to be prepared before heading back toward the airport for your returning flight to Ecuador’s mainland.
Upon arrival in Quito, you will be met at the airport by an Hacienda Zuleta representative and taken on a scenic drive north to Hacienda Zuleta. After checking in you will meet your host and learn about all the traditional hacienda has to offer. Spend the afternoon relaxing and taking advantage of the many on-site activities.
- B, box L, D – Hacienda Zuleta
Day 13 Otavalo
This morning you will head out on a guided visit to the Otavalo market, the biggest and most important indigenous market in all of Latin America. The colorful main handicraft and textile market spills into the streets from the central Plaza de Ponchos. The produce market impresses with the sheer number and color of the locally-cultivated fruits and vegetables. The friendly Otavaleños are more than happy to talk about their crafts and traditions and will expect you to haggle a bit on the price. After heading back to the hacienda, enjoy the rest of the day at your leisure continuing to explore Zuleta.
- B, L, D – Hacienda Zuleta
Day 14 Zuleta – Quito – USA
If you are an early morning person, you might enjoy a short walk around the property prior to breakfast.There is a profuse variety of bird life attracted to the garden, and adjacent to the main courtyard, the milking barn is full of activities at daybreak as some of the more than 300 Holstein dairy cows are milked by the hacienda’s staff and if you choose, you can arrange with your host to head out with a local woman to milk a cow. After breakfast, enjoy your final day at Zuleta to continue exploring the beautiful hacienda and its surrounding area. Perhaps visit the Condor Rehabilitation Center and flying condor viewpoint or the on-site cheese museum, or learn about their involvement in the community, its traditions, and its development. You could also enjoy one of the many hikes around the property, take a walk to the village or arrange with your host to head out on a horseback ride or bike ride (extra cost). You will enjoy one more dinner at the hacienda before saying farewell to Zuleta.
- B, L, D
Day 15Arrive home.
Knowmad offers door-to-door trip planning; we help you navigate the different boat options, itineraries, and seasonal differences, coordinating Galapagos and mainland Ecuador travel for a holistic, seamless and safe experience, all at a guaranteed best value. Reach out to our Trip Specialists at 612-315-2894 or [email protected] to begin planning your trip today!
Hasta Pronto, Knowmad Adventurers
Knowmad Adventures works closely with independent-minded travelers creating innovative trips to South America. Our specialists in Patagonia, Chile, Machu Picchu, Peru, Argentina, the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador and Antarctica are eager to collaborate and create a trip as unique and authentic as you are, and our experienced South American operations team guarantees you get an insider’s perspective, superior values, and a flawlessly-operated trip.