Day 1 – International flight to Quito
Today you'll start your Ecuador adventure to make unforgettable memories with your group. Upon arrival in Quito, you'll be greet by your Tour Manager and begin your adventures.
Day 2 – Equator Monument and Otavalo
After breakfast, you will have an orientation meeting where you will talk about the journey ahead, safety, guidelines for cultural immersion as well as the educational objectives of the trip.
You will then take a theatrical walking tour visiting the principle plazas of the old town and the Casa del Alabado Pre-Colombian Art Museum. You will learn about the history of the oldest cultures of Ecuador and you will also begin your scavenger hunt that will continue throughout your trip.
For your first adventure, you will head to the equator! You will visit the Quitsato Project, a huge solar clock located on the equatorial line. You will have the opportunity to stand in two hemispheres at one time and visit the museum to learn about how early indigenous communities took advantage of astronomy to organize their culture.
After the equator visit, you will head to Otavalo, where the largest indigenous market in South America is located. You will have time to explore the famous market and surroundings. You will find typical indigenous handcrafts such as hammocks, bags, ponchos and necklaces among other more modern souvenirs such as t-shirts and paintings. You will have a traditional lunch with the opportunity to try the famous dish of “cuy” (guinea pig) which is a delicacy throughout the Andes.
If time allows, you will visit the beautiful Cuicocha Lake before arriving in the town of Cotacachi which is famous for its leather handcrafts. You will have a chance to browse the leather offerings including purses, jackets, and shoes. After this you will visit a workshop where the wool is hand-dyed and the textiles are woven on traditional backstrap looms. These artisans will show you the processes used to make their products and will share the importance of keeping these traditions alive. You will then head back to Quito in time for dinner. You will end the evening back at your hotel with time to reflect on the day’s activities.
Day 3 – Travel to the Galápagos Islands
In the morning, you will take the bus to the airport as your journey to the Galápagos Islands begins. The flight takes approximately three hours (with a short layover), and upon arrival to Baltra Island, your local Galapagos Guide will greet you and accompany you on a boat across a small channel to Santa Cruz Island.
Once on Santa Cruz, you will board a bus that will take you to the small city of Puerto Ayora where you will be staying for the next few days. On the way, you will stop to see Los Gemelos, famous twin volcanic craters.
Upon arrival in Puerto Ayora, you will enjoy lunch and visit the Charles Darwin Center. Here you will learn about the origin of the Galápagos Islands and the ecological reasons for local marine and land biodiversity. You will learn about the Darwin Center’s work on the islands, and you will have the opportunity to visit the giant tortoise breeding center as well as some Galápagos land iguanas. Next, you will settle into your family run lodging, where you will have a warm welcome dinner. After dinner you will meet for reflection, and to discuss the exciting days ahead.
Days 4-5 – Santa Cruz Island Service Project
Over the next two days, you will work on a much-needed service project on the island of Santa Cruz. On the first day you will meet in the morning to be briefed on the project. Possible environmental service projects may include organic agriculture, reforestation with endemic species and/or the removal of invasive species. Other projects may include teaching basic English to elementary school children or improvement of school infrastructure such as painting or the construction of playgrounds. All projects directly benefit the local community and are accompanied by comprehensive discussions about the importance and impact of your work and the local reality on the islands as it relates to these projects.
During your service days, you will work four to five hours. In the afternoons, you will take breaks to visit nearby attractions such as a wild giant tortoise ranch, lava tunnels, coffee plantations and small beautiful beaches. During the service project days you will also learn about the most pressing problems the Islands are facing as related to hosting local populations and food production.
In the evenings, time permitting, you will join local community activities. Some of the activities may include sports with the community such as soccer or basketball, salsa dance and cooking lessons or simply walking around downtown. You will meet for your reflection at your lodging at a designated time during the day.
Day 6 – Santa Cruz Island Bahía Area and Tortuga Bay Beach
Today you will focus on the different conservation efforts in the Galapagos reserve and the impacts of tourism in the Islands.
This morning, you'll take a short boat trip to explore Camaño Islet, one of the best spots for snorkeling around Santa Cruz! The boat will also take you to a site where you will see large cracks in a rocky outcropping where sharks come to rest. Your visit will continue to Dog Beach, well known for its huge marine iguana population during certain months of the year. You will also visit the sea lion beach, a favorite place for the local sea lions to come mingle.
You will return to Puerto Ayora for lunch. In the afternoon you will explore Tortuga Bay Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches on the islands with white coral sand. Here you hope to see sea turtles (from which the beach got its name), sea lions, iguanas, blue-footed boobies and an amazing cactus forest.
Finally, you will return to your lodging to rest and have dinner. At night you will meet for your reflection before going to bed.
Day 7 – North Seymour Island
Today you will focus on general theories of the adaptation of species, as well as the impact of tourism on the local wildlife.
This morning, you'll venture by boat to North Seymour Island. The trip will take approximately one hour and fifteen minutes. You will take an easy hike across the island while you watch frigate birds and blue-footed booby nests. You will also see finches, pelicans, tropical birds, an iguana colony and a sea lion colony. After a hearty box lunch, you will board your boat again heading to Bachas Beach to finish the day with some time to relax on the beach, explore the coastline by foot, or enjoy great snorkeling.
Day 8 – Floreana Island
You'll leave early in the morning to take a boat to Floreana Island. Upon arrival, you will take a chiva, a local open-air bus, up to the highlands of the island. Here you will hike through the National Park area, where giant tortoises from different islands have been placed. From here you continue down to the pirate caves and special sites that were home to the first inhabitants in Galapagos. These first immigrants are now legendary and found a way to survive on this island due to its fresh water spring. After visiting the spring, you will continue to Areli Hill from which you will have an amazing view of the island and its endemic vegetation.
After lunch, you will visit Black Beach, unique in Galapagos due to the mix of sand and volcanic dust. Finally you will snorkel in a spot known as La Lobería, where you will see schools of fish and keep an eye out for rays and turtles.
Upon arrival in Santa Cruz, you will take a walk down to the fisherman’s harbor to see what the catch of the day is. You will have dinner at your lodging.
Day 9 – Travel to Quito
After breakfast, you will head to the airport on Baltra Island. Today you depart from the Galápagos Islands and return to Quito.
Upon arrival, you will visit the old town, also known as Quito Colonial, to visit a convent that will be opened exclusively for you. At the convent you will also have the chance to climb to a viewpoint from which you will have an amazing view of the historical center all lit up at night.
Day 10 – Hike in the Cloud Forest
This morning, you will head to the northwestern part of the Andes, which is considered the transition region to the coast. Here you will explore the cloud forest, considered one of most diverse spots in the country. You will also have the opportunity to take an educational hike in the primary and secondary forest in a private reserve learning about how agriculture and reforestation with native species is possible in this region. After lunch at the private reserve, visit Tulipe, a culturally rich and mysterious archaeological site formed by several pools in different shapes that were filled with water for astronomical and ritual uses.
Upon arrival to Quito, you will have time to rest and re-pack your bags for your flight out in the morning.
Tonight you will have a special dinner at a quiteño family’s home to reminisce about the time you shared together in Ecuador and to conclude your scavenger hunt. This will be a theatrical dinner with a historical character providing reflection about the importance of communities in Andean cultures.
Note: Tulipe is closed Mondays and Tuesdays. In this case a visit to an alternate archeological site of Rumicucho will be offered.
Day 11 – International Flight Home
Today your Ecuador adventure comes to a close as you depart early for your flight out of Quito.
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