• Overview
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  • Pricing
  • Dates
  • Hotels
  • Extensions
  • Trip Reviews
  • FAQ

This South American eco-adventure offers two contrasting views of Ecuador: the indigenous life of this little-visited mainland and its popular off-shore attraction, the Galapagos Islands, all in one fascinating 11 day trip. The pleasures of Ecuador's timeless country lifestyle are an ideal destination for the inquisitive traveler who enjoys getting off the beaten track to learn about a country's traditions and its crafts.

You'll spend four days visiting Ecuador sights that few tourists see on Ecuador tours, shopping in its famous Andean markets, enjoying its scenic hot springs, hiking in the highlands and staying in picturesque hacienda lodgings, all as a magnificent prelude to the Galapagos cruise of your choosing. We offer a wide range of Galapagos Island tours, allowing you to customize your trip according to what best suits your interests, schedule and budget.

Itinerary
DAY 1: ARRIVE QUITO

Upon arrival into Quito, a Southern Explorations representative will meet you and transfer you to your hotel. If you arrive early, we can arrange optional tours of the city and surrounding sites.

DAY 2: QUITO - COTOPAXI NATIONAL PARK

Your Ecuador adventure travel tour begins with an unforgettable drive south through the "Avenue of Volcanoes," viewing the spectacular plains that surround the world's highest active volcano, Mt. Cotopaxi at 19,225 feet, located in Cotopaxi National Park. This enormous park is home to many species including llamas, wild horses, deer, rabbits, Andean gulls and hummingbirds as well as a good place to catch a glimpse of the endangered Andean condor, one of the world's largest birds. A hearty trail lunch will fortify you for the short climb to El Parqueadero for a stunning view of a nearby glacier. You'll reach an authentic hacienda by later afternoon where you'll enjoy a delicious dinner and a comfortable night's stay. (B,L,D)

DAY 3: COTOPAXI - PAPALLACTA HOT SPRINGS

After breakfast you'll head towards the Oriente, Ecuador's Amazon Basin, through a dramatic landscape of waterfalls, high plains and volcanoes. From the village of Papallacta, you'll take a tranquil guided hike, learning about the flora and fauna of this picturesque region followed by a tasty lunch. Then enjoy a long soak in the pristine Papallacta hot springs surrounded by glorious vistas. Rejuvenated, you'll be ready for a relaxing dinner and overnight stay at the hot springs. (B,L,D)

DAY 4: PAPAPALLACTA - OTAVALO

After breakfast, there will be time for a last refreshing soak before resuming your Ecuador adventure travel tour through the lush highlands to the valley town of Otavalo deep in the Andes where the country's most famous textile market is located. There you'll be able to bargain for colorful weavings and tapestries and be given a private demonstration by a family of weavers who are preserving the craft of their ancestors. In the late afternoon, you'll drive into a highland region of countless lakes in Imbabura Province, staying for dinner and overnight at another charming historic hacienda. (B,L,D)

DAY 5: OTAVALO - QUITO

In the morning, drive to the town of Cotacachi, known for its handcrafted leather items. If time allows, there will a last stop at the beautiful deep water Cuicocha Lake, a flooded volcanic crater with two floating islets, before heading to the village of Calderon, famous for its bread dough handicrafts that are used in Day of the Dead celebrations and as Christmas ornaments. Return to Quito in the late afternoon. (B) Then it's on to the town of Cotacachi, known for its handcrafted leather items. If time allows, there will a last stop at the beautiful deep water Cuicocha Lake, a flooded volcanic crater with two floating islets, before returning to Quito in the late afternoon. (B)

DAY 6: QUITO - GALAPAGOS ISLANDS

Early morning transfer to the airport for the flight to the Galapagos Islands where you'll be transferred to your vessel and set sail for your first island. Depending on which of these Galapagos cruises you choose, you'll sail in this extraordinary archipelago for five to eight days with the vessel as your hotel. (B,L,D)

