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Posts Tagged ‘Darwin’s Galapagos Islands Hopper’

New travel regulations will better protect the Galapagos Islands and improve touring

You might have heard about the new regulations going into effect in 2012 to better protect the Galapagos Islands. If you haven’t, Gadling covered them in the recent blog post, “New Galapagos Islands regulations will change 2012 tours.”

The new regulations will make it possible to limit the number of people on a given island at a given time. No vessel will be permitted to visit the same island more than once in a 14-day period.

When Friendly Planet Travel was advised of these changes, we applauded them! The Galapagos Islands are precious and fragile, and we want to be sure the islands are protected in the future.

Some travelers might assume that these new regulations will affect the tours we offer to the Galapagos Islands. There will some minor changes to the itineraries, but it’s only for the better.

Since we have several tour programs, both cruise and island-hopper types, and are heavily involved in tourism to the Galapagos, we expect to be able to provide excellent programs at affordable prices, just as we do today.

In fact, we plan to continue to grow our programs to the Galapagos in the coming years. And just as we’ve done in the past, we will do it fully respecting the fragile environment so that these precious islands continue to be a source of wonder and discovery for generations to come.

When we make changes to the itineraries of the Galapagos Island Hopper, Galapagos Island Explorer, Ecuador and Galapagos Cruise, and Peru, Ecuador and Galapagos Cruise, we’ll let you know right here on our blog.

An in-depth look at Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands

Ruthie Stein, Friendly Planet Travel’s Group Department Manager, got the opportunity to travel to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands a few weeks ago. She experienced much of what our travelers will see on Friendly Planet’s Galapagos Islands Hopper and Galapagos Islands Explorer tours.

When she returned, she was armed with notes, photos, and memories of what she calls the most wonderful experience of her life. I asked her to share the details of her trip with us on the blog, and she happily agreed.

Over the course of nine fun-filled days, Ruthie spent time in Quito, Ecuador and on the islands of Santa Cruz, Floreana, and Isabella in the Galapagos. She begins her blog post series about her trip with her two-day stay in Quito, which she found to be surprisingly charming, friendly, and full of historical and fascinating sites.


I left Philadelphia on July 18, flying via Miami to board my flight for Quito, Ecuador on LAN Airlines. I landed in Quito later that day. The first word that comes to my mind to describe Quito is magical, and here’s why.

As my plane descended, the city came into view. It’s nestled in the valley of the Andes Mountains. Once you step outside, you see the magnificent mountains and snowcapped volcanoes, including the still-active Mt. Pichincha, surrounding the city.

A glimpse of the Andes Mountains from the valley Quito sits in

No matter which direction I looked, there was never a bad view or an obstructed one. The mountains just towered over the city. The blue skies and white clouds made it seem like I was looking at a postcard. Because it’s in a valley, it puts Quito over 9,000 ft. above sea level, making it the second-highest capital city in the world.

Knowing this fact before I booked the trip, I was nervous about getting altitude sickness. Luckily, I worried about nothing. When I got off the plane I wasn’t nauseous and didn’t have a headache, but my breathing was a little labored. I adapted quickly to the change in altitude, and my heavy breathing disappeared relatively quickly.

From the airport I settled into my room at the Sheraton Quito Hotel. It’s a lovely hotel where the food was outstanding. I highly recommend the salad bar, it was top notch. ;) The hotel is located right in the heart of Quito’s shopping district and is convenient to almost all the major attractions.

Statue of Virgin of Quito overlooking the tight streets of Old Town

I only had two days to spend in Quito, so I set out right away to sightsee and shop. Now in Quito there are two main parts of the city, the old and the new. The new town looks like most modern cities, with high-rises, multi-story apartment complexes, restaurants, and more.

The section I fell in love with was just 20 minutes away — Old Town. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site where I spent a lot of my time. The Spanish influence on Old Town is evident in the colonial architecture that overwhelms every tightly packed street I strolled down. The colorful buildings and churches date back to the early 1500′s when the Spanish founded the city. And it seems that at the top and bottom of every street you see the Statue of the Virgin of Quito overlooking the city.

