Day 1 - Quito. Welcome to one of the smallest yet most biodiverse countries in South America. Ecuador offers a panorama of scenery and climates"from the Pacific Coast to the rainforest and the Amazon to the high slopes of the Andes. Upon arrival in Quito you will be met by your Cosmos representative, who will help you get acquainted with this fascinating city near the equatorial line.
Day 2 - Quito. Begin your day with a city sightseeing TOUR that showcases colonial Quito, one of the best preserved historic areas in South America. A walk through Old Town Quito with your guide introduces you to the first city named a UNESCO World Heritage City back in 1978. Stop in Independence Square to see the Government Palace and Archbishop's Palace as well as the cathedral. In San Francisco Square, see La Compañia Church, one of the most beautiful in Quito with its ornate facade and San Francisco Church. Your afternoon is free to explore on your own; your Tour Director is sure to offer suggestions. (B)
Day 3 - Quito - Cochasqui - Otavalo. Depart Quito and head north past often snow-capped Cayambe Volcano, rising 19,000 feet in altitude. In fact, the Equatorial Line crosses the slope of this immense volcano, which is the highest and only point worldwide that the Equatorial Line is covered with snow. Visit COCHASQUÍ RUINS, the largest Pre-Columbian archaeological site in Ecuador, believed to be a ceremonial and astronomical site dating back to 900 AD. During your tour, learn about the theories on this site, where 15 pyramids and 21 tombs have been uncovered. Continue to Otavalo's famous INDIAN MARKET, considered one of the best in South America, full of textiles, clothes, vegetables, and much more. Stay at a traditional hacienda, and enjoy a COOKING CLASS to learn about Ecuadorian specialties before dinner. (B,D)
Day 4 - Otavalo - Papallacta. Head to the Andean village famous for its healing hot springs, Papallacta, where hot water naturally flows from the Andes. First, stop at the working ROSE PLANTATION, where Ecuador's main export is harvested year-round. The combination of volcanic soil, natural hot springs, equatorial sun, and cool nights makes this region a perfect place for growing the world's most beautiful roses. Continue to your lodge and relax in one of their nine thermal pools and three cold-water pools. Heated from the Earth's core due to its proximity to nearby volcanoes, these thermal waters are known for their curative properties. (B)
Day 5 - Papallacta - Ecuador's Amazon. Crossing over the Andes, follow in the footsteps of Francisco de Orellana, the first European to see the Amazon. Descend the eastern slope of the Andes into the jungle to the banks of the Napo River, where you will board a short CANOE RIDE downstream to your lodge, Casa del Suizo. Arrive at this tranquil Amazonia refuge, surrounded by tropical rainforest, and enjoy a welcome drink by the pool before dinner. (B,D)
Day 6 - Ecuador's Amazon. This morning, cruise down the Napo River on a dugout CANOE with your Naturalist to an area for a NATURE WALK to search for tropical birds, monkeys, capybaras, and other animals commonly found here. Also visit the AMAZOONICO, a rescue center developed to rehabilitate rainforest animals. Here you can see coatis, tapirs, monkeys, snakes, and birds. Later, take a WALK on a river island to search for a variety of plants and insects. Also visit the BUTTERFLY HOUSE to learn about their metamorphosis. (B,L,D)
Day 7 - Ecuador's Amazon - Baños. Depart the Amazon region this morning for Baños, known for its famous hot springs that give the area its name. Baños is also called "Gate to the Orient" since its vegetation and climate are almost tropical due to its proximity to the rainforest. Small street cafes, restaurants, and gift shops invite you to enjoy a stroll around the town. Check into your hacienda and relax in the mild mountain climate. (B)
Day 8 - Baños. Today you will enjoy a free day at leisure. Baños is the perfect spot for outdoor activities. Your Tour Director will be happy to help you choose the right one. (B)
Day 9 - Baños - Cotopaxi. Pass through the "Avenue of the Volcanoes," which winds its way through the Andean Mountain chain to COTOPAXI NATIONAL PARK, a highland zone protected since 1975. On a WALK near Lake Limpiopungo you will have the chance to learn about the typical vegetation and fauna found in the area. Enjoy breathtaking views of Cotapaxi Volcano, standing over 19,000 feet in elevation. Stay overnight in a typical hacienda found in the area, and enjoy a farewell dinner hosted by your Tour Director this evening. (B,D)
Day 10 - Quito - Baltra (Embarkation) - Cruising: Mosquera Islet. Fly to Baltra and transfer with your expert Naturalist to the Galapagos Legend for your 3-night CRUISE. Sail to MOSQUERA ISLET located between North Seymour and Baltra Islands. This flat, sandy island has a large colony of sea lions and is an excellent site for observing shorebirds such as herons and Lava Gulls. After visiting the island, take a dip in the waters and snorkel to see the abundant sea life. (B,L,D)
Day 11 - Cruising: South Plaza & Santa Fe Islands. Wake up at SOUTH PLAZA and take a walk through an impressive cactus forest populated with land and marine iguanas. Due to the proximity of land iguanas and marine iguanas here, this is the only place on Earth where you will find the Galapagos hybrid iguana. From the summit, be on the lookout for tropicbirds, Nazca and blue-footed boobies, and swallow-tailed gulls. After lunch on board, visit SANTA FÉ where you will be greeted by a large sea lion colony on its white-sand beach. Continue walking through an endemic cactus forest in search of the endemic Santa Fe land iguana, the largest in the islands and distinctively paler. This island is home to a number of endemic species including the Galapagos Hawk, Galapagos Snake, a variety of finches and one of the four species of Galapagos mockingbirds. Take a swim and snorkel here for a chance to see rays, tropical fish, sea lions and maybe even a Galapagos shark! (B,L,D).
Day 12 - Cruising: San Cristobal Island. Arrive at PITT ISLET on SAN CRISTOBAL where you will walk to the top of a volcanic tuff where you are awarded with several magnificent viewpoints. This is one of the few sites where the three booby species of the Galapagos can be seen together (Blue-footed, Red-footed and Nazca). You will also find the two species of frigate birds and a sea lion colony. It is excellent for dinghy rides where a good range of sea birds can be observed and snorkeling too. At CERRO BRUJO, visit a lagoon where migratory bird species can be seen: Black-necked Stilts, Ruddy Turnstones, Whimbrels, other sandpiper species and White-cheeked Pintails. Cerro Brujo offers beautiful views of Kicker Rock, the southern part of San Cristobal and the adjacent coast. Your visit ends with time to swim with the sea lions and other marine life. (B,L,D)
Day 13 - Cruising: San Cristobal (Disembarkation) - Guayaquil. After breakfast, disembark in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno and visit the GIANT TORTOISE RESERVE on SAN CRISTOBAL. Learn about the National Park's conservation programs and breeding programs to protect the endangered tortoise species. Also visit the port village for a last chance at souvenirs before bidding farewell to the enchanted Galapagos Islands. Transfer to San Cristobal Airport and fly to Guayaquil, where the remainder of the day is at leisure. (B)
Day 14 - Guayaquil. Your tour ends with breakfast this morning. (B)