Galápagos Islands | Archipelago Explorations by Land

Galápagos Islands | Archipelago Explorations by Land

About this trip

For centuries, the Galápagos Islands were believed to be of no value except as a rest stop for whalers and pirates. This view remained unchanged until Charles Darwin set the science world on fire in 1859 with theories based on his findings in the Galápagos. This 10-day adventure will take us on a journey to the Enchanted Isles to uncover some of the surreal landscapes and unique lifeforms that have made the islands famous. Explore local landmarks during guided hikes and bike rides, then search for marine life as you kayak, snorkel, and paddleboard along scenic coastlines. Learn about the human and natural history of the islands and discover some of the conservation projects put in place by the national park. After challenging the mind and body during daily excursions, reward those efforts with relaxing stays at a highland tented camp and boutique accommodations on Santa Cruz and Isabela Islands.

Highlights

  • Visit the Charles Darwin Research Station to view giant tortoises and learn of efforts to increase their numbers.
  • Interact with locals at Puerto Villamil and Puerto Ayora to get a feel for daily life in the islands.
  • Experience the surreal beauty of a cloud forest during a walk through a Scalesia forest on Santa Cruz.
  • Kayak, swim, snorkel, and paddleboard from scenic beaches in search of marine life.
  • Hike to the highlands of Isabela to enjoy stunning views from atop Sierra Negra Volcano.
2 Travelers

$4,895

Land Cost

Group size

Book 2 travelers and 0 group
leaders travel for free

6 Travelers

$4,175

Land Cost

Group size

Book 6 travelers and 0 group
leaders travel for free

Guayaquil

Day 1

Depart the U.S. on a flight to Guayaquil, Ecuador. Upon arrival at the José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport (GYE), please proceed through Immigration, Baggage Claim, and Customs before exiting the secured area of the airport. Our representative will be waiting to meet and assist you with your transfer to the hotel.

Overnight at Oro Verde

Guayaquil

Day 2

After breakfast and an orientation by our local guide, we will take a bus ride to a typical coastal hacienda that grows bananas and cocoa. We will learn about the cultivation and processing of these products in preparation for export. Most of Ecuador's banana plantations are concentrated along the Pacific coast where weather and soil conditions are optimal for this cash crop. The country is also an important producer and exporter of Arriba cocoa. Arriba cocoa, also known as Nacional, is a native variety that yields high quality beans used in the production of gourmet chocolates. After lunch at a local restaurant, we will drive back to Guayaquil's waterfront in preparation for walking explorations of the Las Peñas neighborhood, Seminario Park, and the bustling Malecon (Riverwalk). A revitalization project in the early 2000s transformed Guayaquil from a seedy and rundown port city to a tourist destination and a cultural hub. Charming homes painted in bright colors and local shops line the hillside streets of Las Peñas, Guayaquil's oldest neighborhood, culminating at a lighthouse atop Santa Ana Hill. The attractive Malecon, overlooking the Guayas River, is a great spot for people watching, sightseeing, and dining as it contains multiple restaurants, stores, historic buildings, museums, gardens, and even an IMAX theater. Dinner will be on your own to explore local fare.

