Trip Type : Small Group Tour
Gaint-Tortoise on the Land-Galapagos-Ecuador-3524085-p

Ecuador & the Galapagos

Friendly Planet
4.5 . Great
86%
Travel Style: You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included. Mixed
Physical Level: Full day hiking or trekking over medium to long distances. Moderate expectation of physical fitness. Strenuous
Lodging Level: 3 to 4 star western hotel equivalents. While not all lodging will be 'luxury' they will be quite comfortable by western standards. Premium - 4 star
9 days
From: $ 4,799 $ 533 / day
Checking price

Overview

Highlights

  • San Cristobal Island
  • Santa Cruz Islands
  • Charles Darwin Research Center
  • Quito, Otavalo and Sante Fe
  • Four-night Galapagos Cruise
  • Galapagos National Park

Short Description

Discover the wonders of Ecuador & the Galapagos Islands, a remarkable collection of landscapes, people, cultures, animals, plants, and more. Our Ecuador & Galapagos Islands tour covers the highlights of this incredibly diverse country. You'll visit the capital city and UNESCO World Heritage Center of Quito and the colorful and bustling Otavalo market. Round out your tour with a guided cruise through the Galapagos Islands, the magical place that inspired Charles Darwin to propose his theory of evolution. All of this, plus airfare from Miami, is yours for an incredible price.

Small groups are usually defined as between 10 and 24 travelers, often less. If you're the kind of person who enjoys more intimate experiences and personal service this is a good choice. All else being equal you will pay a premium for this style vs a larger group tour.
Trip Type Small Group Tour
Spend most of the time outdoors. Common trip themes and activities include cycling, hiking, kayaking, whitewater rafting.
Itinerary Focus Active
3 to 4 star western hotel equivalents. While not all lodging will be 'luxury' they will be quite comfortable by western standards.
Lodging Level Premium - 4 star
Flights & Transport Airfare included
Start City Quito
End City Quito

Destinations

Ecuador

Cities & Attractions

Galapagos

N/A
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Trip Includes

  • Round trip flights from Miami via LAN Airlines including fuel surcharges and taxes and fees, with other gateways available on request
  • Flights between Quito & the Galapagos Islands
  • All ground transportation and transfers
  • Accommodations in a Deluxe hotel
  • Four-night Galapagos Cruise aboard the M/V Santa Cruz in standard outside cabins with portholes
  • Meals as mentioned in the Itinerary
  • Comprehensive guided sightseeing and entrance fees
  • Galapagos National Park Fee ($100) & Transit Control Card ($10)
  • Professional English-speaking tour directors & guides

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Itinerary

Day 1: Depart USA /Arrive Quito.

Accommodation: Hilton Colón or similar

Your exciting tour to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands begins today as you depart for Quito, Ecuador's capital city (9,500 feet above sea level). Upon arrival, after customs formalities, you will be met and transferred to your hotel for check-in.

Day 2: Quito.

Meals: Breakfast

Today, enjoy a panoramic city tour of Quito. Arguably one of the loveliest of all South American cities, Quito enjoys a spectacular setting surrounded by mountains and several snow-capped volcanoes, including the still-active Mt. Pichincha. Begin your walking tour at Independence Plaza, flanked by the Cathedral, Presidential Palace, Municipal Building and the Archbishops’ Palace. The next stop, La Compañía de Jesús, has an ornate and richly sculptured facade and interior, with colored columns, 10-sided altars, and gilded balconies. Continue to the Monastery of San Francisco, Quito's oldest church and the largest colonial building constructed in Latin America.

Next, drive 16 miles north of Quito to the Equatorial Monument, the Mitad del Mundo ("Middle of the World"), commemorating the exact place where Charles Marie de la Condamine established the Equator, where you can stand with one foot in the northern and one in the southern hemisphere.

Day 3: Quito, Galapagos Cruise: San Cristobal & Punta Pitt.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Accommodation: M/V Santa Cruz

Transfer to the airport for your flight to San Cristobal Island, gateway to the Galapagos Islands to begin your adventure. Upon arrival, transfer to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno to board your first-class cruise ship, the M/V Santa Cruz, your home for the next 4 nights. Settle into your cabin, and enjoy an introductory briefing and lunch.

In the afternoon, disembark on the eastern tip of the island at Punta Pitt, an eroded tuff cone, and walk along the trail with spectacular views of the shoreline. This is the only site in the Galapagos where the three species of boobies can be found together, and you may be lucky enough to view all three! After a walk along the trail, weather permitting, there will be a chance to swim from the beach or snorkel at the nearby islets.

