Take your family on the perfect Ecuador and Galapagos holiday

Travel from the high Andes through verdant forest before visiting the ocean, combining the best of Ecuador with a visit to the Galapagos Islands.

See snow-capped volcanoes, swim in waterfall pools, stay at a traditional Hacienda and get close to the famously tame wildlife in Galapagos.

Children and parents love this tour, which we have developed over many years of travelling to the area with our own families.

We know all families are different and can tailor this itinerary to suit perfectly the ages and activity levels of yours.

Visit Galapagos

Kids learn about different cultures and breaking down barriers as we visit a local school, visit Andean musicians or help out in a lodge kitchen.

Haggle at the famous Otavalo market and look for monkeys, hummingbirds and bears in the cloud forest.

Water pays a big part in this trip – waterfalls, river swims and then to the incredible Galapagos islands.

Here, you can snorkel with playful sea lions, darting penguins and serene turtles, setting off from boats or the sandy beaches that have formed on these volcanic islands.

Ecuador and Galapagos are perfect for families looking for an exciting adventure holiday.



Trip Highlights

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  • Kids love the tame and incredible wildlife of the Galapagos.

  • Experience new cultures with fun activities that help show kids alternative lifestyles.

  • Swim in rivers and waterfalls in verdant cloud forests.

  • Visit the equator - stand at the centre of the earth!

  • Haggle for colourful crafts in the world famous Otavalo market.

  • Completely flexible itineraries designed to meet the needs of your family.

So many highlights! Observing the courtship dance of the waved albatross on Espanola; the magnificence of Lake Quilotoa; Observing a feeding Sloth in the Amazon; swimming with sharks and sea turtles; hummingbirds at Bellavista. No low points.

Juliet Hately, Ecuador and Galapagos

Full Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival Quito, transfer to hotel

Arrival at Quito airport and transfer to your hotel.

Welcome briefing with our local representative, and free time to explore Quito.

Day 2: Quito city tour, Teleferico ride, hotel (B)

Your journey begins with a visit to the capital of Ecuador. It is located at 2,850m/9,350ft above sea level, at the slopes of the Pichincha volcano and nestled in a green Andean valley.

Quito, one of the oldest cities in South America, is also one of the few cities that has preserved numerous monuments and artistic treasures of the Spanish colonial period. The colonial centre of the city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1978.

Today you explore the beautiful historical centre of Quito with its wonderful squares and picturesque churches.

We have lunch at a local restaurant and in the afternoon will take the teleferico up to a viewpoint on the slopes of Pichincha volcano.

The views from up here are wonderful and the kids will enjoy the adventure. There is even a small amusement park at its base.

Return to our hotel.

Day 3: Equator visit, Otavalo, Hacienda Chorlavi (B,L,D)

This morning we travel north to explore the region around Otavalo.

Enroute we stop at the Quitsato Museum with its unique sun-dial, located exactly on the Equator line. Great photo opportunity as you hop from hemisphere to hemisphere.

We then take a short walk along the rim of the stunning Cuicocha Volcano, with its captivating blue-green crater lake enjoying more fabulous views to the waters and mountains around.

In the afternoon we visit the famous colourful indigenous market in Otavalo – souvenirs! Haggle with the friendly stallholders over Andean weavings, silver and many other beautiful items.

Having bought some lovely souvenirs or perhaps just enjoyed an ice-cream and the views, we head to Hacienda Chorlavi.

 

Hacienda Chorlavi

This traditional hacienda has been in the hands of the Tobar family for six generations and is a great base for travelling with children.

It has ample space, lovely gardens (with hammocks), a heated pool and play areas such as a play park and a bicycle course. Plenty to keep the children happy during our time here.

Day 4: Peguche Waterfalls, Andean Musicians, Condors, Hacienda Chorlavi (B,L,D)

We explore Peguche today and go for an easy walk to the local waterfall, before visiting the home of a family of musicians where we learn more about typical Andean musical instruments, such as panpipes.

We have lunch at a local restaurant and continue to the Condor Park, a rescue centre for Andean birds where we can see and learn more about Ecuadorian wildlife and see the stunning condors up close.

Day 5: Pahuma reserve, Maquipucuna Cloud Forest Lodge (B,L,D)

We rise early today and venture further, into the lush cloud forest region of Ecuador. In Pahuma we can take a short walk through the cloud forest looking for hummingbirds, orchids and hidden waterfalls. Picnic lunch.

In the afternoon we arrive at the Maquipucuna Cloud Forest Reserve.

The lodge is set in the cloud forest and attracts large numbers of hummingbirds which you can watch from the communal areas while you enjoy a cool drink.

