CRAFT'S BEST OF ECUADOR AND GALAPGOS
CRAFT'S BEST OF ECUADOR AND GALAPGOS
12 DAYS / 11 NIGHTS
2 Nights in Quito
2 Nights at Mashpi Lodge in the Cloud Forest
3 Nights at Galapagos Safari Camp on Santa Cruz Island
2 Nights at Iguana Crossing on Isabela Island
2 nights at Hacienda Zuleta in the Andean Highlands
STARTING FROM $6,995 PER PERSON
Have you been considering a trip to Ecuador but are unsure as to which destinations to include? Thinking about the Galapagos but can't decide between a cruise or lodge? Look no further. Craft's Best of Ecuador and Galapagos is the perfect blend of Ecuador's top destinations and most unforgettable properties. Each property has been carefully selected for its unique characteristics coupled with unmatched service and attention to detail. At Craft Travel, we define luxury not by a price tag but by the value offered. These renowned properties are unmatched in terms of their value proposition and their commitment to authentic experiences. From Mashpi Lodge, voted one of NatGeo's Unique Lodges of the World, to Galapagos Safari Camp, South America's first luxury safari tent lodge of the African tradition, to Hacienda Zuleta, a historic mountain retreat owned and operated by the family of a past Ecuadorian president, we can assure you with 100% certainty that this trip is a must for any traveler to South America. And with all excursions and nearly all meals included, we would argue it's a hard deal to beat.
- 11 Nights Accommodation as Described Below
- Daily Breakfast in Quito
- Breakfast and Dinner at Iguana Crossing
- All Meals in Mashpi Lodge, Galapagos Safari Camp and Hacienda Zuleta
- Guided Excursions as Described Below
- Round Trip Flights from Santa Cruz Island to Isabela Island
- Roundtrip Airport/Hotel Transfers
- All Hotel Taxes
*Neither international flights nor flights from Quito to the Galapagos are included but can be quoted separately
*The $120 Galapagos National Park Entrance Fee and $5 Isabela Island Tax are not included but can be arranged separately in advance by Craft Travel or can be acquired by travelers at the Quito Airport (cash only)
Day 01 | Welcome to Ecuador!
Welcome to Ecuador! Arrive into Quito’s airport and meet your driver who will accompany you to your hotel for check-in.
Since opening in 2011, Casa Gangotena has consistently been ranked not only as Quito's top hotel but also as one of the finest in the entire continent. The elegant property is located in a restored mansion dating from 1926, in the heart of Quito's UNESCO World Heritage colonial center. From the hotel's meticulously preserved terrace, one has a commanding view of Plaza de San Francisco and is just a short walk from every major historical attraction. More than just a grand hotel with first rate service, Casa Gangotena is awash in history and gives visitors an insight to what life would have been like for the high society of Quito during the turn of the 20th century. Each room has its own unique history to tell and each served a different purpose when it was used as a family mansion.
Casa Gangotena provides a free docent led experience for guests each day that range from Rum and Chocolate tasting, to historical walks of the mansion and surrounding plazas. And don't forget to take advantage of their classic tea time!
Once you’ve settled in at Casa Gangotena, you and your guide will begin to explore the city surrounding you. This interesting city tour goes through diverse neighborhoods for a look at both colonial and modern Quito, and visit top Quito attractions such as historic plazas, churches and colonial buildings, like the Independence Square, the Presidential Palace, the Archbishop Palace, the Municipal Building (City Hall), and the Cathedral. The visit to Compañia church cannot be missed, one of the most impressive of Latin America, then visit San Francisco Church, one the of great religious buildings of the New World. Finally, head to the most famous hill in Quito, Panecillo viewpoint, where you'll notice the contrast between colonial and modern Quito.
Enjoy the rest of your evening at leisure exploring colonial Quito.
Overnight at Casa Gangotena
Day 02 | Quito - Cloud Forest
At the agreed upon time, your driver will meet you at the hotel to begin your drive to Mashpi Lodge.
