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The Leader in Small Groups on the Road Less Traveled
Never more than 10-16 travelers—guaranteed!

2018 Ultimate Galápagos Exploration & Ecuador's Amazon Wilds

Ecuador: Quito, Amazon, Galápagos

85% Traveler Excellence Rating Read reviews

16 Days from only $6295 including international airfare

Activity Level:

1 2 3 4 5


Courtesy Dariusz Sepiolo

Dive deep on an exploration of the unique marine wildlife found under the waters of the Galápagos.

Courtesy Sandy Patch
The Last Ice Merchant

Discover how old traditions live on for the last ice merchant of Chimborazo, which you may visit on our post-trip extension.

Courtesy of Paul Villanova

Gain a unique perspective on the people, places, and wildlife that make Peru and the Galapagos Islands unique.

Courtesy Regina Fraser and Pat Johnson
Peru – Cusco & Machu Picchu

Delve into the folk art of Cuzco and feel history come alive in Machu Picchu with the Grannies on Safari.

Produced by Kaila Taylor
Sigo Adelante

Learn how the perseverance of a young woman shines through despite her struggles, thanks to her education.

including international airfare
16 DAYS FROM $5595 Small Ship Adventure Only
Extend Your Trip

This trip features long flights and/or multiple connections.
Learn More »


Arrive early to explore Quito before your adventure begins.
See More Options »

Find the Adventure That’s Right for You

Our Activity Level rating system ranks adventures on a scale of 1 to 5 to help you determine if a trip is right for you. See the descriptions below for more information about the physical requirements associated with each rating.

Activity Level 1:

1 2 3 4 5


Travelers should be able to climb 25 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 1-2 miles over some uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last at least 1-2 hours at a time. Altitude can range from zero to 5,000 feet.

Activity Level 2:

1 2 3 4 5

Moderately Easy

Travelers should be able to climb 40 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 2-3 miles over some uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for at least 2-3 hours at a time. Altitude can range from zero to 5,000 feet.

Activity Level 3:

1 2 3 4 5


Travelers should be able to climb 60 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 3 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 3 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 5,000 to 7,000 feet.

Activity Level 4:

1 2 3 4 5

Moderately Strenuous

Travelers should be able to climb 80 stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 4 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 4 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 7,000 to 9,000 feet.

Activity Level 5:

1 2 3 4 5


Travelers should be able to climb 100 or more stairs consecutively, plus walk at least 8 miles over some steep slopes and loose or uneven surfaces without difficulty. Walks typically last for 4 or more hours at a time. Altitude can range from 10,000 feet or more.

Itinerary Overview

Small Groups: Never more than 10-16 travelers—guaranteed!

Journey to Quito, Ecuador, and visit a city that thrived during the time of the Inca Empire. Stroll its historic plazas and discover colorful outdoor Indian markets, stocked with the creations of local artisans. Then spend three nights at a jungle lodge on the Amazon, witnessing the amazing biological diversity of the tropical rain forest, home to a vast array of birds and plant species. Travel to Galápagos Archipelago, immersing yourself in the crystal-clear waters that are home to marine species found nowhere else on our planet. Two dramatically contrasting ecosystems and glimpses of Andean and Amazonian cultures make this an exceptional journey of discovery.

Make It Your Adventure

Personalize your trip to meet your individual needs, from preferred flights and air routing, to “breaking away” to spend more time in a destination.

  • Did you know that you have control over the way you want to fly with us? O.A.T’s team of Adventure Specialists makes every effort to provide you with non-stop flights and acceptable connection times to and from your destination. You also have several other ways you can personalize your air itinerary, which include:

    • Choose your departure city and airline: We list the most popular gateway cities on our website, but not all of them. If you don’t see yours listed, or there’s one that better suits your needs, let us know. You can also tell us if you have an airline preference and we will try to accommodation your request.
    • Depart from one city and return from another: Just because your flight leaves from one city doesn’t mean you have to return there. Maybe you flew out of Boston and wish to visit friends in Los Angeles after your trip is over. Tell us where you want to go and we’ll do our best to get you there.
    • Upgrade your seat: We’ll gladly arrange a flight upgrade to business or premium economy class if it’s available. 
    • Fly the way you want to: When you fly economy class, we’ll do our best to see that you get your choice of seating preference or even add a special meal request if you have dietary restrictions or needs.
  • You can extend your time abroad and "break away" anywhere you'd like to do more exploring on your own. You can arrive early in Quito for a fresh start before your adventure. Stay for a day, a week, or even a month in a favorite locale. Our Adventure Specialists can provide you with information on the accommodations we will use at the beginning of your trip so that you can make your own arrangements. That way, you'll know that you will be exactly where you need to be to meet your group.

