Category: Ecuador

South America Begins Careful Tourism Reopening (9/1/2020)

South America Begins Careful Tourism Reopening (9/1/2020)

Several South American countries have officially started reopening their borders for tourism, though great care is being taken to slowly loosen travel restrictions as Covid-19 outbreaks continue across many nations in the region.

Below, we have a list of the traditionally most-visited countries in Latin America, along with their current reopening status:

  • Not open for tourism
  • Re-opening soon 
  • Now open

For the countries that have reopened, we have also included information on which of these permit international visitors, in addition to the entry requirements.

Argentina: Not Open for Tourism

Argentina has banned all international commercial flights until September 1st, 2020.

Bolivia: Not Open for Tourism

Bolivia is currently closed to tourists. The government announced a total quarantine of the country through July 31.

Brazil: Now Open

Though Brazil is suffering from the largest outbreak of Covid-19 in Latin America, it officially reopened its borders for international tourism on July 29, 2020.

Visitors from all countries are allowed to visit Brazil, but must meet the following entry requirements:

  • A valid Visa. (If your country requires a Visa to visit Brazil)
  • Proof of travel insurance. You must have proof of travel health insurance that covers COVID for the duration of your trip. You will need to show proof of this before departing at the airport, and again upon arrival.
  • Arrivals should expect temperature checks, as Brazil has recently been testing new temperature screening systems since May.

Chile: Not Open for Tourism

Chile is closed to all foreign tourists and currently has a nationwide curfew.

Colombia: Not Open for Tourism

Colombia closed its borders to foreign travelers in March and no international passenger flights are expected until at least August 31st.

Update Aug 26: A new government decree has stated land borders will remain closed until Oct 1. No word yet if this includes air borders as well.

Ecuador: Now Open

Ecuador resumed international flights with limited capacity on June 1st, 2020.

Entry Requirements

  • All arriving passengers are required to have the results of a negative PCR COVID test within the last 10 days before arrival.
  • If testing is not available in your country, you must sign a declaration that you agree to undergo testing in Ecuador upon arrival, and quarantine until results are ready

Peru: Not Open for Tourists

Peru is suffering from the largest outbreak of Covid-19 in Latin America only after Brazil. International flights to Peru should resume in October (2020), though the first passengers will likely be limited to foreign businesspeople, officials, and technicians. Traditional recreational tourism should return to Peru sometime between April and July 2021.

Uruguay: Not Open for Tourists

All borders are closed to foreign travelers until further notice

New Luxury Cruise Ship to Start Safe Sailing to the Galapagos Islands in September

(from Travel + Leisure / August 2020):  Because it’s operating exclusively in Ecuador’s Galapagos archipelago, the newly built Silver Origin has the green light to cruise – despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s No Sail Order.

With absolutely stunning looks, the new ship will add a bit more luxury to the eco-minded destination. The Silver Origin is scheduled to start sailing with passengers on Sept. 19, with a series of adventurous itineraries that offer lots of wildlife-watching moments. The 100-passenger vessel will have just 51 suites on board, all of which will come with private balconies. Many of them will also have stunning bathrooms that include tubs with ocean views. Amping up the luxury factor even more: Every stateroom gets butler service, to make sure your Champagne is topped up at all times.

The ship will also have two restaurants on board — descriptively named The Grill and The Restaurant — along with a number of lounges and the Basecamp, a departures hub for various expeditions, whether that’s a wildlife-watching trip by Zodiac or a paddle in the fleet of kayaks that the Origin has on hand. The ship also has a small gym, spa, and salon.

Itineraries take in some of the greatest hits of the Galápagos, including Bartolome Island (known for its penguins and snorkeling) and Santa Cruz (home of the Charles Darwin Research Station). In the coming months and years, Silversea says, the ship will make maiden calls in several lesser-visited places throughout the archipelago, including Santa Fe Island.

Ecuador recently resumed, and arriving visitors to Ecuador are no longer required to undergo quarantine if they present negative COVID-19 test results,” according to the U.S. Embassy in Quito

Peru Announces Restart of Traditional Tourism for 2021

nternational flights to Peru should resume in October (2020), though the first passengers will likely be limited to foreign businesspeople, officials, and technicians.

Traditional recreational tourism should return to Peru sometime between April and July 2021, with the precise date depending on the levels of contagion in Peru is at that time.

A campaign to encourage domestic tourism will officially begin on September 27 within the framework of “International Tourism Day.”

Ecuador to Begin Tentative Tourist-Facility Re-openings

Ecuador’s Emergency Operations Committee (COE) has approved several pilot programs for the reopening of selected tourism facilities throughout the country.

On August 21, 2020, the governmental body authorized trail phases for the incremental reopening of Papallacta hot springs (a resort area to the east of Quito), in addition to hot springs, swimming pools, and other water-activity areas in Baños, Ecuador. 

In addition, a protocol was approved regarding the resumption of competitive soccer clubs

Is it Safe to Travel to the Galapagos Islands?

The Galapagos Islands are one of the most secure places in the world in terms of personal safety and health. To preserve the archipelago, the islands were declared a National Park back in 1959. In 1969, the Galapagos Islands started receiving a steady flow of tourism. This ultimately meant that processes and directives needed to be implemented and improved, helping travelers enjoy the Galapagos Islands with an unparalleled degree of safety.

Ecuador & Galapagos Islands Travel Requirements (8/18/2020)

Ecuador & Galapagos Islands Travel Requirements (8/18/2020)

On August 15, the Ecuadorian government published new protocols for international travelers entering the country. The objective is to reactivate the tourism sector while guaranteeing the safety of its citizens as well as foreign visitors.

New protocols for international arrivals by air

The highlights of the new entry protocol to Ecuador are the following.

