Arrive in Quito any time today and REI provides the transfer to our hotel for the evening. All meals on your own.
We depart early from Quito and head east on a scenic road over a high Andean pass in the Eastern Cordillera (13,335') that descends into the upper Amazon Basin. We spend the next two nights in a jungle lodge near the Kichwa town of Tena. After a hearty lunch at our lodge, we'll head out to explore the jungle on foot in search of waterfalls and wildlife. After our hike, we continue on our way to a Kichwa village where we learn a bit about their way of life and their traditions. There's the opportunity to witness and participate in community activities that may include such things as making the traditional Amazon Kichwa drink "Chicha de Yuca", storytelling with a local shaman, visiting an ancient petroglyph site, and a demonstration of the use of the "serbatana," a traditional blowpipe used for hunting. Enjoy dinner back at the lodge and fall asleep tonight to the sounds of the jungle. All meals included.
Driving time: 4 to 6 hours depending on traffic and road conditions.
Today we visit Llanganates National Park, which extends from the high Andes to the Amazon Basin. Llanganates is singularly beautiful for its undisturbed nature and its colorful history. Legend has it that the fabulous gold treasure of Atahualpa (El Dorado) was hidden within this area by a famed 15th-century Inca warrior. Since the first recorded history, adventurers in search of the treasure have ventured into the park—to no avail. Ours is an easier journey! We begin with a short hike to swimming pools for a quick dip before our whitewater rafting adventure. Rafting the Rio Jatunyacu offers spectacular scenery, crystal-clear water and glimpses of indigenous communities that live along its shores. We return to our jungle lodge for the evening. After dinner, we explore a nearby trail to learn about howler monkeys, bats, and other mammals that make up the incredible nocturnal wildlife of the Amazon basin. All meals included.
Rafting: Class III / II river(s), half day. Depending upon water conditions and other factors we may raft the Anzu River, Class ll. Your guide will discuss this with the group. Hiking: up to 1 hour; Terrain: flat, dirt trails with muddy sections.
We depart the Amazon this morning, climbing from the lush jungle and over the Andes. We arrive at Papallacta Hot Springs for lunch, located in a verdant cloud forest between the Antisana and Cayambe volcanoes. After checking into our rooms, we can relish a soak in the mineral-rich thermal pools this afternoon before dinner. Breakfast and lunch included; dinner on your own.
Driving time: 4 to 5 hours depending on traffic and road conditions.
This morning it's up and out to the Galapagos Islands! After flying to Baltra Island, we drive to the lush highlands of the Chato Reserve on Santa Cruz Island, the natural habitat of the Galapagos tortoise. In addition to sighting these lumbering giants, we also enjoy great bird watching. There are finches, egrets, flycatchers and many, many more. If you haven't started a "bird life list," now is the time! Enjoy a delicious lunch at a highlands hacienda before heading to Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz's lively town, to check into our hotel. Late this afternoon, a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station is a must in order to appreciate the current and ongoing efforts to manage and conserve this archipelago. Overnight on the waterfront in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz. All meals included.
After breakfast we settle into our kayaks to paddle Santa Cruz Island's turquoise waters. Exploring the quiet side of Divine Bay, we paddle through waters that wind through high-walled lava channels where blue-footed boobies, herons and marine iguanas perch along jagged cliffs. Keep your eyes open for whitetip sharks and rays below the waves. This afternoon we have the option of hiking to Tortuga Bay, a beautiful white sandy beach and nesting area for thousands of marine turtles. There's the possibility for a swim here as well. Overnight in Puerto Ayora. All meals included.
Sea Kayaking: 2-3 hours in protected waters. Hiking: 3 miles (option up to 5 miles).
We take a fast boat or fly (weather dependent) to Isabela Island, the largest in the Galapagos. Isabela is formed by five volcanoes and is one of the most volcanically active places on earth. After lunch we head to Las Tintoreras, a set of small islets within Isabela Bay, to explore this otherworldly, lava-formed landscape. The islets are filled with wildlife—marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies, sharks, marine turtles and much more. Late this afternoon we hop on mountain bikes for a ride along the scenic coastline and to the historic El Muro de las Lagrimas (Wall of Tears). This wall was built with lava blocks during the time when Isabela was used as a penal colony (1946-1959). Living in such an isolated area, the wall building project was implemented to keep prisoners busy. Overnight in Puerto Villamil. All meals included.
Walking: 1 mile, flat, rocky terrain. Snorkeling: 1-2 hours. Mountain biking: 6-8 miles, unpaved, sand and gravel roads with some rolling hills.
We start the day with a hike in the highlands, up to and then along the rim of the Sierra Negra volcano which is roughly six miles wide. This huge, lava-filled crater is the second largest intact caldera in the world after the Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania. The views from the top can be awesome—out to the Perry Isthmus, Fernandina Island and beyond! Next we head to the lovely white sand beaches in front of our hotel or to Concha y Perla for more snorkeling and marine wildlife viewing. We enjoy a final dinner together to celebrate our time in Ecuador. All meals included.
Hiking: 3 miles. Longer hiking option available.
This morning we transfer by boat or take a flight (weather dependent) to Baltra Island, where we board our afternoon flight to Quito. Arrive in Quito early evening. Expect a full day of travel from Isabella to Quito. Breakfast and lunch snack on flight included; dinner on your own.
You can depart anytime today. REI provides the transfer to the Quito airport for flights home. Breakfast included.