DAYS 7-9: GALAPAGOS ISLANDS CRUISE

According to your chosen itinerary, you'll visit between four and ten different islands, each with its own particular topography, ecology, and wildlife. Small panga boats provide daily transport ashore for walking tours to get a closer view of Galapagos wildlife. There is always plenty of time for snorkeling, scuba diving, swimming and if you like, pure relaxation on the boat or the beach. Please refer to the individual boat itineraries for specific details. (B,L,D)

DAY 10: GALAPAGOS - QUITO

Experience one last island visit on this final day of your series of Galapagos tours before being transferred from the vessel to the airport for the return flight to Quito. On arrival, you'll be transferred to your hotel for a final night in the capital. (B)

DAY 11: QUITO - HOME

We'll provide a morning transfer to the airport for your international flight home, marking the end of Southern Explorations' services. (B)

Weather

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
 

Maps

Specials >> Galapagos Islands Cruises

The Sea Star, a 16-passenger luxury motor yacht, is offering incredible discounts of up to $1000...
Enjoy discounts on one of the newest vessels cruising the Galapagos. The Camila is a 16-passenger...
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...
Take advantage of $100 flights to the Galapagos ($560 value) in early December when you book a...

Galapagos & Haciendas

Pricing
Starting at
$3,445
Cruise Class4D/3N Cruise5D/4N Cruise8D/7N Cruise
Tourist Superior +$3445+$4045 +$4800
First Class +$3570+$4170+$5170
Cruise Ship +4300+$4900+$6200
Luxury Cruise +$4500 +$5100+$6800


This tour combines any Galapagos cruise of your choice with the Hacienda Tour.  Your trip costs depend on which vessel and cruise duration you select.  Prices listed here are per person starting at rates.

Domestic Airfare:
Galapagos: $560

Entrance to Galapagos to National Park: $100 Adult / $50 Child
Galapagos Transit Control Card: $20

A single supplement applies to single travelers in a private cabin. Single travelers willing to share a cabin with another passenger of the same gender can avoid the single supplement on certain vessels.

 

Included in tour cost
  • All meals on Galapagos cruise
  • Galapagos cruise
  • Naturalist guide while on cruise
  • All airport/hotel transfers
  • All hotel accommodations
  • 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
  • Airport taxes, international and local
  • 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 on cruise
  • Hiking boots and other necessary sports gear

Galapagos & Haciendas

Trip Dates
Departure dates depend on the duration of your Galapagos cruise and the boat of your choice. Please contact us for more details.
Sunday, January 1, 2017 to Sunday, December 31, 2017
Contact Us
Monday, January 1, 2018 to Monday, December 31, 2018
Contact Us
Tuesday, January 1, 2019 to Tuesday, December 31, 2019
Available
Cotopaxi
Hotel upgrades are available, please contact us to discuss your options.
Otavalo
Hotel upgrades are available, please contact us to discuss your options.
Papallacta
Hotel upgrades are available, please contact us to discuss your options.
Quito
Hotel upgrades are available, please contact us to discuss your options.

One Day

Multi-Day

galapagos tourOur group planned this trip 18 months in advance. We are a disparate set of personalities, many of us are well-traveled and research our planned activities. Speaking for our group, and I feel comfortable doing so because everyone has written me stating that our Galapagos Trip was the best of their lives. We cannot say enough about the Grace. Every aspect of the trip was well planned and executed. The food and services were excellent. Our rooms were very well maintained at least twice a day. The facilities served our group of 18 perfectly. We especially liked the daily briefings so that we were aware of what was coming, but the map on the wall in the lounge that was updated twice a day made our experience extremely pleasant. The chef and Michelle could not have been nicer. Both in food and drink served, personality and service. The Captain and crew, especially the Panga crew, were so kind and made our trips easy. And they watched out for us when we were in the water. But best of all were our Naturalists. They made the daily experience a real treat. Both Raffa and Sam were also fun to be with. And to top it off, Raffa gave us a copy of all 500 photos he had taken on his own camera so that his photo dates and the daily drawings on the map made it easy for us to reconstruct the trip. Please express our gratitude to the entire staff of the Grace. - Team Binder (Galapagos onboard the Grace)

