Galapagos Adventure: Land-Based (9 days)

On this 9 day private-guided adventure through the Galapagos Islands you will see truly unique wildlife! Traveling to several islands, you get substantial exploration ‘range’ throughout the archipelago, all in spectacular comfort, and with terrific food! The land-based program has you staying in wonderful boutique hotels on the islands of the Galapagos, giving you the opportunity to get up close to the wildlife, and to visit with some of the local human inhabitants. The trip is filled with activities, like paddling, swimming, snorkeling, hiking, and provides a dose of culture and history too, with a visit to Quito, the ‘middle of the world’, and villages in the Galapagos Islands. 

Daily Itinerary


Day 1

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Arrive in Quito, Ecuador

Accommodation: La Casona de la Ronda

Welcome to Quito, Ecuador!

Arrive at Mariscal Sucre International Airport and meet your driver to be transferred to your hotel in Quito, La Casona de la Ronda.

Day 2

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Quito:

  • Full-day, private-guided tour of the ‘middle of the world’ and the ‘Old Town’ in Quito

Accommodation: La Casona de la Ronda

Meals: B, L, D

 

Today you will enjoy a full-day, private-guided tour of Quito and the ‘middle of the world’.

We will start at the Mitad del Mundo (middle of the world), a site located just 30 minutes north of Quito, is the monument that marks the equator at its closest point to the city. Archaeological evidence shows that both pre-Inca and Inca civilizations recognised and celebrated the equinox, the day the sun is directly over the equator.

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

After lunch, we will continue our tour in Quito. The place to start is Colonial Quito, a city of narrow cobblestone streets lined with whitewashed walls and, rising above, the steeples and cupolas of the city’s many spectacularly decorated historic churches. The city has one of the best preserved colonial centers in all South America and its integrity was assured in 1978 when the United Nations declared Quito a World Cultural Heritage site. Quito is the first city ever to be named a world heritage site. First on the agenda is a walk through the Main Plaza, the Plaza de 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 monastery of San Francisco, for which building began only 5 days after the founding of the city.

Day 3

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Fly to Baltra Island – the gateway to the Galapagos!

Baltra Island, Galapagos and surrounding area:

  • Explore the turquoise waters to the Itabaca Chanel
  • Enjoy water activities – kayak, snorkel and stand up paddleboard (SUP) – while seeing famous Galapagos wildlife

Transfer to the Santa Cruz highlands to a private reserve where the Giant Tortoises live

Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos:

  • Watch the colorful sunset and enjoy a 3 course dinner
  • After dinner, take a walk and enjoy a night cap in the one-of-a-kind ‘Lava Lounge’

Accommodation: Galapagos Magic Tented Camp

Meals: B, L, D

This morning, we transfer to Quito’s Mariscal Sucre Airport and fly to Baltra Island, the gateway to the Galapagos!

This tiny island was a military base during the Second World War 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.

From Itabaca Channel we head up to the Santa Cruz highlands to one of the private reserves that borders the National Park where the famous Giant Tortoises inhabit in the wild.

We will enjoy lunch at the reserve. After lunch we will drive to where our exclusive giant tortoise reserve and tented camp is located. 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 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 night cap 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

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Santa Cruz, Galapagos and surrounding area:

  • Private, full-day excursion on motor yacht
  • Visit the remote islands of the Galapagos
  • Enjoy water activities while observing various species of wildlife

Accommodation: Galapagos Magic Tented Camp

Meals: B, L, D

Today after breakfast we will head back to Itabaca Channel to continue our National Park and Marine Reserve exploration.

Embark our motor yacht and enjoy a private full-day excursion with welcoming crew members and a knowledgeable naturalist guide, and experience the remote islands in comfort and style.

Again, you can swim, snorkel, kayak and SUP as you observe various species of the famous Galapagos wildlife.

The location for today’s excursion depends on the day of the week: Mondays and Thursdays visit North Seymour and Bachas; Tuesdays and Fridays visit South Plazas; Wednesday visit Santa Fe Island; Saturdays visit Bartolome and Sullivan Bay; Sundays visit to Bartolome.

