Galapagos Active Adventure Tour

Detailed Itinerary

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Introduction

Hotel based, active adventure holiday in the Galapagos Islands, taking you to the best activities.

We combine snorkelling, biking, trekking, sea kayaking and diving in a unique itinerary taking in the highlights of these magical islands.

Snorkel with playful sea lions, watch sharks and giant manta rays, or just enjoy the company of the Giant Galapagos Tortoise.

Go home with memories that will last a lifetime with our trip, that blends activity, relaxation and enjoyment.

As well as the wildlife, by staying on the islands you get a feel of the culture of the people who live on the Galapagos.

You are sped from highlight to highlight by speedboat, minimising travel times and seasickness risk.

Trip Highlights

  • Snorkel with sea turtles, playful sea lions and more amazing underwater wildlife including sharks and turtles.
  • Visit all four of the inhabited islands and learn about the rich history & culture of Galapagos.
  • Hike up the active volcano Sierra Negra, and see one of the biggest calderas in the world.
  • See the famous giant tortoises in their natural habitat.
  • Visit some of the Galapagos’ top sites, including Kicker Rock, Isabela and Floreana.
  • Hike, bike, snorkel and kayak – plus diving for divers – something for everyone.

Galapagos Adventure Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive Quito, make own way to hotel. Welcome dinner (D)

Welcome to one of the highest capital cities in the world, Quito. You are free to arrive anytime you wish and take in some of the many sites of Quito.

That evening there will be a full briefing on the week ahead and logistics of your adventure tour in Galapagos – your opportunity to get know your new travel companions before your first dinner together.

Evening welcome dinner.

Day 2: Fly Quito to San Cristobal, bike ride, hotel (B,L,D)

The trip begins with an early morning transfer to the airport and a flight to San Cristobal Island, Galapagos.

Here you will be meet by our staff and transferred to your hotel.

After lunch will we make our way to the top of San Cristobal through the settlement of El Progresso, to La Soledad from where we will have panoramic views out over the Pacific towards Santa Cruz, Floreana and Santa Fe.

Afterwards we jump on the bikes for an exhilarating down hill through the lush highlands of the island, through El Progresso down to the beach La Loberia.

Here we’ll be able to watch sea lions sun bathing, playing and vying for our attention.  If you can’t wait to get in the water, this is your first opportunity.

As the sun sets, we’ll bike back to town and get ready for a welcome dinner of island cuisine at a small local restaurant.

Day 3: Snorkel at Kicker Rock. Visit Interpretation Center, hotel (B,L)

Today we take to the water to get a glimpse of the underwater world of Galapagos.

First we’ll cruise along the coast in our boat identifying shore birds like the Great Frigate and famous Blue-Footed Booby.

Then we’ll find a calm spot near the coast to get our fins wet in search of damselfish, puffer fish, and, hopefully, curious sea lion pups.

Snorkel & Activity Gear: We take pride in having the best gear in the Galapagos Islands! Wetsuits or rash guards, fins, mask and snorkels are provided for you, as well as kayaks and bicycles during scheduled activities.

If you prefer to bring your own snorkel gear, please do so. If you have a new mask it should be cleaned properly and used beforehand to make sure it isn’t going to fog up when you are on the hunt for that perfect underwater fish photo. If you wear glasses. You can wear contacts or visit a dive shop before coming to Galapagos to get a corrective lens mask if necessary.

From here we continue to Kicker Rock or Leon Dormido as it’s known by the locals to explore the final remains of a tuff cone rising over 150m/500ft out of the ocean. If Kicker Rock were a building, it would have almost 50 floors.

Along the edge and through a channel of this drastic compact ash formation, we’ll be on the hunt for sea turtles, spotted eagle rays, chocolate chip starfish, and, with any luck, a Galapagos Shark or two. Don’t worry; they won’t be as interested in you as you are in them.

There are many beautiful beaches along the coastline of San Cristobal that are accessible only by boat. After our snorkel activities are done, we’ll head to one of these sandy beaches for some fun and exploration.

After lunch on board, feel free to spend your time swimming in the turquoise water or snapping photos of birds, crabs and other creatures we may find on the beach.

We’ll head back to town late afternoon to visit the Interpretation Center. We’ll learn about the history and mystery of the archipelago from its discovery and what makes it so special, to Charles Darwin’s visit and the present-day efforts to protect this amazing World Heritage site.

To culminate the educational afternoon, pick a spot at nearby Playa Mann, or Mann Beach, with the playful sea lions or grab a front row seat at Casa Blanca to toast in the sunset. Dinner is on your own tonight but rest assured we can offer you plenty of suggestions.

Diving: Occasionally, the option to dive is available. Please enquire in advance.

We can also arrange a diving extension for you to spend extra time in the Galapagos; this must be booked and paid for in advance. If you have never gone diving with a 5mm–7mm wetsuit, in the open water, or it’s been two years or more since your last dive, we highly recommend a refresher course to be better prepared, as well as to ensure your safety and comfort during your dive experience. Diving in the Galapagos is not geared towards novice divers.

Note: If you choose to book diving, we require you to complete a dive request form and send us a copy of your certification.

Day 4: Boat to Floreana and snorkel. Visit Highlands and Pirate Caves, hotel (B,L,D)

After breakfast, we’ll depart by boat for the least inhabited of the main islands, Floreana.

En route, keep your eyes peeled for dolphins, whales and the Waved Albatross.  We’ll have a pre-lunch snorkel before going ashore to a black sand beach at the home of the Witmers, one of the islands first settlers.  With a population of less than 150 people, Puerto Velasco Ibarra is a sleepy little town but not without its secrets. A recent film ‘The Galapagos Affair’ explores some of these themes.

