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Andes Highlands & Galapagos Islands

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South America
Ecuador,  12 Days From $ 5,975 per person Themes
Eco Adventure
Eco Wildlife & Nature
Eco Cultural
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Couples
Little Greenies
Group Expeditions

Highlights

Discover the natural beauty of volcanos by visiting two of the most spectacular volcanic places on the planet, Cotopaxi Volcano and the Galapagos Islands. The perfect opportunity to experience nature at its best, and to have a unique cultural insight into the Chagra or Andean Cowboy lifestyle, while enjoying the best soft adventure activities these areas have to offer. This is a program designed for the entire family, couples, or groups.

Summary

  • Day 1. Transfer airport to hotel in Quito
  • Day 2. Visit Quito
  • Day 3. Hacienda traditional life / Market / Cooking in the clouds
  • Day 4. Horseback Ride around Hacienda
  • Day 5. Mountain biking or Native forest hike and Cotopaxi High Rope Course
  • Day 6. Full day visit to Cotopaxi National Park
  • Day 7. Transfer to Galapagos (Santa Cruz Island and Las Grietas snorkeling)
  • Day 8. Kayak at Garrapatero Beach and lava tunnels
  • Day 9. Transfer to Isabela Island. Get to know Pto Villamil, which is the main city of Isabela island, Bay Tour and Snorkel
  • Day 10. Sierra Negra Volcano Trek
  • Day 11. Los Túneles snorkeling
  • Day 12. Flight back to Quito and Flight home

 

This is a low technical difficulty and low physical effort itinerary.

Availability

Flexible date(s). Please Contact Us.

Activity (Activities)

Horseback Riding
Local Cuisine
Birding
Cycling
Snorkeling
Kayaking & Rafting
Hiking & Trekking
History & Culture
Wildlife

Green Approach

Eco-Luxurious

Certification

TourCert

Why Authentic Ecotourism?

The company has been actively working since 1992 on the preservation of both cultural and natural environments, through a partnership with Fundacion Paramo, a non-profit organization that protects over 75,000 hectares (185.329 Acres) of private land in the territory adjacent to Cotopaxi National Park.

Each Hacienda has conservation programs running permanently throughout the year as well as innovative itineraries to support those programs and raise a client’s consciousness about this particular and endangered ecosystem. Programs are sensitive to locals and provide support for the community, NGO, National Park and/or private initiatives.

