- Come face-to-face with colonies of sea lions and tropical birds
- Explore the volcanic landscapes of Kicker Rock and Sierra Negra
- Bike along a coastline that spans mangrove forests and beaches
- Hike alongside giant tortoises in the El Chato Reserve
- Snorkel in the stunning lava formations of Los Túneles
The Galápagos Islands are known for one of the highest concentrations of endemic and unique wildlife in the world, having been the site of Charles Darwin's many breakthrough discoveries back in the 19th-century. Every day, you will get a chance to come in close contact with animals like sea lions, giant tortoises, boobies, iguanas, rays, and a variety of tropical birds and fish.
This itinerary has a degree of flexibility based on how much time remains in each day, and also leaves an entire day for you to explore the Galápagos at your own pace. The trip starts and ends in Quito on mainland Ecuador, with domestic flights to and from the islands. Since many parts of the tour can be somewhat rigorous, this option is great for adventurous travelers who are physically fit and have a passion for nature.
|Day 1||Arrive in Quito||Quito|
|Day 2||Travel to Isla San Cristóbal & the Galápagos||Isla San Cristóbal|
|Day 3||Snorkel at Kicker Rock & Visit Cerro Brujo||Isla San Cristóbal|
|Day 4||Bike Across Isla Isabela||Isla Isabela|
|Day 5||Hike the Sierra Negra Volcano & Kayak in Tintoreras||Isla Isabela|
|Day 6||Diving & Snorkeling at Isla Isabela||Isla Isabela|
|Day 7||Isla Santa Cruz, Charles Darwin Research Station & Highlands||Isla Santa Cruz|
|Day 8||Free Day on Isla Santa Cruz||Isla Santa Cruz|
|Day 9||Return to Quito||Quito|
|Day 10||Depart from Quito|
Day 1: Arrive in Quito
Welcome to Quito, the capital city of Ecuador! One of the largest and best-preserved colonial cities in South America and once an important Inca settlement, Quito's beautifully-preserved historic center was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978. If you arrive earlier in the day, you can organize a quick tour and spend your first day exploring Quito and the surrounding area.
In the evening, one of your trip leaders will meet you at the hotel for a welcome briefing, discuss the trip details, and answer any questions you may have regarding the adventure. Once you are well-informed, take the rest of the night to rest and acclimate.
Day 2: Travel to Isla San Cristóbal & the Galapagos
Today, get ready to explore the Pacific coast's most fascinating archipelago: the Galápagos Islands. Board a morning flight from Quito to the island of San Cristóbal. Once you've arrived, transfer to your hotel for a briefing before the adventure begins.
In the afternoon you will head to La Loberia, the beach home to a colony and nursery of Galápagos sea lions. The area is teeming with wildlife, so keep your eyes peeled for frigatebirds, yellow warblers, and several species of Darwin finches along the coast. If you're lucky you might even spot a rare endemic marine iguana between the rocks. If there is extra time, try snorkeling in the crystal-clear waters, or just lounge on the beach.
Day 3: Snorkel at Kicker Rock & Visit Cerro Brujo
In the morning, you will take a speedboat to Kicker Rock, also known as Leon Dormido (Sleeping Lion) due to its resemblance. This popular site is located off the coast of Isla San Cristóbal and consists of the remains of an eroded lava cone. Navigate between two vertical rocks 500 feet (152 m) above the ocean, and discover communities of frigatebirds, boobies, and other tropical birds that can be seen in the skies and along the rocky coastline. Beneath the sea, colorful tropical fish and various shark species also thrive.
After lunch, you will visit Cerro Brujo, an island especially known for its friendly and curious sea lions. Cerro Brujo also offers great snorkeling opportunities as well as the chance to see blue-footed and Nazca boobies.
Day 4: Mountain Bike Across Isla Isabela
In the morning, you will take a short flight to Isla Isabela, the largest island in the archipelago and the center of volcanic activity in the Galápagos. Isabela was formed by six volcanoes, five of which are still active. During your island crossing, be on the lookout for whales and dolphins (if you happen to visit between July and October).
