EQ4 Biodiversity Unrivalled TOUR


Featuring Cuenca & Ingapirca


Guided colonial Quito tour; Four-night luxury Galapagos cruise; Exciting guided shore excursions; Condor spotting in Cajas National Park; Beautiful, colonial Cuenca; Ingapirca Inca ruins


Dates & Prices

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Prices are in US Dollars (USD), before taxes (if applicable) - All pricing reflects per-person Land Only expenses, however, we can book flights from virtually every city. Please call us for an air quote.

Start DateEnd DatePriceMore Info
Tue 20 Oct 2015Sun 01 Nov 2015 $3890
Tue 27 Oct 2015Sun 08 Nov 2015 $3890
Tue 19 Jan 2016Sun 31 Jan 2016 $4270
Tue 01 Mar 2016Sun 13 Mar 2016 $4270
Tue 19 Jul 2016Sun 31 Jul 2016 $4270
Tue 18 Oct 2016Sun 30 Oct 2016 $4270
Tue 25 Oct 2016Sun 06 Nov 2016 $4270

Optional Single Supplement: $1800 (number of singles limited).

Tour Overview

Striking a balance between exploration of the natural and man-made worlds, we split our 13 days in South America by experiencing a taste of ancient civilisations and contemporary culture in Ecuador and a unique nature that has enjoyed uninterrupted evolution since before humankind first arrived. There exists no rival to the biodiversity and ecological variety boasted by the islands of the Galapagos archipelago and each day we spend rambling over lunar landscapes and sauntering on red beaches finds us viewing -- and interacting with -- colourful new species of flora and fauna and discovering new worlds seemingly leagues away from our own. In Ecuador, we spend time touring the Spanish colonial centres of the capital, Quito, with its ornate churches, palaces and cathedrals and we'll have the unique opportunity to cross between two hemispheres as we step over equatorial line. Cuenca, considered Ecuador's most beautiful city, is worthy of a couple of days' exploration and our visit to Ingapirca in the Canar Valley takes us to the country's most important Inca site.

Regions visited: South America
Countries visited: Ecuador

Full Itinerary

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Day 1 Arrive in Quito
Arrive in Quito and transfer to our hotel. Quito (2788 m / 9,200 feet) is Ecuador's lovely capital city, nestled against Pichincha Volcano high in the Andes.

Overnight in Quito.

Meal plan: dinner

Day 2 Quito: City Tour
Today we tour old Spanish Colonial Quito, preserved by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. As we enter the streets of Old Quito we step into the past, surrounded by centuries-old architecture. We stop at the commanding Legislative Palace, whose murals record Ecuador's history. We will see Quito's most beautiful religious buildings, including the cathedral, the Independence Plaza, San Francisco Church, and visit one of Quito's most impressive religious buildings, La Compania church, whose ornate facade and solid gold altars make it one of the most famous of South American churches. We visit the famous Panecillo Hill with its towering winged statue of the Virgin of the Apocalypse with views of north and south of Quito and the surrounding mountains.

This afternoon we travel 22 km (14 miles) north of Quito to the Equator line monument, known as the "middle of the world," where you can stand with one foot in the Northern and the other in the Southern Hemisphere. We also visit the excellent on-site ethnographic museum with exhibits pertaining to the many indigenous peoples of Ecuador.

PLEASE NOTE: Due to logistical reasons, this is a "floating day" that may occur at a different point of our programme.

Overnight in Quito.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 3 Quito - The Galapagos / Baltra / Santa Cruz Island
This morning we fly from Quito to Baltra Island and board our cruise vessel for our exploration of the unique and beautiful Galapagos Islands.*

An archipelago of 12 large and several hundred smaller volcanic islands occupying a 4800 sq km (3,000 sq mile) area about 1000 km (620 miles) west of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands have become one of the world's premier adventure travel destinations. Over the course of your visit, you'll enjoy up-close views of unusual, specially-adapted animals, plants and terrains including sea lions, tortoises, iguanas, land and sea birds, volcanic landscapes, unusual cacti and vegetation. Little has changed about the islands since Charles Darwin's visit in 1835 to "this little world within itself" inspired his first theories of evolution. Nearly the entire archipelago is a natural sanctuary where you'll have thrilling encounters with some of the world's last completely untamed wildlife that has never learned to fear the presence of humans.

