Multi-Day Tour | Private

Ecuador Family Program (Quito, Mashpi, Galapagos and more) (14 days)

Abercrombie & Kent Ecuador

Quito, Ecuador To Guayaquil, Ecuador

Valid for Departures Now Through: 14 Dec 2018

Itinerary

DAY LOCATION(S) HOTEL MEALS DESCRIPTION
Day 1
Quito, Ecuador
Casa Gangotena None

Welcome to Quito!


Upon arrival in Quito you will be received by your A&K guide and transferred to your hotel.


Quito, nestled at the foot of 15,696-foot Volcán Pichincha, is known for its eternally spring-like climate and for the beauty of its well-preserved colonial centre. Originally settled by the Quitu tribe in the first millennium, Quito was eventually integrated into the Inca Empire before being destroyed and re-founded in 1534 by Spanish Conquistador Sebastian de Benalcázar. For nearly three centuries, the arts and intellectual societies flourished under Spanish colonial rule, a fact evident in the historic centre’s splendidly restored colonial buildings and churches lining narrow, cobbled streets. In 1809, Quito established the first self-governing junta in the colonies and the liberator Simón Bolívar led the country as part of the Republic of Greater Colombia until 1830, when the Republic of Ecuador announced its independence. Due to the city’s preservation of its blended past, UNESCO declared Quito the first of its World Heritage Sites in 1978.  The city is beautifully situated in an Andean valley at 9,300 feet, making it the 2nd highest capital city in the world.

Day 2
Quito, Ecuador
Casa Gangotena Breakfast, Lunch

After breakfast, begin your tour of colonial Quito. This morning's sightseeing demonstrates some of the reasons why Ecuador's capital earned its honour as the first UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Begin your tour with a visit to the San Francisco Church and its museum of religious art, La Compañía and the seven tons of gold gilding its glittering walls, and the bustling Independence Plaza, flanked by the Presidential Palace and the Cathedral of Quito. Rich in art treasures, fine woodcarvings, and flowering balconies, the historic centre is the lifeblood of Quito.


Spinning Top Demostration:

Jorge Rivadeneira spent much of his childhood in his father’s toy workshop. Electricity was not yet common in Quito and so the toys, especially spinning tops, were made with a mechanical wheel. Jorge had to climb on top of a stool to be able to reach the wheel he used to help his father round off and polish the tops.


Now an old man, Jorge’s love for spinning tops has not faded, and his skill with them is unparalleled. He is able to perform more than 100 tricks with tops of different sizes, which he still makes himself at his own workshop.  


In the afternoon, you may explore the town on your own.

Day 3
Mashpi Reserve, Ecuador
Quito, Ecuador
Mashpi Lodge Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

We take the highway north of Quito, passing the Equator Monument and Latitude 0, and then we climb over the pass and from here on, it’s downhill towards the Pacific Ocean.


After about two-and-a-half hours, we arrive at the entrance to the Mashpi Rainforest Biodiversity Reserve, which extends over the surrounding 1,300 hectares (3,212 acres) – a haven for wildlife and biodiversity. Here, we’ll stop at the Hummingbird Viewpoint to learn more about these irrepressible flying machines, enjoy a drink. We then wind our way 6 km (3.75 miles) further aboard electric buggies until we reach the lodge itself before lunch time. Here guests are welcomed with a refreshing drink and checked in to their rooms. Lunch is served soon after, followed by a short time to relax.

After lunch, the afternoon’s activities begin (please see options detailed below). These will depend on factors such as group size, physical abilities and weather conditions.


Before dinner, guests will meet their Naturalist Guides for a short briefing about the next day’s activities. Optional night walks head out from the hotel following dinner.

Day 4
Mashpi Reserve, Ecuador
Mashpi Lodge Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Note: This day guests will be on their own, without A&K guide & driver


For those who want to enjoy the beauty and magic of dawn in the forest – which is when most birds are active and calling, as well as when views are often most spectacular – early morning activities are organised before breakfast.

Following breakfast, we head out from the lodge to explore, returning for lunch and a rest, before enjoying an afternoon amid Nature, then dinner, night walks and sleep.


Activities: This will be coordinated with your local guide

Trails: As you enter the realm of the rainforests, you will become aware of Life at every step: mushrooms and “fox fire” fungi below, tree trunks festooned with orchids, lichens and mosses, giant ferns reaching up to the light above, coiling vines, swirling mists and clouds of moisture. And then, from nowhere, comes the sound of rushing water, a waterfall amid this glistening, green world, where you can wade through rivers, walk along their banks, revive your senses...

