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Day 2, Otavalo: The silent market
The Awakening Valley is the starting point for this trip that sets off with a visit to Calderon, famous for with its bread-dough figurines, and Cayambe, where we savor local delicacies. Then we continue driving through beautiful Andean landscapes until we arrive in the famous Otavalo Indian Market in time to start our hunt for hand-knitted wool sweaters, colorful tapestries, straw hats, and much more. Otavalo differs from other markets in Latin America in that Otavalenos do not scream out their bargains but keep their voices very low even during negotiations. Later we visit Cotacachi, a quiet country town surrounded by majestic mountains, an excellent place to shop for hand-leather clothes and accessories. The historic Hacienda Pinsaqui or a similar country inn will provide an excellent setting for a well-deserved lunch before returning to Quito in the late afternoon. This evening, head out for the recently revamped colonial district and take a stroll along the narrow streets before dining in one of the trendy restaurants. (B,L)

Day 4, The enchanting Galapagos: Bartholomew
Galapagos Islands blue footed boobyEarly this morning a representative transfers us to the airport in time for the two-hour flight to Galapagos. This incredible archipelago is made up of 13 large islands, six smaller ones, and over 40 islets. Its wonders span from the most varied and incredible geological formations, lava flows, blowholes, spatter cones and lava tunnels, to beaches of olive, black, or white sand and the most diverse species of plant life. However the most surprising sight for visitors is perhaps the varied species of animals which inspired Charles Darwin on his visit in 1835: Sea lions, penguins, tortoises, iguanas, several species of marine birds, many of them endemic, and a rich underwater fauna. This afternoon we set sail and begin our explorations with a dry landing at Bartholomew Island.   CONTINUES...

Galapagos land iguana

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