We will be navigating the Galapagos on board the M/V Galapagos Legend, a 110-passenger expedition ship totally converted in 2001. The M/V Galapagos Legend has all-new passenger accommodations with 1800 sq m of social areas and was built with marine certified materials qualifying with Safety of Life at Sea specifications. All cabins are booked in outside 'Standard Plus' class (Junior Suite cabin upgrades available; view cabins on www.gogalapagos.com). Private bathrooms feature hot and cold water, shower, and a hair dryer. Also aboard, a highly trained crew, 24 hour physician, and naturalist multilingual guides. An auditorium for conferences, spacious social areas, dining room, 24 hour coffee bar, swimming pool and sun decks, observation platforms, cocktail bars, long distance calls, fully air-conditioned.

Upon arrival on San Cristobal, you will transfer to the ship, have lunch, and embark immediately for the Interpretation Center & Tijeretas Hill on San Cristobal (dry landing).

Dry landing in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, capital of the Galapagos Islands. Passengers visit the Interpretation Center, an excellent place to learn about Natural History in the Galapagos. The Museum of Natural History displays information on the volcanic origins of the islands, their remoteness from the continent, ocean currents, climate, the arrival of the different species and their colonization, among other points of interest. The human history is also showcased, chronologically narrating the most significant events related to the discovery and colonization of the islands.

The Tijeretas Hill optional activity involves a high intensity walk amidst beautiful landscapes and a magnificent view at the foot of a frigatebird nesting colony.

Return to ship for passenger welcome and briefing; there is a presentation of the crew. At this time a safety drill is practiced.

Free time on board. After dinner a guide's briefing on next day activities in the auditorium.

PM - Black Turtle Cove
On the north shore of Santa Cruz Island, accessible only by sea where four species of mangrove crowd from the shore out into the lagoon, turtle enjoy swimming in the calm waters, peaking their heads above the surface while fish, rays and small sharks circle below. White tipped reef sharks can be seen beneath the boat, sea birds, including pelicans, herons and egrets, all feed in the cove. This cove has been declared as a "Turtle Sanctuary." Difficulty level: easy. Duration: 1h00

PLEASE NOTE: Most of our 2015/16 dates will operate itinerary "D", except for February and the earlier October dates, which will operate itinerary "B" (shown in this itinerary). You may visit www.gogalapagos.com for more information on the itineraries and vessel.

* The cruise portion of this itinerary has been provided provided by the cruise operator and should be taken as guidance only. Last minute operation considerations and national park policies can result in alterations and deviations from this schedule, sometimes at late notice. Such changes are the prerogative of the cruise operator over which Adventures Abroad has no control.

Overnight Galapagos cruise.

Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 4 Galapagos Cruise / Sullivan Bay (Santiago) / Rabida
AM - Sullivan Bay (Santiago), Wet landing. This visitor site located at the southeastern portion of Santiago Island, and of important geologic interest, features extensive lava flows believed to have been formed during the last quarter of the 19th century. Difficulty level: difficult, 1.5 km path.
Type of terrain: flat volcanic lava. Duration: 1h30 walk / 1 hour snorkeling/swimming.

Return to ship; the crew will welcome you with canapes followed by lunch.

PM - Rabida, Wet landing. Dark red sand covers these unique beaches with incredible landscape Rabida is considered the epicenter of the Galapagos Islands due to the diversity of its volcanic geology. Nesting Brown Pelicans are found from July through September and nine species of the famous Darwin’s finches can be seen. We will also take a dinghy ride along cliffs to observe
nesting seabirds, and snorkel off the coast, where marine life is particularly active. Difficulty level: easy. Type of terrain: sandy. Duration: 1h30 walk / 1 hour snorkeling / 1 hour dinghy ride.

Return to ship; the crew will welcome you with canapes. Free time on board. Guides briefing on next day activities.

Overnight Galapagos cruise.

Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 5 Galapagos Cruise / Urbina Bay (Isabela) / Tagus Cove (Isabela)
AM - Urbina Bay (Isabela). Wet landing on a volcanic black beach. Depending on the season, we may find giant tortoises, land iguanas, and the unusual Flightless Cormorant. After a short walk inland, snorkeling time is allotted, giving you yet another chance to swim with sea turtles, sea lions and countless tropical fish. Urbina Bay features a variety of plant life that changes depending on the season. We can observe the beautiful colours of plants that attract different insects, birds and reptiles. We will explore the uplifted coral reef that resulted from 1954 volcanic activity,
with a spectacular view of Alcedo Volcano. Difficulty level: intermediate. Type of terrain: flat. Duration: 1h30 walk / 1 hour snorkeling.

