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Looking for top 8 day cruise, and Andes great experience

Colorado Springs...
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Looking for top 8 day cruise, and Andes great experience


I am an avid reader of TA and my travel agent in the States doesn't know about mountain travelling in Ecuador. I need you to help me with my last minute trip.

I am taking my wife to Ecuador, as a surprise for our 10th wedding anniversary, on the first and second week of January 2011. I need a recommendation for a good yacht that goes to all the islands and take divers. Also anyone can recommend the best hotel in the most charming island, and nice restaurants around.

For my second week I want to do a mountain trek in the Ecuadorian Andes, I want to combine our trek with Indian market sites, may be one or two nice haciendas, and a good city guide in Quito to spend one entire day looking at museums, I heard Quito has the best museums in the country. My budget is generous and I am open to all kinds of suggestions.

Anyone knows about a jewelry shop in Quito? I want to get her a special ring for our anniversary.

Many thanks in advance!

Bristol, United...
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1. Re: Looking for top 8 day cruise, and Andes great experience

Boats are now divided into diving (which have no land visits) and regular land visit cruises which do not do diving. The only way to mix this is to do a regular cruise that calls at one of the day dive sites and then leave the tour for that day. Some boats offer this. You will not however get to the best dive sites this way.

You need to decide which islands are most important to you since it is imossible to do them all in 8 days. You could cover most things in 15 days but thats expensive.

Dave Peters

DP Software

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2. Re: Looking for top 8 day cruise, and Andes great experience

Dear John,

first, I suggest you find the best cruise that meets your needs. That is the trickiest part and will anchor your trravel dates. Once you've secured the cruise, you can then build your continental visit around that. I also suggest you do the continental part first - because after Galapagos, anything is usually a bit anticlimatic for most. It's also nice to follow several days in the Andes, with cooler temperatures, with a week in tropical climates and with lots of water activities.

No yacht goes to alll of the islands. There are over 100 of them. The Galapagos National Park has opened up about 100 distinct visitor sites among about 12 islands in total. A typical 7 night cruise will have you visit about 14 visitor sites on anywhere between 4 to 8 islands.

Few ships offer scuba opportunities besides the dedicated dive trips. If you insist on this, you will limit you choice to about 5-6 ships (out of a total of about 77). The Eric/Letty/Flamingo sister ships offer up to 3 dives on a 7 night cruise. Snorkeling alone is fantastic in Galapagos - so you might want to consider settling for that.

If your budget is generous, you can look at luxury ships such as the Grace, a very comfortable 16 passenger ship. I tend to recommend smaller ships, as they provide a more intimate experience when cruising the islands - perhaps this will fit in with the spirit of your 10th anniversary celebrations (congratulations by the way!). Ships can carry as much as 100 passengers.

All ships receive their guests either from Baltra island (about 75% of the ships) or from San Cristobal island. If you're planning on spending a few extra nights (this will eat into your continental visit of course), Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz island (accessible out of Baltra island via ferry), has a much better selection of hotels and restaurants. Few are high end, but you could consider the Red Mangrove (insist on a sea facing room, otherwise you might be in with mosquitoes), or the Finch Bay hotel (a bit awkward, as you need to take a water taxi to reach it). There is also the very expensive Royal Palm, but it's in the highlands, a few km away from town. I wouldn't use the word "charming" to describe any of the settlements in Galapagos. There is very little history, and even less architectural interest - they just look like typical rural latin american frontier towns. I lived there for 4 years, I know. But the people are nice and they can be charming.

For mountain treking, see what the Quito TA forum can do for you. I know a great boutique in Quito, called Galeria Latina (see internet) - very nice, high end jewelery, textiles and art. To me, it's almost like a museum. Of course, there are more such shops. They run satellite shops in Galapagos (Puerto Ayora), but will likely be better priced in Quito.

Find a travel agent (typically on-line) who specializes in Galapagos, and can answer your questions. There are plenty of agencies that will sell you trips ranging from the Serengeti, to the Canadian Arctic and also Galapagos - they are typically not very well connected to the Galapagos. There are plenty of agencies, both Ecuador based and otherwise, who can provide good Galapagos expertise. I suggest you contact 2-3 promising looking ones and send them an email, or arrange for a phone call, to test them out and decide for yourself in terms of which gives you the greatest level of comfort.

