Ecuador & Galapagos

We've been talking about going to the Galapagos for a decade or longer--so long that everyone (including us) was probably starting to think we'd never actually go. We were lucky enough to be able to make the trip and it was definitely everything we had hoped for and then some. We opted for a land-based tour focusing more on exploration of the islands by hiking, snorkeling, biking, and kayaking.

Aside from being very sad when we had to leave for home, we loved every minute of our trip. It's comforting to know that whatever happens at home, somewhere out there on San Cristobal, the sea lions are still having a raucous good time. We miss them and hope to visit again someday.

Day One: Quito - Basilica del Voto Nacional
Our first day in Quito, staying in the Old Town, we headed up to the Basilica to explore the views from the towers.

Day Two: Quito - Capilla del Hombre
In addition to exploring Guayasamin's La Capilla del Hombre, we happened upon a parade through the streets of Quito marking the 100th anniversary of Eloy Alfaro's death.

Day Three: Quito - Parque La Carolina
Every other Sunday, Avenida Amazonas is closed to cars for the ciclopaseo. We walked from La Mariscal to Parque Carolina and then up to the Hotel Quito for panoramic views of Quito and Guapulo.

Day Four: Equator - Otavalo - Peguche Waterfall
The first day of our tour took us north of Quito across the equator, into the Otavalo highlands for shopping and hiking, and then to a historical hacienda for the night. Yes, once we united with the group the pace immediately picked up!

Day Five: Laguna Cuicocha Hike - Continental Divide
We spent the day hiking around this beautiful crater lake, then enjoyed a homemade picnic of pesto pasta, roast beef, empanadas, cerveza, and fresh fruit! Afterwards we drove along a winding back road up across the Ecuadorean continental divide along the eastern range of the Northern Andes (Cordillera Orient).

Day Six: Highland Paramo Hike & Thermal Hot Springs
We hiked in the cloud forest and the paramos above Papallacta Termas, and then soaked our tired muscles in the hot springs!

Day Seven: Galapagos - San Cristobal - Frigate Hill
Our first day on the Galapagos Islands! We flew to San Cristobal, walked up to Frigate Hill, and then snorkeled in the inlet below the flying frigates.

Day Eight: Galapagos - San Cristobal - Kayaking and Snorkeling
This was one of the best days that included a five-mile kayak around Darwin Bay to Isla Lobos for snorkeling, then more snorkeling at Kicker Rock (Leon Dormido)!

Day Nine: Galapagos - Isabela Island - Marine Iguanas, Giant Tortoises, and Penguins!
This was definitely one of the best (and busiest) days of the trip! Flying in a little Cessna across the islands, seeing giant tortoises for the first time, exploring the islets and lava fields of Las Tintoreras, encountering marine iguanas, a white-tipped reef shark, and Galapagos penguins, and more snorkeling!

Day Ten: Galapagos - Isabela Island - Sierra Negra Volcano
A hike in the highlands up to the rim of the Sierra Negra caldera, and then over to Chico Volcano to see the desolate lava formations.

Day Eleven: Galapagos - Isabela Island - Biking around Isabela
We spent the day biking around the island, exploring Concha y Perla Bay by kayak, and then relaxing on the beach.

Day Twelve: Galapagos - Santa Cruz Island - El Chato Reserve
We took a 40-mile boat ride from Isabela to Santa Cruz, passing Tortuga and its bird colonies along the way. Then kayaking and snorkeling around Divine Bay and Punta Estrada before heading up to the upper part of Santa Cruz to see giant tortoises in their natural habitat at El Chato Reserve!

Day Thirteen: Galapagos - Santa Cruz Island - Lonesome George
Our last day in the Galapagos islands was spent visiting the Charles Darwin Research Station and Lonesome George, a Galapagos tortoise from Pinta Island that is likely to be the last of his subspecies, and taking a short walk through a Scalesia forest to see a humongous pit crater.

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