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Essential Galapagos

Essential Galapagos

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Description

The Galapagos Islands have a bit of a reputation – think the wildest wildlife, colourful underwater worlds and some of the most remote beaches and rock forms on earth. Spend nine days discovering this explorer’s dream, staying at the bustling centres of Isla San Cristobal, Isabela and Santa Cruz, and top and tailing your island escapade in Ecuador’s capital, Quito. Volcanoes, marine iguanas, playful sea lions and the giant tortoise all await on this animal-focused island getaway – what’s not to love about the Galapagos?

Trip Name
Essential Galapagos
Last Updated
2024-03-12
Days
9
Capacity
15
Highlights
  • Check out the highland haven of Quito – Ecuador’s vibrant mountainous capital. If you’ve got time, why not extend your stay here and discover the historic Old Town and Volcan Pichincha lookout.
  • The Galapagos Islands are home to some of the most unique wildlife on earth – many you may not have heard of before! Spot blue-footed boobies, marine iguanas, frigate birds and so much more on your island escape.
  • Consider a range of optional activities to enhance your wicked wildlife stops with your small group. Snorkelling at Kicker Rock? Swimming alongside sea lions near Isla Lobos? It’s up to you!
  • Take land-side visits to San Cristobal’s Interpretation Center and Isabela’s Giant Tortoise Breeding Center to discover more about the islands’ history and conservation efforts to preserve this far-flung paradise.
  • By staying on the islands, you’ll get the best of both worlds – discovering the forests, beaches and marine hotspots by day, and chilling out in town by night.

Itinerary

OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES A selection of optional activities that have been popular with past travellers are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only for some of what might be available. Prices are approximate, are for entrance fees only, and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability, and maybe on a join-in basis. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination, so some pre-planning for what you are most interested in is advised. When it's recommended that travellers pre-book these activities, look for a note in the Special Information section of the day-to-day itinerary. For most, they can either be organised independently on the day, or let your group leader or local representative know you are interested at the Welcome Meeting and they can assist. Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. Although it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Medium and high-risk activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and group leader or local representative are unable to assist you with organising these activities. Activities that contravene our Responsible Travel policies are also not listed. Please remember that the decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk. HEAVY RAIN ON THE INCA TRAIL If it rains heavily for a number of consecutive days, the terrain at the third campsite (Wiñaywayna) can become unstable, increasing the danger of landslides and making it unsafe to camp. This occurs mostly during the wet season (December to March) although it can also happen at any time of the year. Your trekking guide may assess that it's safer to spend the third night in a hotel in Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu), or if available, to camp at Puente Ruinas campsite. You may need to use your contingency funds to cover any additional costs. An letter can be provided for lodging a travel insurance claim for these costs.

