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Stay at some of Ecuador’s most luxurious lodges while embarking on a 12-day exploration of three very different regions of the country – the Cloud Forest, the Andes and the Galapagos Islands. Upon your arrival, you are ushered to the incredible Casa Gangotena in Quito's Old Town where you will spend your first night.  You then enjoy three days at Mashpi, a modern lodge surrounded by a private 3,212-acre reserve of lower mountain rainforest and cloud forest, home to 500 bird species, monkeys, peccaries and pumas, 200 butterfly species, hundreds of orchid varieties and many waterfalls. Return to Quito for another night and take a tour of the historic Old Town at night. The next day you head to the Enchanted Isles for the second part of your adventure. Galapagos Safari Camp will serve as your base for five days of island exploration, including day trips to uninhabited islands as well as excursions on Santa Cruz. This eco-luxury tented camp is a pioneer in Latin America, following the African safari tradition in which guests enjoy total comfort under canvas while experiencing nature in its purest form. Upon your return from the islands, you are transferred to Hacienda Zuleta, a working colonial farm dating back to the late 16th century. Here you can tour the dairy farm and artisan creamery or visit the Andean Condor Rehabilitation Center. Take a hike along 60km of self-guided trails or arrange a horseback riding or mountain biking excursion.
Itinerary
DAY 1: ARRIVE QUITO
Upon your arrival, a Southern Explorations representative meets you at the airport and transfers you to your hotel. If you arrive early, we can arrange optional tours to explore the city, including museum visits, and other sites of interests.
DAY 2: QUITO - MASHPI LODGE
From your Quito hotel, in the morning, you are driven north, passing the Equator Monument and Latitude 0 before stopping at Calacali Pass to view dormant Pululahua, one of the world’s largest volcanoes. From here, you leave the sierra, heading west, and begin the decent into the northern lowlands, a sumptuous, humid but pleasant ecosystem. Two hours into today’s trip, you will stop to explore the pre-Incan ruins of Tulipe, an archaeological site comprised of pyramids surrounded by manmade pools, learning about its creators, the indigenous Yumbos, at an on-site museum. Continuing the journey, you arrive at the entrance to the Mashpi Reserve in about an hour and a half and then the lodge itself. After enjoying a refreshing drink and checking in, you will meet your naturalist guides for a briefing about the reserve and the activities that begin after lunch. You return to the lodge for a delicious dinner and relaxing evening. (B,L,D)
DAY 3: MASHPI LODGE
Enjoy a full day at Mashpi Lodge, arranging your schedule with the help of your guide. Activities may involve nature hikes including night walks when many species are most active, a ride on a 655-ft sky bike, a tour through the Life Center, and such destinations as an 85-ft observation tower, a hummingbird viewpoint and waterfalls. For an additional cost, you may wish to engage in optional activities available outside the lodge, including kayaking, biking, and zip lines. (B,L,D)
DAY 4: MASHPI LODGE – QUITO CITY NIGHT TOUR
On your last day in the enchanting cloud forest, you enjoy an early breakfast and a final morning activity before returning to the lodge to check out. After lunch, you head back into the Andes towards the capital, arriving at your Quito hotel late in the afternoon. This evening you get acquainted with Ecuador’s capita city, on a breathtaking night tour of its illuminated churches, picturesque plazas and other landmarks of colonial architecture. Our driving tour takes you into the city's 16th century historic center with stops at the Monastery of San Francisco and the Church of Santo Domingo plus a short walking tour around the Plaza de la Independencia, home to the palaces of the President and the Archbishop and two major museums. You also get a glimpse of modern Quito in its bustling northern residential neighborhoods and see the dramatic new addition to the city skyline, the magnificent Basilica del Voto Nacional. At the conclusion of the tour, we can arrange dinner at one of Quito's fine downtown restaurants known for their traditional Ecuadorian and international cuisine. (B,L,D)
DAY 5: QUITO - BALTRA – SANTA CRUZ (Highlands, Giant Tortoises)
Early this morning you are transferred from Casa Gangotena to the Quito airport for your flight to the Galapagos. Upon arrival, you are met by your guide who takes you to a farm in the Santa Cruz Highlands where you enjoy a welcome lunch. Next, explore the various vegetation zones, experience Los Gemelos, massive pit craters, and seek giant tortoises in their natural habitat.After your highlands excursion, continue to the Galapagos Safari Camp where you will settle in for the next few nights. Enjoy a sunset cocktail followed by dinner. (B,L,D)
DAY 6: DAY TRIP TO NEARBY ISLAND (Hiking, Snorkeling)
After breakfast, take a boat trip to explore one of the neighboring uninhabited islands (North Seymour, Bartolomé, Plazas, or Santa Fé). Each island has its own unique natural habitat and your guide will take you through the evolutionary marvels of your destination.  Wildlife is abundant and photo opportunities are endless.  You have the opportunity to snorkel off the boat and experience the richness of the aquatic species of the Galapagos Marine Reserve, the second largest reserve in the world.  Please note that we cannot guarantee a specific island. (B,L,D)
DAY 7: DAY TRIP TO NEARBY ISLAND (Hiking, Snorkeling)
Spend another day exploring the Galapagos. Alternatively, if you are keen to explore the underwater world of the Galapagos, we can arrange a scuba diving excursion for you. If you are interested in scuba diving, please contact us for more details. (B,L,D)  
DAY 8: TOURING THE EASTERN HIGHLANDS (Cerro Meso, Garrapatero)
In the morning, head to the eastern part of the island toward Cerro Mesa, which, at 1600 feet above sea level offers dramatic views of the area. Here you can find the largest crater on Santa Cruz and numerous endemic plants as well as up to seven subspecies of finches and the vibrant Vermillion Flycatcher. After lunch, visit Garrapatero, a pristine beach where you can see the sensational contrast of mangroves, black lava, white sand and turquoise water. You can also experience the buzzing coastal bird life and a small pink flamingo lagoon. Kayaking and mountain biking are available; please notify us in advance if you are interested. (B,L,D)
DAY 9: BALTRA - QUITO – HACIENDA ZULETA
This morning you are free to enjoy your final hours at your leisure.  Enjoy the sunrise from the viewpoint and one last hearty breakfast before heading to the Baltra Airport for your return flight to Quito. A Zuleta representative meets you at the airport. Travel north toward the Otavalo region and on to Hacienda Zuleta, a historic working colonial farm set on 4000 scenic acres. Choose from an array of activities during your stay at this lovely property. All activities can be arranged upon arrival. In addition to the 60km of self-guided hiking trails, guests are free to wander through the grounds which include a Paramo garden, cheese museum, organic vegetable garden, milking sheds, and more.  A variety of horseback riding activities, mountain bike rentals, fishing tours, guided hikes, cooking classes, and guided tours of the surrounding areas such as the famed Otavalo Market and Cuicocha Crater Lake can all be arrange upon arrival for an additional cost. (B,L,D)
DAY 10: HACIENDA ZULETA
Today, explore the grounds of Hacienda Zuleta.  The friendly staff can guide you in choosing your adventures for the day.  After a hearty breakfast, you may decide to hike the self-guided trails on the property, sample fresh cheese from the creamery, wander the gardens or explore the Condor Reserve.  There is a small co-op on site where you can browse and purchase the beautiful embroideries handcrafted by local individuals.  The Hacienda has many cozy common areas should you prefer to read a book by the fire or enjoy some tea.  (B,L,D)
DAY 11: HACIENDA ZULETA
Enjoy another day at leisure at the Hacienda or enjoy an optional activity of your choice.(B,L,D)
DAY 12; HACIENDA ZULETA – QUITO - HOME
Spend your final morning in Ecuador exploring the Hacienda grounds. Later today, a Hacienda Zuleta representative transfers you to the airport for your international flight home, marking the end of SE services.(B,L)