Day 5

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Transfer to Floreana Island, home to the Galapagos’ smallest human population

Floreana Island, Galapagos and surrounding area:

  • Walk or paddle to nearby Black Beach for some snorkeling
  • Explore a sea lion breeding ground
  • Swim/Snorkel with sea turtles, sea lions, stunning rays and other tropical fish

Accommodation: Floreana Lava Lodge

Meals: B, L, D

After a final breakfast at Magic Galapagos, we say goodbye and depart for Floreana Island. We will leave early for our two-hour speedboat crossing.

This peaceful island is home to the Galapagos’ smallest human population. Because only 150 people call Floreana home, it is the least developed and most natural of the four inhabited islands. It was the first inhabited islands in the Galapagos, and descendants of the original population still live here. Once a pirates’ lair, the island’s history is full of mystery and legends about its first inhabitants.

During our stay, we will be hiking, learning about the fascinating local history and also seeing some of the Galapagos’ special wildlife. We may see giant tortoises, frigate birds, sea lions, Darwin’s finches, petrels and marine iguanas, among other species.

Upon arrival on Floreana, we will take an open-air ‘chiva bus’ to Floreana Lava Lodge, which overlooks one of the Galapagos’ most beautiful and secluded bays. The lodge is operated by Claudio Cruz, a descendant of one of the Island’s original inhabitants. We are lucky to be hosted by Claudio, as he is able to share his deep knowledge of the Island and its history with us, as well as to meet several of his family members during our stay, giving us special insight into life on Floreana.

Once we are settled in, we can walk or paddle (kayak or stand up paddleboard) to nearby Black Beach for some snorkeling. After time in the water to whet our appetites, we will walk to a restaurant in the nearby village for lunch. The restaurant is part of a community tourism initiative.

In the afternoon, we set out once again to paddle the pristine waters (kayak or SUP) across the bay to explore La Loberia, a sea lion breeding ground. Once there, we can enjoy more snorkeling and swimming in the calm, bright water with sea turtles, sea lions, stunning rays and an abundance of tropical fish.

Later we will return to the lodge (30 minute walk or kayak/SUP) for a warm shower. We will watch the spectacular sunset and then head to the village for dinner where we will celebrate another incredible day in the Galapagos.

Day 6

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Floreana Island, Galapagos:

  • Explore the island on a private half-day tour
  • Learn about the history of some of Floreana’s first inhabitants
  • Hike through the highlands, explore the pirate caves and visit the freshwater spring, seeing wildlife along the way
  • Visit a local farm to see where the local people grow produce
  • Enjoy a free afternoon – practice your kayak or SUP skills, snorkel, swim, relax

Accommodation: Floreana Lava Lodge

Meals: B, L, D

After breakfast, we leave to explore the Floreana highlands on our open-air bus (chiva) – an unbeatable, historic, and comfortable way to see the island. On the way, our naturalist guide will share the colorful history of some of Floreana’s first inhabitants, such as the Wittmers (whose descendants still live on the Island), the Baroness, and the pirates that once visited here. They will also tell us about the “Enigma of Floreana,” involving the mysterious deaths of several of the Island’s inhabitants. The enigma is a riddle from the 1930’s that has never been solved and was featured in the film “The Galapagos Affair”.

After driving into the highlands, we reach Asilo de la Paz (Peace Haven) where our hike begins. We walk up to this historic site, explore the pirate caves, and visit the freshwater spring that provides water for the entire Island, with our guide sharing stories and history along the way. As we traverse the hillside, we can expect to see giant tortoises lumbering around in the vegetation or even on the trail.