Breakfast-Lunch- included
Overnight at Oro Verde

Galapagos

Day 3

Early this morning, transfer to the airport and catch a two-hour flight to Baltra Island. On flights to the Galápagos passengers are allowed to bring one piece of checked luggage weighing up to 50 pounds as well as a small carryon. Once we land and complete Immigration procedures and luggage inspection we will make use of a special VIP lounge where we 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 spectacular turquoise waters. We will have a chance to kayak and stand up paddleboard (SUP), as we paddle in search of local wildlife including Blue-footed Boobies, sea lions, Brown Pelicans, a variety of herons and white-tipped reef sharks. There's no better introduction to the Galápagos than to get on the water as soon as possible! We will glide through beautiful red mangrove forests and along lava rock cliffs on water so clear we can see the marine life in the shallows. Our ocean (sit on top) kayaks come in doubles or singles, and life jackets are provided. A support boat will escort us throughout our water activities to ensure safety and to provide water, snacks and towels between activities. From the Itabaca Channel we will board a bus and drive to our tented camp in order to check in and eat lunch. In the afternoon, we will accompany our naturalist guide on an orientation to the Galápagos Magic Camp and its nature sanctuary. During our walking exploration we will discuss human development in the area and how it impacts local plant and animal species. Loss of habitat is one of the biggest threats to the survival of endemic species such as the giant tortoises that gave the Galápagos Islands their name. Scientific research indicates giant-sized tortoises once inhabited many regions of the world, but now only exist in the Galápagos Islands and in the Seychelles archipelago off East Africa. The Galápagos Magic Camp is involved in local conservation efforts including the reforestation of 12 hectares of its property to serve as a sanctuary to local wild tortoises seen wandering the grounds. From atop a viewing platform we'll enjoy a scenic sunset then make our way to dinner. During the next three nights we will be staying in the verdant highlands of Santa Cruz. While at the Galápagos Magic Camp, we'll be accommodated in comfortable safari tents with en suite facilities. Each tent is affixed to a raised wooden platform that is covered with a fixed roof.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Galapagos Magic Camp

Galapagos

Day 4

This morning's activities begin with a drive to the dock in order to board a boat to visit area islands. We can visit North Seymour and Bachas, South Plazas, Santa Fe Island or Bartolomé, and Sullivan Bay. Along the way, we might see leaping rays or other sea life, while enjoying the vastness of the Pacific. The yacht tour lets us view the Islands and their wildlife in their most pristine state. Our cruise will include lunch; Island visited may vary according to National Park regulations and local weather conditions. At the end of the day we will disembark at Santa Cruz and drive back to our camp in time for dinner.

Breakfast-Lunch-Dinner included
Overnight at Galapagos Magic Camp

Galapagos

Day 5

After a filling breakfast and check out, we will bike from the camp to Garrapatero Beach in preparation for a kayaking activity. Our 30-minute ride on paved roads will take us by small farms and sweeping views of the coast. At Garrapatero we will drop off the bikes and collect our kayaking gear before paddling out to the bay for some invigorating exercise. Concluding the kayaking we will wind down with a short walk to a nearby lagoon, a favorite flamingo hangout. After enjoying a picnic lunch and free time at the beach we will transfer to Puerto Ayora to check in at our hotel. In the afternoon we will visit the Charles Darwin Research Station to learn about the center's tortoise breeding project and other conservation initiatives in the archipelago. The Charles Darwin Research Station is the matrix of all the scientific researches in the Galápagos Islands. The station also offers a brand new, self-directed Interpretation Center with important samples of the station's collections. Walking on the station's grounds we will reach the Fausto Llerena Tortoise Center where it is possible to observe giant tortoises being raised for release into the wild. Wild tortoises have a high mortality rate during their first years of life, but the odds improve considerably after they hit the five year mark. In addition to the Fausto Llerena center on Santa Cruz, there are sister breeding centers established on Isabela and San Cristóbal Island. We'll return to the lodge then enjoy the remainder of the day at our leisure. Dinner will be on our own to explore local fare.