Mashpi lodge is located three hours away, 110 Km (70Milles) from Quito in the western slope of the occidental flank of the Andes. The rapid change in altitude (from 2800 to 1000 meters above sea level) allows you to discover the wanders of the Andean landscape. The road crosses the valley of Pomasqui dominated by Andean dry forest, and then to the western flank of the Andes through the Cloud Forest and the road ends in Mashpi at the beginning of the tropical rainforest. The monument of “La Mitad del Mundo” (“Middle of the World”), mark the place where you cross the equatorial line and the obelisk commemorates the visit of the geodesic mission in the XVIII century as part of their studies measuring one arc of the meridian and their efforts to proof the elliptical shape of the earth. Half way to Mashpi you stop to visit Tulipe archeological museum, a set of ruins that belonged to the Yumbo culture, one of the last cultures that settled in Quito before the arrival of the Incas and the Spanish. You will enjoy coffee and an Empanada (Turnover) prepared by local citizens of Tulipe and then continue the road for 60 minutes and arrive to Mashpi.
After been comfortably settled in your room you will be greeted by one of our naturalists who will give you an introductory talk about the cloud forest and its conservation, the activities during your stay and some helpful tips about what to wear and what to bring to the excursions. This talk will take place before lunch at our library and lasts around 30 minutes.
At 3:30pm we will gather together at the lobby in order to head to the Napa Trail. This trail starts at the side of the road, across areas where the forest is regenerating and large patches of pristine forest. For this reason this trail is ideal to explain the ecological succession processes and the importance of forest conservation for the Chocó region. Also this is a trail of great scenic beauty and toward the end of the trail you will find one of the unique attractions, a forest of “iron palm” (Iriartea deltoidea), which wood is used in different ways, mostly in house construction. This is also a very good trail for bird watching. It is a moderate difficulty trail and the excursion takes 2 hours.
Every evening for all our guests interested in knowing more deeply the cloud forest ecology, we have prepare a series of different lectures like the “Secret Wildlife of Mashpi, the trap camera project”, the “Chocó, a biological hotspot” about the formation and diversity of the Chocó, or about our scientific research projects. The lectures will be given by one of our naturalist or our resident biologist at 7:30pm.
Overnight at Mashpi Lodge (D)
Day 03 | Excursions at Mashpi Lodge
Today you'll have an early start to witness morning birding inside the forest and the beauty of the butterflies in the Life Centre. The activity begins at 6:30 in the hotel lobby with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and cookies. Then you walk along the road to the Life Center, meanwhile you may find flocks of birds crossing the road or colorful tanagers seeking for fruits in the treetops. The best way to get to Life Center is through the forest, so you take the Howler Monkeys trail (Aulladores). This trail goes across one the original forest were many of the centenarian trees survive login, being the “copal” tree (Dacryodes cupularis) the most emblematic. Early in the morning this trail is full of noises, and here you may see or listen the call of some of the rare birds like: the Rufous-fronted Wood-quail (Odontophorus erythrops) or Rufous-crowned Antpitta (Pittasoma rufopileatum). Along this trail our local guide will listen to any sound in the forest, so he can show you maybe a colorful bird or the very elusive howler monkeys (Alouatta palliate), while our naturalist guide will take any opportunity to talk about the ecology and conservation of the forest. Both will share their extensive knowledge of forest plants and their uses.
Once in the Life Center you can enjoy from the comfort of the expansive wooden deck all sorts of wildlife, from birds to rodents and other mammals – the most of them visiting our fruit feeders in front of the deck. Around 8am we will enjoy a picnic breakfast. The center is conceived as a place for learning and discovery, but also where guests can disconnect, where they can contemplate the views. Inside the Center our guest will learn more about the butterflies that inhabit the region, being shown the process of these creatures from eggs to larva or caterpillar to chrysalis or pupa to winged wonder. Other points of learning include various species of host plants use by the butterflies to lay there egg and feed the larvae, like passion flowers, birds of paradise, milk weeds and many others in beautiful gardens all around the structure. Close to the Centre, we have established an area for growing useful plants and beyond, many varieties of bushes and fruit trees, including banana and plantain, manioc, cacao, hot chili pepper, coffee and wild raspberries.
At 10:30 after a very exiting morning we start to head back to the lodge where you will have time to rest or maybe enjoy a relaxing massage or the comfort of the Jacuzzi in our Wellness area. Lunch will be ready by 12:30pm and then you will have time to rest until our afternoon excursion.
