Quito and Galapagos in a nutshell
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After being picked up from the airport, you will arrive at Quito; the highest official capital in the world (2,850 m/9,350 ft; over 2.2 MM inhabitants). The historic centre of Quito is one of the largest, least-altered, and best-preserved in the Americas. Together with Kraków, Poland, they were the first World Cultural Heritage Sites declared by UNESCO. It is also one of the places with the highest concentration of churches per square kilometre in the world.
QUITO CITY TOUR AND MIDDLE OF THE WORLD
Quito is also affectionately known as La Carita de Dios ("The Little Face of God" in English) because of the high number of skillfully ornamented colonial churches and monasteries. Many of these are also recognized to be amongst the finest colonial buildings of South America. Its lively cobblestone squares and narrow streets are lined with the monumental façades of recently restored neoclassical mansions.
One of the highlights of the tour is the 3,016 m/9,895 ft high hill Panecillo, which offers panoramic views of Quito, its incredible location, and surrounding volcanoes. The impressive statue on top is a replica of Quito’s Madonna.
After enjoying a delicious lunch, you will head to the last visit of the day. Ciudad Mitad del Mundo, (in English, City in the Middle of the World), is located just 25 km/16 mi north of Quito’s historical center. In this historic place, Earth’s circumference was first determined scientifically. Although modern survey techniques have become much more precise, this tourist complex and the neighboring private Inti Ñan museum meet everyone’s demands. Optionally, you can get certificates or stamps to prove that you have been on latitude 0’00”.
EMBARK ON YOUR GALAPAGOS CRUISE
AM - Arrival at Baltra Airport (GPS)
Upon arrival at Baltra Airport, travellers pass through an airport inspection point to make sure that no foreign plants or animals are introduced to the islands, and to pay the park entrance fee of $100 (unless it has been prepaid). A guide will meet you, help you collect your luggage, and escort you on a short bus ride to the harbour.
PM - Highlands (Santa Cruz)
The road to the highlands leaves from Bellavista, a small village located a 15-minute drive from Puerto Ayora, and passes through the agricultural zone, near the National Park boundary, the Miconia Zone, and then goes to the Fern and Sedge zone. With clear weather, this area boasts beautiful scenes of rolling hills and extinct volcanic cones covered with grass and lush greenery all year round. Here you will visit the Twin Craters, which are two pit craters, as well as a local ranch where we can observe the giant tortoise of Santa Cruz Island in its natural habitat.
AM - Tintoreras Islet
“Tintoreras” are small islands in front of the Puerto Villamil coast. As well as herons on the lookout on mangrove branches, Galapagos Penguins and sea lions often pop out on the shore. White-tipped reef sharks (in Spanish: Tintoreras) are common on the archipelago and are very commonly found resting in the shallow waters
PM - Arnaldo Tupiza Breeding Centre
In the Arnaldo Tupiza Tortoise Breeding Centre you can see hundreds of giant Galapagos tortoises of all sizes. Vulnerable hatchlings are not gigantic at all, even smaller than the size of your hand! This project just outside Puerto Villamil was created to rescue the endangered populations of Isabela’s both southernmost volcanoes. From the almost incredible estimations of 250,000 giant tortoises in the 16th century, by the 1970s there were only about 3,000 individuals remaining. One thing becomes clear on your visit: it’s hard work to save these creatures from extinction by reproduction in captivity and repopulation.
AM - Moreno Point (Isabela)
Moreno Point is located on the north coast of Isabela Island between the volcanos Sierra Negra and Cerro Azul. The trail runs along a solidified lava ow called “Pahohoe”, into a complex of coastal lagoons. Its main attraction are several species of birds, which are found around the lakes and mangroves.
PM - Elizabeth Bay (Isabela)
This is a marine visitor site, so the excursion has no landing point. Your zodiac ride starts with a visit to the Marielas islets where the largest and most important penguin colony reside in the Galapagos Islands. The excursion continues into the cove that is surrounded by red mangroves where you can admire their red roots and green leafs. Here, you are able to observe sea turtles, ightless cormorants, spotted eagle rays, golden rays, brown pelicans and sea lions. Frequent visitors have been able to see Galapagos hawks soaring overhead whilst schools of pompano and dorado sh swim down below.
AM - Tagus Cove (Isabela)
A tour along the cliffs will give visitors a good chance of seeing the Galapagos penguin, the flightless cormorant and other seabirds. From the landing dock, it is about a 30-minute hike along the trail up to the top of the cliff from where you can view Darwin Lake, an uplifted lake saltier than the sea. You can also see several volcanoes from this location. Look carefully at the graft on the surrounding cliffs of the cove, done by pirates, whalers and buccaneers in past centuries!
PM - Espinoza Point (Fernandina)
Fernandina is the third largest island on the archipelago and has a single visitor site: Punta Espinoza, located at the northeastern tip of the island. Here, marine iguanas conglomerate in larger groups than on any other island. They bask around in the sand, swim near the shore and sometimes block the way at the landing dock. Among the unique species found here, we can nd the flightless cormorant.
Bachas Beach (Santa Cruz) These two small beaches are found to the west of Turtle Cove. Their sand is made of decomposed coral, which makes it white and soft, and a favorite nesting site for sea turtles. Behind one of the beaches there is a small blackish water lagoon, where it is occasionally possible to observe flamingos and other coastal birds, such as black-necked stilts and whimbrels. The other beach is longer, but it has two old barges that were abandoned during World War II, when USA used Baltra Island as a strategic point to protect the Panama Channel. Transfer out to Baltra Airport (GPS) Assisted by the naturalist guide and some crewmembers, the dinghy will bring you and your luggage to Baltra Airport, where we will take the shuttle back to the airport.