  • All persons arriving in the country must present a negative result of a COVID-19 PCR test taken no more than 10 days before entering the country. As long as these travelers do not show symptoms of COVID, they do not need to comply with a mandatory preventive isolation period.
  • Travelers who do not have an international PCR test must take a PCR test on arrival (or where they are staying) at their own expense, and then proceed with isolation in temporary accommodations to await the results. If the test results are negative, they can continue their journey.
  • Travelers who show symptoms of COVID upon arrival in Ecuador must undergo a PCR test, at their own cost, and proceed to isolation even if they present a negative PCR test at the airport of entry.
  • Incoming travelers who test positive must comply with 10 days of mandatory preventive isolation in their accommodations until they are asymptomatic before they can continue their trip.
  • All travelers must fill out a “Declaration of State of Health Form” and deliver it upon arrival to staff members of the Ministry of Health, who will also verify symptoms. The protocols apply to citizens of all countries and flights arriving from any destination. Travelers under the age of 18 are considered a priority group and do not need to have negative PCR tests.

Subsequent trips to the Galapagos Islands

  • The following are the requirements for trips to the Galapagos Islands: Travel insurance with medical coverage
  • A certificate indicating a negative PCR test taken within 96 hours of a traveler’s flight
  • A safe-conduct pass issued by the traveler’s tour operator or hotel at least 24 hours before arrival in the country
  • The Galapagos Traffic Control Card, completed online at least 24 hours before the traveler’s flight
  • An electronic boarding pass

Travelers can use their negative international PCR test certificate to travel to the islands provided it is issued 96 hours prior to entry into the islands.

Please note that although travelers under 18 are not required to have a PCR test to enter Ecuador, the rules for entering Galapagos DO REQUIRE this test for children under 12 years of age.

When flying to the Galapagos Islands, all travelers go through temperature controls and disinfection footbaths, and they are requested to regularly wash their hands with disinfectants as well required to wear masks at all times. Luggage is disinfected before and after its inspection by the Galapagos biosecurity and quarantine control agency. Commercial flights connecting the islands resumed on August 3, and the first guests have been served by the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel and the La Pinta Yacht. If you have any comments, questions, or would like to request our complete biosafety protocols and measures, please contact us at Surtrek.

Galapagos Islands Governmental Travel Requirements

Galapagos Islands Governmental Travel Requirements

(Quito / August 4, 2020):In light of the world Covid-19 pandemic,Ecuador’s Ministry of Tourism has issued a series of travel requirements designed to protect travelers seeking to visit the Galapagos Islands, as well as residents of the islands. These requirements — for international visitors and Ecuadorian travelers alike — consist of the following:

FOREIGN TOURISTS: REQUIREMENTS FOR ENTRY INTO GALAPAGOS ISLANDS*

All foreign tourists traveling to Galapagos will meet the following requirements:

  • Personal travel documents (valid passport, etc.)
  • A negative result of an RT-PCR test performed in your country of origin up to 7 days before arrival in Ecuador. (Tests not required for minors)
  • RT-PCR test performed upon arrival in Ecuador at the Quito or Guayaquil airport, paid for by the tourist. The tourist will remain in Quito or Guayaquil until receiving a negative result of this test, which will enable them to then enter the Galapagos Islands.
  • Safe-conduct pass issued in the tourist’s name by the tourist services provider in the Galapagos Islands.
  • “Traveler’s Health Declaration” form, with an indication of the tourist’s place of stay in continental Ecuador and in the Galapagos Islands [this form will be filled upon arrival in the country].
  • Mandatory health insurance.
  • Payment of established fees to enter Ecuador’s Galapagos Province and the Galapagos National Park.

ECUADORIAN RESIDENTS: REQUIREMENTS FOR ENTRY INTO GALAPAGOS ISLANDS*

All Ecuadorian residents traveling to the Galapagos Islands must meet the following requirements:

  • Personal travel documents (national ID card: a “cedula”).
  • A negative result of an RT-PCR test carried out up to 96 hours before entering the Galapagos Islands.

(tests not required for minors).

  • Safe-conduct pass issued in the traveler’s name by the tourist services provider in the Galapagos Islands.
  • “Traveler Health Declaration” form, with an indication of the traveler’s place of stay.
  • Payment of established fees to enter Galapagos Province and the Galapagos National Park.

(*) Travel agencies, operators, hotels, and other tourist service providers must inform the tourist of the requirements and details regarding the guidelines for entering the Galapagos prior to their trip.

Surtrek’s Approach to Covid-19

Surtrek’s Approach to Covid-19

We at Surtrek continue to liaise closely with global health authorities and government agencies. In addition to the government advice, we remain in close contact with our own agents on the ground in affected destinations to get first-hand information and insights.

Our team will be in contact directly with any guests planning to travel next year or in the next several months, in addition to those who remain on vacation.

If you have any concerns regarding forthcoming travel arrangements, please contact one of our Surtrek Travel Consultants.

SOUTH AMERICA PREPARES FOR SAFE & GRADUAL

TRAVEL RE-OPENING

Quito’s Illa Hotel: Taking pro-active measures
Quito’s Illa Hotel: Taking pro-active measures

As Ecuador prepares to slowly re-open — carefully and in line with the advice of renowned national and international health authorities — Surtrek and its hospitality service providers have already begun taking measures that will serve to protect clients traveling throughout South America, including mainland Ecuador and our Galapagos Islands.

As an example of the detailed and exacting measures now being put in place in the country, Surtrek wishes to share those adopted by one of our partner hotels: Illa Experience Hotel, a luxury hotel based here in Quito.

We hope that by reviewing this detailed list of precautions being taken by our partner, the comfort level will be increased for those considering to travel to South America in the not-so-distant future.

