- Spot wildlife from your Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest lodge
- Climb into the jungle canopy and paddle down the Río Napo by canoe
- Embark on a seven-day cruise through the Galápagos Islands
- Snorkel, swim, and hike around volcanic landscapes and pristine beaches
- See giant Galápagos tortoises, marine iguanas, and blue-footed boobies
|Arrive in Quito
|Fly to Yasuní National Park, Walk the Matapalo Trail
|Yasuní National Park
|Visit an Observation Tower, Explore Rainforest Trails
|Yasuní National Park
|Mandi Forest Adventure, Garzacocha Lagoon, Night Walk
|Yasuní National Park
|Fly to Quito, Visit Mitad del Mundo
|Fly to the Galápagos, Transfer to Cruise Ship
|Cruise to Punta Moreno & Urbina Bay
|Cruise to Punta Espinoza & Vicente Roca
|Cruise to Puerto Egas & Rabida Red Beach
|Cruise to Black Turtle Cove, Relax at Bachas Beach
|Cruise to Isla Genovesa, Darwin Bay Flooded Crater
|Cruise to Isla Bartolomé, Explore Sullivan Bay
|Giant Tortoises in El Chato Reserve, Disembark Ship & Depart
Day 1: Arrive in Quito
Welcome to Ecuador! On arrival, your private driver will be waiting to transfer you to your accommodation in Ecuador's capital, Quito. Situated between mountain peaks, the city stands at an altitude of 9,350 feet (2,850 m), making it the second-highest capital in the world. Its UNESCO-listed historic center boasts buzzing nightlife, well-preserved architecture, and busy market stands, and, when you need a break from exploring, the local cuisine is fantastic, with fried plantain, ceviche (fish cured in citrus juice), and fanesca (a stew) being some options.If you have the energy after your journey, you've got time to explore Quito today. You could wander around the historic buildings in the Old Town as well as its ornate churches. The Baroque Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús is a highlight, with a central nave decorated in gold leaf and wooden carvings. There are also hiking trails right from the city, more than 50 museums to look around, and the TelefériQo cable car, which takes you to a height of 12,943 feet (3,945 m) on the slopes of the Pichincha volcano.
Day 2: Fly to Yasuní National Park, Walk the Matapalo Trail
Today is the big day when you'll travel into the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest. You'll catch a flight to Puerto Francisco de Orellana, also known as Coca, where your adventure begins. From here, guides will take you along the Río Napo in motorized and paddle canoes to enter Yasuní National Park. The Equator, Andes, and Amazon biomes meet within the park, supporting thousands of unique species of mammals, plants, insects, reptiles, and amphibians. Before you head out to explore, a guide will give you an introduction to the area so you can fully appreciate the individuality of the park.Then, set out into the rainforest along the Matapalo Trail for a two-hour walk alongside naturalist guides who will point out some of the region's highlights, such as towering mahogany trees, eastern Ecuadorian squirrel monkeys scampering in the canopy, and tree frogs endemic to the area. Be sure to keep an eye out for strangler figs, too, as they're the trail's namesake. After your hike, head back to your lodge to relax or kayak and swim in a lagoon if you still have the energy. Enjoy a well-deserved dinner after your busy day.
Day 3: Visit an Observation Tower, Explore Rainforest Trails
Today you'll get a bird's-eye view of the rainforest canopy from a 118-foot (36 m) observation tower. To reach it, you'll travel on Challuacocha Lake for half an hour, followed by a short 10-minute walk. Species of birds that have been spotted here include macaws, toucans, honeycreepers, tanagers, flycatchers, and hummingbirds. If you're lucky, you may get close to howler monkeys, squirrel monkeys, and sloths resting in the canopy. Afterward, you'll explore the nearby trails searching for more Amazonian creatures.
After lunch at the lodge, you could relax and do some bird-watching from the dining hall or spend some time lounging in the hammocks. Later, hike the Chorongo or Coto Trail, which will take around three hours and take you through the region's remarkable terra firme forest. Orchids, vines, strangler figs, ancient trees, and bromeliads are all part of this tropical rainforest, and you'll discover the relationships between the different living creatures and the role they play in this complex ecosystem. Enjoy dinner in the lodge and then head out again on a night walk to see insects, spiders, and frogs come to life after dark.
Day 4: Mandi Forest Adventure, Garzacocha Lagoon, Night Walk
During your last full day in the Amazon, you'll have the chance to spot animals you haven't seen yet. Start off with a three-to-four-hour hike through the forest to a lagoon called Mandi Cocha. As you walk, keep an eye out for tapirs and other mammals. At the lagoon, hop into a canoe to explore the blackwater-flooded forest. Seasonally, freshwater from the rain floods the forest, creating a temporary world where trees rise out of the still water and animals, like the rare giant otter, visit looking for fish.
Later on, hike to the nearby Garzacocha Lagoon to search for animals around the lake. You might spot groups of squirrels and capuchin monkeys in the trees or hear the shouts of howler monkeys reverberating off the water. You'll find plenty of birds in this area and might see colorful hoatzins, toucans, macaws, and other species. Once night falls, grab a flashlight and follow your guide on a night walk to find the creatures that normally hide during the day. Be on the lookout for praying mantises, tree frogs, snakes, and even nine-banded armadillos and kinkajous.
