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Ecuador & Galápagos: From the Andes to the Amazon
Encounter the rich wildlife of the Galapagos islands, hike through Cotopaxi National Park and uncover the city charms of Quito.
About your trip
This 13-day adventure will take you from the volcanic plains of Ecuador to the virgin islands of Galapagos.
On this unique itinerary, you’ll hike the Avenue of the Volcanoes, with its snow-capped peaks, before rafting down the mighty rivers of the Amazon Basin.
Then, you’ll experience the lush biodiversity of the Galápagos Islands, exploring a landscape shaped by intense volcanic activity.
From the Amazon basin to the Andes, you’ll tick-off some of South America’s biggest highlights.
- Local transport
- Most meals included
- Max 14 travellers per group
- Atol protected
- Private airport transfers
Remember, flights aren't included. We're happy to help you find the best ones for you.
Day 01 Welcome to Quito
Welcome to Quito, Ecuador’s highland capital. After arriving at your hotel, head out with your fellow travellers for a welcome feast at a traditional restaurant in the Old Town. With a menu boasting Ecuadorian staples, familiarise yourself with the local cuisine as you settle into the first night of adventure with your fellow travellers.
Day 02 Standing on the equator
This morning, you’ll have the unique opportunity to visit the Mitad del Mundo – a monument marking the equator line that gives Ecuador its name. Soak up the warm rays at the middle of the world, following an ancient tradition since pre-Inca times (sun worship never gets old). Then, in the afternoon, head out with your group to explore Quito’s Old Town by foot, uncovering its colonial cathedrals and monasteries. Later, you’ll learn about local chocolate-making traditions, with a guided tour and an exclusive tasting at the Republica del Cacao. After a light appetiser of artisanal chocolate, enjoy an indulgent five-course meal in one of Quito’s finest restaurants.
Day 03 Volcanic hiking & horseback riding
Today’s adventure will take you up into the volcanic highlands of Cotopaxi National Park, which is where you’ll bed down this evening. Upon arrival, begin the day with some beautiful hiking routes through the mountains – replete with shimmering lakes and snow-capped volcanoes. Take a gentle hike through the foothills of the world’s second highest active volcano, savouring the serenity of the mountains. After a picnic lunch, it’s time to channel your inner cowboy: you’ll meet a local chagra – an Andean cattle-farmer – who will guide you through the mountains by horseback. Spend the evening unwinding in a historic hacienda, beneath thousands of mountain stars.
Day 04 Waterfall sights & epic swinging
You’ll spend this morning exploring the lush landscape around the Pita River, following pathways formed by petrified lava. Make your way to the river’s main waterfall, where you’ll love cooling off beneath the refreshing mists. En route to Baños later in the morning, put your haggling skills to the test and chat to locals as you pass through an indigenous market. After lunch in town, head up to one of the iconic highlights of Baños: the Casa del arbol. This famous treehouse is home to a unique swing, suspended off the edge of the canyon. Glide through the air, with the valley unfolding below you. We’ve left the afternoon free for you to relax.
Day 05 Between volcanoes and rainforest
Pailon del Diablo – that’s ‘devil’s cauldron’ in Spanish – is a mighty waterfall on the road down to the Amazon. You’ll arrive there by mountain bike; pause to admire the waters crashing over the rocks, bubbling in the canyon below. Then, make your way to Tena: our gateway to the Amazon. Settle into your new rainforest surroundings, with a replenishing lunch served at the lodge. Later on, we recommend hiking the jungle under nightfall, equipped with a flashlight and camera. Listen carefully to the sounds of fishing bats, owls and toads, with starlight trickling through the canopy.
Day 06 Trekking in the Amazon Basin
Wake up early this morning, taking a canoe upstream to uncover a parrot clay lick in the Amazon. This natural geological formation is the place where hundreds of parrots flock in the early morning, to gather key minerals that are essential to their diet (mind any falling bird droppings). Back at the lodge, fuel up on breakfast, before you venture back into the rainforest under the guidance of an expert naturalist. Learn all about the local flora and fauna along the trail, with an abundance of wildlife to keep you company. In the afternoon, you’ll meet one of the local Quechua communities, who will show you their way of life and their relationship with the rainforest. After a day of jungle exploration, return to the lodge just in time for dinner.
Day 07 River rafting thrills
Fuel up on a big breakfast today, as you’ll be rafting down the rapids of Rio Jatunyacu. This is one of the main tributaries of the region, flowing into the almighty Amazon Basin. This is a full-day activity, and it’s more intense than it sounds. Cut through the rainforest as the currents carry you downstream, with the rainforest birds fluttering overhead. Back at the lodge, you’ve earned your right to feast to your heart’s content. Relax your action-pumped muscles after a day on the river, with a refreshing drink in hand.