Biosafety and Sanitation Measures

Biosafety and Sanitation Measures

A. MAIN CONCEPTS

  1. Every operation process such as check-in, cleaning of rooms and facilities, experiences, etc.) has been adapted, taking into account the Biosecurity measures necessary to prevent any disease.
  2. Use of Thermometer: any individual who enters the hotel will be measured the temperature with the use of an infrared thermometer (at a distance from the guest). The registration will be made in the Hotel Biosafety Log.
  3. Health form: the completion of this form is mandatory and it will be required to be carried out before the arrival of the guest at the property.
  4. Collaborators: our staff will be constantly reinforced, encouraged, and reminded about hygiene measures and respiratory labels, in addition:
    • Daily controls of temperature and state of health of our collaborators will be made at the time of entry and exit. The registration will be made in the blog of collaborators of Biosecurity of the Hotel.
    • Our staff will be submitted to periodical tests that provide a certificate of the health status of the collaborator.
    • The hotel will provide all the Bio Security implements (masks, gloves, etc.), additionally, a jumpsuit for external use will be given to each collaborator, upon entering the hotel, the jumpsuit will be removed.
    • Our staff’s uniform will remain in the hotel, and the external washing company will carry out the corresponding load. Said company is currently in the process of obtaining a Biosafety protocols certification
  5. Check-in: there is a Bio-Security Manual which details the measures to be considered as shown below:
    • Alcohol + Gel will be provided during the welcoming.
    • The temperature will be measured when entering the hotel.
    • Guest luggage will go through a Fog Tunnel.
    • When providing the welcoming towels, these will be opened in front of the guest, since these will come from the laundry company, completely sealed and gone through its respective biosafety process – the use of tweezers for handling towels is mandatory – once the towels are used, they are to be put immediately in the designated laundry cover for this. In the same way, the tweezers will be disinfected with antiseptic alcohol and disposable paper which will go in the metal disinfection machine found in the front desk.
    • Presentation of the housekeeper in charge of cleaning the rooms. This person will accompany the guest through the entire stay of the reservation – from check-in until check out. Said person will be designated for the exclusive management of the stay of the guests, including room cleaning, shoe cleaning, luggage removal, laundry service.
    • Guests will be given slippers as soon as they arrive at the hotel for use at the hotel.
    • At the end of the check-in process, our staff will comply with the internal procedures of properly washing your hands, placing disinfectant gel on your hands.We will continue with the form where guests fill in their previous origin and destinations before arriving in Ecuador. Additionally, they fill in questions about medical symptoms (headache, general discomfort, fever, cough, etc.). These forms are in the guest rooms.
  6. Shoe Shine: it will be freely available every time guests arrive at our house, however, the protocol has been modified to disinfect footwear.
  7. Laundry service: it will be carried out by the personnel in charge, that said, upon the arrival of the guests, an exclusive person will be appointed to handle the laundry.
  8. Galleries or Floors: Our stations will continue, one per floor, in front of the elevator.
    • Station with disinfectant gel dispensers; antiseptic alcohol and disposable paper.
    • Alkaline beverage station; hot water, sliced ​​lemon with ice in its appropriate container, napkins, and cups.
    • Disinfection with Ozone Nebulizers in Public Areas – one per Gallery.
  9. Rooms: We will continue including Antibacterial Soap and Gel within the amenities in the bathrooms of every room. In addition, instructions on the correct handwashing commissioned by the WHO are placed in visible areas, but restricting the possibility of manipulation.
    • Special Coverages: Foods high in alkalinity will be provided, such as welcoming coverages.
  10. 24-Hour Medical Service: We continue to work with our Home Healthcare Provider, if necessary, the provider will be contacted and within 30 minutes the guest will receive medical assistance.
  11. Documentation within the Room: With the implementation of technology, we will proceed to adapt welcome letters, restaurant menus, spa menus, snack bar menus, and everything that involves handling stationery and item handling in general.
  12. Tea Station Service: We will continue to provide it, but this time we will proceed to place it outside every room or, in effect, inside it.
  13. Experiences Service: We will continue providing it, however, it will be carried out with a distance of 1.5 meters between guests and artisans. Depending on the number of guests, it will be handled by groups and at different times. The Biosecurity protocol will be reinforced with the artisan upon arrival and the utensils used by them will be meticulously disinfected.

B. FOOD AND BEVERAGE SERVICE IN THE RESTAURANT

A significant distance will be kept in order to carry out the service – if possible. In addition:

  • It will disinfect the areas before and after each service.
  • Hygiene protocols will be reinforced in the restaurant services, while all dishes will be served individually.
  • The BPM Good Manufacturing Practices manual will include Bio Security stockings.
  • Breakfasts like any other service that the guests receive from the restaurant and will be served in the different areas of the Hotel, providing guests exclusivity as they would not share nearby spaces. The spaces enabled will be:
  • The Restaurant halfway through the capacity.
  • Terrace with a view of the Virgen del Panecillo.
  • Garden
  • Water patio
  • In the same way, we will provide tables and chairs outside the room, so that guests receive their food service in the hallway, only if the guest wishes.
  • Rooms / Room Service

C. MAIN AREAS, ROOM AND AIR DISINFECTION

With the use of technological implements, the common areas and rooms of the hotel will be disinfected, both in the morning and at night.

The process of acquiring the following technological implements is beginning:

  • Ozone Machines: Ozone is considered, according to the World Health Organization, as the most efficient disinfectant against all kinds of microorganisms, including viral agents. In the hotel we will use ozone as part of the cleaning and disinfection of the rooms, it has the advantage that it acts very quickly and effectively against bacteria, viruses, fungi.
  • Sanitary-grade electrostatic sprayers: Electrostatic disinfection fights against preventable infections, it is the most widely used at the moment both in Ecuador and worldwide. This procedure will be repeated in Social Areas twice a day.
  • Ultraviolet lights: Ultraviolet light has been used for decades to sterilize objects and rooms, currently some countries or are using it to disinfect hospital rooms, in the hotel it will be used to disinfect keys, keyboards, office supplies, room stationery and surfaces at reception.
  • Footbaths: Sanitizing tray + mat, dry and wet (renewed every week) to disinfect boots and shoes. Effectiveness depends on concentration; there are certain concentrations found for COVID extinction – moist.
  • Fogging tunnel: The guest’s luggage will enter there and will be sanitized.

D. COVID FREE CERTIFICATION

Suppliers: We have started to contact suppliers about BIO Security measures that they are taking, and if it can be done through a certification, much better, especially to the laundry company and anti-pest company that disinfects the Hotel weekly.

E. PROTOCOL FOR ILLAS COLLABORATORS

Our staff will be constantly informed, reinforced, and encouraged by our hygiene measures and respiratory labels.

