Giving to
Bryn Mawr

Katharine Houghton Hepburn Center


Galapagos Islands & Andean Highland:
A Family Friendly Adventure

December 21- 30, 2012

You and your children will experience the rich culture of the Andes and the amazing natural history of the Galapagos on this thrilling family adventure. Our journey begins north of Quito, in the Highlands of the Ecuadorian Andes. Here we stay in a hacienda that dates back to the early seventeenth century. Nestled in the scenic surrounds of the Andean Highlands, we will have plenty of time to soak in the breathtaking natural beauty of this area. Included is a hike aroundscenic Cuicocha Lake. We visit a local women's cooperative as well as local villagers and artisans, learning about their ancient culture and shopping for crafts in colorful markets. Also included is the opportunity for your children to write to a pen pal ahead of time, and then meet is or her new friend when we visit Hacienda Zuleta – a working hacienda that still produces crops and local cheeses.

Then we fly west of the mainland and board ship for a five-day, four-night nature cruise among the Galapagos Islands, one of the planet's most fascinating ecosystems. Teeming with wildlife, including blue-footed boobies, flightless cormorants, giant tortoises, and the only penguin species north of the Equator, the Galapagos Islands are one of the world's great treasures, protected both as a wildlife sanctuary and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Each day we disembark on a different island to explore, hike, swim, snorkel, and view the remarkable wildlife. Return to Quito for our final night in Ecuador, and say good-bye to new found friends.

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Preliminary Itinerary
(please click on location to reveal details)


Day 1: December 21 Depart U.S. / Arrive Quito, Ecuador

Upon arrival in Ecuador, one of our local staff members will meet you at the airport and assist you with your luggage and your transfer to the hotel.

Overnight: Hilton Colon

Day 2: December 22 Quito – Otavalo

After breakfast we will head to Itchimbia Hill for a panoramic view of the old town. From here we'll be able to appreciate almost the whole city! We'll head to Guachala to visit Mitad del Mundo, the center of the world, where you can straddle the equator.

Lunch is at the 100 year old Hacienda La Compaña.

This afternoon we continue on to our accommodations at Hacienda Cusin, a restored 16th-century estate surrounded by seven acres of beautiful gardens and fountain courtyards. Here we can get settled into our rooms, relax, and enjoy the picturesque surroundings for the remainder of the afternoon.

Overnight: Hacienda Cusin (B, L, D)

Day 3: December 23 Otavalo Hacienda Zuleta, Pen Pal meeting

Today we head to Hacienda Zuleta, where unexcavated pre-Incan burial mounds and step pyramids dot the surrounding fields. There is an optional hike to Zuleta along a dirt road through the beautiful countryside. Each bend in the road brings small villages, rolling fields, and snow-capped peaks in the distance. Zuleta is a working hacienda that still produces cheese and plants crops, as well as produces typical embroidery products. After a tour of the lovely house, we head to the Condor HUASI project, which has been created to reintroduce captive condors to the wild. Wild condors have been known to visit the grounds, and we may be lucky enough to see the largest flying bird on Earth in its natural surroundings.

After lunch, children will have the opportunity to meet their pen pals in the library of Zuleta village. Time permitting; the children will get to play a game of soccer. This afternoon we return to Hacienda Cusin for dinner and an optional bonfire.

Overnight: Hacienda Cusin (B, L, D)

Day 4: December 24 Otavalo Otavalo Market, Cuicocha Lake

We'll spend the morning at the famous Indian crafts market at Otavalo, the most important market in Ecuador and Latin America's second largest indigenous market. Many items are for sale here; Otavaleños are most famous for their weavings, and woolen goods include sweaters, blankets, gloves, and ponchos. Panama hats are also a good buy, as are jewelry and colorfully embroidered blouses and shirts. We'll have a chance to do some good-natured bargaining (it's expected) for some terrific souvenirs.

After the excitement of the market, we'll have a lunch at the beautiful Hacienda Pinsaqui. After lunch, we'll drive to nearby Cotacachi-Cayapas ecological reserve to visit Cuicocha Lake, an impressive landscape of deep blue waters surrounded by hills. We'll be able to enjoy views of several nearby volcanoes, including Imbabura, Cayambe, and Cotacachi. At the lake we have the option to go for a hike while learning about the orchids, hummingbirds, and other exotic birds of the region.

