Day 1 London - Quito
Titan’s VIP door-to-door travel service collects you from home, for your journey to London Heathrow Airport and a scheduled KLM flight to Quito, via Amsterdam. Upon arrival you will be met by your local guide and transferred to your hotel for the next three nights, the Patio Andaluz Boutique Hotel (4T).
Day 2 Quito
This morning an included sightseeing tour introduces us to the highlights of the Ecuadorian capital. Founded by the Spanish conquistador, Sebastian de Benalcázar in 1534, on the site of a major Inca city, Quito is renowned for its well-preserved colonial old town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and you’ll discover architectural treasures such as the ornate San Francisco church, dating from the 16th century, the Jesuit church of La Compañía and the Presidential Palace overlooking Independence Square. This afternoon you are free to relax or explore at your own pace.
Day 3 Quito - Otavalo
We head to Otavalo on this morning’s excursion, a town famous for its textile and craft market which has been held here for centuries. The local people are skilled weavers and their colourful products such as ponchos, blankets, carpets and needlework are sold here, along with a variety of handicrafts. There is also a fruit and vegetable market selling produce from local farms. We return to Quito after lunch and the remainder of the day is free.
Day 4 Quito - Cotopaxi National Park - Riobamba
Today we enjoy a scenic train journey from Quito to Cotopaxi National Park, passing the stunning Avenue of the Volcanoes and the Panamerican Road. The park is named after Cotopaxi, one of the highest active volcanoes in the world, rising to 5,900m. The train drops us at Boliche National Park where we can take a brief walk through the primary forest of the high Andes before we continue our rail journey to the lush Machachi Valley for lunch at a traditional country inn. Later we travel by coach to the city of Riobamba, surrounded by spectacular mountains, including Ecuador’s highest peak, Chimborazo (6,310m). Riobamba was founded in 1534 but destroyed by an earthquake in 1797; the present city was rebuilt some 14km from the original site and is known for its attractive colonial architecture. You are free to explore the city by yourself, perhaps visiting the Museum of Religious Art, inside a former convent, or the leafy central square, Parque Maldondo. Tonight we will be staying at the colonial-style Hacienda Abraspungo (3T+) or La Andaluza Hotel (3T+).
Day 5 Riobamba - Ingapirca - Cuenca
Leaving Riobamba this morning, we make a stop at the city’s original location to visit the Church of La Balbanera, originally built in 1524 but restored after the earthquake. It is still considered to be the oldest church in Ecuador. We continue, travelling through stunning Andean scenery, to the archaeological site of Ingapirca, the most important complex of Inca ruins in the country. It was a centre of sun worship, and the elliptical Temple of the Sun still dominates the site, while the onsite museum houses an interesting collection of Inca artefacts. We reach Cuenca later today and check into our hotel for the next two nights, the Santa Lucia Hotel (4T) or the Hotel Carvallo (4T).
Day 6 Cuenca
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Cuenca is widely regarded as the most beautiful city in Ecuador, and this morning we will discover some of the highlights on our included guided tour, visiting the New Cathedral, completed in 1975 after 90 years of construction, the colourful Flower Market and the Homero Ortega Panama Hat factory, where we learn about the history and production of one of Ecuador’s most famous exports. We return to the hotel for lunch and the remainder of the day is at leisure.
Day 7 Cuenca - Guayaquil
We leave Cuenca this morning, travelling by coach towards Ecuador’s biggest city and main port, Guayaquil. Along the way, we will pass through the breathtaking scenery of El Cajas National Park. We arrive in Guayaquil in time for lunch and check in to our hotel for the night, the Palace Hotel (3T+). The rest of the day is free.
Day 8 - Guayaquil - Baltra, Galapagos Islands
This morning we transfer to Guayaquil Airport for our short flight to Baltra Island, the gateway to the magical Galapagos Islands. Here we board the MV Galapagos Legend to begin our four-night cruise of this extraordinary archipelago, home to such a wealth of unique wildlife. Our first port of call this afternoon will be Black Turtle Cove on Santa Cruz Island, the focal point for scientific research and conservation. The Charles Darwin Research Station is located here, and the island harbours a variety of rare animals, including a population of giant tortoises.
Day 9 - Santiago - Rábida
We step out onto a white coral sand beach in Sullivan Bay, Santiago Island, this morning, walking across a solidified lava flow, formed over a century ago. Marine iguanas, fur seals and oyster catchers are just some of the native creatures we may encounter. Sailing on, we reach Rábida Island this afternoon. The unusually high iron content of the island’s volcanoes have left a distinct red tint to its rocks and beach and Rábida is one of the most volcanically varied of the Galapagos Islands, with a variety of unique geological formations. It is home to an abundance of marine mammals and is the only island where you can find all nine species of Darwin’s finches.
Day 10 - Isabela
Our ship takes us to Isabela Island today, calling at Urbina Bay, at the foot of the Alcedo and Darwin volcanoes, this morning. Penguins, flightless cormorants and turtles inhabit this area and it’s also one of the best places to spot Darwin’s finches and land iguanas. This afternoon we sail on to the secluded Tagus Cove. The salt-water crater lake, visited by Darwin, is part of a trail leading to lava fields and volcanic formations while later we enjoy a dinghy ride along the shoreline, spotting blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies, brown noddies and other sea birds. There will also be an opportunity to go deep-water snorkelling.
Day 11 - Fernandina - Isabela
This morning we visit Fernandina Island, dominated by La Cumbre, the most active volcano in the Galapagos Islands. At a mere 700,000 years old, Fernandina is the youngest and most pristine of these ever-evolving islands, with no introduced mammals and a rich variety of native wildlife, including the largest of the marine iguana species, which you will see basking on the rocks and swimming close to shore, as well as sea-lions and the Galapagos hawk. In the afternoon we return to Isabela Island, at Vicente Roca Point, taking a dinghy ride along the coast to learn about the dramatic geology with our guide. This is a nesting place for flightless cormorants, while we may also see boobies, pelicans, noddy terns, marine iguanas and fur seals here.
Day 12 Santa Cruz - Guayaquil - In flight
On our final morning, we explore the Highlands of Santa Cruz Island, one of the best places in the Galapagos to observe giant tortoises in their natural habitat. These fascinating animals can live for up to 200 years and weigh as much as 300kg. They are easy to spot as they move slowly around their grassland habitat or wallow in shallow pools. You may also spot highland birds such as vermillion flycatchers, cattle egrets, mockingbirds and finches. From Santa Cruz, we fly back to Guayaquil for a connecting KLM flight back to London, via Amsterdam.
Day 13 London
Arrival at London Heathrow Airport where you will be met and guided to your Titan vehicle, for the journey home.