The two main trails are the Howler Monkey and Cucharillo (named after an oak). Both link up with the Cotinga Tower of the canopy gondola system. Along the trails, guests will learn more from both their Naturalist Guide and Local Guide about the myriad plants, insects and animals that inhabit this biodiverse universe. The guides will enthusiastically share their knowledge of their characteristics, behaviour and uses.


Due to Mashpi’s mountainous topography, trails are rarely flat. The Howler Monkey (mainly primary forest) and Cucharillo (mainly secondary), although short – 2 km and 700 m, respectively – are steep. The trails’ steepness is an advantage since the hillsides enable more light to penetrate the forest, thereby increasing the diversity of plants and animals that one can observe at each stratum. Both trails have been specially adapted to make walking easier, using embedded recycled plastic crates to create steps and firm paths.


The way back uphill on both these trails can be aboard the gondola, reached by wading through the shallow river in rubber boots, and walking the connecting trail to the Cotinga Tower.


Life Centre: Close to the lodge, the centre is conceived as a place for learning and discovery, but also where guests can disconnect, where they can contemplate the views, lie back in a hammock, read a book, enjoy a fresh fruit juice or a brew of locally-grown coffee.


Guests will learn more about the butterflies that inhabit the region, being shown the process of these creatures from eggs to pupae to chrysalis to winged wonder. Some 200 species of butterfly have been identified to date in the Reserve, with nearly a dozen observable at the Centre. Other points of learning include various species of frogs and toads inside glass terrariums, as well as dozens of species of orchids, bromeliads and passion flowers all around the structure.


Close to the Centre, we have established an area for growing medicinal plants (ideal for a reviving herbal infusion) and beyond, many varieties of bushes and fruit trees, including banana and plantain, manioc, cacao, tobacco, coffee, coca, bread fruit and heart of palm. These attract all sorts of wildlife, from birds to rodents to mammals – making for easier observation from the comfort of the Centre’s expansive wooden deck. Most of the interpretation at the centre will be imparted by local guides or people involved with the project from local communities. Guests will find ingredients from these gardens in the dishes prepared at the restaurant.


Observation Tower: There are few easier or better ways to appreciate the beauty of the Mashpi Reserve forest and hills than climbing the Observation Tower. Here, guests are able to enjoy an exciting bird’s-eye view and the dramatic panoramas that surround the lodge from the observation tower. This is a metallic structure, with a staircase that climbs to about eight-stories high (26 m or 85 ft), ideal for wildlife observation, particularly at dawn or dusk. Species that can be spotted here include toucans, woodpeckers, barbets, tanagers and parrots as well as raptors. Several towers are planned within the Reserve. The first lies a 10-minute walk from the lodge.  


Night walks: The Mashpi forest is transformed at night, with far more activity than during the day. Optional night walks will head out from the hotel after dinner to discover its nocturnal creatures and their behaviours, ranging from moths as big as your hand, to miniature glass and tree frogs, croaking toads, birds, owls, rodents and mammals, and even fox fire, an Avatar-like luminous fungus. It’s a magical world, often astounding at the micro level, and seldom explored, ready to be discovered in expert company.


Sky Bike: Located close to the hotel, the sky bike makes for an original and exciting way to explore the forest canopy up close. Designed for two people to use at once, one person pedals the bike along a cable stretched between two points in the forest, around 200 m (655 feet) apart, crossing a gorge above a river flowing between rocks and trees below. Silent, easy-to-use and fun, it’s an activity for children over 8 years-old accompanied by an adult, providing guests with another chance to observe the natural world close to the lodge and even spot its denizens. Several bicycles are planned in the Reserve.  


Hummingbird Viewpoint: The forests of Mashpi boast 22 hummingbird species identified to date, inhabiting different specific altitudes, with around 16 species alone observable by guests. In order to make it easier to see these amazing creatures, a shelter with seating provides the ideal setting, feeders for the birds strung from its roof. The site is located at a natural viewpoint, which, on clear days, provides breathtaking views of the Reserve’s forested hills.


Refreshing waterfalls: Water is key to life in Mashpi, and there’s nothing like a refreshing dip at the end of a walk. Several rivers cross the Mashpi Reserve close to the hotel, many forming beautiful small waterfalls, cascades and pools. The water temperature is between 18 and 20°C (64 and 68 F).

