- Visit the equator at the Mitad del Mundo monument
- See an organic coffee farm and learn how coffee is produced
- Explore the uninhabited islands of the Galápagos
- Get to know giant tortoises at the Charles Darwin Research Station
|Arrive in Quito, Transfer to Otavalo & Tour Peguche
|Explore Otavalo & Cuicocha, Transfer to Quito, Mitad del Mundo Visit
|Fly to the Galápagos, Santa Cruz Highlands & Bike Ride
|Isla Santa Cruz
|Visit an Organic Coffee Farm, Kayaking at Garrapatero Beach
|Isla Santa Cruz
|Excursion to an Uninhabited Island
|Isla Santa Cruz
|Explore Another Uninhabited Island
|Isla Santa Cruz
|Charles Darwin Research Station & Tortoise Breeding Center, Bay Tour
|Isla Santa Cruz
|Relax on Tortuga Bay Beach, Return to Quito
|Quito City Tour, Depart Ecuador
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 1: Arrive in Quito, Transfer to Otavalo & Tour Peguche
Welcome to Ecuador! Upon arriving at Quito's airport, your private driver will pick you up and take you to the Andean town of Otavalo, where you'll spend the night. Settle into your accommodation, then head to the small town of Peguche, famous for its waterfall, handicraft shops, and workshops. The waterfall is a sacred place for the Indigenous people of Peguche and is often a venue for spiritual and traditional events. Stop along the way to visit weavers, instrument makers, and other local artists in the area.
Day 2: Explore Otavalo & Cuicocha, Transfer to Quito, Mitad del Mundo Visit
Start your morning with a stroll through the bustling market of Otavalo. You can find everything here: traditional food, handmade jewelry, clothes, and more. Dive into the scents, the colors, and the sounds while walking through the narrow passageways. Next, head to Cuicocha Lagoon, located at the base of Cotacachi volcano, formed during an eruption approximately 3,000 years ago. Follow a trail on the crater rim that leads to viewpoints with your guide. You can also hike around the lake, which takes approximately four to five hours, or ride a boat that stops on the lagoon's lush islands.
After you have enjoyed your time in Otavalo and its surroundings, your driver will pick you up and accompany you back to Quito, where you'll spend your afternoon visiting the Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World) monument. Here, you'll have the chance to stand simultaneously in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. A French expedition identified the location of the equator here in 1736, although the actual equator is located around 656 feet (200 m) to the north. Take some photos of the monument and visit the various exhibition halls surrounding it, such as the Intiñán Museum.
Day 3: Fly to the Galápagos, Santa Cruz Highlands & Bike Ride
Your driver will pick you up at your hotel this morning and bring you to Quito's Mariscal Sucre International Airport, where you'll catch your flight to the Galápagos Islands. After arriving at the airport on Isla Baltra, your guide will welcome you, and you'll take the public shuttle bus until you reach the Itabaca Channel, which you will cross by ferry.
The first stop of the day will take you and your guide into the highlands of Isla Santa Cruz, where you can observe giant tortoises in their natural habitat. You can also explore the impressive lava tunnels that dot the area. After a healthy meal, your driver will take you across the island to the southern coast, where the town of Puerto Ayora is located. For the last leg of your journey, enjoy a 45-minute bike ride to Puerto Ayora. This route will take you down the island's slopes and through Scalesia forests, unique to the Galápagos.
Day 4: Visit an Organic Coffee Farm, Kayaking at Garrapatero Beach
Kick off your time in Isla Santa Cruz with a visit to a coffee farm near Puerto Ayora, where you'll have the chance to sample the island's famed coffee. This is no average plantation: the farm is also part of a social responsibility program, as its activities contribute to the conservation of plants and soil. You'll meet Galápagos growers and learn about the entire process of gathering, drying, and peeling coffee beans, as well as preparing them for sale. You'll also have the opportunity to purchase your own bag of coffee to take a tasty souvenir of the Galápagos home with you.
