- 3 nights at Hacienda Zuleta in the Andean highlands
- 7 nights aboard the M/V Origin
- Abundant wildlife viewing, on land and in water
- Cultural visits and demonstrations
- Horseback riding
Andean Highlands + The Enchanted Islands
Experience the culture of Ecuador’s Andean highlands before boarding the M/V Origin to explore the spectacular Galápagos Islands. Lounge with sea lions on the beach, snorkel with sea turtles, witness the giant tortoise in its only natural habitat, photograph the one-of-a-kind blue-footed booby and more in one of the world's top wildlife viewing destinations.
At Travel Beyond, we believe your trip should be designed just for you, not for the masses. Our travel consultants create a custom itinerary for each client, offering recommendations for places and experiences that best fit your style. The itinerary below was planned for a past client, but we’re sharing it for travel inspiration and as an example of what a trip to Ecuador and The Galápagos Islands might look like. Let us know when we can design a trip just for you!
Upon arrival in Quito, you will be met by a Travel Beyond representative for your private transfer to Hacienda Zuleta where you will stay for three nights. Tonight, Hacienda Zuleta will have a snack available to you upon your arrival.
Hacienda Zuleta Meals: Snack
Each day after breakfast, you can choose between several activities that are included in your program. Lunch is served at the lodge daily.
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: Visit the property’s organic garden to learn about permaculture and to discover the origin of your lunch ingredients. Within three hectares, Zuleta grows 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 the property’s 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 you are invited 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 Center: 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 embroidery, with designs focusing on nature or patriotic themes. Currently, members of this community are cultivating flowers for export.
Alternative activities (with extra costs): Other activities available include biking, horseback riding, sewing classes, guided bird watching, and fishing excursions to San Marcos lagoon or Cayambe National Park.
Enjoy a casual wine and cheese reception in the evenings. Dinner will be served at the hotel.
Hacienda Zuleta Meals: B/L/D
This morning after breakfast and checkout, you will be met in your hotel lobby by a Travel Beyond representative for your private transfer to the Quito Airport for your flight to the Galápagos.
Upon arrival at the San Cristóbal Airport in the Galápagos, you will be met by a Travel Beyond representative and transferred to the M/V Origin, where you will check into your cabin before an introductory briefing and safety drill.
After a delicious buffet lunch on board, the boat will travel to Cerro Colorado to visit Centro de Crianza Jacinto Gordillo (La Galápaguera) where the National Park has established a breeding program for giant tortoises in their natural habitat. At the visitor center, learn about the origin and evolution of tortoises, as well as threats from introduced animals. Along the trail, watch for the San Cristobal mockingbird and Calandrinia plant, both endemic to this island.
Return to the Origin for a briefing, followed by the Captain’s welcome cocktail party and dinner.
M/V Origin Meals: B/L/D
Today you will spend the entire day on Genovesa (Tower) Island, one of the most spectacular places in the islands for bird species. Land at Prince Philip’s Steps, where red-footed boobies nest in palo santo trees, Nazca boobies nest near the trail, and storm petrels gather in large numbers in an open lava field. With luck, you may see the elusive short-eared owl.
Return to the M/V Origin for a Bar-B-Que lunch on the sun deck. After, you may choose to paddle from a kayak or stand-up paddle board and explore the nearby cliffs. Look for the red-billed tropic bird hiding in the crevices or snorkel in deeper water off a panga.
Later, land at Darwin Bay, a coral sand beach where swallow-tailed and lava gulls gather near the tide pools. Enter a forest of Optuntia cactus and mangroves where colonies of great frigatebirds nest, the males inflating their red-throated pouches to attract females as they fly overhead. Chose to relax on the beach or swim with sea lions in these northern warmer waters.
Return to the yacht for a briefing followed by dinner and an evening full of stars.
M/V Origin Meals: B/L/D
This morning you will visit Las Bachas, (Spanish for ‘barges’) on the northern side of Santa Cruz. Explore the long stretch of white sand beach and the interior lagoons populated by greater flamingo, before taking the opportunity for some wonderful snorkeling from the beach. Return to the M/V Origin for lunch.
This afternoon, step shore on Cerro Dragon (Dragon Hill) for a majestic view of the bay and the island landscape covered in opuntia cactus, palo santo and muyuyo (Cordia letea). The trail here offers excellent opportunities to see Darwin’s finches, Galápagos flycatchers, yellow warblers, Audubon shearwater, as well as the endemic land iguanas, that were once part of the Charles Darwin Research Station’s breeding program. In the saltwater lagoon, pink flamingos feed alongside other birds such as stilts, pintail ducks and sandpipers.