In the afternoon, hop on a mountain bike to explore the beautiful coastline on an exclusive trail that traverses various ecosystems and wildlife habitats. Start with a visit to the Wall of Tears, a massive barrier of lava rocks built by prisoners in the 1950s, when Isla Isabela was a penal colony.
As you continue down the coast, enjoy the scenery of pristine beaches, mangrove forests, and hidden lagoons. This area is filled with rare birds, including American oystercatchers, herons, flamingoes, and finches. Sea lions and marine iguanas can also be spotted. Finally, watch the breathtaking sunset on the beach of Puerto Villamil before enjoying dinner.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 5: Hike the Sierra Negra Volcano & Kayak in Tintoreras
Drive up from Puerto Villamil to the trailhead today and prepare your backpack for a hike through a young forest ecosystem. Trek until you reach the rim of the active Sierra Negra volcano, which most recently erupted in 2005. Upon arrival, take in the stunning views and walk around the border of the enormous, lava-filled crater which spans more than 6 miles (10 km) wide.
If you have more energy, continue hiking to the Chico volcano, known for its dramatic lava formations and spouting fumaroles. This hike is a great way to see the incredible geological events that created the Galápagos Islands over thousands of years. In the afternoon, return to Puerto Villamil and go kayaking in Tintoreras, where you'll encounter sea lions, penguins, turtles, and marine iguanas.
Day 6: Diving & Snorkeling on Isla Isabela
Today, explore the recent lava formations that have been featured in BBC and National Geographic documentaries. Explore labyrinths of lava arches and dive into crystal-clear water full of sea turtles, fish, eagle rays, sea lions, whitetip reef sharks, and more. Make your way from the mangroves to the open sea through Los Túneles and take some time to enjoy one of the best snorkeling spots in the Galápagos (which also occasionally hosts penguin populations).
Since the trip is flexible, you can take part in other optional activities like surfing lessons or snorkeling at Concha de Perla—or just unwind on Isabela's stunning white-sand beaches. But don't miss the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center!
Day 7: Isla Santa Cruz, Charles Darwin Research Station & Highlands
In the morning, embark on a boat from Isabela to Isla Santa Cruz. Once you arrive, check in at the hotel and visit the Charles Darwin Research Station to learn more about the native species you've encountered, as well as the ongoing conservation and management efforts on the Galápagos Islands.
In the afternoon, head to the El Chato Reserve in the highlands of Santa Cruz, where you can spot iconic Galápagos tortoises in their natural habitat. Hiking through El Chato's beautiful scenery alongside tortoises is an unforgettable experience, and you may also come across pintail ducks, egrets, flycatchers, and finches. At a freshwater lake, you can even observe frigatebirds gathering to wash the salt off their feathers. In the evening, return to Puerto Ayora, the Galápagos' most populous town.
Day 8: Free Day on Isla Santa Cruz
Today, explore the Galápagos at your own pace for a refreshing change. You can go on a self-guided exploration walk (3.5 mi/5.6 km) through a dry forest to Tortuga Bay, a beautiful white-sand beach ideal for swimming or snorkeling. It's also a nesting area for thousands of marine turtles. Alternatively, you can pay small additional fees and join optional activities such as a trip to Isla Floreana, Isla Bartolomé, or an excellent scuba diving spot.
Day 9: Return to Quito
After a final breakfast on the Galápagos Islands and a last chance to take some photos, transfer to Isla Baltra's airport in time to catch your flight back to the Ecuadorian mainland. Take the rest of the day to recover and stroll around Quito.
Day 10: Depart from Quito
Although your journey comes to an end today, your memories will last far longer. Head to the airport for your departing flight, and buen viaje!
More Great Galápagos Itineraries
Looking for more inspiration for your trip to the Galápagos? Check out these other Galápagos itineraries, explore different ways to spend 10 days in the Galápagos, or discover the best time to visit the Galápagos.