The Galapagos Archipelago is situated 800 kilometers west of the Ecuadorian coast and lie directly on the equator. The archipelago encompasses over 50 islands of volcanic origin that are spread out over an area of about 4,500 square kilometers. The volcanic Galapagos platform originated probably not more than 15 million years ago and the oldest island not more than 2.4 million years ago. Volcanic eruptions still occur in the islands. Isla Fernandina and the Sierra Negra volcano on Isla Isabela have erupted within the past 10 years.
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Not only does Ecuador offer a rich, cultural and historic diversity, but it is the gateway to the Galapagos Islands, a natural wonderland of unique species and stunning volcanic landscapes. This UNESCO World Heritage site is a pristine natural classroom and makes for a once-in-a-lifetime magical adventure.
Day 1 – Mon, Arrive Quito
Arrive in Quito, the capital city of Ecuador. You are welcomed at the airport and transferred to your hotel. The rest of the day is at leisure.
Day 2 – Tue, Quito – Colonial city Tour & Middle of the World
This morning’s tour offers the best of Quito, with its rich cultural legacy, ornate façades and dazzling gilt altars. Visit Independence Square, the Archbishop’s Palace, the Metropolitan Cathedral as well as other sites of colonial art and architecture. This afternoon, visit the famous Equatorial Monument, marked by geographers as latitude 000’00”. You will have the opportunity to straddle the two hemispheres at the same time. (B)
Day 3 – Wed, Quito – Otavalo – Quito
Visit the well-known indigenous market in Otavalo for an arts and crafts shopping adventure. Visit Peguche known for its weavers, visit a wind instruments workshop, Cotacachi known for the manufacture of leather goods, Cuicocha crater lake before returning to Quito. (B)
Day 4 – Thu, Quito / Baltra – Galapagos Islands Cruise – Ballena Bay/Eden Islet (Santa Cruz)
Today you will depart Quito and board a plane for Baltra. A guide will pick you up from the airport for a short ride to the pier to board the cruise from Whale Bay.
(Note: Itinerary is subject to change depending on your arrival date)
Whale Bay is a beautiful green sand cove at the base of Dragon Hill on the west coast of Santa Cruz Island. The beach contains a large amount of olivine crystals of volcanic origin. The crystals were formed when the magma was still underground. The content is magnesium, iron and silica. A small population of tortoises from Pinzon Island lived at the site, but was probably taken by whalers or previous inhabitants. The beach provides a great opportunity to see marine iguanas and sea birds and do some snorkeling. (BLD)
Day 5 – Fri, Moreno Point (Isabela) – Elizabeth Bay (Isabela)
The main attractions at Punta Moreno are coastal lagoons amidst black lava flows where bird life is particularly interesting. It has a panoramic view of three volcanoes, the most active of the Galapagos: Sierra Negra and Cerro Azul on Isabela Island and La Cumbre, on Fernandina Island. Mangrove forest, lava formations, coastal and migratory birds, and usually flamingos can be seen. Lava cactus, sea turtles, lagoons and tidal pools, candelabra cactus are other highlights. You will take a dinghy ride along the coast surrounded by mangrove forest for an opportunity to admire Flightless Cormorants, Galapagos Penguins, and a resting area for sea turtles. (BLD)
Day 6 – Sat, Urbina Bay (Isabela) – Tagus Cove (Isabela)
Today you will dock at a volcanic “black” beach. Depending on the season, you may find giant tortoises, land iguanas and the unusual Flightless Cormorant. After a short walk inland, snorkeling time is allotted, giving you yet another chance to swim with sea turtles, sea lions and countless tropical fish. Urbina Bay features a wide variety of plant life that changes depending on the season. You can observe the beautiful colors of plants that attract different insects, birds and reptiles and explore the uplifted coral reef that resulted from 1954 volcanic activity, with a spectacular view of Alcedo Volcano.
On Galapagos’ largest island you will learn about the eruption of the five volcanoes that formed it. You will have the opportunity to follow a trail that leads to Darwin’s salt-water crater lake and excellent views of lava fields and volcanic formations.
You will return by the same path for a dinghy ride along a shoreline full of marine wildlife, where you can admire a variety of seabirds, such as Blue-footed Booby, Brown Noddy, terns, Flightless Cormorant and depending on the season, a large number of Galapagos Penguins which are only 35 cm. tall; the only penguin species in the world to extend its range into the northern hemisphere along the equator. They are monogamous and lay their eggs in small cracks of lava, on the lower parts of the island near the shoreline not reached by the ocean waves.
The population of penguins on the islands is about 2,000, most of which live on the western portion of Isabela; others are scattered further south on the island. There will be an opportunity to snorkel in deep water Graffiti believed to have been left by 19th-century pirates is a curious reminder of an intriguing past. (BLD)
Day 7 – Sun, Espinosa Point (Fernandina) – Vicente Roca Point (Isabela)
Espinosa Point is the only spot to visit on Fernandina, and from it you can see the island of Isabela across the Bolívar Channel, an area that boasts some of the highest diversity of endemic sea fauna in the Galapagos. The largest, most primitive-looking race of marine iguanas are found mingling with sea lions and Sally Lightfoot Crabs; a wonderful opportunity to encounter Flightless Cormorants at their nesting sites, Galapagos Penguins and the “King” of predators on the Islands, the Galapagos Hawk.
“Pa-hoe-hoe” and “AA” lava formations cover the majority of the terrain. Vegetation is thus scarce inland, but you will encounter Brachycereus cacti and extensive mangrove beds lining the shores.
There is a great opportunity for deep-water snorkeling at Bolivar Channer, one of the richest marine havens on Earth. You will take a dinghy ride along the coast to observe a great diversity of sea and coastal birds. The upwelling of coldwater currents in this part of the Galapagos gives rise to an abundance of marine life. (BLD)
Day 8 – Mon, Galapagos Island Cruise – Baltra airport/ Quito
In the morning you will be transferred to the airport for return flight to Quito. Transfer to the airport for your flight back to mainland Ecuador. Upon arrival in Quito, transfer to your hotel. The rest of your day is at leisure. Enjoy a farewell dinner this evening at a local restaurant. (BD)
Day 9 – Tue, Depart Quito
Depart Quito for North America this morning. (B)
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