Day 1: Arrive Quito
Arrive in Quito, Ecuador any time and check into your hotel. This evening you will be met by a representative for a briefing about your upcoming adventure and an opportunity to get know your new travel mates before your first dinner together. If you arrive early, you can use your free time to get aquatinted with one of the highest capitals in the world sitting at just over 9,000 feet above sea level.
The city is nestled in a long, narrow valley of the Andes and flanked by the Pichincha Volcano to the west.
For a great view and a little exercise, Pichincha is easily accessible for a day trip. If you’re in a cultural mood, head to the Old Town to stroll through the magnificent cathedrals and take in the colonial architecture of this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
El Panecillo or 'the Little Bread Loaf,' is located high atop a hill in the Old Town and is a major Quito attraction boasting a panoramic view of the city. Museums are scattered throughout the New and Old Town as well as local artisan markets that are great for picking up souvenirs.
The New Town is teeming with cafes and restaurants and is a vibrant mix of locals, expats, and fellow travellers. New Town and Old Town are easily accessible by trolley or taxi.
NOTE: Quito, like most major cities, is not without its pickpockets and purse-snatchers. Leave your valuables and passports in your room or hotel safe and only carry what you need just to be safe.
Day 2: Fly to San Cristobal, Downhill Bike Ride, Visit La Loberia
This morning we’ll take a short flight to one of the oldest islands in the Galapagos archipelago, San Cristobal. We’ll land in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, a coastal town and the administrative capital of the islands. After sampling some of the local cuisines we’ll head up into the highlands for a scenic downhill bike ride.
Starting at a panoramic viewpoint called La Soledad, we’ll bike through the tiny town of El Progreso and five different vegetation zones until we reach a beach called La Loberia. There we’ll be able to watch sea lions sunbathing, playing and vying for our attention. If you can’t wait to get in the water, this is your first opportunity.
As the sun sets, we’ll bike back to town and get ready for a welcome dinner of fresh fish and island cuisine at a small local restaurant.
Day 3: Snorkel at Kicker Rock, Visit Interpretation Center
Today we take to the water to get a glimpse of the underwater world of Galapagos. First, we’ll cruise along the coast in our boat identifying shorebirds like the Great Frigate and famous Blue-Footed Booby. Then we’ll anchor in some calm waters where we’ll get our fins wet in search of damselfish, puffer fish, and, hopefully, curious sea lion pups. From there we continue to Kicker Rock or Leon Dormido as it’s known by the locals to explore the final remains of a tuff cone rising over 143 meters out of the ocean. If Kicker Rock were a building, it would have almost 50 floors! Along the edge and through a channel of this drastic compact ash formation, we’ll be on the hunt for sea turtles, spotted eagle rays, chocolate chip starfish, and, with any luck, a Galapagos Shark or two. Don’t worry; they won’t be as interested in you as you are in them.
A beautiful beach accessible only by boat will be our final stop for the day. After lunch on board, feel free to spend your time swimming in the turquoise water or snapping photos of Kicker Rock in the distance.
We’ll head back to town late afternoon to visit the Interpretation Center where we’ll learn about the history and mystery of the archipelago from its discovery and what makes it so special, to Charles Darwin’s visit and the present day efforts to protect this amazing World Heritage site. There’s a short hike to Tijeretas, a panoramic lookout over the town and Kicker Rock, for those that are interested.
To culminate the educational afternoon, pick a spot at nearby Playa Mann, or Mann Beach, with the playful sea lions or grab a front row seat at Casa Blanca to toast in the sunset. Dinner is on your own tonight and we’ll be sure to offer you plenty of suggestions.
DIVING – the option to dive is available. Please inquire in advance.
Day 4: Visit Floreana Island, Snorkel, Visit Highlands
After breakfast, we depart by boat for the least inhabited of the main islands, Floreana. In route, keep your eyes peeled for dolphins, whales and the waved albatross. We’ll have a pre-lunch snorkel before going ashore to a black sand beach at the home of the Witmer’s, one of the islands first settlers. With a population of fewer than 150 people, Puerto Velasco Ibarra is a sleepy little town but not without its secrecies. You can read up on how life came to be on Floreana and how some lives mysteriously ended.
