The Andes & Galápagos: three weeks in incredible Ecuador.
Ecuador will surprise you. In Quito—the world’s highest capital city at 9,350 feet—there’s a vibrant mixture of colonial past and Andean present. We’ll start with introductory Spanish classes, visits to the city’s historic center and afternoons volunteering with underprivileged youth. A weekend trip to the market town of Otavalo offers striking views of the Imbabura volcano and the pristine lake of San Pablo.
El Angel will amaze you. An ecological reserve located in northern Ecuador, El Angel is home to a number of species of endemic plants—those which are found nowhere else in the world. From your accommodations, head out on day hikes to see beautiful alpine lakes and stunning vistas.
The Galápagos will inspire you. We’ll have the chance to see diverse wildlife, including the giant tortoises for which the islands are named. We will give back to the community by working with a local organization on Santa Cruz.
Your Overland leaders will support you—every day, every step of the way. They’re positive, enthusiastic, encouraging.
The closeness of your Overland group will sustain you—not just in Ecuador but long afterward, too. Sharing an experience such as this—so adventurous, so beautiful and so compelling—brings a group together in unique ways. Our three weeks in Ecuador are made all the more incredible because of it.
Mark came home from this trip so energized! He has enjoyed every Overland trip he's been on, but he said that this was the best three weeks of his life. The group bonded, and the leaders were just great!
- Marnie Repetti, Alexandria, Virginia
Day 1: Trip Start
From the airport in Quito, we’ll head to our private guesthouse in the city, get to know one another and rest up for our first full day in Ecuador.
Days 2-6: Spanish Class, Volunteer Work & Explore Quito
Located at 9,350 feet in the heart of the Andes, Quito is the highest capital city in the world. We’ll spend a few mornings in our guesthouse taking language lessons from a native, Spanish-speaking instructor. We’ll learn vocabulary and common phrases to establish a strong base for our future travel and volunteer work. During the afternoons, we will explore Quito. We’ll visit one of the best-preserved historic centers in the Americas and take in a panoramic view of the entire valley from the top of El Panecillo. For our last three days in the city, we’ll volunteer at a youth foundation for underprivileged children–teaching English, playing games and helping with general maintenance.
Days 7: Otavalo & Lago San Pablo
We will drive north of Quito to the city of Otavalo, stopping along the way to admire South America’s largest birds of prey at the Parque Cóndor. Weekends are market days in the Andes, and Otavalo hosts one of the largest indigenous markets in the entire continent. We’ll explore the market stalls and use our Spanish to bargain with local vendors. We’ll spend the night along the shores of Lago San Pablo and admire views of Volcán Imbabura while on a sunset boat tour of the lake.
Days 8-10: Hike in El Angel
We’ll travel to El Angel, an ecological reserve in the northern Andes of Ecuador, and discover its unique and biodiverse ecosystems. We will explore the Polylepis forest and hike through the Páramo Frailejones, viewing plants found nowhere else in the world. We’ll hike to over 14,000 feet as a final challenge.
Days 11 & 12: Laguna Cuicocha & Quito
On our way back to Quito, we’ll stop for a day to hike around Laguna Cuicocha, a two-mile wide crater lake at the base of the Cotacachi Volcano. The next day, on one of the highest cable car systems in the world, Quito’s TelefériQo, we’ll ride from the valley floor up to 12,943 feet. We’ll spend the next couple hours hiking along the eastern flanks of the Volcán Pinchincha. Surrounded by views of the Andean peaks, we may get a glimpse of the two highest mountains in the country (Cotopaxi and Chimborazo). Afterwards, we’ll take the cable car down to Quito and prepare for our journey to the Galápagos.
Days 13-18: Volunteer Work & Nature Exploration on the Galápagos Islands
We will fly from Quito to the Galápagos and then head to Puerto Ayora on the southern coast of Santa Cruz Island. We’ll visit a tortoise reserve and walk to the beach at Tortuga Bay to spot marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies and colorful crab. Our time in the Galápagos will be split between volunteer work and exploration of the islands. We’ll go to the Charles Darwin Research Station where we will see Galápagos tortoises. We will finish the trip with a boat tour of the archipelago including the incredible cliffs, coastal views, land iguanas and sea lions of North Seymour Island. On the way back to Puerto Ayora, we’ll snorkel and gain a new perspective of the area.
Days 19 & 20: Quito
At the end of our time in the middle of the Pacific, we will fly back to Quito, where we’ll have one last chance to explore the city. We’ll visit Mitad del Mundo, stand on the Equator and enjoy a final celebratory dinner before our flights home.
10 nights in a private hostel in Quito with bathrooms and showers.
5 nights in a hostel in the Galápagos with private rooms, bathrooms and showers.
2 nights in a lodge in El Angel with shared bathrooms and cold showers.