After lunch, take a siesta while listening to the waves or walk along the coast in search of sunbathing iguanas.  This afternoon we’ll bus up to the highlands of Floreana to visit the Pirate and Whaler Caves from long ago.

We’ll return to town and our beachside accommodation in time to enjoy the day’s last light before heading to the Baronesa for dinner.

NOTE: Floreana is the least developed of all the inhabited islands. You’ll be staying in beautiful but basic beachside hotel, but bear in mind the limitations of the island and available facilities. There’s limited electricity, water supply and food choices.  Because of the small nature of the hotel and lack of availability, sometimes we are unable to stay and must continue on to Isabela.

 

Boat Crossings: 

Residents and tourist alike use this method of transport regularly between the main inhabited islands. However, for this tour you’ll be on a private boat. 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. You’ll be leaving bright and early most days when the sea is usually calm, but if you’re prone to seasickness or not sure, bring some seasickness pills just in case.

Day 5: Boat to Isabela. Visit Giant Tortoises. Optional Wall of Tears, hotel (B,L,D)

This morning we embark for Isabela, the largest island in the archipelago. Once we arrive in Puerto Vilamil, we’ll take a short walk to a nearby wetland that is home to Pink Flamingos and Pintail Ducks.

After lunch, we’ll continue with a leisurely walk through a coastal lagoon. This mangrove-lined path will lead us to Isabela’s Giant Tortoise Breeding Center where we’ll see giant tortoises in all stages of development. The center has almost a thousand giant tortoises training for life on their own!

Wall of Tears: Rent a bike in town, then step back in time to visit the Wall of Tears. Built by convicts and still standing over 50 years later, this landmark is a remnant of Isabela’s penal colony past. If you don’t feel like heading to the Wall of Tears today, you can enjoy the beautiful white sand beach or relax in town. You will also have free time on Day 7 to possibly visit the Wall of tears.

Wall of Tears notes: There are no facilities. Taxis are sometimes not allowed. The path is part sand part gravel with a few slight inclines. It will take 2+ hours walking or 1+ hour biking one way. For the most part, it’s an easy ride or walk that parallels the beach.

For the evening we’ll head into the highlands for a special dinner.

Day 6: Hike Sierra Negra Volcano and visit lava fields of Volcan Chico, hotel (B,L,D)

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 2018!  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’ll continue on to traverse the vast lava fields of Chico volcano to a lookout that boasts breathtaking views reaching to the north of Isabela (this depends on what the current restrictions are for this area and your guide will have up-to-date information) .

With a hearty sense of accomplishment, we’ll make our way back to town late afternoon for some free time to curl up with a book or venture down to the water for a relaxing swim before dinner.

Volcano hike notes: You’ll be walking 4-6 hours with frequent rest stops and a lunch break. 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. The lava fields of Volcan Chico are uneven and rocky in areas.

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 and as long as you’re comfortable walking 4-6 hours, it’s definitely doable. 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.

 

Optional:  Skip the Hike, and Snorkel at Los Tuneles (extra cost of $150 per person)

If you think sleeping sharks, sea horses, sea turtles and strange lava tunnel formations sound intriguing then you’re going to need your mask, snorkel and flippers, because you get all that and more at Los Tuneles.

Also called Cabo Rosa, this area about one hour from town was created when lava flows reached the ocean, forming tunnels, arches and sheltered bays perfect for snorkeling. They also happen to be perfect feeding grounds for sea turtles and resting places for other species like Galapagos sharks! Even the cute Galapagos penguins have been known to visit this area at times. It is one of the most diverse snorkel spots in the entire archipelago, and also home to some birds, such as nesting blue-footed boobies.

The ride to get here can be a bit rough, and because of the lava formations, safe access is only possible at certain tides. If you want to maximize the time you spend in the water in the Galapagos, Los Tuneles should be on your list! We haven’t even mentioned that sea lions, eagle rays, octopus and plenty of tropical fish, sea stars and sea urchins are also spotted in these often crystal clear waters!

Day 7: Isabela Bay Kayak. Visit Tintoreras. Free time, hotel (B,L)

After breakfast we’ll gear up to explore a protected bay and search for the Galapagos Penguin – the only penguin found north of the Equator. We’ll hop out for a short walk at Tintoreras or Shark Alley, an isolated islet and popular iguana nesting site that’s home to hundreds of marine iguanas.

The afternoon is yours to explore the town, sit with the birds and iguanas, head toward your favourite beach bar or visit the Wall of Tears if you did not visit on Day 5.

Kayaking Isabela notes: This is a beginner friendly kayak tour – no experience required. We use sit-on-top double kayaks and life vests. Be prepared for some splashes and wetness just in case. A dry bag is good piece of gear to bring along if you want to bring a non-waterproof camera.

Day 8: Boat to Santa Cruz. Visit the highlands, Tortuga Bay, hotel (B,L,D)

We’ll wave goodbye to Isabela this morning as we depart for Santa Cruz Island.

After checking in, we’ll hop on a bus bound for the Highlands to explore an underground lava tunnel and visit Primicias Ranch. For the first time we’ll be able to see Giant Tortoises in their natural habitat cooling off in a watering hole or munching away.

After lunch, we’ll visit the Charles Darwin Research Foundation. We’ll learn about the foundations successes in repopulating the islands with the once endangered land iguana and several species of Giant Tortoise. From the collection of the eggs to the age of release, we’ll observe how the giant tortoises are raised and readied for life on their own.

This afternoon we’ll talk a short walk that ends in white sand and luscious waves. Tortuga Bay is gorgeous beach accessible only by foot and laden with choices. Do I want to swim, sunbath, bodysurf or do all three? After our fun in the sun, we’ll make our way back to town for our farewell dinner to the Enchanted Islands.