Day 4: Galapagos Cruise: Sante Fe Island & South Plaza Island.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Accommodation: M/V Santa Cruz

After breakfast, take a dinghy to Sante Fe Island, where you'll find an idyllic sandy white beach populated by many sea lion harems. The endemic land iguana, unique to this island, may be spotted during the morning walk amid the giant prickly pear cactus. Here, you may snorkel and swim from the beach, or explore the water from a glass-bottomed boat.

After lunch on board and a chance to rest, disembark in the South Plaza Island channel, where turquoise waters contrast brilliantly with the white sand and black lava of the shoreline. A carpet of scarlet sesuvium succulents serves as groundcover for a grove of luminescent green prickly-pear cactus. You may see yellow-grey land iguanas patiently waiting for pears to drop. Along the coastline you may find sea lion colonies, while frigates, swallow-tailed gulls, and shearwaters glide above, playing with the thermals.

Day 5: Galapagos Cruise: Santa Cruz, Puerto Ayora, & Charles Darwin Research Station.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Accommodation: M/V Santa Cruz

In the morning, disembark (dry landing) to visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station and the giant tortoises within an impressive giant prickly-pear cactus forest, also home to many land birds. The Research Station is the headquarters of scientific exploration, conservation and the National Park administration. Later, board our transport to travel to the cooler highlands of the island, a completely different ecosystem, to enjoy lunch.

This afternoon, there are several options to choose from, which can be discussed in advance with your Expedition Leader:

1) Trek along trails amid the miconia forests in the highlands, home to many elusive birds including the dark-rumped petrel.

2) Mountain bike (mostly downhill) to Garrapatero Beach.

3) Sea kayak and relax on a beautiful, sandy beach.

4) Experience sustainable agriculture at an organic coffee plantation. At the end of the afternoon’s activities, return to Puerto Ayora and embark on the M/V Santa Cruz.

Day 6: Galapagos Cruise: Española (or Hood) Island, Punta Suarez & Gardner Bay.

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Accommodation: M/V Santa Cruz

This morning, enjoy an exciting walk at Punta Suarez, to see its colonies of unique sea birds, including waved albatrosses (April-December), Nazca boobies, blue-footed boobies, and swallow-tail gulls. You'll also see the famous Galapagos "blow-hole," and keep an eye out for the famous marine iguanas with their interesting red, green and black coloration. Return to the ship for lunch on board.

In the afternoon, the picturesque white coral beach of Gardner Bay provides a beautiful setting for observing sea lions, mockingbirds, and finches. Enjoy an opportunity to snorkel or ride aboard a glass-bottomed boat.

Day 7: Galapagos Cruise, Baltra Island & Quito.

Meals: Breakfast

Accommodation: Hilton Colón or similar

Your cruise comes to an end as you disembark at Baltra Island and transfer to the airport to take the flight back to the mainland. Upon arrival, you will be met and transferred to your hotel.

Day 8: Quito, Otavalo, & Departure.

Meals: Breakfast and Dinner

This morning, check out from your hotel and then set out on the Panamerican Highway to Otavalo. After driving through dramatic Andean scenery, arrive at the famous Indian fair and the textile market of Otavalo, undoubtedly one of the best in all of Latin America.

The beauty of Otavalo lies in its people, the Otavaleño Indians. Unlike other indigenous groups who have given up their traditional dress for modern jeans and t-shirts, Otavaleños are true to their ancestral cultural heritage, and are still easily identified by their distinctive dress. Women wear intricately embroidered blouses and a wealth of beaded necklaces, while men have long, braided hair and wear calf-length white trousers, ponchos and sandals. Stroll by their many stalls filled with ponchos, scarves, blankets, hats, handbags and more, and observe as the Otavaleños barter in silence.

Then proceed to Peguche, a nearby Indian village, where local artisans weave in their homes. Learn about their culture and everyday life. Later, return to Quito for a farewell dinner at a local restaurant. After dinner, transfer to the airport for your flight home.

Day 9: Arrive USA.

Transfer to the airport for your return flight

Availability

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Price From $ 4,799
Price Per Day: $ 533 per day
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Stride Featured in

Stride Feature In

22 Friendly Planet Travel Reviews & Ratings

86%
4.5 out of 5 (100+ reviews)
Excellent 19
Great 0
Average 0
Disappointing 0
Terrible 3
Value
4.5
Guide
4.5
Activities
4.5
Lodging
4.5
Transportation
4.4
Meals
4.4

Ecuador & the Galapagos

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Company Reviews

First class tour

5.0
Details
Value5.0
Guide5.0
Activities5.0
Lodging5.0
Transportation5.0
Meals5.0
I did the Discover Havana tour with Connie (Friendly Planet Guide) & Neicy (Cuban Guide). The tour really was first class. I was particularly worried about the meals, but every meal that was included in our tour was great and exceeded my expectations. They were usually multiple course meals with a mojito welcoming drink and a beer & coffee included in the meal, which I was also not expecting.