Day 5
Otavalo, Ecuador
Mashpi Reserve, Ecuador
Hacienda Zuleta Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

On the last day, there’s an early breakfast, followed by a shorter morning activity and check out. There’s then time to relax at the Lodge, watch a video presentation or birdwatch from the terraces.


After a delicious lunch, we will depart via north to Zuleta. This hacienda, built in 1691 is the centrepiece of a 4,000 acre working farm that was once owned by two Ecuadorian Presidents, and currently belongs to their descendants.  Besides the farming area the family hacienda has a  remarkably successful condor-recuperation and raising project, archaeological remains from 800 AD, a dairy and cheese factory, an organic garden, a tree nursery, a trout farm and an embroidery workshop owned by the indigenous community that live and work in the area.


You will be given a tour around the main building, teaching you more about Zuleta’s history as you wander through ex-President Galo Plaza Lasso’s private library, the chapel, and the beautiful gardens. As the sun sets it gets chilly at Zuleta, so a nice glass of wine in the living room, a roaring fire, comfortable sofas, and a book from the library will entertain you until dinner time.

Day 6
Otavalo, Ecuador
Hacienda Zuleta Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Note: This day guests will be on their own, without A&K guide & driver


If you are an early morning person you might want to enjoy a short hike before breakfast to try and spot some of the countless birds on the property, including rare species such as the black-crowned night heron or the black-chested buzzard eagle. After an exquisite breakfast with eggs, pancakes, muesli, fruit, homemade bread, and marmalade you will be able to visit the cheese factory and learn more about how Zuleta’s semi-aged cheeses are produced from the farm’s fresh milk in the small factory near the guest house.


As mornings are usually sunny throughout the whole year, it’s a great time to hike, bike, or take a horseback ride to the Condor Reserve. The early part of the day is the best time to see a wild condor soaring majestically through the mountains. You’ll go directly to a valley with native forest located about 5km from the guesthouse. Here, you will learn about the foundation’s effort to bring the condor back to this part of the Andes, see some of the rescued condors in the aviary, visit the interpretation centre, and stop by the nearby trout farm. The tour back to the main building takes you through pasture land where you hike or ride between ancient monuments of the Caranqui culture; you will see small burial mounds dating to AD 700 and giant square ceremonial truncated pyramids from the 13th Century.


After breakfast you can choose between several activities that are included in the program:


Cheese Factory: If you are interested in cheese, you can visit the cheese museum and learn how Zuleta’s semi-aged, handmade cheeses are produced from the farm’s fresh milk and carefully processed in the small factory near the guest house. Find out about the steps from milk to cheese and how the process has changed throughout history.


Sewing demonstration: At “El Taller,” you will find a workshop of Zuleta’s famous and beautiful embroidery work. “El Taller” is managed by the Galo Plaza Lasso Foundation, a non-profit organization involved in helping the surrounding communities. The embroideries are made by hundreds of Zuleteña women who use their spare time to contribute to their agrarian family income.  Francisca Carlosama, the head of the Zuleta Women’s Cooperative, can demonstrate the process, and you are welcome to buy or order tablecloths, placemats, curtains, blouses, and many other beautiful items.


Organic garden visit: We invite you to visit the organic garden to learn about permaculture and to discover the origin of your lunch ingredients. Within three hectares, we grow seventeen different kinds of vegetables, five different kinds of fruit, and several herbs, spices, and medical plants.  Everything is produced without chemicals and the humus used as fertilizer comes from our own worm farm.


Milking lessons: Hacienda Zuleta has over 300 cows that support Zuleta’s milk production. Milking takes place at 3pm in the afternoon (or at 5am in the morning!) and we invite you to come to the milking sheds to experience the process, feed the calves, see giant bulls, and talk to the vaqueros (local cowboys). If you are interested in a private milking lesson, Rosa and her cow Esperanza are happy to teach you to milk by hand.


Condor Rescue Centre: Many guests ride or hike to Condor Huasi, the condor rehabilitation project, located about 5 km from the house in a valley surrounded by native forest. At Condor Huasi, the only reproduction and liberation site licensed by the governmental condor protection agency in Ecuador, you will be able to observe eight condors in captivity and, with luck, wild condors flying above you or even landing on the aviary.


