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best of ecuador and the galapagos islands

8-Day Adventure to Quito and the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador!

Start your trip with two days in the capital city of Quito. Quito stands at 9,350 feet and impresses with development on high steep slopes and deep valleys; a historic, colonial Old Town; and interesting markets, churches, and other sites. Then fly to the Galapagos Islands where you’ll spend two days enjoying land-based activities and then four days aboard a cruise sailing from island to island. The Galapagos Islands are home to some of the most fascinating wildlife in the world! See the unique fish, marine mammals, tortoises, and birds for yourself in beautiful and dramatic settings.

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Day 1 – Quito: Upon arrival in Quito, you will clear immigration, collect your bags and will be met by a local representative for your transfer to the hotel. Enjoy the remainder of your day at leisure.

Day 2 – Quito: Ecuador is history, fascinating indigenous cultures, slow winding rivers, and lush tropical forests, spectacular snowcapped volcanoes and some of the most exciting wildlife on earth. The place to start is the ‘Mitad del Mundo’; a site located just 30 minutes north of Quito, where a monument marks the equator at its closest point to the city. Archaeological evidence shows that both pre-Inca and Inca civilizations recognized and celebrated the equinox, the day the sun is directly over the equator.

In the morning, we will make a 45-minute journey northwest to the equatorial line, where we will walk the rim of the extinct Pululahua volcanic crater. Later we will visit the “Ciudad Mitad del Mundo” a group of buildings designed to explain the significance of the site, as well as the Ethnographic or Intiñan Museum, located right on the Equator. Here you will have the chance to plant your feet in two hemispheres at the same time.

Back in Quito, after lunch we will visit the city’s impressive colonial center, the reason Quito was the first city to be named a world heritage site by the United Nations. First on the agenda is a walk through the main plaza, the ‘Plaza de la Independencia’, where you will see the Government Palace, the Cathedral, and some of the most important churches built around the XVI and XVII centuries, including the San Francisco Monastery, a building begun only 5 days after the founding of the city.

We will have the chance to enjoy a chocolate experience, which starts with a guided tour explaining the history of cocoa in Ecuador, followed by a chocolate tasting. Ecuador’s unique equatorial climate provides the perfect environment for growing the world’s finest cocoa – Cacao Arriba. Cocoa has been revered in Latin America for over 5,000 years. Spanish explorers loved it so much they called it the ‘Food of the Gods’. The Republica del Cacao´s founders began their voyage over ten years ago when they set themselves an ambitious mission: to produce the most authentic chocolate, while protecting and developing sustainable fine cocoa production.

Day 3 – Santa Cruz Island: Today, we arrive on Baltra Island, the gateway to the Galapagos. This tiny island was a military base during World War II and hosts the islands’ principal airport. The airport was built using the most advanced environmental techniques to reduce emissions and energy use, some of which you’ll notice as you transit through the facility. It was the first ecological airport in the world.

We dive into adventure just after we arrive! We will enter the airport through a special VIP lounge where you will have a chance to change clothes, put on some sunscreen and get a cool drink before we transfer to the Itabaca Channel to explore its turquoise waters. We will have a chance to kayak, snorkel and stand up paddleboard (SUP) where we will see some of the famous Galapagos wildlife such as blue-footed boobies, sea lions, brown pelicans, a variety of herons and white-tipped reef sharks. There’s no better introduction to the Galapagos than to get on the water upon arrival! We will glide through beautiful red mangrove forests and along lava rock cliffs on water so clear we can see sea life in the shallows. Our ocean (sit on top) kayaks come in doubles or singles, and life jackets are provided. A support boat escorts us throughout the water activities to ensure safety and to provide water, snacks, and towels between activities.

Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Kayak: 1.5-2 hours depending on fauna activity and skills of kayakers
Transportation: boat, swimming, kayak, stand up paddleboard

From Itabaca Channel we head up to the Santa Cruz highlands to one of the private reserves that border the national park where the famous giant tortoises inhabit in the wild. Lunch at the reserve. Afterward, we drive to our exclusive giant tortoise reserve and tented camp. Perched high on a hillside overlooking the ocean, Magic Galapagos Tented Camp will be our home for the next two nights. The sounds of nature will be our lullaby in the evenings, and the Milky Way will be our night light. We’ll be able to feast our eyes on the mountains and forest surrounding the lodge and enjoy the peace of having the entire hillside to ourselves, with the exception of seasonal resident giant tortoises.

