Galapagos & Ecuador: A Smithsonian Family Adventure

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You and your kids will experience the rich culture of the Andes and the amazing natural history of the Galapagos on this thrilling Smithsonian Family Adventure. Your journey begins near Quito, where you can visit the Equator and learn about this invisible line’s fascinating “discovery” and its impact on world history. Then hike across Eucalyptus forests and pastures to Hacienda Zuleta – a working hacienda with about 300 cows and 100 horses that dates back to the seventeenth century. Explore the area’s scenic countryside, traversing rustic villages and lush hills and valleys the way hardy locals do every day. Learn about Andean indigenous culture from the women here who spend their time working on intricate traditional embroidery. Also included is the opportunity for your son or daughter to write to a pen pal ahead of time, and then meet his or her new friend in Ecuador.

Fly west for a five-day exploration of 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 protected both as a wildlife sanctuary and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Take a boat out of Puerto Villamil and navigate the lava formations and volcanic underground caves, tunnels and arches of Los Tuneles; this underwater world offers some of the best snorkeling you’ll find anywhere, with docile whitetip reef sharks and sea turtles. Meet protected giant tortoises up close and kayak through some wildlife-rich mangroves. This land-based approach to the Galapagos with hotel stays on the islands offers much greater opportunities to really explore the region’s unique flora and fauna in depth.

Included in this exceptional itinerary are several special opportunities for behind-the-scenes access and exclusive tours and activities, such as:

Visit Mitad del Mundo and Tour the Intiñan Museum. Families will take a visit to the Middle of the World, located at latitude 0.0.0 and learn from the experts about gravitational forces and astronomy at zero latitude. At the intimate, interactive Intiñan Museum, learn how ancient indigenous groups used the equator as a tool to manage agriculture and inspire religion. 

Visit the first Astronomical Observatory in South America. Tour the Astronomical Observatory, built in 1873, and use the telescope with expert guidance. See how a seismograph and weather station work.

Become well-versed in astral archeology at Quitsato. Head to Quitsato, a sun dial located right on the equator line. An expert in astral archeology will show our families how to get oriented to the equator at different times of the day and during different seasons. 

Actively explore Los Tuneles. Our boat excursion to Los Tuneles is an unforgettable experience. It is a remarkable lava formation made up of underwater arches and caves that came to be through the drastic contrast of temperatures when lava entered the ocean about a million years ago. This labyrinth or rocks and tunnels is alive with a thriving ecosystem; see Galapagos penguins, sea birds, eagle rays and sharks up close.

Navigate the seas using just a sextant and the position of the sun. Using information gathered throughout the trip, navigate from Puerto Ayora to Whale Bay the same way it was done by explorers long ago: using only a sextant and the position of the sun. 

Final payment can be made by credit card. Exclusively on our Smithsonian Family Adventures, families are able to make their final payment by credit card.

2014 Dates
Dates Adult Price Teen Price Child Price Internal Air
06/27 - 07/06 $5,990 $5,890 $5,890 $800
12/26 - 01/04 $6,140 $6,040 $6,090 $850
Call for Availability
2015 Dates
Dates Adult Price Child Price Internal Air
02/13 - 02/22 $6,390 $6,190 $1,000
03/13 - 03/22 $6,390 $6,190 $1,000
06/19 - 06/28 $6,390 $6,190 $1,000
07/31 - 08/09 $6,390 $6,190 $1,000
12/26 - 01/04 $6,790 $6,590 $1,000

Single supplement: $2,000

Triple discount (child under 12 sharing with two adults): $100

Internal Air Discount for Children under 12: $150 in December, 2014 and $100 in March & June, 2014 and all 2015

Days 1-2 – Depart U.S. / Arrive Quito

Welcome to Ecuador! Our Smithsonian Family Adventure through this treasured country is full of great opportunities to experience the rich culture of the Andean Highlands and the famous biological diversity of the Galapagos Islands.


  • Straddle the equator at Mitad del Mundo
  • Astronomical observatory
Days 3-4 –Andean Highlands

Within the stunning, rolling terrain of the Andean Highlands hide the ruins of lost civilizations, including the Cañari, a sophisticated society of astronomers who ruled the area for a thousand years before being conquered by the Incas. The Incas controlled the Andean Highlands for less than a century before the Spanish arrived in the 1530s.


  • Quitsato sundial and its ancient cultural significance
  • School visit
  • Stargazing at Zuleta 
  • Treasure hunting by use of GPS 
Days 5-6 – Isabela, Galapagos Islands

Prepare for an exciting day of travel.  We fly to the famed Galapagos Islands.  We land on Isabela Island, the largest island in the Galapagos—bigger than all of the rest combined.


  • Abundant wildlife, like Galapagos penguins and sea lions
  • Tortoise Breeding Center
  • Sextant lesson
  • Hike on Tintoreras, with marine iguanas and reef sharks
  • Underwater volcanic caves and tunnels at Los Tuneles
Days 7-8 – Santa Cruz, Galapagos Islands

We’ll fly from Isabela to Baltra and connect to the island of Santa Cruz, the second largest in the Galapagos and home to the bustling port city of Puerto Ayora.


  • Meet giant tortoises up close
  • Sea kayaking
  • Explore a lava tunnel
  • Sextant navigation
  • Snorkeling at Whale Bay 
  • Bahia Ballena Beach
  • See finches, warblers, frigate birds and blue-footed boobies
  • Stingrays, Pacific green and leatherback sea turtles
Day 9 – Galapagos Islands / Guayaquil

Today we say goodbye to these enchanted isles and hello to mainland Ecuador once again!