 

Charles Darwin Research Station notes: Most itineraries included a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS); however, you’re actually visiting the Breeding Center Fausto Llerena, which is where Lonesome George was until his death in 2012. One animal you can see here that you may have not seen already is the Galapagos Land Iguana. The center is also home to Super Diego, a giant tortoise originally from Española Island. Diego got his name after being rescued from the San Diego Zoo in 1977. Since his return, he’s been very busy and has an estimated 1,700 offspring!

NOTE: If we have an early flight out of Galapagos (not usually the case), this activity may be omitted or you can choose to visit CDRS on your own instead of Tortuga Bay.

Santa Cruz Highlands notes: If it’s been raining, the farm can be muddy. The lava tunnel is damp, dark and rocky. There are lights in the tunnel, but if you have a headlamp, bring it. Closed toed shoes recommended and keep a rain jacket handy just in case.

Tortuga Bay notes: The trail to the beach is an easy walk on a nice path for about 45 minutes. Once you pass the National Park checkpoint at the entrance, there will be no bathrooms or shops to buy refreshments, so bring plenty of water and sunscreen. If you want to rent a surfboard or boogie board, you must rent one in town and carry the board with you. If you want to walk through the cactus forest, you’ll need shoes suitable for the rocky path.

Day 9: Fly to Quito, transfer to hotel, farewell dinner (B,D)

Get up early for a final hike or savour your last moments on the island for souvenir shopping – the choice is yours.

You’ll fly back to Quito early afternoon.

Departing Galapagos: When you leave Galapagos, you need to present the stub from your INGALA paper (you filled this out on the way to Galapagos). If you lose that stub, you will have to pay for a new one.

We can help with many of the day (and longer) tours available in and around Quito.

We finish off with an evening meal out and reflect on our fantastic trip to the Galapagos Islands.

Day 10: Transfer to airport, ends (B)

Tour ends with breakfast at your hotel and a transfer out to your international flight / onward flight.


What's Included?

Airfare Quito-Galapagos-Quito, 9 nights’ full accommodation in twin, double or triple room (single rooms carry a supplement), all with private bathroom, meals as specified, land and sea transport, sea kayaks, mountain bikes, snorkelling equipment, wetsuit, naturalist guide, duffel bag for use in Galapagos, transfer out to airport on last day

What's Not Included?

National Park entrance fee, Ingala transit card, alcoholic drinks, soft drinks, tips, two evening meals in Galapagos, anything not specified in the package, optional diving (please enquire about diving packages), surf board hire, airport transfer on first day, personal items, international flights, travel insurance


Accommodation

 

This is an active, adventure-oriented trip.

The islands aren’t known for glamorous lodgings so the hotels we are staying at in the islands are local, standard hotels – simple, quaint, and clean.

Hotels – singles, twin, doubles and some triples and family rooms available.

Tour Staff

Staff are “Galapagueños”, most of the guides, captains and crew members 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

We can cater for many special dietary requirements on this tour. Please let us know at the time of booking.

Many of the meals are included in this tour.

Your guide will take the group to a locally-run restaurant on the island, where they will be a choice of dishes. Galapagos is a very remote area and not everything is available here.

Typically, there is a lot of eggs, fish, chicken, rice and some potatoes, plus fresh fruit and vegetables and coffee. There are also international plates such as pasta, pizza, hamburgers etc.

When you have free time to choose your own meals, our guide can make recommendations or you can explore on your own.

Activity Level

This is an active tour where you will have 2-3 activities each day, each being 2-3 hours in length.

Snorkelling last 1-2 hours usually, depending on water temperatures.

The hiking day on Sierra Negra involves 4-5 hours of walking.

All activities are within the scope of people that like to be active. No previous experience is necessary for any of the activities, however, as none are designed to be overly strenuous.



Practical Information

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 Galapagos

 

When to visit Galapagos Islands: weather and wildlife

There is no real ‘best’ time to visit Galapagos on holiday as there is always wonderful wildlife and weather to enjoy. Read our blog for more.

Most animals – tortoises, sharks, sea lions and boobies – are found year round and many of the species here are non-migratory.

The Galapagos Islands are located right on the equator so air and water temperatures do not vary by much.

Having said that, there are two recognised seasons, and each months brings natural marvels for the visitor to enjoy.

Below is our quick guide to the weather and wildlife you can find on the Galapagos Islands.

 

General weather information

 

The warm season (Jan-Jun)

  • Calm, clear warm waters, great for snorkelling, often without a wetsuit.
  • Great weather, with February and March being the hottest and sunniest months with blue skies and sunshine.
  • Occasional heavy bursts of rain in the afternoons.

Sea temperatures:  22-25°C / 72-77°F

Land temperatures:  21-32°C / 72-90°F

 

The dry ‘garua’ season (Jun-Dec)

  • It’s a great time for marine life in the cooler seas. Snorkellers may want a wetsuit.
  • August and September the coolest when you may need a jacket in the evenings and the sea can be choppy.
  • 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:  15-22°C / 60-72°F

Land temperatures:  18-24°C / 65-75°F

 

Galapagos sea and air temperatures and rainfall month by month

Air and sea temperatures in Galapagos, month-by-month

Galapagos flights

You have to arrive in Quito or Guayaquil at least the night before your flight to the Galapagos.

Flights to Galapagos leave from from Quito or Guayaquil early in the morning on the first day of your tour, landing Galapagos around midday.

There are two intercontinental airports on the Galapagos one is on Baltra Island and the other is on San Cristobal Island and is also known as the Baquerizo Moreno Port.

Flights are usually included in your package to ensure all passengers are arriving at the same time on the same flight and into the correct airport.

On Isabela Island there is a landing area available only to inter-island flights for small planes.

Flights from the Galapagos back to Quito or Guayaquil usually leave around midday or later (depends on the vessel).

You can sometimes connect in Guayaquil with a flight home on the same day you leave Galapagos.

