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Ecuador: The Amazon Rainforest & Galapagos Islands

12 days Land & Cruise
From the Andes highlands of Quito to the lush forests of the Amazon basin, you’ll experience it all. Venture into the heart of Ecuador to encounter colorful birds and exotic animals and learn about indigenous Quichua culture firsthand. Then, snorkel with sea lions, spot blue-footed boobies and make your way past mangrove swamps, lava flows and sunny shores on a cruise through the Galápagos Islands.

Let us handle the details

Expert Tour Director

      Local       cuisine

Handpicked hotels

Sightseeing with local guides

Private transportation

Personalized flight options

Tour group size: 15 - 30 travelers

Tour pace: You will walk for about 2 hours daily across moderately uneven terrain, including cobblestone streets, unpaved trails and sandy paths, with some hills.

Let us handle the details

Expert Tour Director

      Local       cuisine

Handpicked hotels

Sightseeing with local guides

Private transportation

Personalized flight options

Your tour includes

  • 6 nights in handpicked hotels and 4 nights aboard the Galápagos Yacht Isabella II

  • Breakfast daily; 4 lunches and 4 dinners at sea; 3 lunches and 5 three-course dinners on land, with beer or wine included at the welcome and farewell dinners

  • Multilingual Tour Director on land and Wildlife Naturalist Guide on the cruise

  • Private deluxe motor coach, flights from Quito to the Galapagos Islands and the Galapagos Islands to Guayaquil

  • Guided sightseeing and select entrance fees

Map of Tour of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, and Peru

Quito 2 nights Hotel info

Day 1: Flight & late-night arrival in Quito

Welcome to Ecuador! Arrive in Quito late this evening and transfer to your hotel.

Day 2: Sightseeing tour of Quito

  Included meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Today, embark on a guided sightseeing tour of Quito, the Ecuadorian capital.

• Marvel at the neo-Gothic Basilica of the National Vow

• Enjoy a walking tour of Old Town, passing by the Legislative Palace, Independence Square and the Metropolitan Cathedral

• Enter the Baroque Church of the Society of Jesus to view its famed gold-leaf interior

• Step inside the 16th-century Monastery of San Francisco

Then, make you way outside of the city for a visit to the Equatorial Monument. Stand with one foot on either side of the equator before exploring the museum and surrounding colonial town. Later, gather with your fellow travelers for tonight’s welcome dinner.

Amazon Region 2 nights Hotel info

Day 3: Transfer to the Amazon Region

  Included meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Pass through the Andes Mountains on your way to Punta Ahuano, located in the Amazon rainforest.

• View spectacular scenery, including volcanoes and cloud forests

• At Punta Ahuano, board a canoe for a short ride down the Napo River 

Later, journey on foot to the indigenous village of Ahuano to learn about the traditional culture of the Quichua, the Quechuas of Ecuador.

• Enjoy a tasting of chicha, a traditional corn beverage, and see how it’s made

• Witness ancient spiritual cleansing rituals still commonly practiced today

• Take part in a blowgun target-shooting contest

Day 4: Cosano, amaZOOnico & butterfly house

  Included meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

This morning, board an authentic dugout canoe and set out to explore the surrounding rainforest with a local guide.

• On a nature walk, keep an eye out for monkeys and the hundreds of tropical bird species that call the area home 

• See hunting traps traditionally used by local tribes and learn about how they work

Afterward, pay a visit to the amaZOOnico Animal Rescue Center, an institution for wounded and displaced tropical rainforest animals. Then, stop at a nearby butterfly house to learn about the life cycle of this beautiful insect.

Papallacta 1 night Hotel info

Day 5: Transfer to Papallacta

  Included meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

After a short canoe ride back to Punta Ahuano, take a scenic drive through the Andes highlands. Stop in the small riverside town of Baeza for photos and lunch, then make your way to the village of Papallacta for a relaxing soak in its thermal pools.

Galapagos cruise 4 nights Hotel info

Day 6: Flight to the Galápagos & embarkation

  Included meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Depart from your hotel early this morning to fly from Quito to the island of San Cristóbal in the Galápagos, where you’ll board your cruise.

• Explore Punta Pitt, an eroded tuff cone, before sailing to Santa Cruz Island

• Take a panga boat ride along the coast or go for a trail walk that includes scenic views of the shoreline

• Try to spot the three species of booby birds that nest on the island

Day 7: Santa Fe & South Plaza islands

  Included meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

This morning, take a dinghy ride to Santa Fe Island, known for its large population of sea lions. 

• Follow your guide on a walk, passing beautiful scenery as you go

• Stay on the lookout for the endemic land iguana

• Take to the water for snorkeling and swimming or a ride on a glass-bottomed boat

Later this afternoon, explore South Plaza Island on a nature walk, keeping an eye out for sea lions, frigates, swallow-tailed gulls and shearwaters.

Day 8: North Seymour & Santa Cruz islands

  Included meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

After a dry landing, spend a full day exploring the islands of North Seymour and Santa Cruz. 

