Our new family program in Ecuador provides a fascinating overview of the natural wonders of the Galápagos Islands and the cultural history of the Andean Highlands. Your journey begins near Quito, where your children will learn about the Equator and its impact on world history. Next head to the Andean Highlands, where you stay at a top luxury hacienda and working ranch dating back to the 17th century. Explore the lush hills and valleys of the property by horseback or mountain bike, and learn about ranch traditions during your stay. Children can also meet a pen pal friend in the Highlands.
Then fly to the Galápagos for a four-day exploration of Isabela and Santa Cruz Islands. Learn about Darwin and see up close his thesis on the evolution of species. Gaze in amazement (and amusement!) at Blue-Footed Boobies, flightless cormorants, giant tortoises, and the only penguin species north of the Equator. On Isabela Island, take a boat from Puerto Villamil to explore the lava formations, volcanic underground caves, and tunnels and arches of Los Tuneles, renowned for fabulous snorkeling. Relax on beautiful beaches, learn about protected giant tortoises at a Tortoise Breeding Center, and paddle a kayak through mangroves rich in wildlife with newfound friends. Return home with fun family memories to last a lifetime. Recommended for families with children ages 8 and older.Day 1 – U.S., Quito
Upon arrival in Quito, your family is met and transferred to the hotel where you can rest and relax. Hilton Colón
.Day 2 – Quito – The Equator, Astronomical Observatory
After a breakfast briefing, take a short drive to Latitude 0.0.0 or the Middle of the World. Upon arrival, enjoy a tour of the Intiñan or “The Path of the Sun” Museum, a small interactive museum where you’ll learn about the Equator and how it was used by the ancient indigenous groups that occupied this area to manage agriculture and religion. Participate in experiments related to the Equator, and learn about gravitational forces and astronomy at zero latitude.
Return to Quito in the afternoon to visit the first astronomical observatory built in South America, in 1873. An expert will explain the workings of the telescope, how a seismograph works, and you’ll have an opportunity to explore the weather station. Hilton Colón
(B,L,D)Day 3 – Quito, Andean Highlands – Astral archaeology, community school visit, stargazing
Start the day by driving north across one of the most fertile and green valleys of the region to visit a sun dial right on the Equator, known as Quitsato. An expert in astral archaeology will tell you how to get oriented to the Equator in different times of the day and in different seasons. All the information gathered here will be used later to play a navigation game using the sextant to sail the Galápagos waters.
Continue to the little town of Angla to visit a local school and enjoy time with local kids and teachers. Then head out on a hike across Eucalyptus forests, cattle farms, pastures, and hillsides, continuing for about two and a half hours, to the magnificent Hacienda Zuleta. First built in the 17th century, this estate was home to former presidents Leonidas and Galo Plaza. After settling in, step out to enjoy the equatorial sky and observe some of the constellations from both the northern and southern hemispheres. Hacienda Zuleta
(B,L,D)Day 4 – Andean Highlands - Condor Project, Caranqui Pyramids, Zuleta Town
Explore the ranch’s various farm projects, such as the milking station, cheese factory, vegetable gardens, and embroidery project. Then have fun on a treasure hunt with the help of a GPS. As you look for clues, cross by the ancient Caranqui Pyramids, cattle fields, and old cobblestone roads. Later, visit the Condor Project to see this magnificent endangered bird and learn about efforts to preserve the species. In the Andean valley ecosystem, observe such unique gems as the largest hummingbird in the world. This is also the perfect ecosystem to look for the only South American species of bear: the spectacled Andean bear. In the afternoon, visit the nearby picturesque town of Zuleta. Visit traditional homes and meet women working on beautiful and intricate embroidery and get a sense of the local life. Hacienda Zuleta
(B,L,D)Day 5 – Andean Highlands, Quito, Galápagos Islands – Isabela Island
Return to Quito very early this morning to catch flights to the Galápagos Islands connecting in Guayaquil. Upon arrival on Baltra Island, take a connecting flight to Isabela Island in a small aircraft. After checking in at the hotel walk to the nearby Galápagos National Park Tortoise Breeding Center. Learn about this unique species of tortoise and how they evolved to adapt to this environment. Before walking through the wetlands back to the hotel, learn about the history of the sextant and how it was used to navigate before modern navigational tools were developed. Along the walk look for different species of mangroves, sea shore birds, and reptiles.
After lunch, board a panga
(small boat) for a short ride to the small island of Tintoreras, a unique volcanic formation. See young marine iguanas, a small colony of sea lions, Blue-footed Boobies dancing in the lagoons, and maybe even the Galápagos penguin. Iguana Crossing
(B,L,D)Day 6 – Galápagos Islands - Hiking, snorkeling, stargazing
Take a one-hour boat ride from Puerto Villamil to Los Tuneles, a series of curious and remarkable lava formations consisting of arches and underwater caves that were produced by the drastic change in temperature of the lava when it met the ocean water about one million years ago. Upon entrance to the site, your boat slowly glides by so you can observe Galápagos penguins, sea birds, eagle rays, and sharks. Disembark and walk along the shore to see sea birds resting on the rocks and admire a beautiful landscape dominated by opuntia and candelabra cacti as well as red mangroves. Return to the boat for a five-minute ride to a crystal-clear snorkel spot and a remarkable glimpse into this underwater world.
Back at the hotel tonight, you may opt to return to the beach for another night of stargazing. The Galápagos night sky is usually clear and allows for some spectacular stargazing—it is possible to see millions of stars, constellations, satellites, and the entire Milky Way. Iguana Crossing
(B,L,D)Day 7 – Galápagos Islands – Santa Cruz Island - Giant tortoises, kayaking, hiking
This morning travel from Isabela Island to Santa Cruz Island on a two hour motorboat ride. Travel to some private farms that have set aside parts of their property for giant tortoise conservation. As you walk the farm trails, get very close to these amazing creatures and take some great pictures. The giant tortoises of Santa Cruz belong to a group best known for their dome shaped shell and gigantic size.
Continue exploring the volcanic origins of the island by exploring an immense lava tunnel. This tunnel measures over 1,300 feet, and you can walk through the length of it to the other side. Next up is sea kayaking; come out of the bay and get close to the cliffs where Blue-footed Boobies and marine iguanas are resting. Paddle in front of Finch Bay Beach, among mangroves, golden cow rays, sally light foot crabs, and lava herons. Angermeyer Waterfront Inn
(B,L,D)Day 8 – Galápagos Islands - Navigation, hiking, snorkeling
Use all the information gathered during the past few days to navigate from Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island to Bahía Ballena as in the old days—using just a sextant and the position of the sun. Land at a sandy beach where you will observe Galápagos sea lions lounging and marine iguanas basking in the sun. The endemic Darwin’s finches and yellow warbler subspecies fly among candelabra and prickly pear Opuntia cacti to search for food and nesting sites. Different species of mangroves grow among the lava fields, providing nutrients to the water that attract colorful tropical fish that can be observed as you snorkel, such as king angel fish, barberfish, striped salemafish, damselfish with yellow lips and blue eyes, surgeonfish, and gnarled sea cucumbers. The water at Bahía Ballena is approximately 30 feet deep and in many places there is a sandy bottom, where Pacific green sea turtles often rest or gracefully swim to find their food. Angermeyer Waterfront Inn
(B,L,D)Day 9 – Galápagos Islands, Guayaquil
Depart early this morning for the airport and the flight to Guayaquil on the mainland. Transfer to your hotel where there is time to relax, then reconvene for your gala farewell dinner. Hilton Colón Guayaquil
(B,L,D)Day 10 – Guayaquil, U.S.
Families will be transferred to the airport for their departing flight.