Journey by helicopter across the infamous Avenue of the Volcanoes and embark upon your very own explorations at the epic Galapagos Isles; on the origin of the species….

INTRODUCTION

The Avenue of the Volcanoes is a 200-mile Andes Mountain ridge aptly named by explorer Alexander von Humboldt. This picturesque valley stretching south from Quito, Ecuador is the perfect adventure by helicopter. A thrilling flight includes the imposing Cotopaxi Mountain (19,345 feet), the highest active volcano in Ecuador, and a host of other volcanic wonders amid truly breathtaking scenery. This route usually takes days by road, but you can see it all in just ninety minutes of aerial wonderment across the skies of Ecuador.

At the Galapagos Isles, on September 15th, 1835, a five-year voyage of discovery by Charles Darwin and led by Captain Robert FitzRoy on H.M.S. Beagle landed ashore. Darwin’s subsequent theory and scientific paper On The Origin of Species was to irrevocably change the understanding of the evolutionary biology on our planet.  Today, we offer your very own Galapagos evolutionary voyage of discovery aboard the luxurious Origin and Theory cruise vessels.

QUICK OVERVIEW BY DAY:

  • Day 01 – International Arrival Quito
  • Day 02 – Private Tour of Colonial Quito
  • Day 03 – Helicopter Overflight Avenue of the Volcanoes
  • Day 04 – 8D/ 7N Galapagos Origin/ Theory Luxury Cruise -San Cristobal Island
  • Day 05 – Galapagos Origin/ Theory Luxury Cruise – Genovesa Island
  • Day 06 – Galapagos Origin/ Theory Luxury Cruise – Santa Cruz Island
  • Day 07 – Galapagos Origin/ Theory Luxury Cruise – Isabela Island
  • Day 08 – Galapagos Origin/ Theory Luxury Cruise – Fernandina & Isabela Island
  • Day 09 – Galapagos Origin/ Theory Luxury Cruise – Rabida & Santiago Island
  • Day 10 – Galapagos Origin/ Theory Luxury Cruise – Santa Cruz Island
  • Day 11 – Galapagos Origin/ Theory Luxury Cruise. San Cristobal Island & Depart

Origin and Theory Galapagos Cruise Vessels

The Origin and Theory are two sister vessels which operate in tandem across these isles. The ships are affiliates of the Relais & Châteaux luxury brand and this ensures a high level of amenity provision and superb client service. Both are 142 feet long and carry a maximum of 20 passengers, along housed in one single accommodation- Beagle Deck. The ten Stateroom Cabins are 145 ft2 in Double/ Twin or Triple (3 bed bunk) cabin configurations. Cabins also have TV with preloaded films. Common areas include a spacious lounge with TV, dining area and a compact reference library, complimentary bar including wines, spirits (except premium spirits), tea and coffee. The outside deck offers a Jacuzzi, sun deck, hammocks, barbecue facilities and gym facilities. Wi-Fi is generally available throughout but is not usually a focus of Galapagos Cruises. Finally, each ship carries two certified expert bilingual naturalist guides with an excellent 10:1 passenger to guide ratio.

Activities Include:

  • Hiking
  • Snorkelling- wet- suits provided
  • Kayaking
  • Stand Up Paddle Boarding
  • Cookery classes
  • Kids games (on select allocated family departure cruises)

Note: Children under the age of 11 are only permitted only on designated family departures, cruises are recommended for children > 7 years. Ask your agent for these dates.

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Day 01 – International Arrival Quito

Arrive to Quito International Airport. Our driver and representative will escort you to your downtown hotel.
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Day 02 – Private Tour of Colonial Quito

We begin with a visit to the colonial heart of Quito founded in 1534 by Diego de Almagro. The city was made a UNESCO World Culture Site in 1978, denoting its exemplary preservation of some of the finest buildings in all of the Americas. The finest churches are included on our tour of La Compania, the Monastery of San Francisco and we follow with an insight to working life in Quito at La Ronda. To encompass the panorama of the city we will venture up Panecillo Hill where we will be able to admire the famous Virgin of Panecillo. Followed by lunch in the heart of the old city. In the afternoon we conclude our Quito visit at Republica del Cacao to enjoy and learn the secrets that have driven this brand to represent the ultimate Ecuadorian chocolate experience.

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Day 03 – Helicopter Overflight Avenue of the Volcanoes (204KM)

Alexander von Humboldt in 1802 befittingly christened a region south of Ecuador as the “Avenue of the Volcanoes”. Today, we depart here from Tambillo by helicopter to explore this awe-inspiring landscape. This is an exhilarating and comprehensive flight lasting almost 90 minutes and covering 204 kms. The flight will carry you to the majestic high Andes Mountains where imposing volcanoes lord over these rarefied lands. A route such as this by road usually takes multiple days, so enjoy your all-encompassing action packed flight. We include the famed active volcano of Cotopaxi Mountain (19,345 feet) where you will see wild horses, alpaca and llama roaming the in their secluded natural pastoral setting.

