Day 1, Tue: Arrive Quito, Ecuador
Welcome to Ecuador! Upon arrival, you will be met by our representative who will assist you through immigration and customs formalities and then you will be transferred to your luxury hotel. Our in-country manager will be your guide. In 1973, he designed the first sustainable eco-lodge in the Ecuadorian Amazon, and in 1996, introduced the concept of “eco-fishing” in collaboration with World Wide Fund as a means of monitoring river and lake ecosystems through ecotourism. He is an internationally known expert of sustainability in Ecuador. Your hotel is in a newly-restored historic mansion overlooking Plaza San Francisco, the three-story Casa Gangotena features 31 rooms of contemporary design with antiques, fine furnishings and modern technologies. Relax and enjoy the glassed-in patio, the garden redolent with the native flowers, wood-panelled library, and the panoramic third-floor terrace. Casa Gangotena
Day 2, Wed: Quito
Surrounded by the Andes Mountains, Quito lies at an elevation of 9,000 feet/2,743 meters in the province of Pichincha. One of the most beautiful capitals in the world, the city was founded as San Francisco de Quito on December 6th, 1534 by Spanish conquistadors. It has been sanctioned through the auspices of UNESCO in 1978 to be a World Cultural Heritage Site. The historic center of Quito, known as the "Old City" is replete with narrow, winding cobblestone streets, magnificent churches and wide-open squares. The buildings that line the streets reflect Spanish colonial influence with their balconies, tile roofs, thick columns and central patios. Today, explore the colonial city with its historical churches and buildings from the 16th and 17th centuries, like the San Diego Cloister, housing art treasures in its mystical corridors and courtyards. Then, continue to the Museum of Guayasamin. Oswaldo Guayasamín was born in Quito at the beginning of the 20th century and is considered the premier painter and sculptor in Ecuador. This splendid house-cum-museum houses excellent exhibitions of pre-Columbian, colonial and contemporary art from the artist’s private collection. At the time of his death, Guayasamín was working on his boldest piece, "The Chapel of Man.” Today, the completed piece can be found next door to the museum. Inside the chapel is a collection of artwork paying tribute to pre-Columbian man. The rectangular chapel is said to be heavily influenced by Incan temples and is covered by a dome of copper plate, the inside of which is covered by the artist’s unfinished murals. The altar of the chapel contains an eternal flame in defense of peace and human rights. Guayasamin’s work has been showed all over the world from Quito’s government and legislative palaces, to Paris’ UNESCO Headquarters, to Sao Paulo’s Latin America Parliament, to Madrid’s Barajas Airport. This evening, you are invited to the residence of Pablo Guayasamin, the artist’s brother. Casa Gangotena (B,L,D)
Day 3, Thu: Quito / Otavalo & Northern Ecuador
Transfer to Hacienda Zuleta. For more than 100 years, it has been a colonial working farm of 4,000 acres/2,000 hectares. It belongs to the family of Galo Plaza Lasso, a former president of Ecuador, and has been chosen as one of the world’s “Top Ten Finds” by Outside magazine and named as one of the best Ecuador hotels by National Geographic Traveler. Upon arrival, you will be greeted by one of the descendants of the Plaza Lasso family who will share with you many of the stories of this place. Here, you will also have the opportunity to do horseback riding, hiking, mountain biking and bird watching. Enjoy a special, private shaman ceremony. You will also have the opportunity to get to know the people that live in this area and learn about their traditions and customs. Zuleta Hacienda – Jr. Suite (B,L,D)
Day 4, Fri: Northern Ecuador
Enjoy the amazing surroundings and the activities available that include hikes, bird watching in the Andean Condor reserve, biking and horseback riding. Visit the cheese factory to learn more about Zuleta´s semi-aged, handmade Ecuadorian cheeses and how the process has changed throughout history. Explore the local Zuleta community and shop for beautiful, handmade and colorful embroidery articles at the Zuleta women’s cooperative. Zuleta Hacienda – Jr. Suite (B,L,D)
Day 5, Sat: Quito / The Galapagos Islands
A special adventure begins as you transfer to the airport for a flight to Galapagos. Your airline tickets between Ecuador mainland and Galapagos are issued locally by the cruise line. At the airport, you will meet the cruise representative at the airline ticket counter who will assist with check in and provide you with your boarding pass. Welcome to the Galapagos Islands. Here you will find flightless birds, sea lions, and a bounty of birds, tortoises and iguanas specially adapted to their particular island habitat. Time will allow for observations of the incredibly unique flora, fauna and volcanic terrain, both on foot and on panga excursions. The reason that you travel to Galapagos is to experience the islands and their unique fauna. Therefore, your program will allow you to perceive Galapagos from different perspectives: guided hikes, relaxing beach walks, snorkeling and swimming! You will access the various islands during your voyage by wet or dry landings.