After lunch, take a siesta while listening to the waves or walk along the coast in search of sunbathing iguanas. This afternoon we’ll bus up to the highlands to visit the Pirate and Whaler Caves from long ago.
We’ll return to town and our beachside accommodation in time to enjoy the day’s last light before heading to dinner. After dinner on the way back to the hotel, be sure to spend a few moments looking up - Floreana is one of the best places for stargazing!
NOTE: Because of the small nature of the hotel and lack of availability, sometimes we are unable to stay and must continue on to Isabela.
Day 5: Boat to Isabela, Kayak in Bay, Visit Breeding Center
This morning you’ll have a chance to go for one last walk along Floreana’s coast before we embark for Isabela, the largest island in the archipelago. Once we arrive in Puerto Villamil, we’ll check in, have lunch and then head off for a kayak around the sheltered bay area of Puerto Villamil. Galapagos penguins (the only penguin found north of the equator), sea turtles and rays frequent these shallow waters and blue-footed boobies, frigate birds and pelicans may be seen resting along the shore and in some nearby mangrove trees.
Afterwards, a visit to the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center is planned, where we’ll see giant tortoises in all stages of development. The center has almost a thousand giant tortoises training for life on their own!
There is a nice mangrove-lined boardwalk path that brings us back to town from the center. Many birds, including flamingoes, call this area home. There are many bars and restaurants along the waterfront in Puerto Villamil where we can enjoy a drink or watch the sunset in the distance.
Day 6: Hike Sierra Negra Volcano, Visit Volcan Chico Lava Fields, or Snorkel at Los Tuneles (extra cost)
Lace up your hiking boots, we’re heading up a volcano! Sierra Negra Volcano is one of the most active volcanoes in Galapagos; its last eruption was in October 2005. As we hike to the perimeter of the caldera, we’ll be on the lookout for bird species found only in the highlands like the bright red Vermillion Flycatcher and the elusive short-eared owl. Once we reach the rim, we’ll be met with a nine-kilometer view that stretches across one the most active calderas in the world. We’ll continue on to traverse the vast lava fields of Volcan Chico in route for a lookout that boasts breathtaking views reaching to the north of Isabela. After enjoying a hearty sense of accomplishment, we’ll make our way back to town late afternoon for some free time to curl up with a book or venture down to the water for a relaxing swim before dinner.
Optional: Skip the Hike, and Snorkel at Los Tuneles (extra cost of $150 per person)
If you think sleeping sharks, sea horses, sea turtles and strange lava tunnel formations sound intriguing then you’re going to need your mask, snorkel and flippers, because you get all that and more at Los Tuneles.
Also called Cabo Rosa, this area about one hour from town was created when lava flows reached the ocean, forming tunnels, arches and sheltered bays perfect for snorkelling. They also happen to be perfect feeding grounds for sea turtles and resting places for other species like Galapagos sharks! Even the cute Galapagos penguins have been known to visit this area at times. It is one of the most diverse snorkel spots in the entire archipelago, and also home to some birds, such as nesting blue-footed boobies.
The ride to get here can be a bit rough, and because of the lava formations, safe access is only possible at certain tides. If you want to maximize the time you spend in the water in the Galapagos, Los Tuneles should be on your list! We haven’t even mentioned that sea lions, eagle rays, octopus and plenty of tropical fish, sea stars and sea urchins are also spotted in these often crystal clear waters!
Day 7: Hike and Snorkel at Tintoreras, Free Afternoon (Optional Visit to Wall of Tears)
An easy walk around some aa lava fields and a fun snorkel with curious Galapagos creatures are in store this morning. We head over to Las Tintoreras, first enjoying a bit of a boat tour around the bay, searching for penguins!