Watching the colorful sunset from Magic’s western perch is the perfect segue into the evening. Dinners are sumptuous three-course affairs, prepared by expert chefs in an open-air kitchen in the main lodge. A favorite post-dinner activity is a short walk to the natural lava tubes on the reserve for a nightcap in the one-of-a-kind ‘Lava Lounge!’ It’s the perfect spot to relax around the fire and share stories from the day’s adventures.

Day 4 – Santa Cruz Island: Embark our motor yacht and enjoy of a daily excursion with welcoming crew members and knowledgeable naturalist guide and experience the remote islands in comfort and style.

NOTE: These excursions are subject to availability and change without prior notification

Day 5 – M/Y La Pinta: After breakfast, you will be transferred to the cruise terminal to board your four-night cruise of the Galapagos! You will have a  welcome introductory briefing, boat drill, cabin assignment and then lunch. We weigh anchor and start sailing for our first-afternoon outing. The turquoise waters of the channel here contrast brilliantly with the white sand and black lava of the shoreline, while a carpet of scarlet sesuvium succulents serves as groundcover for a grove of luminescent green prickly-pear cactus beyond, populated by yellow-grey land iguanas. Along the coastline, one finds sea lion colonies, while sea birds play with the thermals that form along the cliffs of this small but spectacular island.

Day 6 – M/Y La Pinta: Today’s activities include –

Santa Fe Island – We take the dinghy over to this idyllic sandy-white beach populated by colonies of sea lions. Galapagos hawks are often easily observed, perched atop salt bushes. The Santa Fe land iguana, unique to just this island, may be spotted during the walk. Following the walk, we can snorkel and swim along a natural wave barrier or ride the glass-bottom boat.

Cerro Colorado Tortoise Habitat – After lunch, we disembark at Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the island’s capital, and drive 40 minutes to the island’s southern shore. At Cerro Colorado, we visit the breeding center for highly endangered giant tortoises in the midst of a fantastic deciduous forest, home to dozens of bird species, including the San Cristobal mockingbird, and the San Cristobal lava lizard, both island endemics.

Day 7 – M/Y La Pinta: Today’s activities include –

Punta Pitt (San Cristobal Island) – We land at the eastern tip of San Cristobal Island this morning. The trail that ascends from the beach provides spectacular views of the shoreline; we can observe frigates, plus a colony of bachelor sea lions. After the walk, if conditions are favorable, there is a chance to swim from the beach and snorkel.

Cerro Brujo – In the afternoon following lunch on board, a dinghy ride along the shores of tuff-stone layers takes us to Cerro Brujo’s expansive, white coral beach, great for walking, with rewarding bird-watching featuring seabirds and shorebirds. Also, look out for Galapagos sea lions. These are the same shores that Charles Darwin walked upon, back in September 1835.

Day 8 – M/Y La Pinta: Today’s activities include –

Punta Suárez – Our morning outing at Punta Suárez provides an exciting walk on lava/boulder terrain to visit its unique sea bird colonies, including the waved albatrosses (April – January), boobies, swallow-tail gulls, and the famous “blowhole” lava formation. Also, look for red-green-black marine iguanas. Many regard this site as the best in the Galapagos. Back on board for lunch.

Gardner Bay – In the afternoon, we set down at this beautiful, white coral beach for a short walk to observe the sea lions, mockingbirds, finches, or enjoy the beach. There is great snorkeling in this area, or else there’s time to kayak or ride the glass-bottom boat.

Day 9 – End Of Itinerary: Disembarking in the morning, we visit the Charles Darwin Research Station and the captive rearing program for the giant tortoises. Here, we witness the efforts and results of Galapagos fieldwork and study done in the name of science. We transfer via bus across Santa Cruz Island and a short ferry ride to Baltra. Our journey ends at Baltra Island, where we transfer to the airport to take the flight back to the mainland. Baltra’s flat substrate (due to its uplifted origin) is the reason why the island was chosen back in the 1940s as the construction site for an airport. Day Use Hotel: Wyndham Quito.

Interested in this trip? Give us a call or drop us an email.


Quick Facts

Perfect for:

  • Perfect for Wildlife Sightings
  • Perfect for Water Activities
  • Perfect for Active Travelers
  • Duration 8 Nights
  • Departures Anytime
  • Fitness Rating Moderate
  • Safari Type Nature
  • Style Deluxe
  • Land-Only Price* $$

*Pricing is per person and an estimate. Contact a Journey Specialist for a customized quote.
$ = <$5,000 | $$ = $5,000 – $9,999 | $$$ = $10,000 – $20,000 | $$$$ = >$20,000

Contact a Journey Specialist