• Walk along the coastline with your guide, keeping your eyes peeled for shore birds and flamingos

• Spend the afternoon sailing in a glass-bottom boat or explore the underwater world and snorkel off Las Bachas beach

Day 9: Bartolome & Santiago islands

  Included meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Enjoy a day discovering the unique ecology of the Galápagos Islands. 

• Take in Bartolome Island’s many unique seabird colonies, which include waved albatrosses, Nazca boobies, blue-footed boobies and swallow-tailed gulls

• Board a dinghy for a cruise around Pinnacle Rock, a towering geologic formation 

• Walk along extensive lava flows on Santiago Island, formed by volcanic eruptions at the end of the 19th century

Guayaquil 1 night Hotel info

Day 10: Guayaquil

  Included meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Disembark from your cruise on Baltra Island this morning. Then, board your flight to Guayaquil. Later tonight, gather with your group for a farewell dinner.

Day 11: Sightseeing tour of Guayaquil & departure

  Included meals: Breakfast

With your Tour Director as your guide, set out on a walking tour of Guayaquil, the largest and most populous city in Ecuador.

• Starting in Centennial Plaza, drive along 9th of October Boulevard to the Plaza of the Administration, home to the city’s government and municipal buildings

• Pass by the Moorish Clock Tower and enter Bolívar Park to view the famed statue of  Simón Bolívar and the neo-Gothic Metropolitan Cathedral

• Drive to the Malecon 2000 to see the Crystal Palace, Integration Square, Plaza of the Flags and Plaza Olmedo before walking to La Rotonda

• Make your way through Barrio Las Peñas, one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods

Later, transfer to the airport for your overnight flight home or connecting flight to Lima if you’re extending your stay to explore Peru.

Overnight Flight 1 night

Day 12: Arrival in the U.S.

Arrive home.

Add Peru Starting from $1,299 pp

Experience Peru in all its diversity. Wander the colonial cities that display the legacy of Spanish conquistadors, explore the ancient Inca capital of Cuzco and visit the lost city of Machu Picchu.

Lima 2 nights

Day 11: Flight to Lima

  Included meals: Breakfast

After a day of sightseeing in Guayaquil, board your flight to Lima this evening.

Day 12: Sightseeing tour of Lima

  Included meals: Breakfast

This morning, set out on a guided tour highlighting the capital city’s modern and colonial quarters.

• Explore the Miraflores District and Love Park

• Stop in the San Isidro District to visit Huaca Huallamarca temple and its museum

• View Plaza Mayor and the Municipal Palace in Lima’s historic center

• Enter the Cathedral of Lima and the Monastery of San Francisco, where you can descend into the catacombs

• Visit the Larco Herrera Museum, known for its collection of pre-Columbian art

Cuzco 2 nights

Day 13: Flight to Cuzco

  Included meals: Breakfast

Board your flight to Cuzco this morning, then enjoy a free afternoon to explore the city on your own.

Day 14: Sightseeing tour of Cuzco

  Included meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Join a local guide on today’s tour of Cuzco, the ancient capital of the Inca people.

• Stop to view the Cristo Blanco, a thank-you gift from the Palestinian refugees who took shelter in the city during World War II

• Admire the old Spanish cathedral, La Merced Church, Plaza de Armas and the Convent of Santo Domingo

• Travel to three of the area’s Inca archaeological sites, including Sacsayhuaman, Cuzco’s most impressive Inca ruins

Machu Picchu Region 1 night

Day 15: Aguas Calientes via the Sacred Valley

  Included meals: Breakfast, Lunch

Stop in the Sacred Valley to see the sights en route to Aguas Calientes, the gateway to Machu Picchu.

• Peruse the colorful stalls of the wide-open Pisac Market, where you’ll find local fare and traditional crafts on display

• Continue to the Ollantaytambo ruins to explore still-standing Inca homes

Cuzco 1 night

Day 16: Sightseeing tour of Machu Picchu

  Included meals: Breakfast, Lunch

On today’s guided tour, you’ll uncover the lost city of Machu Picchu, one of the most spectacular archaeological sites on the entire South American continent.

• Tour the ruins of the ceremonial center, cultivation terraces and guard house

• Visit Funeral Rock, the Main Temple, Temple of the Three Windows, Chamber of Ornaments, the Sacred Plaza, the Intihuatana Stone, the Temple of the Sun, the Rock Quarry, the Ritual Fountains and the Condor Temple

• Enjoy a scenic train ride through the Sacred Valley on your way back to Cuzco

Day 17: Flight to Lima & departure

  Included meals: Breakfast (excluding early morning departures)

Board your flight to Lima this morning, then relax in a dayroom before your overnight flight home.

Overnight Flight 1 night

Day 18: Arrival in the U.S.

Arrive home.

How's the weather?

  • Quito, Ecuador
  • Guayaquil
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Passport & visa requirements

In order to enter Ecuador (and Peru on the tour extension), U.S. and Canadian citizens need a valid passport. The expiration date must extend at least six months beyond the date of your return home. No visa is required for U.S. or Canadian citizens. If you’re not a U.S. or Canadian citizen, you must contact each country’s consulate for your specific entry requirements.

