Discover the best of the Ecuadorian capital before jetting off to the Galápagos Islands during this complete 12-day adventure. Explore Quito by bike and eat your way through its markets and signature dishes. Then fly to Isla Santa Cruz to learn about giant tortoises, observe unique wildlife on an uninhabited island, and pose with marine iguanas along Tortuga Bay. Bike and kayak on Isla Isabela, followed by snorkeling and paddleboarding off Isla San Cristóbal's rugged coastline.


  • Explore the essentials of Quito by foot and its culinary flavors by bike
  • Visit Isla Santa Cruz and meet giant tortoises, marine iguanas, and sea turtles
  • Swim and snorkel with playful sea lions and pose with penguins at Los Túneles
  • Snorkel through naturally-formed lava tunnels with tropical fish and rays

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Quito, Quito City Tour Quito
Day 2 Urban Bike Tour, Quito Cooking Class Quito
Day 3 Fly to the Galápagos, Santa Cruz Highlands & Charles Darwin Station Isla Santa Cruz
Day 4 Excursion to an Uninhabited Island Isla Santa Cruz
Day 5 Guided Hike to Tortuga Bay  Isla Santa Cruz
Day 6 Transfer to Isla Isabela, Snorkel at Los Túneles Isla Isabela
Day 7 Explore Isla Isabela by Bike, Free Afternoon Isla Isabela
Day 8 Kayak & Snorkel at Las Tintoreras, Free Afternoon Isla Isabela
Day 9 Fly to Isla San Cristóbal, Interpretation Center & Tijeretas Hill Isla San Cristóbal
Day 10 Visit Punta Pitt Isla San Cristóbal
Day 11 Standup Paddleboarding Excursion, Free Afternoon  Isla San Cristóbal
Day 12 Snorkel at La Lobería, Depart Isla San Cristóbal  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Quito, Quito City Tour

Stroll the cobbled streets of Quito's historic center

Welcome to Ecuador! Upon arrival at Quito's airport, a private driver will greet you and transfer you to your hotel in the city center. Today you'll explore Quito on a private tour and see why its historic center was the first to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Not only does it have geographical beauty, colonial architecture, and distinct culture, but it's also one of the highest cities in the world at 9,350 feet (2,850 m) above sea level.

With your local guide, visit Baroque La Compañía de Jesús, a church with a gold-covered interior, and the neo-Gothic La Basílica del Voto. Take a walk down La Ronda, one of the oldest streets in the city, and then head to Panecillo Hill for skyline views.

Day 2: Urban Bike Tour, Quito Cooking Class

Street art in Quito
Fresh ingredients for your cooking lesson on Ecuadorian dishes

See more of Quito on two wheels today with your local guide. Meet in the northern part of the city, where you'll set off on a four-hour bike tour through the neighborhoods of La Floresta, Carolina Park, and Iñaquito. In La Floresta, you'll see urban art flourishing with its street murals, designers, and boutiques. Then, cycle through Carolina Park, spread over 165 acres (66 ha). Finish the tour in Iñaquito and visit the Mercado to sample street food, followed by a look around the green space and murals of Isla Tortuga Park.

In the afternoon, learn about and taste Ecuador's traditional cooking with dishes such as locro de papa (potato stew), bolon de verde (plantain dumplings), and encocado de pescado (fish in coconut sauce). Meet a local Quito chef for a trip to a market to buy the ingredients needed for each dish. Discover the recipes and follow the steps to create a memorable meal.

Day 3: Fly to the Galápagos, Santa Cruz Highlands & Charles Darwin Station

Giant tortoise in the highlands of Santa Cruz
See giant tortoises in the highlands of Isla Santa Cruz

In the morning, your driver will pick you up at your hotel and take you to the airport in Quito, where you'll catch your flight to the Galápagos Islands. Upon arrival at the airport on Isla Baltra, your guide will welcome you, and you'll take the public shuttle bus to the Itabaca Channel, where you'll cross by ferry. With your guide, visit the highlands of Isla Santa Cruz, where you can observe giant tortoises in their natural habitat and explore the impressive lava tunnels that dot the area. After lunch, head across the island to the southern coast, where you'll stay in Puerto Ayora for the next few days.

Puerto Ayora is the seat of the Charles Darwin Foundation and its research station, where you can observe giant tortoise and iguana species. Witness the tireless efforts of conservationists and learn about how they are helping to repopulate the island with different tortoise species.

Day 4: Excursion to an Uninhabited Island

Blue-footed boobies
See blue-footed boobies waddle on Seymour Norte

Of the many islands in the Galápagos archipelago, only four have permanent settlements. The others are wild and the habitat of many endemic species. Visits to these islands are highly regulated and are limited to small groups. Yet you'll have the opportunity to check out one of these untamed islands when you board a modern yacht for a 2.5-hour ride to one of the following islands: Bartolomé, Seymour Norte, Plazas Sur, or Santa Fé

Every island has a different landscape and unique flora and fauna. For example, on Santa Fé, you'll see the Santa Fé iguana. Whereas colonies of sea lions, frigate birds, and blue-footed boobies populate Seymour Norte. On board the yacht, lunch will be served, and later, snorkel at a nearby bay or beach. After an exciting day, you'll return to Puerto Ayora.
Plan your trip to Galapagos Islands
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 5: Guided Hike to Tortuga Bay

Marine iguanas at Tortuga Bay
Marine iguanas posing near Tortuga Bay

There is still much more to explore on Isla Santa Cruz, so today, you'll head to Tortuga Bay, one of the most beautiful beaches in the Galápagos. It's a pleasant 45-minute walk through a prickly pear (opuntia) cactus forest. Sunbathe, swim, or snorkel, and watch out for marine iguanas and Darwin's finches. 