After the evening briefing and dinner, M/V Origin sails toward the western islands and crosses the equator for the second time.
M/V Origin Meals: B/L/D
This morning you will visit Punta Vicente Roca on a panga ride. Enjoy an incredible view of the tuff walls and enter the wave-sculpted cave. There is an excellent chance to snorkel here and find the penguins and sea turtles that frequent this area.
During lunch, the M/V Origin sails through the Bolivar Chanel. Then, take a seat on deck to view the dramatic scenery and watch for whales and dolphins riding the bow wave, and occasionally, the Mola Mola, an odd looking giant sun fish. Disembark at Urbina Bay on Isabela Island, where four-miles of coastal seabed were exposed after a dramatic uplift occurred during a volcanic eruption in 1954. See the remnants of coral skeletons, some of them waist-high, and keep an eye out for the very large and colorful Galápagos land iguanas, as well as marine iguanas, Darwin’s finches, brown pelicans, flightless cormorants, and the occasional giant tortoise.
Return to the M/V Origin for your evening briefing and dinner. A sky full of stars beckons you to the deck to observe the galaxy.
M/V Eclipse Meals: B/L/D
This morning’s stop is at Punta Espinoza on Fernandina Island, the youngest and most pristine Island in Galápagos, with no introduced animals. Recent lava flows, formed by an active volcano, stretch their way around the coast. Observe sea lion harems with resident bulls carefully guarding their territory, and hundreds of marine Iguanas, the largest colony in Galápagos, basking in the sun along the rugged shoreline. Out on the point, the Flightless Cormorants build their nests close to shore since they lost their ability to fly. There is a chance to snorkel with large sea turtles that frequent this area before returning to the M/V Origin for lunch.
Go ashore on Tagus Cove, a favorite anchorage for pirates and whalers over the centuries. Sections of the rocky cliffs are covered with graffiti dating back to the 1800s. An uphill hike leads to a saltwater lagoon and a scenic overlook with a spectacular view of the ocean, lava fields and volcanic formations. Take advantage of the secluded cove and explore the shoreline by kayak or stand up paddle board in search of Galápagos penguins, boobies, pelicans and other seabirds.
Return to the M/V Origin for briefing and dinner as you cross the equator for the last time.
M/V Origin Meals: B/L/D
This morning you will disembark on the small island of Rábida (Jervis). Rábida is considered the geographic center of the Galápagos because its volcanic rocks are the most diversified in the archipelago. The dark red color of the beach comes from the high iron content in these volcanic stones. On the island, follow a trail to a saltwater lagoon where greater flamingos migrate. Keep an eye out for marine iguanas, mockingbirds, yellow warblers and Darwin’s finches. Afterwards, do not miss the opportunity to snorkel with a colony of sea lions and rays. Return to the M/V Origin for lunch.
This afternoon, enjoy a panga ride at Caleta Tortuga Negra (Black Turtle Cove), where you will navigate through a series of coves and inlets surrounded by mangroves. View pairs of mating sea turtles (Sept to Feb), white-tipped reef sharks and golden cow-nosed rays.
Return to the M/V Origin for the Captain’s Farwell cocktail party and dinner.
M/V Origin Meals: B/L/D
Disembark at Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island, the social heart of the Galápagos. As you travel by bus to the highlands, you will pass through all seven of the vegetation zones found in the islands. Visit a tortoise reserve on a private farm that protects giant tortoises in their natural habitat. Stop at the Tunnels, the largest lava tubes in the archipelago, and visit Los Gemelos, (The Twins), a pair of large craters. Return to the M/V Origin for lunch on board.
This afternoon, you will visit the Centro de Crianza Fausto Llerena (formerly known as the Charles Darwin Research Station). Scientists arrive here from all over the globe conduct biological research, from anatomy to zoology. Visit the tortoise corals and the breeding center with hatchlings and miniature tortoises that will be repatriated when grown. Visit the new exhibit honoring Lonesome George, the last surviving tortoise from Pinta Island and a worldwide icon of conservation, who died of natural causes in 2012.
Stroll through town to shop for souvenirs or stop at an internet café. Return to the M/V Origin for dinner or, if you wish, remain ashore for dinner on your own. Panga shuttles to and from the M/V Origin to the main dock will be offered throughout the evening.
M/V Origin Meals: B/L/D
This morning after breakfast, you will travel by bus to the Interpretation Center on San Cristóbal to gain a more complete understanding of the natural and human history of the islands. Afterward, spend time in port before heading to the airport for your flight back to Quito.
Upon arrival in Quito, you will make your way to your connecting flights home.
Overnight Flight Meals: B