Ecuador & the Galápagos Islands
May 2020 • 9 Days • Price TBA
Join us to experience the amazing animals, spectacular scenery and captivating culture of South America in Ecuador & the Galápagos Islands.
Traveler Rewards Program: New Travelers receive a $300 discount on the Ecuador & the Galápagos Islands! Returning travelers receive our Alumni Traveler Discount of 5-10% off the main tour price. Terms, exclusions and conditions apply. Check out our Traveler Rewards page for more details.
Now accepting Early Bird deposits on this 2020 tour! If 25 Early Birds are received for this departure, we’ll add it to our official 2020 Schedule. An Early Bird is a $50 deposit that holds your spot during the planning stages of a trip, when we don’t have a set itinerary or dates. Early Birds are always refundable!
The Galápagos Archipelago conjures up images of an isolated, almost mythical setting where Charles Darwin derived inspiration for his famous theory of evolution. Over 150 years later, this special group of islands continues to mesmerize visitors from around the globe. Many Galápagos species are found only here and present startling differences compared to their foreign cousins. One thing most Galápagos species have in common is their completely disarming lack of fear of humans. Though the Galápagos are the main attraction, highland Andean walks and cultural connections on the mainland are a worthy precursor!
- Quito – capital of Ecuador, with some of South America’s most enduring colonial ambiance
- Otavalo area – walks to Peguche Falls and at Lake Cuicocha, and cultural connections with the Otavalo Indians, a resourceful indigenous group that have become a symbol of national Ecuadorian identity
- Galápagos Islands – several hikes, accompanied by naturalist guides to help discover the less conspicuous island delights
- Cruising the Galápagos – 4 nights aboard a well-appointed ship with excellent meals and the opportunity to both learn and relax between island visits
This is a draft itinerary. Revisions will be made, and an updated itinerary with dates and pricing will be made available!
- Airport to hotel group transfers on first and last day
- Round-trip airfare from mainland Ecuador out to the Galápagos Islands
- All land travel as outlined
- Superior tourist-class or better hotel accommodations
- 4 nights aboard our small passenger ship
- 21 meals: all breakfasts & dinners, plus 6 lunches as listed (BLD) – two lunches are box lunches
- Walks as outlined
- Fees for walking credit for those collecting IVV credit
- Cultural and historical expertise of local guides for Ecuador mainland portion
- Naturalist guides for all Galápagos Island activities
- WAI guide service throughout (2 guides)
- Tipping for local guides and coach drivers (Note: the pooled tip for ship staff is not included)
- Pricing is based on double occupancy. A limited number of single rooms may be available for a supplement.
- Otavalo Indigenous Market (Otavalo)
- Company of Jesus Church (Quito)
- Galápagos National Park
- Galápagos Interpretation Centre (San Cristóbal Island)
- Museum of Natural History (San Cristóbal Island)
- Charles Darwin Research Station and Fausto Llerena Breeding Center (Santa Cruz Island)
- Plus, more fun stops than we can list!
- Yanacocha Cloud Forest Reserve (Day 4)
“The ability to walk close to wildlife on the Galapagos Islands takes one’s breath away. The snorkeling was fantastic!”
-Carolyn E; Grapevine, TX
“I met some really delightful people who I enjoyed being with. I loved learning about the unique cultures of Ecuador & Peru. Getting so close to all those critters on the Galapagos Islands was great fun. Meeting and interacting with Ecuadorians & Peruvians was just lovely.”
-Martha A; Detroit, MI
“I knew about the variety of animals on the Galapagos but was awestruck by the quantity and their blasé attitude towards humans.”
-Arline L; Astoria, OR
“Galapagos offered sightings of wild life beyond my imagination.”
-Margie M; Gaithersburg, MD
“Well organized – full use of the time in each country.”
-Diane J; Sundance, WY
“Pat & Denise were always helpful, flexible and informative. Great problem solvers and tuned in to the group needs & concerns. They were fantastic!”
