This fast-paced 11-day itinerary is perfect for travelers who want to make the most of their trip to the Galápagos. The adventure starts in Quito, where you'll explore the colonial architecture of its UNESCO-listed historic center, followed by a visit to a famous South American market. Then hop on a plane and board your cruise to experience 10 of the archipelago's extraordinary volcanic islands and their friendly residents, like blue-footed boobies, marine iguanas, and giant tortoises.


  • Step one foot in each hemisphere at the Mitad del Mundo monument near Quito
  • Spend your first day in the Galápagos snorkeling on a lesser-visited island
  • Hike up a volcano while learning about the archipelago's eruptive history
  • See rare wildlife and marine life on a number of islands with your naturalist guides

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Quito, Explore Quito
Day 2 Quito City Tour, Visit the Mitad del Mundo Monument Quito
Day 3 Day Trip to Otavalo Market & Cooking Class Quito
Day 4 Fly to Isla San Cristóbal, Visit an Interpretation Center, Transfer to Cruise Cruise Ship
Day 5 Explore Isla Santa Fé & Isla Plaza Sur Cruise Ship
Day 6 Explore Isla Seymour Norte, Hike to Chinese Hat Cruise Ship
Day 7 Explore the Twin Craters & Meet Giant Tortoises on Isla Santa Cruz Cruise Ship
Day 8 Explore Moreno Point & Urbina Bay on Isla Isabela Cruise Ship
Day 9 Explore Vicente Roca Point on Isla Isabela & Espinosa Point on Isla Fernandina Cruise Ship
Day 10 Explore Isla Santiago & Isla Rábida Cruise Ship
Day 11 Visit Black Turtle Cove, Transfer to Isla Baltra, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Quito, Explore

Walk around Ecuador's hilly capital at your own pace
Welcome to Quito, the capital of Ecuador! Upon arrival at the airport, meet your driver for a 45-minute private transfer to your hotel in the city center. Take the rest of the day to settle in your room and explore Quito at your own pace. 

At 9,350 feet (2,850 m) above sea level, this is one of the highest cities in the world. Built on the ashes of the northern Inca capital following the 1533 Spanish conquest, Quito is surrounded by majestic Andean peaks, including the restless Pichincha volcano. It's also South America's oldest capital (its historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and you'll be able to visit picturesque plazas, markets, and shops with locally-made textiles, accessories, and other products. At night, walk around cobblestone streets and experience a rich culinary scene.

Day 2: Quito City Tour, Visit the Mitad del Mundo Monument

Return to Quito after your tour and pick a charming place for dinner
After breakfast at your hotel, an English-speaking guide will meet you in the lobby and take you on a morning walking tour of Quito's colonial center, called Old Town. The area has been UNESCO-listed since 1978, thanks, in part, to its colonial-era architecture and squares. Your guide will take you to the Plaza Grande, which is surrounded by shops and restaurants, and Baroque churches like La Compañía de Jesús and La Basílica del Voto. You'll also walk down the oldest street of Quito, La Ronda, a colorful place with many photo opportunities.
Next, head out of town and visit the equatorial monument called Mitad del Mundo (Middle of the World), located just 16 miles (26 km) north of Quito. Here, French scientists determined the position of the central equatorial line many years ago. This is the place to come and step one foot each in two hemispheres. You can also explore museums here, including a planetarium, an ethnographic museum, and a beer museum. Also, look for the small-scale model of Quito city, as well as art galleries, cocoa and chocolate exhibits, and a small chapel for an unforgettable experience.

Day 3: Day Trip to Otavalo Market & Cooking Class

Wander around one of South America's best traditional markets for edibles and colorful textiles
Today is another exciting day trip from Quito, which starts with a guided tour of Otavalo. This laid-back town in Ecuador's northern highlands is the proud homeland of Indigenous Kichwa culture—and many residents still wear traditional clothing and maintain deep-rooted customs. It's no surprise then that Otavalo is home to one of South America's most important traditional markets. Here, Indigenous people of the surrounding areas gather to trade anything from animals and handicrafts to fresh fruit and flowers. Your guide will show you around and introduce you to some of the vendors.

In the afternoon, continue the cultural experience by participating in a cooking class led by a local chef. Learn the traditional processes that go into preparing Ecuadorian meals, and get a first-hand introduction to Andean ingredients, which are all 100% organic and harvested in nearby gardens. After your shared meal, return to Quito and enjoy one more night in the big city before heading to the islands.
Plan your trip to Galapagos Islands
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 4: Fly to Isla San Cristóbal, Visit an Interpretation Center, Transfer to Cruise

Sea lions are a common site along the shores of Isla San Cristóbal
It's time to head to the Galápagos Islands! Your private driver will be waiting for you at your Quito hotel for the transfer to the airport. You'll arrive with plenty of time to prepare for your journey and purchase the transit control card (TCT), which is required for entry into the archipelago. Upon arrival in Isla San Cristóbal, a naturalist guide will meet you for an afternoon excursion.

First, you'll visit the San Cristóbal Interpretation Center, which offers a helpful overview of the formation of Galápagos and its significance in the world, as well as threats and conservation efforts. Next, take a moderate one-hour hike to Tijeretas Hill, where you'll be rewarded with magnificent views of the bay below, as well as frigatebirds nesting in the area. After your hike, your guide will transfer you to the pier to board the cruise in time for a relaxing dinner and restful sleep.

Day 5: Explore Isla Santa Fé & Isla Plaza Sur

Keep an eye out for brown pelicans on Isla Plaza Sur showing off their impressive wingspans
Enjoy breakfast aboard your ship and then set sail for the southeastern part of the Galápagos, specifically Isla Santa Fé, which many consider the oldest island in the archipelago. Here you'll find a number of endemic species like the Galápagos hawk, Galápagos snake, and Galápagos mockingbird, as well as rice rats and one of two species of land iguanas of the islands. Spend some time walking along the island's trails with salt bushes and giant prickly pear cacti. You can also swim and snorkel with playful sea lions and tropical fish.