As von Humboldt wrote in his book Views of Nature; “The entire plateau of Quito is a single volcanic hearth. The subterranean fire breaks forth from one of these opening, now from another….”. Come prepared to be amazed.

Destinations - Helicopter Overflight Valley of The Volcanoes:

1. Pasochoa Park
2. Machachi
3. La Viudita Mountain
4. Aloag
5. Corazon Volcano (11132 ft.)
6. Tucuso
7. Ilinizas (15459 ft.)
8. Cotopaxi Forests
9. Cotopaxi Volcano (18697 ft.)
10. Rumiñahui (12589 ft.)
11. Sincholagua Volcano (15276 ft.)
12. La Micacocha Lagoon
13. La Seca Lagoon
14. Condor Route
15. Antisana Volcano (18573 ft.)
16. Papallacta Lagoon
17. Sucus Lagoons / bear
18. Cangahua - Oyacachi
19. Sarahurco
20. Lagunas de Mojanda
21. Centre of the World Monument

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Day 04 – Galapagos Origin/ Theory Volcanic Wonders Cruise -San Cristobal Island

There are two route options with these ships, Southern and Central and the one which we include here the Northern and Western Route. These can be combined to an all-encompassing 15-day itinerary. However, this tour focuses on the Western & Northern 8- day/ 7-night luxury Galapagos Volcanic Wonders Cruise which is one of our favourite routes from across the Galapagos Isles. It is a geographically and biologically diverse itinerary as the islands of the East are older than those in the West. This can be witnessed by the fresh volcanic activity of islands such as Isabela and Fernandina. As comparison Fernandina is 700 million years old whereas South Plaza Island (an Eastern Isle) is 4.2 billion years old.

This morning you will be escorted on a private transfer from your Quito hotel to the airport. Take a flight from Quito to Galapagos (San Cristobal) and transfer by road and zodiac boat to your cruise vessel. You are welcomed aboard, have lunch, then an evening visit to Cerro Colorado to visit the tortoise breeding centre of Crianza Jacinto Gordillo (Galapaguera) located in north-eastern San Cristobal Island. Among the myriad tortoises, be sure to watch the birds too which include mockingbirds, finches and warblers. By evening we set sail for Genovesa Island.

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Day 05 – Galapagos Origin/ Theory Luxury Cruise – Genovesa Island

We disembark and come ashore onto Genovesa Island at Prince Philip’s Steps. This haven of avian rarities showcases some of the best birding in all of the Galapagos. Once ashore you can enjoy sightings including Red Footed Boobies, Nazca Boobies and Storm Petrels. After a fun barbecue lunch, you can enjoy some kayaking or snorkeling from the zodiac boat under the cliffs. We also venture up to Darwin Bay and its pristine sandy beach, home to Lava and Swallow-Tailed Gulls, a good spot too for swimming with Sea Lions. In the nearby mangroves the colorful Frigatebirds can be found with their puffed up vibrant red chests. Round off the evening relaxing at dinner on your vessel neath the starry dark skies of Genovesa Island.

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Day 06 – Galapagos Origin/ Theory Luxury Cruise – Santa Cruz Island

This morning, we discover the white sandy beach of Las Bachas at northern Santa Cruz Island. Your guides will lead you to a flamboyance of Pink Flamingos along the shore, and an abundance of flora on a delightful nature trail. After lunch, a spot of snorkeling amid turquoise waters with tropical fish in abundance, sea turtles and occasional shark visitors. Next, climb Dragon Hill for a splendid view overlooking the truly inspiring bay and island topography. This hike has a great diversity of plant life such as Palo Santo and Muyuyo Trees and Opuntia Cacti. The fauna includes Yellow Land Iguanas basking in the sun, Darwin Finches, Yellow Warblers, and the Petrel family Audubon’s Shearwater.
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Day 07 – Galapagos Origin/ Theory Luxury Cruise – Isabela Island

At Isabela Island we begin our day with a zodiac to Punta Vicente Roca. Journey through the ocean caves and witness colonies of vibrant Sally Lightfoot Crabs on the volcanic tuff walls. Snorkeling here is a must do amid the playful Galapagos Penguins and Sea Turtles. As we navigate the Bolivar Channel in the months of June to December be sure to look out for some of the twenty-four species of whales and dolphins that migrate via these waters. The mighty Blue Whales can be 110 feet long and weigh 200 tons, being the largest mammals on Earth.

