Arrive in Quito
You will be met off the plane and taken to your hotel in Quito.
Quito – Cloud forest
Where rainforests meet mountains, a type of ecosystem known as ‘cloud forests’ prevail. Swathed in cool mists that form as humid air rises from the lowlands and chills, the trees are shorter than in a rainforest but are smothered in greater numbers of epiphytes – plants that grow on plants. So rich is the profusion of plant life that cloud forest can seem lusher than rainforest.
In under two hours drive from Quito the cloud forests of western slopes of the Ecuadorean Andes provide an excellent taste of pristine tropical forests with some of the best and easiest bird watching in the world (with beautiful tropical birds that thrill both the novice and experienced bird watches alike). You will be picked up from your hotel and driven down to Mindo and El Monte by one of our team of bilingual naturalist guides, who will truly help bring alive this amazing region you will be visiting.
You will make strategic stops along the way to give your guide chance introduce some of the flora and fauna from the region (depending on your interests these can include an orchid reserve, a canopy zip wire or sites with very high numbers of hummingbird species and numbers or a combination of the above!). You then continue down towards Mindo, your home for the next 2 nights.
Full day to explore the cloud forest
Today you have the full day to explore the cloud forest area around the lodge. Activities include walks through the forest to a waterfall, a bio research station, a butterfly farm, an artisanal chocolate factory, or just on the trails in the area close to the lodge or along the river.
You will be joined for today by a local English speaking naturalist guide, who will accompany you and help ensure you get the very most out of your stay here. (B,L,D)
El Monte – Zuleta
You will be picked up this morning after breakfast by one of our team of top bilingual guides, and you will set off back towards Quito, and then heading north towards the Imbaburra region, making a strategic stop along the way to visit Quitsato – a giant sundial which shows the true equator (classic photo opportunity straddling the equator!) and a fascinating chance to learn about the astronomical knowledge of the pre-Hispanic cultures of Ecuador.
Stopping for lunch along the way with your guide in a local restaurant and then heading onto Hacienda Zuleta, your home for the next 2 nights. Your guide will leave you as guests of the hacienda.
An Andean Shangri-La…we can’t recommend this place highly enough. Without a doubt our favourite place in Ecuador’s Andes, and a fabulous place to relax and soak up some Andean culture. Formerly a private home (of Ecuadorean President Galo Plaza) whose decedents opened the hacienda to guests only a decade ago. The rooms are exquisitely decorated and individually styled with antiques and hand embroidered linen. The personalised service aims to make you feel like one of the family, inviting you to relax in the library, by roaring open fires. The food is excellent.
The activities here are also superb, as well as being the heartland of an important pre-Incan civilization, it is also one of the few places in the world where you are virtually guaranteed to see wild Andean Condors. For fans of horse-back riding, you will be in heaven (even for the novice it is fantastic as they have a range of fantastic horses from absolute beginners to advanced riders) and some great trails. There are lots of easy trails to hike and soak up the beautiful scenery, visit the local community, embroidery workshops, and mountain biking to name but a few.
Full day Hacienda Zuleta
Today you have the full day to explore hacienda Zuleta – we will hire for you a local English speaking guide (B,L,D)
Zuleta – Quito
The morning free at Zuleta – then after lunch in the afternoon you will be picked up by one of our drivers and taken to your hotel for the night to one of the hotels close to Quito airport. (B,L)
Quito – Galapagos to start your cruise
This morning you will be picked up from the hotel and taken to the airport for your flight to Galapagos. Upon arrival to the Galapagos Islands you will be met by your bilingual Galapagos National Park guide and will be taken to board your yacht, and begin the cruise.
Galapagos Cruise: The following 8 days you will be cruising gently between the Galapagos Islands experiencing some of the most pristine and intimate wildlife encounters on earth.
Galapagos – Guayaquil – onward flights
Today on the last day of your cruise you will have an early visit in Galapagos before being taken to the airport for your flight back to mainland Ecuador and onward flights home.