Walking around Tintoreras, you're greeted by an abundance of marine iguanas. This is an important nesting site for them, so be sure to stick to the trail. Juvenile marine iguanas, as well as adults that are often brightly coloured, are seen here. In some of the calm channels, we walk by we may also see sleeping sharks.
Putting our fins and masks on, a dip in the water will have us snorkelling with a wide range of aquatic animals. Be on the lookout for things like sea cucumbers, chocolate chip sea stars and even Galapagos penguins.
Isabela boasts a wide range of restaurants, and we'll enjoy a typical Ecuadorian lunch today, while everyone plans out their afternoon adventures.
You can choose how you spend the rest of your day – you’ve earned some free time! More snorkel time is an option at Concha de Perla or perhaps you’d like to take a step back in time and visit the Wall of Tears. Built by convicts and still standing over 50 years later, this landmark in the remnant of Isabela’s penal colony past. A beachside road leads the way and it’s a lovely walk or bike ride. Stop-offs along the way look into the brackish lagoons like Poza de las Diablas and tucked away beaches like Playa del Amor. Make sure you watch your step – this is also an area where juvenile giant tortoises have been reintroduced to the wild.
Tonight we’ll meet back up for a well-deserved feast as it’s our last night in Isabela.
Day 8: Boat to Santa Cruz, Visit Tortoises in the Highlands, Visit the Charles Darwin Research Center, Optional Visit to Tortuga Bay
We’ll wave goodbye to Isabela this morning as we depart for Santa Cruz. After arrival, the first highlight of the day will be heading into the highlands to a private reserve where giant tortoises roam free. Expect to get some great photos of tortoises wallowing in mud pools, munching on vegetation or even running across the fields in the highlands at full speed. The highland areas we like to visit often have lava tunnels as well, which you can walk through - some of them are quite large!
After a lunch in the highlands, we’ll head back into town for a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Station. We’ll learn about the station's successes in repopulating the islands with the once endangered land iguana and several species of Giant Tortoise. From the collection of the eggs to the age of release, we’ll observe how the giant tortoises are raised and readied for life on their own.
What happens next is up to you. Puerto Ayora is the biggest town in the Galapagos, so you may want to explore the shops, restaurants and waterfront on your own. Alternatively, an optional visit to Tortuga Bay is highly recommended. Featuring a gorgeous beach accessible only by foot you can swim, sunbath, bodysurf, kayak or snorkel around this popular area. A leisurely 45-minute path leads to the beach area and along the way you may spot lava lizards and birds in the surrounding trees.
Upon arrival at the first soft, white sandy beach, you'll be greeted by some rough surf that is perfect for surfing. Further along, you can reach Tortuga Bay, a calm bay that is sheltered by mangroves and perfect for swimming. There’s a nice walk through a cactus forest for those that want one more chance at spotting nesting blue-footed boobies or massive marine iguanas.
After fun in the sun, make your way back to town for our farewell dinner in the Enchanted Islands.
Day 9: Free Time in the Morning, Depart for Quito, Farewell Dinner
Enjoy a bit of free time before your morning flight to the mainland. Baltra airport is on anotehr island, which requires a cross-island taxi ride on Santa Cruz, followed by a ferry and a bus ride taht can take up to two hours of travel time in total.
On the way to the airport, shout if you want coffee and, time permitting, we’ll make a pit stop at a local distributor for a bag of fresh ground Galapagos Coffee, the only thing exported from the islands. Further along, we'll try to make a stop in the highlands at Los Gemelos.
This interesting site features some unique craters unlike anything else you'll have seen in the Galapagos. Again, everything is dependent on how early your flights are today. As you head across the channel to Baltra, enjoy one last look at the turquoise waters before flying back to Quito for your final dinner this evening.
Day 10: Final Day, Depart for Home or Arrange a Day Tour of the City
Today is the last day of the tour and we’ll be sure to get you to the airport if you have a flight out before noon or arrange a day tour in and around Quito for some additional exploring.