Ecuador and Galapagos small group holiday

“A wildlife-lover’s dream, this 17-day small-group trip is split between a week in mainland Ecuador and a week in the Galapagos Islands.”


Quito | Cotopaxi National Park | Banos | Pailon Falls | Otavalo | Quitsato Equator Monument | Santa Cruz Island | Isabela Island | Guayaquil | Optional trip to Tintoreras Islands | Optional activities include: snorkelling

Description of Ecuador and Galapagos small group holiday

This trip is a chance to see the Galapagos Islands and the culture and nature of mainland Ecuador. After the excitement of condors and volcanoes on mainland Ecuador there’s a chance to chill with iguanas, follow lumbering tortoises, and spot blue footed boobies in the unique Galapagos Islands. Unlike many Galapagos trips, which are on board boats, your tour will take place on land, mainly on Isla Isabela and Isla Santa Cruz, offering an unusual perspective of the islands. Your group will contain no more than 15 people, travelling by boat and bus, with a few optional hikes.

Start in Quito, Ecuador’s capital, with its UNESCO World Heritage centre, before heading into the lush high-altitude countryside of Cotopaxi National Park and on to Otavalo, a market town set among sacred mountains. In the large indigenous market at Otavalo, you’ll have a fantastic chance to engage with locals, and admire their beautiful handicrafts. Crossing the equator via the Quitsato Equator Monument, you’ll return to Quito and then head to the Galapagos Islands.

On the island of Santa Cruz in the Galapagos you may see giant tortoises. On Isabela you’ll have encounters with iguanas and volcanoes, and enjoy a spot of snorkelling. Depart for the smaller islands and you’ll see the famous birdlife: including beloved species like blue footed boobies and diminutive Galapagos penguins. At the end of the trip you’ll make a pilgrimage to the Charles Darwin Research Station – the research facility which started it all, where the wonders of the Galapagos Islands are preserved for future generations.

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07 May 2021
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30 Jul 2021
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10 Sep 2021
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08 Oct 2021
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29 Oct 2021
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12 Nov 2021
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19 Nov 2021
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17 Dec 2021
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Holiday type
Small group holidays
Small group travel is not large group travel scaled down. It is modelled on independent travel – but with the advantage of a group leader to take care of the itinerary, accommodation and tickets, and dealing with the language. It’s easy to tick off the big sights independently – but finding those one-off experiences, local festivals, travelling markets and secret viewpoints is almost impossible for someone without the insider knowledge gained from years in the field. If you’re heading off on a gap year your, perhaps – but for those with a two-week holiday, a small group tour will save valuable planning time.

The leaders are not guides – they’re not there to shepherd you around. Instead, they’ll let you know which local restaurant serves great value food – without running the risk of travellers’ tummy. They’ll allow you to avoid hour-long queues at train stations and attractions.

We like to think of small group travel as the Goldilocks option. It is independent travel without the fuss, worry and bunk beds – and organised travel without the coaches. And it’s cheaper than a tailor made tour. It’s sits somewhere in the middle – and we think it’s just about right.
What are the main benefits?
Big experiences
Have big, life-enriching experiences that would be impossible to organise without lots of time and insider knowledge.

Make the most of your holiday time by letting someone else do the hard work and boring logistics!

Peace of mind
Small group tours take care of the security aspects – and provide a safety net should anything unexpected happen.
Who is it ideal for?
Travellers who are short of time
If you don’t have three months to spend exploring, small groups trips let you cover more ground in less time. Your days are not spent queuing for tickets or finding hotels – so you can squeeze more into your holiday.

Solo travellers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those travelling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.

Less confident travellers
Stray from the tourist trail without worrying about getting lost, and meet local people without dealing with the language barrier.
“I won’t get any privacy!”
Couples and friends have private rooms, and you can choose to eat alone or not. Single supplements give solo travellers their own room.

“There won’t be any free time”
Free mornings or afternoons let you explore on your own, or just relax.