A night walk can be enjoyed after dinner to explore the forest after dark.

Day 6: Cloud forest walk, waterfall swim, local cooking, Maquipucuna (B,L,D)

We explore the forest on foot with our guide and learn about the wildlife and uses of plants.

After a tasty lunch we don our bathing suits and head to a nearby waterfall for a dip in the refreshingly cool natural pool.

Later we can pop into the kitchen to help prepare tomorrow’s breakfast and find out about local ingredients used.

Day 7: Local school visit, return to Quito, hotel (B,L)

The local village of Marianitas is not far and there is time to visit Maquipucuna’s organic garden enroute to learn about the different crops grown here, used to prepare meals at the lodge.

On arrival at Marianitas we visit the local school and maybe even have time for a game of football – Ecuador’s national sport.

After lunch we say a sad farewell to the countryside and return to Quito to prepare for part two of our adventure – the Galapagos!

Day 8: Transfer to airport, fly to Galapagos, arrival transfer to hotel, Charles Darwin Research Centre (B,L)

It’s usually a fairly early start, and we pick you up from your hotel and head to the airport. Having completed the formalities (luggage checks), it’s a flight to the remote Galapagos Islands.

After arriving at Baltra Airport we take a bus, short ferry ride before another van ride (40 mins) to Puerto Ayora, the main town of Santa Cruz and our hotel. Having checked in, we relax in town and have lunch.

The is afternoon we tour the important Charles Darwin Research Station, visit some of the largest Galapagos tortoises and land iguana breeding centers.

The local guide gives detailed explanation about the islands’ evolution.

Drop off at your hotel, evening free to explore the town and eat in one of the local restaurants.

Day 9: Bay tour and snorkel. Afternoon ferry to Isabela, transfer to hotel (B)

This morning’s shared tour starts from the principal dock in Puerto Ayora.

We visit several points of interest by boat including Camaño Islet, which has a sea lion colony, where if climate conditions permit we can snorkel.

At Franklin Bay we are on the look-out for endemic vegetation and can snorkel for sure. We disembark for a short walk to Los Perros Beach, passing the Love Canal and Shark Canal.

Please note: snorkelling is suitable for confident swimmers and we offer the option of wearing the buoyancy aids. Everyone is given a life jacket.

In the afternoon, a speed boat takes us to Isabela, one of the most beautiful islands in the Archipelago.

Firstly, we need to pass through the SICGAL inspection booth, where they check to make sure organic substances are not transported between islands. Once we have passed the inspection, we board a water taxi which transfers us to the speed boat that takes us to Isabela Island.

After a cruise of 2 ½ hours we reach this corner of paradise where a local transfer takes us to our hotel to relax.

Evening free to explore the small town and restaurants.

 

Ferry Speed Boat Crossings

Residents and tourist alike use this method of shared transport regularly between the main inhabited islands. Out on the open ocean, this is your best chance to see whales and dolphins. Each crossing takes about 2 hours. Less time if the sea is calm, more time if the sea is rough. Boats are usually 30-35 feet long and hold 20-30 passengers. If you’re prone to seasickness or not sure, bring some seasickness pills just in case.

Day 10: Sierra Negra Volcano walk and Tortoise Farm, hotel (B,L)

Lace up your hiking boots, we’re heading up a volcano. Sierra Negra Volcano is one of the most active volcanoes in Galapagos; its last eruption was in October 2005.  A short uphill hike takes us to the perimeter of the caldera.

Once we reach the rim, we’ll have a nine kilometre view that stretches across one the most active calderas in the world.  We continue on to traverse the vast lava fields of Chico volcano to a lookout that boasts breathtaking views reaching to the north of Isabela.  With a hearty sense of accomplishment, we make our way back to town.

Return and lunch in a local farm where we can also watch Isabela Giant Tortoises ambling slowly around.

In the afternoon return to Puerto Villamila and our hotel, free evening.

 

Volcano hike notes: You can walk 2-6 hours with frequent rest stops and a lunch break, depending on how active you wish to be.

From the National Park checkpoint, there’s about a 45-minute walk uphill to the rim of the volcano. The trail around the rim has only slight up and downs with a few short steep inclines, and is about 2 hours in total, round trip.

To extend your walk by 2-4 hours more in total, then head to the lava fields of Volcan Chico – paths are uneven and rocky in areas and more suited top older / more adventurous children.

Trek notes: The path in and out is dirt: if it’s been raining, it could be muddy. There’s one proper bathroom at the beginning of the trail. The majority of walking is on level terrain. If you have weak ankles, use athletic braces and wear hiking boots. If you have knee trouble, bring a hiking pole or two. This is a non-technical hike.