In the afternoon, embark on a hike to the breathtaking Cucharillos Waterfall. This trail is named after the Cucharillo tree (Magnolia striatifoliai) which in Spanish means tea spoon, a tree endemic to Ecuador, threatened by its value as timber and common on this trail. This trail is of moderate difficulty because of its steep climbing. The most of the trail have been specially adapted to make walking easier, using embedded recycled plastic crates to create steps and firm paths. At the end of the trail is a big waterfall and rocky riverbed with beautiful ponds and little waterfalls. The excursion begins at 3:30pm, and takes about 2 hours.
Take advantage of our night hike, as the forest is transformed completely during the night, the sounds and smells are intensified and other senses are awakened. On this “night safari”, unlike others, our guests find the beauty in the small details, the croaking of frogs or the hum of insects. And if you turn off your flashlight you can observe the sparkling of fireflies in the woods, or listening to the flutter of bats and if you look carefully to the ground the faint glow of bioluminescent fungi (foxfire or fairy fire) surrounding you. When you turn on the lights again you can see the reflection of hundreds of tiny eyes of insects all around. As we continue our way you can hear the call of owls and night birds or the rustling of the branches above you when the kinkajous (Potos flavus), an arboreal mammal relative to the raccoons, open their road through the treetops, searching for ripe fruits.
This is without a doubt an overwhelming experience. The excursion begins at 7pm and takes about 45 min to an hour, and you will be back on time to enjoy a delicious dinner.
Overnight at Mashpi Lodge (B, L, D)
Day 04 | Cloud Forest - Quito
Enjoy some early morning bird watching before a delicious final breakfast at the lodge. Hike to Copal Waterfall or take a ride on Mashpi's notorious "Sky Bike", an aerially suspended bicycle from which you can peddle over the awe-inspiring cloud forest and witness its beauty from hundreds of feet above ground.
You will be back to the hotel by noon, where you can refresh yourself and prepare for check out. We will be waiting for you at our restaurant where you can enjoy your last meal at Mashpi, after lunch you will head back toward Quito at 1:30pm.
Tonight you'll spend the evening just outside the city at Quito Polo Club, a luxurious and sprawling property just minutes from the airport. A relaxing evening at Quito Polo Club will act as the perfect preparation for your Galapagos adventure beginning tomorrow morning!
Overnight at Quito Polo Club (B, L)
Day 05 | Quito - Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands
Enjoy breakfast at the Quito Polo Club before transferring out to the Quito Airport for your flight to Baltra Airport on the the Galapagos island of Santa Cruz.
You'll immediately discover the uniqueness of the Galapagos Islands with Galapagos Safari Camp. See the exceptional flora and fauna on adventurous excursions in Santa Cruz Island. Explore Seymour and Bartolome Islands aboard the Narel, a boat with a dining lounge and outdoor sitting areas. Spend your nights in well-appointed tented accommodation and enjoy the authenticity of Galapagos Safari Camp. You will have a handpicked naturalist guide leading your trip and our staff attending to your needs. Their African-styled tented camp is a creative alternative to exploring the archipelago and soak nature in all comfort. Nestled in the wild highlands of Santa Cruz Island with stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and the National Park, their stylish camp offers a panoramic lodge, nine charming tents, a family suite and an infinity pool under a canapé of endemic trees.
The Galapagos Safari adventure begins after you meet your bi-lingual naturalist guide at the airport or dock. Galapagos Safari Camp receive complimentary access to the VIP arrival section of the Baltra Airport. Guests and baggage in tow, the journey begins; traveling by private transport from the arid zone through the transitional zone, into the lush highlands of Santa Cruz. The first stop is Los Gemelos or the Twins; two overgrown, lava tunnels that formed massive sink holes when they collapsed. The larger of the twins is 2,300 feet deep and almost 1,300 feet wide! On a short hike around the rim, your guide will point out the birds of the endemic Scalesia forest such as Galapagos doves and eight species of Charles Darwin’s finches. From Los Gemelos the day takes you to a tortoise reserve. The reserves of Santa Cruz are home to Giant tortoises with domed shells and short necks to accommodate the environment of the island. The many trails of the highlands, including those around the camp, lead to sightings of the reluctant giants resting in ponds and slowly traversing the land. Keep a look out for short-eared owls, if you are lucky they can be spotted in the trees dotting the landscape. Elsewhere in the highlands are elaborate, underground lava tubes, created centuries ago by the Santa Cruz volcano. The tubes formed when the lava at the surface cooled, insulating the molten lava underneath. As the lava flowed, it left these tubes in its wake.
