Day 1: Arrive Quito, Ecuador We arrive late this evening in Ecuador’s capital and transfer directly to our hotel.
Day 2: Quito Set against a backdrop of staggering Andes peaks, Quito boasts a well-preserved historic center considered the finest in Latin America, as we see on this morning’s city tour. Highlights include Plaza la Independencia, the city’s central square; La Compañía, Ecuador’s most ornate church; Carondelet Presidential Palace, with iron balconies from Les Tuilleries gardens in Paris; San Agustín Church, burial site of many of Ecuador’s war heroes; and the 16th-century Monastery of San Francisco. The remainder of the day is free for independent exploration. Tonight we gather for a welcome dinner at our hotel. B,D
Day 3: Quito/Baltra/Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos Today we fly to the island of Baltra then transfer to Santa Cruz, our first island-based home for our Galapagos exploration. We reach our beautiful hotel set on 370 lush, unspoiled, and secluded acres in the highlands adjacent to Galapagos National Park in time for lunch. This afternoon we visit the huge twin craters (sinkholes) of Los Gemelos; and the secluded white-sand beach at Garrapatero, where we enjoy our first encounters with some of the Galapagos’ celebrated wildlife. Along this peaceful strand framed by black volcanic rock formations, we may see bright red sally lightfoot crabs, intimidating marine iguanas, black-necked stilts with their trademark spindly legs, and pink flamingos feeding in the tidepools. B,L,D
Day 4: Santa Cruz Island We set out on a full-day’s exploration of Santa Cruz, the second largest of the Galapagos Islands and home of the Charles Darwin Research Station; the Galapagos National Park Service; and Puerto Ayora, the islands’ most populous town. At the Darwin Research Station we see and learn about the Galapagos giant tortoises, the islands’ famed inhabitants that can weigh up to 900 pounds and live to be more than 150 years of age. Then we continue to Puerto Ayora, the beating heart of the Galapagos with some 12,000 residents where we have time for lunch on our own and some time at leisure. This afternoon we venture to the highlands to see the largest of the giant tortoises in their natural habitat. Our touring concludes with a walk through the giant lava tunnels at our hotel, where we can explore the caves through which lava flowed in eons past. B,D
Day 5: North Seymour Island/Bachas Beach This morning we board our privately chartered yacht and cruise to North Seymour, a flat, low-lying sliver of land covering 1.9 square miles. A true “deserted island,” North Seymour counts as its only inhabitants the birds and animals that we see on our naturalist-led walk. Among these: blue-footed boobies, swallow-tailed gulls, sea lions, marine and land iguanas, colorful lava lizards with their unique push-up routine for attracting mates, and the islands’ largest population of magnificent frigatebirds, notable for the males’ bright red throat. After lunch, we head back toward Santa Cruz, weighing anchor in the calm waters off Bachas Beach, one of the Galapagos’ primary sea turtle nesting sites. The beach’s floating pier serves as one of the few lasting reminders of the United States’ presence during World War II; here we find the remains of a U.S. Navy barge that sank many years ago. We make a wet landing and take another nature walk along Santa Cruz’s north coast to see flamingo ponds, iguanas, coastal birds, Darwin’s finches, mockingbirds, and gulls, as well as native vegetation. B,L,D
Day 6: Santa Cruz Island/San Cristobal Island This morning we depart Santa Cruz by privately chartered speedboat for San Cristobal, the Galapagos’ easternmost island and our base for the next few days. Upon arrival, we have time for lunch on our own in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, capital of the Galapagos. This afternoon we visit the Interpretation Center, an education center relating the natural and human histories of the Galapagos, as well as current conservation efforts. Then we embark on a walk of about two miles along a wooded path through a dry forest of cactus and acacia trees to Frigatebird Hill. After a climb to the lookout, we enjoy sweeping panoramic views of the ocean below. Then we descend to crescent-shaped Carola Beach, home to marine iguanas and an enormous colony of Galapagos sea lions. B,D
Day 7: San Cristobal Island/Kicker Rock/Cerro Brujo Our day starts early with a private speedboat ride to Kicker Rock, the monolithic extinct volcanic cone that rises some 500 feet from the sea off the west coast of San Cristobal. A haven for nesting seabirds and home to a vast array of marine life, the rock’s two separate formations offer some of Earth’s most unspoiled opportunities for wildlife viewing. We have the opportunity to snorkel amidst the sea turtles, rays, bioluminescent jellyfish, whitetip and Galapagos sharks, and several varieties of tropical fish that swim in the clear waters here. We enjoy lunch onboard then cruise to Cerro Brujo (Witch Hill), on the north coast of San Cristobal. A striking eroded tuff cone, Cerro Brujo is known for its fantastic snorkeling and beach of fine white sand. Local residents include brown pelicans, blue-footed boobies, sea lions, and marine iguanas. After time to enjoy this special spot, we cruise back to San Cristobal for dinner on our own in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. B,L
Day 8: San Cristobal Island/Española Island This morning we visit Española, the southernmost island in the Galapagos archipelago. We disembark at Punta Suarez, a peninsula on the western tip of the island, and embark on a two-mile nature walk. Española enjoys renown for its unique red and turquoise iguanas, and as the world’s only nesting site for the waved albatross, easily identified by its massive wingspan and long, bright yellow beak (we may spot these distinctive birds on Española from March through August). We’re also on the lookout for blue-footed boobies, sea lions, swallow-tailed gulls, and lava lizards. Late this afternoon, we return to San Cristobal where tonight we enjoy a farewell dinner at our hotel. B,L,D
Day 9: San Cristobal/Quito/Depart for U.S. We fly today to Quito, where we have day rooms reserved at our airport hotel. This evening we transfer to the airport for our overnight flight to the U.S. B
Day 10: Arrive U.S. We arrive in the U.S. today and connect with our flights home.
Please note: This trip involves considerable walking on uneven terrain. Also, there are both wet and dry landings in the Galapagos. You should be in good physical condition to enjoy the tour to the fullest.
B = Breakfast included L = Lunch included D = Dinner included