We may also encounter Darwin's finches, Yellow Warbler and lava lizards. Great snorkeling opportunities with Green Pacific Sea Turtles as well, this island is best known for its endemic vegetation: Scalesia villosa, Lecocarpus pinnatifidus, and Galapagos milkwort. Snorkelers can practice on the main beach among playful sea lions.

Return on board, the crew will welcome you with canapes. Lunch.

PM - Tagus Cove (Isabela). Dry landing on Galapagos's largest island where we will learn about the eruption of the five volcanoes that form it. The trail leads to Darwin's salt-water crater Lake and excellent views of lava fields and volcanic formations. We will return by the same path for a dingh y ride along a shoreline full of marine wildlife, where we will admire a variety of seabirds, such as Blue-footed Booby, Brown Noddy, terns, Flightless Cormorant and depending on the season, a large number of Galapagos Penguins which are only 35 cm tall ; the only penguin species in the world to extend its range into the northern hemisphere along the equator. They are monogamous and lay their eggs in small cracks of lava, on the lower parts of the island near the shoreline not reached by the ocean waves. The population of penguins on the islands is about 2,000 individuals, most of which live on this western portion of Isabela; others are scattered further south on the island. We will have an opportunity to snorkel in deep water. Graffiti believed to have been left by19th-century pirates is a curious reminder of an intriguing past. Difficulty level: intermediate. Type of terrain: steep. Duration: 2 hour walk / 40 minutes dinghy ride / deep water snorkeling 1 hour.

Overnight Galapagos cruise.

Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 6 Galapagos Cruise / Espinosa Point (Fernandina)
AM - Espinosa Point (Fernandina) Dry landing. Espinosa Point is the only spot that we visit on Fernandina, and from it we can see the island of Isabela across the Bolívar Channel, an area that boasts some of the highest diversity of endemic sea fauna in the Galapagos. The largest, most primitive looking race of marine iguanas are found mingling with sea lions and Sally Lightfoot Crabs; a wonderful opportunity to encounter Flightless Cormorants at their nesting sites, Galapagos Penguins and the "King" of predators on the Islands, the Galapagos Hawk. Pa-hoe-hoe and AA lava formations cover the majority of the terrain. Vegetation is thus scarce inland, but we encounter Brachycereus cacti and extensive mangrove beds lining the shores. Difficulty level: intermediate. Type of terrain: rocky. Duration: 2 hours walk / 1hour snorkeling

PM - Vicente Roca Point (Isabela). Great deep water snorkeling at one of the richest marine havens on Earth (Bolivar Channel). We take a dinghy ride along the coast to observe a great diversity of sea and coastal birds; Nazca and blue-footed boobies, noddies, brown pelicans, penguins, flightless cormorants. The upwelling of coldwater currents in this part of the Galapagos gives rise to an abundance of marine life. Duration: 1 hour snorkeling / 1 hour dinghy ride.

Overnight Galapagos cruise.

Meal plan: breakfast,lunch,dinner

Day 7 Galapagos / Daphne - Guayaquil
AM - Highlands (Santa Cruz) Dry landing. A 45 minute bus ride will take us to the Santa Cruz highlands, located to the northwest of Puerto Ayora, where we will find a natural reserve with giant tortoises. These enormous and slow-moving reptiles are responsible for the island's name and therefore approaching them in their humid and forested abode is always an inspiring adventure. They can weigh between 250 and 300 kg and can live up to 150-200 years. Difficulty level: easy. Type of terrain: flat & muddy sometimes (depending on season). Duration: 45 minutes drive / 1h30 walk.

* PLEASE NOTE: As an exception to our general policy regarding the inclusion of tips in our tour pricing, gratuities for the ship's crew are NOT included in tour price. (We have found that trying to pre-pay tips on your behalf is not practical, for a number of reasons). Accordingly, we suggest that you allow approximately USD 90-100 total per passenger for satisfactory service.

Return to the M/V Galapagos Legend, check out* and depart to the airport for our flight to Guayaquil.

