What do you do when you’re limited on time but have your heart set on visiting a destination that offers a cornucopia of attractions and one-of-a-kind experiences? Ecuador has the answer. Most famous for its legendary archipelago — the Galapagos — the country is also home to pristine (yet under touristed) rainforest and an enchanting capital city rich in history and sites. Thankfully one experienced tour company, Metropolitan Touring, offers a tour that includes all three.
Metropolitan Touring’s bucket-list 10 days/9 nights program begins with a stay at Casa Gangotena Boutique Hotel. The property, located in the heart of Quito’s historic center, boasts beautiful rooms with a colonial-style architecture that has been preserved since the 16th century. Nestled in the heart of Quito’s Old Town (a UNESCO World Heritage site) Casa Gangotena is a luxurious and magical property that captures the essence of Ecuador’s rich cultural heritage. From the moment you step inside this beautifully restored mansion, you’re enveloped in an atmosphere of elegance and sophistication.
The rooms at Casa Gangotena are spacious and beautifully appointed, with high ceilings, original artwork, and sweeping views of the city. But what really sets Casa Gangotena apart is its commitment to providing an authentic Ecuadorian experience. The hotel’s restaurant features traditional Ecuadorian cuisine made with locally sourced ingredients, and your stay at the Casa Gangotena includes a cultural tour of Ecuador’s historic Old Town.
Feel like exploring Quito on your own? Not a problem. Because of the hotel’s ideal location, within walking distance of the property you’ll find museums, art galleries, historic churches, and some of the city’s best restaurants and bars.
The tour also includes two nights at the incredible Mashpi Lodge. This singular property has garnered a reputation as one of the world’s most unique and captivating eco-lodges. Located deep in the Choco-Andean Cloud Forest, the lodge is surrounded by striking natural beauty and offers guests a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
One of the lodge’s most notable features is its commitment to sustainability. The property was designed with the environment in mind, using natural materials like bamboo and recycled glass to blend seamlessly with the surrounding forest. In fact, the lodge has been carbon neutral since 2019.
The lodge’s staff are passionate about conservation and work hard to minimize the property’s impact on the environment. Mashpi Lodge is home to a research-driven lab that has made significant contributions to the scientific community and has participated in the discovery of ten new species of flora and fauna in the surrounding forest, contributing to the conservation and protection of this unique ecosystem. On a visit to the lab, guests might get the chance to meet Mashpi’s passionate research and biology director Mateo Roldan and learn about the lodge’s conservation efforts. Guests can also visit the fantastical hummingbird garden, the lodge’s butterfly farm and go on bird hikes (tip: ask to go with knowledgeable and enthusiastic birder Estuardo Lima).
Visitors to Mashpi Lodge have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the natural beauty of the rainforest thanks to hikes with knowledgeable guides. The Observation Tower offers jaw-dropping views of the forest canopy, while the Skybike takes visitors on a thrilling ride through the treetops, providing a unique perspective of the forest and its wildlife. You can even soar above the forest canopy aboard the thrilling Dragonfly gondola. It’s a wonderful way to see the forest from a different angle, and to observe the rich biodiversity of the forest up close.
But Mashpi Lodge is not just about animals and adventure — it’s also a luxurious place to relax and rejuvenate in a peaceful and welcoming setting. The lodge offers a range of wellness activities, such as spa treatments (do yourself a favor and book a massage to ease those sore muscles from all that hiking). The lodge’s chefs create delicious meals — the homemade ice cream made from regional fruits is not to be missed — inspired by Ecuadorian cuisine, all made from fresh, locally sourced ingredients. The dining room offers stunning views of the surrounding forest, providing the perfect setting for a relaxing meal. Overall, Mashpi Lodge is an Ecuadorian highlight that few travelers are fortunate enough to experience.
After two days of exploring the Mashpi rainforest, you’ll fly to the Galapagos Islands, where you’ll board Yacht La Pinta, a modern and comfortable 24-cabin expedition vessel, to enjoy a 5-day Central Galapagos Islands Cruise. (Note that while this specific package features a central tour of the archipelago, you can opt to book separate Metropolitan Touring adventures to each of these destinations — Quito, Mashpi and the Galapagos — and even select a different Galapagos itinerary that covers different islands and wildlife.)
Your 5-day cruise aboard Yacht La Pinta will take you to the central Galapagos Islands, where you’ll discover otherworldly sites in the company of the best park-certified naturalist guides. You will take part in a wide variety of activities, including hiking over lava formed terrain, snorkeling in crystal blue waters, and paddleboarding or kayaking. You can also ride in a glass-bottom boat to observe the unique marine life and endemic species that inhabit the archipelago. You’ll also have the chance to create unforgettable memories that include swimming with playful sea lions and maybe even a sea turtle or two.
The Galapagos Islands are a true paradise for nature lovers, with an incredible diversity of wildlife, from giant tortoises and sea lions, to blue-footed boobies and marine iguanas. While most people are familiar with the term “Big Five” frequently used on safaris, visitors aboard La Pinta will soon learn that Galapagos offers the chance to see some of the Big 15. Francisco “Pancho” Dousdebés, Metropolitan Touring’s former Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability manager and an expert on the Galapagos region, explains that the company devised the Big 15 to help visitors better understand the breadth and uniqueness of the archipelago’s varied wildlife. The list includes a bevy of beguiling creatures, such as the giant tortoise, the Galapagos penguin, the blue-footed booby, land and marine iguanas, sea lions and the waved albatross.