- Tropical Andes & Colonial Quito Extension5 days from $2,390
Before embarking on your Galápagos voyage, discover the wonders of mainland Ecuador on this six-day adventure to colonial Quito and the tropical Andes. Explore Quito’s historic center, one of the earliest UNESCO World Heritage–designated sites, visiting Spanish-style churches and bustling local markets. Then get immersed in one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots during a stay at Mashpi Lodge, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World nestled in the heart of the tropical Chocó ecosystem. With the lodge as your base, experience the natural world like never before from an observation tower and an aerial bicycle, on guided nature walks, and from the comfort of the hotel terrace.
Arrive this evening in Quito, Ecuador’s capital. Check in to our elegant hotel, Casa Gangotena—an iconic landmark situated on the picturesque Plaza San Francisco. Its history dates back to 1600, when it was constructed as an impressive manor which eventually housed some of the republic’s first presidents. After the building was destroyed by fire in 1914, the Gangotena family commissioned the opulent Italian palazzo which presides over the plaza today.
This morning, set out to explore Quito’s historic center, one of the largest and best preserved colonial districts in Latin America. Marvel at structures built in the style of the “baroque school of Quito,” displaying elements of Spanish, Italian, Moorish, Flemish, and indigenous art. Browse the stalls of a revitalized traditional market with a local guide, and then explore on your own in the afternoon. This evening, gather for a welcome dinner at our hotel’s renowned restaurant and experience Ecuadorian cuisine with a modern flair.
After breakfast, set out on a scenic journey across the Equator and through the dramatic valleys of the Andes en route to Mashpi Lodge, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World. Admire the transformation of the landscape as we descend from arid highlands into lush tropical forests. Stop to visit the Tulipe archaeological site, home to the remnants of an ancient settlement of the indigenous Yumbo people. Arrive at Mashpi in time for lunch, then join the resident naturalists on a forest walk in search of the endemic Mashpi frog and other colorful creatures.
Today, choose from a wide range of activities and excursions available at Mashpi. Soar across the canopy on a gondola or an innovative sky bike, discover enchanting waterfalls on a naturalist-led walk, or learn about local butterflies and plants at the Life Centre. Settle on the lodge’s tree-shrouded terrace and watch for numerous bird species such as tanagers, trogons, motmots, and hummingbirds. Keep an eye out for the rare Chocó toucan—a flash of yellow amidst the lush green.
Spend another morning exploring the exceptional diversity of the Chocó ecosystem, then set out on the return journey to Casa Gangotena in Quito. Enjoy time at leisure and dinner on your own this evening.
Early this morning, transfer to the airport and fly to Guayaquil, where you’ll connect with the main group and embark on your Galápagos adventure.