- Take a sunset dip before dinner while staying at an Amazonian lodge
- Learn how to make a local bread called cassava with an Indigenous family
- Explore Isla Santa Cruz by bike, stopping at beaches, lava caves, and a coffee farm
- Swim with sea lions on Isla Lobos, as well as manta rays, turtles, and tropical fish
|Arrive in Quito, Explore &Transfer to the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve
|Transfer Overnight to Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve
|Explore the Amazon
|Daytime Indigenous Experience, Nighttime Jungle Tour
|Sunrise Jungle Walk, Transfer to Quito
|Fly to Isla Santa Cruz, Explore on a Bike
|Isla Santa Cruz
|Day Trip to Isla Floreana
|Isla Santa Cruz
|Scuba Diving for Beginners
|Isla Santa Cruz
|Transfer to Isla San Cristóbal, Wildlife Tour at Lobos Island
|Isla San Cristóbal
|Tour of Isla San Cristóbal: Highlights, Beaches & Marine Life
|Isla San Cristóbal
|Volunteer Activities with a Local Community
|Isla San Cristóbal
|Fly to Quito, Depart Ecuador
Day 1: Arrive in Quito, Explore & Transfer to the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve
Welcome to Ecuador! Upon arrival in the capital of Quito, take the rest of the day to explore this historic, high-altitude metropolis at your own pace.
An excellent place to start is by strolling the narrow streets of the city's UNESCO-listed Old Town, either on your own or with a free walking tour. While in the area, make sure to visit an interesting museum, like the Museo de Arte Colonial in a restored colonial mansion, or do some souvenir shopping. You can also explore a lesser-visited neighborhood in Quito, Guapulo, with artsy cafés and a 48-acre (19 ha) public park. Or, take a ride on Quito's sky tram, TelefériQo, and enjoy spectacular views of the city and surrounding mountains from the Pichincha volcano at 13,123 feet (4,000 m).
Before your overnight transfer, fill up with some traditional Ecuadorian food at a restaurant or out on the streets with carts selling fresh fruit juices, empanadas, hornado (roast pork), or cevichochos (vegetarian ceviche). At the appointed time, you'll make your way to the Blue House Youth Hostel to board an overnight shuttle bus that will take you to El Puente del Cuyabeno. This is a small docking station for canoes that transfer visitors to the lodges in the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve.
Day 2: Transfer Overnight to the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve
This morning, continue your overnight transfer until you reach the main entrance to the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve, the last point of civilization, before you enter the Amazon Rainforest. You'll be provided a box lunch before continuing the three-hour journey along the Río Cuyabeno in a motorized canoe to reach the lodge.
With a bit of luck, you'll spot some of the different species of monkeys and other jungle animals, as well as tropical birds, since this section of the river is narrow enough to observe wildlife closely. Once you arrive at the lodge, there will be time to rest, followed by a swim in a lagoon during sunset. After dinner at the lodge, finish your first day in the jungle by relaxing in a hammock or enjoying a cocktail at the bar.
Day 3: Explore the Amazon
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Wake up this morning and take advantage of the early hours of the day. This is the best time to observe the flourishing activities of the Amazon's tropical surroundings. Your guide will share their knowledge with you during a walk in the rainforest, and you'll learn and understand how life in the jungle coexists in a fragile balance. Look along the trail for amphibians, butterflies, centipedes, millipedes, snakes, birds, monkeys, and other mammals and insects.
After lunch at the lodge, you and your guide will take an excursion along the Río Cuyabeno to discover animals that live in the dense forest on the banks of the river, especially monkeys, toucans, and sloths. There'll also be an opportunity to spot river dolphins in the magnificent fluvial landscape. From here, you'll return to the lodge for dinner and free time.
Day 4: Daytime Indigenous Experience, Nighttime Jungle Tour
After breakfast at the lodge, you and your guide will canoe downstream for about an hour in order to visit a family of the Indigenous Tarapuy community. Upon arrival, you'll take a tour and then learn how to prepare cassava, a traditional yuca bread. Not only will you help in the bread's preparation, but you'll also learn how to use the tools of the jungle.
Upon returning to the lodge, lunch will be served. Then take the rest of the afternoon to rest before dinner and your evening outing. This is when you'll take an exciting guided walk through the primary forest to observe nocturnal insects, like spiders, geckos, scorpions, and colorful frogs, accompanied by the distinct nighttime sounds of the jungle.
Day 5: Sunrise Jungle Walk, Transfer to Quito
Start your final morning in the Amazon early with a sunrise jungle hike, spotting colorful birds as the forest comes alive. Take a moment to enjoy the tranquility in this natural paradise before it's time to say goodbye. After breakfast, you'll gather your belongings and prepare to return to civilization. Navigate the river in the opposite direction as you return to the main entrance to the reserve. This is where a shuttle will be waiting to transfer you back to Quito.
You'll arrive in Quito in the evening at the initial meeting point, the Blue House Youth Hostel, and then transfer to your hotel. If there's time, take a walk around the city's historic center and sample the local restaurant scene for dinner.
Day 6: Fly to Isla Santa Cruz, Explore on a Bike
This morning, you'll catch a flight to Isla Santa Cruz of the Galápagos Islands. Upon arrival, purchase a transit control card (TCT), which is required for entry to the island. A private driver will then transfer you to your hotel in Puerto Ayora.