-Sharon H; Ames, IA
“This was a “Bucket List” trip that ranks as one of the most uniquely beautiful! Both [Peru & Ecuador] were total opposites and yet similar in historical, natural vs man-made significance!”
-Rick L; Lakewood, CO
“Enjoyed all the wildlife we were able to see up close. We did all the snorkeling and this is a real highlight.”
-Clyde F; Anchorage, AK
“I had a great time. You can look for me in the future.”
-Bill F; Silver Spring, MD
“Thoroughly enjoyed pre-day in Quito – going on the gondola & botanical gardens [and] later to dinner overlooking Old Town all lit up – good weather/good company.”
-Valerie N; Camano Island, WA
“If our guide gets any better, I won’t be able to stand it!”
-Paul H; Portland, OR
“I’ve enjoyed all of my trips with WAI.”
-Betty P; Silver Spring, MD
This is a draft itinerary. Revisions will be made, and an updated itinerary with dates and pricing will be made available!
NOTE: Our itinerary in the Galápagos Islands and the islands we visit may differ depending on the cruise itinerary we choose to follow.
Click on each day for more details.
Day 1: Arrive Quito, Ecuador
Upon arrival at Quito’s international airport late this evening, a representative of Walking Adventures will arrange your transfer to a hotel near the airport. Due to late arrival times, the first official group activity is breakfast tomorrow morning.
Day 2: Quito–Otavalo (BLD)
Otavalo elevation: 8,441 feet
We drive north this morning, stopping for a surprisingly educational visit at the equator before arriving at the pleasant Andean town of Otavalo. Following time to explore the colorful indigenous markets of Otavalo, we lunch together in a nearby hacienda before continuing outside town to a traditional rural inn tucked away in a garden of verdant equatorial foliage. At the close of our first relaxing day at high altitude, we rendezvous for a Welcome Orientation followed by dinner together.
Day 3: Otavalo–Quito (BLD)
Laguna de Cuicocha Crater Walk – 5 km, rated 3C
Quito elevation: 9,350 feet
Today’s main activity takes us to spectacular Lake Cuicocha—one of Ecuador’s most photographed lakes. We enjoy the panoramas from multiple angles during a rim hike above the crater of this volcanic gem, stopping for a picnic lunch en route. This afternoon we head south to Ecuador’s capital city of Quito for a 2-night stay. Our hotel in Quito is a colonial-era gem located a stone’s throw from Presidential Square and the heart of Quito’s old town.
Day 4: Activities in Quito (BD)
Colonial Quito Walk – 3 km, rated 1A
The morning is free today to rest or explore the colorful environs of our hotel. Or, consider joining us for an excursion to Yanacocha Cloud Forest Reserve. As the name implies, high altitude cloud forests derive their moisture from frequent blankets of clouds. Morning is typically a good time to see this verdant environment, offering fewer clouds and better visibility. Abundant plant and bird life, especially the 20 odd species of hummingbirds, are the main features of an easy 1.5 to 2 hour stroll here. Estimated price: TBA. Back in Quito this afternoon, our walk explores the vibrant historic district. Chief among the picturesque reminders of the Spanish colonial period is the impressive Company of Jesus Church, a masterpiece of baroque architecture overlaid with gold.
Day 5: Quito – San Cristóbal Island, Galápagos (BLD)
We depart early this morning for a flight to the Galápagos Islands. Arriving just after noon, we are welcomed aboard our ship for lunch and an introductory briefing. Strict regulations within the islands protect this amazing environment by requiring the use of dinghies (inﬂatable rafts) for all island landings. This afternoon we explore the small and cozy capital of the Galápagos, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, by dry landing (stepping from the dinghy onto a dock or dry land). The Interpretation Centre and the Museum of Natural History provide a good introduction to the Islands of the Galápagos. Afterwards, we stroll along a boardwalk to Cerro Tijeretas, an area teeming with life—Darwin’s finches, San Cristóbal mockingbirds, marine iguanas, sea lions—framed around a turquoise bay.
