Galapagos Islands, National Parks and the Panama Canal

Galapagos Islands, National Parks and the Panama Canal

Galapagos Islands, National Parks and the Panama Canal

Galapagos Islands, National Parks and the Panama Canal

Travel information 14 days MS Fram
Departure
April 3, 2023
Price from $ 10,747
$ 9,980
Breakfast, lunch and dinner included

Start your adventure in the biologically diverse Galápagos Islands, then continue to stand-out sites along the coasts of Ecuador, Peru, and Panama. Explore national parks full of scenic areas and varied animal life, and enjoy UNESCO World Heritage Sites famed for archeology, history, and beautiful architecture.

Iguanas, tortoises, and finches

Your adventure begins in Quito, Ecuador’s capital. Explore its UNESCO World Heritage historic center and visit a museum right on the Equator. Then, fly to Santa Cruz in the Galápagos Islands. Over the next two days, you will explore other islands in the archipelago and discover their unique flora and fauna, including tortoises, marine iguanas, and the finches that inspired Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection.

Peruvian sites, Ecuadorian paradise, and the legendary Panama Canal

You will board the ship in Lima, Peru’s capital, and begin the expedition along the coast. We will call at Salaverry and tour the ancient temple and city ruins around Trujillo. We’ll stop at the important Ecuadorian port of Puerto Bolivar to learn about ‘oro verde’ (‘green gold’). From there, we head northbound to the busy and prosperous town port of Manta. We then cross the Equator and sail to the isthmus of Panama. The grand finale of your expedition will be to cross from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean Sea through the Canal.

Galapagos Islands, National Parks and the Panama Canal Galapagos Islands, National Parks and the Panama Canal
  • Day 1
    Quito

    Delightful UNESCO historic center

    April 3, 2023

    Your expedition starts in Quito, Ecuador’s capital and most populous city. Quito is the second-highest capital city in the world, perched at 9,350 feet above sea level on the eastern side of Pichincha, a volcano in the Andes. It is also the closest capital city to the Equator (thus the name Ecuador, meaning Equator in Spanish). Originally settled by the Quitu tribe in the first millennium, Quito was eventually integrated into the Incan Empire before being settled in 1534 by Spanish conqueror Sebastian de Benalcásar.

    Stroll through the city’s historic center and view splendidly restored period buildings and Colonial-era churches lining the narrow, cobblestone streets. You’ll soon see why Quito’s historic center is described as the largest, least-altered, and best-preserved historic area in all of the Americas. That’s why, in 1978, it was one of the first places in the world to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Your adventure begins with a night in a centrally located hotel.

    Day 1
    Quito

    Delightful UNESCO historic center

  • Day 2
    Quito

    Views from the ‘Middle of the World’

    April 4, 2023

    After a nice breakfast, we´ll bring you to the charming colonial quarter for a sightseeing tour of the area. Starting from Plaza San Francisco, we´ll visit the church choir and the patios of the Franciscan order. Then we stroll through the handsome streets to the stunning gold-leaf interior of the Jesuit church of La Compañía.

    No trip to Ecuador is complete without a photo of one foot standing in the northern hemisphere and another in the southern hemisphere. Continue by bus to Ciudad Mitad del Mundo (‘City at the Middle of the World’), located just 8.3 miles north of Quito. This stands to honor the Geodesic Mission that established latitude 0 in the 18th century. Depending on the time, you can visit the surroundings of the small village. You will also have the chance to visit the Intiñan Museum, a space of ecological and scientific discovery that transports visitors back to ancient times. Learn about the worldview, customs, and traditions of ancient cultures.

    Lunch is served at El Crater restaurant, which overlooks Pululahua Volcano. In the afternoon, you´ll return to your hotel in Quito.

    Dinner will be served at the hotel, and then you’ll have the evening to spend at your leisure.