Day 11: Free day, hotel (B)

Isabela is perfect for a free day; enjoy the beach, hire bikes, kayak, walk or just relax.

Some tours can be booked up locally, while others are subject to availability.

Tuneles (Tunnels) and Tintoreras are two we recommend pre-booking, which we can book for you (not included in price).

Day 12: Ferry to Santa Cruz, transfer to hotel (B)

We wave goodbye to Isabela today (you can stay longer) and take the ferry back to Santa Cruz (early morning or early afternoon departures).

Once back in Santa Cruz, we take you to your hotel and you have free time. Places of interest include the Highlands, or Tortuga Bay or perhaps some souvenir shopping.

Day 13: Transfer to airport, fly to mainland, trip ends or add extra nights (B)

We take you back to Baltra airport for your flight back to mainland Ecuador – Quito or Guayaquil – and you can connect to an evening flight home (please check with us beforehand) or add extra nights.

Please note: This trip is an outline and can be tailor-made to suit your preferences and ages of children.


Prices From $3,164 / £2,683 per person

Enquire about booking

What's Included?

Mainland: Private transport, English-speaking driver/guide, lodging in good tourist class hotels/lodges, meals listed in the itinerary (B-b’fast, L-lunch, D-dinner), entrance fees, guide and driver costs, trips as listed.

Galapagos: Shared transport, excursions and meals as listed, English-speaking naturalist guides on excursions, snorkel equipment

What's Not Included?

Mainland: International flights (we can look for these for you), insurance, meals not listed, tips, alcoholic or soft drinks

Galapagos: Flight Ecuador-Galapagos-Ecuador, Galapagos National Park entrance fee or INGALA tourist card, alcoholic drinks/ soft drinks /gratuities, insurance, personal items


Accommodation

In Ecuador, you stay at Hacienda Chorlavi, Maquipucuna lodge and mid-range hotels (2-3*). Upgrades are available at extra cost.

In Galapagos, we also use 2-3* hotels which are locally run and offer clean rooms, private bathrooms and a good location.

Upgrades available on request and at extra cost.

Tour Staff

Guides on mainland Ecuador are local, bilingual guides who will use their experience and knowledge to show you the highlights of their country.

At some lodges and stays, a local specialist guide may take you out for more in-depth explanations and to help spot wildlife. We use guides renown for their ability to communicate well with kids and parents alike, so everyone has a great time.

In Galapagos, all guides and boat crews are “Galapagueños”, most of them were born and raised in the Galapagos Islands.

They know the area well and are prepared to show you the islands only like a native can do it.

Our Naturalist, English-speaking guides have studied and been trained at Charles Darwin Scientific Station, and have long years of experience guiding at the Galapagos Islands.


Meals

All special diets can be catered for with enough advance notice, please let us know at the time of booking of any dietary requirements.

Breakfasts are provided at hotels and lodges and generally consist of tea, coffee, juices, toast and jams and toast with eggs.

Lunch, if included, is often a boxed lunch of sandwiches, fruit and energy bars/local snacks.

If lunch is included at a lodge it will often be a soup followed by a main of rice/potatoes and some salad alongside chicken, fish etc.

In Galapagos, most evening meals are not included and you have a wide choice of local restaurants to choose from, options ranging from fish restaurants to international dishes.

Activity Level

Recommended minimum age for this trip is 7 years of age, but we can tailor the tour for younger/older children with no trouble.

Ecuador, the cloud forest and the Galapagos Islands are a suitable destination for most ages and fitness levels, and this trip is designed with children of all ages in mind. Guides are selected for their skills with children or teenagers, and days tailored to meet your family’s needs.

You and your children should enjoy being active in order to enjoy this trip, but there is no specific level of fitness required as activities can be adapted to suit your level of fitness and skills.

Walks are generally short, although some volcano hikes are more challenging and may involve 2-3 hours of walking.

Snorkelling is a real highlight on the Galapagos, so the ability to swim and snorkel is recommended. Snorkelling is suitable for those that have never tried before, and kids love it, as well as hanging out on the beach.

You need to be able to make some wet landings i.e. stepping out of a panga onto a sandy shore, and you may need to ascend or desend small ladders when getting on or off boats at docks or to snorkel.

The fitter you are, the more you will enjoy the trip but the trip is accessible to all.

You can choose to skip any activities you do not wish to partake in.

Enquire about booking

Practical Information

Introduction to Ecuador

Ecuador is the second smallest South American country, and one of the most varied.

It comprises three main geographical areas: the coast, highlands and Amazon plus is home to the Galapagos Islands.

Because of its relatively compact size, it makes a great holiday destination as you can move from highlight to highlight fairly easily and rapidly.