2 nights in hostels with shared rooms, bathrooms and showers.
Things to know
- We travel light on Overland trips; please only bring items on your packing list.
- Your group will have access to laundry periodically.
- Please do not bring any electronics (including your cell phone). See FAQs for more information on our cell phone and electronics policy.
- Do not bring any type of knife or multi-tool (such as a Swiss Army knife or Leatherman tool).
- Be sure to bring comfortable clothes that can get dirty and worn while volunteering.
- Linens and pillows are provided at all accommodations.
- There are no reimbursements for lost, damaged or stolen items.
- Please wear the navy Overland shirt that you will receive from the Overland office to your trip start location.
- Medium-Sized Duffel Bag or Backpack
3,000-5,000 cubic inch (50-80 liters) backpack or duffel bag. Wheeled suitcases are okay though it can be helpful to have shoulder straps.
- Navy Overland Shirt (1)
We will send students an Overland shirt prior to their trip, and we encourage students to wear their Overland shirt to trip start. We highly recommend this for students flying to their trip start location.
- Three-Quarter or Full Length Synthetic Pants (1)
Students may bring skirts (past the knee) if they choose.
- Pants (2)
One pair for traveling and walks through cities in towns. A second pair, synthetic, suitable for hiking
- Synthetic Long Underwear Top & Bottom (1)
- Shorts (3)
Shorts or skirts to wear while hiking, traveling or exploring towns and cities. At least one pair must be an appropriate length for visiting cultural sites (with your arms at your sides, shorts or skirts must extend beyond fingertips).
- T-Shirt (3)
Short-sleeve T-shirt or tank top.
- Synthetic T-Shirt (2)
Short-sleeve T-shirt or tank top.
- Long-Sleeve T-Shirt (1)
Lightweight for sun protection.
- Swimsuit (1)
- Underwear (7)
- Wool and/or Synthetic Socks (3)
- Athletic Socks (pair) (4)
- Winter Hat (1)
- Gloves or Mittens (pair)
Insulated, warm and waterproof. Avoid knit and porous materials.
- Pajamas (optional)
Students sometimes prefer to sleep in shorts and a T-shirt instead of bringing pajamas.
- Bandana (optional)
- Hat with Visor (optional)
For protection from the sun. Baseball hats are acceptable.
- Packable Synthetic or Down Jacket (1)
Midweight, compressible, synthetic (Primaloft or similar) or down jacket. Full zip or 1/4 zip are acceptable.
- Waterproof Raincoat (1)
Waterproof material required (not just water resistant). Rain coats provide protection from wind and rain and serve as an extra warm layer. Your jacket should be large enough to allow layers underneath. We recommend hoods and breathable materials. Gore-Tex is a well-known waterproof and breathable fabric but there are many other quality fabrics. Ponchos are not acceptable.
- Fleece Jacket or Pullover (1)
Medium to heavyweight and reasonably compact.
- Waterproof Rain Pants (1)
Waterproof material required (not just water resistant). Rain pants provide protection from wind and rain and serve as an extra warm layer.
- Day Pack
Basic two-shoulder backpack large enough to hold your lunch, two water bottles, snacks, extra layers and rain jacket. Use your day pack as a carry-on for your flight and for daily activities or hikes. A standard school backpack is usually fine (no satchels or shoulder bags).
- Water Bottle
One 1-liter bottle (a smaller size is acceptable).
- Headlamp & Extra Batteries
Polarized sunglasses that wrap around to protect from glare are ideal.
- Waterproof Hiking Boots
Hiking boots that are low to high cut, depending on your desired ankle support. Choose comfortable boots and make sure to break them in before the start of your trip.
- Sneakers (pair)
Comfortable shoes to wear on daily activities. Shoes should be supportive and have a good tread on the bottom for traction.
- Sandals (pair)
Flip flops or Crocs work well
A passport that is valid until at least six months after your trip end date
- Passport Photocopies
Make at least four photocopies of your passport and visa (if applicable). Leave one copy with your family and put photocopies in both your checked luggage and carry-on luggage for the flight, separate from your original documents.
- Photo Identification
A current school or other kind of photo identification (if you have one).
- Synthetic Camping Towel
A medium-size synthetic camping towel (synthetic camping towels dry much faster than regular towels).
All items should be travel size (if necessary, you will be able to restock during the trip).
- Sunscreen (SPF 15+) & Chapstick (with SPF protection)
- Insect Repellent
- Package of Moleskin or Molefoam
To protect your feet from blisters.
- Gallon Sized Ziploc Bags (10)
To organize and waterproof your gear and small items.
- Large Trash Bags (4)
To waterproof your gear.
- Spending Money
$30 per week in local currency or a debit/ATM card (please notify your bank of international travel before trip start).