    Day 2
    Quito

    Views from the ‘Middle of the World’

  • Day 3
    Quito/Baltra Island/Santa Cruz Island

    Arriving at Santa Cruz Island

    April 5, 2023

    Start the day with breakfast at the hotel before being driven to Quito’s airport for our flight to the Galápagos Islands (via Guayaquil). When we arrive at Baltra’s airport, our local guide will be waiting to transfer you to the Itabaca Channel, where a small ferry awaits you to bring you to the island of Santa Cruz.

    Our travels will take us through a rural agricultural area surrounded by wild landscapes, where we can see many different species of flora and fauna. If you are lucky, you might spot a few of the famous finches that inspired Darwin’s theory of evolution based on natural selection. The highlands are one of the best places on the island to observe giant tortoises in their natural habitat. They are easy to spot. They lumber around eating grass and leaves and wallow in the small, muddy rain-formed pools. Younger giant tortoises tend to be smaller with shinier carapaces, while the larger, older giant tortoises proudly don weathered and worn shells—distinguished armor in a long life that can span over 100 years in the wild. Enjoy lunch in the Highlands.

    After settling into your hotel in Puerto Ayora, we’ll walk to the nearby Charles Darwin Research Station. The station hosts educational museums about the history and development of the Galápagos Islands and the different ways of protecting its unique natural heritage. You can also observe the giant land tortoises native to the islands. The station is the only place in the Galápagos where most of the different species reside at one site.

    Spend the afternoon at your leisure and explore the small, picturesque town of Puerto Ayora and its many local handicraft shops. Observe the colorful murals at the churches around town or stroll over to Tortuga Bay to look for marine iguanas, crabs, and white-tip reef sharks among the mangroves. Dinner will be served at the hotel´s restaurant.

    Day 3
    Quito/Baltra Island/Santa Cruz Island

    Arriving at Santa Cruz Island

  • Day 4-5
    Santa Cruz Island

    Galápagos Island–Hopping

    April 6, 2023 - April 7, 2023

    After breakfast, we'll begin to explore the islands that have become synonymous with the theory of evolution and hailed as a natural laboratory for natural selection. The range of wildlife on display in the islands is mind-boggling. The islands are teeming with endemic species and subspecies ranging from the wonderful to the weird and everything in between. On each of our two days here, we’ll visit one island by boat, meaning we’ll see two of the possible six islands. We don’t know which islands we’ll see, as that is at the discretion of the park authorities, who regulate and assign visitors one month beforehand.

    Could it be Bartolomé Island, famous for the dramatic Pinnacle Rock and the rare colony of Galápagos penguins at its base? How about North Seymour Island, with its large populations of hilarious blue-footed boobies, swallow-tailed gulls, and magnificent frigatebirds? Another possibility is Santa Fe Island, known for having the most beautiful coves in the archipelago, with beaches covered in lounging sea lions. Perhaps we’ll head to South Plaza Island, where a growing colony of land iguanas roam among prickly pear cactus trees.

    It’s clear that wherever you set foot to explore, you’re in for a real treat! You’ll go on walks to learn about the island’s geology, human history, and its exceptionally diverse wildlife. After two days, you’ll understand why these islands impressed Darwin so much and why they inspired his world-changing theory of evolution by natural selection.

    Day 4-5
    Santa Cruz Island

    Galápagos Island–Hopping

  • Day 6
    Baltra Island/Lima

    From isolated islands to a connected capital

    April 8, 2023

    After breakfast at the hotel, we will make our way to Baltra airport to fly to Guayaquil. From there, we continue on to Lima, where our local guide will transfer you to your hotel in the city. Dinner will be served at your hotel upon your arrival.

    Day 6
    Baltra Island/Lima

    From isolated islands to a connected capital

  • Day 7
    Callao

    Lima – a UNESCO World Heritage Site and ‘City of Kings’

    April 9, 2023

    After a good night’s sleep in this historic city, known originally as ‘La Ciudad de los Reyes’ (The City of Kings), you’ll enjoy breakfast at the hotel. After check-out, we’ll take a half-day tour of Lima, including a visit to the city’s UNESCO-listed historic center. Some of the tour’s highlights include Plaza San Martin, Plaza Mayor, the Government Palace, and Santo Domingo Convent, the best-preserved colonial building in all of Lima.