NOTE: Walks in the Galápagos Islands differ from typical WAI walks. Walking is the natural way to see most of the islands (though in some cases, humans are not allowed ashore and we may only cruise the shorelines in our dinghies) so our mode of exploration of the islands will be mostly on foot. The islands are protected by Galápagos National Park, however, and licensed park naturalists will be our guides for all shore activities. As a result, WAI has no ability or authority to determine either where or how far we walk. Your WAI guide will record an estimate of the distances we walk, and we plan to apply for two IVV stamps for those of you who are tracking this part of the experience.
Day 6: Galápagos Islands (BLD)
Two different options—either Gardner Bay or Osborn lslet—are in play for this morning, and our itinerary will be decided by the crew. Gardner Bay is a wet landing (stepping from the dinghy into shallow water) on a beautiful white coral sand beach guarded by a colony of sea lions. Here, our guide leads us along the shore in search of nesting sea turtles, Galápagos hawks, American oystercatchers, Galápagos ground doves, Hood mockingbirds, yellow warblers, lava lizards, and marine iguanas, to name a few of the local species. This is also a great place for snorkelling. Osborn Islet is a marine visit with a one-hour walk and time for snorkelling. Following lunch aboard ship, the afternoon visit is likely to be a highlight of the trip! Suárez Point, on Española Island, is one of the most popular sites in the Galápagos due to its abundant contact with wildlife. Star of the show is the waved albatross of which Española Island has the world’s largest colony. With luck, mating season will have started, and we’ll witness one of the most spectacular courtship rituals of the animal world.
Day 7: Activities in the Galápagos Islands (BLD)
Floreana (wet landing) is one of the Galápagos’ most famous islands due to its connection with past settlers. Post Office Bay earned its name when, in 1793, Captain James Colnett installed a wooden barrel to serve as a de facto post office for sailors passing through. Outbound sailors left letters in the barrel and inbound crews delivered any addressed mail to nearby towns. While here, we may encounter Darwin’s finches, yellow warblers, flamingos, and lava lizards. There is also good snorkelling with the likelihood of interaction with playful sea lions and majestic green sea turtles. Three afternoon options (decided by the ship’s crew) include an encounter with the largest flamingo populations in the Galápagos, a visit to an almost completely submerged volcano offering one of the better snorkelling sites in the Galápagos, or a small islet located just off the coast of Floreana Island in the southern part of the archipelago—also considered a beautiful place for snorkelling and dolphin watching.
Day 8: Activities in the Galápagos Islands (BLD)
Santa Cruz Island
A 45-minute morning bus ride takes us to the Santa Cruz highlands to walk with Galápagos giant tortoises. These enormous, slow-moving reptiles can weigh more than 500 pounds and live up to 200 years. We also look forward to the possibility of exploring lava tubes in the highlands. Our afternoon continues the tortoise theme with a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station and Fausto Llerena Breeding Center where the Galápagos giant tortoise breeding program takes place. This fascinating center is set in a prickly-pear cactus forest where we encounter Darwin’s finches and a variety of other land birds.
Day 9: Galápagos – Guayaquil, Ecuador (B)
Daphne Major Islet
Our last excursion in the Galápagos Islands is a dinghy cruise around Daphne Major, an eroded tuff cone formation located between Santa Cruz and Santiago Island. This little island has become famous for important research on its varied bird population. Your guide will point out blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, red-billed tropicbirds, swallow-tailed gulls, and brown noddies. Later this morning, we board a flight for Guayaquil, Ecuador, on the mainland. Our time in the fascinating land of Ecuador has been an unforgettable, one-of-a-kind experience we will cherish forever.
Click on each heading for more details.
How do I lock in my place on this Adventure?
Call or mail in your Early Bird ($50) to save your spot! A maximum of 30 travelers will be accepted on this Adventure.