- Community Donation Items
A few items of second-hand clothing for children or adults, arts and crafts materials such markers, paint brushes and construction paper or your favorite children's books.
- Spanish-English Dictionary
Travel-sized to use in class and around town.
- Notebook & Pen
To use in class.
- Personal Journal or Book (optional)
- Camera, Charger & Extra Batteries (optional)
A digital or disposable camera and, if necessary, a charger and large enough memory card to accommodate your pictures (4 to 8 GB).
- Health Insurance Card
Please bring an original or copy of your health insurance card.
- What is the weather like on Field Studies Ecuador & the Galápagos?
The weather on Field Studies Ecuador & the Galápagos varies. Temperatures can range from below freezing at night to the 60s and 70s during the day. Our packing list takes these variables into consideration. Layering is the best strategy. Please follow the packing list.
- What are the arrival and departure airports for child’s trip?
You will need to arrange transportation for your child to and from Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO) at trip start and trip end. We will provide more specific travel information once we have placed your child on a program.
- Is high altitude ever an issue for anyone on the trip?
Many locations on this trip are at high elevation, including Quito (9,350 feet), Otavalo (8,441 feet) and El Angel (14,108 feet). Your child may experience some form of altitude sickness—usually minor headaches or fatigue. Overland leaders will make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids to help prevent dehydration and altitude sickness.
- What is Ecuador's currency?
Ecuador's currency is the U.S. Dollar.
- Please tell me about safety at Overland.
Safety and risk management are at the forefront of our decision-making–from trip planning to leader training to supporting our groups in the field. We cannot guarantee absolute safety–no program can. All recreational activities include inherent and other risks. Therefore, we strive to manage the risks that we can, knowing we cannot eliminate them. We work hard to recruit, train and support our trip leaders so they can create the kind of trips that have made us successful for over 30 years. Please click here to read more about our approach to risk management and our accreditation by the American Camp Association.
- Does my child need to have previous experience?
While no previous experience is required, we have high expectations of our students. We expect your child–with your help–to select a trip that is appropriate for his or her interests and abilities. You should spend some time familiarizing yourself with the details of the specific program and help your child understand what to expect. We also expect our students to prepare ahead of time: to review the packing list, gather clothing and gear and complete whatever training the trip requires (for recommended training please see the Before You Go tab). Once the trip begins, your child should be ready–and excited–to contribute to a wholesome and enthusiastic group where each group member feels welcomed and valued.
- Please tell me about Overland’s admissions process.
For more information, and to access our application, please visit our Apply page.
When we receive child’s application, if the first choice is available, you will receive a phone call and an email containing a link to our Overland Portal where you will find our Admissions Review Forms. We will accept your deposit to hold your child’s place in the program pending a favorable Admissions Review. If the first choice is not available, we will call you to confirm that the second choice is acceptable. If neither the first choice nor second choice are available, we will call you to discuss options. For those students placed on our waitlist, we will notify you as soon as a spot becomes available.
We seek to admit students who have demonstrated that they possess the personal qualities and experience necessary to succeed on an Overland trip. While Overland is always supportive and nurturing, an Overland program is unlike a traditional camp in that our small groups–12 students and 2 leaders–travel, live and work as a group, making all of their own meals, helping each other and cooperating in ways big and small, and they do all of this far from home. As a result, every student must be able to thrive in an environment that places equal emphasis on:
1. Teamwork and Shared Responsibilities.
2. Independence and Self-Reliance.
3. Support of Others and Consideration for Others.
- What are Overland’s policies on phones, electronics and communication?
To maximize independence and self-reliance, we do not permit phone calls, emails or text messages to or from our campers (the exceptions to this are: your child will call home on arrival and departure with our phones and assistance, and in the case of an emergency). If your child brings a phone for use while en route to Overland, please do not send him or her with an expensive smartphone; instead bring an inexpensive prepaid cell phone. All phones will be collected on arrival and returned at departure. While we will take reasonable steps to prevent damage, theft or loss to phones, we take no responsibility for phones and we will not make any reimbursements for lost, damaged or stolen phones.
Cameras are welcome but please do not bring any other electronics (e.g., iPods, iPads, Kindles or other readers, GPS or similar devices). All electronics (except cameras) will be mailed home on arrival (at your risk and expense).
We are committed to providing extraordinary support to you and your child; to that end, the Overland office is staffed from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. seven days a week during the summer (outside of office hours our answering service provides emergency coverage). Our leaders in the field are in touch with our office regularly; they carry cell phones (and in some cases satellite phones). Anytime a camper is treated for an injury or illness by a doctor or medical personnel, parents are notified by our office. A director will call the parents to explain the nature of the injury or illness, the sequence of events leading up to the injury and/or the steps leading to the treatment. Parents are typically able to speak with the medical personnel, with the leaders and with their child.
- What vaccinations and medications does my child need in order to travel abroad with Overland?