Weather (Ecuador)

When to Visit
  • jan
  • feb
  • mar
  • apr
  • may
  • jun
  • jul
  • aug
  • sep
  • oct
  • nov
  • dec

Due to fairly stable seasonal weather conditions in Ecuador, travelers can enjoy year-round travel to the country. Some areas have better weather at certain times of the year, but it is always a good time to travel to Ecuador. Ecuador has a surprising variety of climates. The weather can be very localized and tends to change quickly because of the country’s unique geography. Located on the Equator, Ecuador is divided into four main regions: the Andes, the Amazon, the Coast, and the Galapagos Islands. Within these four regions of this small country, roughly the size of Colorado, elements of all four seasons can occur in a single day.

The Andes (Highlands)
Visitors can experience the Andean Highlands year-round, though June to September and late November to mid-January tend to be the drier months. February to May and October to mid-November are considered the rainier season. During the rainier months, one will find warm sunny weather in the morning followed by almost daily showers in the afternoon. Temperatures show little variance throughout the year with averages in the 60s during the day and 50s at night, though sunny days may get into the 70s and cooler nights may drop into the 40s. Despite these averages, it is common to have rainy streaks in the dry season and nice sunny weather in the wet season. It is best to come prepared for both rain and sun, as visitors will likely run into both during any month of the year. Warm days and cool nights are normal so packing layers is essential.

