Rare is the traveler who returns home untouched by the magic of Ecuador. The glorious scenery, rich traditions and welcoming people of the highlands - it's not just the thin Andes air that leaves you breathless. Witness blue-footed boobies perform a dance of seduction, while five hundred-pound tortoises lumber across the volcanic Galápagos landscape. Curious penguins swim figure eights among snorkelers, as marine iguanas enjoy a casual seaweed lunch. The unusual and wonderful wildlife that intrigued Charles Darwin when he visited the islands in 1835 is still here. To experience this land firsthand is to feel a sense of joy and wonder in one of the world's last great wild places.
We want to make sure you're on the right trip and that you have the best experience possible. Every Backroads trip is unique and this one is no exception.
Travel TimePlease note that due to our flights between the Ecuadorian mainland and the Galápagos Islands, our schedule involves some early-morning departures and a substantial amount of travel time. Our full yet compelling itinerary means we have a lot of ground to cover— rest assured that the time we spend traveling will allow us to experience the incredible variety of culture, wildlife and scenery that the highlands and the Galápagos have to offer.
Day 1 Trace the orchid-lined caldera rim surrounding deep-blue Laguna de Cuicocha Otavalo's market is a colorful bustling whirl - revel in it! Musicians serenade you with handcrafted instruments Tour the studio of one of Ecuador's foremost master weavers Slow down, soak it all in and savor every moment of your time in the Andes.
Days 2-3 Hike through quinoa fields and cloud forests as condors ride the thermals high above you Fernando Polanco, grandson of an Ecuadorian president, welcomes us at Hacienda Zuleta, a 4,000-acre working farm set amid volcano vistas and pre-Inca ruins Feast on fresh cheeses, vegetables and trout prepared using Polanco family recipes Walk or horseback ride on trails flanking Imbabura Volcano in the spectacular Zuleta Valley Visit a project managed by Hacienda Zuleta that reintroduces captive Andean condors into the wild and educates local children about the importance of preservation.
Days 4-8 Boat and fly between the Galápagos Islands Hike in the company of expert naturalists as fascinating wildlife behaviors occur right before your eyes Watch giant frigate birds with six-foot wingspans soar like Triassic Period pterosaurs View marine iguanas basking on warm rocks, unfazed by the Sally Lightfoot crabs that scurry across them Marvel at fluorescent fish, sea lions and lava lizards Keep your eyes peeled for the brilliant plumage of the rare vermilion flycatcher Explore the rim of Sierra Negra Volcano's expansive caldera - at nearly six miles across, it's the second largest in the world.
- Explore highland villages, where Otavaleño Indians continue centuries-old traditions
- Connect with one of Ecuador's foremost master weavers during a tour of his studio
- Visit award-winning Condor Huasi, a rehabilitation center for Andean condors
- Get set for a life-altering experience as you view Galápagos wildlife up close with a naturalist guide
- Swim and snorkel with sea lions and, yes, even with white-tipped reef sharks!
La Mirage Garden Hotel & Spa (1 night): Peacocks stroll freely in the lush gardens of this stately inn, which combines Ecuadorian and European styles. (pool, spa, tennis)
Hacienda Zuleta (2 nights): Luxuriate at this 4,000-acre working farm and living museum open only to select groups of travelers. Our host is Fernando Polanco, the great-grandson and grandson of former Ecuadorian presidents.
Iguana Crossing Boutique Hotel (2 nights): Set on a pristine beach near a habitat for flamingos and marine iguanas. (pool)
Galápagos Safari Camp (2 nights): Beautifully appointed luxury safari tents offering unparalleled immersion in the natural environment. (pool)
Every Backroads trip is designed to appeal to a wide variety of
interests and fitness levels. We know your pace may vary from one
day to the next-and your traveling companion's may differ somewhat
from yours. So we present a range of mileage options, and each
day you decide exactly what and how much you want to do.
Routes For All Abilities
|Daily Route Options|
|Level 1||Level 2||Level 3||Level 4||Level 5|
|miles||feet gain||miles||feet gain||miles||feet gain||miles||feet gain||miles||feet gain|
|Optional Horseback Riding at Hacienda Zuleta|
|Concha de Perla Snorkeling (2 Hours)|
|Las Tintoreras Boat Ride, Walk & Wildlife Viewing (3 Hours)|
|Puerto Ayora Bay Tour (3 Hours)|
|8||Return to Quito & Conclusion of theTrip|
* Includes a shuttle
2015 Dates & Pricing*
- 1/1-8 Price: $5698 pp dbl. occ., (+ $920 for sgl. occ.), Internal Air: $790
- 1/18-25 Price: $5698 pp dbl. occ., (+ $920 for sgl. occ.), Internal Air: $790
- 2/1-8 Price: $5698 pp dbl. occ., (+ $920 for sgl. occ.), Internal Air: $790
- 2/15-22 Price: $5698 pp dbl. occ., (+ $920 for sgl. occ.), Internal Air: $790
- 3/1-8 Price: $5698 pp dbl. occ., (+ $920 for sgl. occ.), Internal Air: $790
- 3/19-26 Price: $5698 pp dbl. occ., (+ $920 for sgl. occ.), Internal Air: $790
- 4/3-10 Price: $5698 pp dbl. occ., (+ $920 for sgl. occ.), Internal Air: $790
- 9/6-13 Price: $5698 pp dbl. occ., (+ $920 for sgl. occ.), Internal Air: $790
- 9/20-27 Price: $5698 pp dbl. occ., (+ $920 for sgl. occ.), Internal Air: $790
- 11/1-8 Price: $5698 pp dbl. occ., (+ $920 for sgl. occ.), Internal Air: $790
- 12/17-24 Price: $5698 pp dbl. occ., (+ $920 for sgl. occ.), Internal Air: $790
- 12/29-1/5 Price: $5898 pp dbl. occ., (+ $920 for sgl. occ.), Internal Air: $790
*Prices may change. Once you book your trip, your price is guaranteed.
Private Trips Options & Pricing
Gather your favorite people to share a Backroads adventure on a ready-to-book Private Trip - featuring all the legendary Backroads hallmarks from expert leaders to unforgettable activities.
You can pick any open date for your group of 8 or more except for trips departing during the last two weeks of December, where a 16 guest minimum is required. Call us for date availability.
Pricing for Private Trips
- 8 - 9 guests $6,298 pp dbl. occ.
- 10 - 11 guests $5,998 pp dbl. occ.
- 12 or more guests $5,398 pp dbl. occ.
For groups of 2 to 7 guests, please call for Custom Trip pricing.
Guest Trip Reviews
Beginning with a cultural adventure in the highlands and culminating in an extraordinary wildlife viewing experience in the Galápagos, you'll discover the best of two worlds in one fantastic trip. In the Andes, enjoy hiking, market excursions and visits with local artisans. Then delve into the Galápagos Islands, coming face-to-face with some of the most fascinating creatures on the planet while walking with local naturalists, swimming and snorkeling. I hope you'll join us for this unforgettable introduction to two distinct faces of Ecuador.- Regional Manager, Latin America