I also walked through the Plaza de la Independencia. It’s the beautiful main square of Quito that is surrounded by the 19th century Iglesia de la Cathedral, city hall, the archbishop’s palace, and the government palace. Here I got to see the changing of the guards.

Otavalo Market

The following day I was off to the Otavalo market where I spent a couple of hours. It’s a well-known market in Latin America that is famous for selling alpaca blankets, sweaters, and all kinds of products laboriously handmade by the indigenous Otavaleño Indians.

Otavaleños are one of the only tribes, if not the last,  in Ecuador who still make and wear their traditional dress. The women vendors wear intricately embroidered blouses with lots of beaded necklaces, all of which are handmade. And the men have long braided hair, and wear calf-length white trousers, ponchos, and sandals.

Unfortunately, my shopping spree at the market was cut short. My guide reminded me that I should leave room in my suitcase for the beautiful leather products that I intended to purchase at our next stop on the itinerary, the beautiful little town of Cotacachi. It’s named after the Cotacachi volcano, which is located close by.

Here I found numerous shops selling handbags, shoes, belts, wallets, and other items, all made by the indigenous tribes people, and very inexpensive. Not too far from Cotacachi, we stopped at Peguche, another small town inhabited by the local tribes. I was fortunate to see one of the few remaining loom weaving workshops in the home of a local family. Beautiful tapestries, shawls, and blankets are all handmade without the aid of any patterns or templates.

One foot in each hemisphere

The next morning, my journey took me about 45 minutes from Quito, where I visited the Mitad del Mundo, which is Spanish for “middle of the world.” This is where the Equatorial Monument commemorates the exact place where Charles Marie de la Condamine established the equator.

I felt like a real tourist that day when I took a picture with my one foot in the northern hemisphere and my other foot in the southern hemisphere.

By the time I was done hopping between the hemispheres it was time to leave Quito for the Galapagos. I was disappointed that I didn’t have more time to explore the city further and to travel north to visit the Amazon rainforest (that’s the next stop on my wish list), but I was excited and looking forward to seeing the Islands that Charles Darwin explored almost 200 years ago.

In my next post, I’ll tell you about my trip to Santa Cruz island, and what it’s like jetting around from island to island on a the Islands’ ferries. I’ll also share with you the lengths that the Charles Darwin Research Station takes to protect the breeding of the indigenous Galapagos tortoise from the invasive species that were brought to the Islands hundreds of years ago by pirates and explorers.

Save $300 on Friendly Planet Travel’s Galapagos Islands tours before Aug. 2

In June I told you about our two new tours to the Galapagos Islands. Both were priced so low that many departure dates filled up within days.

But if you’re still looking to go to the Galapagos don’t fret. We’re offering travelers the same deal again until Aug. 2! SAVE $300 when you book the seven-day Darwin’s Galapagos Islands Hopper or the nine-day Darwin’s Galapagos Islands Explorer before Aug. 2.

That brings the seven-day tour down to $2,199 and the nine-day tour to $2,499. As I’m typing this, there are only 10 spots available for each departure date, so don’t hesitate if you’ve ever wanted to experience the preserved beauty of the Galapagos Islands. Hop back to my previous post to get a refresher on where you’ll go, what you’ll see, and what’s included in the price.

If you have any questions, visit our website for more details and the full itinerary for both tours. If you want to be the first to find out about exclusive savings such as this one, sign up for our Hot Deals mailing list.

Get a jump on two new Galapagos Islands tours

Just last week I told you about two new Greek Island hopper tours, and this week I have more island hopping to tell you about. No, we’re not in Greece anymore. We’re hopping right out of the Aegean and diving into the Pacific, headed for the Galapagos Islands. The Islands remain protected, but offer scientists, nature lovers, and travelers alike the chance to experience life just as Charles Darwin did when he voyaged to the archipelago in 1831.