The Amazon
The Amazon basin is what you would expect of a tropical rainforest: wet, hot and humid. January marks the beginning of the less rainy period, which extends through March. Calling this the dry season would be a misnomer as it still rains quite frequently. March through July tends to be rainier than the first two months of the year, with July tending to be the rainiest. August through December is known as the fluctuation season. During this time, it is nearly impossible to predict weather patterns. One minute could be hot and sunny with clear blue skies and then the next minute a heavy downpour could begin. Temperatures year-round range in the 80s (27-33°C) and rain, sometimes even cool rainstorms, can be expected most days in the afternoon, as the Amazon basin is truly a rainforest. Any time of year is great to visit the Ecuadorian Amazon despite the level of rain. Contrary to what one may think, the months with higher averages of rainfall are great times to visit. Higher levels of rain increase fruit production, which results in more activity from monkeys and other fruit eating species. The Amazon is an unpredictable environment from both a weather and wildlife standpoint. The best approach for visitors to have an excellent Amazonian experience is to come prepared for the unexpected and to have an open mind!

The Coast
On coast, the dry season runs from about June to December with a temperature drop to the high 70s. The garua, a damp mist, has a tendency to cast itself over the coastline and the sun. The sun can disappear for three months at a time. Then in January to June, temperatures go up and despite the occasional heavy rain, the days will be bright and sunny.

The Galapagos
The great weather of the Galapagos Islands makes them a fantastic destination for travel year-round. Every month of the year is a good time to enjoy a tour of the region. The Galapagos Islands have a subtropical climate that is almost completely determined by sea currents. Although most believe the Galapagos to be a very hot destination, the cool water currents in the area keep the climate fairly temperate year-round. The mild variations in weather from month to month result in an overall climate of warm days, cool nights and low humidity. Anytime is a great time to travel to the Galapagos; while visiting one can expect to see plenty of sunshine, blue skies and a possible chance of light rain.
 

QUITO

Min-Max Air Temp

Avg Rainfall

JAN50-664.5
FEB50-665.1
MAR50-666.0
APR51-666.9
MAY51-664.9
JUN49-670.8
JUL49-671.0
AUG49-671.0
SEP49-683.1
OCT49-675.0
NOV49-674.3
DEC50-664.1

*Year Round Temperatures in °F, Rainfall in Inches
 

GALAPAGOS ISLANDS

Min-Max Air Temp

Avg Rainfall

JAN70-841.0
FEB74-861.0
MAR73-882.0
APR72-861.5
MAY72-820.8
JUN66-780.3
JUL67-760.5
AUG64-750.3
SEP62-750.5
OCT64-770.3
NOV66-780.5
DEC68-800.5

*Year Round Temperatures in °F, Rainfall in Inches
 

Weather (Galapagos Islands)

When to Visit
  • jan
  • feb
  • mar
  • apr
  • may
  • jun
  • jul
  • aug
  • sep
  • oct
  • nov
  • dec

The great weather of the Galapagos Islands makes them a fantastic destination for travel year-round. Every month of the year is a good time to enjoy a tour of the region. The Galapagos Islands have a subtropical climate that is almost completely determined by sea currents. Although most believe the Galapagos to be a very hot destination, the cool water currents in the area keep the climate more temperate year-round. The islands’ equatorial location ensures twelve hours of sunlight daily, all year long. The mild variations in weather from month to month result in an overall climate of warm days, cool nights and low humidity. Anytime is a great time to travel to the Galapagos; while visiting one can expect to see plenty of sunshine, blue skies and a possible chance of light rain.

There are two seasons in the Galapagos:

  • The hot or rainy season arrives with the coming of the warm Panama current. The warmest months are December through June with temperatures ranging from 72-90°F (22-32°C), with February and March being the hottest and sunniest. The sea is at its warmest (in the 70°F range) and tends to be calmer during this time. Although the islands receive slightly more rainfall during these months, most of the lower elevations remain quite arid. Expect blue skies and sunshine and with a chance of short afternoon showers.
  • July through November is the dry or garua season, which begins with the arrival of cold ocean currents. One can expect cooler temperatures and a light mist in the morning during these months. The skies are also a bit cloudier and air temperatures a bit cooler, in the range of 60-75°F (15-24°C). The garua is a mist that forms in the highlands, providing moisture and usually tapering off by midday, leaving skies slightly overcast or sunny for the afternoon. The air temperature can be slightly lower, but the Equator is still a warm place to visit. During this time of year a cold ocean current from the south, called the Antarctic Humboldt current, causes the water temperature to drop slightly, ranging from 60°F- 72°F (15-22°C).