  • Many of our travelers choose to take another trip directly after their first one ends. Think about it: If you’re already overseas, why not see more of the region and avoid the expense and length of another international flight? Many of our travelers have taken two or three consecutive trips before returning home. One of the most common adventures combined with Ultimate Galápagos Exploration & Ecuador's Amazon Wilds is Real Affordable Peru. And now you’ll save an additional $250-$350 per person when you reserve two trips right after one another.

  • Many O.A.T. travelers simply don’t want their trips to end. With an array of pre- and post-trip extensions to choose from, you have the chance to experience more of the places you’ve traveled so far to see, including Machu Picchu & Cuzco, Peru and Ecuador: The Andes & the Devil's Nose Train. Plus, you lower your average per-day costs because you’re taking advantage of your already included international airfare.

Day-to-Day Itinerary

  • 5 nights from only $1745

    An overnight stay near fabled Machu Picchu allows us to visit the ancient temples in the quiet of untouristed hours ... a Home-Hosted Lunch with a local family provides a revealing glimpse into the daily lives of our gracious hosts ... a train ride through the Sacred Valley brings us to the heart of unforgettable Peru—the perfect beginning for our Ultimate Galápagos Exploration adventure.

    View Extension Itinerary
Quito Ecuador's Galápagos Expand All
  • You depart from the U.S. and fly to Quito, arriving this afternoon or late this evening. Your O.A.T. Trip Leader or our local staff will meet your flight at the Quito airport and help you transfer to your hotel where you'll meet travelers who took the pre-trip extension to Machu Picchu & Cuzco, Peru. Quito is Ecuador's capital city, nestled at the foot of the Pichincha volcano.

  • After a leisurely breakfast this morning, we’ll  explore the city paths and historic sites of Quito, a charming colonial city that has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Quito is South America’s oldest capital city, founded by Sebastián de Benalcázar on December 6, 1534. Today we experience its delicate blend of Spanish and Indian cultural influences. As we explore the city, we’ll get an introduction to sites including the La Basilica Church, Independence Plaza, and San Francisco Square.

    We'll have lunch at a local restaurant this afternoon. We continue exploring Quito with a stroll on La Ronda, a historic narrow lane where you can sample traditional candies, see work by local artists, and hear musicians. We return to our hotel and you have the rest of the afternoon free for making your own discoveries. This evening, we enjoy an included Welcome Dinner.

    Please note: Today's activities take place at elevations above 9,000 feet. We recommend staying hydrated while at high altitude. Travelers may rest at the hotel if necessary.

  • Today, we'll fly from Quito to Coca, a small town on the Napo River in the Amazon River watershed. From Coca, we travel to our lodge by boat on the Napo River, a tributary of the Amazon. In the words of writer Joe Kane in Running the Amazon: "The Amazon cannot be understood just as a river. It is a whole wilderness, a great integrated system of rivers and jungles."

    For three days, we'll have a rare opportunity to increase our understanding of the Amazon jungle—because it'll be our home. Competition among the plants and trees for rain and sunlight is fierce here. Ultimately, only about 5% of light from the sun penetrates the jungle canopy and reaches the forest floor. Interestingly, conditions in the very top of the rain forest are quite desert-like. In fact, many plants at this upper canopy level are actually cacti. This unique climatic variation in such a compact space is one reason why the Amazon Basin is home to such phenomenal biodiversity.

    From Coca, we transfer by boat to our Amazon lodge in the rain forest, where we'll enjoy a boxed lunch together. After, we'll have an orientation briefing at our lodge and take a walk to get familiar with our jungle surroundings. Our rain forest lodge is our home base in the Amazon. Here, you can explore trails that take you into the surrounding forest, take siestas in your own private hammock, and enjoy meals of fresh local fare while enjoying beautiful views of the nearby Napo River. Dinner will be at our lodge tonight.

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    This morning, you can elect to rise before breakfast for early morning birdwatching. After breakfast, we'll take a nature walk in the rain forest, then return to the lodge for lunch and time to relax. Later in the afternoon, we'll explore the forest further to learn about medicinal plants and see an example of primary forest. We'll stay out until sunset and then have a dinner at the lodge this evening.

    • Meals included:
    • Accommodations:

    After breakfast, we experience A Day in the Life of people who live in the Amazon River watershed. We begin by visiting a local school (when in session) and meeting some of the students. Grand Circle Foundation is proud to provide financial assistance to the school. Next, we’ll have a cooking class that shows us how to prepare typical local foods, visit family farms, and learn about medicinal plants and other local products.

    We get an authentic taste of Ecuador’s culture and cuisine when we are welcomed into the home of a local family for lunch. While the specific menu will be up to your hosts, it will give you a chance to sample some typical local specialties.We return to our lodge in time for dinner.