  1. Attention to the Guest: Without losing our characteristic charismatic and helpful essence, the following measures will be taken:
    • Avoid direct physical contact with guests, have a social distance of at least 1.5 meters apart.
    • Always have paper, alcohol, and antiseptic gel at the reception and on the floors.
    • Our staff will be provided with face masks to be used when required.
    • Staff handwashing log every two hours.
    • At the end of the service process, hands must be washed correctly prior to the use of disinfectant gel; especially after handling suitcases and / or any object in contact with the guest.
    • Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth.
    • If any collaborator presents any symptom or is not feeling well, he/she must stay home and visit the doctor to present a certificate and diagnosis.
    • When coughing or sneezing, collaborators must cover their nose and mouth and use disposable paper to clean themselves and must discard it immediately, then proceed to wash their hands.
    • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces, such as a computer keyboard and pens.

F. ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS

Protocol in case of a positive case at the hotel:

  • Immediately report to authorities.
  • The hotel has an Exclusive Area for quarantine if necessary, this Area is not located within the facilities, but its proximity allows it to be used
Breaking News on COVID-19 | Surtrek South American Travel

Breaking News on COVID-19 | Surtrek South American Travel

Surtrek Travel Information Regarding Coronavirus

With the recent and ongoing outbreak of Coronavirus (Covid-19) people have many questions regarding safe travel in Ecuador and throughout South America. We at Surtrek, of course, recognize the increased uncertainty that this may be causing, and have prepared this information for our existing and prospective clients.

BREAKING NEWS

ECUADOR’s Quito Airport Tentatively Set to Open June 1: According to Airport World, Quito Airport has announced that it is working with the airlines and airport community to resume operations on June 1 if given the green light to do so by the Ecuadorian government. The airport, which notes that it has remained open and operational for cargo and repatriation flights for Ecuadorians and foreign nationals throughout the coronavirus crisis, reveals that it been preparing to “adapt to a new way of traveling, with new processes and protocols to care for passengers and airport collaborators” for the past few weeks.

PERU Lockdown Extended Till June 30: Peru’s government is extending its state of emergency and the national lockdown until June 30th Along with the extension of the state of emergency, the president also announced that a series of flexibility measures will be incorporated to aid in the country’s economic reactivation.

ARGENTINA’s Lockdown Extended Until June 7: Argentina has also announced an extension of their national lockdown until June 7th, while still allowing international commercial flights to enter the country.

CHILE Extends Quarantine Measures Till May 29th: Chile has extended all quarantine measures put in place until the May 29th and have already lifted the lockdown in Vitacura, Providencia and Las Condes. Santiago’s City Center and 2 neighborhoods in Antofagasta will remain under lockdown until further notice.

Home-Country Advisories

Though the Covid-19 pandemic seems now to be slowing, most governments continue to advise against all non-essential travel worldwide – which, of course, includes travel to mainland Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands and all other countries in South America.

For your country’s official advisory related to travel to South America during the Covid-19 pandemic, please visit one of the following English-language websites:

Ecuador Leader in Heath Protocol

(Quito/ August 25, 2020): Ecuador is the first country in South America to be officially recognized and certified for its health-security protocols for tourist operations. The certification, known worldwide as “Safe Travels,” was awarded by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).

Even prior to this recognition, since August 15, the mandatory quarantine of travelers arriving in the country was suspended as visitors have been required to provide a negative PCR test for Covid-19 from their country of origin.

What’s more, because Ecuador’s main attractions are natural and historic tourism sites that operate in a sustainable manner, social distancing is not a problem for small groups and individual travelers. What this means is that Ecuador is an ideal destination for post-COVID-19 travel.

For these reasons, tourists can now arrive with increasing confidence of being able to enjoy the natural wonders of Ecuador in a safe and secure environment!

USA Lifts Restriction On Some Travel Abroad

(CNN Español – August 7, 2020) — The United States Department of State partially lifted a global coronavirus travel alert on Thursday, but still recommends its citizens not to travel to 20 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Previously, on March 19, the U.S. Department of State issued a Level 4 “Do Not Travel” global alert — the highest travel notice in the country — urging Americans not to travel abroad because of the covid-19 pandemic.

Currently, “With health and safety conditions improving in some countries, and potentially deteriorating in others, the Department is reverting to our previous system of country-specific travel advice levels (with levels 1-4 depending on the country-specific conditions) to give travelers detailed and actionable information to make informed travel decisions, “the State Department indicated.

The Latin American and Caribbean countries that are still at “Do Not Travel” level 4 alert are:

  • Argentina
  • Bahamas
  • Belize
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Cuba
  • El Salvador
  • Guatemala
  • Guyana
  • French Guiana
  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • Mexico
  • Nicaragua
  • Panama
  • Peru
  • Dominican Republic
  • Venezuela

Other places in the region at in Level 3 of travel advice, which recommends travelers “reconsider the trip”:

  • Antigua y Barbuda
  • Aruba
  • Barbados
  • Bermuda
  • Chile
  • Curazao
  • Dominica
  • Ecuador
  • Grenada
  • Jamaica
  • Paraguay
  • Santa Lucia
  • San Vicente y las Granadinas
  • Surinam
  • Trinidad y Tobago
  • Uruguay

The Galapagos Islands Establish Re-opening Measures to Ensure Traveler Safety

With Galapagos Islands tourism operations set to reopen on July 1, the islands’ have organized a set of guidelines for ensuring the safety of travelers during their entry, stay and exit from the world-famous archipelago. Measures at island airports include the presence of health professionals who will perform temperature control and pose respiratory triage questions upon arrival of all flights. Passengers will also be required to present proof of a real-time PCR COVID test performed no more than 72 hours prior to landing. In addition, island professionals will carry out epidemiological follow-up and investigations of any suspicious respiratory symptoms or suspected cases of COVID-19.

Travelers in Argentina Required to Re-book with Different Airline as LATAM Suspends Domestic Flights

The Latam airline is suspending all domestic flights in Argentina until further notice, meaning that most domestic flights in that country will be booked with Aerolineas Argentinas. Therefore, any travelers who have already booked a domestic flight(s) with Latam must request a refund and reschedule their flights with Aerolineas Argentinas.