Within both seasons, there are other variants, like altitude, that affect the weather.
The lowest point of elevation is sea level and the highest is Wolf Volcano, Isabela Island (5,600ft or 1,710m). There are seven vegetation zones ranging from arid coastal zones to evergreen cloud forests to treeless shrubless pampa zones, all of which are affected by moisture levels, temperature and sunlight. During the garua season, the coast is very dry while the highlands are much wetter. The hot season may or may not have a rainy period which normally lasts four to six weeks, or in the event of El Nino, a longer period. During the hot season, the coastal zones remain arid. Prevailing winds from the southeast keep the southern sides of the major islands much moister then the northern sides, which fall into a rain shadow resulting in the arid zones reaching a much higher elevation. The months of May and December are changeover periods and weather and sea temperatures in these months tend to vary from year to year depending on the change in the water currents. Occasionally, one will feel humidity, predominantly on the south side of major islands. Compared to the humidity levels in the Amazon or the US South, the humidity in the Galapagos is very low and will not disturb activities.

Snorkeling is an activity offered on all Galapagos trips.
Wetsuits, available onboard most cruises and for all land tours, are recommended June through November. Though sea temperatures vary significantly from island to island, generally all travelers will use a wetsuit during this time. Snorkeling in shallow waters offshore or in protective coves tends to be warmer. Waters to the north, near Genovesa are warmed by the Panama Current, whereas snorkeling off the western island of Isabela is always chilly due to the cold Cromwell undercurrent. The Humboldt Current, or the South Equatorial Current, brings cold sub-Antarctic water that flows through the archipelago eight or nine months a year keeping sea temperatures low. One will experience a variance in sea temperatures while snorkeling on any trip during any time of the year. During the hot season, travelers tend to spend more time in the water, especially at midday when the temperatures are the hottest and wildlife is less active. Snorkeling is an optional activity and those who are not interested in snorkeling have other options.

Sea Conditions are a concern of many cruise travelers.
All Galapagos vessels are small; the largest accommodates only 100 passengers. Naturally, some movement will be felt on all vessels regardless of the time of year or the size of the vessel. The seas around the Galapagos are generally shallow and despite being the crossroads of several currents, the waters are not terribly rough. The seas are at their calmest January through April. December, May and June are transitional months during which one will experience relatively calm seas, though it varies year to year depending on the shift in the currents. July through November, one will find choppier seas, with August through October being the roughest. Certain vessels are more stable than others and cabin location can also help avoid seasickness. Most travel is done at night while passengers are sleeping with the only exception being the short midday transit (two hours or less). During the day, vessels dock in calm waters near shore. Passengers spend most of the day on land or snorkeling. These factors lessen the risk of seasickness. We recommend that you bring over-the-counter or prescription motion sickness medication, though many cruisers discover that the seas are much calmer than anticipated. If you are concerned about motion sickness, please contact us for more details on how to select the right vessel for you.
 

GALAPAGOS ISLANDS

Min-Max Air Temp

Avg Rainfall

JAN70-841.0
FEB74-861.0
MAR73-882.0
APR72-861.5
MAY72-820.8
JUN66-780.3
JUL67-760.5
AUG64-750.3
SEP62-750.5
OCT64-770.3
NOV66-780.5
DEC68-800.5

*Year Round Temperatures in °F, Rainfall in Inches
 

QUITO

Min-Max Air Temp

Avg Rainfall

JAN50-664.5
FEB50-665.1
MAR50-666.0
APR51-666.9
MAY51-664.9
JUN49-671.9
JUL49-670.8
AUG49-671.0
SEP49-683.1
OCT49-675.0
NOV49-674.3
DEC50-664.1

*Year Round Temperatures in °F, Rainfall in Inches

 

Specials >> Ecuador

Enjoy these Fall travel promotions in Ecuador and the Galapagos during September, October and the...
Enjoy a complimentary upgrade to the brand new Illa Experience Hotel in Quito when you book a...

Unique Lodges of Ecuador

Pricing
Per Person
$7,095
Galapagos Airfare: $560

Entrance to Galapagos to National Park ($100 Adult / $50 Child)
Galapagos Transit Control Card ($20)
Included in tour cost
  • Round Trip Airfare Quito/Galapagos/Quito
  • All airport/hotel transfers
  • All hotel accommodations
  • All listed activities
  • English-speaking certified guides
  • Entrance fees for all scheduled tours, national parks & archaeological sites
  • Meals as indicated
  • Southern Explorations pre-departure services
Excluded from tour cost
  • International airfare to and from Central & South America
  • Tips and gratuities
  • Medical & travel insurance (highly recommended)
  • Domestic airfare to and from Galapagos Islands
  • Galapagos National Park entrance fee ($100 Adult/$50 Child)
  • Galapagos Transit Control Card ($20)
  • Bar tab at lodge
  • Hiking boots and other necessary sports gear

Unique Lodges of Ecuador

Trip Dates
This trip is only offered by Private Departure. Please contact us for more information.
Monday, January 1, 2018 to Monday, December 31, 2018
Available
Tuesday, January 1, 2019 to Tuesday, December 31, 2019
Available
Mashpi Lodge
Hotel upgrades are available, please contact us to discuss your options.
  • 5 Star
     Included Hotel (subject to availability) 
Luxury Hotel - Quito
Hotel upgrades are available, please contact us to discuss your options.
Luxury Hotel - Otavalo
Hotel upgrades are available, please contact us to discuss your options.
Galapagos Islands Lodges
Hotel upgrades are available, please contact us to discuss your options.