    Please note: Some departures stay at an alternate lodge and visit a different Amazon village on this day. All A Day in the Life features are still included, such as the school visit, Home-Hosted meal, and the opportunity to interact with local people.

  • After breakfast, we return by motorized canoe on the Río Napo to Coca. We take a walking tour of the local market and dock area in Coca, then transfer to the airport for our flight to Quito, where we check into our hotel. This afternoon, we'll visit the Intiñan Museum, located on the equator. Dinner tonight is on your own.

    Please note: We will spend the next two days at elevations above 9,000 feet. We recommend staying hydrated while at high altitude.

  • After breakfast, join our full-day optional tour to the Andean towns of Chilcapamba and Otavalo—South America’s largest open-air market—to experience the culture and crafts of the people of Ecuador's highlands. Lunch is included on this optional tour. Or, enjoy free time in Quito, with lunch on your own. Dinner is on your own this evening.

    Please note: Today's activities take place at elevations above 9,000 feet. We recommend staying hydrated while at high altitude. Travelers may rest at the hotel if necessary.

  • Very early this morning, depart Quito and fly via Guayaquil to the Galápagos, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Upon landing in the Galápagos in mid-morning, we make a short bus transfer to the dock, where we board our small ship. You can stow your gear in your cabin, orient yourself on deck, and enjoy the anticipation of the cruise ahead. For seven days, we explore the archipelago by ship, enjoying comfortable cabins and the services of an expert crew and our certified Galápagos naturalist Trip Leader onboard.

    Here we share an adventure of Darwinian proportions in the comfort of our small group. All meals are included during our cruise, and no matter which island you call on, each of the next days will follow a similar pattern.

    Each morning during our cruise, the sight of an island seemingly floating off the bow may send a shiver of anticipation through you. A small dinghy brings us close to the islands for wet landings, which require wading through knee-deep clear water. On shore, a gaudily colored Sally Lightfoot crab may scuttle by your foot as you watch iguanas sunning on the sands.

    After lunch on board, it's off to our next island stop. Hiking across volcanic landscapes, we might marvel at 15-foot tall scalesia “daisy trees,” as Darwin's finches sing their greetings. If time allows, we might swim near our boat, sharing the playground of sea lions. We'll have plenty of tales to tell at dinner on our boat as stars fill the darkening sky. And as you sleep, you'll be cruising toward another adventure in the Galápagos.

    Although wildlife sightings are unpredictable, we may see blue-footed and Nazca boobies, frigatebirds, pelicans, Galápagos doves, swallowtail and lava gulls, Darwin finches, or herons. We'll also marvel at sea lions and iguanas throughout our travels.

    During the summer and fall, the Humboldt Current moves through the Galápagos Islands, cooling sea and land temperatures, and creating a mist that covers the islands—locally known as garua (soft rain)—during the day. The Humboldt Current is strongest from July to October, delivering choppy water that surrounds the islands.

    Please note: The following description is meant only as a general guide to the cruise itinerary that you are likely to follow. The selection and order of islands visited cannot be guaranteed due to the Galápagos' frequently variable weather, marine, and environmental conditions, and changes in airline schedules between the mainland and the Galápagos. This is a carefully managed park with fragile ecosystems. To safeguard them (and to ensure your own comfort), boat and park authorities have the prerogative to revise our course at a moment's notice.

  • For the next six days, we continue our Galápagos travel. Our Trip Leader will give us an orientation briefing, including conservation techniques suggested by the Galápagos National Park. He or she is a graduate of the elite certification program conducted at the Charles Darwin Research Station on Isla Santa Cruz by the Galápagos National Park Service. We file our Galápagos cruising itinerary with the conservation authorities of the Galápagos National Park. Park biologists periodically review it, and they have the authority to make changes to our plan to minimize our impact on the ecosystems of the islands. Our Trip Leader also provides the park with information on species behavior, and we are proud to work in cooperation with the park officials in preserving the priceless natural wonders of the Galápagos.

  • Today we continue our Galápagos travel. Here is a preview of the islands you may call on. Islands visited depend on the ship's itinerary.

    Santiago (James)—Tidal pools reveal a profusion of octopi, starfishes, and other undersea life. Rare fur sea lions that were once on the verge of extinction cavort nearby, and we often spot oystercatchers, blue herons, and yellow-crowned night herons.

    Bartolome—One of the youngest islands, Bartolome displays a fantastic landscape of lava formations—including the famous Pinnacle Rock. The mangroves often hide mating sea turtles.

