Essential Ecuador & Galápagos: Volcanoes & Wildlife

Ecuador & Galápagos Guided Walking Holiday

Duration: 10 nights
Type: Worldwide Multi-Centre
Walking Grade: 2
from £4,899pp without flights FLIGHTS AVAILABLE

Immerse yourself in volcanic and coastal landscapes and discover unique wildlife. Explore Quito's rich history and walk in Cotopaxi National Park. From the lava tunnels and white sand beaches of Santa Cruz, to the giant tortoises and challenge of a walk around the crater rim of the Sierra Negra Volcano on Isabela, the volcanic island chain of the Galápagos hosts a rich and fascinating biodiversity.

Holiday Highlights

  • Walking in the Galapagos Islands, a true once-in-a-lifetime experience
  • Enjoy the surroundings of the Cotopaxi National Park 
  • Discover the unique wildlife: sealions, giant tortoises, marine iguanas and much more
  • Visit Quito and walk around the historic centre, a World Heritage Site
  • Option to extend your stay with Amazon Discovery or Andeon foothills & culture. Please call 020 3974 8865 for more information.

What’s included

  • 10 nights' accommodation in en-suite rooms 
  • Travel by boat or bus
  • Services of an experienced local guide
  • Tips
  • Full holiday programme of walks and sightseeing led by experienced Local Guides
  • 'With flight' holidays include return flights from the UK and hotel transfers
  • Full Board with en-suite accommodation* - 10 breakfasts, 9 lunches, 10 evening meals
  • All entrance fees
  • All walks transport, internal flights and tips

*Some accommodation on the Galápagos Islands may have shared facilities

Trip Notes

Trip notes are detailed, downloadable PDF’s for each holiday, please click the button below to find the right trip notes for your departure date.

On our Worldwide holidays, our day-by-day descriptions will help you understand where you’ll be exploring and what you’ll be doing. The itineraries are put together carefully to give you the best experience. While every effort will be made to adhere to the described itinerary, we may occasionally vary the sequence shown here or substitute an alternative to suit local conditions or for other operational reasons. In the wake of disruption caused by the Coronavirus outbreak to planning, this is particularly relevant to itineraries in 2022.

On arrival in Quito we’ll be met for a group transfer to our accommodation. On a clear day, we should be greeted by the impressive sight of snow-capped Andean peaks in the distance. We stay at the heart of Quito’s colonial centre, the perfect location for exploring: the rest of the day is at your leisure before we meet again for dinner.

We start the day with a morning visit to colonial Quito, a city of narrow cobbled streets lined with whitewashed walls and, rising above, the steeples and cupolas of the city’s many spectacularly decorated historic churches. The city has one of the best preserved colonial centres in all South America and its integrity was assured in 1978 when the United Nations declared Quito a World Cultural Heritage Site. At the end of the city tour we’ll visit the Panecillo hill, where we can admire the famous Panecillo’s virgin and spectacular views of Quito.

After lunch, we’ll depart to Cotopaxi National Park. We’ll break the journey with a walk along the Rio Pita canyon; the river’s ice-cold waters begin as the snow and ice of Cotopaxi, the volcano which gives its name to the park. The walk will take about 1.5 hours and will explore the waterfalls and incredible rock formations of the canyon. We’ll keep an eye out for the incredible bird life and learn more about the native plants as we go. We then continue our drive to our accommodation.

Maximum Altitude: 3,470m. Walking time: 1.5 hours. Difficulty: Easy

We enter the national park today via the northern entrance, located a short drive from our lodge. Our first stop is Limpiopungo lagoon, located at 3,800m above sea level. It has many reeds in which should be able to spot nesting ducks, as well as Andean gulls and other birds that frequent the lagoon. Hopefully we’ll see a few of them flying as we continue our walk.

A short easy walk around the lake will warm us up for a longer hike towards Rumiñahui Mount, named after a famous Inca general. This will take us right into the heart of the grasslands, passing small waterfalls before arriving at the stony plains.

This walk highlights the grandeur of the Andes, offering you views over the eastern side of Sincholagua, an inactive volcano, as well as Cotopaxi. The views shouldn’t fail to entrance you.

Maximum altitude: 4,600m. Walking time: 4 hours. Difficulty and type of terrain: Moderate; rocky/grassland/sand hills

We take a morning flight to Baltra Island and transfer to Santa Cruz to begin our exploration of the Galápagos Islands.