Please check times with us before booking any flights – you need to make sure that the Guayaquil departure is in the late evening / night. If you miss the connection in Guayaquil, your international airline may or may not switch you to the next available flight.

Galapagos park fees

Before you fly from Quito or Guayaquil airport, you need to pay USD 20pp for a transit control card. Some cruises pre-pay this and include it in your trip cost.

On arrival in the Galapagos, you will be asked by a representative of the Galapagos National Park to pay the Park fee in cash (currently US$ 100 per person, USD 50 per person for under 12s).

The dock tax is US$5 on Isabela Island, and the airport tax is US$15 for flights between islands.

All National Park fees subject to change without prior notice.

Visas for Ecuador & Galapagos

You will also need a valid passport with at least 6 months remaining validity.

British nationals do not need a visa for Ecuador.

Non UK residents please check with the Ecuadorian embassy or consulate in your country of residence.

ALL visitors to Ecuador and Galapagos must have valid health and medical insurance to cover their entire stay. Inability to show a valid policy on arrival at customs will lead to a refusal of entry.

Galapagos Park rules

ALL visitors to Ecuador and Galapagos must have valid health and medical insurance to cover their entire stay. Inability to show a valid policy on arrival at customs will lead to a refusal of entry.

 

Galapagos park rules

1. Visitors to any protected areas within the Galapagos National Park must be accompanied by a naturalist guide authorised by the GNPD.

2. Travel only with tour operators and/or boats authorised to work in the protected areas of Galapagos.

3. Remain on marked trails at visitor sites and respect signs at all times for the protection of wildlife, and for your safety.

4. Maintain a distance of at least six feet (two metres) from wildlife to avoid disturbing them, even if they approach you.

5. Never feed wildlife, as this can cause health problems.

6. Flash photography is not permitted when taking photos of wildlife. Professional photography and videos recorded for commercial purposes must be authorised by the GNPD.

7. Camping is only allowed in a few authorised areas in the Islands. Request authorisation to camp at the Galapagos National Park’s offices at least 48 hours in advance.

8. It is your responsibility not to introduce food, animals, or plants into the Archipelago. Cooperate fully with all environmental inspection and quarantine officials during your visit.

9. Do not take or buy any products or souvenirs made from banned substances, including black coral, shells, lava rock, animal parts, or any native wood or vegetation prior to leaving Galapagos. This is illegal and must be reported.

10. Practice “leave-no-trace” principles in order to maintain the beauty of the environment.

11. Pack out all trash and dispose of or recycle it in the populated areas or on your tour boat.

12. Smoking and/or campfires are strictly prohibited within the Galapagos National Park, as fires poses a serious risk to the flora and fauna of Galapagos.

13. Fishing is only permitted on recreational tour boats authorised by the GNPD.

14. Motorized aquatic sports, mini-subs, and aerial tourism activities are not permitted in the Galapagos National Park or Marine Reserve.

Fitness and experience

The Galapagos Islands are a suitable destination for most ages and fitness levels. 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.

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 Islands, but they really are accessible to all. You can choose to skip any activities you do not wish to partake in.

Read more in our blog about a typical day on Galapagos.

Diving in Galapagos

Diving in Galapagos is mainly aimed at experienced divers – PADI advanced or more – with experience in cold, fast moving waters and with good buoyancy.

Beginners can now join day dives on land-based (hotel-based) packages.

Read more on our Galapagos Diving page.

The more experienced divers can choose hotel-based packages or live aboard a specified dive boat that only offers week long, dive-only cruises.

Diving is not permitted on almost all standard cruises, although some can now offer a few dives while the rest of the group is ashore or snorkelling.

Please ask for details as National Park rules are complex and dive availability in this form is scarce.

Galapagos kit list

Good kit is vital for every trip.

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Galapagos – general advice

Galapagos is warm and humid, and you will need t-shirts (moisture wick-away or breathable t-shirts can be very useful, it can get very hot in the day), shorts, lightweight skirt or trousers and bathing suits.

One or two cotton shirts can be used to protect you from sunburn, especially when snorkelling (not very elegant worn in the water over a swimsuit, but practical – and Galapagos is NOT an elegant place!).

You may want to change into different clothes for the evening, but don’t take anything dressy or smart – there really is a very relaxed atmosphere in island hotels.

Pack something warm and windproof for being the inter-island speedboats – and a waterproof for the Highlands.

Strong sandals, trainers, or light hiking boots are ideal footwear – you may like to have something suitable for easy walks and another for tougher terrain – your guide will advise you daily what the walking will be like.

Do take a hat!

Seasickness tablets if you think you will have problems – i.e. Sturgeon, or Mareol if you buy them in Quito. The sea can be choppy, so it is recommended to take them as a precaution.

 

Galapagos – detailed kit list

  • First aid kit – aspirin, imodium, sun tan lotion (facter 50 recommended), sunburn cream, lip salve, throat lozenges, insect repellent, etc.
  • Earplugs, if you sleep lightly.
  • Sun glasses and sun hat.
  • Snorkelling equipment is provided on every tour, but it may suit you better to take equipment in your size that you know will fit you. Even if you have not snorkelled before, DO have a go – under water Galapagos is a very special experience. Try it first of all from the beach, to get the hang of breathing through gritted teeth, then take the plunge!
  • Towel, for the beach.
  • Money belt.
  • Passport, with at least 6 months remaining from date of return from Ecuador.
  • US Dollars cash and mixed denomination notes, undamaged and unmarked.
  • Visa/MasterCard, Cash card.
  • Personal & Medical insurance.
  • Camera and film / memory cards (take at least twice the amount you think you will need!). You may want to take an underwater camera for snorkelling.
  • Camera charger
  • Binoculars
  • Small backpack – to keep your sun cream, water, shirt etc in when you are on shore/activity.
  • Small plastic water bottle, 1-2 litres, depending on how much you drink.
  • Biodegradable (v. high factor, 50+ recommended) and lip salve.
  • Toiletries (featuring biodegradable soap).
  • Wet Wipes/antiseptic hand wash cream
  • Travel alarm clock.
  • Sewing kit.
  • Spanish/English phrasebook.
  • Book, e-book, mp3 player/ipod or other for free time.

