Day 1 - UK to Quito
oday you'll fly to Quito, the capital of Ecuador.
Day 2 - Quito
On arrival in Quito we will transfer you to your hotel. Located high in the Andes at 9,000 feet above sea level, Quito is one of the highest capital cities in the world. You'll probably need a little time to acclimatise, so today has been left free for you to relax.
Day 3 - Quito
Our explorations begin with a trip to Mercado Iñaquito, one of the city's most popular markets. A Local Guide will show us around and we'll see everything from local fruit and vegetables, to speciality meats.
After this, a sightseeing tour will introduce us to Quito's highlights. We'll see Independence Square and the cathedral before heading up to El Panecillo for sensational views across the city. Our tour ends at the Church of San Agustin, where we'll see more local food and snacks. The rest of the day is yours to spend at leisure with your travelling companions.
Day 4 - Mindo
Today we're heading to the Mindo cloud forest, an area of spectacular scenery and wildlife. We'll make a stop at a butterfly garden, where we'll see species such as owl and blue morpho, and an orchid park with 200 different varieties. After an included lunch we'll head to El Quetzal de Mindo to see cocoa trees and visit a working chocolate farm. We'll learn how Ecuadorian chocolate is made and here's the best bit, you'll get to taste a few samples! Next we're off in search of hummingbirds. The Alambi cloud forest is home to a number of different types and we'll have a chance to see them up close.
Finally, as darkness falls we'll head to Lago Mindo. It may not be easy to see the frogs, but hopefully we'll hear their mesmerising sound. We'll also have an opportunity to learn about the different types of amphibians that live here.
Day 5 - Quito
Our adventure continues with a morning hike through the cloud forest, a great way to enjoy more of the spectacular scenery and wildlife. Then we'll travel to Mitad del Mundo, where you can pose for a photo on the Equator line! Later this afternoon we'll arrive back in Quito, and there's time to relax before we get together for dinner and a briefing about tomorrow's journey to the Galapagos Islands. You may be provided with a duffle bag for your belongings, all luggage is inspected on arrival at Galapagos, and duffle bags make this process easier.
Day 6 - Santa Cruz Island
Today we're going to fly to the Galapagos. This archipelago of islands is home to an astonishing array of wildlife and the landscapes range from black volcanic rock to glorious white-sand beaches. A Local Guide will be waiting for us on Santa Cruz and the sightseeing will start straight away. We'll make our way to a private ranch in the Highlands, where giant tortoises roam free. Whilst we enjoy lunch, you'll want to keep an eye on the birds. Many species can be spotted in the Highlands, including the Galapagos mockingbird.
Day 7 - Isabela Island
After some free time this morning, we'll transfer by boat to Isabela Island and make our way to the little town of Puerto Villamil. We'll visit a nearby wetland which is home to pink flamingos and pintail ducks, before walking a short distance to the Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre. The centre houses almost 1,000 of these creatures in different stages of development and is helping to protect them from extinction. Our walk back into town takes us past mangroves and an area where the prickly pear cactus grows.
After a busy morning we'll be ready for some lunch and then you're free to relax at leisure this afternoon. Alternatively, you might want to join our optional excursion to Tintoreras. You'll be able to look out for pelicans, blue-footed boobies and Galapagos penguins on a boat ride. Then, when we stop to snorkel, keep your eyes peeled for colourful fish, rays and sea turtles. This optional excursion also includes a hike into a lava field which is home to nesting marine iguanas.
Day 8 - Isabela Island
There's an exciting morning ahead, as we set off on a hike up the Sierra Negra volcano. It last erupted in 2005, and on our walk we'll keep our eyes peeled for birds such as the vermilion flycatcher and the elusive short-eared owl. Once at the crater edge, we'll continue on through lava fields and otherworldly landscapes, stopping now and then to take in spectacular views.
This afternoon you can join us for an optional kayak around the bay of Puerto Villamil and tonight is yours to do as you please.
Day 9 - Santa Cruz Island
You're free to enjoy a lazy morning if you wish. However, if you enjoy snorkelling our optional excursion to Los Tuneles is a must. You'll head to one of the best snorkelling spots in the Galapagos for a chance to explore underwater lava tunnels teeming with marine life. Look out for reef sharks, sea turtles, sea horses and more.
Later we'll travel back to Santa Cruz by boat and after dinner, you might want to stroll down to the waterfront with your fellow travellers. It's Friday night and the locals can often be found playing Ecua-volley, or Ecuadorian volleyball, which is always fun to watch.
Day 10 - San Cristóbal Island
Today we're going to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station, where we'll learn more about efforts to conserve several species of the giant tortoise. Lonesome George was perhaps the most famous Galapagos tortoise. His species, the Pinta Island tortoise, became extinct when he died in 2012 and after being preserved by expert taxidermists, he is now on display at the centre.
We'll travel to another island, San Cristóbal, by boat this afternoon. After checking into our hotel, we'll walk to the Interpretation Centre. Here you'll learn about the history of the archipelago, Charles Darwin's famous visit in the 19th century and today's work to protect the amazing landscapes. Afterwards you can explore the surrounding area at leisure. Hiking trails take you to Frigatebird Hill, there's Punta Carola, a wonderful beach and Darwin Bay, where a statue of Charles Darwin commemorates his landing on the island.
Day 11 -San Cristóbal Island
We're going to take a cruise along the coast and hopefully catch a glimpse of San Cristóbal's fabulous marine life today. Keep a lookout for birds including the great frigate and blue-footed booby as we head to Kicker Rock, where the remains of a volcanic tuff cone rise from the ocean. Snorkelling a channel between the rocks, you might be lucky enough to see spotted eagle rays, chocolate chip starfish, sea turtles and Galapagos sharks.
After a busy morning you'll be ready for lunch on board. We're going to stop at a beautiful beach accessible only by boat – a little slice of paradise and the perfect place to relax.
Day 12 - Quito
You're free to spend your final morning in the Galapagos at leisure. Perhaps head to the beach for one last swim, or shop for some last-minute souvenirs.
Later, we'll drive to the airport for our flight back to Quito. This evening we'll get together for a farewell dinner, a chance to reminisce about the wonderful experiences we've shared.
Day 13 - Otavalo
Your holiday ends with a trip to the market in Otavalo, considered to be one of the biggest and best in South America. There will be lots of colourful textiles and handicrafts on offer, so you might want to have a go at bargaining for a few souvenirs. Next we'll head to Cotacachi, a town famous for its leather. The main street is packed with shops selling jackets, shoes, wallets and more, so be warned, you might be tempted to treat yourself!
Day 14 - Quito to UK
Today we will transfer you to the airport for your flight back to the UK.
Day 15 - UK
You will arrive in the UK today.