This tiny island was a military base during the Second World War and hosts the Islands’ principal airport. The airport was built using the most advanced environmental techniques to reduce emissions and energy use, some of which you’ll notice as you transit through the facility. It was the first ecological airport in the world.

We dive into adventure soon after we arrive, with a visit to the impressive highland Galápagos tortoises. During our visit we’ll also visit the lava tunnels. These formed as a result of lava flows which left behind a series of empty tubes. We’ll learn more about their formation and the volcanic history of the islands as we walk through these underground channels. We enjoy lunch at the tortoise farm, and later travel to our incredible accommodation.

After breakfast, we drive to an ‘off-the-beaten-path’ area of Santa Cruz Island, to visit Garrapatero beach. Once there, we may encounter some local families but are unlikely to see many – if any – tourists. We’ll spend some time here to enjoy the water while looking out for sharks, rays, turtles and sea birds.

After lunch, we visit Cerro Mesa viewpoint from where we can admire the whole southern shore of Santa Cruz. We then continue towards one of the iconic formations in the Galápagos, resembling a crater. From here, we’ll start a hike downhill for about 30 minutes to the bottom of this collapsed crater and explore the area a little before we hike back out, which is uphill for about 60 minutes. We’ll have some excellent opportunities to find endemic species such as the Woodpecker Finch – one of the finches which helped Darwin develop his famous theory – and, if we’re very lucky, giant tortoises.

Early morning, we take a stroll to the spectacular white sand beach at Tortuga Bay where we can swim, snorkel, or walk on the beach amongst marine iguanas – an iconic Galápagos species – and sea turtles. Distance: 1½ miles (2½km).

In the afternoon we visit the Charles Darwin Research Station (CDRS), where we learn about Darwin’s theory of evolution. It is from these headquarters that all the most sensitive conservation projects are directed. The conservation and preservation of species such as giant tortoises and marine iguanas, among others, are just some examples of the Station’s work.

We walk along the core of the station to visit where the giant tortoises are bred, as well as where the land iguanas are studied. The Station offers a brand-new interpretation space with some of the most important samples of the CDRS’s collection.

We take a boat journey of about 2 hours to our next island, Isabela. This is the largest, and arguably the most interesting of the islands in the archipelago. Here you’ll be able to get a close look at the very source of the spectacular history of the Galápagos – visiting Sierra Negra, and its myriad of wildlife.

We’ll have lunch on the island and after settling into our accommodation, we take a short walk to the Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre. We pass three lagoons along the way where we’re likely to see flamingos. Distance 1 mile (1½ km).

At the tortoise centre, expert guides will explain the process of the breeding programme and how the tortoises are then returned to their natural habitat.

Volcanic eruptions created all the islands in the Galápagos, and you will get to see this geological process first-hand as we explore Isabela, one of the youngest and most volcanically active islands of the archipelago. We have the whole day to explore the Isabela highlands, and we start by hiking up to the crater of the massive Sierra Negra volcano, one of five volcanoes on the island. Then, if local conditions allow, we’ll continue onwards to the second view point.

This fascinating walk usually begins with some morning fog, which sometimes persists in the shadow of the volcano, adding to its mysterious character. Despite this, we might see Galápagos hawks, finches, flycatchers and short-eared owls en route.

When we reach the rim of the Sierra Negra crater, the second largest volcanic caldera in the world after the Ngorongoro in Tanzania, we’ll see the reward for our efforts. The crater is so large, and the views so expansive, photos can’t do it justice – but we recommend you bring your camera along anyway!

We’ll enjoy lunch at a local farm while taking in the spectacular and expansive views over the central and northern parts of Isabela Island. In the distance, we should be able to see Fernandina, Pinzon and Santa Cruz Islands. We then head back down to complete our day of hiking and relax on the beaches of Puerto Villamil. Distance: approx. 6½ miles (10½km) spread throughout the day.

This morning we’ll head to the Tintoreras islands, known as the Galápagos in miniature. Here we’ll hopefully see white tipped reef sharks, sea lions, turtles, rays and penguins. There’s also the chance to snorkel in the clear, turquoise waters of the bay, an incredible opportunity to get up close to the amazing local wildlife.

The Galápagos waters are among the most diverse of all water ecosystems on the planet; few parts of the world’s oceans can equal them in terms of the sheer variety and abundance of marine life.