  • Farewell dinner
Day 10 – Depart Ecuador


All great adventures must one day come to an end. You’ll be transferred to the international airport for your flight home.

Hilton Colon Quito Hotel

The Hilton Colon Quito hotel is conveniently located just a 10 minute walk from Colonial Quito. Each of the hotel's rooms features city views, wireless internet, plasma TV, air conditioning, coffee maker and hair dryer. Other highlights of the hotel include restaurants, fitness center, spa and an outdoor, heated pool.

Hacienda Zuleta

Hacienda Zuleta is located in the Andean cloud forest about two and a half hours northeast of Quito. The adobe hacienda is the centerpiece of a 4,000-acre farm and was built in 1691. The working farm includes a dairy, cheese factory, organic garden, tree nursery, trout farm, embroidery workshop, and condor-raising project. The grounds also feature pine and eucalyptus forests and high-altitude grasslands, pre-Inca archaeological sites amid magnificent volcano views, and over 80 horses.

The fifteen guest rooms are appointed with Spanish Colonial antique furniture, down comforters, and linens embroidered by local Indian women. Each room features a fireplace and beautiful garden views. The comfortable hacienda also has welcoming dining, living, and reading rooms for guests to share.

Iguana Crossing

Iguana Crossing hotel is the newest addition to Isabela Island. It's located on the southern part of the island, with only National Park beyond it. The hotel is the only one on Isabela with an oceanfront swimming pool, and each of its rooms features great views of either the beachfront or Sierra Negra Volcano. Iguana Crossing also has central air conditioning, wireless internet, laundry facilities, rooftop Jacuzzi, and a restaurant and bar. Rooms here feature a flat screen TV, alarm clock with an iPod dock, hair dryer, safety deposit box, and tasteful, rustic design.

Angermeyer Waterfront Inn

The Angermeyer Waterfront Inn offers top-notch comfort and all the necessary amenities amid constant reminders that you’re still in the Galapagos Islands, one of the most unique places in the world. The inn was built using lava rocks and drift wood for that authentic Galapagos feel, and each spacious room is equipped with cable television, air conditioning, and a private bathroom. Located just a 2-minute water taxi ride from the bustling Puerto Ayora, the property has its own dock and a waterfront restaurant prime for observing sea lions, sea turtles, and marine iguanas. 

Hilton Colon Guayaquil
The Hilton Colon Guayaquil Hotel is conveniently located a 5 minute drive from the airport. Each of the hotel's 294 rooms features broadband and wireless internet, plasma TV, air conditioning, coffee maker and hair dryer. Other highlights of the hotel include 5 restaurants, fitness center, spa and an outdoor pool.

Why Ecuador?

Galapagos Islands geography
When you think of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands surely come to mind. Stunning beauty and an abundance of wildlife are the trademarks of these volcanic islands. For years to come, you and your children will reminisce about all of the wonderful species you saw on these islands – many of which are found nowhere else on earth.
Galapagos Islands wildlife
The Galapagos Islands are home to more than 25,000 species of plants, 6,000 species of butterflies and 1,600 species of birds. On Santa Cruz Island, enormous tortoises find refuge at the Charles Darwin Research Station.
Darwin's theory
Charles Darwin visited the Galapagos Islands in 1835 on his return to England after repatriating the Fuegians. He collected various birds, which he took back to John Gould, a famous ornithologist, in England. While Darwin initially thought the birds were not closely related, Gould concluded that the birds were in fact, "a series of ground Finches which are so peculiar" as to form "an entirely new group, containing 12 species." This story made the newspapers and formed the basis for Darwin’s groundbreaking theory.
Culture and history of the Andean Highlands
Famous for the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador’s Andean Highlands are often overlooked. With a history dating as far back as 3,500 B.C. and a stunning landscape, the area north of Quito is a hidden gem. From the rolling highlands and snow-capped peaks of the Ecuadorian Andes to the villages where locals are happy to share their ancient culture and traditions, the highlands are not to be missed.
We take family vacations to get away from the daily grind of our normal lives and just be with our families. The Galápagos Islands offer the perfect opportunity to leave it all behind and enjoy each other’s company. Many of the islands you’ll visit are virtually uninhabited by humans, because they are protected lands of delicate ecological splendor, so you will be far away from any kind of hustle and bustle.

Why Ecuador and the Galapagos with Thomson and Smithsonian?

Hacienda Zuleta
The opportunity to stay at Hacienda Zuleta is an enormous plus. Build in the 17th century, this gorgeous estate is still a working hacienda with oodles of cows and horses, a milking station, cheese factory, earthworm farm, vegetable gardens and embroidery project. We’ll hike 2 ½ hours across Eucalyptus forests, cattle farms, pastures and hills to Zuleta’s incredibly scenic setting for our 2-night stay here.
Perfect place for a family reunion
When was the last time your extended family got together? A Smithsonian Family Adventure is the perfect way for your entire family – near and far – to spend time with relatives that you might not see as often as you would like. Pick a destination and a date, and we’ll do the rest! Let Thomson and Smithsonian help you plan the perfect family reunion amidst the beauty and splendor of Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.
Learn from equatorial and astronomical experts
When you travel to Ecuador with Thomson and Smithsonian, you’ll visit Mitad del Mundo (the “Middle of the World”) located at latitude 0.0.0 and the Intiñan Museum and learn from the experts how the equator was used by the area’s ancient indigenous groups as an agricultural tool and religious inspiration. You’ll also visit South America’s first astronomical observatory and learn how to use a telescope, as well as see how a seismograph works.
Use a sextant as a navigational tool
Learn how to navigate the way it was done in the olden days, with just a sextant and the position of the sun. Then put this newly-acquired knowledge to use as you sail through the Galapagos waters.