Explore Our 2024 Guide to Gap Year Programs!

    Experiment in International Living: Ecuador – The Galapagos Islands & the Andes

    Experiment in International Living: Ecuador – The Galapagos Islands & the Andes


    • Listing Type: Summer Programs
    • Program Delivery: Residential
    • Destination: Ecuador, Galapagos Islands
    • Provided By: Independent Provider
    • Session Start: July
    • Session Length: Four Weeks
    • Entering Grade: 10th, 11th, 12th
    • Gender: Coed
    • Category: Outdoor Adventure
    • Sub-Categories: Spanish, Wildlife Conservation
    • Selective: No
    • Ages: 14, 15, 16, 17, 18
    • Minimum Cost: > $7,000+
    • Career Clusters: Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources, Arts, Audio/Video Technology, and Communications
    • Credit Awarded: No
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    Explore Ecuador’s Andes Mountains, Amazon basin, and Galápagos Islands and observe rare animal species on this high school summer abroad program.

    Program Description

    Experience Ecuador's various geographical areas: the Andes Mountains, the upper Amazon basin, and the Galápagos archipelago. In each location, learn about the richness of Ecuador’s ecology and wildlife and the importance of preserving it. Investigate rare plant and animal species on the Galápagos Islands. Go on excursions to mountains, hot springs, and a primary forest. Paddle into the heart of the jungle on a guided canoe expedition and learn about indigenous Ecuadorian traditions.

    Your discovery of Ecuador’s ecology takes place throughout every stage of the program. On your first excursion, see the rivers and diverse wildlife of the Mindo Nambillo cloud forest. In the Amazon basin, see the stunning waterfalls of the Baños and observe monkeys and exotic birds as you canoe down the Napo River. During your homestay week, hike up Chimborazo, an inactive volcano that reaches 16,400 feet above sea level. The program’s four days in the Galápagos give you the opportunity to learn about the fragile ecology and unique biodiversity of these remarkable islands. Cruise by night from island to island, swim alongside seals in lava grottoes, explore mangrove forests and flamingo lagoons, and observe the courtship displays of rare tropical birds.

    You’ll also experience Ecuadorian cities and learn about the country’s history and cultures. See the gold-inlayed sixteenth-century churches and colonial buildings of Quito’s Old Town. Ride a train to Devil’s Nose. Improve your Spanish language skills through interactive lessons and conversations with local residents. Riobamba, a small city surrounded by the snow-capped Andes, provides the setting for a weeklong homestay. Share daily activities such as sports, movies, and walks through town with your host family. Learn how to prepare ceviche or empanadas and, working alongside a local nonprofit, participate in a three-day community service project.

    Sample Itinerary

    Days 1–2
    Orientation in Quito

    • Learn about the history and culture of Ecuador
    • Get to know other members of your group during activities and discussions
    • Take interactive Spanish lessons and practice your Spanish language skills

    During the orientation period, you and your group will stay at a mission.

    Days 3–6
    Thematic Focus in Mindo Cloud Forest

    • Go tubing on the river
    • See waterfalls
    • Visit a butterfly farm
    • Observe flora and fauna within this ecosystem

    During this period, you and your group will stay in an educational facility.

    Days 7–15

    • Become fully immersed in the daily life of an Ecuadorian family and community
    • Do activities with your host family
    • Participate in community service work
    • Take dancing and cooking lessons
    • Go on excursions to hot springs, a primary forest, and a crater lake
    • Visit nearby villages and learn about activities — such as carpentry, alpaca farming, and pottery making — of the people in those communities

    During this period, you will stay in the home of a family. Sample host communities: Riobamba, Cotacachi, Salcedo

    Days 16–17
    Thematic Focus in the Baños

    • Visit the waterfalls
    • Go trekking on horseback

     During this period, you and your group will stay in a hostel.

    Day 18
    Thematic Focus in Quito

    • Ride Quito’s cable car
    • Hike Pinchincha Mountain
    • Visit Quito’s Old Town

    During this excursion, you and your group will stay at a mission.

    Days 19–22
    Thematic Focus in the Amazon Jungle (4-day excursion)

    • Visit the Yarina Ecological Reserve
    • Travel by motorized canoe into the rainforest along the Napo River
    • Explore the area around the Napo River, observe monkeys and exotic birds, and go fishing for piranha
    • Meet with an indigenous family and learn about the Ecuadorian Amazon from them

    During this excursion, you and your group will stay in a lodge.

    Day 23
    Thematic Focus in Quito

    • Hike through one of Quito’s main forests, the metropolitan park Güangüiltagua Days 24–27

    Thematic Focus in the Galápagos (4-day excursion)

    • Go hiking, snorkeling, and swimming
    • Go on nature walks and participate in discussions with an Ecuadorian naturalist about the fragile ecology of the Galápagos

    During this excursion, you and your group will stay on a boat.

    Day 28
    Program Reflection and Wrap-up in Quito

    • Reflect with your group on your experiences during the program

    During the reflection period, you and your group will stay at a mission.

    Day 29

    About The Experiment

    The Experiment in International Living is a non-profit organization that has been offering immersive experiential learning programs abroad since 1932. Today, The Experiment offers three-, four-, and five-week summer programs for high school students in more than 20 countries around the world.

    Programs are designed to equip participants not only with essential cultural skills and, in many cases, language skills, but also with a deeper awareness of and sensitivity to critical global issues shaping the diverse communities and regions we visit. Each year, hundreds of Experimenters come away from their summer abroad with invaluable new skills, connections, awareness, and knowledge that help them to thrive—and lead—in diverse, intercultural environments.

    The Experiment is committed to providing participants from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds with access to The Experiment’s immersive cross-cultural programs through its partnerships, scholarships, and other initiatives.

    The Experiment places the highest priority on health, safety, and security. Each program follows a comprehensive structure designed to maximize the well-being of all participants while they engage in dynamic cross-cultural experiences. We have implemented specific risk management strategies that include a 24-hour emergency on-call service and regular safety reviews. We hire and train experienced adult group leaders and maintain longstanding partnerships with in-country offices to support each of our programs.