    Our visit continues with a stop at the Larco Museum, for an excellent overview of Peru's ancient past. It holds the best private collection of pre-Columbian art in the country.

    We will then enjoy lunch at a typical Peruvian restaurant.

    The tour finishes at the quayside in Callao, where your expedition ship awaits you.

    Once on board, you’ll check-in and run through an important safety drill. Then settle into your cabin and take a look around the ship. Later, you’ll enjoy a special welcome dinner, where you’ll meet the captain, the crew, and the Expedition Team. Together, we’ll raise a glass and toast to the adventures ahead! The day ends with a briefing from the expedition leader and the hotel manager. After, maybe wander over to the Explorer Lounge and Bar for a drink with your new shipmates!

    Day 7
    Callao

    Lima – a UNESCO World Heritage Site and ‘City of Kings’

  • Day 8
    Salaverry / Trujillo, Peru

    An archeologist’s dream

    April 10, 2023

    Pummeled by the Pacific’s wind and waves, Salaverry can be a hard port to access. If we are able to land there, though, it’ll be a good starting point to explore Trujillo, Peru’s third-largest city, and the array of archeological sites scattered throughout the region.

    Trujillo sits in a fertile valley oasis irrigated by the Moche River. It boasts a colorful Baroque 17th-century cathedral, 10 colonial churches, and many Neoclassical mansions, not to mention one of the longest mosaic murals in the world at the local university. It’s more likely, however, that your focus will be further back on the past.

    The city of Chan Chan was created by the Chimú Empire, which appeared in the region around 900 A.D. The vast ruins of the complex, measuring almost 8 square miles, include the Tschudi temple-citadel and Huaca Esmeralda. On the other side of Trujillo are you’ll find the Mochican pyramids of the Sun and the Moon. These pre-date Chan Chan by a few hundred years! Huaca del Sol stands out as the largest adobe structure on the continent, while Huaca del Luna is a more detailed specimen, with many of its pastel frescos still visible.

    Day 8
    Salaverry / Trujillo, Peru

    An archeologist’s dream

  • Day 9
    At Sea

    At your leisure

    April 11, 2023

    As we leave Peru behind and set sail for Ecuador, enjoy another day at your leisure aboard the ship. Spend part of your day walking on deck. Enjoy the seascapes and keep an eye out for marine life such as whales, dolphins, and seabirds. Want to feel closer to the water? Go for a dip in the outdoor hot tubs (where you can still admire the scenery).

    Head to the Science Center and make the most of the Expedition Team’s lectures to learn about what you will experience in the following days. Participate in a Citizen Science project, where you will help contribute to current scientific research being conducted around the world. When darkness falls and it’s a starry night, you can also join the Expedition Team on deck for some stargazing. Or settle into a seat in the Explorer Lounge & Bar to raise a glass or two with your new-found friends.

    Day 9
    At Sea

    At your leisure

  • Day 10
    Puerto Bolivar (Machala), Ecuador

    Growing green gold

    April 12, 2023

    Machala’s main claim to fame is Puerto Bolivar, an important Ecuadorian port where coffee, cocoa, shrimp, and bountiful bananas (which the locals call ‘oro verde’, or green gold) leave for export. As part of one of our optional excursions, you may have the opportunity to visit a local banana plantation, or to try and spot hummingbirds, parakeets, and howler monkeys in the Buenaventura Nature Reserve to the south. The nearby Puyango Petrified Forest has one of the largest collections of fossilized trees in the world, thought to be about 100 million years old—as old as the Andes Mountains themselves.

    Feast on fresh seafood at Puerto Bolivar at one of the harbor’s many restaurants, and enjoy views of the natural mangrove swamps of Isla Jambeli. Machala has all the charm you’d expect from a small coastal city. Stroll through quaint plazas filled with friendly locals, and admire unusual monuments dedicated to sorting fish and bananeros. The restaurants here are evolving and have started dabbling in the hip, modern cuisine for which Ecuador and Peru have increasingly become known.

