Leisure - 13 Days
ca. US$11,800 per person (depending on options). Includes hotels, cruise, national flights, private transfers, park entrance fees.
Day 1 - arrival
Quito airport arrival, private transfer to one of the best rated hotel in all of Latin America.
Situated in an exquisitely restored historic mansion overlooking the elegant Plaza San Francisco, the three-story, 31 room Casa Gangotena boutique hotel in Quito is a showcase of state-of-the-art historic restoration skills, while at the same time incorporating contemporary design, fine furnishings, modern technologies and the highest comforts.
Beautifully appointed, the hotel invites its guests to explore and to relax, whether in the dining room, glassed-in patio, garden redolent with the perfume of native flowers, wood-panelled library, or else atop its panoramic third-floor terrace.
The UNESCO World Heritage wonders of Quito are just beyond the doors - wander by foot and explore nearly 500 year old, wildly ornate churches, poke around in mom & pop shops selling forest spices, or stop for a traditional Ecuadorian hot chocolate in one of the many comfortable cafes in the neighbourhood.
Day 2 - Quito, Andean jewel
After a relaxing breakfast, visit the prettiest capital city in Latin America. Enjoy the services of one of the best private guides in town, or choose to explore on your own.
Inscribed on the World Heritage List, and thanks to major private and public sector investments over the past 15 years, Quito’s heritage now entices you to explore its cafes, museums, centuries old churches, restaurants and shops. Delightful plazas, fabulously ornate 16th century Jesuit churches, and thriving arts and crafts industry co-exist with the comings and goings of local residents.
Walk out of your hotel into the Plaza San Francisco at the very heart of Quito. You can amble down to other nearby plazas, and get a real feel for this beautiful, yet alive historic city. Take the time to visit the Guayasamin museum, or a chocolate rotisserie. Explore some of the finest craftsmanship in South America in the form of textiles, jewelery and sculpture.
If you're into geography - perhaps you'd like to explore the "monument to the equator" - located a short drive north of the city. Straddle the equatorial line, and you can truthfully claim to have a foot in both hemispheres.
Your hotel is never far away - take an afternoon break, before heading into the lively and nearby La Ronda street - and pick from many inviting restaurants, or live music venues to finish the day.
Days 3 to 4 - the Cloud forest
Ironically, a 2 hour road trip takes you “downhill” to the cloud forest.
Check into a luxurious avant-garde cloud forest lodge with breathtaking views of the surrounding forests.
Afternoon guided walk – count how many hummingbirds species you can spot. Overnight in your cozy bubble in the forest.
After a delicious breakfast, gazing at the forest canopy, take a guided walk to marvel at the cloud forest's morning residents, then travel back to Quito. Lunch at one of the finest restaurants in town.
Late afternoon / evening walk (guide optional) along the recently restored La Ronda street, and get a taste for the dynamic and artsy nightlife in this historic pedestrian walkway.
You may want to take in some traditional folk music at a local “Peña”.
Days 5 to 11 - Galapagos
Fly to Galapagos, the first ever place to be listed as a World Heritage site. Embark on one of the most comfortable ships in the islands and let yourself be taken on a trip of discovery, wonder and awe. This forlorn volcanic archipelago is host to a bevy of animals and plants you'll not see anywhere else. After the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, this is also the very last place on Earth still to be dominated by reptiles - the world's biggest tortoises, lava lizards, the only marine iguanas on the planet, sea turtles and more.
We'll offer up a pallet of the nicest ships in the islands for your consideration. Choose from an intimate 16 passenger heritage vessel formerly own by European royalty, a brand new 48 passenger ship designed specifically for Galapagos, or if you're into bigger ships, a supremely luxurious, newly refitted 100 passenger boat.
If you're comfortable in the water, you will be amazed by the underwater Galapagos - just as remarkable, or more so for some visitors, as what you'll find on firm ground. Swim with sea lions, and watch penguins dart by, chasing their next meal. Guides will be there to give you a hand if needed.
Settle into your very comfortable cabin for the next 7 nights, and discover one of the world’s wonders with the help of some of the best rated naturalist guides certified by the Galapagos National Park.
Day 12 - Guayaquil, tropical port city
Fly back to Guayaquil and check into the most highly rated boutique hotel in the city.
The Mansion del Rio offers the perfect combination of comfort and exquisite atmosphere of the early 1900's in Guayaquil. The hotel is located next to the majestic Guayas River, on which large rafts of vegetation can be seen floating off to sea. This is how many insect and reptile species likely made it out to Galapagos after the islands emerged from the sea several million years ago. The hotel is located in one of the oldest neighborhoods in Guayaquil and resting on the eastern slopes of Santa Ana Hill, from where the city was defended from the pirate attacks in the 1600's and 1700's.
Take the afternoon to see some of the sights of this bustling tropical port city, right out of a Graham Greene novel. Founded in 1538 by Spanish conquistadores from where stolen Inca gold was shipped back to Spain, Guayaquil's gold today consists of bananas - Ecuador being the largest exporter of bananas in the world.
Enjoy a privately guided tour, including a promenade on the riverside boardwalk where friends and families gather. Follow this up with a visit to the Seminario park, famous for its many resident green iguanas - likely the ancestor to the Galapagos marine and land iguanas. Enjoy dinner in one of the local restaurants - chosen for its mix of Ecuadorian and world cuisine.
Day 13 - departure
Your visit ends – private transfer to the airport.
Thinking about your next trip already? If you're in the mood for a safari - please let us know. We are good friends with the oldest, and most prestigious luxury tent safari outfitter in Africa and would be more than pleased to introduce you to them as alumni of our Galapagos Epicurean Galapagos trip.
The ships we recommend
Though over 60 ships ply Galapagos waters, only a small handful have succeeded in providing the kind of service and comfort you would expect on a comfort+++ cruise.
The owners and managers of these ships have mastered the challenging task of maintaining ships in this remote archipelago. They've been able to hire, train and retain excellent crew, including those working in the galley, and those guiding you on excursions. Finishings and furnishings are tasteful and the overall ship design is suited to the islands.