About your Galápagos cruise

Your Galápagos cruise offers the latest in cruise comfort while also providing an intimate and environmentally safe look at the Galápagos Islands. The ship features an outdoor jacuzzi, observation decks, library, bar and large restaurant. Choose from a wide variety of activities in your free time—everything from snorkeling to stargazing. Download a detailed summary of the ship’s amenities and available cabins [PDF].

Baggage allowance

Airlines have varying weight restrictions on luggage. Some airlines may impose additional charges if you choose to check any baggage; be advised that you are responsible for any such costs. Contact your airline for detailed information regarding luggage size and weight restrictions for your flight, but please note that Go Ahead travelers are restricted to one checked bag per person due to storage limitations on motor coaches and other internal transfers, which may include train connections or flights. One carry-on bag is also permitted, provided that it does not exceed 45 total inches (length + width + height). Make sure you label your baggage and carry valuables, medication and documents in your carry-on bag. Please note that there may be times when you will have to handle your own bags.

Clothing & packing tips

For your Galápagos cruise, casual dress is appropriate; however, shorts and sandals aren’t allowed in the dining room during dinner. Waterproof shoes or sandals, a bathing suit, sunscreen and insect repellent are essential for your tour. On land, you’ll want to dress in light, loose-fitting clothing and pack a sun hat, sunglasses, sturdy pair of walking shoes and rain gear. In addition, for sightseeing, we suggest bringing sunscreen, a flashlight and a lightweight sports jacket. You may also want binoculars for observing wildlife in the Amazon, as well as insect repellent and longer clothing for the jungle. If you plan to visit an elegant restaurant, you’ll probably feel more comfortable with something more formal to wear. Also, it’s preferable not to visit churches or other religious sites with bare legs and shoulders and that entrance may be denied on this basis.

Health

Visitors to Ecuador should be comfortable with traveling in high-altitude conditions. Elevation throughout the country varies widely. The altitude of Quito is close to 10,000 feet (Cuzco, on the tour extension, is 11,000 feet). All travelers, especially those with heart or lung conditions, should consult with their personal healthcare providers before high-altitude travel. Additionally, there is risk of contracting malaria in the Amazon, so be sure to check with your doctor at least eight weeks prior to departure about possible preventative measures.

Important health tips

In order for you to stay healthy throughout your tour, we recommend the following:  • Drink bottled water. Refrain from drinking tap water, including when brushing teeth. • Avoid eating fresh fruits and vegetables unless they are cooked or washed in clean water and peeled. • Bring a small first-aid kit, including antacids, anti-diarrhea medication and any prescription medications.

Cuisine

Food in Ecuador relies heavily on locally grown fruits and vegetables, along with regional seafood and game. You’re likely to find local dishes featuring potatoes, yucca root, bananas and plantains. Seafood, including bass, trout and catfish, is also prevalent and served grilled, fried or marinated as ceviche. Ecuador’s tropical fruit is delicious—specialties include melons, papayas, passion fruit and tamarinds.

Transportation

Round-trip flights booked through Go Ahead arrive in and depart from Quito (or Lima on the tour extension). The tour also includes internal flights from Quito to the Galápagos Islands via Guayaquil, the Galápagos Islands to Guayaquil and Guayaquil to Quito, as well as a four-night island cruise. The tour extension includes internal flights from Guayaquil to Cuzco and from Cuzco to Lima. Most destinations on this tour are walkable, including Quito, although local buses are available as well.

Electricity

Ecuador uses 110 volts, the same as the U.S.

Time zones

Ecuador does not observe daylight saving time. Ecuador has the same time as New York from October to April, and is one hour behind New York from April to October.

Currency

The U.S. dollar (USD) is the currency you’ll use in Ecuador. On land, you’ll find that ATMS are widely available. During your cruise, any on-board charges can be billed to your credit card. Please note that U.S. bank notes with denominations higher than $20 may not be accepted in some areas of Ecuador. If you’re joining the tour extension to Peru, you’ll also use the Peruvian sol. Better rates of exchange are usually available in Peru, although it’s worth ordering some currency from your local bank to use when you first arrive. We suggest that you inform your bank and credit card company of your travel plans, so that they won’t confuse your international purchases for fraudulent charges. Please note: If you will be exchanging U.S. dollar bills in Peru, we advise that they be in new condition, as most vendors will not accept bills if they are wrinkled or dirty.

Tipping

On your cruise, tipping your waiter, busser and cabin steward is customary if you’re pleased with the service. Gratuities are generally given at the end of the voyage. We recommend $15 per traveler per day, to be divided among your waiter, busser and cabin steward. Separate tips are recommended for the naturalist guides. We recommend $8 per person per day. All cruise tipping can be handled by cash or by credit card. At the conclusion of your tour, it’s customary to offer your Tour Director and driver a gratuity. We recommend tipping in your tour country’s currency, the equivalent of $3USD/CAD per person per day for your driver and $6USD/CAD to $9USD/CAD per person per day for your Tour Director.

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