Visit two of Ecuador's highlights—Quito and the Galapagos Islands—on this packed 7-day itinerary. Start in Quito, where colonial churches, museums, and a humming nightlife fill your days. Then, catch a flight to Santa Cruz Island, where you'll spend four days exploring uninhabited islands, relaxing on sunny beaches, and spotting rare and endemic wildlife. 

Highlights

  • Stroll through Quito, an UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Stand on both hemispheres at the same time at the Middle of the World
  • See giant Galapagos Tortoises in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island
  • Snorkel at pristine beaches
  • Visit two uninhabited islands and see endemic species

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival to Quito Quito
Day 2 Quito Historic Center, Panecillo Hill, & Middle of the World Tour Quito
Day 3 Flight to Santa Cruz Island, Highlands, & Charles Darwin Station Puerto Ayora
Day 4 Day Trip to an Unpopulated Island Puerto Ayora
Day 5 Free Morning & Afternoon Boat Tour Puerto Ayora
Day 6 Another Day, Another Uninhabited Island Puerto Ayora
Day 7 Transfer to Airport on Baltra Island  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival to Quito

View of Quito and the Cotopaxi Volcano
View of Quito and the Cotopaxi Volcano

Welcome to Quito, the capital of Ecuador! Arrive at the Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO), where your driver will meet you to transfer to your accommodation in the city center, a one-hour trip. Along the way, you'll get a short introduction into Quito´s history and a quick briefing on the next day's activities.

The entire city of Quito is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, standing at an altitude of 9,350ft (2,850m). It welcomes visitors with its picturesque plazas situated between mountain peaks. The city has an abundance of market stands, shamanistic healers, and fourth-generation hat makers, as well as a vibrant and sophisticated culinary and nightlife scene.

Day 2: Quito Historic Center, Panecillo Hill, & Middle of the World Tour

Quito: Governmental Palace
Quito: Governmental Palace

The human occupation of Quito dates back thousands of years. Prior to the arrival of Spanish conquistadores, the main cultures in the area were the Quitus, as well as the Inca, whose empire spread across vast stretches of South America. The city was colonized by the Spanish and recognized as a city in the mid-16th century. In 1978, together with Kraków in Poland, the entire city became the first UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

After breakfast at the hotel, visit the old town and meander down romantic narrow streets to see the colonial  Churches of San Fransisco, La Compañia, and other historical landmarks. 

This visit is followed by a short stop at the top of El Panecillo Hill where the impressive statue of the Virgin Mary is located. It's a great place for photos of panoramic city views. 

In the afternoon, visit the Equator Monument, which highlights the exact location of the equatorial line according to the Franco-Spanish mission that determined its approximate location. It's also the location of the Ethnographical Museum that showcases the indigenous culture and ethnography of Ecuador.

After a full day, return to your hotel.

Day 3: Flight to Santa Cruz Island, Highlands, & Charles Darwin Station

Giant Galapagos Tortoise
Giant Galapagos Tortoise

In the morning, head to the airport for your flight to the Galapagos Islands. When you arrive at Baltra Airport, meet your guide, then continue to Santa Cruz Island.

Enjoy lunch at a local ranch in the highlands, then spend some time with giant tortoises in the wild. After, continue Puerto Ayora and check in to your hotel.

In the afternoon, visit the Charles Darwin Station, where scientists from all over the world meet and work together.  Environmental projects include water analysis, protection of endemic wildlife, effects of tourism on nature, and other pressing issues. Visit the turtle rearing station to see where animals are raised before being released into nature. Keep an eye out for land iguanas, who live around the station. 

Stay overnight in Puerto Ayora.

Day 4: Day Trip to an Unpopulated Island

Marine iguanas sunbathing on the shore
Marine iguanas sunbathing on the shore

Your adventure today includes a yacht tour to an unpopulated island. Depending on the weather, scheduling, and permissions by the National Park, you'll visit one of the following islands: Santa Fé, South Plazas, Bartolomé or North Seymour.

Each island is unique and offers spectacular scenery and an opportunity to see rare wildlife up close. Santa Fé and South Plazas are home to endemic land iguanas; while Bartolomé is known for beautiful lava sceneries. On North Seymour, look for frigate birds, land iguanas, and blue-footed boobies.

Today's adventure is a group tour, with a maximum group size of 20. In the evening, return to Puerto Ayora to enjoy some free time. 

Day 5: Free Morning & Afternoon Boat Tour

School of tropical fish
School of tropical fish

Your morning today is free. Spend some time on the beach, go for a walk, or enjoy the sounds of nature as you find the perfect spot to sit and read. 

In the afternoon, head onto the water on a tour of the bay. Aboard a small boat, you'll visit the coves and beaches of Santa Cruz Island. Swim with playful sea lion cubs, go snorkeling to see the extraordinary diversity of sea life, or sunbathe on the beach. 

In the late afternoon, return to Puerto Ayora, where you will spend the night.

Day 6: Another Day, Another Uninhabited Island

Frigate bird
Frigate bird

Another day, another boat trip to an uninhabited island—this time, to a different one than before. Today's tour is another group activity, with no more than 20 people joining you on the boat.

Afterward, enjoy your evening in the laid-back town of Puerto Ayora.

Day 7: Transfer to Airport on Baltra Island

Beautiful sunset in the Galapagos
Beautiful sunset in the Galapagos

If there is enough free time before your transfer to the airport, do some last-minute souvenir shopping or take a last stroll through Puerto Ayora.

At the designated time, your driver will pick you up at your hotel and take you to the Itabaca Channel, which you will cross on a ferry. For the last part of your trip to the airport, take the public shuttle bus to the terminal, where your program ends with your return flight to the mainland.

Map

Map of Best of Ecuador: Quito & the Galapagos Islands - 7 Days
Map of Best of Ecuador: Quito & the Galapagos Islands - 7 Days