For lovers of exotic wildlife and unique landscapes, there’s nowhere in the world quite like the Galapagos. Whether you’re a first-timer or a longtime enthusiast of the region, this classic 10-day journey delivers a wonderful spread of what the archipelago has to offer. Swim with sea lions on Isla Santa Fe, get up close to wild giant tortoises on Isla Santa Cruz, search for pink flamingos and tropicbirds on Isla Floreana, encounter marine iguanas and white-tipped reef sharks on Isla Isabela, and enjoy the white sandy beaches and vibrant birdlife of Isla Espanola. With regular swimming and snorkelling, unrivalled photo opportunities, hikes on volcanic landscapes, and the boutique Grand Queen Beatriz your comfortable base, this Classic Galapagos adventure is a sailing trip to remember.
Day 1 - Quito
On arrival at Quito's Mariscal Sucre International Airport you will be met and transferred to your hotel. The remainder of the day will be at your leisure. A welcome meeting will be held in the evening at either 5 pm or 6 pm when you meet others travelling with you on your cruise to the Galapagos Islands. Please check with hotel reception or check the reception notice boards for the time and place of the meeting for your trip. As today is an arrival day, you can arrive at any time as there are no activities planned until this important meeting. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). Quito sits at high altitude under the towering Pichincha volcano. It is a beautiful city, arguably one of the most beautiful in South America. The city stretches along the valley and is surrounded by the Andes. The Old Town of Quito is awash with history, with more than 30 churches to explore, and a number of fascinating museums. La Compania de Jesus is considered to be the most beautiful and ornate churches in the Americas. The city's oldest street, Calle La Ronda, is well worth exploring. As this trip spends very little time in Quito, we recommend you spend a few extra days before or after your trip to experience all the city has to offer. You may even wish to explore further beyond the city and visit Otavalo, Cotopaxi, the Cloud Forest or the Equatorial Monument.
Day 2 - Isla Baltra
This morning you will be transferred to the airport for your flight to the Galapagos Islands. Please note the pick-up time will usually be as early as 4.30 am (a boxed breakfast will be provided), as the airport is a one-hour drive away and you must allow for delays and check-in times. (Your tour leader will confirm this time with you at the welcome meeting on Day 1). A US$20 per person transit card is payable on departure at Quito Airport and a US$100 per person national park entry fee is payable on arrival on the islands. Please have cash on hand for these transactions as credit cards are not accepted. The flight to the Galapagos will make one stop in Guayaquil to pick up other passengers. (Total flight time is about 3.5 hours). On arrival in the Galapagos you will be met in the arrivals hall and then transferred to your motor yacht, M.Y. Grand Queen Beatriz, anchored a short distance away in Isla Baltra. Once on board you’ll be assigned your cabins, meet the crew members and have a welcome briefing and safety drill before getting to know your naturalist guide and fellow travellers over a delicious lunch. Your first stop in the afternoon will be Punta Carrion, located on the eastern side of the Itabaca channel that separates the islands of Baltra and Santa Cruz. This is a shallow and protected cove, ideal for your first snorkel and swim in the Galapagos! From a boat ride, wildlife is plentiful - keep your eyes peeled for occasional sights of blue-footed boobies, Galapagos herons, great blue herons and underwater swim among rays and white-tipped reef sharks. Tonight, enjoy a welcome cocktail and crew presentation on board.Estimated travel time/distance:
Isla Baltra to Punta Carrion: 1.5 hours (10 nautical miles)
Punta Carrion to Isla Isabela (Puerto Villamil): 9 hours (64 nautical miles)
Day 3 - Isla Isabela - Las Tintoreras - Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre
Today you will wake up on the south Coast of Isla Isabela (Isabela Island), the largest of the Galapagos Archipelago. Isabela was formed by five giant volcanic craters, all of which are still considered active. The island is located in one of the youngest geological areas in the world, having been formed less than 1 million years ago. Please note that there's a US$10 fee to be paid upon landing on Isabela Island. This southern coast of turquoise blue waters has the largest area of beaches in the Galapagos. You will visit Las Tintoreras, where from the viewing walkway you can look down into this narrow channel to see a colony of white-tipped reef sharks swimming and sleeping, and the occasional playful sea lion among them! Blue-footed boobies and penguins, marine iguanas and crabs also make their home here. Enjoy a nice long walk on a gravel path through ‘Ahh-ahh’ lava flow and see plenty of marine iguanas. The natives of the islands call white sharks 'tintoreras', hence the name of this spectacular site. In the afternoon we visit the Arnoldo Tupiza Tortoise breeding center. We have a leisurely walk through a coastal lagoon, where you might see Flamingos. This mangrove-lined path leads to Isabela’s Giant Tortoise Breeding Center (Arnoldo Tupiza) where you'll observe giant tortoises in all stages of development. Here you can see the five sub species of tortoises from Isabela Island, some of which are bred in captivity. You will then have the choice for optional swimming at the beach or out for some shopping in Puerto Villamil.Estimated travel time/distance:
Isabela Island (Puerto Villamil) to Post Office Bay: 6 hours (40 nautical miles)
Day 4 - Isla Floreana - Post Office Bay - Devil's Crown - Punta Cormorant.