machu picchu travelWe just returned from our Galapagos/Machu Picchu trip and I wanted to send you a note to thank you for planning such a phenomenal trip for us! Juan, our guide, and Boris, our driver, were FANTASTIC! The bus we traveled on was much larger than we anticipated and a great way to travel around!  We cannot say enough nice things about Juan and Boris! They were flexible with our schedule, providing extra time to us when we wanted it at the market in Pisac, able to provide other options for us when a planned activity had to be cancelled due to a mudslide, and even stopped on the side of the road for us to grab some cuy (guinea pig being roasted on a stick in this tiny town we were passing through). There is so much more I could say. Trip of a lifetime! I will definitely recommend you to everyone! - Debbie Cohen (Ocean Spray & Machu Picchu)

galapagos islandsWe 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 & Pricilla Beaver, Indiana (Galapagos Island Cruise & Amazon Lodge)

galapagos islandsI researched both local and website travel agents and Southern Explorations was the only one I found that was both knowledgeable and easy to use. Their rates were also at or below the other websites for quotes on the very same vessels. The ability to use the website and also call to speak to actual people who had been on this trip gave us so much more confidence. We would use Southern Explorations again! Galapagos Islands is the trip of a lifetime! - Susan Mehall, Virginia (Galapagos Island Cruise)

galapagos islands culture

Best trip so far and I have been around the world...I cried when I got off the boat. Jorge was a great guid in Ecuador and one that was perfect for us, not pushy, did anything we wanted. We felt like all were our friends after the trip and really would love to continue to be in touch with them all, as they were super people.  -Kathy Harvey, Massachusetts (Galapagos Island Cruise)

The overall holiday was excellent. The Southern Explorations element was fantastic and the Eclipse could not be faulted, except I ate far too much!  - Natasha Rowlands, UK (Galapagos Island Cruise)


galapagos sea lionA phenomenal experience that exceeded our expectations. Superb customer service from start to finish. The itinerary allowed us to experience a variety of islands, species and geography. The guides were engaging and informative, we learned a tremendous amount without feeling 'taught'. The ship's crew were friendly and fun while insuring top-notch cleanliness and delicious meals and snacks. It is great to come home and think ‘I wouldn't change a thing- it was perfect'.  - Carol Majewski, New Hampshire (Galapagos Island Cruise)


galapagos islandsIt’s been about two weeks now since we returned from our wonderful Galapagos adventure. Now that we’ve had time to really reflect upon that wonderful experience we are beginning to realize how truly spectacular and inspirational it was and how much it has enriched our lives and our appreciation thereof. Thus, I am compelled to tell you how much we appreciate your efforts and those of the other fine folks at Southern Explorations including, but not limited to Eric, Justin and Jorge (Quito Rep.). You and your colleagues at Southern Explorations demonstrated your commitment to insuring your customer’s having a well-organized, informative and most enjoyable adventure. I especially appreciate your and your colleagues’ rapid response to our group’s questions and requests during the planning stages of our trip. During that time we made several inquiries about the itinerary, craft, clothing, and onshore accommodations. Without exception, you folks responded, in detail, within 24 hours of each inquiry.I know that you receive evaluations from all your clients and cannot imagine that the vast majority of them are of a most positive nature. Likewise, we returned our original evaluation which reflected our enjoyment of the Galapagos adventure and the excellent service you and Southern Explorations provided to make it happen. However, now that we had more time to truly reflect upon our experience and compare notes with many of our friends about similar experiences, we just want to extend our special thanks to you for an outstanding experience that will make each sunrise a little brighter and each sunset something more to contemplate. Gracias!  - Charlie and Joyce Ault, New Mexico (Galapagos Island Cruise)


