Your eight-day holiday begins in Ecuador's capital, Quito, where you'll get a dose of culture as you visit its key landmarks. Next, jet off to Isla Santa Cruz in the Galápagos Islands to observe giant tortoises and various bird species. Take speedboat rides as you island-hop with grand ocean views, and go snorkeling off Isla Isabela to spot penguins and whitetip sharks. Finally, laze on the beach alongside playful sea lions and colorful Sally Lightfoot crabs.


  • Explore Isla Santa Cruz and its emblematic resident, the giant tortoise
  • Cross cacti forests and mangroves as you rub shoulders with marine iguanas
  • Swim near friendly sea lions and observe blue-footed boobies on Isla Isabela
  • Hike the Sierra Negra volcano and see migratory birds in the Wetlands

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Quito, Relax Quito
Day 2 Guided Quito Tour, Visit the Middle of the World Quito
Day 3 Fly to Isla Santa Cruz, Visit the Giant Galápagos Tortoise Farm Isla Santa Cruz
Day 4 Tortuga Bay Hike & Fausto Llerena Breeding Center Isla Santa Cruz
Day 5 Transfer to Isla Isabela, Tintoreras Boat Tour Isla Isabela
Day 6 Hike the Sierra Negra Volcano, Visit the Wetlands & Breeding Center Isla Isabela
Day 7 Return to Isla Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz Bay Tour Isla Santa Cruz
Day 8 Transfer to Isla Baltra via Los Gemelos, Depart   

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Quito, Relax

Cable car Teleferico
Ride the cable car for views of Quito's cityscape

Welcome to Quito, the capital of Ecuador! Arrive at the Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO), where your driver will meet you to transfer you to your accommodation in the city center, a one-hour trip. Along the way, you'll get a short introduction to Quito's history and a quick briefing on the next day's activities.

Quito sits at a lofty 9,350 feet (2,850 m) above sea level, and its UNESCO-listed historic center welcomes visitors with picturesque plazas situated between mountain peaks. The city has an abundance of market stands, shamanistic healers, fourth-generation hat makers, and a vibrant and sophisticated culinary and nightlife scene.

Day 2: Guided Quito Tour, Visit the Middle of the World

Start your tour of Quito at Independence Square

After breakfast, meet your guide for a tour of Quito's historic center. Start with a visit to Independence Square, where the Presidential Palace, the Cathedral, and El Sagrario Church are located. See the church of La Compañía de Jesús (1605), with its impressive gilt altars, considered one of the finest examples of Baroque art in the Americas. Afterward, visit the church and monastery of San Francisco (1535), the oldest Ecuadorian church. Drive up to the city's highest viewpoint, El Panecillo Hill, where you'll have a spectacular view of the city.

In the afternoon, you'll head 30 minutes outside Quito to the Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World) monument. This is the site where, in 1736, an expedition directed by Charles-Marie de la Condamine made the measurements that marked the spot of the equator. Here, you'll have the rare opportunity to stand in two hemispheres simultaneously. A monument marks the site, and you can take an elevator to the top and visit the excellent ethnographic museum nearby. Around the monument are buildings and restaurants designed to represent those of a typical colonial town. 

Day 3: Fly to Isla Santa Cruz, Visit the Giant Galápagos Tortoise Farm

Quito - Galapagos (Baltra Airport) & Visit to the Giant Galapagos Tortoise Farm
Visit a remote farm on Isla Santa Cruz to admire these gentle giants

A driver will pick you up from your hotel lobby this morning and take you to Quito Airport, where you'll board a three-hour flight to the Galápagos Islands. Upon arrival at the airport on Isla Baltra, a Galápagos National Park guide will welcome you and arrange your transfer to Puerto Ayora, the largest town in the archipelago, located on Isla Santa Cruz. By ferry, you'll cross the beautiful Itabaca Canal, which separates the islands of Baltra and Santa Cruz. 

Later on, you'll take a trip into the highlands of Santa Cruz, where you'll stop at a remote farm for a scenic hike. Here you'll observe giant Galápagos tortoises in their natural habitat. The tortoises are very sensitive, so it is important not to bother, touch or feed these beautiful creatures. Spot different species of Galápagos birds, including the tiny Galápagos rail and, with luck, perhaps the not-so-common vegetarian finch and the endemic subspecies of vermilion flycatcher finches. After your visit, you'll return to Puerto Ayora, where you can relax by the beach.

Day 4: Tortuga Bay Hike & Fausto Llerena Breeding Center

Cross forests of prickly pear to reach the white-sand paradise of Tortuga Bay

Start your day hiking toward the shores of the Pacific Ocean to Tortuga Bay Beach, one of the most beautiful stretches of coast in the archipelago. After an hour's walk, enjoy the soft coral sand and stunning scenery, then continue 10 minutes along the shore to reach a prime swimming spot with calm water. Observe colonies of marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies, and marine birds, as well as mangroves, cacti forests, and unique coastal flora. Spend time on the beach before returning to town by boat. 