Surtrek Adopts International Travel Protocols

To achieve effective coronavirus recovery protocols, Surtrek tour operator is implementing the action plans developed by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC). These concrete measures optimize recovery efforts in the tour operator sector so that the future of travel is safe, secure, seamless, and provides authentic and meaningful experiences for travelers. As it has been noted, these WTTC protocols are consistent with those recommended within Ecuador.

Resumption of Commercial Passenger Flights in Ecuador

The resumption of regular commercial passenger flights at Ecuador airports has now been approved by government authorities. While each airline is being allowed only 30% of their previously assigned frequencies, limited demand is also expected for these flights as they reinitiate operations.

The restart commercial flights at Ecuador principal airports are as follows:

Quito airport: International and domestic flights re-starting June 1, 2020.

Guayaquil airport: International flights re-starting June 1, 2020, domestic flights reopening June 15, 2020.

However, all travelers arriving in Ecuador must comply with protocols such as Mandatory Preventive Isolation (up to 14 days of uninterrupted quarantine upon arrival in Ecuador) and/or coronavirus “PCR” testing within 72 hours prior to their trip.

Galapagos Islands Tourism Resuming July 1 (El Comercio)

Ecuadorian government officials, when noting that the Galapagos Islands are free of covid-19, announced that tourism activities will be able to restart from on July 1, 2020 in those Ecuadorian islands. However, the country’s vice president stressed that that the safety, hygiene and distancing protocols will continue to be enforced throughout the archipelago.

Initial Flights Restarted in Quito, Ecuador

Quito International Airport resumed operations on commercial passenger flights on Monday, June 1, applying strict sanitary security protocols. The first international connections with the Quito airport are Miami and Houston, operated by American Airlines and United Airlines.

Several other international airlines have already submitted proposals for dates to resume their operations at the Quito airport beginning in July.

Still, passengers are being recommended to take their flight in the safest and most efficient ways:

  • Buy your flights through airline websites and travel agencies. Air tickets are not being sold at airports.Check in online to avoid processes and save time in the terminal.
  • Check in online to avoid processes and save time in the terminal.
  • Only passengers with a confirmed flight presenting a boarding pass or flight ticket may enter the terminal. The entry of family or companions is prohibited.
  • Arrive at the airport four hours in advance for international flights and two hours for domestic flights.
Ecuador’s Northern Highlands: Brimming with Culture & Art

Ecuador’s Northern Highlands: Brimming with Culture & Art

In a small but remarkable region of the Ecuadorian Andes, the area’s local crafts have become famous worldwide. The skill and business acumen of the inhabitants of the province of Imbabura — where about 400,000 people live — have been the basis for the development of this dynamic Ecuadorian region. This is a timeless setting where artisans still rise before the sun to move their looms, turn on old sewing machines, and use chisels, lathes and brushes to cut, shape, and create.

If you travel to Ecuador, don’t overlook this as a privileged natural region, also known as the “Province of Lakes,” where some say the real “Middle of the World” is located. We assure you that you’ll be inspired by the wonderful environment of a region that combines a temperate climate, snow-capped volcanoes, crystal waterfalls, picturesque Andean villages, and an artisanal vein full of contrasts.

Let’s continue on this tour Ecuador’s northern highland province of Imbabura with the eyes of an apprentice anxious to learn the secrets of fiery kilns, carving workshops, century-old adobe houses housing enormous large looms, and modern garment and footwear factories. Here, we share with you a small sample of what is created in Imbabura.

Otavalo

This predominantly indigenous city is located about two hours north of Ecuador’s capital city of Quito. Home to the Kichwa ethnic group, Otavalo is a small town but with a cosmopolitan flair. The village has been declared the “Capital Intercultural Ecuador” due also to the large number of foreigners who visit to experience life in this unique destination.

In addition to its diversity, as well as it restaurants, hostels, haciendas converted into beautiful hotels, streets illuminated with lanterns, and clothing stores, Otavalo’s main attraction is undoubtedly its market. Located in the “Plaza de los Ponchos,” this market is one of the largest craft fairs in Latin America, bustling every Saturday with the arrival of hundreds of artisans, vendors and tourists. To experience this Andean bazaar, visitors come from all over the world. Arriving here, travelers spend hours marveling at the handiworks of craftspeople who have learned the skills of their ancestors and teach these to their descendants. Exhibited for sale in this square are their works: ponchos, tapestries, all kinds of wool garments, fine embroidery (most of them made by hand), carved wooden pieces, jewelry, stone sculptures, accessories, paintings, toquilla artworks, musical instruments and more. Visitors soon find that “bargaining” is a common here and an accepted practice.

In addition to the handicrafts fair, Otavalo boosts another attraction: Its animal market. Every Saturday, starting at 6:00 a.m., this exotic fair exhibits everything from chicks to llamas, as well as rabbits, guinea pigs, cows, sheep, goats, horses, and cats and dogs. It’s a scene that seems frozen in time.

Cotacachi

Walking through the city of Cotacachi is like walking through a great showcase. All kinds of leather goods — jackets, pants, belts, wallets, shoes, jackets, bags, and more — are seen in the windows of dozens of shops along the streets of this town of 40,000 inhabitants.

Although many of the models follow international fashion lines, Cotacachi’s own designs are also on show. Added to the styles, the prices are well below those in found in foreign cities and even large Ecuadorian cities. This combination of quality, style and value attract thousands of people to the town, especially on weekends, as they wander through Cotacachi’s narrow streets in search of the perfect garment or accessory.

But Cotacachi is not just leather. Visitors are usually surprised by the ornateness of the town’s main church, where inside are six chapels, gold-leaf altars, and “Quito School” works of art on display. Another point of attraction is the Athens Lookout Pont, from where you can see the stunning lakes of the Cotacachi Ecological Reserve, which is the largest conservation area in Ecuador’s northwestern Andes. With lush forests, nature reserves, snowy landscapes are the extra elements you will find in Cotacachi, in addition to the country finest leatherworks.

