Legend of the Lava Lizard
The day for your epic trip to the Galapagos Islands is here at long last! But before you fly out to the Galapagos, you’ll spend some time in Quito. This dazzling capital city enjoys a stunning setting, nestled high in the Andes. Here you’ll have some free time to spend soaking up the traditional Ecuadorian Sierra culture, before enjoying a full day city tour. Your base in Quito will be the historical Hotel Patio Andaluz, located in the heart of the city.
On the tour, you’ll get a wonderful overview of the city from Panecillo Hill and San Juan Mirador. From here it’s on to the historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site where you’ll explore the many colonial monuments and architectural must-see sights in the area. After a tasty lunch, it’s time to check out the earth’s equator on both sides at the very epic Middle of the World monument. You’ll wrap up your day ogling the amazing landscapes of Pululahua Geobotanical Reserve.
For your last full day in Quito, head to the cloud forests of Mindo where you’ll uncover the scenic beauty of this unique spot. But it’s not just pretty in these parts, this ecological area also boasts one of the highest concentrations of biodiversity anywhere on the planet! During your trip, you’ll swing by the Hummingbird Garden, spot exotic bird species and hike through the forest. There is also time to choose from a range of optional activities including a visit to a chocolate factory, an orchid garden tour, ziplining, a bird-watching trip with a local expert and much more.
San Cristobal Island
On day four it’s time for your Galapagos Cruise! Fly to San Cristobal where you’ll meet with your naturalist guide and fellow passengers, then transfer to the harbor of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. Hop aboard an inflatable dinghy that will take you to your yacht, which has been built with cruising the Galapagos in mind. First stop? The giant tortoise breeding center on Colorado! Here you’ll get to see these giant beauties in a safe environment, as the center has been built with the mission of rescuing these endangered tortoises. Their eggs are collected in the wild, reproduction takes place in captivity and then they are repopulated into the wild once the hatchlings are big enough and therefore less vulnerable to predators.
At the center you will also find a fun interpretive botanical trail and an insightful visitors center. Visit the center and learn the natural history of the tortoises and discover the evolutional differences between these and other species. On the trail lookout for songbirds as well as yellow warblers, endemic Galapagos large-billed flycatchers and the Chatham mockingbird, which set Darwin on track for his theory of evolution.
During your time exploring the Galapagos, you stay onboard the M/Y Galapagos Odyssey. This boat was built specifically for cruising the islands and causing minimal impact on the fragile ecosystem. There are nine bright and well-sized cabins and three decks to explore. We recommend making your way to the jacuzzi to enjoy the sunset with a drink in your hand.
Day five is packed full of adventure, starting with a dry landing at Suarez Point. You’ll enjoy a guided 2.5-mile walk where you’ll pass by impressive seabird colonies on the cliff tops and have a go at short scrambling passages. Back on board, journey for about an hour to your afternoon location. After a tasty lunch it’s time to dive into the depths of the turquoise-coloured Gardener Bay and swim amidst colourful tropical reef fish, Pacific green turtles and playful Galapagos sea lions. Afterwards head for the wide sandy beach where you can dry off, stroll by the sea lion colony and simply enjoy a quiet moment of reflection. After dinner the cruise continues with the longest stretch of the route - a 7-hour journey to the island of Floreana.
The next day you’ll leave for Devil’s Crown, considered by many the number one spot for snorkelling on the Galapagos. Here five sea currents meet, meaning this marine reserve is incredibly diverse and the deep, transparent waters here give many snorkellers the sensation of flying. Dive in and snorkel amongst yellowtail surgeonfishes, king angelfishes and on occasion, you might spot a Pacific green turtle or Galapagos sea lion. Above sea level, the jagged crater rim provides a home for myriad coastal birds including lava gulls, blue-footed and Nazca boobies, brown pelicans and red-billed tropicbirds.
In the afternoon, pay a visit to Cormorant Point, a salty lagoon and one of the best places on the Galapagos to look for American flamingos among other aquatic birds like Bahama ducks. Afterward it’s on to Post Office Bay & Baroness Lookout. Here you can post your postcards in the peculiar traditional barrel at this historic site that was set up as a makeshift mail service for communication between British 16th-century whalers and poachers. Afterward, climb the Baroness Lookout and soak up the vista of turquoise ocean, red mangroves, and basilic rock.
Santa Fe Island
In the morning it’s on to Santa Fe, which geologists agree is most likely the remnant of the most ancient volcano on the Galapagos. Here you’ll get a glimpse of the rare Barrington land iguana too! Afterward, there is time to snorkel Barrington Bay, home to white tip reef sharks, spotted eagle rays and plentiful tropical reef fish. You might spot more Galapagos sea lions too.
In the afternoon it’s on to South Plaza, one of the most popular islands which is home to several large Galapagos sea lion colonies and the endemic Galapagos land iguana. Visit the two faces, which boast two completely different ecological habitats and wildlife.
North Seymour Island
Day eight will see you depart for the islet of North Seymour, which, strewn with boulders and dry shrubbery attracts plenty of birdlife. Take an easy circular path and make the most of the archipelago’s most extensive colonies of blue-footed boobies and frigate birds. The islet is also home to numerous other seabirds and the Galapagos land iguana.
In the afternoon head to the beautiful white sands of Bachas Beach. Here look out for the vibrant orange colored heavy-armed sally lightfoot crabs on the basaltic rocks, and in the sea, you may be able to spot Galapagos sea lions, marine iguanas, shark fins or, depending on the season, mating Pacific green turtles. Migratory aquatic birds are also fond of this area and you might even glimpse American flamingos filtering water for shrimp and algae.
Day nine is the last day of the cruise and for it, you’ll head to Mosquera. It boasts one of the largest concentrations of Galapagos sea lions in the entire archipelago, plus it’s one of the few spots you can stroll at your leisure rather than following a designated trail. Watch the sea lions frolic on the white coral sand beaches or look for endemic and vulnerable lava gull nests, there are only a few hundred pairs making them the rarest species of gull in the world. Afterward, you’ll be transferred to Baltra airport with your guide, for your flight to Guayaquil where you'll spend the night at the Hotel del Parque.
Your last full day will be spent on a tour of Guayaquil, one of the country’s most vibrant cities. On this flexible morning tour, there is time to see some of the port city’s top landmarks and attractions and tour the Malecón, Las Peñas neighborhood, and the Historical Park. After touring the city, transfer to the airport for your flight home.