A family adventure exploring Ecuador & the Galapagos Islands
Experience a captivating family adventure in Ecuador & the Galapagos, exploring the diverse landscapes and vibrant cultures of this South American gem.
Begin your journey in Quito, where the family can marvel at the historic colonial centre, visit chocolate workshops, and immerse yourselves in the indigenous culture. Discover the equator line at the "Mitad del Mundo" monument and enjoy a sensory tour through the charming streets of Quito.
Transition to the iconic Galapagos Islands, where unique wildlife encounters await. Witness giant tortoises, playful sea lions, and an array of marine life during island-hopping excursions. Engage in educational visits to the Charles Darwin Research Center and Chocogalapagos for a sweet touch of local culture. Indulge in family-friendly activities like kayaking, hiking, and snorkelling, creating unforgettable memories against the backdrop of these enchanting islands.
Continue your family odyssey to Otavalo, a town renowned for its indigenous culture. Navigate the bustling markets, hone your bargaining skills, and appreciate the craftsmanship of local artisans. Dive into an immersive gastronomic experience with a Kichwa Otavalean family, learning to prepare ancestral dishes and sharing in the joy of traditional cuisine.
Throughout this enriching journey, Ecuador offers a blend of adventure, education, and cultural immersion for a family holiday filled with exploration and bonding.
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Day 1: Arrival to Quito
Day 2: Visit the Middle of the World and make Chocolate!
Begin your exploration at the 'Mitad del Mundo,' a monument just north of Quito marking the equator's closest point to the city. Visit the "Ciudad Mitad del Mundo," a cluster of buildings indicating the site's significance, and the Ethnographic or Intiñan Museum, situated right on the Equator, offering the unique opportunity to stand in two hemispheres simultaneously.
After lunch, indulge in a chocolate experience, delving into the history of cocoa in Ecuador through a guided tour and concluding with a delightful chocolate tasting. This multifaceted day encapsulates Ecuador's cultural, historical, and culinary richness, inviting travellers to embrace the diverse wonders of this South American gem.
Day 3: Galapagos Islands
Today, our Galapagos Islands adventure commences as we set foot on Baltra Island, the gateway to this enchanting archipelago. Home to the Galapagos' main airport, this airport stands as a pioneering example of eco-friendly design, incorporating advanced environmental techniques to minimise emissions and energy consumption, making it the world's first ecological airport.
Upon arrival, we'll be ushered into a special VIP lounge at the airport where, you can change into comfortable attire, apply sunscreen, and savour a refreshing drink before our transfer to the Itabaca Channel where we will continue to the exclusive giant tortoise reserve in the Santa Cruz Highlands.
Immerse yourself in the breathtaking landscapes of mountains and forests surrounding the camp, revelling in the serenity of the hillside, reserved exclusively for us and the seasonal resident giant tortoises. This unique encounter promises a tranquil introduction to the natural wonders of the Galapagos, setting the tone for an unforgettable journey through this ecological paradise.
Day 4: Garrapatero Beach & Cerro Mesa
In the early morning, our day starts with a visit to Garrapatero Beach, the idyllic setting for our kayaking adventure. We paddle along the bay, exploring the serene waters for approximately 45 minutes or if you prefer a different perspective take a short walk to the brackish lagoon, offering high chances of encountering the elegant pink flamingos.
Next, we journey to an off-the-beaten-path locale on Santa Cruz Island—the Cerro Mesa viewpoint. From this vantage point, we're treated to a panoramic view of the entire southern shore of Santa Cruz. Our exploration continues towards one of the Galapagos' iconic formations, resembling a collapsed crater. Descend to the crater's floor which takes around 30 minutes and here, we leisurely explore the unique terrain, perhaps encountering endemic species like the woodpecker finch. We may even spot the majestic giant tortoises in their natural habitat. Witness the unique flora and fauna that make the Galapagos Islands a living laboratory of evolution.
Following a delicious lunch, our adventure takes us to "El Trapiche," where we delve into the local way of life by witnessing the traditional production of sugar cane. A "trapiche" is a sugar mill in Spanish, and here, you'll have a unique opportunity to gain insight into the daily routines of the locals.
Day 5: Tortuga Bay & Patricio Llerena Research Centre
Start with a leisurely walk to the picturesque Tortuga Bay beach, renowned for its pristine sands and the presence of marine iguanas. Here, you can observe these unique creatures, go for a refreshing swim, snorkel, or simply unwind on the sun-kissed shores. Named Turtle Bay due to its significance as a nesting site for black turtles, the beach offers a tranquil setting for marine exploration.
After lunch, continue to The Charles Darwin Research Centre the scientific research hub in the Galapagos Islands. Here they direct sensitive conservation projects, with a focus on preserving giant tortoises and marine iguanas.
Our next stop is Chocogalapagos, where we meet the owner, Juan Daniel Navarro. As a family-run business, Chocogalapagos offers a unique chocolate-making experience. Juan Daniel will guide us through the tempering process and demonstrate how to craft a delicious chocolate tortoise. An exciting moment awaits as you choose between two types of Ganaches to fill your chocolate—a delightful decision to make!
