Join us as we explore the Galapagos Islands—one of the most biologically unique places on earth. Undiscovered by Europeans until the 16th century, the Galapagos Islands hold a central position in modern history as the birthplace of the theory of evolution. Designated the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978, the Galapagos Islands are home to a fascinating array of wildlife inhabiting an unspoiled ecosystem, living in harmony with their human visitors.
- Day 1: En Route from U.S. / Arrive in Quito, Ecuador
- Day 2: Quito
- Day 3: Quito / Flight to Baltra / Santa Cruz: Highlands / Puerto Ayora – Embarkation
- Day 4: Bartolomé / Santiago: Sullivan Bay
- Day 5: Santa Cruz: Dragon Hill / Santiago: Salt Mine James Bay
- Day 6: Isabela: Punta Vicente Roca / Fernandina: Punta Espinoza
- Day 7: Baltra – Disembarkation / Flight to Guayaquil, Ecuador
- Day 8: Guayaquil / Depart for U.S.
En Route from U.S. / Arrive in Quito, Ecuador
After an evening arrival in Quito, transfer to your award-winning hotel for a comfortable night’s sleep.
Overnight: Casa Gangotena – Quito
Head out for a full-day, guided tour of historic Old Town. A local expert will take you through the Quito neighborhood called San Roque, where you’ll visit with local artisans, including shopkeepers, hat makers, and sweet confectioners. Explore the San Francisco Market—one of the oldest in the capital. There, learn about unique Ecuadorian fruits and vegetables, as well as local culinary traditions.
Continue your journey to the cobbled street of La Ronda, featuring balconies festooned with colorful flags. Stop by a chocolatier to learn how cacao beans are processed, and taste the finest chocolates of Ecuador!
Next, head north toward the political heart of the city. Following a brief narrative, stroll to the Jesuit Church of la Compañía to admire its stunning gold-leaf interior. A lunch of Ecuadorian specialties, featuring Cocina Mestiza—a perfect blend of international flavors and locally sourced ingredients—will be served at the beautiful Theatrum Restaurant.
In the afternoon, head to the Casa del Alabado Archaeological Museum, within a restored 17th-century colonial mansion, to view its collection of pre-Columbian art. This evening, meet your traveling companions for a welcome reception and prepare for your upcoming adventure.
Overnight: Casa Gangotena – Quito (B,L,R)
Quito / Flight to Baltra / Santa Cruz: Highlands / Puerto Ayora – Embarkation
Arrive by plane to Baltra Airport and transfer to the Itabaca Channel to ferry across to Santa Cruz Island. After a short, scenic drive across Santa Cruz Island, arrive in the Highlands to enjoy lunch.
Later, visit the Charles Darwin Research Station and the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center to gain an understanding of the extensive conservation efforts that have gone into maintaining and improving the environment and biodiversity in this remarkable archipelago. See the Galapagos giant tortoise up close on paths leading through arid-zone vegetation, and learn about the various stages of tortoise care and development including a visit to the baby tortoise house.
Take a late afternoon stroll along the main street of Puerto Ayora before embarking on Isabela II.
Join the captain this evening for a cocktail and briefing on the exciting activities to come.
Overnight: Isabela II (B,L,D)
Bartolomé / Santiago: Sullivan Bay
One of today’s highlights includes a panoramic view of the Galapagos from a special vantage point—an overlook atop Bartolomé Island. On a pristine day, more than 10 islands can be seen from this viewpoint.
Return to the beach to board dinghies for a cruise around Pinnacle Rock, formed by an eroded tuff-stone cone—light limestone created by the accumulation of small volcanic elements. Pinnacle Rock is home for a small colony of the flightless Galapagos penguin, which shares the area with sea lions and other marine birds.
After lunch, explore Sullivan Bay on the east coast of Santiago Island featuring a white coral sand beach that’s ideal for swimming. This location has some of the best snorkeling within the archipelago. See and feel the volcanic origin of Galapagos by traversing the walking trail across a lava field consisting of lava that flowed here in 1897, and the lava shapes are the enigmatic volcanic features.
Overnight: Isabela II (B,L,D)
Santa Cruz: Dragon Hill / Santiago: Salt Mine James Bay
The island of Santa Cruz is the only one with six different vegetation zones. Pit craters, Scalesia forest, cacti and ferns are found here. After breakfast, set off on a walk, passing a lagoon frequented by shorebirds, ducks, and American flamingos. Continuing inland, the trail offers a beautiful view of the bay and the western islands of the archipelago, as well as the chance of observing land iguanas. Afterward, snorkel from the shore in hopes of spotting rays and green turtles.