  • Creation of Privately Owned Conservation Areas - One of the haciendas was declared to be enveloped by a Protected Forest in 1992, which has reduced hunting in the area dramatically and aided in the growth of Andean animal populations. Another hacienda was declared a Private Ecological Reserve in 2002 under Tierra del Volcán management and protects the last remains of native forest on the South Eastern Slopes of Pasochoa Volcano.
  • Condor Bioreserve - The company is proud to have been part of the Nature Conservancy’s Parks in Peril project, which seeks to join up areas of high biodiversity in Ecuador, creating conservation corridors, through coordinated work by the public sector and private conservation in Ecuador.
  • Sustainable Agricultural Practices - Some 20% of its land is given over to crop farming, 20% exclusively to the reforestation of native species to restore the natural habitat, and 60% to extensive grazing with low environmental impact, managing animal load capacities to contribute to the conservation of the paramos – in other words, low numbers of cattle over a large area.
  • Habitat Restoration - Over 600,000 native trees have been successfully planted on the northern slopes of Rumiñahui Volcano on the land of one of the haciendas. This project, which was started in 1998, aims to recover the high Andean habitat, protect water sources, contribute to carbon uptake, and educate both visitors and those visited on the importance of native woods. The species planted as part of this project include pumamaqui, polylepis, and hoja blanca, in areas where there used to high Andean forests.
  • Education - There are programs with the schools located in the central area of the National Park of Cotopaxi: Loreto, Pedregal, Rumipamba, Güitig, and San Ramón. The goal is to support local schools by improving facilities and access to technology (internet, libraries, and labs) along with the proper training needed for their use. We have also worked to educate the local communities on waste management, conservation, and the dangers of living near an active volcano.
  • Local Sourcing - Almost all the necessary products and food are bought at the local Machachi market, this reduces waste, carbon footprint, and benefits the local businesses. The company has partnered with many local businesses including transportation, tour guides, artisans, and tourism businesses to economically support the communities surrounding the Haciendas. The food that you enjoy is bought locally from small producers and entrepreneurship of people from the surrounding communities.
  • Cultural Heritage -The people of the area define themselves as Chagra. This classification is more than ethnic, it is a cultural characteristic linked to a way of life connected to the countryside, to the management of livestock and the breeding and use of horses. The company is committed to supporting and maintaining local cultural ways, in revaluing the Chagra as a fundamental part of this region and promoting the cultural manifestations through rodeos, lasso competitions, cattle drives, among others that perpetuate the ancestral traditions of the people of this sector.
  • Water consumption - The policy of sustainably managing water resources means that we protect and refrain from contaminating water sources, and make sure that withdrawal rate does not exceed the natural replacement rate, and contamination of sources does not take place. We promote the use water consciously and responsibly through signs and information packets in the rooms. We use biodegradable products for all cleaning.
  • Heating - Our policy is to use only eucalyptus wood, which is a non-native, fast-growing species. We have installed efficient stoves to improve performance and reduce consumption in certain areas. We also have electric heaters that are the most efficient on the market in the traditional rooms on the Hacienda. We promote the consciousness of energy use of our travelers and encourage them to wear more layers instead of using a large amount of energy to heat a space.
  • Energy - We use low-consumption lighting system in the great majority of the areas and rooms of the Hacienda as well as movement sensors that enable us to optimize the use of electric power in our operation.
  • Waste Management - We keep to a strict policy for reducing the impact of solid waste, evaluating the impact and offsetting it. We have purchasing and supply policies that help reduce waste at the source, and encourage the sorting of waste into biodegradable, recyclable and non-recyclable. The organic waste is used as compost, and the inorganic waste is collected by the Machachi Municipality, with whom we have worked with to resolve the problems of waste management in the whole area. We promote the reduction of plastic by offering drinks in returnable glass containers, buying products in large, reusable containers, and being creative in looking for new ways to supply the necessities while being environmentally friendly. One example of this is aluminum glasses for tea while horseback riding.
  • Green Construction - The design and the materials of the Haciendas follow traditional and ecological building systems; the walls are made of “tapial” (compacted earth) at and basaltic stone form Cotopaxi past eruptions, while the roofs are built of straw and eucalyptus wood. The farm houses revive the spirit and essence of the traditional Andean construction techniques that have been used for hundreds of years. We use natural organic paint. Both houses make the most of the daylight in many of its social areas and keep in a lot of warmth despite the cold surroundings.

Day 1 Transfer from the airport

We will pick you up from the airport and take you to your hotel in Quito. Rest of the day at your leisure.

Day 2 Visit Quito (B)

Today, we will visit the best that Quito has to offer for family bonding. We start our visit to El Teleférico, a cable car system that will take us to 4.200 m and have great views of the city and the Avenue of the volcanoes. Then, we will visit the colonial part of the city of Quito that is the first city to be declared a Unesco Cultural Heritage and visit its marvelous cathedrals, historic streets, and hidden architectural beauties.

Day 3 Hacienda traditional life/market visit, cooking classes, farming activities (B,L)

We leave Quito early in the morning and head South to Machachi, a highland town located at the Heart of the Avenue of Volcanoes. This is a 1 hour drive from Quito. On market days in Machachi, farmers from the nearby communities and rural areas will gather on a plaza to trade their products and services. This experience reveals the diversity of Andean lifestyles and underscores the importance of tradition in the lives of the Andean families and individuals.

This is a unique opportunity to learn about the local people, taste new fruits and vegetables, enjoy colorful images, and share some smiles. We will buy some Andean fruits that we will later cook at the Hacienda. We continue our trip to the Hacienda for a tasty, wholesome lunch.