Darwin’s Galapagos Islands Hopper and Explorer

Friendly Planet’s brand new, seven-day Darwin’s Galapagos Islands Hopper and nine-day Darwin’s Galapagos Islands Explorer tours give you the chance to cross paths with giant Galapagos tortoises, stroll past colonies of penguins, and see the endemic flora and fauna that have drawn visitors here for hundreds of years.

We still offer cruises to the Galapagos Islands, but I wanted to give you another way to be transported back 200 years in time and experience one of the few places where ecosystems remain untouched. Island hopping gives you more flexibility and time on Santa Cruz, Floreana, and Isabela to experience these islands’ biodiversity, history, and natural beauty.

A Galapagos tortoise

We worked closely with Red Mangrove lodges to get you the most intimate, gorgeous, and eco-friendly spaces available. Its goal is to protect and preserve the Galapagos environment while seamlessly weaving its beautiful lodges into the scenery. I can tell you, there isn’t a more beautiful place to stay when island hopping 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador.

Both of the tours, Hopper and Explorer, begin in Quito, Ecuador, the city that’s surrounded by snow-capped volcanoes. On the Darwin’s Galapagos Islands Explorer, you spend two nights and a full day in Quito touring the city’s colonial architecture in Old Town, now a UNESCO World Heritage site, and more.

Then you fly to Baltra in the Galapagos Islands to begin your island adventure. On the Hopper tour, you spend a night in Quito before traveling to the Galapagos, and another night in Quito when you return, allowing time for you to visit Quito’s main sites before returning home.

After arriving in Baltra, it’s off to Santa Cruz. You’ll tour the Academy Bay at La Loberia and enjoy a thrilling snorkel with sea lions. If you prefer land-based exploration, you can hike to Los Gemelos (the twins), two enormous collapsed lava chambers, through the Scalesia Forest. It’s draped in liverwort and inhabited by large and small tree finches, the adorable Vermillion Flycatcher, and much more.

Next up is Floreana Island, where you’ll find plenty of rich red and turquoise colored marine iguanas sunning themselves on the black lava rocks. Floreana is one of the least populated of the Galapagos Islands, with fewer than 200 local inhabitants.

Travelers are fortunate to enjoy an opportunity to stay overnight there and experience a quiet and calm evening before hopping to Isabela where you’ll be greeted by sea turtles and penguins swimming in the stunningly clear turquoise water. Finally, head back to Santa Cruz to depart for Quito.

On the Hopper tour, this is when you’ll have your chance to tour Quito. For those on the Explorer tour, this is your second day in the city. On both tours, you can extend your stay in Cuenca, another UNESCO World Heritage site, also considered one of the most beautiful cities in Ecuador. It feels like spring every day of the year, and most travelers appreciate the opportunity to see more of Ecuador on this fascinating and well-priced extension package.

The very best part of these two wonderful packages is the included features we’ve packed into the low prices. Both tours include round-trip flights from Miami via LAN Ecuador with fuel surcharges; all ground transportation and transfers; superior accommodations; 14 meals; comprehensive sightseeing tours with a naturalist guide on the Galapagos Islands; a professional, English-speaking tour guide in Quito and Cuenca; Galapagos National Park fee ($100); Transit Control Card ($10); and more.

In just the short time that these tours were posted, many of our departure dates have already been filled, so I recommend booking without delay if you want to be included in these awesome, new tours. You can book the seven-day Darwin’s Galapagos Islands Hopper for $2,199 or the nine-day Darwin’s Galapagos Islands Explorer for $2,499 by July 30, or as long as space lasts.

If you have any questions, visit our website for more details and the full itinerary for both tours. And as always, feel free to write to me or call 1-800-555-5765 and speak to our reservations team.

About Peggy

Peggy Goldman is a specialty tour operator and travel expert, who owns and operates Friendly Planet Travel, a full-service company that specializes in tour packages to exotic worldwide destinations at affordable prices.   More about Peggy

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