galapagos islands travelOur experience with Southern Explorations has been nothing short of fantastic. My husband and I believe this to be the BEST vacation we have ever taken. The crew of the Athalla II was phenomenal. We were not sure what to expect since this was our first small boat cruise. We are thrilled with all that we saw and accomplished. Our vacation was amazing thanks to you, our Quito guide, the Athala II, her wonderful crew and our Galapagos guide/naturalist.  - Cindy Miller, Maryland (Galapagos Island Cruise)


galapagos islands travelOur trip to Quito and the Galapagos Islands was the trip of a lifetime and it did not disappoint. Booking through Southern Explorations made it very easy and worry free. It was nice to have someone to pick us up at the airport and drive us to our hotel (I fear we never would have found it!) and to be there for all of our transfers to and from tours and flights. The Galapagos Islands adventure is worth every penny that you have to save to make it happen and if you are a nature lover, you simply must go. - Darcy and Daniel Keep, USA (Galapagos Island Cruise)


galapagos sea lionI don't believe I've ever felt so taken care of...every step of the way. It was an incredible experience. I highly recommend Southern Explorations and plan to use them for my next excursion...wherever that may be!  -Jan McArdle, California (Galapagos Island Cruise)


galapagos islands travelMy husband and I would like to say how much we enjoyed our family holiday to the Galapagos , and thank you for making all the arrangements for 18 of us. We had an unforgettable experience thanks to Southern Explorations!  - Mary and Tim Stoneman (Galapagos Island Cruise)


galapagos tortoisesOur trip to the Galapagos was more amazing than I could have imagined. The boat, Nemo II, was the perfect size for our family -- and much better than one of the larger ships. My daughter (age 10) loved being on a catamaran - and the crew was very friendly and welcoming to her. The rooms were comfortable and clean with nice bathrooms. We went walking and snorkeling every day - usually two hikes and one snorkel. Our guide was excellent - very knowledgeable and well-spoken. She showed a great deal of pride in the islands and in conservation efforts. My daughter learned more in 1-day than she would have from all 6 days of school that she missed. It was a great trip!  - Molly Stevens and Family (Galapagos Island Cruise)


 


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


galapagos islands travelSouthern Explorations was great to work with. Customer service and follow up were outstanding.  - Amy Fisher & Deborah Boardman, Virginia (Galapagos Island Cruise)


galapagos islands tourIt's one thing to have a great experience planning and booking the trip - Carrie Beck answered every question gently, helpfully and thoroughly, even providing website links and additional helpful advice beyond my original question. It's another to receive such warm and inspiring follow up - we received a welcome packet with 2 Southern Exploration caps, advice on packing and restaurants in the areas we would visit, as well as websites for the sites during our trip. We were totally prepared for each aspect of the trip. Each person we encountered on the trip surpassed our expectations of service, knowledge, friendliness, and flexibility. Not a single person said "That's not my job." - every single person from the driver who picked us up at the airport to the captain of the Anahi boat pitched in where needed. Each hotel experience was a higher level than we had expected, every restaurant referral was fabulous, even the weather during our stay was wonderful!!! Now THAT'S a great travel company!!!  - Pamela Chaves, New Mexico (Galapagos Island Cruise)


What an incredible experience! From Quito, Ecuador to the cloud forest of Bellavista and on to the Galapagos Islands: Southern Explorations pulled together an amazing package that included a top-notch boat, excellent guides, and delicious food! And of course, we'll never forget the fantastic wildlife.  All in all, it was the best - the trip of a lifetime! For our next trip to Central or South America, we would definitely work with Southern Explorations again! - Aimee and Michael Cossen (Galapagos Eclipse and Bellavista Cloud Forest)

I was very impressed with the organization of our trip.  Everything Southern Explorations was responsible for went smoothly and everything was on schedule.  The Manatee on the Amazon had some initial trouble but it could not have been known or anticipated by SE.  Once again I would like to compliment Jorge on his work.  He made our comings and goings to and from Quito very easy.  If I go to South America again my first call will be to Southern Explorations. Thank you. - Peter Tuck, CA (Corals & Manatee)

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.