Good luck and warmest regards,

Heather Blenkiron

Tucson, Arizona
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for Quito, Ecuador
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3. Re: Looking for top 8 day cruise, and Andes great experience

Dave and Heather have covered Galápagos for you. The most obvious Indian market is Otavalo, a two hour ride from Quito. The area is really beautiful and there's a choice of haciendas; you can also do some really nice day hikes around lakes and a spectacular crater lake called Cuicocha. Not far from Otavalo is Cotacachi, famous for its quality leather goods.

I know the perfect jewelry store in Quito, but can't remember the name of the store! He is a true artisan and will design anything you like. His shop is on the Plaza San Francisco in the old town, to the left as you face the monastery (I think it's on Calle Bolívar). Another option, since you like museums, is to buy a piece at the Guayasamín museum; his daughter is a designer.

Museums--there are some wonderful ones here. Museo del Banco Central has a fantastic ceramics collection from many prehispanic (and prehistoric) cultures. It also has a gold collection (which might inspire your jewelry selection) including the famous Tolita "sun mask." Upstairs is colonial art and a changing contemporary exhibit. The aforementioned Guayasamín museum and his nearby Capilla del Hombre are very popular. He is considered Ecuador's most famous artist, and you will see plenty of kitschy knockoffs. Please also visit, in old town, the Museo Camilo Egas, in my opinion a more important artist. There are also several ethnographic museums associated with the universities that are open during the week.

As for a guide, Dennis Yepes of Guanguiltagua Expeditions has been recommended here. I have not used his services but know he speaks good English and has boundless enthusiasm. They can customize any sort of itinerary for you.

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4. Re: Looking for top 8 day cruise, and Andes great experience

Let me just put in a small plug for one of Azbuceadora's suggestions. Museo Fundación Guayasamín is wonderful. We just happened to be staying in the northern part of Quito with 3 days to explore. I read about the museums in a guidebook; since my husband is a painter and a sculptor, I thought it might be interesting. Indeed--it's fantastic. It has 3 museums plus the gorgeous Capilla del Hombre a bit further up the hill--amazing pre-Columbian artifacts, religious and colonial art, and works by Guayasamín himself. He was a real social activist for justice, so some of his paintings especially have a lot of raw emotion. His sculptures are both stunning and playful. My favorite painting, on display at the Capilla, is a fascinating combination of playful and powerful--Bull and the Condor. You can see photos of some of these--predominantly the works of Guayasamín, since they freely allow photos of those--on our trip report. Click on the link in the right-hand column

Early Jan. 2011 is just around the corner--better not waste any time in securing a cruise in the Galápagos! Everything else will fall into place around that.


trip report at http://galapagos2009.wordpress.com/

Quito, Ecuador
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5. Re: Looking for top 8 day cruise, and Andes great experience

All great advice above! I would say if you are an AVID experienced diver, then opt for a liveaboard dive cruise (4 dives a day). Otherwise, you can make arrangements to do a non-diving cruise, and maybe stay a few days in Puerto Ayora to do some daily dive trips so that you get the best of both worlds.

I think a smaller vessel would be the best way to go for a romantic celebration! Once you decide on the key islands or sites you want to see, choose a cruise that meets your needs and luxury level, and let the agency know that you are celebrating! They might throw in a few little extras for you! Have a great time!

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6. Re: Looking for top 8 day cruise, and Andes great experience

Hello John,

I agree with all the advises you have from Galapagos, although I am not a huge fan for Grace, the best boat in the Galapagos will be the Eclipse, great high end service and itinerary...you can do a 6 day itinerary and then extend your stay in a very nice hotel (Galapagos Safari Camp I would suggest as the best!) and do some diving tours from there, you will enjoy it more!