In the afternoon, we will learn how to milk a cow by hand and later on, we will have our Cooking in the Clouds lessons focused on traditional cooking methods. Dinner and overnight stay at Hacienda.

Day 4 Horseback riding Rumiñahui Volcano (B,L)

In the morning, we have a delicious, nutritious farm breakfast, followed by a brief riding lesson from our guides before we set out on our horses. Wearing the typical dress of the chagra (Ecuadorian cowboys), we ride out across the slopes of the dormant volcano, Rumiñahui. A respected chagra from the area will come with us and share some of his deep knowledge of the country life. The ride lasts for approximately 2 hours.

Back in the farmhouse, a tasty local lunch will be ready on our arrival. In the afternoon we can learn from our Chagra Guide the local cowboy skills including horse handling and care instructions. Feel free to feed the horses whenever you want! Weather permitting, we can hike to the sky deck to watch stars and constellations, if we get a cloudy night we can hike to the campsite and set a fire to listen to some local stories and make smores! Dinner and overnight stay at Hacienda.

Day 5 Mountain biking or Native forest hike and Cotopaxi High Rope Course (B,L)

Today, we offer two options for families so that they can do what is best for their interests and skills. These activities have to be chosen in advance for logistical reasons.

  • Option A Mountain Biking: After a wholesome country breakfast, we provide each guest with a mountain bike.  The Hacienda has several biking circuits so that you can enjoy a morning of highland trails explorations at your own pace. This bike trip can last approx. 2 1/2 hours, through patches of Native forest, farmland and highland trails. Return to the farm house for a delicious lunch. During the afternoon, we enjoy the Cotopaxi High Rope Course, a circuit designed for both kids and for adults. This is a perfect activity for strengthening family bonds. 1 hour 20 min activity time approx. Children from 6 years of age and up can participate.
  • Option B Native Forest Hike: After a wholesome country breakfast, we drive to Santa Rita Ecological Reserve, a private conservation area in the Cotopaxi Area with fantastic remains of native forest, petrified lava streams, glacial rivers and waterfalls. We will hike through native forest trails, learning about the ecology of the place. A 2-hour loop will finish at the campsite where we can catch some rainbow trout in the stream like locals do. We enjoy a picnic at the campsite and if we caught some trout, we can cook it and have it for lunch! Or we can always do catch and release. During the afternoon, we return to the Hacienda to enjoy the Cotopaxi High Rope Course, a circuit designed for both kids and for adults. This is a perfect activity for strengthening family bonds. 1hr 20 min activity time approx. Dinner and overnight stay at the Hacienda

 

Day 6 Cotopaxi National Park Visit (B,L)

Have you ever wondered how it is possible to have glaciers on the Equatorial line? Have you ever wondered how to climb an active volcano? Would you like to discover why ancient explorers pointed to Cotopaxi as one of the most beautiful mountains in the world? This is your opportunity to immerse yourself on a fantastic day trip of exploration to the Iconic Cotopaxi National Park. Home of the biggest flying bird in the world: the Andean Condor.

Home of herds of wild - truly wild - horses. Where migratory birds stop by to get some rest on their way South. The location is the perfect place to learn about Andean Geology. During our visit, we reach the car park below the Cotopaxi’s Refuge, where we begin our short hike up to the climbing hut (Refugio José Ribas) at 4,800m. (15,744 ft). It is hard not to be overwhelmed by the sheer immensity of the Volcano on this short hike. Once back in the vehicle, we continue on our way driving down to Limpiopungo Lake, where a wholesome box lunch will be served.

A vast territory with ancient Inca military fortresses, plains full of volcanic rocks from past eruptions where we will learn how to recognize the oldest stones.  There are lots of chances to learn and connect with nature during this final day of our Highland Family Adventure. At the end of the afternoon we return to Quito.