Your next stop after lunch is Isla Plaza Sur, a small island that is home to some of the most interesting and outstanding species of the Galápagos. The land iguanas here are smaller than their relatives on other islands, and there are also hybrid iguanas—a result of crossing a marine iguana with a land iguana. The large population of iguanas is due to the presence of tuna, their favorite food. You can also find swallow-tailed gulls nesting in the rugged cliffs, along with Audubon shearwaters, red-billed tropicbirds, frigatebirds, and brown pelicans.

Day 6: Explore Isla Seymour Norte, Hike to Chinese Hat

Male frigatebirds court females by inflating their red balloon-like pouch

After an early breakfast, you'll head to Isla Seymour Norte. Here you'll get to see frigatebirds, clownish blue-footed boobies, and of course, the ubiquitous sea lions. With luck, you'll witness the striking courtship display of a male frigatebird, in which he inflates a red balloon-like sac below his throat and struts his stuff for all of the females. You'll also learn about the unique volcanic landscape on this and nearby islands. 

In the afternoon, you'll sail to Sombrero Chino (Chinese Hat), a 170-foot (52 m) high volcanic cone forming a small islet right off the rocky coast of Isla Santiago, where a small colony of Galápagos penguins has settled. Approaching the gently sloping mountain from the north, you'll understand the meaning of the name. This is an excellent place to learn more about volcanoes, lava bombs, and lava tunnels. This is also a place where Galápagos sea lions and countless marine iguanas contribute to fertilization and, together, create favorable options for newcomers.

Day 7: Explore the Twin Craters & Meet Giant Tortoises on Isla Santa Cruz

Twin Craters
Hike around the twin craters of Los Gemelos before meeting giant tortoises
This morning, you'll sail to Isla Santa Cruz to spend a day in the lush highlands. This is where the craters of Los Gemelos (The Twins) are located opposite each other on either side of a road—and you'll have a chance to explore both on foot. The name is only figurative, as these formations are not craters; rather, they were created by the collapse of surface material in underground fissures and chambers. In any case, the views from the craters are breathtaking. After your hike, you'll have lunch and visit a breeding center in the highlands that cares for young and adult giant tortoises. 

Day 8: Explore Moreno Point & Urbina Bay on Isla Isabela

Look for harmless manta rays while snorkeling in Urbina Bay
In the morning, you'll land at Moreno Point, located near Elizabeth Bay on the west coast of Isla Isabela. The plethora of birds seen during a dinghy ride along the striking rocky shores—or a hiking path through lava rock leading to tide pools and mangroves—are a bird-watcher's delight. You can also snorkel in the tide pools among green sea turtles. 

Next is a trip to Urbina Bay, located at the base of the Alcedo volcano. This area experienced a major uplift in 1954, causing the land to rise over 16 feet (5 m). The wildlife and marine life had to adjust. Today, it's a great place for snorkeling with sea turtles, rays, and tropical fish. There are a few different trails for hiking, or you can ride along the shore in a dinghy.

Day 9: Explore Vicente Roca Point on Isla Isabela & Espinosa Point on Isla Fernandina

 Marine iguanas like to swim near Espinosa Point
This morning, you'll head to Vicente Roca Point on Isla Isabela. Comprised of two separate coves, this site is a large bay with spectacular sea life. Keep an eye out for seahorses, sea turtles, and the strange yet fascinating ocean sunfish called mola. In the afternoon, cross the Bolivar Channel and land at Espinosa Point on Isla Fernandina where, after walking past a colony of marine iguanas and a group of sea lions, you'll reach the island's highlight: the flightless cormorant nesting site. This area also provides a great opportunity to see the Galápagos hawk.

Day 10: Explore Isla Santiago & Isla Rábida

Isla Rábida is known for its red-sand beaches and landscapes
Today's adventure begins on the west side of Isla Santiago, one of the central islands of the archipelago, where fresh water can be found. Upon entering the bay, you'll have the opportunity to see Buccaneer Cove, Sugarloaf Cone, and the black beach of Puerto Egas. The latter is the place where you'll have to disembark to start the visit. The trail on this spot will take you through some tide pools along the shore, where you can see marine iguanas and coastal birds like oystercatchers and pelicans. Then explore the beautiful grottoes, one of the few places where you'll have the opportunity to observe Galápagos fur seals.

In the afternoon, head to Isla Rábida, located off the south shore of Isla Santiago. Rábida is known for its red-colored sand. Spend some time on the beach and then hike along a trail that takes you to a saltwater lagoon and a viewpoint along some prickly pear cacti. This is a spectacular place to take pictures of the surrounding ocean and beautiful cliffs.

Day 11: Visit Black Turtle Cove, Transfer to Isla Baltra, Depart

Marine Turtle
Spend the morning with sea turtles before your departure
It's time to say goodbye to the Galápagos! But first, you'll visit Black Turtle Cove, an inlet surrounded by mangroves that's only accessible by dinghy. The shallow cove is a safe haven for young marine life like black-tip and whitetip reef sharks, sea turtles, and a variety of rays. From here, the cruise staff will bring you and your luggage to Isla Baltra, where you'll take a shuttle back to the airport for your departure. Safe travels!

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 11 days in the Galápagos, or discover the best time to visit the Galápagos.


Map of Quito & Galápagos Islands Cruise Adventure - 11 Days
Map of Quito & Galápagos Islands Cruise Adventure - 11 Days