After lunch, walk to the Fausto Llerena Breeding Center, where you'll learn about the Galápagos National Park's work and observe tortoises of different species and sizes, as well the local land iguanas. At the interpretation center, enter a special air-conditioned chamber where you'll see the embalmed body of the world-famous tortoise Lonesome George, who is now on exhibition. You'll have the remainder of the day to stroll the town or enjoy the beach.
Plan your trip to Galapagos Islands
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 5: Transfer to Isla Isabela, Tintoreras Boat Tour

Tintoreras Tour
Be on the lookout for whitetip sharks

In the morning, meet at the Puerto Ayora Pier to sail toward Puerto Villamil, a small town on Isla Isabela. During this three-hour ride, there'll be plenty of opportunities to observe marine turtles, manta rays, several species of aquatic birds, dolphins, and perhaps whales (from June to September). Upon arrival at the bay of Puerto Villamil, a  driver will be waiting to take you to your hotel.

Once settled in, you'll return to the pier and set out for Las Tintoreras, a small group of islets formed by lava that provides a remarkable haven for wildlife. Spot marine iguanas, penguins, and sea lions as you traverse this otherwordly volcanic landscape, and observe how cooling magma formed the area's distinctive lava tunnels, now a favorite spot for whitetip sharks (known locally as tintoreras) to bask. 

Day 6: Hike the Sierra Negra Volcano, Visit the Wetlands & Breeding Center

Sierra Negra Volcano
Trek to the Sierra Negra volcano, the second largest of its kind

It's an early start as your driver takes you up to Isla Isabela's highlands before reaching the national park's visitors' control area. From here, it's an easy 1.5-hour walk to get to the rim of the impressive crater of the Sierra Negra volcano, considered the second largest in the world after the Ngorongoro crater in Africa. It has the largest caldera of all the Galápagos volcanoes but is also the shallowest of the Isabela volcanoes at only 328 feet (100 m) deep. It also provides some of the most spectacular views in the Galápagos, showcasing the sheer power of nature.

In the afternoon, hop on a bike to reach Isabela's Arnaldo Tupiza Breeding Center. See giant Galápagos tortoises of different species and sizes. Then pedal along a well-maintained trail leading to the Humedales (Wetlands). You'll be amazed by the impressive scenery of lagoons surrounded by four species of exuberant mangroves and the typical flora of the area. Observe flamingoes and other migratory birds in the lagoons, such as the charrán or the gaviota de Galápagos (lava gull). Finally, reach the beach, where you'll have time to enjoy the surroundings, perhaps in the company of marine iguanas.

Day 7: Return to Isla Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz Bay Tour

Go for a swim among the cliffs of Las Grietas

Say goodbye to Puerto Villamil as you board a speedboat for a return trip to Puerto Ayora. On the way, you'll glide close to the cliffs of Isla Tortuga and observe hundreds of birds, including blue-footed boobies, masked Nazca boobies, frigatebirds, Galápagos gulls, and more. Upon arrival at Puerto Ayora, you'll be greeted and taken to the hotel, where you'll have some time to enjoy the swimming pool with a refreshing drink. Later, take a tour of Puerto Ayora Bay. Stop at Caamaño Islet, then snorkel along La Lobería and observe sea lions, turtles, and colorful fish.

Hike to Shark Channel, a viewpoint where you can see blue sharks from above. Along the way, you'll see lava herons. Visit the beautiful Channel of Love, with its peculiar turquoise color, full of Sally Lightfoot crabs, marine iguanas, and blue-footed boobies. Continue toward Playa de Los Perros, an area of dry forest and rocky ocean shore with breathtaking views. Stop at the narrow, cool-water swimming hole of Las Grietas, where you can swim and snorkel among a jumble of small cliffs and tumbled boulders. Return to the hotel for a well-deserved rest and a farewell dinner.

Day 8: Transfer to Isla Baltra via Los Gemelos, Depart 

Visit to Twin Craters
Look for Darwin's finches as you stop to check out twin craters en route to the airport

On your final morning, a driver will pick you up at your hotel and take you to the airport. But before you get there, you'll visit Los Gemelos, a natural formation on the route to the Itabaca Canal. These twin craters are sinkholes created when the volcanic roof of an empty magma chamber collapsed from tectonic shifts and erosion over time. In this distinctive ecosystem, bromeliads, orchids, mosses, lichens, and many rare bird species thrive. With a bit of luck, you may spot the vermillion flycatcher, several species of Darwin's finches, and short-eared owls.

After this visit, you'll cross the Itabaca Canal, and then an airport bus will take you to the airport in Baltra to catch your flight back to Quito or Guayaquil and on to your final destination. Safe travels!

More Great Galápagos Islands Itineraries

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


Map of Gems of the Galápagos Islands & Quito: Isla Santa Cruz & Isla Isabela - 8 Days
Map of Gems of the Galápagos Islands & Quito: Isla Santa Cruz & Isla Isabela - 8 Days