Introduction to Galapagos

These magical islands comprise of 50 volcanic islands of varying shapes and sizes, which lie 1,000 kilometres off the coast of Ecuador.

Here, unlike anywhere else on Earth, you can enjoy a thousand close encounters with a weird and wonderful variety of ‘friendly locals’, including giant tortoises, fur seals, sea iguanas, frigate birds and blue-footed boobies.

Read our Galapagos Islands Guide and more about diving.

In 1535, Tomás de Berlanga, Bishop of Panama, floated into this archipelago and named it Galapagos after the giant tortoises he encountered. Pirates used the islands for refuge and to bury their stolen treasure after that.

The islands’ most celebrated visitor was Charles Darwin, who arrived aboard the HMS Beagle in 1835. The rare life forms he encountered helped him formulate his theory of evolution, which he published in The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.

It wasn’t until 1959 when it became part of Ecuador’s national park system that this fragile ecosystem with its rare and endemic species came under protection.

In 1979 the Galapagos archipelago was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Geography of Ecuador

Landscapes vary from the drier south to the more humid north.

The Highlands, or sierra, encompass two Andean Cordilleras (the Central and Western), which run north to south through the country. Ecuador’s largest volcano is Chimborazo (6,310m) whose summit, because of its proximity to the equator, is the closest point on earth to the sun. Several of Ecuador’s volcanoes are still active, and it’s a great area for trekking.

Descending the steep, east-facing slopes of the eastern Cordillera, one passes through a transition zone comprising dense cloud forest and humid high jungle, before entering the Amazon lowlands.

This mainly primary rainforest covers a third of the country, accounts for 5% of the population and stretches across Ecuador, from its Colombian to its Peruvian borders.

The Galapagos Islands are simply unique. Lying 600 miles off the mainland, the archipelago comprises the summits of gigantic equatorial volcanoes.

The flora and fauna of the Galapagos, long separated from their continental cousins, have evolved differently. Charles Darwin used his observations there to develop his theory of Evolution.

Weather in Ecuador

Ecuador lies between latitudes 4º south and 2º north. Overall, climate varies according to time of year, altitude and region.

 

The Sierra 

In the Ecuadorian highlands, there is little temperature variation by season as temperature depends largely on altitude.

In Quito, shade temperatures range from 6 to 10ºC in the morning and from 19 to 23ºC in the afternoon, with cool nights. In the lower basins between mountains, it gets significantly warmer.

Rainfall depends on whether an area lies closer to the eastern or western Andes. To the west, June-Sept is the dry period and Oct-May the wet (with often a short, dry spell in Dec or Jan).

The best period to visit Quito and trek and climb volcanoes such as Cotopaxi is the west Andean dry season of June-Sept and Dec/Jan. This is also Ecuador’s high season. During the Oct-May wet season, most rainfall is in the afternoons.

To the east, Oct to Feb are dry and Mar-Sept are wet. Overall, the southern highlands are drier than the northern highlands.

 

The Coast

On the Pacific coast, rainfall becomes less from north to south. The coast can be enjoyed year-round, although from June-Sept mornings are often grey with the garua mists.

Jan-May is the hottest and rainiest time of year.

 

The Amazon

In Ecuador’s Amazonian region, rain can fall at any time, but Dec-March is usually the driest season and Mar-Sept is usually the wettest period.

 

The Galapagos Islands

Galapagos can be visited at any time of year.

The warm season is Jan-Jun, bringing calm, warm waters (around 70°F) and sunny days (72-9°F or 22-32°C), February and March being the hottest and sunniest months with blue skies and sunshine.

The islands receive slightly more rainfall during these months, occasional heavy bursts in the afternoon. Great for snorkelling and you can spend a lot of time in the water without wetsuits, with great, clear waters.

The dry ‘garua’ season is Jun-Dec an it’s a great time for marine life. August and September are the coolest when you may need a jacket in the evenings and the sea can be choppy and temperature drops around 15-24ºC on average.

There can be mist on the islands in the mornings (garua) which usually burns off by midday leaving overcast skies or a sunny afternoon.

Sea temperatures may drop to 60°F- 72°F (15-22°C) during this time and snorkellers will want a wet suit for prolonged periods in the sea.

 

Quick facts about Ecuador

 

Official name: Republic of Ecuador

Country population: 15,000,000

Capital city: Quito (2.51 million)

Largest cities: Guayaquil, Quito, Cuenca, Machala

Languages: Spanish (official), Quechua

Latitude/Longitude: 2º S, 77º 30 W

Official currency: US dollar

Major industries: bananas, shrimp, oil, gold, roses

Time zone: GMT-5 (Galapagos GMT-6)

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