The guides went out of their way to arrange dinners and tours outside of our guided tour. The guides were overly helpful and friendly. Our Cuban guide was candid to the extent that she could be given that she was employed by a state-run tour company. I would definitely recommend reading some history before doing this tour (Everything You Need to Know About Cuba by Julia Sweig, Havana Nocturne, Trading With The Enemy, and Moon Guide Cuba) so that you can see things from a balanced perspective and experience your "own reality" of Cuba. There are things that the tour guide may not show or say and view points that you are exposed to that being informed will truly help you appreciate to a greater extent.

We had a group that aged from 27 to 70, and everyone got along really well. The group was diverse in perspective, career, and age. I can say that I probably would not have enjoyed some of the other Cuba groups (Friendly Planet and other companies like Gate 1) based on my interactions with them and their lack of diversity.

There are inherent negatives of People to People tours regulated by the US government in that they highly structure your tour and you don't have much free time. Also, there are negatives of having a state-run tour agency arrange the activities of the tour based on Cuban regulations. However, Friendly Planet did the best job I believe they could have under the regulations, and overall, the tour was first class.
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Buyer Beware!

1.0
Details
Value1.0
Guide1.0
Activities1.0
Lodging1.0
Transportation1.0
Meals1.0
Circumstances out of your control will cause you to lose your money with this company! After checking with the company several times to make sure we could go on an available trip scheduled less than 60 days away, we purchased a trip to India. Under 60 days in advance, purchasing travel insurance is not straight forward on the site. We are supposed to be on the Taj Mahal Express tour right now. However, US Airways canceled our flight at 1am, our flight was supposed to leave at 1:20am. In spite of the airline searching for another flight to get us to JFK in time for the Air India flight departure, 12 hours later, nothing could be found. Between 1am and 4am, on top of working with US Airways, we called Air India trying to see if we could be rerouted through Chicago. We even called the emergency phone number we found after rifling through the numerous pages of travel information. We called "Friendly" Planet, at 3AM and again at 4:25AM, but had to leave a message because nobody answered. Friendly Planet did not open until 9:30 AM. (Apparently, the emergency number is the same at the regular number, and you must push a secret option 6, even though only options 1-3 are mentioned in the recording). Air India representatives could not change the flight because it had to be done the office in New York. The JFK office did not open before 10 AM. Nobody could help us in time. We also could not access our checked luggage in our departure city since US Airways' baggage claim and ticketing areas were closed several hours. My husband continued to look for potential flight solutions online and wrote an email to Friendly Planet explaining our dilemma, hoping the company would allow us to reschedule the trip or offer us some credit for a future tour. We decided to sleep for a bit, since it was now after 6 AM. Finally, we received a phone call that morning and the first thing Kathy at Friendly Planet said was, "Why didn't you call the emergency line?" We told her we had, and more than once, and that we had left a message! "Did you press option 6?" I was thinking, uh...I've done all I could, I just woke up and what can you do to help me? I told her it would have helped if option 6 had been a recorded selection. (The recording DOES NOT MENTION OPTION 6! Option 6 connects you to a live person). The remaining phone conversations and emails that occurred over the course of the rest of the day were at best condescending and rude until it was brought to the Customer Service Manager's attention that she had terrible customer service skills. At the end of the day we were told our only option was to go on the tour a day late missing the main attraction that swayed us to even go on the trip. Friendly Planet tried to pressure us to go on the trip anyway, but the airline hadn't even located our checked bags yet. How could we go on the trip we had been looking forward to now? One bag had been sent on a later flight and the other had been lost somewhere in our departure city. We didn't even board a plane and lost out on $3,500+, a great trip, and lost of sleep. Our luggage arrived at 9AM the next day. Hopefully, we can still go on this trip one day and not miss out on any of it
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Impressive tour!

5.0
Details
Value5.0
Guide5.0
Activities5.0
Lodging5.0
Transportation5.0
Meals5.0
Currently on the Best of South Africa tour and I am very impressed with the Tour Guide, especially David in Jo'burg. He is very knowledgeable the history on his country and also could talk on the animals that we saw. He was very organized and kept us on time.
This was my first time on a guided tour and it is the best vacation ever!... I have a few more days to complete my vacation and I know I will enjoy it to the very end.
Kudos to Friendly Planet Travels and their associates.
Will definitely use and recommend you to others.
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I want to warn potential travelers about 'Friendly Planet'

1.0
Details
Value1.0
Guide1.0
Activities1.0
Lodging1.0
Transportation1.0
Meals1.0
I want to warn potential travelers about 'Friendly Planet' and their lack of follow through and horrible accommodations. I just returned Friday July 17th, 2015 from a tour with Friendly Planet, the Beijing/Tokyo tour. A travel mate and I were very excited about the trip. Before we left the states FRIENDLY PLANET was very inconsistent with service in providing us with dates and itineraries for the package we paid for. Often one or both of us would have to call FRIENDLY PLANET numerous times in order to get (conflicting) dates, time, information. This was not very encouraging when traveling to a foreign country.

