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Ecuador’s coast provides great whale watching as well as lovely beaches to relax, all within Machalilla National park.
The weather is warm throughout the year – June and the end of September is the best time to see humpback whales.
Even if out of whale watching season you can still visit Puerto Lopez, Machalilla national park, go bird watching, snorkelling and enjoy superb coastal scenery and playing in warm Pacific surf.
You fly in to historic Manta and then explore – see what the local fisherman have caught at sea, head to South America’s only dry tropical forest and investigate the pre-Spanish cultures.
Then travel south to the coastal area of Machalilla, a dry tropical forest with bizarre shaped kapok trees.
Puerto López is a small, charming and somewhat ramshackle fishing town of around 10,000 people which quickly grows on you.
Or try Agua Blanca further inland and hike through the dry forest you reach the humid tropical forest of San Sebastián, great for seeing orchids, birds and monkeys.
More on whale watching
The port of Salango has lazy beach walks, and let’s not forget the humpback whale, a regular visitor to the Ecuadorian coast.
The waters off the province of Manabí, now protected by the national Park of Machalilla, are breeding grounds for this magnificent whale with frequent sightings from June to September.
Watch humpback whales leap out of the ocean.
Gorgeous beaches to enjoy and laze around on.
Explore dry tropical forests with its curious kapok trees.
Kick back into the relaxed rhythm of locals in Puerto Lopez.
Our trip was a huge success and we had a wonderful time.
A. and J. Scott, Ecuador
Transfer to airport, flight to Manta. Arrive in Manta and drive to Puerto Lopez. Free afternoon.
Day trip to Isla de la Plata. Return in the afternoon to the Hosteria
La Isla de la Plata lies 37km off the coast, around 1.5 hours by boat.
It has colonies of three sorts of boobies, blue-footed, red-footed and masked, and you will see numerous other seabirds, such as pelicans, terns and frigate birds. There are sea lions on the island and you are likely to see dolphins, rays and whales (from June to September).
Take plenty of water and sun protection with you as it can be very hot and dry on the island.
On most tours you will spend 2-4 hours walking on the island.
Visit beach Los Frailes and/or Cerro Blanco. Overnight in hosteria.
Los Frailes is a series of gorgeous beaches and cliffs that you walk to along a 4km track, through dry tropical forest. It is one of the most beautiful parts of the park, just 10km north of Puerto López.
You travel there by taxi-bike, a novel and interesting journey to Los Frailes in itself.
We transfer you to the airport to catch your flight (1400 approx) to Quito or Guayaquil.
Prices From $1,109 / £940 per person
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Transfer to airport in Quito on day of departure to Manta, domestic flight Quito-Manta-Quito, private transport from Manta airport to Manta Raya Lodge near Puerto Lopez and back, 3 nights double accommodation with breakfast included, full day trip to Isla de la Plata with box lunch, half day trip to Agua Blanca, half day trip to Los Freiles
International flights (we can look into this for you), insurance, tips, personal items, lunch, dinner and beverages, extra trips other than mentioned, English-speaking guide for day trips
Local hosterias, with single, twin or double rooms. Mid-range standard, clean and comfortable with private bathrooms.
Hotel upgrades are available, please ask.
Local, qualified Spanish-speaking guides lead the tours. English-speaking guides can be added at extra cost.
Almost all dietary requirements can be catered for – please ask us for more information.
Breakfasts at hotels will feature teas, coffees and juices to drink, plus cereals, fruit, eggs, toast and jams etc.
While out on tours, we either supply a packed lunch of sandwiches, snacks, soup, fruit etc, or we eat at a local restaurant. These are often buffet style with soups, rice, pasta, potatoes and then puddings/fruit.
Evenings are often free for you to choose to eat in a local restaurant or at the accommodation, depending on where we are.
Bigger towns have international and local Ecuadorian options.
This trip is open to all ages and abilities.
Experience of swimming and snorkelling is beneficial for the trip to Isla de Plata.
There are no altitude issues for this trip.
The day hikes do require 2-4 hours of walking, depending on hike selected.
Few backpackers spend much time in Manta, but generally prefer to head south to the coastal area of Machalilla. Passing through Portoviejo and Jipijapa the vegetation is unique, a dry tropical forest with bizarre shaped kapok trees.
Puerto López is a small fishing town of around 10,000 people. It has a very ramshackle appearance at first sight, but it’s quite charming and grows on you.
If you go down to the beach early you will see an amazing range of Pacific fish, of all shapes and sizes, including hammerhead sharks. Then buy your freshly cooked fish from the beach markets!