Day 5: Fly to Quito, Visit Mitad del Mundo
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Bid the Amazon farewell as you transfer to Coca in the morning to catch a flight back to Quito, where your driver will be waiting to transfer you to your hotel. Once you've checked in and freshened up, your guide will accompany you on a drive just outside the city to visit the equatorial monument known as Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World).
Located about 16 miles (26 km) north of Quito, this is where French scientists determined the position of the central line many years ago (though modern GPS technology shows the actual location of the equator to be slightly to the north). Stand on the equator line, with one foot in each hemisphere, for the ultimate photo op. You can also visit the site's Museum of Ethnology, planetarium, art exhibits, a small-scale model of Quito, an old train station, a beer museum, cocoa and chocolate exhibits, and a small chapel.
Day 6: Fly to the Galápagos, Transfer to Cruise Ship
Today marks the start of your Galápagos Islands adventure, so pack your bags and head to the airport in Quito in the morning. Upon arrival at Isla Baltra, you'll hop over to neighboring Isla Santa Cruz, where a transfer awaits to take you to a comfortable catamaran cruise ship—your base for a week of discovery and exploration in the archipelago.
Day 7: Cruise to Punta Moreno & Urbina Bay
Strike out on your first full day of cruising, traveling first to Moreno Point on the west coast of Isla Isabela. Here, as you explore, you can admire the fresh, green shoots of pioneer vegetation, which starkly contrast with the black lava landscape. As you look around, keep an eye out for wildlife in the island's biodiverse tidal pools.
After lunch, you'll head to the west coast of Isabela to Urbina Bay. Nature is larger-than-life here, and the coastal plain at Urbina Bay is home to wild prehistoric giants, such as the largest land iguanas on Earth. You may also see giant tortoises. Optional activities today will include hiking and snorkeling to discover more of the underwater world.
Day 8: Cruise to Punta Espinoza & Vicente Roca
First thing today, you'll be taken to Espinoza Point on Isla Fernandina, where you will see some of the world's most bizarre animal species—so have your camera ready! A highlight will be spotting the flightless cormorant, which after thousands of years isolated here, lost the ability to fly and has evolved to use its wings like fins for swimming. This species was integral to Charles Darwin's theories on evolution, and it remains a remarkable symbol of the isolated Galápagos ecosystem.
Day 9: Cruise to Puerto Egas & Rabida Red Beach
You're in for a wildlife treat today as, in the morning, you'll travel to Puerto Egas on Isla Santiago. This is the best place in the archipelago to observe Galápagos fur seals, though if you're lucky, you may also spot marine iguanas, crabs, and various birds such as herons and hawks.
You'll visit the unpopulated Isla Rabida later in the day, with its fantastic red sand beach. Here you're likely to be greeted on arrival by its large bachelor colony of Galápagos sea lions, as well as its resident pelicans.
Day 10: Cruise to Black Turtle Cove, Relax at Bachas Beach
You'll explore Black Turtle Cove on the north shore of Isla Santa Cruz from a dinghy this morning. Here, you can observe sea turtles and sharks from the quiet lagoon and surrounding mangrove forests.
After you've eaten lunch, you'll visit the nearby Bachas Beach, a lovely bay with soft, white coral sand that sea turtles frequent. You can spend some time at leisure here, relaxing on the sand, swimming, or exploring and spotting more wildlife. If you feel like investigating farther afield, take a walk to a lagoon near the beach, where you'll be able to see colorful flocks of flamingoes.
Day 11: Cruise to Isla Genovesa, Darwin Bay Flooded Crater
The UK's Prince Philip enjoyed visiting the Galápagos Islands, and this morning, you can follow in his footsteps at his favorite birding spot, Prince Philip's Steps on Isla Genovesa. It's home to the archipelago's largest breeding colonies of red-footed and Nazca boobies. Keep an eye out for the fascinating short-eared owl that hunts on foot here as well.It's well worth the journey this afternoon to reach Darwin Bay, one of the outer islands and most exclusive places in the Galápagos. Its coral beach with tidal pools shows the extremely varied coastal ecosystems of the Galápagos in miniature, and there's a fabulous viewpoint over the cliffs. You'll struggle to fit everything into one visit here, but will have plenty of time to try!
Day 12: Cruise to Isla Bartolomé, Explore Sullivan Bay
Today takes you to the tiny, uninhabited Isla Bartolomé, with its wild, romantic landscape of spatter cones and craters. From its viewpoint, you can see an incredible panorama of the Galápagos stretched out below.Equally impressive is your afternoon destination, Sullivan Bay, on the eastern coast of Isla Santiago. You'll feel like you've landed on the moon as you step onto the recently solidified lava flow here. It feels wild and remote even by Galápagos standards, and you'll want to take plenty of pictures of the lunar-like landscape.
Day 13: Giant Tortoises in El Chato Reserve, Disembark Ship & Depart
On the final morning of your tour, you'll start the day at El Chato Reserve, which extends from Cerro El Chato as far down as the southwestern coast of Isla Santa Cruz. Here, you'll be able to observe giant Galápagos tortoises in their natural habitat. It's a protected area and is where female giant Galápagos tortoises lay their eggs.
More Great Galápagos Islands Itineraries
Looking for more inspiration for your trip to the Galápagos? Check out these other Galápagos itineraries, explore different ways to spend 13 days in the Galápagos, or discover the best time to visit the Galápagos.