Wet Landings are landings on the beach rather than on the shore. Passengers go ashore by swinging their legs over the side of the panga and then stepping off into approximately a foot of water, and finally wading to shore. The process is relatively easy and is done in reverse to board the panga. Unless wearing Tevas or other aqua shoes, the wet landing is made barefoot. Then once on shore there is a few minutes to dry feet and try to remove as much sand as possible before putting on shoes and socks before the natural history walk. Bringing two towels or wash clothes on a wet landing is highly recommended. One towel is used to put your feet on while the other towel is used to dry the feet and get the sand off.
Dry Landings are made in areas where the passenger can exit the panga directly on to a rock or lava surface. Shoes can be worn for the duration of a dry landing. This is actually the more difficult landing since the panga continues to move while passengers attempt to step off the boat on to a slippery surface. Good balance and paying attention to what you are doing are key to a successful dry landing. The guide will go ashore first and offer you a hand. Use the help! The guide will tightly grip your hand so you can balance while trying to find your footing. Boarding the panga is done in the same fashion the guide or a crewmember will offer a hand to everyone as they re-board the panga.
Although an itinerary of the daily cruise schedule is provided here, it should be used only as a guideline. Cruise itineraries in the Galapagos are affected regularly by seasonal factors and National Park authorities directions issued daily. Your on-board naturalist-guide will give daily briefings on the daily excursions. Each visitation site is a distinct little world unto itself, where you’ll enjoy a unique mix of tropical and polar wildlife.
AM: Baltra Island
Baltra played an important role in the history of these islands. It was used by the U.S. Air Force during the Second World War; many U.S. Navy and crews of the submarines were stationed here to patrol the Pacific Ocean and protect the Panama Canal. Baltra is a flat and dry island surrounded by reefs and few beaches. It has some vegetation such as cacti Opuntia (prickly pear cactus) and other small trees. You will have the opportunity to see ground finches, pelicans, frigate birds and the sea lions. Your Galapagos ‘hosts’ will be at the dock to welcome you.
PM: Bahía Sullivan, Santiago Island
This site of great geological interest is located southeast of Santiago Island. Anyone interested in volcanology and geology is delighted with the incredible lava formations of Sullivan Bay. The area is covered by lava flows pahohoe type (lava solidified in a corrugated or accordion fashion). Sullivan lava formed in 1897, is geologically a very young flow. The magma formed is flat, but the movement of underground lava, the rapid cooling and other eruptions led to the break in many places. One can observe marine and terrestrial birds, a colony of Galapagos fur seals and black marine iguanas adapted very well to this environment. Aboard Silversea Silver® Galapagos Vessel –Verandah Suite (B,L,D)
Day 6, Sun: The Galapagos Islands
AM: Bartholomew Island
It is located “rock pinnacle” that is one of the most recognized landscapes of the islands. It is an extinct volcano and has a variety of soils red, orange, green, black and shiny volcanic formations. There are lava formations and recent volcanic cones. In this island is located pinnacle rock, one of the most well-known landscapes of the Galapagos Islands. The island has an area of 1.2 km2 and is an extinct volcano with a variety of red, orange, green, black and bright soils, bright volcanic formations and recent volcanic cones. Species to meet in the way include brown pelican, Galapagos penguins, tintorera sharks and sea turtles. Its landscape is unique, presents scenarios that could be compared with photographs taken on the moon. For this visit, you need a good physical condition as there is a stairway with 360 steps up to the top of the island and see this beautiful place. On this visit you can decide between hiking or stay on the beach for snorkeling.
