Before your Galapagos adventure, discover the lesser-known wonders of mainland Ecuador on this six-day adventure in the Andes. Explore Quito, a UNESCO World Heritage site, from the comfort of historic Casa Gangotena on Plaza San Francisco. See dazzling colonial churches and bustling traditional local markets. Then immerse yourself in the heart of the Ecuadorian Chocó, one of the world’s top five biodiversity hotspots, at Mashpi Lodge. A National Geographic Lodge of the World, Mashpi is a strikingly contemporary base on a 2,600-acre biodiversity reserve on the Pacific slope of the Andes, with resident biologists, naturalist guides, a life center, and remarkable access to the wild rainforest. It offers extensive hiking trails, a stunning open-air tram, observation towers, and even an ingenious aerial bicycle, all designed to get you out into nature. At 3,000-feet in the Equatorial tropical forest, Mashpi is less than three hours from our arrival point, Quito, with a moderate, semi-tropical climate.
Fly to Quito, where we are met by our guide, and transfer to Casa Gangotena on Plaza San Francisco. Most flights arrive in the evening.
Tour the dazzling churches and monuments of old town—largest and best preserved colonial center in the Americas—and visit a revitalized traditional market with a local non-profit this morning on a walking tour. Take the afternoon at leisure to relax and explore. Elect to join an exclusive neighborhood visit for hotel guests. Gather for a welcome dinner at Restaurant Cedrón at Casa Gangotena, presenting Ecuadorian cuisine with modern flair. (B,D)
After breakfast, journey 70 miles north across the Equator though dramatic Andean valleys to Mashpi Lodge, set in tropical forest at 3,000 feet.
After check-in and lunch, join resident naturalists on a nature walk. Search for the endemic Mashpi torrent frog and other nocturnal creatures after dinner tonight. (BLD)
We have the day to explore, where options and excursions arranged for us include a ride across the canopy in the aerial tram or innovative sky-bike, naturalist-led walks to waterfalls on well-constructed trails, a visit to the hummingbird feeders, and butterfly farm and the life center. Birds like endemic mountain tanagers, trogons, motmots, hummingbirds flock around the lodge verandas, and the surrounding forest is spectacular. Keep an eye open for the Chocó toucan, one of dozens of spectacular bird species endemic to this bio-region. The bird list tops 400 species. (B, L, D)
Return this morning with the guide to Casa Gangotena with a lunch stop en route. Join an neighborhood activity exclusive for hotel guests back in the historic center of Quito. Dinner and the rest of the evening is at leisure to prepare for our upcoming adventures in Galápagos. (B,L)
Early this morning, transfer to the airport for the flight to Guayaquil, continuing to Galápagos with the main group. (B)
Extension Cost Per Person
Accommodations, meals as indicated, porterage, soft drinks and bottled water, private guide and transfers in Quito, transport to the lodge, tours, lectures and hikes with naturalist guides at Mashpi, waterproof ponchos and rubber boots, water bottle, gratuity to guides and naturalists.
International and domestic airfare, items of a personal nature, bar tab.
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