Day 1 - Quito
Bienvenidos! Welcome to Ecuador. Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 5 or 6 pm. Sitting at an altitude of 2850 metres above sea level and under the gaze of Volcan Pichincha, Quito is one of the most attractive cities in South America. Long and incredibly thin, the city stretches along a central valley formed by the east and west ranges of the Andes. Although compact, Quito's Old Town is full of historic buildings – there are more than 30 churches to explore, not to mention the fascinating museums.
Day 2 - Isla San Cristobal
Welcome to San Cristobal! Today you'll be joining with other travellers arriving from Quito. Once arrived, take an included visit to the San Cristobal Interpretation Center and learn about the natural history of, and human impact on, the Galapagos. Afterwards, you’ll have time to explore on your own. Perhaps take a hike up to Frigatebird Hill or head to Mann Beach to spot some sea lions lazing on the shore. If you hit the water for a spot of snorkelling, be sure to keep an eye out for sea turtles, an array of colourful fish and even the odd sea lion coming up to swim with you!
Day 3 - Isla San Cristobal
Today is free for you to continue to explore the wildlife-rich and naturally beautiful Isla San Cristobal. There are a range of optional activities that are available to you today – your group leader will be able to recommend some and help book them. You might like to take an optional boat ride to Kicker Rock – an incredible rock island that is home to some of the most interesting snorkelling in the islands. Otherwise, you could book a visit to Isla Lobos, which is known for its populations of blue-footed boobies, marine iguanas and sea lions. Consider taking a walk down Ochoa Beach on Lobos and soaking up this wildlife paradise.
Day 4 - Isla Santa Cruz
Early in the morning, take a 2.5-hour public speedboat ride to Isla Santa Cruz. Once in Santa Cruz, have some breakfast and settle into the hotel. In the midmorning, continue onwards to the Charles Darwin Research Station. The visitor centre and museum exhibits house a whole range of information about the islands and the conservation efforts being made to preserve the unique ecosystem here. This station is also an ideal place to meet the Galapagos tortoise. Later in the afternoon, continue your search for tortoises when you and your group head to the higher part of the island to observe these ancient giants roaming in their natural habitat. Tonight, join your leader and discover the best food in Puerto Ayora, and possibly even in the Galápagos, at a bustling row of restaurants and stalls with tables spilling into the road. The eateries here may not have the polish of the restaurants along Avenida Charles Darwin, but the food is exponentially cheaper and always fresh, and the lively atmosphere is what makes Los Kioskos more than just a place to eat.
Day 5 - Isla Isabela
Rise and shine again early this morning to travel to Isla Isabela. Check in to the hotel and enjoy breakfast with your group. Isabela is the largest island in the Galapagos and one of the most volcanically active places on earth. A worthwhile optional activity today is an excursion to Las Tintoreras – home to the rare Galapagos penguin as well as other unique Galapagos wildlife. The excursion will then take you to ‘shark alley’, where white-tipped sharks rest during the day. This is also a popular nesting site for the endemic marine iguanas.
Day 6 - Isla Isabela
Start the day with a visit to the Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre for a close encounter with these placid giants. Here you can see tortoises in different stages of development as well as learn about the preservation program of this unique species. Afterwards, take a bus to the highest part of Isabela where Sierra Negra Volcano is located. Weather permitting, go for a hike up to the crater to enjoy spectacular views and the possibility of sighting the rare vermillion flycatcher. The challenging 17-kilometre hike takes between 5-6 hours, and at the top you'll be able to enjoy spectacular views. After the hike, make your way back to town in the late afternoon for some free time to relax up with a book or venture down to the water for a swim before dinner.
Day 7 - Isla Santa Cruz
Travel back to Isla Santa Cruz in the morning, where you’ll enjoy breakfast on arrival. Then, jump aboard a water taxi for a short trip to Punta Estrada we you’ll make your way to Las Grietas. Literally meaning ‘The Cracks’ in Spanish, it's a narrow, rocky crevasse where the earth seems to have split in two, creating a crystal clear swimming hole running more than 100m through the stone. This is undoubtably one of the most unique places to swim or snorkel in the Galápagos, and it is easily accessible from Puerto Ayora. This afternoon, you’ll have the chance to take part in some optional activities, such as an excursion to Tortuga Bay – an immaculate natural paradise where you can go kayaking, observe marine iguanas and birds or swim with harmless sharks in a cove. Or you may like to rent some snorkelling gear and discover a whole other world underwater. This afternoon you can choose your own adventure, so ask your knowledgeable group leader for their recommendations.
Day 8 - Quito
Bid farewell to the Galapagos Islands and all its inhabitants and head to the airport for a flight back to Quito. Upon arrival in Quito Airport, you’ll be transferred to your hotel for an overnight stay. Hit the streets in Quito with some of your travel crew and find a place for some dinner and drinks – you might like to knock back a couple of canelazos (a spiced cinnamon and rum drink)!
Day 9 - Quito
After breakfast, there are no activities planned, so you are free to leave the accommodation at any time, provided you comply with the hotel’s check-out policy. That doesn’t mean your adventure has to come to an end! If you would like to spend more time in Ecuador’s capital, we’ll be happy to organise additional accommodation (subject to availability).

Trip Dates

StartEndPrice FromRoom Type

Accommodation

Hostel (2 nts),Hotel (6 nts)

Transport

Plane,Speed boat,Private Vehicle,Public bus

Map