Fly in to Ecuador’s charming capital city of Quito.
Discover the city with a two-hour walking tour. The first UNESCO World Heritage Site, Quito’s historical centre is its pièce de résistance. Walk to San Francisco Church and the museum of religious art, La Compañía, to see the seven tons of gold gilding on its glittering walls. Then head to the bustling Independence Plaza, flanked by the Presidential Palace and Quito Cathedral.
The Avenue of Volcanoes is impressive without a doubt. Choose how to view it but we believe the most spectacular way is by helicopter. Soar up high, over the snow-capped Andean summits and delight in views that will take your breath away and leave you some stunning photos to show off back home.
Take a private transfer from your hotel in Quito to Mashpi Lodge which is your base for discovering Ecuador’s best-kept secret. The cloud forest of the Andean Highlands is the perfect antidote to the bustle of Quito. Expect a verdant landscape, the likes of which you’ve never experienced. This intensity is reflected in the life that teems through the forest – puma, racoon, hummingbirds and spectacled bear. This is Ecuador wildlife in the spotlight.
In the Northern Highlands of Ecuador is Otavalo, famed for its wonderful market. Explore the town’s colourful streets and busy café culture and then get active at Hacienda Zuleta. Why not head out on horseback and take in some of the glorious mountains and lakes in the area? Or hike into the surrounding countryside and discover hidden and historic trails? You could choose to stay in the hacienda and take part in a cooking class of local authentic recipes or even an embroidery class.
Fly from Quito to Galápagos for your exciting discovery of these unique islands. After arriving in Baltra, you’ll start to experience the different flora and fauna which will keep you intrigued for the next four days. This is where your sailing begins – step aboard Endemic, one of the most evolved vessels in these waters. Set sail for Las Bachas Beach, a white-sand beach on the northern coast of Santa Cruz Island where sea turtle lay their eggs. Enjoy a stroll or snorkel in the gentle surf.
Witch Hill is a tuff cone hill located south west from San Cristobal. Take the Zodiac to see amazing rock formations along the island shore with more white sand beaches and crystal-clear waters, perfect for snorkelling. Visit Kicker Rock, an impressive geological formation. Spot nesting sea birds, curious sea lion, fish, turtle, shark and ray. Head over to Isla Lobos to observe blue-footed booby, frigate and marine iguana. You can also snorkel with sea lion in this calm bay.
On Española Island, look for endemic wildlife such as the Hood Mockingbird. This is the southernmost island in the Galápagos archipelago, and home to several wildlife species, including masked and blue-footed booby. The Osborn and Gardner islets are ideal for snorkelling while Gardner Bay is excellent for swimming. The bay is also frequented by colonies of sea lion which like to swim with you, as well as the occasional turtle and shark. There is outstanding wildlife at Point Suarez as well.
Santa Fe is entertaining and exciting with two trail choices. Head to the tallest Opuntia cactus in the Galápagos or into the highlands to spot land iguana. After a long walk, swim in calm waters with playful sea lion. Later, go to South Plaza to see unique sesuvium plants and prickly pear cactuses as well as land iguana. These are easily seen from the trail, frequently under the shade of cactuses, waiting for a prickly pear to fall.
At the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz, you will find an information centre, museum, library and tortoise breeding station. Meet tortoises of different subspecies, which are prepared for reintroduction to their natural habitats. Your time here is now over and you will return to mainland Ecuador for the next exciting step of your trip. Travel to the Manabí coast of Ecuador, the land of breezes and palms, and relax in style at Las Tanusas.
Spend these days at your leisure, because the beaches here are some of the best in the country. Tanusas Retreat & Spa is a gem of a resort in Ecuador. Run by Alain Ducasse-trained chef Rodrigo Pacheco, its architecture merges with its surroundings, outlining traditional design in a contemporary fashion. It offers a tranquil atmosphere, a buzzy restaurant and blends local culture and geography with ease, creating a sublime spot for yoga, surfing and horse riding.
Fly back to the UK and relive the memories of this wonderful trip.