- 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 Tuneles
The Galapagos 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 Galapagos 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 Galapagos||San Cristobal|
|Day 3||Snorkel at Kicker Rock and visit Cerro Brujo||San Cristobal|
|Day 4||Bike across Isabela Island||Puerto Villamil|
|Day 5||Hike Sierra Negra Volcano and kayak in Tintoreras||Puerto Villamil|
|Day 6||Diving and snorkeling at Isabela Island||Puerto Villamil|
|Day 7||Santa Cruz, Charles Darwin Research Station and the Highlands||Puerto Ayora|
|Day 8||Free Day in Santa Cruz||Puerto Ayora|
|Day 9||Back 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 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 the 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 San Cristobal, Galapagos
Today, get ready to explore the Pacific coast's most fascinating archipelago: the Galapagos Islands. Board a morning flight from Quito to the island of San Cristóbal. Once you've arrived, transfer to your hotel in the town of Puerto Moreno 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 Galapagos sea lions. The area is teeming with wildlife, so keep your eyes peeled for frigate birds, yellow warblers, and several species of Darwin finches along the coast. If you're lucky you might even spot a rare indigenous 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 and Visit Cerro Brujo
In the morning, you will take a speedboat to Kicker Rock, nicknamed "Leon Dormido" ("Sleeping Lion") due to its resemblance. This popular site is located off the coast of San Cristobal, and consists of the remains of an eroded lava cone. Navigate between two vertical rocks 500 feet above the ocean, and discover communities of frigate birds, 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 Isabela Island
In the morning, you will take a short flight to Isabela Island, the largest in the archipelago and the center of volcanic activity in the Galapagos. 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 ecosystem 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 Isabela Island 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, flamingos, 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.
Day 5: Hiking the Sierra Negra Volcano and Kayaking in Tintoreras
Drive up from Puerto Villamil to the trailhead and prepare your backpack for a hike through a young forest ecosystem. Trek until you reach the rim of the active Sierra Negra Crater, 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 six miles wide.
If you have more energy, continue hiking to Volcan Chico, known for its dramati lava formations and spouting fumaroles. This hike is a great way to see the incredible geological events that created the Galapagos 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 and Snorkeling on Isabela Island
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, white-tipped reef sharks, and more. Make your way from the mangroves to the open sea through Los Tuneles and take some time to enjoy one of the best snorkeling spots in the Galapagos (which also occasionally hosts penguin populations).
Since the trip is flexible, you can take part in other optional activities like surfing lessons or snorkel 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: Santa Cruz, Charles Darwin Research Station and the Highlands
In the morning, embark on a boat from Isabela to Santa Cruz Island. 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 Galapagos Islands.
In the afternoon, head to the El Chato Reserve in the highlands of Santa Cruz, where you can spot iconic Galapagos 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 frigate-birds gathering to wash the salt off their feathers. In the evening, return to Puerto Ayora, the Galapagos' most populous town.
Day 8: Free Day in Santa Cruz
Today, explore the Galapagos at your pace for a refreshing change. You can go on a self-guided exploration walk (3.5 miles) 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 Floreana Island, Bartolome Island, or an excellent scuba-diving spot.
Day 9: Return to Quito
After your final breakfast on the Galapagos Islands and a last chance to take some photos, transfer to 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!"