Galapagos & Andes Multi-Adventure

This was a Multi-Adventure Tour of Ecuador visiting both the Andes and Galapagos which provided these activities: Hiking, Biking, Snorkeling, Kayaking and surfing. We also stayed in five (5) unique towns in incredible lodging. The trip also was a cultural tour as we visited many local and unique agencies.  This is an overview and see tabs on left for more details on each of the five (5) towns and two (2)islands visited. The adventure was provided by Backroads and they did a great job and their guides Sam and Borja exceeded our expectations, below . “Quito” was not part of the Backroads trip but it is a “World Heritage Site” and we all landed in Quito, so I flew to Quito a few days early and toured Quito as it is so incredible and the tab is on left. 

The group was amazing as they had so much knowledge and experience that they shared (below) 

The  adventure for me started in Quito which is the first “World Heritage Site” designated by UNESCO even though the “Backroads trip” started lated in Cotacachi.  While in Quito I stayed in the Hilton Colon and I highly recommend staying in the Hilton Colon as it is in the historical center and on the walking parks below .

     Basilica below
                              I    I Visited the Basilica the largest Cathedral in South America and it is incredible. This monumental Basilica del Voto Nacional is the most important neo-Gothic architecture in Ecuador and one of the most representative of the American continent, which at the time is the largest in the New World. It is 350 feet high and consists of 24 internal chapels representing the provinces of Ecuador. This sanctuary was inaugurated and blessed by the Pope during his visit to Ecuador on 18 January 1985. One detail that distinguishes the work is replacing the traditional gargoyles for reptiles and amphibians typical of the Ecuadorian fauna;  At the highest point of the main tower one can see the city and surrounding mountains. The central nave of the church is 140 m of long, 35 meters of wide and 30 meters of high which are arranged 14 bronze images that represent 11 apostles and 3 evangelists.
.. Panecillo Statue, The Virgin Mary below
I walked to the statue of the Virgin Mary, El Panecillo: A monument to the Virgin Mary is located on top of El Panecillo and is visible from most of the city of Quito. The figure stands on top of a globe, standing on top of a chained snake, symbolizing her triumph over evil. What is not so traditional, however, is her wings. The monument was inspired by the famous “Virgen de Quito” (Quito’s Madonna). This Madonna represents a turning point of the Quito Arts School because it shows a figure with great movement (practically dancing), which is in contrast to the traditional static Madonnas produced during the 18th century. El Panecillo below.  That day, I walked about 8 miles through their amazing parks which are filled with statues, museums and where the locals set up shop selling art works = awesome

In addition there are many many cultural and art, music and cultural centers. 


From Quito,  we traveled to Cotacachi and stayed in the elegant Mirage Garden Hotel and Spa and our rooms and food and setting were fantastic.  Room and bathroom below = wow and The hotel was surround by beautiful peacocks and the flora and fauna were just remarkable.
           Cotacachi’s Cuicocha Lake below  
From the hotel we hiked around the incredible Cuicocha lake on wonderful trails and had a great leader explain the site and our hike below with an indigenous music performance at the end of the hike 
Cotacachi Weaving center and Women’s center below  
The town is well known for its booths of handicrafts, leather goods, and other local arts.  The next day we visited a weaving studio and wome’s retreat and safe house where we were blessed by the Indian women in a traditional blessing, see below. 
…………     “Hacienda Zuleta below”
After the Andean service, we hiked about 7 miles on dirt roads with great scenery to the incredible “Hacienda Zuleta” a 300 year old 4,000 acre working farm “estancia” and living museum with great rooms and fine dinning below.  This hacienda was owned by the president of Ecuador at one time and a few presidents of the United Sates visited this incredible Hacienda . Below is the trail to the Hacienda, then the ranch and the the incredible hacienda 
                                     Condor Center, hike to   
From here the next day we hiked over an incredible pass with incredible views below to the Inca Ruins and Condor center/project below 
…    … Condor Center – Condor Huasi – below
 …  condor project called the Condor Huasi which is supported by Backroads and Backroads helped construct  not only the project but its educational center for the local community. Wing spans can reach 10 feet = WOW.  It was awesome listening to the administrator above and all they do to help Condors.  
Horseback ride or Bike 
After the time at the condo center we rode bikes or horses back to the Hacienda Zuelta. I rode horses back and it was a perfect day and both horseback riding and biking included here .  
The next day we flew to the Galapagos and went to the Santa Cruze highlands. On our way to the incredible royal Palm Hotel we stopped at a private Tortoise Reserve where there were so many giant tortoises and the fauna and flora were incredible below
Hiking in the fauna and flora was just so beautiful and from here we went to The Royal Palm Hotel Galapagos was just wonderful with wonderful rooms, fine dinning and pool, tennis courts .
The hotel Royal Palm and the rooms, bathrooms and dinning were just incredible below 
One day we went biking about 16 miles through the incredible scenery on private bike paths below. Getting the bikes below 
Hitting the trails below 
                 We rode to and visited an coffee and sugarcane plantation and saw how alcohol was made from the sugar cane. Crushing the sugar cane below in a press powered by a donkey or Katie or Jessica below. Then they take the fluid and turn it into Alcohol through the “still” The final product being good old liquor 
Coffee below and In the afternoon we biked to a small town with a beautiful church and then hiked on scenic paths and went kayaking
And we went kayaking below and then returned to the Royal Palm Hotel. 
                                                       . Kayaking above. The next day (now our 6 day on this adventure) we hiked to a Lava tunnel and then descended into its vast network of tunnels below
………… Cristobal Island 
 San Cristobal Island, below 
After the lava hike we then took a 3 hour boat ride to a new island “San Cristobal” and went to a great hotel the “Golden Bay Galapagos” and the Darwin statue is located here below and we had a great lunch and my room was awesome with an incredible view 
Snorkeling San Cristobal 
That day we checked into the Golden Bay Galapagos Hotel and the photo above is a view from my room.  That day we hiked along a cool sandy path to go snorkeling  and wow the  Sea Lions ruled the place as well as huge iguanas and turtles and incredible sea birds below.
D………………                   Day 7 boat ride &  snorkel
The next day , day 7 from our wonderful hotel again the “Golden Bay Galapagos” we took a boat ride to another location on the island below, and we hiked along deserted lanes and scenic trails filled with cactus, birds, iguanas and lizards below
Snorkeling day 7 
At the end of the hike we got to go snorkeling and we saw sea lions , turtles, sting rays and awesome fish it was a great time below. I did not have my underwater camera so all the shots are from above 
Hike El Junco Lagoon below 
                  Hike El Junco Lagoon 
The hike to and around El Junco Lagoon was one of the best and photos and wonderful guides below
Coming down below and David went surfing rather than hike and here are a few shots of him surfing below 
Thank you Borja and Sam
We are all grateful for having Sam and Borja lead us forward and thankful for Backroads for putting this together . Sam and Borja below with Lissen 
Random Photos below 
Various photos below- Photos only