One Day

Multi-Day

ecuador travelThank you so much for arranging such a wonderful trip.  Terry and I definatly had a wonderful time in Ecuador!!. Tomas and Arturo were amazing and really made the adventure terrific.  Tomas' knowledge and expertise is valuable.  He was such a great guide!! - Maria and Terry Slayman (Custom Ecuador Hiking Adventure)

 
ecuador travelSouthern Explorations created a trip for us that allowed us to truly enjoy the wonders of mainland Ecuador and the Galapagos with none of the usual logistical hassles of navigating an unknown country. The guides greatly enriched our experience, especially Tomas Espinosa & his sidekick Arturo, as they transported us through the Andes, into the Amazon Basin, and up to Otavalo. – Michele Maynard (Custom Ecuador & Beagle)
 

ecuador waterfall travelI have traveled many places in the world but the trip put together by Southern Explorations may well be the best. The amazing biology we saw on the Galapagos and in the Amazon, wonderful guides both on the Eclipse and at Sacha lodge, excellent food, and great coordination of the different parts of the trip made for an incredible journey. - Marilyn Parsons, USA (Amazon & Galapagos Island Cruise)


ecuador travelAll of our guides [on our Ecuador tours] were exceptional. Their English was good, they brought excitement and enthusiasm to their jobs and they were all very knowledgeable. We are hoping to go to Peru next year and I will definitely contact Southern Explorations for that trip. - Heidi Otton, Connecticut (Ecuador & Galapagos Island Cruise)

ecuador travelOur trip was rather complex with three different sections (Amazon, Galapagos, and Machu Picchu (Peru)).  There were a number of internal flights as well as trains, boats, and more.  We also had coordination of people joining us part way through, special guides, and special activities for some people.  I was very impressed that all of the transfers, activities, and connections occurred without a hitch.  There were ample opportunities for things to go wrong, but the whole trip went exceptionally smoothly.  All of the guides were outstanding - knowledgeable, personable, with good communication skills, and a good sense of humor.  I appreciated the very small groups, which afforded just the right balance.  We were able to see more than expected.   It couldn’t have been better. - Linda Tredupp, Wisconsin (Amazon, Galapagos Island Cruise & Machu Picchu)

ecuador travelFabricio is a great guide. He really keeps it fun yet he is on top of all arrangements. We were very lucky to have a private trip with him. At the Napo Wildlife Center, the guides were also great, very knowledgeable and personable. They helped us out a lot by setting up a personal itinerary for my wife and me since we wanted to hike more than the rest of the group. On both tours, we got individualized attention. We wanted to hike more than the normal program and in both locations we were accommodated. We really appreciate the extra hiking that was planned; we got to complete a 15 mile day hike through the rainforest that I will not soon forget. - Dan and Mary Greenblatt, Wyoming (Amazon & Galapagos Island Land Tour)


ecuador travelJust want to thank Jon ...it was the best vacation ever! - Neet Shah (Ecuador & Galapagos Island Cruise)


When planning our trip to South America we could find few companies providing tours of Ecuador. I came across Southern Explorations on the internet and, knowing nothing about them, took a chance. This turned out to be the best decision we made for the entire trip. This was by far the best experience of our six weeks in South America – due entirely to the organization and our superb guide. From the moment we were picked up we were made to feel that everything was being done to meet our needs and wants. From time spent at markets, roadside stops, food, to photo-stops and ice-cream treats – everything was about what we wanted rather than following a restrictive timetable. Our guide was so good at predicting our needs, picking up on our interests and facilitating these wherever possible. Half-way through our tour we were asking our guide about other Southern Exploration tours. We live a long way away, but I don’t think this will be our only Southern Explorations adventure. Thank you all, we had a fantastic time.  - James McCallum, Australia (Ecuador)


Thumbs up to Southern Explorations! We went to the Galapagos and Ecuador and everything was perfectly planned from A to Z. The choices of the boat, the restaurants and the hotel were perfect. The guides were excellent. And out trip coordinator did a fantastic job when planning the trip with us. We absolutely recommend Southern Explorations and hope to travel with them again.   -The Tamers family, Miami (Galapagos Island Cruise & Ecuador)