Day 7: Travel to Santa Cruz Island and Tortuga Bay Beach Grietas Snorkel (B,L)

Early in the morning, we will depart from Quito Airport toward Baltra Island, where the airport is located. We cross by boat the Itabaca canal to Santa Cruz Island. Once on the Island, we will head to our hotel and get lunch in the city.

In the afternoon, we go to go to Tortuga Bay or Las Grietas, a lava crevasse formation filled with water. At night, we will walk around Puerto Ayora city to enjoy its many restaurants and bars.

Day 8: Garrapatero Beach and Kayak (B,L)

Today we head to Garrapatero Beach. Our car will drive through the farmland of Santa Cruz Island. Then, we hike for 15 minutes to get to one of the most beautiful beaches that Santa Cruz has to offer (sometimes you can see Flamingos in the area). Then, we can decide to swim, snorkel and/or kayak. Afterwards, we will enjoy a delicious lunch. In the afternoon, we head back to Puerto Ayora.

Day 9: Transfer to Isabela Galapagos and Snorkeling (B,L)

Early in the morning, we will take a speedboat from Santa Cruz to Isabela Island, considered one of the most beautiful Islands of the archipelago. Transfer to beachfront Hotel where we will have some free time at the beach.

In the afternoon, enjoy your first impressions of the island getting around its lava formations and getting to know its friendly fauna. You'll have your first encounter with the Galapagos shark on the Tintoreras hiking trail. Then, we will enjoy a snorkel excursion.

Day 10: Sierra Negra Volcano Trek (B,L)

After breakfast, we drive for 30 minutes heading towards the crater of Volcan Sierra Negra, a massive crater overlooking the whole archipelago. The first portion of the trail is slightly uphill and takes about 1 hour. While on the road, we'll see a thick forest of guava trees and follow that scent to the edge of the volcano.

The scenery at the edge is breathtaking. We continue to Volcan Chico. The path from here turns more challenging. The floor is covered of Pahoephoe and AA lava formations, that brings oneself to the most basic and primitive connections with life. Lichens and a few ferns grow on this hostile territory. Lava tunnels connect the heat of the Earth's Core with its surface. It is fascinating to stand on the same place that a few decades ago, incandescent melted rock was flowing.

Day 11 Snorkel at lava tunnels (B,L)

Today, we will visit one of the most beautiful places that Galapagos has to offer, “The Tunnels” is a place of frozen lava that creates lava bridges and tunnels next to the sea, creating a Volcanic Venezia.  You will be surprised by the proficient amount of marine fauna found in this volcanic tunnels cutting throughout the shore of the island inviting to spectacular snorkel dives.

Day 12: Flight to Quito and flight home (B)

Early in the morning, we will depart by boat to Santa Cruz Island. Once on the Island we will have breakfast, head to airport for our flight back to Quito and then home.

NOTE: Itinerary subject to change due to weather conditions and market days.

Departure City

Quito

Finishing City

Quito

Group Size

Minimum of 4 people

Optional Activities

For those who want to focus on specific bonding activities with their child(ren), this alternate program with Outward Bound Ecuador will show you two of the most beautiful places that Ecuador has to offer while also strengthening family ties, reflecting the values of support, respect, love, understanding, and trust in the family.

The experience is designed to enhance the bonding between a parent and his or her child. Please contact us for more information on availability and pricing.

Exclusions

Tour excludes:

  • Dinners
  • International Airfare
  • Domestic Airfare (ticket to Galapagos approx USD $499
  • Entrance fee to Galapagos National Park (approx USD $120)
  • Travel Insurance
  • Extra Drinks
  • Tips

Inclusions

Tour Includes:

  • Accommodation
  • Meals noted in itinerary (one soft drink per meal)
  • Described activities
  • Guides (English speaking and native guide)
  • Riding gear (poncho, chaps and riding helmet) and high ropes gear (harness, helmet, gloves, ropes)
  • Mountain Bike gear (helmet, gloves, knee and elbow protection)
  • Snorkeling gear
  • Kayaks
  • Transport from and to Quito
  • Airport transfers

Best for:

Little Greenies

Not as good for:

Solo
Rating Summary:
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