GAL£¾PAGOS ISLANDS AND ANDES MOUNTAINS QUITO/ANDES After arriving in Quito, we head up into the Andes

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  • QUITO/ANDES After arriving in Quito, we head up into the Andes where our hacienda-hotel is a restored, 17th-century estate seated at 8,500 feet elevation in the Ecuadorian Sierra. Our hosts saddle up horses—or you may choose to walk and take in the scenery of amazing mountain slopes rising out of a lush rainforest. Our destination is Parque Condor, a bird rescue project where raptors, vultures, and Andean condor are the main attractions. These endangered birds can have a wingspan of up to 10 feet, and this is a rare chance to see them under the care of the project’s experts, learn about their place in the ecosystem, and maybe view condors flying free.

    Later, we drive back to the hacienda to enjoy dinner and spend a relaxing evening in the tranquil atmosphere of the Andes night.

    OVERNIGHT: Hacienda Cusin in the town of Otavalo is a restored, 17th century estate in the Ecuadorian Sierra. This hotel is a luxurious retreat with famous gardens, and garden cottage guestrooms furnished with antiques and select Andean crafts, most with log-burning fireplaces.

    MEALS: Lunch, dinner

    A seven-day, six-night adventure awaits families in Ecuador’s Highlands and Islands, including the Andes Mountains. In one action- packed week, we take walks with snow-capped mountains in the background, saddle up for a horseback ride, see the incredibly rare Andean condor up-close, and visit the Otavalo Market. Just when it seems like the trip couldn’t get any more exciting, we head to the Galápagos Islands for a close-up look at giant land tortoises, iguanas, and sea lions. Full-time naturalist guides accompany families as we go snorkeling, sea kayaking, and flamingo watching. Families lodge in luxury boutique hotels with tons of elbow room, and inviting pools and blue-footed boobies right out the back door. There’s so much variety in this trip—learning about Darwin and taking in the wildlife, the mountains, and the indigenous people in an Ecuadorian experience you’ll cherish for years to come.

    DAY 1

  • OTAVALO The town of Otavalo has the coolest, most authentic market in all of Ecuador, and we time our visit to be sure to participate in this centuries-old tradition. The region is renowned for its traditional crafts, and especially its weavings; even the Incas relied on the Otavaleños for their textiles. Today, the local indigenous people still dress in classic style to visit the market, so we get a truly memorable look at a culture unique to this region of the Andes.

    Later, we watch a weaver at work: Miguel Andrango is one of the last craftsmen who uses a backstrap loom to weave natural- colored wool that he hand-dyes with walnut, cochineal beetles and achiote. The sale of his works supports a cooperative created to preserve this art.

    OVERNIGHT: Otavalo

    MEALS: Breakfast, lunch, dinner

    SAN CRISTÓBAL ISLAND This morning we board a flight to San Cristóbal, the easternmost of the Galápagos Islands. With our naturalist guide, we visit the Interpretation Center to get an insider’s look at what makes these islands so special. Then we waste no time getting right down to the fun, heading out on a lava trail to look for blue-footed boobies, iguanas, and frigate birds.

    This afternoon, we slip on a snorkel mask for a splash at Carola Beach, where the water is so clear you won’t believe how far you can see. Then we check into our waterfront inn, in the beachy- cool town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. After an evening meal, we follow the boardwalk to see the huge colony of sea lions that lives nearby.

    OVERNIGHT: The Golden Bay Hotel & Spa on San Cristóbal’s waterfront is a gleaming boutique hotel that fuses luxury and environmental sensitivity. Contemporary rooms are bathed in natural light, and guests have access to Playa de Oro as well as a swimming pool, spa, and gourmet restaurant.

    MEALS: Breakfast, dinner

    DAY 2 DAY 3

  • SAN CRISTÓBAL ISLAND After breakfast, we hop aboard a speedboat, towing a string of sea kayaks along to the island’s northern coast. The water is calm—a great setting whether families have kayaked before or are trying it for the first time. We also gladly arrange a boat ride for the non- kayakers among us. Regardless, everyone gets an up-close look at the baby sea lions as they goof around in the water with us. This is another fine snorkeling spot, where families’ swimming companions are prehistoric-looking marine iguanas. After a full day spent exploring the seas, we head back to the hotel with plenty of time to chill out and hit the pool.

