This classic Ecuador and Galapagos trip combines all the highlights of the mainland with a once-in-a-lifetime experience aboard a cruise around the Galapagos Islands. First, you’ll spend 8 nights visiting some of the most beautiful colonial cities in South America and travelling through the stunning Avenue of the Volcanoes with a dedicated guide. On the way, you’ll stop to ride the legendary Devil’s Nose Train, visit the beautiful Quilotoa Crater Lake and explore the waterfalls around Baños . After this, you will enjoy 4 nights aboard a yacht that will take you to some of the most remote places in the Galapagos archipelago, spotting wildlife as you sail. You’ll be led by a certified naturalist guide, who will teach you about these enchanting islands and their incredible wildlife. It’s a truly unforgettable holiday, blending rich culture with epic landscapes and secluded islands packed with astonishing animals.
This itinerary can be tailored to suit your requirements; please contact one of our consultants to start planning your dream trip.
Depart the UK from your chosen airport.
When you land in Quito, you’ll be met at arrivals and driven to your hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure for you to relax and start exploring the city.
After breakfast at the hotel, you’ll be collected by your guide for a tour of the capital. Quito’s historical centre is one of the most beautiful in South America, so you’re in for a treat. The city is famous for its wonderfully preserved colonial buildings and churches. During the tour, you’ll visit the monument that marks the location of the Equator and head uphill to El Panecillo, where you’ll have a beautiful panoramic view of Quito. At the end of the tour, you’ll be taken back to your hotel and the rest of the day will be at your own leisure.
This morning after breakfast, your guide for the next few days will pick you up and drive you to Cotopaxi National Park. You’ll spend a few hours walking along the hiking trails, soaking up the beautiful scenery and learning about the diverse flora and fauna of the area. In the afternoon, you’ll be driven to a typical Andean hacienda near Cotopaxi, where you’ll spend the night.
After breakfast, you will set off for Quilotoa Crater Lake. On the way, you’ll follow twisting roads through stunning countryside. When you arrive, you’ll take a walk along the crater’s rim and hike down to the turquoise lakeshore. The climb back up can be quite challenging, but if you run out of energy you can pay locally for a horse or mule to carry you back to the top! In the afternoon, you’ll continue to the charming town of Baños where you will have the evening free to spend as you wish.
Today you will drive through the Route of the Waterfalls which runs along the Pastaza river gorge. This route’s main highlight is located in Rio Verde where you’ll walk through the cloud forest to the spectacular Pailón del Diablo (Devil’s Cauldron). This is an 80 metre-high waterfall is one of Ecuador’s most breath-taking sights. In the afternoon, you’ll continue to the country’s highest volcano, Chimborazo, at a staggering height of over 6,000 metres. The surrounding landscape is desert-like and inhabited by herds of shy vicuñas. You’ll take a guided tour of the area and, if you wish, you can walk to the Edward Whymper shelter, at an altitude of around 5,000 metres. You’ll spend the night in the nearby town of Riobamba.
Today, a thrilling train ride awaits you! The Devil’s Nose has always been the most popular section of Ecuador’s railway network. Built more than 100 years ago, it’s a staggering feat of engineering. The elevation of the track drops around 500 metres over the course of only 12 kilometres, using a series of switchbacks. The train rumbles forward past a junction then backs down the next section before going forward again. At the time, this was the only way to get the lumbering train down the hill. After the ride, you’ll eat a packed lunch and carry on to Ingapirca Inca ruins, the largest site in Ecuador. Finally, you’ll continue to Cuenca, where you will spend the next couple of nights.
This morning, you’ll set off on a half-day guided tour of the city. Thanks to its cobblestone streets, old-world cathedrals, colonial parks and urban rivers, Cuenca is one of the most charming and loved cities in the country. The tour will last a few hours, and you will visit all of the main sights. The afternoon will be at leisure for you to spend as you wish.
After breakfast, you’ll head west towards El Cajas National Park. You’ll reach an altitude of almost 4,200 metres and stop at a lookout point to take in the beautiful 360-degree views of the park. Afterwards, the route will start descending towards the coast until you reach Guayaquil, the largest city in the country. When you arrive, you’ll be dropped off at the hotel for your final night on Ecuador’s mainland.
This morning, you’ll be transferred to the airport for your flight to Baltra in the Galapagos Islands. When you land, you’ll be greeted by your naturalist guide and taken aboard the yacht. After a quick introductory orientation by the crew, you’ll set sail, stopping to explore a couple of islands and snorkel off the yacht. Back on the boat, you’ll be served a delicious dinner and offered an orientation lecture about the history and wildlife of these extraordinary islands.
You’ll spend the next few days exploring the Galapagos both on land and underwater. Every day, you’ll set off on two land outings and at least one snorkelling excursion, giving you close-up encounters with the Galapagos wildlife. The islands that you visit will depend on your specific departure date and the itinerary that you choose. Some of the sights will include Darwin Bay with its frigate birds, herons, boobies, turtles, marine iguanas and more, as well as South Plaza, packed with sea lions. All your meals will be served on board, and the highly experienced crew will make sure that you have the time of your life. Before bedtime, you’ll be briefed about the plan for the following day, which may include trips to see giant tortoises, Galapagos penguins, sea turtles, iguanas or even whale sharks.
Today, you’ll be transferred to Baltra airport to catch your flight back to Guayaquil, where you will connect with your international flight back to the UK.
Land back in the UK.
Mainland Ecuador enjoys a spring-like climate throughout the year. However, the best time to visit is between May and October, when the days are sunnier and there’s less chance of rain.
There isn’t a bad time to visit the Galapagos and a trip to the islands is extraordinary at any time of year. Nonetheless, there are two distinct seasons to bear in mind. The dry season runs from June to December, with clear skies but cold waters. The wet season lasts from January to May, with higher chances of rain and cloudier skies. However, the water is much warmer in the wet season, making for a more comfortable snorkelling experience.
If you'd like to get a feel for this trip, read our blog post 'Visit Ecuador: why you should extend your stay beyond the Galapagos', written by one of our consultants who has been there.
This itinerary is purely a suggestion and can be tailor-made to your requirements, so please contact us with your dates and requests, and we’ll put together a bespoke quotation for you.
8 nights in 4* standard accommodation and 4 nights in a lower deck cabin with twin beds on board the Tip Top III. You can upgrade to an upper deck cabin with a double bed, so please speak to one of our consultants. We’ll be able to help you choose the right cabin configuration for your needs.
Hotels in this category include: