Day 1: Quito, Ecuador
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 anxious to get on a bike, then cycling down Cotopaxi volcano is a must! 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 travelers. 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, Bike to La Loberia, Visit Interpretation Center
This morning you'll take a short flight to one of the oldest islands in the Galapagos archipelago, San Cristobal.
You'll land in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, a small town of around 6,000 people, which is the administrative capital of the Galapagos.
After sampling some of the local cuisines you'll get you paired up with one of our mountain bikes and head off on a bike ride to a beach called La Loberia, home to a large number of curious sea lions! You’ll have plenty of time to photograph them sunbathing on the beach and swimming in the water.
After your sea lion encounter, you'll be taken on a circuit around town to help you get your bearings. The ride will end with you visiting the Interpretation Center. You’ll learn about the interesting history of the archipelago – everything from mysterious deaths and penal colonies to the impact they had on Charles Darwin.
As the sun sets, bike back to town and get ready for a welcome dinner at a small local restaurant.
Biking details: 15km. Easy, mostly level ground.
Day 3: Bike to Puerto Chino, Visit a Coffee Farm and El Junco
Yesterday was the cycling warm-up for today’s challenge! You’ll cycle up into the rolling hills of San Cristobal Island, passing through town and across the island to Puerto Chino, perhaps the most beautiful beach in the archipelago.
Along the way, you may have time to stop to visit a coffee farm (Coffee is the largest export from the Galapagos Islands). Stopping at El Junco, the only freshwater lake in the Galapagos, you’ll have reached an elevation of 600m.
After a picnic lunch break and with the allure of soft, sandy beaches ahead, your cycling journey presses on towards Puerto Chino. A break at Galapaguera de Cerro Colorado will signal that you're almost at your destination! This site is located only a few km from Puerto Chino and is home to giant tortoises and endemic plants of the Galapagos.
Upon arrival at Puerto Chino, you’re free to relax on the beach or cool down and go swimming, before taking a relaxing truck ride back down to town. If interested, you have the option to cycle back to town at your own pace.
Biking details: 25-40km. Moderate-Difficult. Some lengthy uphill portions. Easier return to town.
Day 4: Snorkel at Kicker Rock, Free time to explore town
Today you’ll get a break from biking, as it’s a day of discovering the underwater wonders of the Galapagos Islands.
First, you’ll cruise along the coastline towards Frigatebird Hill, looking for seabirds including the Great Frigate and famous Blue-Footed Booby. Anchoring in some calm waters near the coast, you’ll get your fins wet in search of rays, damselfish, puffer fish, and, hopefully, curious sea lion pups. Marine iguanas are commonly seen here as well, sunning themselves on the lava rocks along the coast.
From here, you continue to Leon Dormido (Kicker Rock) to explore the final remains of an impressive volcanic tuff cone that rises more than 143m out of the ocean! Along the edge and through a channel of this compacted ash formation, you’ll be on the lookout for sea turtles, spotted eagle rays, chocolate chip starfish, and, perhaps a Galapagos Shark or two. Each trip to Kicker Rock is different; other rare encounters travellers have enjoyed seeing out here include dolphins and hammerhead sharks!
The boat will then head over to Puerto Grande, where you’ll enjoy a boxed lunch meal on the boat (food is not allowed on shore).
After eating, jump in the water for a swim or wander around the beautiful beach. Sometimes sea lions and marine iguanas are found along here, while other times an impromptu game of beach volleyball has been known to happen.
Head back to town late afternoon. You have a free night for dinner tonight, we’ll be sure to offer you plenty of suggestions.
Diving: Occasionally, the option to dive is available. Please inquire in advance.
Day 5: Boat to Floreana and Snorkel, Bike to Highlands, Visit Giant Tortoises and Pirate Caves
After breakfast, you’ll depart by boat for Floreana Island, which has a population of less than 150 people. Keep scanning the surface as we often see dolphins, whales or the waved albatross during this crossing.
Stopping to snorkel off the coast of Floreana, you may see sea lions or penguins! Puerto Velasco Ibarra is a sleepy little town with plenty of mystery and a fascinating history.
After lunch, you’ll have a bit of time to relax on the black sand beach looking for marine iguanas before you clip yourself in for a ride into the highlands towards the Asylum of Peace. You can expect a mostly gradual ascent to around 400m, passing by farms and shrub lands before arriving in the often misty highlands. From here you’ll visit the Pirate Caves and a Giant Tortoise visitor site. It’s back to town by bike for sunset and a relaxed dinner at the Baronesa for dinner.
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.
Biking details: 16km. Moderate-Difficult. Some lengthy uphill portions.
Day 6: Boat to Isabela, Bike to Wall of Tears, Visit Tortoise Breeding Center
A morning speedboat ride takes you to Isabela, the largest island in the Galapagos. After arriving at the pretty town of Puerto Villamil, your cycling adventure begins. Biking to the Wall of Tears is a journey that will take you past some scenic points along the coast on a flat, sandy road.
The Wall of Tears was built by prisoners here many decades ago and it is said that thousands of people died building it. Afterwards, you’ll head to the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center where you’ll see giant tortoises in all stages of development. Almost 1000 tortoises are here, ranging from new hatchlings to 70+-year-old giants.
Biking details: 14km. Easy-Moderate. Mainly flat, some sandy portions.
Day 7: Sierra Negra Volcano Hike, Downhill Biking from Highlands
Today you’ll need hiking boots and biking shoes, as the second largest volcanic caldera in the world is waiting for you!
A van will take you and your bikes up to Sierra Negra Volcano, which last erupted in October 2005.
From your starting point, it is a decent hike to get to the immense crater. Hiking to the perimeter of the caldera, be on the lookout for birds only found in the highlands, including the Vermillion Flycatcher and the short-eared owl. You’ll notice a stark contrast in the vegetation up here compared to back in town. The cool, misty highlands are perfect for your bike journey back to town.
On the way, you’ll explore the highlands and possibly make a stop for lunch at a remote farm or restaurant. Back in Puerto Villamil, the rest of the day is free for you to cycle around town, check out the mangrove wetlands and wildlife or enjoy some drinks at a beach bar.
Biking details: 20-30km. Easy-Moderate. Mostly downhill, some rough road patches.
Day 8: Morning walk, Boat to Santa Cruz, Highlands Bike Tour to Lava Tunnel
After an optional morning walk and swim to look for marine iguanas around Concha de Perla, it’s off to Santa Cruz Island.
After lunch in town, you’ll head into the Highlands, for a scenic bike ride and a bit of immersion into the Galapagos rural way of living.
Your final bike ride is done at a fairly leisurely pace and you’ll visit a giant lava tunnel as well as some off-the-beaten-path places. Wild tortoises may be encountered on your ride. Enjoy some free time before dinner to shop for souvenirs or wander around Puerto Ayora.
Biking details: 25km. Easy-Moderate. Mostly downhill, some rough road patches.
Day 9: Charles Darwin Research Station, Last Minute Shopping, Fly to Quito
Depending on flight times, get up early for a final hike or head to the Charles Darwin Research Station, home to numerous Giant Tortoises Species as well as some Galapagos Land Iguanas.
Before his death in June 2012, this is where Lonesome George lived. Fly back to Quito early afternoon. There will be an optional final dinner out to say farewell to your new friends.
Day 10: Final Day, Depart for Home or Arrange a Day Tour of Quito
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. Check out our post-trips for some ideas on where to go and what to do.