Next stop, Urbina Bay on the large volcanic island of Isabela. This island has had volcanic activity as recently as 2018 on Sierra Negra in the southern part of the island. The landscapes of Isabela are more arid and primitive than the isles where your trips began such as San Cristobal. Wildlife here includes Iguanas both land and marine, Giant Tortoise, Darwin Finches, Brown Pelicans and Flightless Cormorants.

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Day 08 – Galapagos Origin/ Theory Luxury Cruise – Fernandina & Isabela Island

Punta Espinoza on Fernandina Island is our inaugural stop. This fascinating island is the youngest in the Galapagos, and so is active volcanically. It is a delicate new eco-system and home to colonies of Sea Lions, Blue Footed Booby, countless Marine Iguanas and Flightless Cormorants. Take time for a fascinating snorkeling opportunity in the rich waters at Espinosa Point. You may even spot a whale passing! After lunch, we visit the sheltered deepwater Tagus Cove, a former haunt of ocean-going pirates with names etched to the cliffs from hundred of years of a bygone era. A short hike leads to the saltwater caldera of Darwin’s Lake along a route through volcanic lava fields. The final view is well worth the prior effort in climbing. Later, while gliding along the shore by kayak stay watchful for passing Blue Footed Boobies, Pelicans, Brown Noddy Tern and Galapagos Penguins.
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Day 09 – Galapagos Origin/ Theory Luxury Cruise – Rabida & Santiago Island

After breakfast, we alight to Rabida Island and its oxidized red hued volcanic beach. You can enjoy snorkeling amid the Sea Turtles, Sharks, Golden Rays and Sea Lions or follow a trail to a saltwater lagoon habituated by Pink Flamingos. Encounters this morning on the trail include Penguins, Mockingbirds, Yellow Warblers, Marine Iguanas and Darwin Finches.

Today, there are some different options dependent whether you are on an Origin or Theory cruise. Theory vessel clients venture to Puerto Egas on Santiago Island with a great shoreline excursion in search of Starfish, crabs and octopus in the rocky pools. These pools attract birds such as Blue Herons and Marine Iguanas and along the shoreside you can snorkel with Sea Lions and Dolphins. Origin Cruise travelers will take a different route to travel by zodiac to Black Turtle Cove. As the name suggests this is a great spot to Sea Turtles but also White Tipped Reef Sharks, Pelicans, Lava Herons, Mustard Rays and Blue Footed Boobies.

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Day 10 – Galapagos Origin/ Theory Luxury Cruise – Santa Cruz Island

We disembark at the town of Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz Island and travel to both the Giant Tortoise breeding centres of Charles Darwin Research Station and Fausto Llerena. Here you will learn of the lifecycle of these ancient creatures and how their species is being preserved, renewed and repatriated in their natural Galapagos habitat. Puerto Ayora is the largest town of the Galapagos and we learn of the intriguing inhabitants on a guided tour of the town. You will have time to discover the local handicrafts which make ideal souvenirs of your visit. After lunch we visit a nearby lava tunnel and journey through an underground labyrinth of these fascinating volcanic wonders. Onward to the craters of Los Gemolos where on the trek you will become aware of the native Scalesia plants. This species is being protected by the Galapagos National Park Service due to threats of extinction. To conclude our tour, we visit a local hacienda ranch visit to see Giant Tortoises roaming freely. The later evening is a relaxed affair, and you have an option to dine at Puerto Ayora. (This optional meal is not included ashore). Zodiac boat transfers are provided throughout the evening as required.
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Day 11 – Galapagos Origin/ Theory Luxury Cruise. San Cristobal Island & Depart

Your final day will see a journey by bus to Frigatebird Hill. Here we can trek along the coast and view two varieties of Magnificent and Great Frigatebirds. They can be seen soaring down to the ocean to skim the surface for discarded carrion of other hunters. The trail takes about two hours with some wonderful coastal scenery. En route find Lava Lizards, Mockingbirds, Brown Pelicans and Marine Iguanas.

To conclude your evolutionary voyage of discovery take our shuttle to the airport at San Cristobal and fly home via Guayaquil or Quito.

Alternate Galapagos Routes

Both the Theory and Origin operate an alternative Southern and Central route on alternate weeks to this itinerary. It can be done separately or combined with this trip to create a 15-day all-encompassing Galapagos visitation. Speak to your travel adviser for the best honest advice.

