• Galapagos, Highlands & Haciendas

Galapagos Wildlife & Two Historic Haciendas

Days: 12 | From: $9,450/per person

  • Includes accommodations at first class hotels that reflect the best of local culture
  • Includes excursions and tours with superb private guides
  • Ideal for couples, small private groups, and families

Visit colonial Quito before exploring the Galapagos Islands. Finish by discovering the Ecuadorian highlands, including spectacular Cotopaxi National Park. Visit the famous Otovalo Market and stay in historic country estates.

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We tailor itineraries to your dates and interests, adjusting hotels, excursions and length as desired.

We consistently receive 5 star reviews from our discerning clients.

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At a glance

  • Quito
    2 nights: Arrive to Quito, explore this beautiful UNESCO World Heritage city with your private guide
  • Galapagos
    5 nights: Discover the Galapagos Islands
  • Cotopaxi
    2 nights: stay in a working hacienda built atop a former Incan palace, right next to magnificent Cotopaxi National Park
  • Otavalo
    2 nights: visit one of the finest and best-known street markets in South America and explore the Andean countryside

  • All itineraries are fully customizable. We will send you a personalized variation that reflects your interests and travel dates at no extra cost. Call to discuss your travel plans with one of our Specialists who know this region firsthand.

Customize this trip
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Sample itinerary

Day 1:

Welcome to Quito!

Ecuador_Quito_White church and city view

Arrive to Quito, where your private guide will welcome you to the country and take you to your hotel, located in the heart of the Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is a great part of the city for walking around, with traditional squares and architecture and a variety of shops and restaurants.

Quito is the most popular gateway city to the Galapagos Islands, a fascinating destination in its own right and a pleasant start to your journey. By arriving two days before your cruise, you won’t have to worry about the risk of any flight delays or missed connections causing you to miss your cruise departure. Most flights arrive in the evening.

Accommodations: Patio Andaluz, 2 nights

Housed within a 16th-century colonial home arranged around a central courtyard, Patio Andaluz enjoys a prime location just off the Independence Plaza in historic Quito. The hotel is within walking distance of the iconic Plaza San Francisco, the La Compañia Church with its impressive gold leaf interior, and the Theater Sucre. As is common in traditional Ecuadorian architecture, the hotel's rooms and their windows face toward the covered inner courtyards rather than out to the streets (which reduces light, but also noise). The hotel restaurant, El Rincón de Cantuña, serves Ecuadorian and Spanish cuisine along with a variety of South American wines.

Upgrades available: Casa Gangotena, Plaza Grande
Day 2:

Colonial Architecture and Exceptional Artwork

Ecuador_Quito_Banco Central and church

Set out with your private guide to explore Quito, a striking colonial city set in an Andean valley. Walk the narrow avenues lined with colonial mansions and monasteries; explore historic plazas and churches. You guide will tell you the fascinating history of this UNESCO World Cultural Heritage city.

Go up to the scenic Panecillo, where the Virgin of Quito watches over the Centro Historico from a lookout point. Afterward, head into the new town to visit the remarkable Fundación Guayasamin, which houses the art collection of Oswaldo Guayasamin, Ecuador’s most famous 20th century artist. His nearby La Capilla del Hombre (The Chapel of Man), a tribute to humankind, has been called one of the most important works of art in South America.

Seeing both parts of the city gives you a great overview of some of the different neighborhoods in this diverse Andean metropolis.

Accommodations: Patio Andaluz, 2 nights

*Includes: Breakfast

Day 3:

Fly to the Galapagos Islands

Fly from Quito about 600 miles out over the Pacific Ocean to arrive at the Galapagos Islands. You will be met at the airport and transferred to your vessel.

Visiting the Galapagos Islands is a unique experience: a combination of sheer natural beauty, amazing wildlife, beautiful vessels, and fascinating natural history.

Accommodations: Ocean Spray, 5 nights

This elegant ship is among the leaders in performance and comfort in Galapagos. With spacious cabins, and private balconies off every cabin, the Ocean Spray provides the intimacy of a small yacht while maintaining amenities often only found on larger ships. Excursion options include hiking, snorkeling, and kayaking, and all excursions are led by a top-quality bilingual naturalist guide. This is one of the premier options in the Galapagos and has received outstanding feedback from our travelers.

*Includes: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Upgrades and alternatives: Cormorant, Grace, Petrel, Origin/Theory
Days 4-7:

Cruising and Exploring the Islands

Sea lions coming out of water at sunset; boat in background

The exact itinerary varies from vessel to vessel, but you will spend these days exploring the islands in depth. Your boat will travel between several different islands so that you can experience a wide variety of the unique wildlife and environments that the Galapagos offers.

The giant Galapagos Tortoise, the marine iguana, the waved albatross, the Galapagos penguin, and flightless cormorants are just a few of the species you can come across. There will also be daily opportunities to snorkel, where you can see what’s below the surface: giant sea turtles, rays, and sea lions, to name just a few. Each day you will enjoy excellent cuisine and the company of an expert bilingual naturalist guide.

