Knowmad traveler Katie seized the day in June and booked a last-minute Galapagos and Ecuador adventure for July, getting unbeatable values and experiences. Check out her 10-day custom adventure below.
“I absolutely loved Ecuador – what a special place to visit. Selfishly, because there were fewer travelers from COVID, I felt like I got even more of a unique experience. It was like we had the Galapagos all to ourselves and the boat wasn’t even full. Everything went 100% as planned…
…It’s definitely a miss if people don’t spend some time on the mainland. Zuleta was almost my favorite part of the trip. They gave me a beautiful standard room in a wing all to myself (I also would guess they were only 25% full). Also, the food was incredible. I went to the market and I’m already regretting not buying more” – Katie, Knowmad Traveler
It has always been our goal to take the stress out of travel planning, and that rings true now more than ever. If you’re interested in crafting a custom trip to South America, reach out to a Knowmad Trip Specialist at 612-315-2894 or email [email protected] to start planning today!
Take a look at her custom trip flow below and get lost in her incredible photos!
custom Mainland Ecuador + Galapagos Trip
DAY 1 USA – Quito
Fly from the USA to Quito, arriving in the evening. Upon your evening arrival in Quito, you will be met at the airport by your Knowmad Adventures guide and transferred to your accommodations in the heart of the old historic center of Quito.
- No meals – Casona de la Ronda
DAY 2 Quito
Enjoy a half-day guided tour of Quito. 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 see the 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.
- B – Casona de la Ronda
DAY 3 Quito – Galapagos
AM: Early this morning you will be picked up at your accommodations and transferred to the airport in accordance with your onward flight to the Galapagos Islands
Upon arrival in the Galapagos you’ll take a small ferry across the channel to the north shore of Santa Cruz Island, then board a bus to the highlands, where you’ll learn about Santa Cruz’s unique ecosystems and biodiversity, and enjoy lunch at a local restaurant.
PM: After lunch, you will continue by bus to reach a reserve that is one of the best places in the archipelago to see giant tortoises in their natural habitat. The tortoises are easy to spot, lumbering around, eating grass and leaves and wallowing in the small pools. There are several lava tunnels in the reserve, too. A short bus ride takes you down to Puerto Ayora to board La Pinta Yacht.
- B, L, D – M/Y La Pinta
DAY 4 Santa Cruz Island
AM: After breakfast, a panga ride takes you to Eden Islet, located off the coast of Santa Cruz, where you can observe blue-footed boobies diving into the water, reef sharks and frigates. There’s a chance to snorkel and, if weather conditions permit, to ride in the glass-bottom boat. The volcanic setting of this area is quite stunning due to its variety of volcanic debris, including cinder cones, tuff cones, and semi-eroded lava flows.
PM: The tiny island of Sombrero Chino gets its name from its appearance, reminiscent of a Chinese hat. This islet, formed only fairly recently, makes a beautiful visit as one explores the wildlife along its 400-metre long trail, which begins at a crescent-shaped white sandy beach. The cove offers excellent swimming and snorkeling opportunities amid white-tipped reef sharks and Galapagos penguins.
- B, L, D – M/Y La Pinta
DAY 5 Bartoleme & Santiago Islands
AM: This morning, a Galapagos icon awaits: Bartolome Island. A great way to start the day, with a steep climb up a wooden staircase, where the view from the top makes the effort all worthwhile. Following the walk, you will take to the dinghies for a ride around colossal Pinnacle Rock, followed by time to enjoy the beach and some snorkeling. You can also ride in the glass-bottom boat for great views of the underwater world.
PM: After lunch, you will board the pangas to land at Sullivan Bay on the east coast of Santiago, a white coral sand beach great for swimming and snorkeling, and with a trail over a lava field that flowed here less than 100 years ago. This is the perfect place to see and feel the volcanic origin of Galapagos while observing its wildlife.
- B, L, D – M/Y La Pinta
DAY 6 Darwin Bay & Genovesa Island
“Here is my favorite picture. I don’t even know how I got it, because the bird (Red Footed Boobie) was taking off and I just started clicking! I loved this route for the trip because of how many birds we got to see (and I’m not even a bird person 😊). I did no editing to the photo – it was just captured “as is”.” – Katie
AM: Begin your exploration of this island with an easy stroll to observe marine and land birds. There is an optional walk over sharp lava and uneven terrain for dramatic views, or you will also have the option to return to the beach to enjoy swimming and snorkeling at this beautiful natural harbor. The more adventurous can snorkel along the cliffs or paddle sea kayaks.
PM: The afternoon starts with a very interesting panga ride along the cliffs before you disembark for a short but steep climb up a wooden staircase. Once at the top, the land is flat, allowing for a captivating walk of about a mile to the other side of this small island, observing large colonies of Nazca boobies, frigate birds and storm petrels and the elusive short-eared owl.
B, L, D – M/Y La Pinta, Luxury Cabin
DAY 7 Galapagos – Quito – Zuleta
Your journey on board will end at Baltra Island, where you will disembark and be transferred to the airport for your flight back to the mainland. Upon arrival in Quito, you will be met at the airport by your Spanish-speaking driver and taken on the 2-hour scenic drive north to Hacienda Zuleta. After checking in you will meet your host and learn about all the traditional hacienda has to offer and have dinner.
- B, D – Hacienda Zuleta
DAY 8 Zuleta
Enjoy the day at your leisure to independently explore the beautiful Hacienda Zuleta and its surrounding area. 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, perhaps spend the morning hiking to the Condor Rehabilitation Center and flying condor viewpoint. Hacienda Zuleta has a large system of self-guided hiking trails for you to explore the area. Zuleta also invites you to explore the extensive gardens, visit the on-site cheese museum, or learn about their involvement in the community, its traditions, and its development. Other optional activities could include guided hikes and explorations, mountain biking excursions, or a cooking class (to be arranged and paid for direct on site).
Today you’ll also have the opportunity to venture out with a local horse guide (Spanish speaking only) on a short 2-hour horseback ride through Andean countryside (included in your stay). You can choose from a variety of routes with your guide, riding through pastures, past pre-Columbian ruins, small Andean villages and more. Hacienda Zuleta is known for its beautiful Zuleteño horses, a unique mixture between Spanish-Andalusian, Thoroughbred and American Quarter horse. The result of this crossbreeding is a horse with a perfect disposition for riding on trails. As the sun sets, enjoy wine and farm-made cheese by the fireplace in the cozy fireplace and enjoy a delicious dinner and great conversation before retiring for the night.
- B, L, D – Hacienda Zuleta, Standard Room
DAY 9 Zuleta
Enjoy another day at leisure to independently explore the amazing Hacienda Zuleta grounds and hiking trails, or relax at the property. Perhaps take a hike to a nearby waterfall, or walk into the nearby Zuleta village.
- B, L, D – Hacienda Zuleta, Standard Room
DAY 10 Zuleta – Quito – USA
Wrap up your time in Ecuador with a final day at Zuleta. You will have guaranteed late check-out until 4:00pm, after which you can store your luggage and continue enjoying the property and have dinner. Later in the day, you will say farewell to Hacienda Zuleta and return to the Quito airport in accordance with your international overnight flight home.
- B, L, D
DAY 11 Arrive home
Would you be interested in taking a similar adventure? 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.