Later, enjoy some time at the island's beautiful Garrapatero Beach. Take a walk along the shore, and explore the shallow waters and coves by kayak. Watch for sea lions, iguanas, marine birds, and colorful Sally Lightfoot crabs.
Day 5: Excursion to an Uninhabited Island
Of the many islands in the Galápagos archipelago, only four have permanent settlements. The others are wild and are the natural habitat of many endemic species. Visits to these islands are highly regulated by Park Authorities and are limited to small groups. Today, you'll have the chance to visit one of these untamed islands. Aboard a modern yacht with a small group of 15 people, you'll take a 1.5 to 2.5-hour ride to one of the following islands: Bartolomé, Seymour Norte, Plaza Sur, or Santa Fé. The island you visit will depend on park permits, the boat's schedule, and your preferences.
Every island has a different landscape and unique flora and fauna. For example, on Isla Santa Fé, you'll have the chance to see the Santa Fé iguana while colonies of sea lions, frigatebirds, and blue-footed boobies populate Seymour Norte. On board the yacht, a warm meal will be served, and in the afternoon, you'll have the chance to snorkel at a nearby bay or beach. After an exciting day, return to Puerto Ayora around 4-5 pm.
Day 6: Explore Another Uninhabited IslandUse today to visit another beautiful uninhabited island. This will be different from the one you visited on yesterday's excursion—unless you'd prefer to make a repeat trip! Keep your eyes peeled for iguanas, sea lions, turtles, sea birds, and much more as you relax and enjoy the day before returning to Puerto Ayora.
Day 7: Charles Darwin Research Station & Tortoise Breeding Center, Bay Tour
This morning, visit the Charles Darwin Research Station. This is an unmissable opportunity to learn about the vital work being done to preserve the archipelago's ecosystems. One example is a breeding program for Galápagos tortoises, whose numbers have been declining since the 1970s. These enormous reptiles are very accustomed to humans, so be sure to bring your camera for some close-ups. The research station is home to turtles ranging from 3-inch (8 cm) hatchlings to 4-foot (1.2 m) long adults. The babies are kept until they are about four years old and strong enough to survive on their own.
Later, enjoy a relaxed and laid-back half-day tour of Isla Santa Cruz's bays. You'll be taken to a couple of hidden bays and beaches where you can snorkel, sunbathe, or wander around: the perfect lazy afternoon!
Day 8: Relax on Tortuga Bay Beach, Return to Quito
There is still much more to explore on Isla Santa Cruz, and today you'll head to Tortuga Bay Beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in the Galápagos. It's a 45-minute walk—approximately 1.5 miles (2.5 km) each way—down a long path leading through a prickly pear (opuntia) cactus forest. You can sunbathe, swim, or snorkel here and watch for marine iguanas and Darwin's finches. If you'd like, you could also rent kayaks.
When the time comes, return to your hotel, pack your things, and prepare for your flight back to mainland Ecuador. Your driver will pick you up at your hotel and bring you back to the Itabaca Channel, which you will cross once again by ferry. Upon arrival back in Quito, a driver will take you to your hotel in the city, and the rest of the evening is at your leisure.
Day 9: Quito City Tour, Depart Ecuador
Explore Quito on a private tour today, and see why its historic center was one of the first designated UNESCO World Heritage sites in 1978. Not only does it have plenty of natural beauty, 17th-century colonial architecture, and unique culture, but it's also one of the highest capitals in the world at 9,350 feet (2,850 m) above sea level.
With your local guide, visit La Compañía de Jesús, a church with a spectacular gold-covered interior, and the neo-Gothic La Basílica del Voto. You'll also take a walk down La Ronda, one of the oldest streets in the city, and then head to Panecillo Hill for skyline views. Feel free to ask your guide for local recommendations along the way (including restaurants) that you can explore after the tour is complete. Then, it's time to say goodbye to Ecuador. Your driver will transfer you to Quito's airport for your departure. Safe travels!
More Great Galápagos Islands Itineraries
Looking for more inspiration for your trip to the Galápagos? Check out these other Galápagos itineraries, explore other ways to spend nine days in the Galápagos, and discover the best time to visit the Galápagos.