Visit to the local community:  Zuleta is a small town nestled in the northern part of the country and famous for handmade embroidery. The local language is Quichua, and a high percentage of this community speaks Spanish.  Housing is made of straw, bahareque, and tapiales. The field work is performed by men, who grow barley, quinoa, potatoes, and other crops.  These products form the base of their diet.  Women dedicate time to elaborate embroidery, with designs focusing on nature or patriotic symbols.  Currently, many members of this community are engaged in the cultivation of flowers for export.


Alternative activities (with extra costs):

• Biking

• Horseback riding

• Sewing classes

• Guided bird watching

• Fishing excursions to San Marcos lagoon or Cayambe National Park

Day 7
Quito, Ecuador
Otavalo, Ecuador
Casa Gangotena Breakfast, Lunch

After a healthy breakfast we will visit the town of Otavalo. This small town, with a population of about 50,000, is justly renowned for its friendly people and their world-famous market, a gathering that has occurred here since pre-Incan times. Otavaleños are the most prosperous Indian group in the country -- surely because their weavings, carpets, colourful ponchos, Indian jewellery and needlework are so attractive!  You can also visit the colourful and authentic produce market, which gives you the opportunity to see many of the unique fruits and vegetables of Ecuador.


We will then visit Condor Park at the summit of Curiloma, a magical place with one of the most breath-taking landscapes in the Ecuadorian Andes. This wildlife refuge and educational park is, as you might, expect home to majestic and endangered Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus) as well as many other birds of prey including eagles, hawks, and owls.  


After lunch at a local hacienda, and then return to Quito.

Day 8
Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Quito, Ecuador
Finch Bay Eco Hotel Breakfast, Lunch

After breakfast at your hotel, you will be transferred to the airport for your flight to the Galapagos. Prior to check-in at the airline’s counter you need to have your luggage inspected by representatives from the Galapagos National Park. This is a normal procedure to avoid the introduction of foreign species to the islands.


Upon arrival to the airport at Baltra Island, you will be taken across the Itabaca Channel to Santa Cruz Island. Where a bus will take you to the highlands of Santa Cruz Island for a visit the Giant Tortoises Reserve in their natural habitat, a once in a lifetime experience! . After lunch, you will be transferred to the Finch Bay hotel, where you will have enough time at leisure to enjoy its multiple attractions: pool, the white coral beach in front of the hotel and rest on your hammock. In the evening, dinner includes the delicacies of local and international gastronomy, one of the main reasons people choose the Finch Bay Hotel.


Optional activities at an additional cost: Kayaking, mountain biking, diving, surfing.

Day 9
Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Finch Bay Eco Hotel Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Bartolome island (yacht excursion)


Bartolome is famous for Pinnacle Rock, a towering spearheaded obelisk that rises from the ocean’s edge and is the best-known landmark in the islands. Galapagos penguins—the only species of penguin found north of the equator—walk precariously along narrow volcanic ledges at its base. Sea lions snooze on rocky platforms, ready to slide into the water to play with passing snorkelers.

Day 10
Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Finch Bay Eco Hotel Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Santa Cruz Island – Tortuga Bay

Tortuga Bay is located to the southwest of Puerto Ayora, on Santa Cruz Island. Its name means “turtle”, and the island received this moniker because it is sea turtles favorite place to lay their eggs. The stunning white sand beach is considered by many the most beautiful in the Galapagos archipelago. The beach is reached via a marked and cobbled two kilometer path that starts at the west end of Charles Binford Street; guests must sign in and out at the National Park control point at the beginning of the path– it is open from 6:00 AM to 6:30 PM daily. There is excellent bird-watching along the path, with plenty of Darwin’s finches and other sea birds. And for active visitors, it is a great place to kayak, snorkel and surf!


The headquarters of the Galapagos National Park Service and The Charles Darwin Research Station are located side by side on the outskirts of Puerto Ayora. There is an interpretation center open to the public and also one may view the tortoise rearing program. Those guests who do not have the opportunity to explore the highlands of Santa Cruz and see tortoises in their natural habitat will have the chance to see tortoises here. And for those who have already seen them in the wild, a visit to the Centre will expand their knowledge of this unique, iconic Galapagos animal.

Day 11
Guayaquil, Ecuador
Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
Oro Verde Hotel Breakfast

After breakfast we leave the Finch Bay Hotel and on the way to Baltra, stop at the Twin Pit Craters, great geological depressions of volcanic material, formed by a long process of slow sinking of the ground, where exceptional Scalesia trees, ferns, mosses and orchids can be seen in the surroundings.