The Galapagos Islands are a very fragile environment and the arrival of more and more inhabitants to the islands, as well as tourist have an impact.

Please try to minimise your impact by:

  • Bringing a water bottle to refill, rather than using a new bottle each time.
  • Recycling your rubbish where possible, not leaving any rubbish behind.
  • Taking batteries back home with you – they cannot be recycled properly in Ecuador.
  • Saving water where possible.
  • Leave toiletries that contain microbeads at home
  • Saving energy by switching your lights off when you leave the room. Electricity on the islands comes from a generator, fuelled by petrol. For this same reason, please think about whether you really need to use your air conditioning.

 

Quito

Pleasantly warm during the day, but can be quite chilly during the morning or at night when you might want a jacket or a fleece, plus a waterproof.

You may want to dress up a little more in the evening here, depending on where you are staying, and what sort of restaurant you like.

 

Guayaquil

Conditions here are similar to Galapagos – hot and humid. T-shirts and shorts in the day, and like Quito, something smarter for eating out in restaurants at night.

Vaccinations for Ecuador & Galapagos

We strongly suggest that everyone planning to travel to Ecuador visits their local doctor/travel clinic prior to departure for the latest vaccination information.

 

Recommended vaccinations

  • Up-to-date diphtheria and polio.
  • Tetanus or tetanus booster. (These three are effective for ten years.)
  • ‘Havrix’ for Hepatitis A. The course of two injections protects you for ten years. Gamma globulin is cheaper butless effective.
  • Typhoid vaccine is recommended by some doctors although it will not provide total protection and being careful about what you eat and drink is your best defence. It is given in two shots, four weeks apart and lasts for three years. Unless at exceptional risk, people over the age of 35 who have received four or more courses of typhoid immunisation need no more.
  • A pre-exposure rabies vaccination is worth considering if you are going to be in contact with animals or morethan 24 hours away from a reliable source of vaccine. Hikers are at some risk from rural dogs, certain of which carry rabies, and those visiting coastal or rainforest areas could be exposed to rabid bats.
  • Yellow fever. Not effective until ten days after inoculation; not recommended for pregnant women. This is also effective for ten years.

 

For people travelling to the Amazon/coast and regions below 1,500m (excluding Galapagos, which is malaria free):

  • Anti-malarial protection (if going on a jungle trip below 1,500 metres; not needed for higher altitude). Ecuador has chloroquine-resistant strains of malaria and it is important that you follow the prophylactic regime carefully. In the UK, contact the Malaria Reference Laborator. North Americans should contact the Centers for Disease Control.
  • Zika. Spread by mosquito bikes and also a risk of sexual transmission. People planning pregnancies / pregnant women are advised against all travel to areas reporting Zika. If you develop any feverish illness whilst travelling or on return medical attention must be sought quickly.
  • Dengue Fever. There is no vaccine and prevention is through avoidance of mosquito bites. The mosquito that spreads dengue bites during the day and is more common in urban areas. Symptoms include fever, headache, severe joint, bone and muscular pain – hence its other name ‘breakbone fever’.

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)

Flight advice

Andean Trails can book all your international and domestic flights for this trip and for UK passengers; we have full ATOL bonding and can book flights with most airlines.

International flight prices are variable and usually can only be guaranteed at the time of booking. If you would like to upgrade to business or first class, or even arrive at an earlier date/depart at a later date we can also arrange this for you.

Typically, you fly to a country’s capital city and then overnight there or make a connecting flight (if available) to your next destination.

 

Flight connections

Please contact us for flight advice especially if you do make a connection on the same day. It is important to purchase a through ticket and not separate tickets for connections, so that you are covered for any delays. Passengers with separate tickets that are delayed run the risk of having to buy an entirely new ticket to continue their journeys.

Please note all airline schedules are subject to change and are out of our control.

 

Tickets

Almost all flight tickets are now e-tickets. Any that are not will be handed to you on arrival in South America – this is most common for flights on smaller planes in Amazon areas such as Guyana/Bolivia.

The final travel instructions we send you some 2-3 weeks before departure will list the latest flight times, flight numbers etc as well as list your e-ticket numbers and booking reference code (6 characters i.e. GB75RK). This is what you will need to check in with.

 

How do I check in?

Depending on the airline, we can reserve some seats for you at the time of booking your international flights with us.

If we cannot reserve seats at the time of booking, you have to wait for online check in to open (usually 24-72 hours before departure).

To check in online you will need to go to the website of the airline you are travelling with, and have your e-ticket number/booking reference to hand. Click check in online, enter your details, and choose your seat.

Some flights will allocate seats at the check in desk at the airport and some may not allocate seats at all.

 

Help flying via the USA (ESTA form).

The United States (USA) has an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) which all travellers to and via the USA must complete BEFORE travel to/via its airports and shores.

More information can be found on their ESTA website.

Passengers who have not completed the form will be denied boarding.

Before you begin this application, make sure that you have a valid passport and credit card available.

This application will only accept the following credit cards: MasterCard, VISA, American Express, and Discover (JCB, Diners Club).

ATOL holiday protection

Andean Trails has two decades of experience of dealing with South America holidays.

We pay a fee to the CAA for every licensable passenger we book since we hold an Air Travel Organiser’s Licence granted by the Civil Aviation Authority. In the unlikely event of our insolvency, the CAA will ensure that you are not stranded abroad and will arrange to refund any money you have paid to us for an advance booking.