The afternoon is yours at leisure. Visit Las Grietas for more snorkeling, do some souvenir shopping, or rent bikes and explore the highlands on your own.

Day 6: Transfer to Isla Isabela, Snorkel at Los Túneles

Watching out for wildlife while snorkeling
Snorkel alongside the local wildlife on Isla Isabela

Meet your guide in the morning for a ride to the dock in Puerto Ayora. From there, catch a two-hour speedboat to Isla Isabela. You'll arrive at Puerto Villamil, your base for three days, and check in at your hotel. Once settled, go to Los Túneles, famous for its unique geological formations, like lava-formed arches below and above water.

This area is excellent for swimming and snorkeling, as you can encounter a huge variety of wildlife in the shallow waters. Keep your eyes open for seahorses, colorful fish, rays, turtles, and whitetip reef sharks. You might also spot some penguins or blue-footed boobies sitting on the rocks. After the excursion, you'll return by boat to Puerto Villamil.

Day 7: Explore Isla Isabela by Bike, Free Afternoon

Biking on Isabela Island
Bike to Flamingo Lagoon to see large flocks of its namesake birds

Today, bike along the coastal roads of Isla Isabela, stopping at various viewpoints and beaches, such as Playa del Amor (Love Beach), which is home to a huge population of marine iguanas. Continue pedaling to reach the famous Muro de las Lagrimas (Wall of Tears), a historic landmark on Isla Isabela. Prisoners of the penal colony built this wall on the island, and it is said that hundreds of people lost their lives during its construction, hence the name. Upon returning to Puerto Villamil, make a last stop to explore the diverse environment at Flamingo Lagoon.

The afternoon is free to explore, so take a stroll along the boardwalk through mangroves out to La Concha Perla. Bring snorkeling gear, as this small beach with brilliant turquoise waters is full of marine life. Or, visit the Tortoise Breeding Center. Later, watch the sunset over snacks and drinks at the Iguana Point Bar, with a terrace overlooking the beach. 

Day 8: Kayak & Snorkel at Las Tintoreras, Free Afternoon

Kayaking around Las Tintoreras
Kayak with penguins at Las Tintoreras

Another day of adventure awaits as you set off this morning to explore Las Tintoreras Islet by kayak. This area's small volcanic islets are thriving with wildlife. Be on the lookout for penguins, marine iguanas, sea lions, and blue-footed boobies. If you're up for it, go snorkeling in the turquoise water, and explore more of the underwater world as you glide alongside colorful fish, sea turtles, rays, and penguins. 

Day 9: Fly to Isla San Cristóbal, Interpretation Center & Tijeretas Hill

Isla San Cristóbal's opuntia cactus fields

A driver will pick you up at your hotel and escort you to the small airport of Isabela, where you'll take an island hopper plane to Isla San Cristóbal. Enjoy this 45-minute panoramic flight over the archipelago. At San Cristóbal Airport, another driver will be waiting for you to take you to your hotel, where you can get settled in before exploring the island.

Start by learning more about the islands and their conservation efforts with a visit to the local interpretation center. Then, start to see some of the archipelagos' wildlife in their natural habitats while hiking Las Tijeretas Hill, named for the colorful red-breasted tijeretas (frigatebirds) that inhabit the area. Cool off afterward with some snorkeling, where you're sure to spot more sea lions, sea turtles, and colorful fish. 

Day 10: Visit Punta Pitt

Blue-footed boobies
Visit Punta Pitt to see a variety of seabirds, including three species of boobies

Considered one of the most beautiful and impressive sites in the Galápagos, Punta Pitt features one of the favorite nesting sites for seabirds in the Galápagos. Here, you'll be able to see all three species of boobies (blue-footed, red-footed, and Nazca boobies), as well as frigatebirds, who all have their nesting sites in the same area. After some hiking, wildlife observation, and enjoying the view, you'll have the chance to snorkel in the bay to experience the impressive marine life of the area. After returning to your hotel, you'll have the rest of the afternoon free.

Day 11: Standup Paddleboarding Excursion, Free Afternoon 

SUP along the coastline of San Cristobal
The coastline of Isla San Cristóbal

Celebrate the final full day of your vacation with a fun standup paddleboarding tour. Paddle through crystal-clear water to visit some of the island's loveliest beaches, and watch out for the ever-present sea lions, rays, sea turtles, and other marine life that thrives along the coastline of Isla San Cristóbal. 

In the afternoon, you'll have free time to savor your last day with some sunbathing, snorkeling, or swimming at one of the many idyllic local beaches. If you want something more active, go surfing or kayaking at Playa Mann, an excellent spot to watch an unforgettable sunset.

Day 12: Snorkel at La Lobería, Depart Isla San Cristóbal

Snorkel at La Lobería
Farewell Galapagos!

It's your final day in the Galápagos, but the adventure's not quite over yet. Spend this morning snorkeling and swimming next to playful sea lions at La Lobería Beach. Later on, your driver will pick you up from your hotel and transfer you to San Cristóbal Airport, where you'll catch your departing flight. Safe travels!

More Great Galápagos Islands Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to the Galápagos Islands? Check out these Galápagos itineraries, explore other ways to spend 12 days in the Galápagos, and discover the best time to visit the Galápagos.


Map of Complete Galápagos & Quito - 12 Days
Map of Complete Galápagos & Quito - 12 Days