After the visit, you’ll be transferred to the airport to take your flight to Guayaquil.


Welcome to Guayaquil!


Located on the banks of the Guayas River, Guayaquil is Ecuador’s principle port and largest city, with about 3 million inhabitants. Guayaquil’s strong culture and traditions stand in amazing contrast to the modernity of its new constructions. Guayaquil’s port, “Puerto Maritimo”, is the main sea port of the country and is where 80% of the country’s imports and more than 50% of its exports are handled. The commercial and industrial centre of Ecuador, Guayaquil lies about 60 kilometres from the Gulf of Guayaquil and the Pacific Ocean.

Day 12
Guayaquil, Ecuador
Oro Verde Hotel Breakfast, Lunch

Hacienda La Danesa is a traditional dairy and cacao farm with over 145 years of rich heritage and history, located about an hour drive from Guayaquil, Ecuador. Family-owned and managed by the third generation Olsen family, the farm o¬ffers a unique selection of tailor-made activities for guests, including horseback riding trails, hands-on artisan chocolate making and other hacienda-related programs. La Danesa is just 30 meters above sea level and it is the perfect adventure to combine with Galapagos excursions without having to worry about altitude sickness.


Lunch will be at the farm.


Cacao Plantation: Ecuador is recognized for offering the finest quality cacao in the world. Guests will visit the cacao plantation where they will have the chance to taste raw cacao at di¬fferent ripening stages and a hands-on experience of making artisan chocolate. (1 hour)


Bicycle Trails: Guests can take our fat-tire bicycles and ride around the farm to explore the beautiful area at any time during their stay. A map and cycling route signs will guide visitors through diff¬erent trails. (1 hour)


Cow Milking: Hacienda La Danesa celebrates 20 years of recognition to be the best dairy farm in coastal Ecuador. It produces 1,200 litters of high quality milk per day. To make lunchtime even more special, La Danesa presents one of its grass-fed cattle to give a first-hand experience of milking and trying unpasteurized fresh milk. Overnight guests can join the early morning milking session. (15 minutes)


Petting Farm Animals: At La Danesa, taking the best care of it large and diverse stock of farm animals is very important. From goats, horses, cows to birds, chickens, and many more. It is a truly fun experience for both kids and adults to bond with the farm animals and have a taste of an authentic country life experience. (30 minutes)


Optional activities with an additional cost: Horseback Riding.

Day 13
Guayaquil, Ecuador
Oro Verde Hotel Breakfast, Lunch

After breakfast we will head to the Guayaquil Historical Park. The park is a must-see attraction with three zones: wildlife, traditions, and urban. You will be able to observe the native flora and fauna of Guayaquil as well as a representation of the customs and lives of coastal farmers recreated in a typical hacienda house.


In the afternoon enjoy sightseeing in Guayaquil.  Visit the commercial centre, the Malecón 2000 along the Guayas River, the Parque Seminario, locally known as “Iguana park” due to the many land iguanas lounging in the grass and trees, and then through the historic neighbourhood of Las Peñas for a visit to one of the local museums.  

Day 14
Guayaquil, Ecuador
None Breakfast

After breakfast, your guide will be waiting at the lobby to assist you with your airport transfer.

Tour Features

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Description

Enjoy a beautiful tour through some of the most amazing setting of Ecuador, on a journey that won't just allow you to witness some of the most amazing natural wonders of the world, but experience the elements that compose the quaint Ecuadorian culture, in the best possible with, in family!

About Us

A&K Ecuador was established in Quito in September 2004, and has now grown to have 20 full-time employees, as well as numerous seasonal staff across the country to handle larger groups and monthly fluctuations. Meaning that we are big enough to handle the largest of operation, such as congresses, incentives and cruise operations, but we are also small enough to offer a specialized, tailor-made and personal service without losing sight of the finer details.

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Galápagos Adventure

By: PG


Reviewed on: 13 Aug 2017

Along with our local travel advisor, A&K provided us with a perfect adventure to the Galapagos Islamds and Quito. Our guide, Carlos, spoke perfect English and was an expert in anything we asked from history to flora/fauna of the region. Perfectly planned trip!!!
Travel Advisor:  Catherine Whitworth

Family Trip

By: Bcdbba


Reviewed on: 22 Apr 2018

We had excellent service and was happy with drivers and guides!
Travel Advisor:  Julie Jones