My 1st issue was when we finally got our itinerary 4 days before the trip and only after I had called and spoke a rude young woman who lectured/quizzed me about how spam folders worked. The information we received (because my travel mate had not gotten her itinerary yet either) had a conflict with the Air China website about luggage weight. No one could give a clear answer so with a possible 200 dollar over weight fee at stake we were left uncertain and anxious about the appropriate weight of our luggage.

The next issue was the hotel in China and CITS (the vendor in China and the people who did our visas, hotels and tours). We were booked at Beijing International hotel a supposed 5 star hotel. The 1st night was fine but we noted that the hotel had stained carpet throughout and smelled of cigarette smoke. The 2nd night we had an issue, water pouring into our room from above. The water gushed from above down into our room from between the door jam of the hallway and the bathroom door. We called the front desk but with limited English/Chinese skills it took 15 to 20 minutes before we could get someone upstairs to look at the problem. We called and emailed FRIENDLY PLANET about the situation. Eventually maintenance came up and mopped up the water then put a mat down. About 15 minutes later another maintenance person came with a ladder looked at the yellowed/mildewed stain on the wood paneling and said "Yep" and left never to be seen again. We had no idea where the water came from or if it would happen again. My friend took pictures of the water damage and we noted this had been happening for a while because the wood was water stained and warped, so warped it made opening and closing the bathroom door difficult.
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Do lots of research and buyer beware!

1.0
Details
Value1.0
Guide1.0
Activities1.0
Lodging1.0
Transportation1.0
Meals1.0
Did "The Sale of Two Cities" tour to Beijing and Tokyo and could not be any more disgusted with Beijing International Hotel and the level of service provided by Friendly Planet. From not sending itineraries in a timely fashion, to changing hotels and not notifying tour companies, to booking shotty hotels that are definitely not 5 star, to thinking that there resolution tactics work, FP dropped the ball... BIG TIME!!

I've traveled all over the world and have stayed in huts that were better than Beijing International Hotel. The place wreaks of smoke, has filthy worn, water damaged carpet throughout, electrical problems with rigged wiring and staff that could care less. FP should never book travelers into this hotel. We were moved to 3 different rooms because there were MAJOR issues in all. Faulty a/c, water leaking from the ceiling and burning electrical wiring. I did not feel safe in that hotel. Also, don't count on FP to help, as they'll delegate that to their vendors and think that a free dinner is sufficient for subpar service. They offered no resolution or rectifying of the bad experience. If it were not for the great excursions and the beauty of the city, then Beijing would have been a total bust. Our guide was great and did what she could to help.

I will also say that Tokyo was a lot better after getting our excursion service together, that FP messed up by switching the hotel and not notifying them. I'm a pretty easy person, but when my life is in danger by a facility that I'm staying at and am supposed to be comfortable at, that's where I draw the line. I would have loved to rave about the vacation, but I can only do so about the sites I saw and not the service rendered by FP. So do lots of research and buyer beware!
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Colors Of Cuba was a wonderful trip

5.0
Details
Lodging5.0
Value5.0
Guide5.0
Activities5.0
Transportation5.0
Meals5.0
Colors Of Cuba was a wonderful trip. The fact that it was snowing in New Hampshire while it was 90 in Havana didn't hurt either. Connie, Osmin and "Pupo" are a team without equal.T he people we met were all welcoming and engaging. The itinerary was interesting and varied. Great hotels, and good food. AND, Cuba produces really good beer.
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Details

Flights & Transport

Airfare included

Group Size:

Small Group - 24 max

Additional Information:

IMPORTANT NOTES:

The high altitudes reached on this trip (Quito is at 9,200 feet above sea level) and the amount of walking involved, often on uneven terrain, require that you be in good physical condition to fully enjoy the trip. We strongly suggest that you consult your physician if you have any concerns regarding your ability to handle these conditions.

Please remember that the exact route and program may vary according to weather and ocean conditions, and the wildlife encountered. There is no guarantee that all the possible species mentioned will be seen.

Itineraries and program are subject to change without previous notice due mainly to readjustment of the National Park policies and regulations, weather conditions, seasonal changes or safety reasons.

Trip ID#:

EcuGalFri

Trip Excludes

  • Entry visa fees
  • Optional extensions & excursions
  • Personal, baggage & travel insurance
  • Gratuities
  • Beverages
  • Items not specifically mentioned in the itinerary
  • Any items of a personal nature

Meals Included:

7 Breakfast daily, 4 Lunches, 5 Dinners

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