I have traveled with many travel companies to over 45 countries and all 7 continents. I don't usually travel with the same company more than once because I am very picky about my itinerary and I also want a good value for my money without the hassle of traveling with a group. Southern Explorations provided the flexibility to develop my own itinerary, even if it required modifying the excursions that they had available. Once the itinerary was developed to my specifications, I still didn't know how it would turn out until it was done. Now that I'm home, I can say that my trip to Ecuador was executed flawlessly. Everything was exactly as described and planned. The guides were knowledgeable, efficient, prompt, and showed a definite interest in and enthusiasm about their country. Each of the places I visited was exceptional. I got a wonderful trip for a reasonable rate and I would definitely travel with Southern Explorations again. - Anne Marie Lewis, USA (Ecuador & Galapagos Island Cruise)


My trip coordinator, was Fabulous!! She was always available to answer questions and followed up with us many times to ensure everything was in order with a very energentic personality, very friendly and was a great help to coordinate our trip on short notice. I'd definitely work with her again if we book with Southern Exploration. - Jan Filipiak, USA (Ecuador)


Thank-you for the trip of a life time and I have already recommended you to everyone who asks!   -Wendy Williams, Canada (Galapagos Island Cruise, Amazon & Machu Picchu)


The Ecuador Highlights was a trip of a life-time! I have traveled the world but this trip ranks as one of my best ever. So, come on fellow ‘Boomers,’ depart the States (and the grandkids!) and see what is see is happening in such an exciting part of South America…Ecuador. - Linda Owens, Oregon (Ecuador)


Southern Explorations provided my family with an adventure of a lifetime...we have traveled to Asia,Africa and South America with other companies and S.E. surpassed all of them in regards to activities, lodgings and personnel that they have aligned themselves with. We truly felt we saw Ecuador as it is meant to be experienced, we loved the people, the food, and the scenery, an amazing country that I hope everyone gets to enjoy at some time in their life. This trip was unbelievable! Thank you.  - Mary Jane Mumford and family (Andes, Amazon & Galapagos Island Land Tour)


We had a great trip - very impressed with Southern Explorations. Jorge, your representative in Quito was super. He was always on time, friendly and informative as well as a great ambassador for his country. All the connections were on time and well planned- would consider another trip with Southern Explorations.   Roger & Priscilla Beaver, Indiana (Galapagos Island Cruise & Amazon)


Southern Explorations planned our trip without a lot of advanced notice and did an excellent job in meeting our needs and budget. We were very impressed with their responsiveness and willingness to customize. - Susan Lebowitz (Custom Ecuador)


We had a wonderful experience in Quito and the Galapagos Islands. Southern Exploration’s people in the United States and in Quito did their utmost to make our travel experience memorable and comfortable.   - Ben Freiberger (Ecuador & Galapagos Island Cruise)


We had a wonderful trip. During the planning stage, Jonathan was easy to deal with and extremely helpful. During the trip itself, Felipe was a treasure. And the call afterwards from Justin was icing on the cake. We feel like we're part of the Southern Explorations family now. Add to that the wonder that is the Galapagos, perfect weather and pleasant trip-mates, and the whole thing was beautifully memorable. Thank you so much for a trip of a lifetime.  - Gwen Ruta and Paul Buchanan-Barrow (Ecuador)


We just got back from our trip and we wanted to thank you, the tour was excellent and exceeded all of our expectations. Juan was outstanding, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable and really helped us while hiking. We really enjoyed the cruise onboard the Legend. The room was great, with fantastic views of the islands, and the food was superb. We travel extensively and visiting Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands was the ideal trip. Thanks again for your expert advice and great support. We will be traveling again with you soon! - Jerry Smith, Minnesota (Ecuador & Galapagos Island Cruise)


Everything was excellent. We were both thoroughly happy with our trip and our tour guide. We learned a lot about the culture as well as were busy doing fun activities. We will recommend Southern Explorations and our guide to others. Thank you. - Sheila and Reena Krishnan, Missouri (Ecuador)


This was my first time traveling to South America and although it was very last minute, Southern Explorations made everything a breeze. Kapawi was truly a special place and I'll always remember this trip. - Rushita Jampani (Kapawi Amazon Ecolodge)


Thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of the trip. Southern Explorations agent was excellent in helping with trip. Thanks so much for everything. - Jean Audet, USA (Ecuador)


We took this trip to celebrate my boyfriends 50th birthday and we had the time of our lives! The guides were really seemed to care about us and ensured we having a great time! Thank you! - Tammy Rogers (Andes, Amazon & Galapagos Multisport)


