Arrive Quito, Ecuador
Arrive in Quito, Ecuador, where you are met and transferred to your hotel. The next day, transfer to the edge of the city for an awesome ride on TeleferiQo, an aerial gondola. The gondola deposits you at the top of an active volcano, 12,950 feet above sea level, where you take in marvelous vistas of the area, before descending the mountain for lunch. Afterward, visit La Mitad del Mundo Equatorial Line Monument, dedicated to the 18th-century French expedition that first established the position of the equator. Next, visit the intimate Inti Ñan Museum to see examples of pre-Columbian customs and daily life in Ecuador. Stop to watch or partake in a brief soccer match with local children at one of Quito’s modern parks (weather permitting) or at an indoor facility. Then, walk Quito’s historic district, visiting San Francisco Church and continue to the Plaza de la Independencia, the city’s oldest colonial center, and admire the nearby Cathedral, Government Palace and Archbishop’s Palace, before returning to your hotel. Tonight, gather for a welcome dinner at a local restaurant.
BALTRA, THE GALÁPAGOS | ON BOARD ‘LA PINTA’
Fly to Baltra in the Galápagos Islands, where you board ‘La Pinta.’ After a welcome briefing, enjoy lunch on board. This afternoon, begin exploring the Galápagos, starting at South Plaza Island. Observe the native flora, such as the prickly-pear cactus, a favorite snack of the land iguanas that roam the island like real-life dragons. Scan the coastline for playful sea lions and colorful wild birds. Tonight, and each evening, back aboard ‘La Pinta,’ enjoy a variety of all-ages activities designed to capture the imaginations of young explorers, including fun quizzes, making handicrafts and learning some Spanish words.
Cruising the Galápagos | Life of Tortoises
Today, discover Santa Fe Island, boarding a panga for a brief ride to its idyllic sandy-white beaches. Walk the onshore terrain, keeping a lookout for wild residents: a curious sea lion coming to greet you, a Galápagos hawk perched atop salt bushes or a Santa Fe land iguana sunning itself on a rock. Then, snorkel and swim along a natural wave barrier or ride in a glass-bottom boat, for a cool glimpse into life beneath the waves. Break for lunch back on board, as you set a course toward San Cristobal Island. Disembark at Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, and drive to the breeding center for highly endangered giant tortoises at Cerro Colorado, set in a fantastic deciduous forest.
Cruising the Galápagos | Darwin’s Legacy
Land on San Cristobal Island and set out on a trail that ascends from the beach to a lookout offering you spectacular shoreline views. Observe frigate birds and a colony of sea lions, and, if conditions are favorable, swim from the beach. After lunch on board, take a panga to Cerro Brujo and walk the same sandy shore once trod by Charles Darwin, the 19th-century English naturalist whose theory of evolution began with the firsthand observations he made of life in the Galápagos.
Cruising the Galápagos | Punta Suárez
Begin at Punta Suárez, walking on lava terrain to visit the island’s seabird colonies. Depending on the time of year, you may spy soaring waved albatrosses, boobies or swallow-tail gulls; watch for marine iguanas, too. After lunch aboard, cruise Gardner Bay and go ashore to observe the sea lions, mockingbirds and finches. The bay has a magnificent beach; this is a great place to snorkel or kayak or ride the glass-bottomed boat.
Baltra & Quito | Darwin Research Center
Disembark on Santa Cruz Island to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station and learn about the captive rearing program for the giant tortoises. Afterward, ferry to Baltra and fly to Quito for a farewell dinner and overnight.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport to depart.