    Day 10
    Puerto Bolivar (Machala), Ecuador

    Growing green gold

  • Day 11
    Manta, Ecuador

    Sea, sand, surf, and… tuna?

    April 13, 2023

    Manta is a bustling and prosperous port city with high-rise buildings, resort hotels, and several casinos. It is well-known for its long stretches of beach whose blessed wind and waves draw surfers, body-boarders, and kitesurfers from across the globe. You can mingle with casual beachgoers at the shops, restaurants, and bars of Malencón Escénico at Playa el Murcielago. You can also head to San Lorenzo for surfer-sweet swells or go to Playa Bonita at Santa Marianita to watch kitesurfers take off from the sea into the sky.

    Aside from tourism, the city’s tuna fishing and canning industry is a successful and key industry here. As is typical for a coastal city, seafood is the specialty on the menu at most restaurants in the area. Try succulent wild-caught shrimp, black clams, octopus, red snappers, and much more. Make a point to try a bowl of the local encebollado broth made with fresh tuna, the pride of Manta. The Museo Municipal Etnografico Cancebi showcases Ecuadorian art and artifacts from the local pre-Columbian civilization, including ancient fishing tools. You may also have the opportunity to visit the nearby town of Montecristi, famous for handicrafts, and where traditional Panamanian straw hats were first created and still hand woven to this day.

    Day 11
    Manta, Ecuador

    Sea, sand, surf, and… tuna?

  • Day 12
    At sea

    Serenity at sea

    April 14, 2023

    A day at sea means the opportunity to attend interesting lectures, learn basic expedition photography, try your hand at an art workshop, and enjoy the fresh sea air out on deck as you watch for wildlife. You can also use microscopes in the Science Center to analyze samples taken during the cruise. As we cross the Equator, it’s the tradition of Norwegian sailors to hold a ceremony to seek King Neptune’s blessing. If we’re in luck, he may even make an appearance.

    By this stage of your journey, you’ll likely regard your fellow explorers as friends, after finding so much in common in your interests and passion for nature. Chat with your shipmates over a snack and share your favorite stories from the expedition so far. The Explorer Bar is also open for drinks—you might even catch the crew and Expedition Team here in the evening for some friendly banter. As night falls, there is nothing as romantic as stargazing on deck with the one you love.

    Day 12
    At sea

    Serenity at sea

  • Day 13
    Panama Canal

    Connecting two oceans

    April 15, 2023

    Today, we will sail through the Panama Canal, transiting from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean. The complex canal network is over a hundred years old, stretching almost 50 miles through natural and man-made waterways. We’ll wait eagerly for our allocated slot to enter the first of a series of huge locks. In a feat of modern engineering, these ingenious locks effectively lift the ship more than 80 feet above sea level. If weather allows, the Expedition Team will be on deck to point out sites of interest around the canal and talk about the history of this ambitious project.

    Roughly halfway through the 12-hour transit of the canal, the ship will enter the Gatun Lake section. Created after the nearby Chagres River was damned, it’s one of the largest artificial lakes in the world. In contrast, the surrounding rainforest is virtually untouched by any development. The flora and fauna native to Central America flourish here, undisturbed. If you’re lucky, you may spot a crocodile or alligator ashore. Watch the trees and you may also catch a glimpse of a monkey (and maybe even a sloth or two).

    After a few more locks and lakes, the ship will eventually sail into the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. In one day, you’ll have experienced the culmination of centuries of planning, hard work, and resourcefulness, and cross from one great ocean to another in the process. It’s sure to be an experience you won’t forget.

    Day 13
    Panama Canal

    Connecting two oceans

  • Day 14
    Colón, Panama

    Entrance to the Panama Canal

    April 16, 2023

    Y

    our expedition cruise concludes at the Caribbean entrance to the Panama Canal. This bustling port town is a popular stop for cruises going to the Caribbean and has a diverse population for such a small size.