Overnight in Guayaquil.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 8 Guayaquil - Cajas National Park - Cuenca
This morning we travel by private coach to Cuenca, over the continental divide and via Cajas National Park. En route we stop at a cocoa plantation and learn about its cultivation and the production of Ecuadorian chocolate.

The park contains hundreds of clear, cold lakes, streams and rivers. Weather permitting (which can be highly changeable at this altitude), the park can provide an excellent opportunity for us to hike the grassland of Paramo Region or visit a forest of polelypsis trees, the highest altitude tree in the world. Recently the park's management have brought in llamas and alpacas as part of a breeding program to re-introduce these animals to the southern highlands. Keep your eyes peeled for the many bird species that make the park their home, especially for the silhouette of a soaring (and extremely rare) Andean Condor which can sometimes be spotted here riding the thermal updrafts.

Continue to Cuenca.

Overnight in Cuenca.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 9 Cuenca: Walking Tour & Museo del Banco Central
Once the site of an Inca settlement, Cuenca (2648 m / 8,738 feet) today is considered Ecuador's most beautiful city. Its historical connection with Spain is marked by narrow cobblestone streets, quaint parks and romantic plazas. Charming adobe houses, wrought iron balconies, and religious art treasures capture the spirit of centuries long past. Cuenca, almost hidden away in a southern valley, was isolated until recent times; it wasn't until 1960 that paved roads were built to Quito and Guayaquil. Today Cuenca, Ecuador's third largest city, is surrounded by small villages whose citizens create intricately detailed jewelry, beautiful ceramics, and masterfully designed hand-woven shawls.

This morning we have a leisurely walking tour along the main plaza, Parque Calderon, and enter the old Cathedral, renovated for the visit of Pope John Paul in 1985. We also see the Monastery of El Carmen and visit La Inmaculada Concepcion while strolling the cobbled streets.

This afternoon we visit the Museo del Banco Central, which contains a permanent collection of black and white photos of 19th and early 20th century Cuenca, as well as displays of art and archaeological pieces, and ethnographic dioramas.

We also visit a Panama hat factory. In 1835 Manuel Alfaro, a Spanish entrepreneur, arrived in the port of Guayaquil in the province of Guayas. He settled in nearby Montecristi and quickly realised the economic potential of the toquilla hat setting up his own chain of production from the straw plantations to circuits of weavers. His hats were soon being exported from the ports of Guayaquil and Manta to Panama which was quickly becoming an important centre and staging post for international trade and travel. Here Alfaro opened a commercial centre selling his hats, cacao and pearls, thus beginning the association of the Ecuadorian toquilla hat with Panama.

Overnight in Cuenca.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 10 Cuenca - Ingapirca - Cuenca
A scenic mountain drive brings us to Ecuador's most important Inca site, Ingapirca, located in the Canar Valley, but still at 3165 m (10,445 feet). En route we travel through the beautiful countryside worked by the Canari indigenous people for centuries.

On arrival we visit the site museum and the site itself, where we can admire the Inca's superb mortarless stonework of the Temple of the Sun. Ingapirca is a monumental complex, built up on top of other Canari ruins some 500 years ago by the Inca empire. On top of the elliptical platform was built a structure made of well finished stones. The temple is surrounded by a labyrinth on one side, other walls, terraces and chambers in ruins, and a cliff.

Return to Cuenca.

Overnight in Cuenca.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 11 Cuenca - Quito
Today we fly from Cuenca back to Quito.

Overnight in Quito.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 12 Quito - Mindo Cloud Forest - Quito
Today we have an excursion to Mindo, located on the west side of Quito in a deep valley surrounded by native Andean forest, represents vegetation of three different life zones, from the low subtropical forest to the cloud mountain forest and the high paramo. The drive from Quito takes approximately 2 hours. Due to the difficult access, the ridges around the valley of Mindo have not been used for agricultural purposes and the forest remains almost untouched.

We arrive at a local hosteria, where you will have the opportunity to enjoy easy walks through an ecosystem that contains one of the largest varieties of birds and plant life in the world.

Return to Quito.

Overnight in Quito.

Meal plan: breakfast,dinner

Day 13 Departure
Departure from Quito.


Meal plan: breakfast

Tour Map

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*The red tour trail on the map does not represent the actual travel path.