 
Ecuador - Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How do I choose an itinerary?
A: We offer both active and cultural tours that visit different regions including the Andes, Amazon and the Ecuadorian coast. These tours vary in length and level of accommodation. Our Adventure Travel Coordinators would be happy to chat with you to help you find the itinerary that best meets your needs and interests.
Q: Can I make changes or additions to these tours?
A: Yes! We are happy to put together a custom Ecuador itinerary for you if our existing itineraries are not exactly what you are looking for. You can also check out our extensions in mainland Ecuador to make additions to our existing trips. Contact a trip specialist for recommendations.
Q: When is the best time to go to Ecuador?
A: Peak tourism season in Ecuador corresponds with North American and European vacation periods over the summer and the winter holidays, rather than the weather, which is fairly consistent with warm and sunny days throughout the year. All of our trips run year-round, but a few trekking or wildlife-specific itineraries are better during some months than others. Please check with your Adventure Travel Coordinator for more details.
Q: What is the weather like?
A: The weather in Ecuador is pleasant year-round. There is a wet season and a dry season, but this varies depending on which region of the country you are in. Even in the wet season, you will experience plenty of clear, sunny days. The Andean Highlands are a great place to visit year-round with temperatures in the 60s during the day. Occasional light showers can happen anytime, but heavy afternoon rains are common here from January to May. You have the best odds for clear views of Ecuador’s many volcanoes in the months of June, July, August and September, but you will often have views in the morning throughout the year. The Amazon region is hot, humid and wet throughout the year, with the wettest months being from April to June. Please consult the weather tab on your trip itinerary for more details.
Q: What is a typical day like on an Ecuador trip? 
A: A typical day in Ecuador will vary from tour to tour, but generally, you can expect to start your excursions right after breakfast with a full day of scheduled activities or sightseeing. A lunch break is included and you’ll retire to your hotel in the late afternoon with evenings free.
Q: How physically fit do I need to be to enjoy a trip to Ecuador? 
A: Our Ecuador trips vary in level of activity, so the requirements differ based on itinerary. Please check our physical ratings for each itinerary to see what may be required of you when assessing your ability to enjoy a trip. If you have any specific questions, please contact your Adventure Travel Coordinator. We have personal experience with these activities and can help you decide whether a trip is right for you.
Q: How much time do I need to visit Ecuador?
A: Most of our mainland Ecuador itineraries are at least nine days in length, but we do offer some lodge-based trips and cruises that can be done in a week or less.
Q: How far in advance should I book?
A: For the best guide availability and selection in hotels, we recommend booking three to six months in advance. Spring and summer holidays book up more quickly, so more advance planning is ideal. For the holiday season, we recommend booking a year in advance.
Q: What are your booking and cancellation policies?
A: Click here to see our booking and cancellation policies.
Q: Do you use certified guides?
A: Our guides have been carefully selected for their knowledge, professionalism, experience and ability to effectively manage groups with finesse. We only hire guides who are native to the destination and are licensed or certified in accordance with the government regulations of their country. All are fluent in Spanish and English. Most have advanced degrees in tourism, biology, native culture or other related field. All guides are experienced in the outdoors and trained in basic first aid.
Q: What kind of accommodations can I expect?
A: In major cities we offer a variety of hotels including several boutique, Ecuadorian-style properties. Throughout the rest of mainland Ecuador we work with a combination of historic haciendas, small Ecuadorian-style hotels and remote lodges. The majority of the properties are family-run or locally owned. All of our accommodations are clean and comfortable, with private bathrooms and hot water. We offer basic or luxury options in many locations, depending on taste and budget.
Q: Do tours include airfare?
A: Travelers are responsible for their own international airfare. Internal flights are quoted separately from our base trip costs. We will include any necessary internal flight pricing in your quote.
Q: How many people are on your tours?
A: Most of our Ecuador tours are private, with a guide and vehicle just for your family or group. Visits to haciendas or lodges may include tours with small groups, but do not exceed eight people.
Q: Will I get more information on packing, vaccines, currency, electricity, etc.?
A: After booking you will receive a link to our online trip portal which includes all of the need-to-know information that is specific to your itinerary.  This includes packing lists, restaurant recommendations, tipping guides, FAQs, vaccine recommendations and currency information. Your Adventure Travel Coordinator will also be a great resource for any other information you may need.
Galapagos Islands - Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How do I choose an itinerary?
A: The Galapagos is an incredible destination, so no matter which islands or visitor sites you see, you will be impressed by the abundance of wildlife and unique landscapes. In general, we encourage people not to worry about the specific islands they are visiting unless they have a certain species that they must see, such as penguins or albatross. However, we realize that this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip, so if you want to know more, please look here, or contact your Adventure Travel Coordinator for more details.
Q: Can I make changes or additions to these tours?
