Welcome to Ecuador’s capital, Quito! Meet up with your Contiki Team & group before exploring – we’ll start the trip out right with a tour around the city so you can get your bearings. Our expert guide will teach you all about this city & the history of the Inca & Spanish invasion which happened in the 15th Century, you’ll get the opportunity to check out the colonial-era buildings that still stand in Old Town. This UNESCO World Heritage city is Ecuador’s second largest, with a population over 2 million. Although this city has a rich historical past dating back to the Incas, today it’s a popular & modern city that sprawls across this Andean landscape – and you’ll experience some of the best views 200m above the town at the Panciello lookout, which features La Virgen del Panecillo, a majestic sculpture that stands overlooking the city. Later, visit the Equatorial line & wander between the two hemispheres as you visit the Inti Nan Museum. We’ll have dinner with the group so you can get you know your travel buddies. The city has a great nightlife scene & some great local treats to try. Ecuadorian fresh fruit juice and steaming cafe con leche are amongst some of the must-try delights on offer here. If you feel like doing as the locals do, you could sip on a canelazo, made from hot water, sugarcane alcohol, lemon, sugar, and cinnamon – it’s a typical of the Andean region.
It’s out of the city & into the lush jungle with spectacular views as we make our way to Tena – the gateway to Ecuador’s Amazon Jungle. This attractive & quiet city is the perfect place to relax & soak up the local attractions. First stop is a visit to thermal pool for a refreshing swim – these baths are located on the banks of the Papallacta River with the Andres as your backdrop – it’s a great way to relax those muscles. Later, we’re back on the road towards Tena, with a last stop at a hummingbird sanctuary to see some of these amazing birds up close. Here you’ll learn about these incredible species & why Ecuador’s diverse climate & unique eco-system produces such large number of these gorgeous creatures. Tonight, why not sit back with a drink & soak up the views.
This morning is all about ME Time so you make the call, relax and explore Tena for yourself. As the gateway to the Amazon – getting out on the water or into the jungle is a must. Get the heart rate up and go rafting on a selection of Tena’s beautiful rivers, or head to the animal refugee centre & meet a number of friendly animals, some in danger of extinction. Then it’s back on the road to ‘The Gateway to the Amazon’ Baños, nestled under the still active Tungurahua Volcano.
Situated in a valley of waterfalls and hot springs, Baños has become a mecca for international travellers seeking year-round temperate weather, a small town atmosphere, and a base for exploring the great Ecuadorian outdoors. The town offers hot springs, horseback riding, trekking, rafting, climbing and mountain biking so it's a haven for the explorer. With a free day, get into the action the way you want - outdoor revellers amongst us will love the network of trails criss-crossing the mountains surrounding Baños. You could walk half an hour to the Virgin Monument, ride horseback to a waterfall, or try canyoneering down waterfalls - the choice is yours. Tonight, grab your dancing shoes because tonight its time to salsa! Get a taste of the addictive Latin American dance phenomenon. Learn the essential Salsa steps, in a fun & energetic atmosphere with our expert locals giving you a taste of how it’s done. The rhythm of salsa music will take over your body & by the end of the night you’ll be salsa dancing with style & confidence. Then we finish up with a tasty local feast.
Today we’re off to discover Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest city & its economic hub. This cosmopolitan city is one of Ecuador’s new hotspots, a walk down to the Malecón (Cities riverfront) is as must. For a bit of a historic enlightenment why not venture to Las Peñas, one of the most emblematic neighborhoods of Guayaquil, its narrow streets and interesting past makes it a great visit. Why not a climb to the top of Santa Ana Hill? It’s worth the effort as it offers beautiful views and a chance to stand on the site of the city's birthplace. Tonight we set sail on a sunset cruise down the Guayas River in a Captain Morgan replica pirate boat, relax as see spectacular views of the city, Las Peñas, colourful Cerro Santa Ana, and the Malecón 2000. You’ll have the opportunity to buy drinks and nibbles while you soak up the vanishing sun before heading off to Guayaquil.
