Quite the stopover – pre-Galapagos itineraries in Quito and Guayaquil

AUTHOR The Ecoventura Team

The Galapagos Islands is, rightly, on every nature-lover’s bucket list. The islands play host to a huge number of creatures above and below the waves; there’s no better place on the planet to come face to face with sunbathing sealions, snorkel with penguins, search for giant tortoises or admire the birdlife that call these islands home.

It’s no coincidence that the archipelago was the inspiration for Darwin’s theories of evolution and natural selection. After all, a staggering number of the animals that live here are found nowhere else on Earth. In the words of legendary naturalist David Attenborough, the Galapagos are often being referred to as “nature’s greatest experiment“, and there are few places more extraordinary.

One reason for this is the remoteness of the islands. The Galapagos are located over 500 miles West of mainland Ecuador, so the animals that live here have had plenty of time to evolve independently of their mainland cousins.

For the modern day traveller, this remoteness means any visit will require a stop off in Ecuador proper – all flights to the islands come from Guayaquil or Quito.

So with that in mind, we have put together some pre-Galapagos cruise itineraries for guests to make the most of a visit to either of these wonderful cities – read on for more details.


Quito, the capital of Ecuador, sits proudly beneath the soaring Pichincha Volcano. With stunning views of surrounding volcanoes and mountains, and a UNESCO World Heritage site historic centre, it’s a breathtaking place to start any trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos.

Photo credit: World Travel Guide

At almost 3,000 metres, Quito is the second highest capital city in the world – second only to La Paz, Bolivia – but for those willing to brave the altitude its warm, fresh climate and colonial architecture are well worth the visit.

With so much to see in the city, we would suggest at least two nights before moving on to the Galapagos to give visitors a full day to explore the city. And with the iconic Casa Gangotena in the heart of the historic centre to stay at – a luxury boutique hotel and fellow member of Relais & Chateaux – why would you want to rush?

Photo credit: Relais & Chateaux

Guests arriving on the Friday are collected from the Mariscal Sucre airport outside Quito, where they will be met by an English-speaking guide for the transfer to Casa Gangotena.

On Saturday, after a leisurely breakfast, a guide will accompany guests on a private tour of Quito’s iconic colonial centre. Taking in the magnificent cathedral, as well as old churches, museums and plazas, lunch is then served at Zazu – Ecuador’s only Relais & Chateaux restaurant headed up by the experimental and innovative head chef Wilson Alpala with a great line in cocktails.

Photo credit: Relais & Chateaux

In the afternoon, guests have a choice of three excursions. Visit the Capilla del Hombre art musuem, the former home of renowned Ecuadorean painter and sculptor Oswaldo Guayasamin, drive north to the equator – latitude zero – and visit the Equatorial monument and pre-columbian Inti Nan musuem, or jump on the cable car up the slopes of the Pichincha Volcano to take in spectacular views of the city and surrounding mountains.

After a day exploring Quito, guests have an evening at leisure – how about a fine dining experience at Casa Gangotena’s restaurant? – before a Sunday morning flight to the Galapagos to join us at Ecoventura.


Ecuador’s largest city and port, Guayaquil has enjoyed something of a renaissance in recent years. With the opening of the Malecon 2000, a two mile walkway along the West bank of the Guayas river, visitors can enjoy views of many of the city’s finest monuments and squares, as well as musuems, gardens, and fountains along its length.

Photo credit: Hotel del Parque

At sea level, arriving to the Galapagos via Guayaquil also avoids the altitude of Quito, with its airport only a 15 minute transfer from the centre of the city; there’s a reason after all that it is known as the gateway to the Galapagos.

Visitors arriving on Friday will be met by an English-speaking guide for the transfer to Hotel del Parque. A Relais & Chateaux hotel located in Guayaquil’s upmarket Samborondón district, this elegant building is surrounded by gardens in the city’s Parque Historico. With internal courtyards brimming with tropical plants, this really is an oasis to help you disconnect after your flight.

Photo credit: Hotel del Parque

On Saturday, a guide will meet you at the hotel after breakfast to take you to Hacienda La Danesa. This hacienda, a working dairy and cacao farm in the Montubia coastal region, is owned and run by the third generation of the Olsen family, who will introduce you to the hacienda’s history and operations.

Various activities await, so guests can take their pick; horse riding or mountain biking for those feeling active, explore the organic gardens and cacao plantations, or try your hand at artisan chocolate making. Visitors can even roll up their sleeves and milk the cows, or visit the other animals on the farm, before a three course lunch is served in the grounds of the estate.

Guests will return to Guayaquil later in the afternoon – time to sample Guayaquil’s culinary scene at the nearby Casa Julian. Led by head chef Javier Urruturia, a devout supporter of sustainable cooking practices – Casa Julian is a member of Fish Unknown, an initiative that promotes sustainable fishing practices – Casa Julian is famous as a showcase for Ecuadorean cuisine with a modern twist. The ceviches are widely regarded as the best in the city.

Photo credit: Relais & Chateaux

On Sunday morning, enjoy a final breakfast in the hotel before jumping on the transfer to the airport – next stop, the Galapagos!

For more details, including rates on the Quito and Guayaquil itineraries, see the attached Pre-Cruise Itineraries document.

Should you have any further questions before booking your once in a lifetime trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos, please reach out to our team: contact details can be found here. We look forward to seeing you on board soon!