Day 1Arrive in Quito, Ecuador
Welcome to Quito!
Included sightseeing showcases Quito’s treasures: the historic stone murals of the Legislative Palace, Independence Plaza and the 16th-century SAN FRANCISCO MONASTERY, and the Jesuit’s LA COMPANIA CHURCH with its stunning golden altars. Next, see the impressive paintings at the WORKSHOP & MUSEUM of Oswaldo Guayasamin. Top off your day with a photo in front of the EQUATORIAL MONUMENT, the “Center of the World.” This evening, enjoy a welcome dinner. (Breakfast, Dinner)
Day 3Quito. Excursion to Otavalo
An in-depth Local Favorite experience into the traditional ways of the Otavalo people is in store for you today. First, visit OTAVALO’S famous INDIAN MARKET, full of textiles, clothes, vegetables, and more. Next, in Peguche, famous for its exquisite weavings, you have the opportunity to visit homes and observe handicrafts being made. Finally, enjoy Andean delicacies prepared the traditional way at a former hacienda before returning to Quito. (Breakfast, Lunch)
Day 4Quito: Baltra–Galápagos Islands (Embarkation)–Cruising: Santa Cruz Island
Take a morning flight to Baltra, one of the remote Galápagos Islands. Upon arrival, transfer to the highlands of Santa Cruz, where your Naturalist introduces the island’s lush and vibrant landscapes. Visit the giant tortoise RESERVE, where you will see the famous Galápagos tortoises in their wild habitat. Next, see the Twin Pit Craters, great depressions of volcanic material formed by a long process of slow sinking of the ground, where exceptional Scalesia trees, ferns, mosses, and orchids can be seen in the surroundings. Continue to the CHARLES DARWIN RESEARCH STATION, established to help conserve the Galápagos’ natural habitat and protect the famous giant tortoises. While here, learn about the tortoise-rearing program and see many of the various islands’ tortoises. Later, board the sleek Isabela II for five days of CRUISING among various Galápagos Islands. Each day, travel ashore to the remote islands with your expert Naturalist, who introduces you to the unique fauna living free and fearless of man. On board the ship, join a briefing on the next day’s adventure, followed by a Captain’s welcome cocktail and dinner. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) NOTE: The ship’s itinerary may vary according to Galápagos National Park policies and regulations, weather conditions, and seasonal changes to create the perfect cross-section of sites visited.
Day 5Galápagos Islands Cruising: Santa Fé & South Plaza Islands
After breakfast, join your Naturalist for an exploration of SANTA FÉ ISLAND with its large population of sea lions. As you walk through the opuntia cactus forest, watch out for the endemic land iguanas found here. Galápagos hawks, a variety of finches, and mockingbirds are commonly spotted, too. Snorkel, swim, or kayak from the beach before returning to the boat for lunch. This afternoon at SOUTH PLAZA ISLAND, wildlife includes sea lions, land iguanas, marine iguanas, hybrid iguanas (only found on this island and a result of a cross between land and marine iguanas), and Sally Lightfoot crabs. Also known for its prolific birdlife, you will see blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, frigatebirds, swallow-tailed gulls, Audubon’s shearwaters, and many other species. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 6Galápagos Islands Cruising: North Seymour & Santa Cruz Islands
Disembark at NORTH SEYMOUR ISLAND, where your Naturalist will point out colonies of blue-footed boobies, Magnificent and Great Frigate Birds, swallow-tailed gulls, and lava herons. The shores teem with sea lions and marine iguanas, and are a good spot for snorkeling. Alternatively, you can take a ride on the glass-bottom boat to view the colorful underwater world. In the afternoon, visit LAS BACHAS on Santa Cruz Island, where abandoned WWII military barges can be found. Today it is an important nesting area for the East Pacific green sea turtle. You will also see brackish lagoons just steps away from the sea and white-sand beach, which is a feeding ground for various wading birds, from stilts to flamingos. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 7Galápagos Islands Cruising: Bartolomé & Santiago Islands
At BARTOLOMÉ ISLAND, hike to the summit for a stunning view of two beautiful bays and fascinating formations of lava flows and spatter cones, including the iconic Pinnacle Rock. You will also have the chance to snorkel or cruise on the glass-bottom boat and possibly see Galápagos penguins in tropical waters, sea turtles, and even some sharks and rays! On SANTIAGO ISLAND, walk over the lava flows from less than 100 years ago and learn firsthand how pioneering flora and fauna adapt to the volcanic surroundings. End your visit with a swim off the beach with the playful sea lions. Tonight, join your ship’s captain at a farewell cocktail party and toast to a memorable vacation! (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Day 8Galápagos Islands (Disembarkation)–Baltra–Quito
After breakfast, head to the airport in Baltra for your flight to Quito, where you will have free time this evening to prepare for your return flight home tomorrow. (Breakfast)
Your vacation ends with breakfast this morning. (Breakfast)