“The accommodation will be basic”
Trips are as high or low end as you like. Though off the beaten track destinations won’t have luxury hotels, this is all part of the adventure.

“I won’t like the other travellers!”
Tour operators try to create groups with a similar demographic – age, families, activity levels... Chances are, you’ll even make new friends.

“Will we be following an umbrella?”
Meet a local guide
No matter how experienced your group leader, they can never make up for the knowledge gained from a lifetime in the destination. That’s why many of our trips work with local guides around the world – who invite you into their homeland with pleasure.

Responsible tourism

As the pioneers of responsible tourism, we screen every trip so you can travel knowing your holiday will help support conservation and local people.

The Galapagos Islands have more endemic species than any other archipelago in the world, and in 1979 became became the first natural site to be named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 1998 it was made a Marine Reserve, with some really positive conservation and educational work happening in the area. There are strict regulations governing the number of visitors to the islands, as well as the activities permitted. The hotels that we use take their responsibilities seriously - for example, the Casa Natura Lodge on Santa Cruz island collects rain water for their water supply, and many of the ingredients used for the breakfasts come directly from their garden instead of being shipped from the mainland. The Galapagos is suffering from the worldwide issue of plastic litter, which gathers along coastlines and puts wildlife at increased rish of ingestion or entanglement, so we also advise customers where to replenish and refill water, rather than reusing plastic bottles.

As part of our stay on the islands, we visit the Arnaldo Tupiza Breeding Centre in Puerto Villamil, which has the aim of replenishing the endangered Giant Tortoise population by breeding and then releasing the animals. The centre takes donations from visitors, which go back into their release projects - far from being a 'zoo', this centre, along with the two others that exist on the islands, is doing some important work for the survival of the species.

On the mainland, we get to explore many of the country's wild landscapes, including the Cotopaxi National Park. Money from the entrance fee goes back into preserving the park, which is a haven for birdlife and other animals like wild horses. As with all of our tours, our Tour Leaders are trained in our Responsible Tourism policy and brief guests to 'Leave no Trace - ensuring that customers take all rubbish with them and leave the wildlife undisturbed.

As a company we support Cool Earth. Protecting rainforest is one of the most effective actions to tackle climate breakdown. CoolEarth work with indigenous communities empowering them to conserve their forest; keeping CO2 locked in.

The Impacts of this Trip

On most islands tourists must be accompanied by a local guide as part of their trip. Aside from this being an obligation from the Ecuadorian Tourism Authority, local guiding is something that we strongly believe in. All Galapagos guides have been trained in the flora and fauna, and conservation laws within the area. They are passionate about protecting their environment, and using one of these guides ensures that the Galapagos community benefits.

A land-based Galapagos trip is a good way to spend money on the islands, rather than with a cruise company that is often based on the mainland. Our Tour Leaders will advise on the best local restaurants and shops to visit in the evenings, while you'll be using various different boat providers for the journeys between the islands.

On the mainland, our journey around Ecuador is completely land-based, which allows us to explore some of the smaller towns and villages of the Andes, such as the village of Peguche, where we can explore their small local market - this village is known for its local families who make colourful weavings and traditional panpipes, usually selling their wares at the Otavalo Market, one of the largest indigenous markets in South America. We go to the source at the village itself, and allow our travellers the chance to buy souvenirs directly with the maker.

In addition to the above, we are continually looking for ways to improve and are proud to be ‘Responsible in everything we do’. Education is key and so all staff, Tour leaders and partnering suppliers are trained in responsible and sustainable tourism. At our UK Head Office, we continually strive towards a sustainable and planet-friendly working environment, including having solar panels installed and a company commitment to reducing our plastic usage. As well as this, we have valuable and longstanding partnerships with UK charities Toilet Twinning and Send a Cow, plus many smaller initiatives and projects around the world. We’re members of UK travel industry bodies Tourism Concern and AITO because we believe it’s important to share our knowledge and experience, as well as learn from other operators.


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