Ecoventura (http://www.ecoventura.com) that operates an environmentally friendly fleet of small expedition yachts in the Galapagos Islands, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, suggests pre and post cruise luxury land extensions that can be combined with a seven-night Galapagos voyage throughout the year. See: http://www.ecoventura.com/expeditionyachts/ourmostpopulartripcombinations.as

Land extensions in tandem with a cruise include the coastal city of Guayaquil, nine nights from $4,440 per person double; the Andean capital of Quito with Otavalo and Cotopaxi, 12 nights from $5,530 per person double; Sacha Rainforest Lodge, 14 nights from $6,030 per person double; and Cuzco and Machu Picchu in Peru, 14 nights from $6,277 per person double. Prices include both the cruise and the land extension.

Guayaquil has several new faces including Malecon 2000, a two-mile riverside complex and pier; Las Penas, a neighborhood of 400-year-old houses converted into art galleries and cafes; Parque Historico, a recreation site of the early 20th century including a zoo and the upscale Plaza Lago in the suburb of Samborondon with shops and theater. Cruise guests lodge at Oro Verde, the city’s only five star locally owned and operated hotel, a member of Leading Hotels of the World and the first to be certified by Smart Voyager.

Quito, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a preserved Spanish colonial city with cobblestone streets and gilded churches as well as a modern city and financial center with high rises and shopping malls. In the past decade nearly $500 million was invested in the historical downtown area with the monasteries of San Francisco, Santo Domingo and La Compania, classic examples of Baroque architecture.  There is a foodie revolution under way in Quito with tempting new restaurants opening, hot on the heels of their neighboring country Peru.

Plaza Foch is the new hip area for trendy bars and restaurants. A gondola-style Teleferico offers a panoramic ride to the top of a 12,943-foot summit. The Guayasamin Museum displays art from Ecuador’s most well-known living artist.  Visits outside of Quito will appeal to nature lovers at Cotopaxi National Park; for indigenous cultures and handicrafts there is the Otavalo Indian market, the largest in South America.  Ecoventura guests lodge at the luxury boutique Hotel Le Parc Quito that opened in 2007.

Amazon rainforest – for the ultimate wildlife experience many cruise guests combine Galapagos with a lodge in the jungle. Sacha Lodge in Coca is a 30-minute flight from Quito. In groups of no more than six per guide, guests can walk high along a 900-foot canopy, climb a 135-foot observation tower, visit a butterfly farm, canoe down river to the Yasuni Clay lick to witness dozens of parrots, toucans and monkeys, fish for Piranha, swim in the lake, fly through the rainforest on a zip-line, take night walks and more. While in Quito guests lodge at Mansion del Angel, a mansion built at the turn of the last century by a tobacco tycoon.

Ecoventura offers two extensions to Peru including a six-night program with the Casa Andina Private Collection hotels and the Inkaterra Pueblo and a seven-night five-star extension with the Westin and Libertador Luxury Hotels and Sumaq Hotel.  The highlights of the trip are Machu Picchu ruins, Cuzco and the Sacred Valley of the Incas.

However, for those with limited hours and time only for a cruise, Ecoventura reports that a cruise can be accomplished with only two, and sometimes just one, forced overnights coming and going from the ship. With current flight schedules guests can return home the last evening the cruise ends.

Ecoventura spokesperson Doris Welsh advises that the Feb. 20, 2013, planned opening of Quito’s new airport, Mariscal Sucre International Airport in Tababela, about 20km east of Quito, will make Quito more accessible by accommodating more flights from an increased number of destinations. Travel time from the airport into Quito will range from 45 minutes or more in rush hour. However, because hotels in Quito will no longer offer complimentary airport shuttle service, travel time and transfer expense will increase. Ecoventura recommends that their passengers travel via the coastal city of Guayaquil for short or one night stays to avoid the hassle, at least until the highways are finished and hotels closer to the airport open, anticipated in about a year.

Image courtesy Widness & Wiggins

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