Some of the tunnels on Santa Cruz go for miles and are 60 feet high. Local folklore says that they were used by pirates to hideout and store supplies. Descend into the caves for a mysterious look into the island’s formation, following a lit path with your guide through cavernous tunnels dating back at least one million years. The experience can be daunting in spots where the tubes get narrow, but it’s a worthwhile trek into the geological past of the island. After stopping for lunch, the group makes way back to the camp. Enjoy a sunset cocktail on our lookout, and a four-course, tapasinspired meal in the main lodge before retiring for the evening. How to Get There This is a full day trip starting when you meet your guide and finishing when the group arrives at the camp for sunset cocktails and dinner. A naturalist guide accompanies you while traveling by private transportation.
Overnight at Galapagos Safari Camp (B, L, D)
Day 07 | Choice of Excursions at Galapagos Safari Camp
While you'll have your choice of excursions during your stay at Galapagos Safari Camp, we recommend spending at least one day yacht hopping to one of the Galapagos Archipelago's many islands. North Seymour Island is a wonderful place to start!
Our safari trip to North Seymour Island and Las Bachas on Santa Cruz start in the morning after breakfast with a drive to Canal Itabaca, where you board a boat for a 45-minute journey over water to the Seymour’s shores. Depending on the time of the year, North Seymour plays host to blue-footed booby and frigate mating colonies. Land iguanas also frequent the area, seen along the 2-mile trail that circumvents the island. The trail is relatively flat due to the way that the island was formed; pushed up from the sea bed by lava eruptions. On the way inland, nests of blue-footed boobies skirt the trail, and Galapagos mockingbirds and yellow warblers are often spotted before flying off for higher ground. As you draw near to the frigate colony, the remarkable birds take over the landscape, appearing around every bend. Males inflate their red, basketball-sized pouch to attract mates, an awe-inspiring sight that is as stunning as it is beautiful. Mosquera islet in the channel between Baltra and North Seymour is another fun sight to explore on the island. The flat, rocky section of land in the water plys a host to a large sea lion colony, full of activity and a natural sanctuary worth seeing. It's a go to spot in search of pups, bulls and females in different stages of growth.
Back on-board the yacht, lunch is served as the day continues to Las Bachas Beach, on the northern coast of Santa Cruz. The white sand hideaway is a welcoming sight for those who want to stroll along the coast, snorkel, or swim. The coralline beach is a nesting grounds for sea turtles at night, and caution is needed to avoid the protected areas. After drying off and a final walk around the beach and nearby lagoons, the boat sets sail back to camp; where sunset refreshments and a gourmet dinner await. How to Get There After a short drive from the camp to Canal Itabaca, the trip over the water takes 45-minutes, each way. This is a full day’s trip, expect to be back at the camp to enjoy the sunset.
Overnight at Galapagos Safari Camp (B, L, D)
Day 08 | Choice of Excursions at Galapagos Safari Camp
Once again it will be up to you to choose from one of the many excursions offered by Galapagos Safari Camp, but our suggestion would be a day trip to Bartolome Island.
Bartolome Island holds a diverse mix of stunning natural sights within its borders and startling displays of wildlife along its shores. It’s named after Sir Bartholomew James Sullivan, a second lieutenant on the HMS Beagle and a friend of Charles Darwin. After a wet landing, your day starts with a hike up a 600-meter wooden boardwalk and stairway through ancient red, black, orange, and green lava fields to the highest point on the island. The journey to the top takes you through the different stages of the island’s formation. Free standing lava cones dot the landscape, and eroding tubes form channels descending from the island’s peak into black volcanic sands. The surface of the interior is covered in volcanic ash, blown over from Santa Cruz centuries ago. The view from the lookout surveys the iconic Pinnacle Rock in the forefront, Sullivan Bay in the distance, and Daphne Major and Minor towards the horizon. Pinnacle Rock is the result of an underwater volcanic eruption, and takes it shape partly due to target practice from US planes during WWII.