After lunch, we’ll walk the Wetlands Trail, through the mangroves and marine iguana colonies, to the Wall of Tears, built in the late 1940s by WWII prisoners housed at the island’s US base.

These are the most extensive wetlands in the archipelago and have been recognized as a globally important site. On this network of trails, you’re sure to catch some beautiful views of nearby villages as well as the chance to see many birds. With luck, we may also spot some wild giant tortoises.

Today we say goodbye to the Galápagos as we return to Quito. We’ll take a speedboat to Santa Cruz followed by a short journey across the Itabaca Channel to Baltra for our flight back to mainland Ecuador.

For those not taking the extension, this afternoon we’ll have free time ahead of our final meal together in Quito – perhaps explore the city further, pick up any final souvenirs or take the opportunity to relax in the hotel.

We transfer to the airport for our return flight back to the UK.

Ecuador & Galapagos Itinerary Map

Patio Andaluz, Quito - Ecuador & Galapagos Islands

On the first and last night of the holiday, we stay in the colonial centre of Quito. Our accommodation is in a converted historic hacienda, only two blocks away from the main plaza. Rooms are all en-suite and tastefully decorated in keeping with the building's colonial style.

Chilcabamba Eco-lodge, Cotopaxi - Ecuador & Galapagos Islands

We spend 2 nights in the Chilcabamba Lodge, an eco-lodge close to the Cotopaxi National Park – a truly stunning location to stay in as we explore the surrounding area. This hotel offers rustic charm and a cosy welcome, but also offers some modern comforts like WiFi. The lodge is situated at 11,400ft surrounded by higher volcanoes.

Galapagos Magic, Santa Cruz - Ecuador & Galapagos Islands

Hotel Galapagos Magic is a million miles away from the world’s hustle and bustle. Set in the highlands of Santa Cruz (and away from the waterfront crowds), this totally unique property surprises and delights: giant tortoises call the camp home for much of the year, so you may well see the ambling through the grounds. Accommodation is a mix of comfortable safari tents and tree houses. All feature a small deck and outside seating. The raised safari tents are en-suite; the tree house accommodation are equipped with a flush toilet and a basin/vanity with running water and use of shared bathrooms with hot showers. Depending on group size, guests may be accommodated in the tree houses as well as the safari tents. This is the ideal place to relax amongst nature.

Villa Laguna Hotel, Santa Cruz - Ecuador & Galapagos Islands

This is a small hotel with comfortable modern rooms, offering us 3-star facilities, and an excellent introduction to the islands.  

Isamar Hotel, Isabela - Ecuador & Galapagos Islands

On Isabela, the final island of our holiday, we stay at the welcoming Isamar Hotel. This hotel is located on the beachfront in the sleepy fishing village of Puerto Villamil. Its location gives guests sweeping views of sandy beaches, swaying palm trees and boats bobbing on the water. Bedrooms are comfortable with mediterranean style decor, and are fully equipped with Wi-Fi, safety deposit box, air conditioning. A restaurant and bar are located right next to the hotel. The chance to stay on the islands and experience island life is one of the many highlights of this holiday. Once the crowds of the cruise boats leave, we have the islands to ourselves.

Las Palmeras Inn - Holiday Extension - Ecuador & Galapagos Islands

Las Palmeras Inn was originally a farm house built over 150 years ago. Less than 2 hours drive from Quito and just 10 minutes from Otavalo, the Inn offers cosy and comfortable en-suite rooms and expansive beautifully kept gardens. Situated on top of a hill there are also beautiful views over Otavalo and the surrounding fields. The hotel serves exceptional quality food and uses ingredients produced in their own organic vegetable garden. Free WiFi is available in public areas.

Hotel Medina Del Lago - Holiday extension - Ecuador & Galapagos Islands

Hotel Medina Del Lago is set on a hillside near Otavalo. There is an on-site spa centre offering a range of wellness treatments, a pool and a hot tub to relax in at the end of your day’s exploration. There is an onsite restaurant and bar. All rooms are ensuite; many offer lake or mountain views and some may offer a seating area. Complimentary toiletries are provided in guest rooms and all feature a hairdryer and flat-screen TV with satellite channels. Some rooms may feature a small kitchenette. Free WiFi is available throughout the property.