Overnight: Hacienda Cusin (B, L, D)

Days 5 – 8: December 25 – 28 Otavalo – Galapagos Islands

Fly west to the Galápagos and board the M/V Galapagos Explorer II for a first-class, four-night cruise through one of the true wonders of the natural world. Our cruise ship is 293 feet long and holds only 100 passengers, so families have plenty of room to spread out and can enjoy the journey without experiencing the motion of a smaller vessel. Experienced naturalists lead two shore expeditions per day to seek out wildlife and help our families learn about the fascinating natural history of these volcanic islands.

Island visits may include:
San Cristobal Island
Some say these Islands are like zoos without the bars, and San Cristobal is a great place to get started. Look for land iguanas at Dragon Hill and marine life as you snorkel along the coastline, and if you're lucky, you'll see the rare Chatham mockingbird.

Espanola Island
Its remote location helps make it the jewel of all wildlife viewing. On your walking adventures look for sea lions, iguanas, masked and blue-footed boobies, sea turtles and views of lava cliffs where sea water jets high in the air.

Santa Cruz & Rabida Islands
See enormous tortoises at the Charles Darwin Research Station on the larger Santa Cruz Island, and look for pelicans, pink flamingos and pintail ducks in the shallow salt water lagoons on the red sand beaches of tiny Rabida Island. This is an ideal spot to swim with the sea lions, so don't forget your underwater cameras!

Overnights: M/V Galapagos Explorer II (B, L, D)

Day 9: December 29 Galápagos – Quito

This morning we disembark at Bachas Beach on Santa Crus Island, where we can view sea birds, marine iguanas, sea turtles, and go for one last swim. Return to the Explorer II, check out, and transfer to the airport for our flight back to Quito. Transfer to the Hilton, where we have a free afternoon for last minute shopping or a dip in the pool. Reconvene this evening for a farewell dinner and a small New Year's Eve celebration.

Overnight: Hilton Colon (B, L, D)

Day 10: December 30 Depart Quito / Arrive U.S

Travel back to the US.

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Cost and Program Inclusions
(Land Only)

  Classic Cabin Deluxe Cabin Internal Air*
Adults $6,040 $6,440 $450
Teens 12 - 17 $5,740 $6,340 $450
Children under 11 $5.640 $6,140 $250
Children under 11 sharing with 2 adults $5,240 $5,840 $250
Single Supplement $2,800
*Subject to change


  • Accommodations based on double or triple occupancy at comfortable and distinctive tourist level hotels and on board the M/V Galapagos Explorer II in Deluxe and Premium cabins
  • Meals per the above itinerary, including limited soda in Quito and the Highlands
  • All tips for guides, drivers, boat crew, porters, and wait staff
  • Optional pen pal program: Children 6 – 17 may opt to write to an Ecuadorian pen pal before the trip, and then meet their pen pal while in Ecuador
  • Services of Galapagos National Park guides while in the Galapagos
  • Services of a national guide who will accompany you in Quito and in the Andean Highlands
  • Internal flights from Quito to the Galapagos and from the Galapagos to Quito
  • Groups will be accompanied by one of our mentors, whose primary jobs will be: to provide kid friendly enrichment activities each day that enhance the overall trip experience; to provide organized fun for kids that helps them get to know each other; to provide things for kids to do during delays, flights and long bus trips.
  • Galapagos National Park entrance fees
  • All excursions as listed in the itinerary
  • Current boat fuel surcharges (subject to change)
  • Bottled water
  • Airport transfers for passengers arriving and departing on the scheduled arrival and departure dates
Does Not Include:
  • Beer, wine and spirits except for the welcome reception and farewell meal
  • Fees for passports, visas, and immunizations
  • International flights
  • Meals and expenses en route
  • Departure taxes of approximately US$38 per person
  • Laundry, phone/fax/email, and other items of a personal nature
  • Travel insurance
  • Any increases in fuel surcharges to the boat or for the internal air
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Faculty Host

Pedro Marenco
pedro marenco

Professor Pedro Marenco's research involves the interplay between past environments and life. Specifically, he has studied how extreme environmental change has affected mass extinctions in the fossil record. He also studies how ecological changes have affected the distribution in space and time of structures known as stromatolites that are built by microbial communities. Such rock structures were prevalent before animals evolved but today are only found in certain environments.

Marenco teaches Evolution, Paleobiology, and Earth History. The Galapagos are an important part of the history of evolutionary thought and he dedicates a fair amount of time discussing Darwin's experiences on the islands as well as more recent and ongoing work. Marenco looks forward to the opportunity to share a geologist's perspective on the natural history of these important islands.

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