San Antonio de Ibarra

Marvelous shapes emerge from walnut wood thanks to the skillful hands of artisans of San Antonio de Ibarra, a village situated in the middle of Ecuador’s Andean highlands. Walking through the quiet streets of this town means discovering the many houses that are craft workshops, whose precious wood pieces have made this place famous. Worked with the techniques of the “Quito School” and covered with gold leaf, these unique works stand out for their rich earthly colors and beauty.

Small and large wooden sculptures, altarpieces, and motifs of all kinds are carved in cedar, orange tree, walnut and laurel. In the center of the village, works created by men, women and even children are sold in each house.

Zuleta

In Ecuador, many embroidered cloths with pre-Columbian designs have a seal that indicates their origin: The indigenous community of Zuleta, located to the southeast of the province of Imbabura. The tradition of skilled work using thread, thimbles and fabrics is old, but the craft found a space in the 1940s, in the hacienda of the Ecuadorian president Galo Plaza Lasso. The official’s wife created a workshop for women in the area where they could embroider and then market their beautiful garments, thus bringing in extra income for their households.

Dresses, blouses, tablecloths, rugs, towels, and other items, with fine finishes that reproduce details of the rural setting and the indigenous worldview are created by the skilled hands of more than 300 embroiderers. For the past 15 years, crafted garments have been displayed every other week on the premises of the hacienda at the Fair Zuleta Embroidery. Many public figures wear these highly original, embroidered attires, but what not many people know is that in a presidential visit to the Vatican, Pope Francis received two embroidered garments created by the skillful hands of Zuleta women.

Atuntaqui

This small colonial city whose Indian name means “big drum” and whose architecture and layout are the footprints of the Spaniards the past epoch. The village enjoys a mild climate and breathtaking scenery, as it’s located in the Andean foothills of the Imbabura Volcano. Its quiet pace of life has made many people choose it as a retirement destination.

On the ruins of an earthquake that destroyed the city in 1868 rose this village, today with a population of 21,000 inhabitants. In its reconstruction, a major role was played by the arrival of the railroad but also in the establishment of a textile factory.

Having now ceased operations, the first textile factory remains as a historic edifice that preserves antiquated English and German machinery within its walls. Declared an “Ecuadorian Cultural Heritage Site,” the building today houses the city’s Textile Museum. To visit here is to learn of the origins of an activity that remains one of the main industries for this population. In fact, every year in this small town a textile fair is organized that attracts almost 150,000 visitors. For those who come to experience this pleasant village, we can almost assure you that you’ll not want to leave without at least one of the beautiful garments on display in the windows of almost every store in Atuntaqui’s quaint downtown center.

Jaw-dropping Ecuadorian Archaeological Sites & Treasures

Jaw-dropping Ecuadorian Archaeological Sites & Treasures

Tours of the vestiges of ancient civilizations — which left the imprints of their rites and ceremonies, as well as those of their members’ daily lives — allows us to understand the development and spirituality of early peoples.

In Latin America, the remains of such civilizations are found in various parts of the continent, usually framed in beautiful natural settings. Visiting them helps one to sense the splendor of some of these civilizations lost in time. Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Ecuador are among the countries that retain vestiges of pre-Columbian civilizations such as the Maya, the Inca and the Aztec. The Mayan city of Tikal, in Guatemala; the majestic ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru; and Chichen Itza, located in Yucatan, Mexico, and which are the ruins of the most important capital of the Mayan culture, are among the most representative sites on the continent.

Ecuador too retains the remains and foundations of important pre-Inca civilizations. We offer you a tour of the most famous and most visited by archaeologists and tourists alike.

Rumicucho (“Middle of the World” Park / Quito, Ecuador)

“Cornerstone” is the meaning of the Kichwa word “rumicucho.” Archaeological ruins of this same name are located just north of the city of Quito, offering us a clear view of a temple that was dedicated to the Sun God. From its privileged location, on a peak where you can see La Marca Hill and the Cayambe Volcano, these ruins form an east-west horizontal line at the precise location that the sun crosses during its equinox.

It is believed that Rumicucho was one of the most important temples for worshiping the “Star King.” Covering an area larger than 300 meters long and 75 meters wide, the ruins are made up of five pyramid-shaped stone terraces. During clashes between the native people and the Incas, this place served as a military and logistical support structure due to its strategic location. Today, like footprints, what remain are roads, bridges and temples; structures that — according to historians — were also used as an Inca military fort.

Rumicucho is a charming place with wonderful views where you can learn about these ancient peoples and their traditions while learning about the development and knowledge of ancestral cultures. What’s more, all of this is surrounded by a wonderful natural environment.

The Ingapirca Ruins (Cañar Province)

South of Ecuador, on a plateau in Cañar Province, are found the ruins that make up the Ingapirca Archaeological Complex.

Only 50 miles (80 km) from the beautiful and culture-rich city of Cuenca, these pre-Columbian ruins were built by members of the Cañar people to serve as a ceremonial and trade center.

What remains of Ingapirka (a word meaning “Inca wall”) may have been a sun and moon observatory, as well as a center for conducting religious rituals and carrying out military strategies, according to some scientific explanations. The building, which is of Inca-Canari origin, was built by direct order of the Inca leader Huayna Capac during wars of territorial expansion.

The environment around these majestic ruins consists of Curuquinga and Bueran highlands to the east and south, and a string of mountains to the west. It is said that the Canar civilization chose this land to build these temples as this site was on the route that ran between Ecuador and Peru. Large ceramic findings have helped to date these ruins to around 500 B.C. You can enjoy these places on a one-day visit, and then stay in the beautiful and culture-rich city of Cuenca, a UNESCO-declared “World Heritage Site.”

Agua Blanca Commune (Manabí Province)

Located about 9 miles (15 km) north of the coastal town of Puerto Lopez, in Ecuador’s Manabi Province, the Agua Blanca commune is an archaeological site embedded in a stunning natural setting.

Part of the Machalilla National Park, the commune has been transformed into a museum that reveals vestiges of the Machalilla civilization and the Manteña culture. The remains of temples, squares and houses of the Manteña culture (1500 BC), as well as funeral urns and pottery, especially from domestic and ceremonial use, can be seen in this museum. All of this gives visitors an idea of what the everyday life and culture of these ancient inhabitants must have been like.

