Bird-watching enthusiasts and photographers won't want to miss this thrilling six-day itinerary! After a day and night exploring the capital city of Quito, jet off to the Galápagos Islands for hiking, boating, and wildlife spotting. Snap photos of blue-footed boobies, get up close with giant tortoises, ride a speedboat and a yacht to various islands, and see unforgettable landscapes before returning to Ecuador's mainland.


  • Explore Ecuador's capital city with a local guide
  • Fly to the Galápagos Islands for several days of adventures
  • Photograph giant tortoises and rare birds in the wild
  • Cruise to Bartolomé Island on a private yacht

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Quito, Explore the City Quito
Day 2 Fly to San Cristóbal Island & Visit La Lobería  San Cristóbal Island
Day 3 Visit Española Island or Punta Pitt  San Cristóbal Island
Day 4 Boat to Santa Cruz Island & Photograph Birds in the Highlands  Puerto Ayora
Day 5 Explore Bartolomé Island & Chinese Hat  Puerto Ayora
Day 6 Return to the Ecuador Mainland, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Quito, Explore the City

Views over Quito and Cotopaxi
Views over Quito and Cotopaxi

Welcome to Quito! You'll arrive at the airport and meet your driver, who will transfer you to your hotel in the city center. After taking some time to get settled in, explore the historic center. This UNESCO World Heritage Site stands at an altitude of 9,350 feet (2,850 m) and welcomes visitors with its picturesque plazas between mountain peaks.

Stroll through its narrow streets and visit some of the city's most important churches, such as the Baroque La Compañía, with its incredible gold-covered interior, and the neo-Gothic La Basílica. Take a walk down La Ronda, one of the oldest streets in the city, then head to Panecillo Hill for incredible panoramic views.

For more ideas and inspiration, read The Perfect Day in Quito.

Day 2: Fly to San Cristóbal Island, Visit La Lobería 

Pinnacle Rock in the Galapagos Islands
Pinnacle Rock in the Galápagos Islands

Transfer from Quito to the airport for your flight to the beautiful Galápagos Islands. You'll arrive on San Cristóbal Island and check in to your hotel in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. Next, visit the Interpretation Center with your private ornithologist guide, where you'll learn about the history and future of the Galápagos. Your guide will also offer an overview of the birds inhabiting the island chain. 

Afterward, you'll have the chance to visit La Lobería, home to a colony of sea lions. Keep an eye out for the frigate bird, also commonly spotted in the area. In the evening, you'll return to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno for dinner and to get some rest.

Day 3: Visit Española Island or Punta Pitt 

Hiking at Punta Pitt

Depending on the weather, scheduling, and permissions by the national park, you'll visit either Española Island or Punta Pitt today. Each destination is unique, offering spectacular scenery and opportunities to see rare wildlife up close.

At Española Island, you'll disembark at Suarez Point and begin a hike, looking for Nazca and blue-footed boobies. After the hike, get back onboard for lunch. You'll then head to a snorkeling spot where you can enjoy a snorkel session and look for tropical fish, rays, and more. The bird-watching is also excellent, but note that albatrosses are not on the island from late December through the beginning of April.

At Punta Pitt, you'll walk on a trail that leads to a beach, a hill made of volcanic rock, and various natural viewpoints and lookouts. This is the only place in the Galápagos where you can observe all three species of booby and two species of frigates that make their nests in the same area. Blue-footed boobies nest in the interior, red-footed boobies make theirs in the bushes, and Nazca boobies nest in the cliffs. After the hike, return to the boat and continue to a snorkeling spot to see a variety of fish, black-tipped reef sharks, marine turtles, and manta rays.

Return to San Cristóbal's port at the end of the afternoon and spend the night in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.

Read about How Many Days to Spend in Ecuador.

Day 4: Boat to Santa Cruz Island, Photograph Birds in the Highlands 

Adult Galapagos Tortoises
Adult Galapagos Tortoises

This morning, catch a private speedboat from San Cristóbal Island to Santa Cruz Island. The trip takes around two hours. On the ride, you'll coast by Santa Fé Island, a perfect moment to take pictures of the region's seabirds. Disembark at the dock, then head to the highlands to see giant tortoises in the wild. With your guide, enjoy lunch at a local farm. Next, visit a spectacular natural lava tunnel, then continue to a reserve home to another giant turtle species.

Finally, arrive at the Charles Darwin Station, where scientists from all over the world meet and work together. Environmental projects include water analysis, endemic wildlife protection, and tourism's effects on nature. Visit the turtle rearing station to see where animals are raised before being released into the wilderness. Look out for land iguanas who live around the station! Finish the day by traveling to Puerto Ayora, where you'll check in to your hotel and have dinner.

Plan your trip to Ecuador
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Find out more about the Best Things to Do in Ecuador.

Day 5: Explore Bartolomé Island & Chinese Hat 

Day Trip to Bartolome Island and Chinese Hat (Bird Photography)
Riding a yacht to Bartolomé Island 

Today you'll ride a private yacht to Bartolomé Island and one of the most recognizable icons of the Galápagos Islands, Sombrero Chino. The name means "Chinese Hat," and approaching from the north, you'll understand why. The volcanic cone is 170 feet (52 m) high, forming an islet where a small colony of Galápagos penguins has settled. It's an excellent place to learn more about volcanoes and lava tunnels. 

With your guide, hike to the top of Bartolomé Island for views of the famous Pinnacle Rock and the austere Santiago Island beyond. It's well worth the climb up the wooden boardwalk to take breathtaking pictures of birds around this spot. This volcanic scene has often been likened to a lunar landscape. In the evening, return to Puerto Ayora to enjoy dinner and some free time.

Read this article about going off the beaten path while traveling in Ecuador.

Day 6: Return to the Ecuador Mainland, Depart

Bid the Galapagos farewell
Sunset in the Galápagos

Do some last-minute souvenir shopping or take a morning stroll through Puerto Ayora. Your driver will pick you up and take you to the Itabaca Channel, which you'll cross on a ferry. For the last part of your trip to the airport, take the public shuttle bus to the terminal, where your adventure ends with a flight to the mainland and your onward connection. Safe travels!

More Great Ecuador Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Ecuador? Check out these other Ecuador itineraries, explore different ways to spend six days in Ecuador, or discover the best time to visit Ecuador.


Map of Bird-watching & Nature Photography in the Galápagos - 6 Days
Map of Bird-watching & Nature Photography in the Galápagos - 6 Days