Cabanas San Isidro - Holiday extension - Ecuador & Galapagos Islands

Cabanas San Isidro’s lodge and lush cloud forest lies right between two large national parks, so ‘getting lost’ is part of the fun, and discovery is a daily event. Amazing cuisine, primary forest trails to explore and animal and bird watching are some of the activities waiting for you here! Rooms at the lodge are comfortable and have an en-suite bathroom; many rooms feature an internal sitting area and a private porch with a hummingbird feeder.

Hamadryade Lodge - Holiday extension - Ecuador & Galapagos Islands

Hidden in the Ecudorian jungle and overlooking the Rio Napo river, Hamadryade offers stylish bungalows with amazing views and an outdoor pool. It’s possible to organise night walks in the nearby forest, too. Spacious and comfortable lodges blend seamlessly into the jungle surroundings. Offering stunning views, enjoy comfortable beds in your well-appointed accommodation as you fall asleep to the sounds of the jungle.

Termas de Papallacta - Holiday extension - Ecuador & Galapagos Islands

Spend your final night surrounded by the High Andes and its magical landscapes. The hotel is a thermal spa centre, with several spa pools for guest use and spa treatments available, including massage. Rooms are all en-suite and are well-appointed, featuring wooden interiors, Wi-Fi, safe, toiletries, hairdryer.

Essential Information

Suggested Kit List

As you’ll be carrying your own luggage at airports and between your transport and hotels we recommend you try to keep your luggage to a minimum.

These items are a general suggestion of what to pack for an active outdoor and walking holiday; depending on your destination, you may need more of some things and less – or none! – of others. You’ll know best what you prefer to wear when out walking or while taking part in other outdoor activities.

  • Walking boots (worn in), with good ankle support and spare bootlaces
  • Walking socks
  • Walking sandals
  • Lightweight fleece, waterproof trousers and jacket
  • Shorts and short-sleeved t-shirts
  • Long trousers and long-sleeved light-coloured shirts with collars to protect from the sun.

We recommend wearing walking boots on all our walks, as these provide the best ankle support and grip. Modern ‘approach shoes’ offer appropriate levels of grip and may be worn on some low-level walks, but users should be aware that they offer less ankle support. Lightweight trainers are not recommended for any walks.

Your clothing should ideally be pre-treated with insect repellent and in-built sun protection (available from specialist clothing stores such as Rohan, Cotswold Outdoor)

  • Warm fleece, scarf/buff hat and gloves
  • Torch
  • Comfortable clothes and shoes for evenings and sightseeing
  • Sun protection – sun hat, sunglasses, high factor sunscreen and lip protection
  • Water bottle – at least 2-litre capacity
  • Lightweight survival bag
  • Small/medium rucksack (30 litre) and a liner or cover to keep contents dry
  • Insect repellent
  • Personal first aid kit including: personal medication, tissues, plasters, blister kit, painkillers, antiseptic wipes, Imodium, rehydration sachets

Essential: Passport (and copies); booking confirmation; insurance cover note; HF Holidays’ registration form.

Please ensure you have access to emergency funds should you need them; carrying a credit card is probably the most convenient method.

Optional: trekking poles, camera, umbrella, binoculars, swimming costume, snorkelling gear (also available locally)

Please note that your HF Holidays’ leader reserves the right to refuse to take any guest on a walk should they consider that a lack of suitable clothing/footwear may affect safety.

Guest Reviews

All holidays are subject to availability. Prices are subject to change.
Prices based on two people sharing. Supplements may apply.
Non-member fee: £30 per person.

These departure dates can be booked with flights or as land only holiday options. All packages that include flights are ATOL protected. Advertised flight prices are based on UK flights departing from London. Regional departures and/or connections to London, if available, can be requested. Cabin upgrades may also be available on request.

Date (Start - End) Nights Itinerary Price Status Trip Notes Book
16 Jan - 27 Jan 2023
10 Itinerary £5,699 Trip Notes Book Now
20 Nov - 01 Dec 2023
10 Itinerary £5,699 Trip Notes Book Now
Date (Start - End) Nights Itinerary Price Status Trip Notes Book
16 Jan - 27 Jan 2023
10 Itinerary £4,899 Trip Notes Book Now
20 Nov - 01 Dec 2023
10 Itinerary £4,899 Trip Notes Book Now

Important Information

  • Single room supplement: £47 per night
10 nights
Worldwide Multi-Centre
Walking Grade:

10 nights from £4,899pp
without flights

...or call 020 3974 8865

For group bookings of 10+ people click here

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