Breakfast-Lunch- included
Overnight at Mainao Hotel

Galapagos

Day 6

This morning we will experience a bit of local life during a visit to a small fish market on Santa Cruz Island. It is not uncommon to spot sea lions and pelicans lounging on the sidelines as fishermen drop off their fresh catch and residents line up to make their selections. Next, we will board the island's speedboat service to Puerto Villamil, Isabela Island where we will check into our hotel. A short drive by chiva bus will deliver us to the Arnaldo Tupiza Tortoise Center where we will learn about the important work conducted at the center. After getting dropped off at Puerto Villamil, we'll follow a nature trail through the local wetlands to observe flamingoes and other species that frequent the brackish lagoons. Lunch will be at a local restaurant. In the afternoon, we will take a 20-minute boat ride to the Tintoreras Islets and explore the rocky shores in search of marine iguanas, Galápagos Penguins, Blue-footed Boobies, sea lions, pelicans, and more. The islands are named after the white tipped 'Tintoreras' reef sharks that swim in these calm waters. After walking on the island, we will have a chance to snorkel in the bay and search for tropical fish. Don't be surprised if some of the sea lions jump in to play alongside you in the water! We'll take the boat back to Puerto Villamil then head back to our hotel in order to get cleaned up. Dinner will be on our own to explore local fare. Our hotel is idyllically located on Isabela's beautiful white sand beachfront and is within walking distance to town attractions including restaurants and shops.

Breakfast-Lunch- included
Overnight at Isamar Hotel

Galapagos

Day 7

Hiking day! Volcanic eruptions created all the Galápagos Islands, and you will have a chance to see this geologic process first-hand as we explore Isabela, one of the archipelago's youngest and most volcanically active islands. 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 may see Galápagos 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 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. And while the land appears to be utterly desolate, a closer look will reveal small lizards scurrying about among the rocks. From the crater's rim, we will enjoy more amazing views along with lava tubes and fumaroles. After Volcan Chico and its extreme landscape, we will be able to relax in the shade of a lovely "jaboncillo" tree, and enjoy our box lunch while taking in the spectacular and expansive views over the central and northern parts of the 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 kilometers / 9.94 miles in total) and relax on the beaches of Puerto Villamil. Dinner will be on our own.

Breakfast-Lunch- included
Overnight at Isamar Hotel

Galapagos

Day 8

After breakfast we will get our blood pumping with some ocean kayaking. Once we launch our kayaks from Puerto Villamil will paddle our way across the bay, towards the scenic Tintoreras Islets. Back on terra firma we will freshen up at the hotel then enjoy lunch at a local restaurant. Later in the afternoon we will bike the Wetlands Trail, where we can see marine iguana colonies and a number of different types of mangrove trees (all four species can be seen here). At the end of the trail is the 'Wall of Tears', a historic stone wall built by prisoners from a penal colony that operated on Isabela during the 1940s and 1950s. Prisoners were forced into doing heavy manual labor as punishment for their crimes. After chiseling stone and carrying the heavy load a long distance, inmates were made to build a tall wall. On this network of trails you will enjoy some beautiful views of the village below and have the chance to see birds, and maybe even some wild giant tortoises. We will ride back to our hotel via a downhill route, pedaling our way past scenic white-sand beaches. Dinner will be on our own for a chance to sample local fare.

Breakfast- included
Overnight at Isamar Hotel

Guayaquil

Day 9

Today we take the early morning speedboat service to Santa Cruz Island then stop for breakfast at a local restaurant in Puerto Ayora. From here we take a bus to the highlands then follow a forest trail to reach the famous Los Gemelos (The Twins) pit craters. Endemic Scalesia forests surround the giant formations where it is possible to observe various terrestrial birds such as Vermilion Flycatchers, Woodpecker Finches, Galápagos Doves, and Short-eared Owls. From here we will transfer to the Baltra airport and catch a two-hour flight to Guayaquil. Since the flight does not include meal service, we suggest purchasing a light snack at the airport boarding area prior to embarkation. Once we arrive in Guayaquil, we will transfer to the hotel for check-in. The rest of the day will be at our leisure to enjoy the hotel's amenities, finish packing, or maybe take a stroll along the Malecon. Dinner will be on our own for a chance to try local fare.

Breakfast- included
Overnight at Oro Verde

Departure

Day 10

Breakfast service at the hotel begins at 5:30 a.m. After checking out of the hotel, transfer to Guayaquil's José Joaquin de Olmedo International Airport to catch your flight home. Check in at the international airport is 3 hours prior to flight time.

Breakfast- included