Traveler Rewards Program
New Travelers receive a $300 discount on the Ecuador & Galápagos Islands tour! Returning travelers receive our Alumni Traveler Discount of 5-10% off the main tour price. Terms, exclusions and conditions apply. See the Traveler Rewards page for more details or contact us with any questions at 800.779.0353 or [email protected].
4 Nights on a Small Passenger Ship
We will be booking berths on a small passenger ship, great for plying the equatorial waters around the Galápagos Islands.
Jack be Nimble!—Especially in the Galápagos
National park regulations forbid the docking of any ships, and require that we use inflatable rafts for shuttling back and forth between the ship and the islands. Disembarking ashore is accomplished either by a “dry landing,” stepping from the raft onto rocks or steps, or a “wet landing,” rolling from the raft into knee deep water or higher and wading ashore. More details will be available, but travelers need to be prepared for this element of the Adventure as your experience with us in the Galápagos remains distinctly different from our flagship motorcoach mode of transport.
How should I arrange air transportation?
The official start point for Ecuador & the Galápagos Islands is the Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO) in Quito; the official finish point is the José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport (GYE) in Guayaquil. More details will be available once this itinerary has been finalized.
What about the walks?
We generally walk at a pace of 2 to 3 miles per hour. Many walks on this trip are oriented towards history, culture, or nature, which slows the average pace to allow for guide commentary. Walks with less commentary generally continue at a steadier pace. In most cases, we are not “strolling”; we are walking at a relaxed but steady pace.
Walks in the Galápagos Islands differ from typical WAI walks. Walking is the natural way to see most of the islands (though in some cases, humans are not allowed ashore and we may only cruise the shorelines in our dinghies) so our mode of exploration of the islands will be mostly on foot. The islands are protected by Galápagos National Park, however, and licensed park naturalists will be our guides for all shore activities. As a result, WAI has no ability or authority to determine either where or how far we walk. Your WAI guide will record an estimate of the distances we walk, and we plan to apply for two IVV stamps for those of you who are tracking this part of the experience.
Your experience will be significantly affected by your level of physical fitness. Walks on this Adventure are guided walks. The success of the walks is therefore predicated upon walkers having this minimum level of fitness. If not walking regularly at home, we strongly recommend that you make a priority of “training” beforehand in order to enjoy the trip, to avoid medical issues due to overexertion, and to be sensitive to fellow travelers who came prepared to walk at our typical group pace noted above. If you have questions about your ability to participate, please contact our office at 1.800.779.0353.
We have adopted a walk difficulty rating system which contains a numeric indicator for trail incline and an alpha indicator for trail terrain. The explanation for this system is presented below:
1. Very small hills or very little stair climbing. Cumulative elevation gain from Starting Point: up to 200 feet.
2. Some moderate hills and stair climbing. Cumulative elevation gain from Starting Point: 200-1000 feet.
3. Some significant hill or stair climbing. Cumulative elevation gain from Starting Point: 1000-2000 feet.
4. Lots of significant hills or stair climbing. Cumulative elevation gain from Starting Point: 2000-3500 feet.
5. Many steep hills. Cumulative elevation gain from Starting Point: more than 3500 feet.
A. Almost entirely on pavement.
B. A significant part of the route is on well-groomed trails with very few obstacles.
C. A significant part of the route is on somewhat difficult terrain (rocky / rooted paths or soft sand).
D. A significant part of the route is on very difficult terrain.
E. The majority of the route is on very difficult terrain.
What happens next?
We are currently developing the itinerary for this Adventure. Once the itinerary is released, we will accept registration deposits ($500) to save space.
If you have Early Birded with a refundable $50 deposit, your spot on the tour will be held for 2 weeks after the itinerary is published while you make a decision on whether or not you’d like to register with an additional $450 fee, bringing your deposit on tour up to $500. If you decide not to join us for this tour, your Early Bird can be refunded or transferred to another tour.
Ecuador is a beautiful country, brimming with a diverse array of attractions—amazing animals, spectacular scenery, captivating cultures, and spellbinding accounts of the story of South America. Join us for a walking adventure that will take you behind the scenes on a journey of discovery!