We depart Asilo de Paz walking down through a rural area where the local people grow produce for their own consumption. This is a fascinating example of how the island people survived in this remote place and over the years were able to develop an understanding of the local environment and now work to preserve their unique agricultural knowledge. On our way back to the coast, we will make a stop at Claudio’s farm, La Primavera, where we will watch the extraordinary behavior of the frigate birds who ‘dance’ as they wash their salty wings in the fresh water lake on the farm. With a little bit of luck, we may be able to see males puffing up the red pouches on their chests in an attempt to attract females. We’ll also see where some of the delicious fruit and vegetables that we’ve been eating at the lodge come from.

From La Primavera farm we continue by chiva down to Las Palmas, where the Island’s first permanent inhabitant, the eccentric Dr. Ritter, lived and is buried. Arriving in 1926, the German physician believed that with a combination of exercise and the right vegetarian diet he would live to be 150 years old. He didn’t, but his story is one of the many strange episodes that make up the intriguing history of the island. Making our way back to the lodge, we will be treated to spectacular views of the Floreana shoreline.

Back at Lava Lodge we will prepare a very special barbecue lunch, featuring delicious Cruz family recipes! After lunch, we have a free afternoon. Practice your kayak or SUP skills, go snorkeling in La Loberia or simply relax and take in the beautiful Galapagos views from the Lava Lodge.

Day 7

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Transfer to Isabela Island

Isabela Island, Galapagos and surrounding area:

  • Tour the Tintoreras, a group of small islands where you will see almost all of the archipelago’s iconic wildlife
  • Snorkel in the bay, where you may be joined by penguins or sea lions
  • Visit a giant tortoise-breeding center

Accommodation: IsaMar

Meals: B, L, D

Today we take an early morning speedboat and transfer to Isabela Island where we will check into our hotel.

Our Isabela adventure begins with a tour of the Tintoreras, a group of small islands near the village of Puerto Villamil, that are named after the white tipped ‘Tintoreras’ reef sharks that swim in these calm waters. A Galapagos in miniature on the Tintoreras you will see almost all of the archipelago’s iconic wildlife: white tipped sharks, sea lions, turtles, rays, penguins, and of course pelicans and blue footed boobies.

You will have a chance to snorkel in the bay – and don’t be surprised if some of the penguins or sea lions jump in to play alongside you in the water.

In the afternoon we walk from our hotel to the local giant tortoise-breeding center and on the way we may catch a glimpse of pink flamingos feeding in a lake. Once at the Center our guides will explain the process of breeding and then releasing into the wild these giant slow moving creatures whose Spanish name (meaning saddle) gave the Islands their present title. The breeding center is an important conservation tool and it is here that the islands’ giant tortoise population is presently recovering.

Day 8

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Isabela Island

  • Enjoy a 16km hike on the island, exploring its volcanos, wildlife and expansive views of the Galapagos Islands
  • Hike up to the crater of the massive Sierra Negra volcano, the second largest in the world after the Ngorongoro in Tanzania
  • Continue your hike to Volcan Chico
  • In the afternoon, relax on the beaches of Puerto Villamil

Accommodation: IsaMar

Meals: B, L, D

Volcanic eruptions created all of the islands in the Galapagos, and you will get to see this geologic process first-hand as we explore Isabela, one of the youngest and most volcanically active islands of the archipelago.

We have the whole day to explore the Isabela highlands, and we start by hiking up to the crater of the massive Sierra Negra volcano, and then onward to the rim of the Volcan Chico. This fascinating walk usually begins with some morning fog and drizzle which sometimes persists in the shadow of the volcano, adding to its mysterious character. Despite the drizzle, we might see Galapagos hawks, finches, flycatchers and short-eared owls en route.

When we reach the rim of the Sierra Negra crater, the second largest in the world after the Ngorongoro in Tanzania, we will see the real reward for our efforts. The crater is so large, and the views so expansive, photos can’t do it justice, but bring your binoculars and camera anyway!

Later, as we head towards Volcan Chico, we may get the feeling we are walking on Mars due to the alien landscape. While it appears to be utterly desolate, a closer look reveals small lizards scurrying among the rocks. From its rim, we will enjoy more amazing views along with lava tubes and fumaroles.