Day 08 Back into the Andean highlands
From the Amazon back up to the Andean plateau, today’s adventure will be spent in the highlands. Ease into the day with a gentle hike through Cayambe – Coca National Park. This beautiful region is characterised by pristine lakes, snow-capped mountains and vast grasslands – a quietly breathtaking hiking experience. After exploring the national park by foot, make your way to the Papallacta Spa in the highlands, where you’ll spend the rest of the afternoon unwinding in these atmospheric hot springs. With mountains and rainforest expanding around you, what a perfect way to recuperate after yesterday’s activities.
Day 09 Hello, Galapagos
Today, you’re off to the Galapagos Islands. With unique wildlife roaming its shores, from giant tortoises to inquisitive sea lions, this is an area of intense and famed biodiversity and natural splendour. Upon arrival in Santa Cruz, head straight to the Itabaca Canal to explore the coast by kayak. Paddle through red mangrove forests and along cliff banks formed through ancient lava flows, keeping an eye out for sea lions and reef sharks as you go. Later in the afternoon, head up into the highlands to a giant tortoise reserve, conveniently located beside our glamping site. Bordering the National Park, this vast habitat is home to the island’s iconic creatures, where they roam freely without any threat of predators. Then, settle into your camp for the evening, with dinner and drinks overlooking the hills – with perhaps a wandering giant tortoise for company.
Day 10 Adventures on the archipelago
This morning will see you explore the remote islands of the archipelago by boat, uncovering distant shores under the guidance of a naturalist. Disembark to explore one of the islands of the national park, with time to appreciate the spectacular wildlife and pristine natural surroundings. Lunch will be served aboard the boat, with the refreshing sea breeze keeping us cool. Back on Santa Cruz, head out with your group for a unique dinner in a lava tunnel that has been adapted into a cosy restaurant. Bon appetit.
Day 11 Spectacular wildlife sights
After a very early breakfast, make your way to Isabela, the largest of the Galapagos islands but also one of the least inhabited. Upon arrival, you’ll bike to the island’s breeding centre, where the local giant tortoise population is slowly recuperating. Here, you’ll learn about the process of breeding, as the guide talks you through the challenges facing conservation and reintroducing these creatures to the wild. Continue your bike journey, exploring a network of paths winding through the island. Uncover the island in its full biodiverse beauty, weaving through different varieties of mangrove trees amid colonies of marine iguanas and flamingos en route. Stop for lunch at a local restaurant in town, before heading out to explore the Tintoreras islets. Spend the afternoon snorkelling alongside playful sea lions, who are inquisitive and friendly by nature.
Day 12 Hike to the caldera of Sierra Negra
Wake up early this morning – you’ll be hiking up to the caldera of Sierra Negra. Isabela is one of the youngest and most volcanic islands of Galapagos – and the mighty Sierra Negra is a testament to the island’s intense volcanic nature. At the peak, you’ll encounter the world’s second largest caldera – a colossal crater impossible to capture in an image. Absorb spectacular views over the archipelago, before returning to town just in time for lunch. In the afternoon, hit the beach for a few hours of relaxation. You’ll also have the option to kayak around the bay – a great spot for seeking out penguins and sea lions. In the evening, head out with your group for your last dinner on Isabela.
Day 13 Adiós Ecuador
After breakfast at the hotel, make your way to Guayaquil on mainland Ecuador, where your journey comes to its end. It’s now over to you to make your way to your next destination. Not quite done with South America? Why not extend your escape with our bestselling Peru adventure?
Our Favourite Hotels
Browse a selection of our favourite hotels, for a flavour of where you may stay on this trip.
Magic Galapagos, Santa Cruz
Highland campsite with doorstep access to incredible wildlife
Located high in the wilderness, sink into the natural surroundings of the island secluded from the town.
Why we stay here
Bed down beneath the stars in beautiful safari tents, with giant tortoises roaming around you. This campsite will allow you to experience a unique wildlife phenomenon in the heart of the Galapagos.
Hotel del Parque, Guayaquil
Beautiful restored building located in the heart of the historic park
Surrounded by leafy boulevards and colonial buildings, this hotel blends comfort and elegance to enchanting effect.
Why we stay here
Sleep in comfort with the park at your doorstep, with experiences from chocolate harvesting to coffee roasting at your disposal.
Fly into Quito Airport (UIO) and depart from Guayaquil Airport (GYE).
We suggest that you arrive in Quito before 2pm on day 1, although we will arrange an airport transfer for you at whichever time you arrive. We suggest departing after 4.30pm on the final day.
Please note that you’ll have to pay a fee of $100 in cash upon entering the Galapagos National Park.
Please be aware that the itinerary, activities and hotels are subject to change. These changes can happen with little notice due to availability, poor weather, seasonal changes, or other circumstances beyond our control – but we’ll do our best to ensure it has little impact on your adventure. From time to time we may also make changes to your itinerary to try out new ideas and keep things fresh and exciting.
We take safety very seriously on Flash Pack adventures, read more here.
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