We also offer ATOL (Civil Aviation Authority) protected holidays to give our customers peace of mind when booking and travelling.

When you buy an ATOL protected air holiday package from Andean Trails Ltd you will receive a Confirmation Invoice from us confirming your arrangements and your protection under our Air Travel Organiser’s Licence number 6275.

You can read more about ATOL, who is covered and what protections you have if not ATOL-covered, on our ATOL page.

 

What is ATOL?

The CAA’s ATOL scheme offers protection to your money and your holiday if you book with us. Not everybody is covered (see ‘Who is covered?’ for more), as you must purchase an ‘air package holiday’ with Andean Trails to be protected.

And  ‘air package holiday’ is defined as including a flight and some ground services (hotel, transfer, trek etc). This is also known as an ‘ATOL-protected holiday’.

 

Who is covered?

To be covered by ATOL, you must book a flight and some ground services with us and be from the UK. If you are from the UK and only book ground services and no flights, you are not covered by ATOL (see below for more on how non-ATOL clients are covered).

If you are outside the UK and buy flights with us, you will be ATOL protected IF any of the flights booked with Andean Trails touches/stops in the UK at any point during your holiday package booked with us.

If you buy your flights elsewhere, please check with that agent if you are ATOL protected. Be careful with online flight purchases and make sure you know what protection you have, if any, before paying for flights.

Not all holiday or travel services offered and sold by us will be protected by the ATOL scheme. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking.

For land only holidays not involving any air travel, in accordance with “The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992”, all UK passengers booking with Andean Trails Ltd. are fully protected for the initial deposit and subsequently the balance of all money paid to us, arising from cancellation or curtailment of travel arrangements due to the insolvency of Andean Trails.

 

I’m not ATOL covered, what protection do I have?

If you are not ATOL covered, any payments you make to us go to a Trust account.

We can only access this money once your tour has been completed, meaning that if anything happens to Andean Trails Limited while you are on holiday, then your money is secure and you can either complete the trip or be able to make it home.

If you pay for your holiday with a credit card, some offer payment protection – please check with your cardholder.

You also should have cancellation protection written into your insurance (which we recommend you have at the time of booking) in case you need to cancel.

Be safe in Ecuador

In large cities such as Quito and Guayaquil, you should guard against bag snatching, bag slashing and pick-pocketing.

Highway robbery should also be guarded against. We strongly recommend you take the following precautions:

  • Leave paper valuables in the hotel safe (caja fuerte), taking only what you need for the day.
  • Carry a copy of your passport, leaving original in safe along with your air tickets. N.B. When travelling, carry paper valuables in a money belt under clothing, not in a ‘bum-bag’.
  • Special care is needed downtown in large cities, where you should consider not taking a daypack unless accompanied. We suggest you secure this, and have your camera in the bag.
  • If alone, consider avoiding downtown Quito Old City and all city parks at night. Be very careful around the Mariscal district of the New City (where most of the hotels are) especially at night. Avoid quiet streets or streets with poor lighting. Always take a taxi to the door of your hotel at night.
  • In fact, especially if alone; it’s best to use taxis at night, wherever you are.
  • In Quito and elsewhere in Ecuador, always take special care in markets, on busy streets, in bus stations and on buses. Where possible, avoid carrying a bag or valuables in these areas, as bag snatchers and pickpockets operate.
  • Beware of the distraction techniques of con men/women, especially in crowded areas.
  • NEVER leave your bag(s) unattended, especially in airports, bus terminals and hotel lobbies.
  • Where possible, try to avoid inter-city travel by night.

Money matters

Currency & Money Exchange

Ecuador and Galapagos use the US dollar as currency.

On Galapagos, there are a few ATMs on Santa Cruz island and San Cristobal islands, although they do not always work and you may not ever go near them as part of your tour.

Galapagos park entry fees and most Galapagos boats, hotels and restaurants only accept cash payments for food, drinks, tips, kit rental etc, so you need to arrive with plenty of USD cash.

There are ATMs at Quito and Guayaquil airports that dispense USD.

Take small denomination, unmarked and undamaged bills, 1s, 5s, 10s and 20s being the best. You will find it hard to use 50s, and 100s are seldom accepted anywhere.

On the mainland in Ecuador, ATM debit/credit cards are now widely used in major restaurants, hotels and shops (with fees), and there are ATM (‘hole-in-the-wall’) machines widely available in towns and cities.

Don’t forget to read our Guide to Tipping in Ecuador, too.

 

Eating and drinking

Galapagos has a growing range of places to eat and drink. They are not cheap due to the high costs of living on the remote islands, and almost everywhere will ask for payment in cash. Some more top end places take card payments on Santa Cruz and San Cristobal.

Prices vary greatly, below is a rough guide to what you can expect to pay in Ecuador.

 

Local café/restaurant

Beer/soft drink: USD 3-4

Menu del dia: USD 8-15

Coffee: USD 2

 

Tourist style restaurant

Beer/soft drink: USD 3-5

Main dish: USD 15 upwards

Coffee: USD 3

Money tips

On cruises, you must take sufficient cash (USD) with you. You will most likely not have an opportunity to get to an ATM and most boats do NOT accept credit card payments or traveller cheques.

On board you will need to budget for drinks (soft drinks from US$1, beer from US$3), extra snacks, souvenirs. Snorkelling gear and wet suits can be hired on most boats if not included in the price, but again anything hired needs to be paid for in cash. Tips (USD 50-100pp) also payable in cash.

Tipping

Tipping is entirely voluntary and how much you give depends on how you feel about the service you have received.

This is a rough guideline – please note that all Galapagos tips must be left in USD cash.

  • Galapagos guides: USD 5-10 per person, per day.
  • Boat crew: USD 5-7 per person, per day.