PM: Playa Espumilla, Santiago Island
Espumilla is located on the northern coast of Santiago Island in James Bay. The main attractions of this place are a palo santo (saint wood) forest, beach and landscape. The beach is an important site for sea turtles nesting; watch your step in the high dunes because those are favorite nesting places. The island offers a beautiful white sand beach that has been popular with visitors since the time of the whalers and pirates, to carry fresh water. During the last El Niño one of the two lagoons in this site underwent a process of sedimentation, causing an important colony of flamingos to disappear. This beautiful beach is a great place for swimming and snorkeling. Aboard Silversea Silver® Galapagos Vessel (B,L,D)
Day 7, Mon: The Galapagos Islands
AM: Punta Vicente Roca, Isabela Island
In this marine reserve, do not miss snorkeling. This privileged place is home to a Galapagos fur seals colony, an endemic species to the islands. Punta Vicente Roca is on Isabela Island, the largest island of the archipelago and with more active volcanoes. Swim with sea turtles and see the variety of fish this marine reserve can offer. Then we invite you to take a tour to enjoy majestic landscapes of volcanic lava intrusions and a sheer cliff as well as Galapagos penguins, marine iguanas, sea lions, masked boobies, blue footed boobies, swallow-tailed gulls, frigate birds and flightless cormorants.
PM: Punta Espinoza, Fernandina Island
Fernandina is the third largest island and one of the youngest in the archipelago. You find different types of lava flows, including the distinctive pahoehoe lava. You can see the first colonization of plants and animals. It is a mangrove area where you can appreciate the geological differences that only Galapagos offers. The predominant species in this place is the endemic flightless cormorant. You will also find the largest colony of marine iguanas as well as the Galapagos snake, Galapagos hawk, marine iguanas, lava lizards, Galapagos fur seals and Galapagos penguins. Here, La Cumbre volcano last erupted in 2009. Aboard Silversea Silver® Galapagos Vessel –Verandah Suite (B,L,D)
Day 8, Tue: The Galapagos Islands
AM: Caleta Tagus, Isabela Island
Tagus Cove is located west of Darwin Volcano on Isabela Island. It was a favorite place for pirates and whalers, and where a tradition has continued since those wild times: the registration of ships’ names. This is a place that records the history of the islands. Its name originated from a British warship that went through the islands in 1814 looking for Galapagos tortoises for food. The trail leads inland along Lake Darwin, where several terrestrial birds can be seen as well as the characteristic vegetation of this arid zone. Finally, observe the lava fields of the volcano. Darwin Lake contains salt water and lies within a cone of tuff, with a depth of only nine meters/29.5 feet. It has no fish or other special life.
PM: Bahia Elizabeth, Isabela Island
This is a bay formed by the union of volcanoes Sierra Negra and Alcedo in the narrowest part of Isabela Island. There is a small cove within the bay with calm, protected waters; and it is surrounded by high and colorful mangrove trees that contrast with the lava. This is a great site for sea turtles. Landing is not allowed at this point, however, on a trip around the bay in zodiac it is possible to see the turtle’s pond. On the small islands of the bay you may see penguins, marine iguanas, blue footed boobies, masked boobies and gulls, rays, sharks, pelicans, boobies, many fish, sea lions, flightless cormorants, penguins, among other wildlife. From June to September, you may also see whales. Aboard Silversea Silver® Galapagos Vessel –Verandah Suite (B,L,D)
Day 9, Wed: The Galapagos Islands
AM: Post Office, Floreana Island
This island has an area of 170 km². During the early 20th century, the island became a kind of promised land for many Norwegian expatriates. It has a colorful history of buccaneers, whalers and settlers. Post Office or Post Office Bay is a historic site that reminds us the days of the whalers, when they came to Galapagos for tortoises and fresh water. At Post Office Bay, we found also remains of a Norwegians settlement. The visit lasts an hour. Besides the historic part you will see species such as yellow warbler, singer finch, Galapagos sea lion and brown pelican.