Overland strongly recommends that families of students traveling abroad consult their child’s doctor and visit a travel clinic well before the start of the program to discuss options for travel-related vaccinations and medications. These are in addition to your child’s routine vaccinations and regularly prescribed medication.
You and your doctor are encouraged to generally review information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. State Department, the World Health Organization (WHO) or other sources, in addition to the specifics of your selected program, to consider health issues and determine what, if any, travel-related vaccinations and medications are appropriate for your child. Overland will provide a “Travel Vaccinations & Medications” form to assist with this process.
- Can my child get credit for service hours?
You should check with your child’s school about whether or not Overland's service hours meet their requirements. The approximate number of hours of service are listed in the sidebar. We will provide your child with proof of participation after completion of his or her service work.
Explore, volunteer and hike in Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands while engaging with local culture.
Students going on Field Studies Ecuador & Galápagos should prepare for:
- 5 days of hiking with an average of 5 miles per day
- 6 days of volunteer service for an average of 4 hours each day
- 2 days of Spanish class for 4 hours each day
- Traveling internationally
- Travel to and from the trip
- An Overland experience
We expect you to arrive to your trip fully prepared for all activities.
Preparing for Hiking
On Field Studies Ecuador & Galapagos, you will spend five days hiking. You will follow routes through high alpine environments over gently sloping, dry and rocky terrain. You will hike at high elevations, between 10,000 and 15,000 feet. All of the hikes are day hikes, so you will carry a day pack with lunch, water, snacks, a camera and additional layers of clothing.
Before your trip, we strongly advise you spend time breaking-in and adjusting to your hiking boots. Please follow our guidelines as you prepare for your program.
- 5 weeks before your trip: wear your boots for 15-30 minutes a day. Walk around your house or neighborhood so your boots begin to conform to your feet.
- 4 weeks before your trip: take three 30-minute hikes or walks in your boots.
- 3 weeks before your trip: take three 1-hour hikes or walks in your boots.
- 2 weeks before your trip: take three 1-hour hikes or walks in your boots with a backpack loaded with 10% of your body weight.
- 1 week before your trip: take two 2-hour hikes or walks in your boots with a backpack loaded with 15-20% of your body weight.
Groups typically take multiple breaks throughout the day while hiking—for water, snacks, lunch, to adjust packs, etc.
Preparing for Service
Trips involving service work require a positive attitude and willingness to work hard as a volunteer. You should arrive eager to participate in a variety of service projects. In Quito, you will work mainly with children—teaching English, playing soccer and doing arts and crafts. In the Galápagos, your group will partner with the municipal government to help protect or restore a public space. Your work in the Galápagos may include painting, light construction, trail maintenance and or invasive species removal. The projects your group work on will depend upon the availability of service opportunities and the needs of the local community.
As the summer nears, stay active through sports and exercise. Once your program starts, commit yourself wholeheartedly to your group and all activities.
Preparing for Class
No prior language experience is required for this trip. At trip start, you will take an introductory course in the country's language, learning specific vocabulary and phrases that pertain to your group's travel in the region. All language levels are welcome as the classes are small. If you have prior experience in the language, your teachers may challenge you with a more specific assignment.
Preparing for International Travel
International travel requires planning and preparation. You must have a valid passport and the necessary visas, travel vaccinations and travel medications. We will provide additional instructions regarding international travel preparation once we have placed you on a program. More information is also available in the FAQs.
Preparing for Travel to and from the Trip
Families are responsible for arranging flights to and from the designated airport during a specified window (please do not purchase flights until you have received an email confirming our review of your health forms and school reference). Overland staff will be at the airport to welcome you at the start of your trip and to assist with your departure. You may also be dropped off and picked up at the airport. If you are flying to and from your trip, we will have you call home upon arrival and before departure. We will provide more specific travel information once we have placed you on a program.
Preparing for an Overland Experience
Overland programs are wholesome, structured experiences with high expectations of each student’s behavior. You are expected to be supportive of your trip mates and your leaders, enthusiastic, positive and helpful. We ask that you leave your cell phone and electronics at home (cameras are always welcome), so you can fully engage with your group and your trip. You will have the opportunity to send letters and receive mail at designated mail stops, which are shared in the spring.
All trips have a range of challenges. You should come prepared and recognize that some days will be more difficult, more challenging and longer—in terms of hours hiking or volunteering—than others. Changes occur due to a wide range of variables beyond the control of you, your group or your leaders. Service projects can change at a moment’s notice due to weather or the varying needs of local communities. You, or someone in your group, might develop blisters while hiking or encounter another issue that could delay your group.
Arriving ready for a challenge—and prepared to contribute to an enthusiastic group—will go a long way toward creating a successful trip. Please contact us if you’d like to discuss preparing for your Overland program.