Day 1 - UK/Quito
Today you'll fly to Quito, the capital of Ecuador. On arrival we will transfer you to your hotel for a three-night stay.
Day 2 - Quito
Quito is located high in the Andes, 9,000 feet above sea level. You may need a little time to acclimatise, so today you're free to relax and explore at leisure. You could take a stroll through the UNESCO-listed Old Town or, for a fabulous panoramic view of the city, we recommend you head to El Panecillo.
Day 3 - Otavalo
Your explorations begin with a trip to the market in Otavalo, which is considered to be one of the biggest and best in South America. It's a couple of hours drive from Quito, so en route we'll stop at Mira Lago to admire stunning views of San Pablo Lake and the nearby volcanoes. When we get to the market, 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 laid-back 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 4 - Mindo
Today you're heading to the Mindo cloud forest, an area of spectacular scenery and wildlife. Our first stop will be at a butterfly garden and orchid park. Here you'll have a chance to see striking owl eye and blue morpho butterflies, and more than 200 different species of orchid. After an included lunch we'll head to El Quetzal de Mindo. We'll visit a working farm to learn how Ecuadorian chocolate is made and here's the best bit - you'll get to taste a few samples! Then it's back on the road in search of hummingbirds. The Alambi cloud forest is home to a number of different species and you'll have an opportunity to see them up close.
As darkness falls, we'll head to Lago Mindo to hear the frog symphony, the mesmerizing sound of amphibians croaking out loud. We'll also learn about the different types of frog that live here.
Day 5 - Quito
This morning we're going to go on a hike through the cloud forest and enjoy more of the spectacular scenery and wildlife on foot. Then we'll travel to Mitad del Mundo, where you can pose for a photo on the Equator line! We'll arrive back in Quito later this afternoon, and tonight we'll get together for dinner and a briefing about tomorrow's journey to the Galapagos Islands. You will 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
Today's the day you fly to the Galapagos Islands. A Local Guide will meet us when we arrive on Santa Cruz, and the sightseeing starts straight away. We'll make our way to a private ranch in the Highlands, where giant tortoises are free to roam. Whilst enjoying lunch keep an eye on the birds, many species can be spotted here, including the Galapagos mockingbird. Later we will transfer you to your hotel and there's time to relax
Day 7 - Isabela Island
After some free time this morning, we'll transfer by boat to Isabela Island, the largest in the archipelago. We'll make our way to the little town of Puerto Villamil, where a beautiful white-sand beach lies just a short walk from your hotel. Later, you'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.
If you're ready to spend some time on the beach, you're free to do so this afternoon. Alternatively, you might want to join our optional excursion to Tintoreras. A boat will take you to a perfect spot for snorkelling where you might be lucky enough to see colourful fish, rays and sea turtles. Later you'll hike into a lava field which is home to nesting marine iguanas.
Day 8 - Isabela
Today you're going to visit The Wall of Tears, a poignant reminder of the penal colony which once existed on Isabela Island. In the middle of the 20th century, convicts built the 100-metre-long wall in harsh, unpleasant conditions and it stands today as a monument to their suffering. On your way to the wall, you'll be able to admire wonderful views and might even see wild tortoises.
Day 9 - Santa Cruz
This morning you're free to do just as you please. 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. 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
Your adventure continues with a visit to 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 he was preserved by expert taxidermists. You'll see him on display at the centre.
We'll travel to another island, San Cristóbal, by boat this afternoon. After checking in to our hotel, we're going to walk to the Interpretation Centre. Here you'll learn about the history of the archipelago, Charles Darwin's famous visit in the 19thcentury and today's work to protect the amazing landscapes. Afterwards you can make your own discoveries. Hiking trails take you to Frigatebird Hill, and if you climb it you may be rewarded with close-up views of frigatebirds. They have a distinctive w-shaped silhouette and are able to glide for hours without flapping their wings. This evening is yours to do as you please.
Day 11 San Cristóbal
You'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, before the captain drops anchor for your first snorkel of the day. Take to the water and perhaps you'll spot damselfish, pufferfish, and maybe even sea lion pups. Then it's on to Kicker Rock, where the remains of a volcanic tuff cone rise 143 metres 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. Then 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
It's your final day in the Galapagos and you're free to spend it at leisure. Perhaps head to the beach for one last swim, or shop for some last-minute souvenirs.
Later, we'll drive the short distance to the airport for our flight back to Quito. We'll round off our holiday with a farewell dinner this evening
Day 13 Quito/UK
Today we will transfer you to the airport ready for your flight back to the UK.
Day 14 UK
You will arrive in the UK today.