PM: Options: a. Punta Cormorant, b. Corona del diablo, c. Champion, Floreana Island
At this site, you have the opportunity to choose between walking to the pond to see one of the largest colony of flamingos in the Galapagos Islands or go snorkeling. On this island with volcanic craters, reefs such as Devil's Crown or Champion are some of the best places for swimming or snorkeling. The Punta Cormorant site is on the north coast of Floreana. The trail is approximately 720 meters/2,362 feet, and passes through a pond, a fine sand beach of varying colors and a sea turtles nesting area. Aboard Silversea Silver® Galapagos Vessel –Verandah Suite (B,L,D)
Day 10, Thu: The Galapagos Islands
AM: Galapaguera - Cerro Colorado, San Cristobal Island
On the Southeast side of San Cristobal Island in the vicinity of Cerro Colorado, this is one of the few places where you see Calandrinia galapagosa, an endemic plant to San Cristobal in danger of extinction. The site was built in 2002 to increase the population of the giant tortoise population also endemic to San Cristobal, one of the 11 populations of Galapagos land tortoises (Geochelone Chathamensi). It includes 12 hectares/120,000 square meters of dry forest in the area of Cerro Verde. The program yielded its first results in 2005-2006 after the arrival of 11 new members. These tortoises have their corrals at the entrance of the Galapaguera. There is also a small interpretation center where visitors learn about these reptiles, and the conservation and breeding programs. Along the trail you can observe different birds including mocking birds, yellow warblers and small ground finch, tree finch and flycatchers.
PM: Wizard Hill, San Cristobal Island
Located north of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, Wizard Hill is part of the volcanic area that features small cones inside. Its main attraction is a coral sand beach. Although vegetation is not abundant, two types of “lechoso” (endemic plant to the island) can be found. The beach is frequented by birds, sea lions and marine iguanas. In the lagoon located at Cerro Brujo, the people from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno mined salt for preserving cod, beef and turtle meat. It is now a place for watching coastal and aquatic birds. Cerro Brujo offers excellent views of the Leon Dormido (Kicker Rock), the southern highlands of San Cristobal and the coast contiguous to Cerro Brujo. Aboard Silversea Silver® Galapagos Vessel –Verandah Suite (B,L,D)
Day 11, Fri: The Galapagos Islands
The Twins, Santa Cruz Island
The Twins are, geologically speaking, considered as craters despite the fact they were not directly formed by volcanic activity. They are subsidence craters formed by a series of eruptions when the islands were still active. Twins craters are the only place on the island where the Scalesia forest grows. Some species of Galapagos finches and often the beautiful vermilion flycatcher can be seen here. The vermilion flycatcher is the most prominent land bird in the upper parts of almost every island. The Twins are perhaps the best places to see them as they occur in large numbers in the Scalesia forest. Flycatchers are curious and usually pretty tame. They feed on insects, often caught in mid-flight. Another plant that draws attention here is the guayabillo tree, which has clean, smooth bark.
PM: Puerto Ayora and Charles Darwin Station, Santa Cruz Island
The “Charles Darwin Research Station” was inaugurated in 1964. It is located next to the Galapagos National Park administration. Both work together developing conservation programs for indigenous and endemic species to the archipelago. The Park Service is the state entity responsible for management and administration of both the land area of the Galapagos National Park and the Galapagos Marine Reserve. The Park Service has to manage and implement programs of protection and conservation of endangered species and work to maintain the ecological integrity of the park in general. There is a souvenir kiosk. Funds raised support conservation and research programs. Here, you see tortoises from different islands. These species are found in large semi natural pens for protection and are divided into four stages: eggs, neonates, juveniles (at the age of being "repatriated"), and adults. It is an excellent place to see finches of several species as well as some xerophytic vegetation. Puerto Ayora, is the most populated village of the island and has the largest port in the archipelago. It offers different activities, restaurants and other amenities. The iguanas rest on the dock while boobies and pelicans dive into the turquoise waters of Academy Bay. Aboard Silversea Silver® Galapagos Vessel –Verandah Suite (B,L,D)
Day 12, Sat: The Galapagos Islands/ Guayaquil
AM: Bachas Beach, Santa Cruz Island
White sand beach hosts some sea turtles nesting sites. You also explore a small lagoon where migratory birds, herons, pelicans, and zayapas (crabs), among other species, can be seen. The name Bachas originates from the World War II, when the American army left two barges thrown away on the beach. The first settlers could not pronounce the name correctly in English, which led on the beach of Las Bachas. Coastal vegetation predominates is this zone; one of the most representative sea turtles nesting sites of Santa Cruz Island. It is a good place also to watch flamingos, as well as aquatic and migratory birds. Then fly back to Guayaquil, where you will be met once again by our local representative and transferred to your hotel. Hilton Hotel – Suite (B)
Day 13, Sun: Guayaquil / Depart
Transfer to the airport for your departing flight home. (B)
Land price, per person, double occupancy: From US$900 per person per day. Galapagos Islands fees additional.