The island of Floreana is a highlight of any Galapagos cruise, rich in natural wonders and wildlife. Enjoy a panga ride around the loberia to observe marine iguanas, sea lions and crabs before taking a leisurely walk to Post Office Bay, where 18th century whalers used a barrel as an unofficial mail drop. This custom continues to this day with visitors to the Galapagos – post one of your own, or see if there are any you could deliver back home! You will also have the chance to go snorkelling with sea turtles. Today is also one of your finest opportunities to see pink flamingos and other water birds wading in the lagoons, including pintails and stilts. Just offshore, the Devil’s Crown is an old eroded volcanic cone and a popular roosting site for seabirds such as boobies, pelicans and frigates. Red-billed tropicbirds can also be seen nesting in the rocky crevices. The centre of the cone is an outstanding snorkelling spot, perhaps the most remarkable in the entire archipelago, full of sea lions and colourful fish. You will go ashore at Punta Cormorant where the sand is made up of fine olivine crystals, a glassy volcanic mineral, giving the beach an olive-green colour. It is the best place to see Galapagos sea lions.Estimated travel time/distance:
Post Office Bay to Punta Cormorant: 0.5 hours (3 nautical miles)
Punta Cormorant to Puerto Ayora: 4 hours (32 nautical miles)
Day 5 - Isla Santa Cruz - Charles Darwin Station - Santa Cruz Highlands.
Today you will visit Santa Cruz, the second largest island in the Galapagos. The small town of Puerto Ayora is the economic centre of the archipelago, and home to the Charles Darwin Research Station. As well as undertaking vital conservation work, the station also makes for interesting exploration and offers the best opportunities for close encounters with giant tortoises. You will also observe baby tortoises and land iguanas. Afterward you will head up into the highlands for a total change of scenery. Beginning at the coast you'll travel across Santa Cruz through the agricultural region and into the misty forests with the journey taking about 45 mins. This is a lush humid zone containing miconia bushes, scalesia and inactive volcanic cones. Santa Cruz has more endemic plants than any of the other islands and you are likely to see Galapagos giant tortoises in their natural habitat and perhaps even the bright red feathers of a vermillion flycatcher! Today there will be some passengers leaving the tour and some new passengers joining.Estimated travel time/distance:
Puerto Ayora to the Highlands: 45 mins by bus
Puerto Ayora to Santa Fe: 2 hours (16 nautical miles)
Day 6 - Isla Santa Fe - Isla Plaza Sur
Santa Fe Island is home to many sea lions and these ones are very eager for swimming partners! It’s a lovely place to take a dip, offers a dense concentration of wildlife, and is a fantastic place to see many of the stars of the Galapagos in one relatively small area. Expect to see Galapagos hawks, land iguanas, a variety of finches, Galapagos mockingbirds, sea lions, marine turtles, frigatebirds, Galapagos doves and lava lizards. It’s a naturally beautiful island as well with one of the most attractive coves in the archipelago and the jade-green waters are ideal for snorkelling. A trail follows the coast into the opuntia forest, where you see Santa Fe's trees - the largest in the Galapagos. The island is also home to a unique sub-species of land iguanas. Hiking towards the cliffs on Santa Fe will lead you to a forest of prickly pear cactus. A member of the cactus family, their name comes from the pear-shaped fruit the plant produces. Santa Fe is home to endemic land iguanas. A small island, Plaza Sur is nonetheless a place of great beauty, where you will get close to sea lions and on to trails past one of the Galapagos’ largest land iguana populations, resting amid cacti and volcanic landscapes coloured bright red and green by sesuvium. The island’s rugged southern cliffs are an excellent place to spot tropicbirds and swallow-tailed gulls, as well as the 'Gentlemen’s Club’, a gathering of male sea lions either too young or too old to be beachmasters!Estimated travel time/distance:
Isla Santa Fe to Isla Plaza Sur: 2 hours (16 nautical miles)
Isla Plaza Sur to Isla Espanola (Punta Suarez): 7 hours (60 nautical miles)
Day 7 - Isla Espanola - Bahia Gardner - Punta Suarez