After Volcan Chico and its extreme landscape, we will relax under the shade of a lovely “jaboncillo” tree to enjoy your box lunch while taking in the spectacular and expansive views over the central and northern parts of Isabela Island. In the distance, we will be able to see Fernandina, Pinzon and Santa Cruz Islands. We then head back down to complete our day of hiking (16 km in total) and relax on the beaches of Puerto Villamil.

Day 9

Details for Today

Transfer to Baltra Island and fly to Quito for your international departure

Meals: B

Today we take an early morning speed boat back to Santa Cruz and then transfer by land to Baltra for a flight back to Quito to catch your international flight home.

Accommodation

La Casona de La Ronda in Quito (Standard Room)

La Casona de La Ronda Boutique Hotel is located in the Historical Centre of Quito Old Town. Many guests describe the hotel as “an oasis of tranquility on arrival in Quito”. The hotel is passionate about its guests. We give genuine, warm smiles and truly want our boutique hotel to become a home away from home for our guests.

Set in a colonial style house built in 1738, the hotel’s rooms are very bright and are decorated with stylish wooden furnishing. Guests can enjoy relaxing in the hotel’s garden and on the terrace.

Galapagos Magic Tented Camp on Santa Cruz Island

Galapagos Magic is a million miles from the world’s hustle and bustle. Set in the highlands of Santa Cruz (and away from the waterfront crowds), this totally unique property surprises and delights. All tents – 4 elevated tree houses and 6 raised walk-in tents – have gorgeous views, and guests are surrounded by nature as they sleep. Magic is a place to relax, walk the beautiful mountainside, turn your gaze to the beautiful heavens and to admire nature. Giant tortoises call Galapagos Magic their home much of the year, and guests might see a handful slowly moving through the grounds or many dozens dotting the meadow.

Sunsets from Magic are, well, magic! Enjoying the last light of day with a cocktail on the meadow deck is a relaxing pastime, as is sharing stories of the days’ adventures in front of the open-air main lodge’s crackling fire. Magic serves sumptuous, three course dinners. The chefs use their culinary skills in the open kitchen to turn local ingredients into creative and elegant dishes. An after dinner stroll to the ‘Lava Lounge’ for a nightcap is the perfect way to end the day.

Floreana Lava Lodge on Floreana Island (Standard Room)

Floreana Island is surrounded by mystery and enchantment. One of only four inhabited islands in the Galapagos, it is home to a wonderful, secluded spot right on the water: Floreana Lava Lodge. Floreana is a place from another age – quiet, undisturbed, undeveloped and utterly peaceful. There’s no other place like it in the Galapagos archipelago or perhaps in the world, and Floreana Lava Lodge is the perfect place to slow down and soak in the magic, away from the crowds found on other inhabited islands.

Located in Puerto Velasco Ibarra, Lava Lodge is owned by members of the Cruz family, one of Floreana’s longest-residing families. Built on black lava sands near the ocean’s edge, the lodge’s cabins are situated on one of the best sites on the entire archipelago for sea views and gorgeous sunsets. It’s comfortable and cozy, with friendly local service and a casual, relaxed air. Much of the food served at the lodge is grown by its owners, including the many freshly squeezed juices you might enjoy with breakfast, along with some just-collected eggs. They will have been brought from the Cruz farm the night before or early that morning.

IsaMar on Isabela Island (Standard Room)

IsaMar is idyllically located on Isabela’s beautiful white sand beachfront. Its setting gives guests sweeping Pacific views, swaying palm trees and white sand beaches. The beautiful Galapagos retreat is walking distance to the tortoise breeding center, flamingo lagoon, water activities and to the sandy streets of town where guests will find bakeries, restaurants and bars.

IsaMar’s rooms and family suites are the perfect base for exploring Isabela’s wonders. Hearty meals are available to fuel visitors for hikes and water activities, and outdoor social areas are ideal for taking a siesta, reading a book or stargazing late into the evenings.

Galapagos Adventure: Land-Based (9 days)