From here, you're free to enjoy the island's beauty at your own pace by bike. You'll have a bike reserved and waiting for you at your hotel so you can set straight off on a two-wheel adventure. There's plenty to explore as Isla Santa Cruz is a dormant volcano that last erupted over 1.5 million years ago. Evidence of this explosive past remains, with black and rusty colored volcanic rocks across the island and lava tunnels you can cycle to and explore.
In the same area as the tunnels, pay a visit to an organic coffee farm called Lava Java for refreshments as you look out to the Pacific Ocean. Then, turn west toward the secluded El Garrapatero beach or continue into the highlands. Back in Puerto Ayora, visit the Fishing Pier to cycle near the sea lions watching the fishermen reel in their catches, as well as pelicans and marine iguanas. There's very light traffic across the island, so you'll often have the roads to yourself. Once you're done, leave the bike at your hotel and enjoy a relaxing evening in town.
Day 7: Day Trip to Isla Floreana
After breakfast at your hotel, you'll be picked up to join a small group tour to the first island on the Galápagos: Isla Floreana, which still holds unsolved mysteries, romantic sites, and vivid history. Once you arrive by ferry, the first destination on the tour is Asilo de la Paz in the highlands, where you'll be able to go to the pirate's cave and a freshwater spring. Next, you'll learn about the first families arriving and settling in the Galápagos Islands and the true story of the infamous baroness who had two lovers and pretended to be the owner of the Island.
Your last stop on the island will be La Lobería along a 2,953 feet (900 m) path where you can see sea lions and marine iguanas. From here, you'll continue to Playa Negra to relax and enjoy some beach time. Depending on the day of your visit, possible activities may include panga rides and snorkeling on Cormorant Point.
Day 8: Scuba Diving for Beginners
After an early breakfast, you'll be picked up from your hotel for a scuba diving excursion off the coast of Santa Cruz. This is an ideal activity for beginners, as you'll only dive in water up to 33 feet (10 m) deep. To get started, the certified instructor will spend time with you to explain the basic principles of scuba diving and give you an overview of your scuba gear. Once you feel comfortable, your instructor will take you to the beach to help you learn basic scuba skills.
Depending on authorization from the National Park of Galápagos, you can visit any of the three different dives sites on the island—all of which have their own thriving populations of rare sea life, including hammerhead sharks, white tip sharks, sea lions, golden rays, sea turtles, fish, and a great variety of marine life.
Day 9: Transfer to Isla San Cristóbal, Wildlife Tour at Isla Lobos
At the appointed time today, you'll catch a speedboat from Isla Santa Cruz to Isla San Cristóbal.
From here, you'll ferry to a small island just off the coast of San Cristóbal called Isla Lobos. The name of this island means "Sea Lion Island" and is appropriately named since jolly (and noisy) sea lions will welcome you to their home with open fins. You'll have many chances to get up close to the friendly creatures as they are generally plentiful here, whether relaxing on the land or swimming with you. Also in the water are manta rays, turtles, and tropical fish. You'll also have time to explore the island's white-sand beaches, home to Sally Lightfoot crabs and blue-footed boobies.
In the afternoon, return by ferry to Isla San Cristóbal and check into your hotel.
Day 10: Tour of Isla San Cristóbal: Highlights, Beaches & Marine Life
Wake up early today and get to know some of the most iconic places on Isla San Cristóbal on a guided tour. If time and weather conditions allow, make an entire loop around the island by boat, beginning at Rosa Blanca, a small bay known for its various beaches. The main attraction is the largest beach at the center of the bay, lined with sand dunes. You can snorkel here to see marine life up close, including sharks, rays, and sea turtles. Later, stop at Punta Pitt for lunch and a local fishing demonstration. Relax onboard as you watch for many endemic bird species, like the red-footed booby.
Then head for Bahía Sardina, a scenic bay home to two white-sand beaches. The water here is also perfect for snorkeling. You'll have a chance to spot (and maybe swim with) sea turtles, rays, and sea lions. Afterward, pass by Cerro Brujo, where you can snap breathtaking photos and look out for birdlife among the rocks. Finally, you'll arrive at Kicker Rock, a large rock formation that is technically an eroded cone of volcanic ash. Reaching 486 feet (148 m), the rock is a refugee for blue-footed boobies, sea lions, hammerhead sharks, sea turtles, and rays.
Day 11: Volunteer Activities with a Local Community
Today you'll have the chance to participate in a beautiful and memorable experience volunteering with a local parish on Isla San Cristóbal called La Soledad, located in the remote highlands. Once you arrive, you'll work alongside locals in a place recognized across the Galápagos for its balanced approach to conservation and human development. Over the course of the day, you'll learn how to make fresh fruit juice from hacienda trees. You'll also make cheese from the local dairy and garlic bread from a traditional stone oven. You'll even get to use your green thumb as you put an endemic plant in the ground of the reserve.
This is a rewarding excursion allowing you to take part in the community's day-to-day activities while leaving a positive footprint! Return to your hotel in the late afternoon for a restful evening.
Day 12: Fly to Quito, Depart EcuadorIt's time to say goodbye to the Galápagos Islands! Make the most of your last few hours on Isla San Cristóbal with some beach time. At the appointed time, a private driver will pick you up at your hotel to transfer you to the airport for your departure flight back to Quito and international connection. Safe travels!
More Great Galápagos Islands Itineraries
Looking for more inspiration for your trip to the Galápagos Islands? Check out these other Galápagos itineraries, with island-hopping cruises, land-based trips, and best-of tours to hit the highlights.