    South Plaza—Sea lions often greet us raucously as we step ashore. We also find land iguanas busy eating the opuntia cactus flowers and pads. There are colonies of swallow-tailed gulls, shearwaters, and red-billed tropicbirds.

    Rabida (Jervis)—A reddish beach and steep volcanic slopes give this island its distinctive look.

    Leon Dormido (Kicker Rock)—Cruise around this sheer 500-foot tuff cone formation, where blue-footed boobies and sea lions abound.

    Santa Cruz—At the Charles Darwin Research Station, learn about pioneering ecological studies and the giant Galápagos tortoise-breeding program.

    Floreana (Charles)—Like the other islands, Floreana has its coterie of remarkable creatures. But it’s the human stories that will engage you here as your guide tells of the first inhabitant, a shipwrecked Irishman, and the quirky “post office” in a barrel, where sailors have been leaving letters for delivery since 1793. This “post office” still operates today.

    Santa Fe (Barrington)—Hike through a forest of opuntia cactus, where land iguanas doze, and then snorkel in clear water with coral reefs, manta rays, sea turtles, and colorful schools of fish.

    North Seymour—Here you’ll find the largest colony of frigatebirds in the Galapagos and a major nesting site for the blue-footed booby. On the beach, sea lions ride the waves.

    San Cristobal (Chatham)—The town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on this island is the sleepy capital of the Galápagos province. Ochoa Beach boasts pelicans and other sea birds, as well as a delightful swimming beach. Nearby is Lobos Island, where you’ll see pelicans, frigatebirds, and a sea lion colony.

    Española (Hood Island)—Sea lions, marine iguanas, and many kinds of birds are found here, including Darwin’s finches, Hood mockingbirds, and blue-footed and masked boobies. Along the southern shore, spectacular cliffs rise up from the sea. From November to April, the remarkable waved albatross, which can spend years at sea without touching land, can be seen performing their unique, perfectly-choreographed mating ritual.

  • Today we continue our Galápagos travel. An O.A.T. traveler commented that, “The Galápagos are sun, sea, and a workshop in evolutionary biology.” We'll make numerous landings by small dinghies that involve stepping into knee-deep water to wade ashore. Once on land, we'll walk with our naturalist Trip Leader along trails that bring us close to the many indigenous species.

  • Today we continue our Galápagos travel. When we are not viewing wildlife on shore, we can swim, sunbathe, and perhaps go snorkeling among sea lions and vividly colored tropical fish. Throughout the trip, we'll see magnificent landscapes of white-sand beaches, sparkling clear aquamarine water, and black and red volcanic rock landscapes.

  • Today we continue our exploration of the Galápagos. As we take in their striking seascapes, we can consider how they have impressed great American writers in two different centuries. Herman Melville blended knowledge of the islands, gained from his days as a sailor, with fiction in his 1854 novella The Encantadas or Enchanted Isles. More than 100 years later, Kurt Vonnegut's 1985 novel Galápagos drew inspiration from the author's own visit to the archipelago. Unique and remote, the Galápagos Islands will no doubt continue to influence creative artists for centuries to come.

  • This is the last day we spend in the Galápagos, and we’ll continue to enjoy snorkeling, exploring, observing wildlife, and hiking around the islands. Tonight, we’ll enjoy a special dinner onboard during which we’ll bid farewell to the crew.

  • This morning, we disembark our ship and fly from the Galápagos back to Quito, where we'll arrive at our hotel in the late afternoon. We have a Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant this evening.

  • After breakfast this morning, we enjoy a moving musical performance by the Sinamune Disabled Children's Orchestra, who members are physically or mentally disabled. Grand Circle Foundation is proud to provide Sinamune with financial assistance, helping to give these talented and dedicated musicians the support and encouragement they deserve.

    If you have a late departure, which includes and overnight flight, you'll have the rest of the afternoon to visit different places around Quito, with lunch and dinner on your own. Please note: On some departure dates, the order in which some parts of this itinerary take place may differ from what is shown here, but all included features of the trip remain the same.

    If you are taking the post-trip extension to Ecuador: The Andes & the Devil's Nose Train, you will travel overland to Riobamba after breakfast today; the Quito activities mentioned will take place on the last day of your extension.

    Ecuador: The Andes & the Devil's Nose Train

    5 nights from only $1295

    Experience the Andean side of Ecuador, a region of snowcapped volcanoes, traditional cultures, and a dramatic rail route. From traditional markets in the countryside to Spanish colonial Cuenca, you’ll meet the people who call this scenic region home. Join us to discover more of Ecuador’s cultural and natural diversity.

    View Extension Itinerary

Click below to read our Travel Planning Guide on Ultimate Galápagos Exploration & Ecuador's Amazon Wilds

Read Travel Planning Guide

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