Also found here is a lake that is high in sulfur, which is another attraction for those who visit the commune. These sulfur concentrations that flow from an underground volcanic formation into a natural lagoon are said to give these waters certain healing properties.

Pumapungo Complex (City of Cuenca)

Situate in the heart of the city of Cuenca, in its historic district in fact, you can find a ten-acre archaeological park that was built in the late 15th century. These are the ruins of what, according to some archaeologists and historians, was one of the most impressive cities of the Inca Empire. Found here are the “Temple of the Sun” and the “Temple of the Sun Virgins” as well as the “Tomebamba Temple.”

During work conducted over the last two decades, various ceramic materials, metal, shells and bones have been recovered, which can be seen in the site’s museum and evidence that ancient society’s developed and complex organization.

On these grounds was also founded the city of Tomebamba, which was destroyed before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors. However, these colonialists later built their churches on top of the foundations of the preceding indigenous temples. It is said that this city was the birthplace of the son of the Inca leader Hayna Capac, and that this standing earned the site a sacred status. In the Pumapungo Archaeological Park, you can also see the entrance to a 30-meter tunnel that studies have determined served as a mausoleum and symbolized the spirit world. All of this was part of the complex and profound worldview of the people who inhabited what is now one of the country’s most important archaeological sites.

If you visit the Pumapungo Complex, you can stay in the beautiful city of Cuenca, built with features similar to those of its namesake city of Cuenca, Spain.

The “Camels” of the Andes | Surtrek South American Travel

The “Camels” of the Andes | Surtrek South American Travel

When thinking about the Andes, most of us picture snow-capped mountains, vast green plains, indigenous peoples …and herds of llamas. And yes, these are some of the main characteristics of the mountainous South American region – including the llamas. In fact, American llamas and their close cousins inhabit the immense and frigid plains and slopes along the entire 4,000-mile mountain range. Possessing both beauty and elegance, with their thin necks and slender legs, they are placed in the same family as their more distant relative, the camel – from which they get the name “camelids.”

In South America, four species of these camelids exist, and here we’ll point out some of their features, similarities and differences.

Llamas: The Sacred Camels of the Incas

Among the Andean camelids, the llama is the largest. Their most striking feature is that they’re not a natural species, but a “creation” of human beings. Specifically, some 5,000 years ago, the people of the highlands began domesticating guanacos (see below), breeding them to constitute today’s llama. The animal’s geographical distribution is now wide, since it became a trade commodity during the Inca Empire. For the Incas, the llama was a sacred animal, believing that each llama on Earth had its “mirror” in the “Celestial Llama”: a constellation that could be seen from certain sacred places.

Today, llamas are found principally in the Andes of Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, and Argentina, where they have traditionally been used as beasts of burden, though they are also still used for their wool and meat. As their wool is thick and strong, it’s highly valued – particularly because it doesn’t have to be chemically treated.

Alpaca: Sheep on Stilts

The alpaca is a smaller species, though, like the llama (and camels), it has the habit of spitting as a method of defense. Alpacas differ from llamas, though, in that they are not used as beasts of burden but were domesticated for thousands of years for their highly-valued wool – considered the finest among camelids. Alpaca wool is used to make products as diverse as blankets, ponchos, scarves, vests, and sweaters, while their meat is considered a delicacy by some peoples of Andes. These camelids stand at just around one-meter high and weigh between 50 and 55 kg. They are found mainly in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina, although countries such as Australia, the USA, and New Zealand possess small numbers as breeders are making great efforts to increase their populations.

Guanaco: The Antelopes of the South

Elegant, possessing fine bones, and a fast runner (reaching up to 64 km per hour), the guanaco is also a threatened species of camelid, even scarcer than llamas. The animal is sociable, especially when young, though later they become more aloof in relation to humans while roaming in large herds in semi-desert areas. They have thick and soft coats that protect them from the cold, which is helpful in that they live mainly in Peru, Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina. Guanacos can weigh up to 140 kg and measure 1.70 m in height. Their coats are of three shades: beige on the upper body, white on their stomach areas and gray on their heads. Their wool and leather are used to make fine and highly valued garments.

Vicuña: The Babies of the Bunch

The vicuña, a patriotic symbol of Peru, is a smaller herbivorous camelid. Reaching a length of 80 cm and weighing between 40 and 50 kg. These sedentary animals have long legs and, in a sense, are ecological because the soles of their feet have a kind of pad that prevents them from digging up vegetation; in this way, they contribute less to erosion. They have a very structured and organized social system, with adult males living with a harem of two or three females and their young. The wool of the vicuña is some of the best of its type, since, in the world of haute couture, a square meter can cost up to $3,000. High fashion labels, especially Italian and French companies, use vicuña wool for the production of exclusive clothing; however, due to the intense hunting of these animals since ancient times, vicuna are now in danger of extinction. Like alpacas and llamas, they live mainly in Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador.

As for similarities, the four share some characteristics: for example, their ability to breed with each other and their sexual dimorphism (which means it’s not easy to distinguish their gender). Also, alpacas, llamas, and vicunas have another common feature: they live in highlands, while guanacos can live at sea level. Also, llamas and alpacas are domesticated species, while the sleeker vicuñas and guanacos are found only in the wild.

No matter how they vary, there is much to discover about these graceful animals. When traveling through the Andes, it’s worth seeing them up close and personal in the rugged landscapes in which they reign.

10 Surtrek Tips for an Awesome Galapagos Islands Vacation

10 Surtrek Tips for an Awesome Galapagos Islands Vacation

One “bucket-list” dream for many people is a trip to the Galapagos Islands. But, because it isn’t cheap, this usually means that it’s a once in a lifetime experience for those who decide to travel there. Therefore, it’s to work with an experienced tour operator capable of planning every detail before the journey to ensure that everything runs smoothly. Based on Surtrek’s experience over the past 25 years of organizing travel to the “enchanted islands,” here’s are 10 tips that will help you enjoy your stay.

