The quaint colonial streets, churches, monasteries and mansions of the old Inca capital of Quito, and the bustling life of Otavalo’s local market reveal the soul of the country, whilst the teeming birdlife of the Amazon Basin presents you with its natural history.
But the story of evolution itself awaits you in the Galapagos Islands – inspired by the region’s uniquely-developed giant land tortoises, comical penguins, flamingos, masked boobies, waved albatrosses, frigate birds and great sea lion colonies. See them for yourself from the open deck of the luxurious Anahi – one of the most comfortable vessels cruising these intriguing islands.
London – Madrid – Quito
Catch your early morning flight to Madrid to connect with your onward flight to Quito, arriving there in the late afternoon. You will be met upon arrival and taken to your hotel at the heart of the city’s historic centre.
Stay: One night in a standard room at Hotel Patio Andaluz – bed and breakfast
This morning take a one hour flight to Coca where you’ll embark on a motorised canoe cruise along the Rio Napo. You’ll switch to a smaller dugout canoe to navigate a creek, and reach your eco-friendly lodge overlooking Lake Garzacocha.
From your lodge you can take day and night hikes along jungle trails to see some of the area’s 500 species of birds – including zigzag herons, toucans, jacamars, tanagers, hummingbirds and around 20 different types of parrot. A 37 metre high canopy tower gives you wonderful views into the forest, whilst kayak trips on the lagoon, piranha fishing and tours of the lodge’s butterfly breeding farm complete your Amazon Basin experience.
Stay: Three nights in a superior/scenic/family suite at La Selva Jungle Lodge – including all meals & excursions
Today you return to the airport for a quick hop back to Quito. You’ll be met and taken to a luxurious, restored 17th century hacienda, with extensive gardens home to over 50 species of birds. You’ll be able to wander along walking trails, climb picturesque hills and mountains, go horse riding or mountain biking, play squash and take excursions to traditional villages specialising in weaving, leather work, hat making and wood carving.
You’ll be within 20 minutes of Otavalo, a bustling market town where you can browse stalls laden with colourful ponchos, woollen goods and Indian jewellery.
Stay: Two nights in a standard room at Hacienda Cusin – half board
Now you have a little more time to roam around the ancient city of Quito – once the northern capital of the Inca Empire. Your peaceful hotel is an easy drive from the city’s historic centre where you can discover a wealth of colonial architecture, grand churches, monasteries and impressive mansions. Small wonder the city has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Your hotel is peacefully located amongst 20 hectares of lush grounds, where you can enjoy a range of activities from polo classes and tennis to horse riding lessons.
Stay: One night in a standard room at the Quito Polo Club – bed & breakfast
Today you set off on your Galapagos cruise to discover the phenomenal wildlife that inspired Darwin’s ground-breaking Theory of Evolution. You’ll sail for seven nights aboard the Anahi, a supremely comfortable yacht accommodating a maximum of just 16 passengers.
The first few days aboard the Anahi are filled with discovery. Your first stop is Santa Cruz where you’ll see an abundance of birds including Darwin’s Finches, yellow warblers and the vermillion flycatcher. You’ll also encounter the native giant tortoises, and explore the island’s lava tubes, sinkholes and craters. On Isabela Island you’ll visit the 100 metre long Wall of Tears, built by prisoners in the mid-20th century when the island was used as a penal colony, and hike to the rim of the Sierra Negra volcano.
You’ll take a panga ride to see the archipelago’s largest penguin colony at Elizabeth Bay, where you will also be able to spot sea turtles, flightless cormorants, golden rays and Galapagos hawks. Read inscriptions left by pirates and whalers on the cliffs at Tagus Cove, before crossing over to Punta Espinoza where you’ll find large numbers of marine iguanas basking in the sunshine.
On day six you land on Santiago Island where you’ll hike to a salt crater and walk along the shoreline to see Galapagos fur seals relaxing in sea grottoes. Then it’s on to Rabida Island where you’ll visit a coastal lagoon home to a large flamingo colony. On day seven you will have some time to relax on Bartolome Island, home to a beautiful beach where you can snorkel amongst fish, penguins and sea turtles. The following afternoon, after a morning excursion to North Seymour, you will disembark and catch a flight back to the mainland.
Stay: Seven nights in a standard cabin aboard the Anahi – including all meals & excursions
Baltra – Guayaquil – Madrid – Home
Your Galapagos cruise ends at Baltra, where you’ll be taken to the airport for your flight to Guayaquil, arriving in the afternoon. You have time to enjoy a meal by the waterfront before boarding your flight to Madrid, connecting with your onward flight home.