Additional Tours Extensions

This trip can be adapted and extended to include extensions to the mainland of Ecuador or any other Latin American country. Your expert adviser will be happy to help you and some popular extensions include:

  • Mashpi Lodge Cloud Forest – Ecuador
  • Hacienda Zuleta- Luxury Hacienda – Ecuador
  • Peru Amazon Jungle and Machu Picchu

Conclusions

The Theory & Origin luxury Galapagos cruises are comprehensive journeys to this unrivalled natural destination. The vessels provide excellence in accommodations, food and amenities aboard spacious and modern vessels. All excursions have a maximum of ten people and are conducted with expert guides to the highest standards of safety. One of the primary reasons to visit both Ecuador and the Galapagos is for all generations to learn of the evolution of our planet. This specific itinerary allows you to learn not just of the past, but to bear witness and testament to perpetual evolution across these lands today. For that reason, we acclaim this itinerary as among the very best in Ecuador and The Galapagos.

Note: All Galapagos itineraries are subject to change without prior notice.

“Extinction is the rule. Survival is the exception.” (Carl Sagan)

TOUR INFORMATION

Our trips are tailor-made to suit your requirements. Contact a luxury Ecuador Vacations expert for a comprehensive itinerary and pricing:

  • US$ 750+ per person per day (based on 5-star hotels)**
  • US$ 700 – 750 per person per day (based on 4-star hotels)**
  • US$ 600 – 700 per person per day (based on 3-star hotels)**

**NOTE: The price of the trip varies greatly depending on the level of cruise and hotels that are included in your trip. Talk to a travel expert about the a cruise and hotels that best meets your budget expectations.

Included in the Price:

  • Guided excursions as described in itinerary.
  • Hotel nights + breakfasts.
  • Airport collections and drop-offs with check-in and baggage assistance.
  • 24 Hour emergency contact number and assistance (in-country).

Not Included in the Price:

  • International flights.
  • Domestic flight package. Flights needed Quito – Galapagos – Quito/Guayaquil. Approximate cost US$ 460 – 600. We can purchase these flights on your behalf.
  • INGALA Transit Control Card – US$ 20 pp (subject to change at any time).
  • Galapagos National Park Entrance Fee: US$ 100 pp (adult) / US$ 50 pp (child) (subject to change at any time).
  • Tips or gratuities.
  • Other meals not stated in the itinerary.
  • Travel insurance.

Summary
You can travel to the Galapagos anytime of the year. There isn’t really a good or bad time to travel, simply different times. When you travel could depend on the wildlife that you want to see, breading patterns or when the water is warmer for snorkeling. There are many considerations! December – February offers a warmer climate, and sea temperatures also start to increase meaning that you’ll probably not need a wet suit for snorkeling come February. Over Christmas and New Year hotel and cruise prices are usually higher availability is often challenging (often booked up 12-16 months in advance). March – April: These are the warmest months of the year and an increasingly popular time to travel. During these months you’ll want air-conditioning in your hotel/cruise to offset the scorching sun. May – July: Temperatures in the Galapagos start to cool off, so a great time for exploring the islands. This is a popular period to travel, so booking with lots of anticipation is important during this period. Towards the end of these months, nighttime temperatures can get a little nippy, so you’ll need to be prepared with a light jacket or jumper. August – November: These are the coolest months in the Galapagos. This period is known as the “garua” period as the islands and seas are encapsulated in a light mist. If hiking in the highlands you may require a light water-proof jacket. August and September are known for having choppier seas. These months are good for snorkeling as the water is clearer, but due to the lower sea temperatures a wetsuit is usually required. This would be considered low season in the Galapagos.

For the Mashpi Lodge, you can travel anytime of the year. From December through until April, this is considered the wet season, so you’ll need to be prepared with water-proof clothing. Remember can rain any time of the year, but from May through until November the chances of torrential rain for long periods of time is less.

Booking With Anticipation
We highly recommend that you plan this type of vacation with as much anticipation as possible. It is not uncommon over holiday periods and during high-season (April – July) that hotels and cruises are booked up 12- 16 months in advance.

Departure Dates:
Dates are flexible and customized to meet your needs. Let us know which dates work best for you and we will tailor the itinerary accordingly.

Suitability:
This Galapagos & Mashpi Lodge vacation package is suitable for people looking for an active trip that includes light-adventure. It is suitable for all ages but consider carefully taking young children or babies to the Galapagos and the Amazon. We recommend a minimum age of 8 years for children.

Difficulty:
Easy – Moderate: This Galapagos & Mashpi Lodge travel package is suitable for most people. It is recommended to have a good level of fitness and mobility as excursions can include moderately-challenging hikes of 1-2 hours. Some Galapagos island excursions require wet landings, meaning that you’ll be taken close to the shore in a zodiac boat, and you’ll disembark in shallow water.

Destinations Visited:

  • Quito
  • Galapagos Islands
  • Choco Andino de Pichincha
  • Mashpi Lodge

Vacation Package Type:

  • Sightseeing
  • Hiking
  • Light-adventure
  • Wildlife
  • Jungle
  • Luxury

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