London – Madrid – Quito
Your journey begins with a flight to Madrid, where you will meet your connecting flight to Quito. You’ll be staying in a polished hotel in La Ronda, the city’s bohemian heart and a hotspot for painters, writers and poets in the 1930s.
Spectacularly set at the foot of the Pichincha Volcano, Quito is one of Latin America’s highest cities and is best known for its exquisitely preserved colonial centre. A guided tour of the old quarter will reveal the city’s rich historic heritage, taking in the grand mansions and monasteries designed by colonial architects in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Stay: Two nights in a double room at Casona de la Ronda – bed & breakfast
From Quito you will travel north into the Andean highlands to reach the charming town of Otavalo. You will be staying in a beautiful hacienda nestled in a restored 17th century estate. Just a short walk from the famous Otavalo Market, where you’ll find locals in traditional dress and stalls heaving with bright ponchos, Indian jewellery and other locally made handicrafts.
Those looking to explore further can choose from a variety of activities, from birdwatching tours to hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking. The property’s beautiful gardens provide a wonderful place to retreat to, and also offer sanctuary to 50 different species of birds.
Stay: Two nights in a double room at Hacienda Cusin – bed & breakfast
The time has come to set off on your cruise. You will catch a flight to Baltra in the Galapagos where you will board the spacious Anahi. The first stop in the afternoon is Bachas Beach, a popular nesting site for sea turtles to the west of Turtle Cove. In the lagoon behind one of the beaches you may also be able to spot flamingos and various coastal birds. The following day will bring you to Genovesa Island and Darwin Bay, a favoured place amongst birdwatchers with masked boobies, sharp-beaked finches, ground finches, Galapagos doves and swallow-tailed gulls all to be spotted. Panga rides along the cliffs will also bring you encounters with fur sea lions.
The third day of your cruise will be spent exploring the Isla Plazas, two small islands located to the east of Santa Cruz where you’ll find some truly interesting species including several hybrid iguanas. In the afternoon you’ll arrive at Santa Fe, believed to be the oldest island in the archipelago. As well as watching for the Galapagos hawk, snake and mockingbird, you’ll have the opportunity to snorkel with playful sea lions and tropical fish in the surrounding waters.
Day four brings you to Pitt Point on San Cristobal, where endemic species like lava lizards and red-footed boobies roam the dramatic volcanic landscape. In the afternoon you will explore Kicker Rock, the eroded cone of an extinct volcano in the shape of a lion. It’s a famous spot due to the presence of many tropical birds, frigates and boobies, whilst an abundance of colourful fish can be seen in the crystal-clear waters below.
On the final day you’ll stop at the Interpretation Centre where you can learn more about the geological and human history of the islands. You’ll then make the hike to Tijeretas Hill, a journey rich in picturesque scenery, before being transferred to the airport for your flight back to the mainland.
Stay: Four nights aboard the Anahi – full board & excursions
From the mainland you will board a flight to Madrid, where you will meet your connecting flight home – arriving in London in the afternoon.
We were asked 2 or 3 times 'how did you find this place?' which was well off the usual tourist track. Answer: we didn’t, our agent (you) did!- CWW, Chile, 2014