After the hike, enjoy a dingy ride along the coastline amidst Galapagos penguins and hawks resting on the cliffs. Bartolome Island is one of the most picturesque in the Galapagos, and exploring the coast by boat gives you an engaging perspective of the towering cliffs and sweeping landscape of the shoreline. Lunch is served on the yacht and the afternoon finds you at the bay; where sea lions, Sally Light-Foot crabs, and marine iguanas greet you on the beach. This is a great place to snorkel and swim around Pinnacle Rock, discovering the colorful underwater world of the islands amongst playful Galapagos penguins, reef sharks, and rays. A short hike takes you to a second, southern beach where reef sharks and rays are often spotted in the shallow waters. The beach is off limits for swimming and snorkeling, but seeing the underwater wildlife of the area from shore is worth the trek.
Please note that the itineraries to Bartolome vary depending on the day of the week. The Saturday trip takes you to Bartolome in the morning, and to Sullivan Bay off of the nearby James Island in the afternoon to snorkel. The Sunday trip explores Bartolome’s interior in the morning, and reserves the afternoon for snorkeling around Pinnacle Rock and exploring the island’s two beaches. How to Get There After a 30-minute morning transport from the camp, climb aboard a yacht for a two-hour ride to Bartolome. This is an all-day excursion, expect to return to camp around five or six in the evening in time for sunset at the lookout.
Overnight at Galapagos Safari Camp (B, L, D)
Day 09 | Santa Cruz - Isabela Island
Enjoy the serenity that Galapagos Safari Camp has to offer. Relax, walk, or enjoy the sunrise from our observatory before departure to the airport for your flight to Isabela Island. Upon arrival at Puerto Vilamil’s airport, you’ll be met by your guide who will accompany to you to the hotel for check-in.
Enjoy the property’s breathtaking waterfront grounds and some snorkeling or rent bicycles and enjoy a nearby trail. These services can be confirmed in advance by Craft Travel at an additional cost or can be arranged upon arrival directly with Iguana Crosssing's Concierge.
Overnight at Iguana Crossing (B, D)
Day 10 | Exploring Isabela Island
Enjoy Isabela Island’s incredible nature with a volcano hike or a visit to the Tintoreras, an islet formed by lava flows. Or take a day off and relax on the beach!
Overnight at Iguana Crossing (B, D)
Day 11 | Isabela Island - Quito and Andean Highlands
Transfer from your hotel to the Isabela Airport where you’ll take your local flight back to Baltra Airport on the island of Santa Cruz. From there you’ll catch your flight to Quito where you’ll be met by your driver who will escort you to Hacienda Zuleta, located approximately 1.5 hours away nestled into Ecuador’s stunning highlands. Enjoy a welcome drink and gift, as well as a tour around the breathtaking facilities.
Dating from the late 16th century, this Ecuadorian lodge lies in the spectacular Andean mountain range of Ecuador at 9,600 feet (2,800 meters) above sea level, and only two hours north of Quito, the capital of Ecuador.
Zuleta is a colonial working farm of 4,000 acres (2,000 hectares) that belongs to the family of Mr. Galo Plaza lasso, a former president of Ecuador, for more than 100 years. The hacienda has 14 beautifully decorated bedrooms, all with their own fire place; Antique gardens along with cozy living and reading rooms offer a peaceful atmosphere. Delicious home Ecuadorian cuisine among other types of gastronomic adventures are offered daily, prepared with organic vegetables, trout and dairy products produced on the Hacienda.
Hacienda Zuleta offers a great variety of activities and places to visit to its guests. With horseback riding in Ecuador being our specialty, we also offer mountain bikes and a horse drawn carriage for trips on hacienda grounds to observe the milking, the agriculture, mountain views and the tranquil life of the community. Guest can also visit our Condor Andes rehabilitation program “Condor Huasi Project” that works for the rehabilitation of the majestic Andean Condor.
Overnight at Hacienda Zuleta (B, D)
Day 12 | Exploring Hacienda Zuleta, Otavalo & Andean Highlands
Choose from activities such as horseback riding (with the option to visit the Hacienda’s private Condor rehabilitation facility), hiking, bike riding or a visit to the famed Otavalo Market and Volcano.
Overnight at Hacienda Zuleta (B, L, D)
DAY 12 - Hacienda Zuleta - Quito for Departing Flight
Enjoy your last hours at the lodge before heading back to the airport in Quito for your departing flight to your next destination. We hope you've enjoyed this trip as much as we do!