Later, visit James Bay on Santiago Island, where Charles Darwin spent six days exploring in 1835, encountering finches, mockingbirds, lava lizards, yellow warblers, as well as Galapagos doves, hawks, and flamingos. Take note of the fascinating geological formations as you hike uphill for an incredible panoramic view of a crater filled with brackish water. The salt from this lagoon was mined in the 20th century, but the businesses didn’t prosper.
Overnight: Isabela II (B,L,D)
Punta Vicente Roca / Fernandina: Punta Espinoza
Explore the captivating coast of Isabela Island by dinghy, seeking out abundant wildlife including colonies of Galapagos fur seals, the nesting sites of Nazca boobies, flightless cormorants, penguins, and marine iguanas. Depending on conditions, there may be a chance to snorkel along the cliffs, hopefully in the company of green sea turtles. Back on board, navigate along the Bolivar Channel, where nutrient-rich upwellings provide fertile fishing grounds for cetaceans.
Then visit the island of Fernandina, the youngest island of the archipelago and arguably one of the most pristine ecosystems on the planet. Punta Espinoza boasts an amazing combination of barren landscapes and abundant wildlife, all dominated by the lofty volcano at the heart of the island. Highlights to spot include hawks, penguins, huge numbers of marine iguanas, and the famous flightless cormorant, with its beguiling blue eyes.
This evening, join fellow guests and crew for a festive farewell toast followed by dinner.
Overnight: Isabela II (B,L,D)
Baltra – Disembarkation / Flight to Guayaquil, Ecuador
Bid a fond adiós to the Isabela II crew this morning prior to departing Baltra for Guayaquil, where you will spend your final night
Overnight: Wyndham Guayaquil (B,L)
Guayaquil / Depart for U.S.
After breakfast, guests departing during the suggested times will take a complimentary transfer to the airport for flights home. Guests continuing on the post-tour will enjoy leisure time in Guayaquil before flying to Lima, Peru, for an evening arrival. (B)
B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner, R = Reception
(Itinerary subject to change.)
Guests should be sure-footed on stairs and able to walk at least one mile on rocky, volcanic, and uneven ground, as some nature hikes will be on irregular and steep terrain. Guests should also be comfortable managing beach landings and boarding small vessels, both from shore and the deck of the Isabela II. Also keep in mind that you will experience varying altitudes, to which you may not be accustomed.
Maximum elevation: 9,350 feet in Quito, Ecuador
- During a full day tour of Quito, marvel at the gold leaf interior of the Jesuit Church of la Compañía—a fine example of the mix of European influences and indigenous art called the Baroque school of Quito; enjoy a lunch of Ecuadorian specialties; and view a unique collection of pre-Columbian art.
- Observe with remarkable proximity the diversity of endemic species such as the Nazca and blue-footed boobies; giant tortoises; marine and land iguanas; the flightless Galapagos cormorant; and the famous Darwin’s finches.
- Discover the myriad of aquatic wildlife in the clear waters of the world’s second largest marine reserve.
- Snorkel with sea lions, colorful tropical fish, and sea turtles—or observe them through a glass bottom boat.
- Explore secluded inlets and stroll sweeping white sand beaches such as Punta Espinoza, where flightless cormorants nest nearby and sea lions, Galapagos penguins, and turtles can be seen frolicking in a fine display of multi-species tolerance in the nearby lagoon.
- Visit dramatic and historic places, including the Charles Darwin Research Station—the iconic site of Galapagos National Park research and conservation efforts—most notable for its captive breeding program for the Galapagos Giant Tortoise; and Sullivan Bay on Santiago Island, one of the ﬁrst sites visited by Charles Darwin featuring a “lunar landscape” of lava ﬁelds.
- What’s included: 2 nights at the 5-star Casa Gangotena hotel in Quito prior to embarkation; 4 nights aboard the Isabela II, with exploration by panga or glass-bottom boat, naturalist-led hikes and excursions, and evening lectures; 1 night at Wyndham Guayaquil after disembarkation; a welcome reception in Quito, 7 breakfasts, 6 lunches, and 4 dinners (served with house wine), including a farewell dinner; all excursions and presentations; complimentary use of kayaks, paddle boards, shorty wetsuits, and snorkeling equipment; Galapagos National Park entrance fee and transit card; internal airfare (from Quito to the islands on day 3, and return to Guayaquil on day 7); gratuities to local guides, hotel porters, and drivers in Quito, the Galapagos Islands, and Guayaquil; and airport transfers for guests arriving and departing during the suggested times.