1. Planning your flight

If you plan to stay a few days in the islands, it’s advisable to land on Baltra Island, as it’s just across from Santa Cruz, which is the busiest and most central island. The distance from Santa Cruz to the other inhabited islands (San Cristobal, Isabela, and Floreana) is approximately four hours. However, if you land on easternmost San Cristobal Island and want to visit Isabela and/or Floreana islands, you will have to travel through Santa Cruz anyway, thus increasing your travel time.

Another good option is to land at the airport on San Cristobal Island and finally leave the islands from Baltra (or vice versa). The airlines that travel to the Galapagos Islands have traditionally had daily flights from Quito and Guayaquil. It takes about a half an hour to fly from Quito to Guayaquil, and about an hour and a half from there to the islands.

2. Dress for success: Types of clothes to pack

To travel to the Galapagos, you should note that airlines only allow one piece checked-in luggage of up to 20 kg (44 lbs.) and carry-on luggage of up to 8 kg. (17 lbs.). However, remember that while in the Galapagos, you’ll have to get around mainly on ships, which can be a big hassle if you’re lugging around a heavy suitcase. Therefore, you should try to take lightweight clothing on your trip. Comfortable shorts and shirts, and short sleeve garments are ideal for excursions and tours of the islands. It’s very important not to forget a hat and a pair of sunglasses, with sunscreen completing your protective gear. Remember, you will be on the equator and directly under the sun. On some cruises, you may want to bring clothes that are a little more formal — but also light and cool — for the afternoon or dinner time. But that is something that is strictly up to you, because there are no dress codes on the various ships.

Also, don’t forget that to get to the Galapagos Islands, you will have to go through Quito or Guayaquil. For the first city, you will need some warmer clothes, possibly a light jacket or a raincoat, which will also come in handy for the islands’ afternoon and evening winds.

Footwear and swimwear: “Teva-style” sandals with straps are recommended for various activities during your trip in the islands. This type of footwear is perfect for volcanic rock and land excursions, as well as for “wet landings,” etc. You can also wear tennis shoes if you want to switch up. You will also need one or two bathing suits (depending on the number of days of your trip). If you have your own snorkel gear and prefer to use it, that’s fine. But if not, you can always rent this in the islands if it is not supplied by your ship. You can also buy or rent gear in Quito.

Say “cheese”: Your camera and accessories: The Galapagos Islands are ideal for getting close to — and in some cases interact with — unique wildlife species that can only be seen here. With volcanic landscapes, the vastness of the crystal clear sea, and sunsets from the deck of his ship – everything will present unique opportunities for taking outstanding photos. So don’t forget to carry a camera (better if it’s has a wide-angle lens) and/or a video camera that you already know how to operate. Likewise, don’t forget the respective recharging cables.

3. An apple a day: Medicine to bring along

If you take any specific medication, you had better bring it with you because it is sometimes difficult to find special medications in the islands. Otherwise, all boats carry basic first aid supplies and equipment.

4. Documents you’ll need (A bureaucratic heads up)

If you are a foreigner, you should always carry your passport or at least a photocopy of it. Nationals of the countries of the Andean Community (Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia) are allowed to only carry their identity cards. To enter the islands you must acquire an immigration control card ($20) at the airport in Quito or Guayaquil. Please hang onto this card during your entire trip, as you will have to present it when you leave. Also, when entering the islands, you must pay the Galapagos National Park admissions fee in cash ($100 for adults, $50 for children under 12).

5. When to make your move

The Galapagos Islands are characterized by pleasant weather all year round. However, there are slight variations to be taken into account. For example, from June to December is a period known as the “dry season.” This condition reaches as far as the northern Galapagos Islands, driven by southerly winds of the cold Humboldt Current and its cool waters. Nonetheless, the afternoons are sunny during this period, though a layer of fog can be seen across the islands. Also during this time, mammals and land birds are very active, and visitors can observe the courtship rituals of many species.

6. Getting a good night’s sleep

The Galapagos Islands have a wide variety of accommodations, from budget hostels to luxury hotels. Most accommodations provide free breakfasts, which are usually varied. As the demand for accommodations in the inhabited islands is high, try looking ahead of time for a place to stay and be sure to reserve a room. You can also opt for a cruise, which is an excellent option for visiting several islands in a short time and also not having to worry about room reservations or meals – you can simply enjoy the islands.

7. Getting around between islands

When in the Galapagos, the best way to travel between the inhabited islands is by small boats (known as “fibras”), which head out every day. Most boats leave at dawn when the sea is calmer. When traveling on these boats, try taking a seasickness pill. Since the movement of the ocean can be strong, this can be physically upsetting if you’re not used to spending several hours at sea. If you want to avoid a long boat trip (it usually takes four hours to travel between islands), you can go by plane. The company that provides this service in the Galapagos Islands is EMETEBE. You also have the option of taking a cruise, which will even take you to those islands seldom visited by tourists.

8. Dinner time!

The islands have a host of restaurants, especially ones serving coastal cuisine and fast food. Most hotels have restaurants or dining rooms for guests. Also, you may find shops where you can buy a variety of food. Note that the food in the Galapagos Islands is a bit more expensive than on the mainland, but the prices don’t increase much. If you go on an organized excursion lasting several hours, you will be provided with a box lunch, which is usually a light and served cold. If you go on an excursion on your own, you should bring something light to eat – but don’ forget to also bring a small garbage bag.

9. The almighty dollar

The official currency of Ecuador is the U.S. dollar, although you can exchange other currencies in airports and on the islands. In any case, you should also bring some dollars with you in case you need to make some urgent purchase. Only San Cristobal and Santa Cruz islands have banks and ATMs. So, if you visit Floreana or Isabela, you’ll need to carry cash. While credit cards are accepted in most places, try to bring cash to avoid any inconveniences. Of this cash, carry denominations of no more than $20 bills, because larger banknotes are not accepted in some places.

10. Top-notch Guides

Most tours and excursions in the Galapagos cannot be undertaken without the company of a certified naturalist guide, which is especially important given that 97% of the land area of the archipelago is part of the Galapagos National Park. In fact, this is the institution that certifies guides and coordinates visits with operators. For each visit, there are marked trails that must be respected by visitors, but this doesn’t prevent tourists from witnessing many species of wildlife from close up, and in some cases even interacting with them.