Day 6: Santa Cruz Island to San Cristobal Island
From Puerto Ayora dock board the public speedboat destined for San Cristobal. Upon arrival, check-in at your San Cristobal hotel, Hotel Indigo. Our exploration of this captivating island begins with a visit to the Interpretation Centre, strategically positioned at the northern edge of town. Here, a wealth of information unfolds, unravelling the natural history of the Galapagos Islands and shedding light on the profound impact of human presence on the delicate ecosystem.
Our next destination is "Cerro Tijeretas" (Frigatebird Hill), renowned for its avian inhabitants, including magnificent frigatebirds and great frigatebirds, the hill offers a unique opportunity to observe and compare these fascinating species in their natural habitat.
Following this avian encounter, our journey takes us to Punta Carola, a pristine beach which stretches approximately 300 m and is flanked by a dry forest. Galapagos Sea lions, dominate the beach, creating a vibrant colony. Keep an eye out for marine iguanas among the bushes and rocks, showcasing the rich biodiversity of this area. This immersive day on San Cristobal Island promises encounters with both natural wonders and the cultural fabric of this captivating archipelago.
Day 7: Day at leisure
After days of exploration and discovery in the enchanting Galapagos Islands, take the opportunity to indulge in some well-earned downtime. Unwind and relax at the hotel, savouring the tranquillity of your surroundings. If you're still eager for more adventure, feel free to enquire about additional suggestions to explore further. Whether it's strolling through charming local streets, enjoying a leisurely meal at a nearby eatery, or discovering hidden gems in the vicinity, the choice is yours. The Galapagos Islands offer a unique blend of natural wonders and cultural experiences waiting to be explored.
Day 8: From the tropical Galapagos Islands to the Ecuador Highlands
Embarking on the next leg of our journey, we bid farewell to the captivating Galapagos Islands and our flight to Quito in the Andean Highlands. Upon arrival in Quito, our adventure takes a new direction as we traverse a region surrounded by majestic mountain ranges, fertile valleys, and unparalleled scenic beauty.
Our first stop is the Taita Gundo atelier, a family project led by the esteemed musician Ali Lema. This initiative was born out of a desire to preserve the construction, elaboration, and interpretation of traditional Andean musical instruments. Instruments such as pingullos, dulzainas, quenas, quenachos, quenillas, rondadores, pallas, sikuris, antaras, and zampoñas, representative of the Imbabura province, take centre stage. At Taita Gundo, visitors are treated to a rich sampling of musical instruments and rhythms that hold cultural significance for the Quechua people. Immerse yourself in the melodic tapestry of the Andes, experiencing the passion and craftsmanship behind these cultural treasures. In the afternoon, transfer to Hacienda Cusin for 2 nights.
Day 9: Otavalo Market & Cooking Class
Today's cultural journey takes us to the town of Otavalo, a captivating destination renowned as one of the most interesting in Ecuador. Here, the local Kichwa indigenous culture is not only visible but, on the rise, contributing to the town's unique charm. At the heart of Otavalo lies its famous craft market is a vibrant tapestry of colours, offering a plethora of interesting and sometimes rare objects and crafts
Lunch is a culinary adventure, with Kichwa Otavalean couple Claudia and Patricio. The gastronomy workshop at Kawsaymi promises an original and unforgettable activity. Set in a traditional fireplace kitchen (tulpa), the workshop combines a variety of native flavours with the richness of natural products and various preparation methods. From cooking techniques suitable for beginners to those for intermediate and advanced chefs, the workshop offers diverse culinary products.
Day 10: Andean Condors
Our morning begins with a visit to a rescue centre dedicated to the protection and recovery of various species of birds of prey. Among these remarkable birds is the magnificent Andean Condor, boasting a wingspan that can extend beyond eight feet.
The rescue centre provides an invaluable opportunity to observe and learn about the captivating world of birds of prey found in the Northern Andes. The facility not only showcases the majestic Andean Condor but also introduces visitors to a diverse array of other fascinating and beautiful raptors. Return to the Quito region and overnight in charming Hacienda la Jimenita located close to the airport.
Day 11: Depart Quito
Enjoy a leisurely day at the hacienda, surrounded by the natural beauty of its private reserve. With 18 acres of nature trails, the hacienda provides an immersive experience for nature enthusiasts. Take advantage of this day to explore the well-maintained trails, offering encounters with a diverse range of bird species, including the fascinating presence of 10 different hummingbirds. Stroll through the lush landscapes, breathe in the fresh mountain air, and appreciate the tranquillity that the hacienda's setting provides.
Later in the day, you will be transferred to the airport for your departure flight
Day 12: Arrive home!
Duration: 10 nights
Location: Ecuador Holidays, South and Central America Holidays
From £13,840 based on 2 adults & 2 children (under 12 years old) sharing, excluding international flights.
£4870 per adult / £2050 per child under 12 years old
The trip includes all accommodations and activities specified above.
Rooms and meals are as follows, lunch is included on several days with excursions.
2 nights at Hotel Plaza Grande – Royal Front Suite, breakfast included.