    Not quite ready to end your adventure? Add three extra nights with our Post-Program and stay at an exotic jungle lodge nestled in the rainforest next to the Chagres River. During your stay, you’ll also visit a rainforest center and a farm dedicated to reforestation, explore the jungle on a night boat safari, and enjoy views of the area by cable car.

    Another Post-Program travels to Casco Viejo, arguably the most charismatic neighborhood in Panama City. Stroll the rustic cobblestone streets and plazas. Admire the architecture of Colonial churches, mansions, and the Metropolitan Cathedral. Along the way, try local specialties like coffee and cocoa.

    You can even book another expedition cruise from here that takes you through the ingenious man-made locks of the Panama Canal and through to the Pacific Ocean on the other side. Then go on to explore the many sights and coastal cities of South America.

    Whatever’s next for you, we wish you a safe onward journey and look forward to seeing you on your next adventure!

    Day 14
    Colón, Panama

    Entrance to the Panama Canal

Departures

2023

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What's Included

Included in Your Expedition

Galápagos Island land program before the expedition cruise

  • Two nights in Quito, including breakfast and dinner on Day 2.
  • Three nights at a hotel in Santa Cruz Island /Galápagos Islands, including full board
  • One night in Lima, including half board
  • Economy flight from Quito to Baltra, and Baltra to Lima (via Guayaquil)
  • All transfers, excursions, and meals are as described in the itinerary, including an English-speaking guide
  • Galápagos Islands National Park entrance fee

Expedition Cruise

  • Expedition cruise in the cabin of your choice
  • Breakfast, lunch, and dinner including beverages (house beer and wine, sodas, and mineral water) in restaurant Aune
  • Fine-dining À la carte restaurant Lindstrøm is included for suite guests
  • Complimentary tea and coffee
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi on board. Be aware that we sail in remote areas with limited connection. Streaming is not supported.
  • Complimentary reusable water bottle to fill at onboard water refill stations
  • English-speaking Expedition Team who organizes and guides activities, both on board and ashore
  • Range of included activities

Onboard activities

  • Experts from the Expedition Team present detailed lectures on a variety of topics
  • Use of the ship’s Science Center, which has an extensive library and advanced biological and geological microscopes
  • The Citizen Science program, which allows guests to contribute to current scientific research projects
  • The onboard professional photographer will give tips and tricks for taking the best landscape and wildlife photos
  • The ship has hot tubs, a sauna with a view, and an indoor gym
  • Participate in informal gatherings with the crew, such as daily recaps and the next day’s preparations

Landing activities

  • Escorted landings with small boats (RIBs)
  • Loan of boots, trekking poles, and all equipment needed for the activities
  • Complimentary wind- and water-resistant expedition jacket
  • Expedition photographers help you configure your camera settings

Not Included In Your Expedition

  • International flights
  • Travel protection
  • Baggage handling
  • Optional shore excursions with our local partners
  • Optional small-group activities with our Expedition Team

Notes

  • All planned activities are subject to weather conditions
  • Excursions and activities are subject to change
  • Please ensure you can meet all entry and boarding requirements.
  • No gratuities are expected
MS Fram in Greenland
Photo: Stian Klo
MS Fram in Antarctica
Photo: Sandra Walser
Your Ship

MS Fram

Year built 2007
Year of refurbishment 2022
Shipyard Fincantieri, Italy
Passenger capacity 250 (200 in Antarctica)
Beds 276
Car capacity 0
Gross tonnage 11,647 T
Length 374 ft
Beam 66.3 ft
Speed 13 knots
MS Fram in Greenland
Photo: Stian Klo

The original Fram was the most famous explorer ship of its time and the achievements of her expeditions are unparalleled. The advanced technology on the MS Fram, in the spirit of the famous original, makes her exceptionally well suited for expedition cruises in polar regions.

Read more about MS Fram

Icebergs – one of many favorite photo motives when on an expedition with MS Fram
Photo: Tomas Mauch

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