A: Yes! While cruise itineraries are set by the Galapagos National Park, we can add extra days in the Galapagos or extensions in mainland Ecuador. Contact an Adventure Travel Coordinator for recommendations.
Q: When is the best time to go to the Galapagos?
A: With abundant wildlife and pleasant weather year-round, there isn’t a bad time to go to the Galapagos. You can find a wider selection of trip options by avoiding the winter holidays, spring break and the summer months when most people are free to travel and plan vacations.
Q: What is the weather like in the Galapagos?
A: The Galapagos has a sub-tropical climate with temperatures ranging from the mid 60s to high 80s throughout the year. There are two seasons caused by different prevailing ocean currents. The warmer, wetter season runs from December to May, and a cooler, dryer season takes over from June – November. Even in the wet season, rain is generally confined to brief afternoon showers and shouldn’t disrupt your trip. You can find more information about what to expect under the ‘Weather’ tab on each Galapagos trip.
Q: How physically fit do I need to be to enjoy a trip to the Galapagos?
A: While your days in the islands are full, Galapagos cruises are not particularly strenuous. As long as you are able to walk a couple of miles at a leisurely pace and are able to navigate uneven terrain, you will be able to enjoy the Galapagos. Please check the physical ratings on our trip pages for more information.
Q: How much time do I need to visit the Galapagos?
A: Due to the amount time it takes to get to the Galapagos, we recommend our travelers plan for at least five days in the islands, with eight days being ideal. Cruises run from four to eight days in length with extended 15-day cruises available for travelers who would like to see the entire archipelago. You must arrive in Ecuador at least one day prior to your cruise in order to catch your Galapagos flight.
Q: How far in advance should I book?
A: The Galapagos Islands are relatively busy year-round and cruises frequently sell out. As a rule, the further in advance you can plan, the more options you will have. For the best selection of cruises, plan at least six to nine months in advance, and a year or more ahead  if you plan to travel over the Christmas holiday season or May through July.
Q: What are your booking and cancellation policies?
A: Click here to see our booking and cancellation policies. Please note that each cruise has its own cancellation policy in addition to our own. This will be detailed in your itinerary.
Q: Do you use certified guides?
A: All guides on Galapagos cruises are freelance and hired directly by the vessels. Guides on any of the cruises we offer are  experienced, fluent in English and hold a degree in a related area. Cruises that are mid-range or above will have the best guides possible. Our more economic options also have great guides, but they may have a little less experience, or basic English skills. Please note, many of the best guides in the Galapagos now choose to skip formal certification process that define the level of each guide because of the high costs and the time it demands. Because of this, the designations of Level I, II, III are no longer an accurate indicator of the quality of your guide.
Q: What kind of accommodations can I expect?
A: We offer a range of accommodation levels in the Galapagos. Our most economical cruise options are similar to a three-star hotel. The cabins may be small and basic, but the vessels are still clean and comfortable. Our mid-range cruises are like a four-star hotel with larger cabins, generally with larger windows and more common spaces throughout the vessel. Luxury cruises are similar to a five star hotel. These come with much larger cabins and extra amenities such as private balconies. Hotel accommodations in mainland Ecuador are set to match the cruise level that you book.
Q: Do tours include airfare?
A: Travelers are responsible for their own international airfare. Internal flights, including Galapagos flights, are quoted separately from our base trip costs. We include your Galapagos airfare in your quote.
Q: How many people are on your tours?
A: Your tour size depends on the size of the vessel you choose. Cruises in the Galapagos carry between 12 and 100 passengers, but the majority of the vessels we offer accommodate 16 passengers. There are never more than 16 passengers to one naturalist guide. All Quito services and additional tours are private with a guide and vehicle just for your group.
Q: What are the benefits of a cruise over a land-based itinerary?
A: Both options allow for great wildlife viewing opportunities on land and underwater, and a chance to see a variety of landscapes. Live-aboard cruises allow you to visit the uninhabited outlying islands, which land tours don’t visit, and to see more islands throughout your trip.
Q: Can I snorkel, kayak or scuba dive during my cruise?
A: Snorkeling will be included almost every day on all Galapagos cruises. Kayaking is only permitted in certain areas, as mandated by the Galapagos National Park. Many cruises have kayaks on board, but not all do. Be sure to check with your Adventure Travel Coordinator if this is a priority for you. Diving is only available on live-aboard, dive-intensive cruises. If you would like to add scuba diving to a naturalist cruise, we can add on land-based dive tours before or afterwards.
Q: What if I get seasick?
A: Most people worry about motion sickness beforehand and then are fine once on the trip. However, you are on a boat and will feel some motion regardless of which type of vessel you are on. We recommend that all passengers who are prone to motion sickness consult their doctors to obtain preventative medication best suited to their individual needs. As long as you are prepared, you will be fine.
Q: Will I get more information on packing, vaccines, currency, electricity, etc.?
A: After booking you will receive a link to our online trip portal, which includes all of the need-to-know information specific to your itinerary.  This includes packing lists, restaurant recommendations, tipping guides, FAQs, vaccine recommendations and currency information. Your Adventure Travel Coordinator will also be a great resource for any other information you may need.