    OVERNIGHT: San Cristóbal

    MEALS: Breakfast, lunch

    SANTA CRUZ ISLAND This morning, we transfer to Santa Cruz to walk among some of the oldest animals in the world. The island is home to giant tortoises that can grow up to 500 pounds and can live for more than 175 years. To see them, we follow guides along a scenic trail to the tortoises’ natural habitat in the highlands at El Chato Reserve. It’s an easy walk of about an hour, and when we reach the watering hole, it’s just us with a couple of dozen tortoises. There are no fences or moats between us and these amazing creatures, and our naturalist guides see to it that we get close enough to hear them breathe and chomp on grass.

    The same rich volcanic soil is perfect for growing coffee, sugar cane, and fruit, as we discover on a visit to a family owned plantation owned by our friend Adrianno. We spend time with the family and workers, learn about their organic, sustainable operation, and taste products grown and made on the property. Our day ends at the waterfront resort, where you can claim a chair under an umbrella on the bayside terrace. It’s a perfect spot to sip on something cold and watch the world go by.

    OVERNIGHT: Galápagos Habitat, an iconic hotel in Santa Cruz, is situated on the waterfront surrounded by wildlife and mangroves, giving off the sensation of exclusion from the rest of the island. Originally constructed in 1995, it still boasts a unique architectural design.

    MEALS: Breakfast, lunch

    DAY 4 DAY 5

  • SANTA FE ISLAND We head to Santa Fe Island, the oldest of the Galápagos islands and a terrific microcosm of what the archipelago is all about. Santa Fe has its own species of iguana that’s found nowhere else, and it is home to groves of opuntia cactus that look like trees with huge, prickly, paddle-shaped leaves. As we find when we join our guide to boat there for a day of snorkeling and barbecue, the island is a nonstop photo op with plenty of chances to spot wildlife, from sea lions and sea turtles to Galápagos hawks, Nazca boobies and so much more.

    After an incredible day, our captain drops us back in Puerto Ayora in the late afternoon so there is time to relax or shop and explore the town before dinner.

    OVERNIGHT: Santa Cruz

    MEALS: Breakfast, lunch, dinner

    DEPARTURE After a leisurely morning, we transfer to Baltra Island for a return flight back to mainland Ecuador.

    MEALS: Breakfast

    DAY 6 DAY 7

  • TRIP ESSENTIALS: TOUR BEGINS: Quito hotel lobby on Dec. 30, 2019.

    TOUR ENDS: Quito on Jan. 5, 2020.

    TERRAIN: Easy to moderate on good trails and coastal paths. At your option, up to four hours of walking per day.

    TRIP LENGTH: 7 days, 6 nights

    WHAT’S INCLUDED: DD First-class accommodations at boutique hotels on the Galápagos Islands and at Hacienda Cusin in Otavalo, Ecuador.

    DD Meals: 6 breakfasts, 5 lunches, and 4 dinners. DD Full-time experienced guide and Galápagos National Park guides. DD Group flights from Quito on mainland Ecuador to the Galápagos and from the Galápagos to Quito at the end of the program.

    DD Galápagos entrance fee. DD Ingala card. DD All land transportation during the trip. DD All activities in the itinerary, including gear for snorkeling and kayaking. DD Gratuities for hotels, meals, and baggage.

    ** We handcraft surprises into every trip, but some things we just can’t anticipate. Unusual weather, a once-a-year festival or an unscheduled site closing inspire us and your local guide to improvise and modify this itinerary. Likewise, the hotels we name here are used on the majority of our trips, but occasionally one can’t accommodate us. If that happens, we let you know before departure and make sure you’re in a hotel of equal or better quality. It’s our goal to make your trip exceptional.

    To register for this program, visit

    Questions? Call us at 410-735-6115 between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. (Eastern time), or email