After an overnight night sail you will wake up on the island of Española - the southernmost island of the Galapagos and one of the most spectacular. Because of its remote location, this island has a large population of endemic fauna. It is the breeding site for nearly all of the world's 12,000 pairs of waved albatrosses and also home to colonies of blue-footed and masked boobies. Trails from the golden beaches, where sea lions bathe and marine iguanas make their way towards the water, will lead you right through the middle of booby colonies, and Galapagos doves and mockingbirds are also often seen. You will also visit the beautiful white sandy beaches at Bahia Gardner, which are great places for swimming and relaxing. The rocks off the coast provide excellent snorkelling opportunities, with reef sharks, turtles and many species of tropical fish, including surgeon and angelfish, often seen. The small white-tipped reef sharks are also often spotted resting under the rocks. You will also pay a visit to Punta Suarez, one of the most attractive locations in the Galapagos and home to large and varied wildlife population - a walk along its trails will take you to a cliff top viewpoint, where you'll gain a magical panorama. Boobies line the rocky shoreline beneath you, while frigate birds may be seen overhead; nearby enormous male sea lions can be seen lounging and albatross use the cliffs as their ‘runway’, helping become airborne by the southeast winds that blow across this part of the island. If you’re lucky you’ll see the elaborate courtship rituals performed by albatrosses before the female chooses her lifelong mate! Stop at Bahia Gardner (Gardner Bay), which is considered by many as one of the most beautiful beaches in the Galapagos Islands and full of sea lions and hood mockingbirds. Enjoy the beach and do some snorkelling which could be great for playing with sea lion pups and lots of fish. The rocks off the coast provide excellent snorkelling opportunities, with reef sharks, turtles and many species of tropical fish, including surgeon and angelfish, often seen. The small white-tipped reef sharks are also often spotted resting under the rocks.Estimated travel time/distance:
Punta Suarez to Bahia Gardener: 1 hour (7 nautical miles)
Bahia Gardener to Punta Pitt (San Cristobal Island): 7 hours (50 nautical miles)
Day 8 - Isla San Cristobal - Leon Dormido - Isla Lobos - Punta Pitt
This morning you will visit Punta Pitt on the eastern end of San Cristobál Island. Walk to the top of the volcanic hill for expansive views of the sparsely vegetated area. A variety of seabirds nest here, including blue-footed boobies and frigates. On a Zodiac ride you can observe the three varieties of boobies nesting in the Galapagos and enjoy a snorkel from the beach. Close by you will pass through Leon Dormido (Kicker Rock), the magnificent basalt remains of a crater in the middle of the sea, the shape resembles a sleeping lion. The rock rises 150 metres above the surface and is divided into two parts by a narrow channel. You cruise through the channel with nesting seabirds on either side of the boat, tropic birds overhead, marine iguanas in the water and many sea lions present including many resting on the rocks. Snorkelling gives us the opportunity to see Galapagos sharks, and possibly a hammerhead shark among sea turtles and an incredible biodiversity of invertebrates on the rock wall. You will also visit Isla Lobos, a tiny island almost touching San Cristobál Island. This is the perfect time to witness the always friendly sea lions as they play in the calm shallow waters here. Blue-footed boobies, frigate birds and marine iguanas are also easily seen.Estimated travel time/distance:
Punta Pitt to Kicker Rock (San Cristobal): 2.5 hours (27 nautical miles)
Kicker Rock to Isla Lobos: 1 hour (7 nautical miles)
Isla Lobos to Puerto Baquerizo (San Cristobal): 1 hour (5 nautical miles)
Day 9 - Isla San Cristobal - Quito
As flights to the mainland from Galapagos depart mid morning, it is an early start for our last morning on the islands. Depending on the time of our flight, our time spent on this final excursion could be limited. Visit San Cristobal Interpretation Center in the morning. This centre brings the history and geography of the archipelago to life, from its volcanic origins to the present day. The human history exhibit offers an insight into the discovery and colonisation of the Galapagos, and the reality of the problems the islands face today is also explored. This is a great way to complete your time in the Galapagos. This will be your final excursion before you head to the airport in San Cristobal for your flight back to Quito. As you will be leaving the boat this morning, please remember that if you have enjoyed the services provided by your guide and crew, a tip would be very much appreciated by them. As a guideline we recommend each passenger consider US$15 per day for the crew and US$10 per day for your guide. You can leave tips in envelopes that are placed in your cabin on this last day of your journey. Upon arrival in Quito Airport you are transferred back to our hotel for an overnight stay.
Day 10 - Quito
Your Galapagos adventure will come to an end today after breakfast. There are no activities planned for the final day so you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. There are many fascinating things to do in and around Quito, so please speak to our customer service representative about any optional activities that might be of interest. They can also assist you in booking a departure transfer to the airport.