3 nights at Hotel Ikala Galapagos – Standard Room, breakfast included.
2 nights at Hotel Indigo Galapagos - Premium Room, breakfast included
2 nights at Hacienda Cusin, Standard room - breakfast included.
1 night at Hacienda la Jimenita – Grand Suite - breakfast included.
All transfers, domestic flights within Ecuador, guides, Galapagos National Park entrance fee (US$100 /$50 child under 12) and transit card (US$20) and other fees where stated as included.
This trip excludes:
International flights to/from Ecuador
Meals not mentioned as included.
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When to go
Find out the best time to visit Ecuador with our month by month guide.
Best time for the coast and Galapagos due to warmer sea temperatures. Coastal regions enjoy warm temperatures, perfect for beach activities and water sports. Whilst it may occasionally rain, the weather is preferable for these activities compared to the dry season, which is cold and overcast. In the Andes, it is more likely to be humid and wet, meaning it is ideal for exploring cities and visiting indigenous markets, but less ideal for hiking and exploring. The Amazon rainforest is humid and wet and whilst the scenery is pleasant, the animals might be harder to find.
Great time for the coast and Galapagos despite potential rain. It is still pleasantly warm along the coast and perfect for beach relaxation and water activities. The mountains see temperatures hovering at about 17°C (63°F) with the humidity and rainfall continuing. Visit Cuenca or Ambato for the Carnaval festivities during February. The Amazon rainforest remains humid, and increased rainfall means a higher chance of flooding.
A pleasant climate across the country and cheaper than December- February. Coastal areas are temperate still, and the beaches get quieter as school holidays end. The Andes see temperatures from 12-21°C (54-70°F), hiking opportunities become more appealing as the rainfall starts to slow down. If Easter falls in March, don’t miss the Santa Semana celebrations in Quito. Humidity still reigns in the Amazon rainforest.
Beaches and Galapagos are quieter, but the weather remains pleasant. Everywhere else is wet. Coastal areas bask in warm temperatures, perfect for beach adventures and water sports. However, it's worth noting that some regions may experience occasional showers. The mountain ranges can experience intermittent rainfall. The Amazon rainforest is still wet meaning the swollen rivers open up tributaries that are otherwise too shallow to access by boat.
Things are getting cooler in Galapagos and on the coast. Whilst the rain clears up along the coast, it becomes colder and less pleasant, so avoid the beaches at this time of year if sunbathing or water sports are on your activity checklist. The Amazon is wet, and there can be frequent road closures. The humidity combined with the wet weather means peak mosquito season too. It is less likely to rain in the Andes in May, and hiking the volcanoes becomes more accessible.
The high season for the mountains begins. Around the summer solstice is the celebration of the Incan festival of Inti Raymi, best celebrated in Otavalo or the Ingapirca archaeological site. Along the coast, temperatures range from mild to warm, with occasional rain showers. In the highlands, temperatures are slightly warmer and the climate is drier, making for better birdwatching possibilities. The Amazon region is hot and humid, with heavy rainfall.
Best time to visit Quito as it rarely rains but also the most expensive time of year due to high visitor numbers. There is a greater number of travellers exploring the highlands for good reason – it is an excellent time to embark on the Quilotoa loop trail or to visit Parque Nacional Cotopaxi. Head to Guayaquil for its foundation celebrations to experience some Ecuadorean culture.
August presents favourable conditions for visiting Ecuador, particularly in Quito, where a brief dry spell occurs. It is an opportune period to engage in hiking activities around the picturesque Andes, where the weather remains consistently manageable. Additionally, witnessing the remarkable 70km procession of La Virgen del Cisne (Virgin of the Swan) is a noteworthy cultural experience. Furthermore, the rainfall in the Amazon region begins to diminish, resulting in reduced hazards during hikes characterized by slippery terrain.
September in Ecuador brings slightly humid conditions, but overall, the weather is reasonable for both the coast and the highlands. It is definitely better weather for hiking than surfing, however. September is best for its cultural offerings in the form of the Fiesta de la Mamá Negra in Latacunga where you can witness traditional dances, music, and culinary delights or the and the Fiesta del Yamor harvest festival in Otavalo.
October is perhaps around the best time to visit the Amazon basin due to drier conditions (it will still be raining, just less). It is cheaper to visit the Galapagos and the coast at this time because it is too cold for beach activities. A great time to hike the mountains if you prefer lower traveller numbers.
November sees a continuation of reduced rainfall in the Amazon, making it a great time to spot animals, and avoid mosquitoes! Spend time in any city at the beginning of the month to participate in Día de los Difuntos (All Souls Day) where you can partake in colada morada, a purple corn-based drink, and sweet bread shaped like babies called guagas de pan.
In December, Ecuador offers a wide range of experiences that cater to various interests. Along the coast, the calm seas and excellent water clarity create ideal conditions for boat-based wildlife-watching, as well as diving and snorkelling adventures. For beach lovers, the coastal region provides an array of options, with beachside fishing villages and vibrant coastal party towns where one can set up camp and enjoy the festive atmosphere.
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