At Agua Blanca, the ancient capital city of Salangóme, there is a good archaeological museum.
There is also a guided trail around the reasonably well preserved and extensive site, where you can see a complex of terraces and platforms with adobe and stone walls.
Approximately 10km beyond Agua Blanca, further inland, after hiking through the dry forest you reach the humid tropical forest of San Sebastián. This is great for seeing orchids, birds and monkeys.
You will need at least a couple of days to appreciate this part of the park. Talk to the guards at Agua Blanca, they can arrange accommodation and horses. Take all supplies with you.
The port of Salango, 10km to the south of Puerto López has an excellent small museum with information on the intrepid sailors of prehispanic times. It contains artefacts from many of the different cultures that have inhabited coastal Ecuador from the Valdivia to the present day.
There is a decent restaurant here, Delfín Magico and you can walk along the beaches.
The Humpback Whale
The humpback whale is a regular visitor to the Ecuadorian coast. The waters off the province of Manabí, now protected by the national Park of Machalilla, are breeding grounds for this magnificent whale.
There are frequent sightings from June to September.
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.
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.
Ecuador lies between latitudes 4º south and 2º north. Overall, climate varies according to time of year, altitude and region.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Some 40% of Ecuador’s and is covered by Amazon rainforest.
As well as being rich in wild life, Ecuador’s rain forest is still home to a multitude of indigenous tribes, some of which have opened their communities to ecotourism.
A 4 or 5-day visit to one of the quality lodges will allow you to venture into beautiful primary forest.
Native guides lead you on verdant forest trails where you will see monkeys, tortoises, frogs and an array of birds including toucans and macaws.
Large mammals like jaguar, tapir and giant anteater have been spotted, but are elusive.
Ecuador’s cloud forest covers its rolling hillsides as they descend from the high Andean plateaus into the rain forest or down to the Pacific coast.
Most of this tropical forest lies between 1,200-2,700m/3,937-8,858ft above sea level, an evergreen, lush and moist forest, teeming with bird and insect life.
Much of the cloud forest is readily accessible from Quito making it perfect a 2 or 3-day stay.
There are many lodges with virgin forest, home to a dazzling variety of hummingbirds, refreshing waterfalls for swimming, zip lining and wildlife walks.
The humming birds, Cock of the Rock and the chance of spotting larger mammals such as the spectacled bears are just some of the attractions of spending some time in this amazing ecosystem.
Cotopaxi National Park is dominated by the almost perfect cone shape of Cotopaxi (5,897m/19,347ft), an active volcano and the second highest mountain in Ecuador after Chimborazo.
The national park is well worth a visit for trekking in the foothills, climbing smaller peaks like Ruminahui, downhill mountain biking, horse riding or just enjoying the National Park itself.
The surrounding páramo is good for bird watching – you may see condors soaring above.
There are lots of lovely hacienda and mountain refugios to stay at in and around the park, and from which there are a variety of walks, horse rides and bike rides for all levels.
Ingapirca (meaning wall of the Inca) is just an hour from Cuenca and is the most important Inca archaeological site in Ecuador.
The site is in good condition and consists of a main elliptical building thought to be a sun temple, with typical Inca features such as trapezoidal doorways and niches.
There are Inca trails leading to and from the site, so you can visit on a day trip or incorporate a visit as part of a trekking itinerary.
You can travel here from Cuenca, or make it part of a trip from Baños to Cuenca.
Ecuador’s vibrant capital Quito sits in a stunning location, surrounded by snow capped volcanoes and many of the high peaks of the Andean sierra.
There is plenty to do for visitors of all ages and interests. The old town of Quito is a UNESCO world heritage site, with many beautiful churches and colonial facades, a wonderful range of museums and picturesque squares.
For an over view of the city and along the Avenue of volcanoes to north and south and to help with acclimatising try taking the Teleferico (cable car) up the eastern slope of Pichincha volcano.
At night Quito is a lively city. Head to the modern Mariscal area where tourists and locals alike find a great range of restaurants, bars and night clubs.
2022 price, per person, shared room basis
Shorter/longer stays possible
Single supplement applies
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The famous Puerto Madryn penguins, where up to a million Magellanic penguins congregate to breed, are not found in Puerto Madryn. While the town is famous for being one of the best places to see penguins in Argentina, Puerto Madryn penguin tours actually take place in Punta Tombo. However, the tours do start in Puerto Madryn. The colony of penguins at Punto Tombo allows people to get close to these adorably cute creatures. Read the lowdown on how to get there, what to expect, plus fun facts about Magellanic penguins. We’ll also talk about the area, replete with wildlife. Introduction …
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