Accommodations: Ocean Spray, 5 nights

*Includes: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8:

Fly to Quito / Cotopaxi National Park / Inca Hacienda San Agustin de Callo

Journey along the Avenue of the Volcanoes, a series of 11 peaks that frame the Latacunga-Ambato valley in the center of Ecuador. Drive through the scenic Andean countryside to reach the foot of Cotopaxi Volcano, the 19,340-foot peak that dominates the area. Cotopaxi National Park is an ecological sanctuary of 36,000 hectares surrounding the volcano. You’ll have time to explore the park, home to unique wildlife and otherworldly landscapes.

After your visit to the park, you will be taken to your lodging for the night, Hacienda San Agustin de Callo. Built in the 18th century on the site of an important Incan Palace and containing the largest set of Incan ruins in central Ecuador, this working hacienda subsequently became an Augustinian convent with a textile workshop and later the home of the French Geodesic Mission. The house is built directly on top of what was the Incan palace, and many rooms have original Incan walls, with extraordinary masonry work. The dining room is a full intact original Incan palace room, an experience you can’t have anywhere else.

Accommodations: Hacienda San Agustin de Callo

This unique and remarkable property was the country house of one of Ecuador's most prominent families (including two former presidents). The hacienda was built in the early 18th century on top of the ruins of an Incan palace, the northernmost Incan ruins in South America. Entire Incan rooms from the original palace still exist, including what is now a chapel and the main dining room of the hacienda. There is nothing like this opportunity to spend time inside the original rooms of an Incan palace anywhere else in South America. The property is ideally located right next to Cotopaxi National Park, home to glacier-capped Mount Cotopaxi, one of the highest active volcanoes in the world.

*Includes: Lunch, Dinner

Day 9:

Local Craft Market and Time at the Hacienda

Explore a local indigenous market with your guide. Ceramics and other crafts are considered a fine folk art in this area, and different towns have markets on different days. These markets are less frequently visited and very traditional. You will have lunch at a local hacienda before returning to San Agustin de Callo, where you have the rest of the day to relax or explore the area on your own.

Accommodations: Hacienda San Agustin de Callo

*Includes: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 10:

El Guachala and Cayambe

Enjoy a scenic private transfer north along the Pan American Highway. Stop en route at “El Guachala,” a monument to the equator, and the town of Cayambe, known for its locally made “biscochos” (biscuits) and fresh cheese. Enjoy a typical lunch at one of the haciendas near Otavalo before arriving to Hacienda Zuleta in the afternoon, where you can relax or explore the area on your own or with your guide.

Accommodations: Hacienda Zuleta

Situated on 4,000 acres in an Andean valley and owned by the family of two former Ecuadorian presidents, Hacienda Zuleta invites guests to experience life in a restored 17th-century country estate. This working hacienda features a dairy and trout farm, a flock of sheep, a cheese factory, an embroidery shop creating exceptionally high quality textiles, and a stable of beautiful horses that you can take out around the property and into the mountains. Active in conservation and preservation, the hacienda has its own Andean condor rescue project as well as several pre-Colombian burial mounds often being worked on by visiting archeologists. Each of its nine guest rooms has a fireplace and its own unique personality. Meals feature organic vegetables, which are grown on the hacienda premises.

*Includes: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 11:

Free Day at Zuleta

Hacienda Zuleta_horseback riding

You have today free to explore on your own and enjoy the area. There are several options for excursions that can be set up through the hacienda, including horseback riding, hiking, and bird watching. (Any additional costs can be paid directly for these optional excursions.)

Accommodations: Hacienda Zuleta

*Includes: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 12:

Depart for Home or Your Next Destination

Have a leisurely morning and lunch at Zuleta before transferring back to Quito for your international flight home or to your next destination.

*Includes: Breakfast, Lunch

More Photos From This Trip

Popular Ways to Customize This Itinerary

  • Add a few nights in the Ecuadorian Amazon, a short flight from Quito.

  • Add extra days in Quito: We can arrange a variety of activities, including city tours, culinary excursions, visits to ruins and historical sites, and active options such as hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding.

  • Include some downtime for rest and relaxation! Some free time to unwind or have a massage will allow you to feel refreshed and ready for the remainder of your trip. Many of our properties include excellent spas or wellness centers. We can help arrange these services or include properties that offer health & wellness amenities.

  • Contact us to learn about more options for designing and customizing your trip.

Reviews From This Trip

5 stars

  • Visited Quito, Galapagos and Otavalo. Every part was excellent and well coordinated. Hassle free. Vaya took excellent care of us, thanks!
    Jeff Tepper
  • All of our guides were very knowledgeable and personable. The quality of guides was consistently high.
    Terry Keir
  • The time in Cotopaxi National Park and the hikes there were magical.
    Page W Thibodeaux

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