 

And then throughout mainland Ecuador:

  • Airport porters: Minimum USD 1-2 per bag – compulsory.
  • Hotel staff: USD 1-2 per night, in the staff tip box.
  • Transfer drivers/taxis: Generally not expected.
  • Drivers: USD 10-25 per day total from the group.
  • Restaurants: +10% for adequate to excellent food and service.

Food and drink in Ecuador

On the coast  

Ceviche de pescado          Raw marinated fish, served with tostado (roasted maize).

Ceviche                             Popular everywhere, is best on the coast.

Ceviche de mariscos       Marinated shellfish. Most varieties of shellfish ceviche – e.g. camaron (prawn) and langostino (king prawn) – are cooked before being marinated. The exception is ceviche de conchas (clams) which is marinated raw.

Langosta                          Lobster (Increasingly endangered, but is still fished illegally).

Empanada de verde         Ground plantain pasty filled with meat, cheese or shrimp.

Sopa de bola de verde     Plantain dumpling soup

Encocadas                       Dishes prepared with coconut milk. Can be shrimp, fish etc.

Patacones                        Fried plantain chips

 

In the Highlands  

Locro de papas               Potato and cheese soup.

Mote                                Burst maize.

Caldo de patas               Cow-hoof soup (with mote).

Llapingachos                  Fried potato and cheese patties.

Empanada de morocho      Ground maize shell filled with meat.

Sancocho de yuca          Vegetable soup with manioc.

Cuy                                Guinea pig

Fritada/Chicharron       Fried pork

Hornado                        Roast pork

Humita                          Ground maize meal wrapped in maize leaf and steamed (sweet or savoury).

Quimbolito                    Similar to humita, but made from maize flour and steamed in a banana leaf (sweet or savoury).

 

Drinks  

Jugos                        Fruit juices are very good, including naranjilla, maracuya (passion fruit), tomate de arbol (tree tomato – like a sweet tomato) and piña (pineapple).

Aguardiente             Unmatured rum (Cristal is nice). Also known as paico, trago and trago de caña.

Cerveza                    Lager-type beer is very popular. Several brands, including Pilsener and Club.

Plugs and voltages

Electricity

Ecuador uses 120 volts, with a frequency of 60 Hz.

Most cameras, phones and computers are dual or multi voltage and probably won’t need a convertor – please check before leaving.

Some items you may bring, such as hairdryers, may need a convertor. They may short if you use them without the correct convertor.

 

Plugs

Ecuador and Galapagos boats mainly use two-pin, flat-pronged Type A plugs and some sockets take Type B plugs.

Type A plug

Type A plug

Type B plug

Type B plug

 

 

 

 

 

Communication

Dialling codes

The international code for Ecuador is +593.

Regions have dialling codes, with a 0 prefix – Galapagos is 05.

 

Internet

Galapagos is a very remote destination and your mobile phone will most likely be out of range.

People on cruises will almost certainly be out of contact for most of the time aboard. Some boats are starting to offer Wi-Fi at expensive rates.

People in hotels will be able to access phones and very slow internet.

 

Landlines

Ecuador’s landlines have 7 digits, and to call landline-landline in the same city, simply dial the 7 digits.

If calling landline to another regional landline/city, start with a 0 then the regional code.

If using your own mobile phone to call a landline, dial the country code, the regional/city code without the 0, and then the number, e.g. for Galapagos (code: 05), dial +593 5 1234567.

 

Mobiles

Mobiles have 8 digits, and start with 09 to make a total of 10 digits;

If you are dialling Ecuador mobile to mobile, simply dial the full number, including the 09.

If using your own mobile phone to call an Ecuadorian mobile, dial the country code, then omit the 0 of 09, then the 8 remaining digits e.g. +593  9  1234-5678.

Almost all unlocked phones will work in Ecuador with a local SIM, however – check with your provider before arrival if your phone will work.

Roaming charges may be high – again, best to check.

 

 

Post

To send postcards, you can leave them at Post Office Bay for fellow travellers to pick up and send on.

Otherwise, head to the official postal service, Correos del Ecuador, on Santa Cruz or San Cristobal.

Useful Spanish phrases

Learning a few words of Spanish can really ingratiate you with the locals you’ll encounter, adding to the enjoyment of your holiday.

Below are some basics to get you started.

 

Greetings:

Good morning                                         Buenos días

How are you?                                         ¿Cómo estás?

Good afternoon                                      Buenas tardes

Good bye                                               Adiós

 

Most frequently asked questions (theirs):

Where are you (plural) from?                   ¿De dónde eres (son)?

What time is it?                                           ¿Qué hora es?

Where have you come from?                    ¿De dónde vienes?

Give me (frequent, unwelcome question)    Dáme / regálame

 

Most frequent questions (yours):

How much is it?                                      ¿Cuánto vale?

What is this place called?                       ¿Cómo se llama este lugar?

What’s your name?                                 ¿Cómo te llamas?

Do you have a map?                                ¿Tienes un mapa?

 

In the street / places:

Where can I find a currency exchange?    ¿Dónde encuentro una casa de cambio?

Where is there a cash machine?                ¿Dónde hay un cajero automatico?

Where is the underground/subway station? ¿Dónde esta la estacion de metro/subte(Buenos Aires)?

Where can I find a taxi?                             ¿Dónde puedo encontrar un taxi?

Where can I find a Supermarket?            ¿Dónde puedo encontrar un supermercado?

Where is the hospital?                               ¿Dónde esta el hospital?

Where can I find a restaurant?               ¿Dónde puedo encontrar un restaurante?

 

In the hotel:

What floor am I on?                                   ¿En qué piso estoy?

Where are the elevators/lifts?                 ¿Dónde están los ascensores?

How do I access the Internet?                 ¿Cómo puedo acceder a Internet?