Hotel List

The following is a list of sample hotels at some locations included on this tour. The hotels shown here are meant to provide a general sense of the standard of hotel we usually aim for; they are not necessarily confirmed for your chosen departure.

Hosteria La Cienega

Rating: 3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation3 Star Accommodation
Location: Quito
Country: Ecuador

Hosteria La Cienega is a historic hacienda located in the heart of the Ecuadorian Andes. Situated just an hour and
... half from Quito, Ecuador on the outskirts of Volcano Cotopaxi and surrounded by the cordillera’s most beautiful snow-capped peaks, the manor has been receiving guests for the last twenty-five years. Rooms are cozy and full of character.

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MV Galapagos Legend

Location: Galapagos
Country: Ecuador

M/V Galapagos Legend is a 110-passenger expedition ship with 1800 sq m of social areas and built with marine certified
... qualifying with Safety of Life at Sea specifications. All cabins are booked in outside cabins; private bathrooms feature hot and cold water, shower, and a hair dryer. Also aboard, a highly trained crew, 24 hour physician, and naturalist multilingual guides. An auditorium for conferences, spacious social areas, dining room, 24 hour coffee bar, swimming pool and sun decks, observation platforms, cocktail bars, long distance calls, fully air-conditioned.

Read More.

Hotel Crespo

Rating: 4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation4 Star Accommodation
Location: Cuenca
Country: Ecuador

One of the finest hotels in Cuenca, above the beautiful River Tomebamba, this is a colonial gem in one of
... America's prettiest cities: the "Athens of the Andes." Rooms are fully equipped with all modern amenities and comforts. Bar, restaurant, room service, internet.

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Trip Information

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Breakfast and dinner daily (hotels and restaurants); all meals on ship. All sightseeing and entrance fees for sites noted as 'visited' in the detailed itinerary (including Galapagos park entry fee). Gratuities for local guides, drivers, restaurant staff, porters. Airport transfers for land & air customers and for early arriving / late departing land & air customers who book their extra hotel nights through us.


Tour Leader gratuity, some lunches, drinks, personal items (phone, laundry, etc), departure taxes, domestic and international air taxes (if applicable). Airport transfers for Land Only customers. Optional trip cancellation insurance. Tips for ship's crew are NOT included (allow USD 100 per person). Our post-reservation trip notes offer further guidance on optional meal costs, shopping, and locally paid departure taxes.

Seasonality and Weather

This tour is offered throughout the year. Mainland: The cool and dry season runs from May to October. Outside this time you will encounter warmer and perhaps rainy / misty conditions in the highlands but serious heat / humidity are only a consideration in the isles.

Islands: Hot Season (warm-rainy), December to April. Average air temperatures range 25-33 C on land and 23-26 C in the water, ideal for snorkeling. It may rain occasionally in the afternoons for an hour or so. The ocean is generally calm due to the absence of the southeast trade winds.

The Cool Season (windy-dry), June to November. The cooler season sees a drop in temperatures 18-27 C on land and 18-23 C in the sea. Rainfall is low, though the islands may seem somewhat moist as an early mist covers the sky. Usually this burns off by mid morning. The seas are moderately strong; surge, choppy waters and some waves should be expected.

Transport and Travel Conditions

Land transport throughout by private air-conditioned motor coach, 24-36 seats depending on ultimate group size (see 'group size'). Numerous walking tours on uneven surfaces. Most people are not seriously affected by altitude (3000-3300 m / 8,500-9,500 ft)-check with your doctor. Flights via scheduled local carrier.


Well-located, heated / air-conditioned, mid-range (3 star) hotels with en suite toilet and bath throughout.

The MV Galapagos Legend is one of the most comfortable boats sailing the Galapagos. With space for 110 passengers, the fully air-conditioned ship offers all the amenities of a cruise liner yet small enough for that intimate experience with nature. All cabins are booked in outside 'superior' class (Junior Suite cabin upgrades available; view cabins on www.gogalapagos.com). Private bathrooms feature hot and cold water, shower, and a hair dryer. Snorkels & masks provided free.

Porter service is usually available in Ecuador though you should be independent with your luggage, especially at airports.

Staff and Support

Tour Leader and driver on mainland only. Ship's crew and naturalist guides in the islands.

Group Size

10-21 (plus Tour Leader)