After our flight, we'll make our way to the cute little town of Puerto Ayora, but not before your first taste of the incredible natural habitat here - en route we'll stop to check out the famed giant tortoises in their natural surroundings, and some of the incredible old lava tunnels (some over 1km long) winding their way under the island of Santa Cruz. We’ll stop for lunch before getting out on the water for our first boat ride to Isabela - this nature haven is home to land and sea life that will astound and amaze. Once we arrive on the island we’ll head to the highlands for our first night in the National Park. As you chill and get to know your travel buddies keep an eye out for the friendly reintroduced wild tortoises roaming around. Tonight, relax over dinner & get ready for two nights in this beautiful spot.
This morning we’ll grab some kayaks & get out on the water around Las Tintoreras where we’ll set out in search for the Galapagos Penguin – the only penguin found north of the Equator! You’ll also have opportunity to see the popular iguana nesting site that is home to hundreds of marine iguanas. On return, spot colourful fish as you snorkel the underground lava tubes. This area is often frequented by green sea turtles that like to rest on the calm, sandy bottom, so make sure you are on the lookout for these incredible creatures as you snorkel through the clear blue water. Then this afternoon we’ll walk to the Wall of Tears. From 1945 to 1959 this place held prisoners who were forced to build this wall stone by stone. At 25m tall, it took thousands of lives during its construction. Legend has it that cries of those lost can be heard at the site.
This morning we’ll head to the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center to learn about the island’s natural history on a guided tour, before we take off Santa Cruz Island. Before heading to Santa Cruz Island, you can choose to chill or get active, it's up to you! If you feel like getting out and about, this afternoon’s optional activity is a guided trip to the gorgeous Tortuga Bay. After a half an hour stroll along a path you'll arrive at a stretch of white sandy beach where marine iguanas sunbathe. You also have an opportunity to kayak in the bay in search of sharks, rays, turtles, and great blue herons. This pristine beach is absolute heaven! Not ready to wield a paddle? No worries – this is the perfect opportunity to sun bathe, body surf, surf, or look for marine iguanas, lava gulls and the famous blue- footed boobies. If you aren’t feeling up for the walk, take to the streets and go local or head to town to shop for souvenirs or relax.
This morning we’ll pay a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station, once home to one of the island’s most famous residents, the world-famous Lonesome George – who was 100 years old when he died. Here you’ll observe many species of tortoises and land iguanas brought back form the brink of extinction and learn about this centre and research facility. Later we're back on the boat as we head to our next island, San Cristobal. - keep an eye out for bathing sea lions that the island is known for! This island is made up of four volcanoes – all extinct – and later, we’ll head up into the highlands for a scenic downhill bike ride. Starting at a panoramic viewpoint called La Soledad, we’ll bike through the tiny town of El Progreso and five different and varied vegetation zones until we reach a beach La Loberia beach. From there you can check out some of the other locals - we’ll be able to watch cute sea lions sun bathing, playing and vying for our attention. Tonight, it’s all about relaxing over drinks at one of our favourite local spots while watching the sunset.
Today we take to the water to get our last glimpse of the famous and equally incredible underwater world of Galapagos. First we’ll cruise along the coast in our boat where our Local Guide will point out the species of shore birds like the Great Frigatebird and other native species. We'll anchor in a channel near Isla Lobos or Sea Lion Island where we’ll get our own fins wet as we snorkel to find damselfish, puffer fish, and, hopefully, curious and cute sea lion pups! From there we continue to Kicker Rock (or Leon Dormido as it’s known by the locals) the remains of a tuff cone - Kicker Rock rising a massive over 143m out of the ocean (that's about 50 floors in building terms). We’ll check out the underwater landscape as we head along the edge and through a channel of this drastic compact ash formation. Your Local Guide will keep you in the know as we look out for sea turtles, spotted eagle rays, chocolate chip starfish, and, with any luck, a Galapagos Shark or two. Don’t worry, they won’t be as interested in you as you are in them, so it's perfectly safe. Later we’ll head to Puerto Grande, a beautiful beach accessible only by boat, which is our final stop for the day. After lunch on board, spend your time swimming in the turquoise water or snapping photos of Kicker Rock in the distance. We’ll head back to town late afternoon where we'll be treated to one of the best BBQ’s in the Galapagos at one of the local’s favorite spots to celebrate a great Galapagos trip.
The trip is about to come to an end, but its not over yet. Make the most of the time you have left & soak up those last rays and have a few photos with the crew. Next up is Guayaquil, where it’s time to say ‘adios’ to your team & travel buddies as your tour ends after breakfast.