How do I call for room service?                ¿Cómo llamo para el servicio de habitación?

How do I call down to the front desk?      ¿Cómo llamo a la recepción?

 

In the restaurant:

A table for two/four please                     Una mesa para dos/cuatro, porfavor

I would like to drink…                             Me gustaria tomar….

May I see a menu?                                   Puedo ver la carta/menu?

I would like to order..                              Me gustaria pedir…

Can you bring me the check/bill please.     Me trae la cuenta por favor

 

Emergency:

I need help.                                              Necesito ayuda.

I have lost my passport.                        He perdido mi pasaporte.

Someone stole my money.                    Alguien robó mi dinero

I have been robbed.                                Me han robado

I need to call the police.                         Necesito llamar a la policía

I need to call the (country) Embassy     Necesito llamar a la embajada de (country)

Help!                                                           ¡Socorro!

 

Responsible Travel - our ethos

Andean Trails believes in Responsible Travel and actively supports several community projects.

Please see Our Advice and Our Ethos for more, and learn about the Projects We Support.

We operate the Inca Trail, our treks and tours with local firms.

We make sure that on our tours and Inca Trail we employ local staff, who are paid fair wages.

With the Inca Trail, We provide free life insurance to all of our porters. Tented accommodation and meals are provided for all trekking staff as well as foam mats, sleeping bags and rain ponchos. We have also provided the staff with trekking shoes. We ensure our porters carry a maximum of only 20kg. We offer them backpacks and they generally use back supports.

Clean burning fuel is used to cook the meals on the Inca Trail and porters carry gas stoves and butane bottles. We use biodegradable detergents when washing the cooking and eating utensils. If any part of our tour or trek is operated by another company, we try to ensure that high standards are maintained.

Our additional support helps the Huchuy Yachaq project which supports children and families in one of the poorest communities in the district of Cusco.

Responsible Travel - travel tips

Responsible Tourism – Code of Conduct:

  • Find out about your destination – take some time before you go to read about the cultural, social and political background of the place and people you are visiting.
  • Go equipped with basic words and phrases in the local language – this may open up opportunities for you to meet people who live there.
  • Buy locally-made goods and use locally-provided services wherever possible – your support is often vital to local people.
  • Pay a fair price for the goods or services you buy – if you haggle for the lowest price your bargain may be at someone else’s expense.
  • Be sensitive to the local culture – dress and act in a way that respects local beliefs and customs, particularly at religious sites.
  • Don’t undermine the local economic systems – we recommend you don’t give gifts, especially sweets as there are few dentists in the Andes. Much better to spend time chatting, playing and showing postcards of home. If you would like to donate clothes and shoes etc we are more than happy to do so through the relevant channels. Your tour leader can do this for you and some of the projects we support can be visited.
  • Ask permission before taking photographs of individuals or of people’s homes – and remember that you may be expected to pay for the privilege.
  • Avoid conspicuous displays of wealth – this can accentuate the gap between rich and poor and distance you from the cultures you came to experience.
  • Make no promises to local people that you can’t keep – be realistic about what you will do when you return home.
  • Minimise your environmental impact – keep to footpaths and marked routes, don’t remove any of the natural habitat and reduce the packaging you bring.
  • Don’t pollute local water courses- use biodegradable products, and wash basins.
  • Slow down and enjoy the differences – you’ll be back with the familiar soon enough.

Our environmental policy

All our activities are governed by our respect for the environment and the people who live in it. We aim to make a positive impact both in the UK and in the Andean countries we work in (Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina).

We agree with the principals of sustainable development and specifically promote environmentally aware tourism in the Andean countries, in order to preserve the heritage of the people who live there and to help protect their environment.

In the UK we use recycled paper where possible, recycle what we can and attempt to keep waste to an absolute minimum.

Throughout South America we work together with local people, paying them a fair price, and putting money into the local economy. We do this by using local agents, local trek staff and experienced and qualified local mountain and cultural guides who have an in-depth knowledge of their own country. Our porters on the Inca Trail are fairly paid, carry a maximum load of 20kg and are supplied with tents and food. In other areas we use donkeys or horses to carry loads.

We use locally owned services such as hotels and restaurants, wherever possible. We buy fresh local produce for all of our treks from markets in each departure town. We use public transport whenever possible and feasible.

We have ongoing contact with the teams that we work with and also with local families in the areas we trek through, developing relationships with them and donating goods such as clothes and shoes to their communities, through appropriate local agencies. We also support local Peruvian charities, specifically NIÑOS in Cusco, and CARE in the Huaraz area, plus Huchuy Yachaq.

If you have any suitable (warm) clothes and shoes that you would like to donate to Peruvian children please take them with you and give them to your tour leader, who will ensure they go to a suitable organization.

When out on tour we encourage learning about the countries we travel in, the local culture of the teams we work with and the areas we pass through. Our guides hold informal talks with groups to inform about and discuss with them all aspects of local life. This helps understanding of the area and appreciation of the people who live there.

Our group sizes are kept to a maximum of 16 people, and we encourage smaller groups where possible. This minimises the negative impact we make on the local people, the wildlife and the environment, and increases the quality time spent in contact with the local people and environment.

When trekking we adhere to a responsible tourism code of practice and are also involved in ongoing training of our trek staff.

Health and Safety

A full Health and Safety document will be sent to you at the time of booking and before you travel.

You can also read it on our website, or contact us for more information.

Travel Insurance

It is a condition of booking any of our holidays that you have comprehensive travel insurance to cover you for trip cancellation (by you), activities involved and destination. This cover should include repatriation costs, air ambulance and helicopter rescue.

We work with Travel Nomads, who offer insurance solutions to people in more than 140 countries across the world.

Should you decide not to purchase this insurance, you must provide us with details of your alternative insurance with or before your final payment.

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