For mainland Ecuador. If you like hiking, I suggest Otavalo for the market, overnight in one of the local haciendas (Pinsaqui or La Mirage will be good) and then hike in Cuicocha lake, you can do the loop, is around a 6 to 7 hour hike and is a very nice place for the landscapes! If you go to the south a small hike in Cotopaxi could be or if you have more time try to go to Quilotoa Lake is a crate lake with tuquoise water is great! There is a very famous and good service lodge near there called Black Sheep Inn. Another option can be going to the northwest part of Quito, visit the Equator Monument and continue to Mindo, is a very special place for birdwatchers due to the many species of birds found in this area...even if you are not a birdwatcher you can walk around the paths that are very beautiful and you will see many species of hummingbirds all around, is a great option! For a romantic place if you are celebrating something, I can suggest a visit to Papallacta thermal springs, just one hour away from Quito, you can combine with a visit to Antisana volcano as well and spend in the Papallacta area with a SPA and a good ambience!

In Quito, indeed is a must see, the most complete museum in Quito is Banco Central which has many exposicions that tells the history of Ecuador from its begginings. In the old town you have Museo de la Ciudad that is an interactive museum and also you can see the beautiful churches around such as Compañia, San Francisco and others.

The Galleries: Maria Augustia Urrutia, Olga Fisch, Capilla del Hombre are very good options for visiting.

For jewelry, the best jewelry is in Cuenca, however in Quito there are very good stores of jewelry that you can find, I am not very familiar with an specific store, but I see you have been suggested with some stores in the other comments.

Good trip and have a great time in Ecuador!!


Colorado Springs...
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7. Re: Looking for top 8 day cruise, and Andes great experience

Dear all,

Thanks for your valuable input.

Azbuceadora, do you have the exactly address of the jewelry? Thanks for your suggestions, they look great, will check on them.

I started reading about the Incas in Ecuador, and I found out that there were many tribes before them populating its territory, sounds like an overwhelming country to learn about history and culture.

Tucson, Arizona
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8. Re: Looking for top 8 day cruise, and Andes great experience

John, I don't have the exact address but it's easy to find next to the plaza. I'll try to dig up an exact address for you.

You're right about the Incas here; they had barely gotten a toehold before the conquistadors showed up. It was at the Banco Central museum where I learned so much about the pre-Incan cultures which were much more important and influential than the Incas. The sophistication and artistry of their ceramics still inspire awe even after many visits.

Edited: 14 December 2010, 11:12
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9. Re: Looking for top 8 day cruise, and Andes great experience


If you are a serious diver, then you should just hop into a dive live aboard ship.

How many dives do you have? What kind of license and level do you have?

The best dive boat in the islands is the SKY. Best islands are Wolf and Darwin. Other interesting dive sites are Cousin Rocks, Gordon Rocks, Champions, Genovesa, Kicker Rock, tortuga island, and North Seymour.

The whole underwater fauna highlight gets concentrated at Wolf & Darwin, these places are not possible to be reach by day/land trips.

Into the blue underwater world you will see there:

Hamerhead sharks

Whale shark


Storm petrels

Sea lion


Sting ray

Eagle ray

green pacific sea turtle

Tuna schools

Salema schools

Bottle nose dolphins

King Angel fish & milliards of schools of tropical colorful ones

Blue footed boobies and storm petrels diving.

The best hotel you can find there is the Finch Bay. Staff is smily and professional, there you will get a top experience ( as you are looking for)

I can see you like to trek in mountains, the best you can do is go in the forums and find a reputable company to take care of your trekking.

In my opinion you shuld try the Condor Trek which starts in Papallacta, there on the east slope of Antisana volcano is possible to watch spectacled bear, the only bear specie in South America. Other fauna highlights in there would be:

Cara cara hawk

American kestrel

Andean Condor

Brocket Andean deer

White Andean deer

Andean rabbit


Andean lapwing

Black head ibis (this specie is the top one for bird watchers in our Eastern Andes)

Andean fox (this is the only wild Canidae family specie in South America)

The best of the best trekking takes place here in the northern Ecuadorian Andes, this route is my favourite one.

The creme diving is Wolf and Darwin.

Enjoy my country!

Saludos cordiales,

Dennis Yepez

Quito, Ecuador
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10. Re: Looking for top 8 day cruise, and Andes great experience

The Finch bay hotel is on Santa Cruz island. You take a small speedboat to a peninsula part of the island and the hotel is located just along the beach there. There are no hotels on Darwin and Wolf, and land visits are not permitted. On a diving cruise you would be doing 4 dives a day...definitely for the serious diver!