Galapagos Travel Itineraries Galapagos islands Vacations - Boundless Roads

Galapagos travel Itineraries: how to make the most of your time

Isabella Biava ECUADOR, GALAPAGOS ISLANDS, SOUTH AMERICA Leave a Comment

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Remembering how we struggled with building our own Galapagos travel itinerary, I thought I would offer a few itinerary suggestions according to how much time you have available.

I do hope this is useful.

Please consider this is just general information because if you have a specific interest, you should focus your itinerary on it. For example, if you love diving or bird watching.

If you need help with that, please shoot me an email. I will be happy to assist you with a more personalized itinerary. (No worries, it’s free, for now that I am not rich and famous yet! LOL)

ABOUT THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS

The spectacular Ecuadorian archipelago is situated right across the Equator at about 600 km off the mainland coast.

Considering every rock and islets it includes more than 300 islands, of which only 5 are inhabited and a few others are only open to visitors on specific schedules and previous authorizations from the Marine Park.

 Its geographical location at the confluence of three ocean currents makes it one of the richest marine ecosystems in the world. (UNESCO)

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Playa Garrapatero on a cloudy day

Santa Cruz Island

Probably the most populated with 12.000 inhabitants, is the central hub of the Galapagos and where you can find most of the services, such as banks and supermarkets and various shops, besides a great variety of hotels and restaurants. An abundance of activities and tours to the main other islands depart from here.

Puerto Ayora is the heart of Santa Cruz Island and where everything happens.

In Santa Cruz is where the Charles Darwin Foundation Center is located, where researcher and scientists, local and foreigners look after conservations program to preserve the local flora and fauna and repopulate endangered species.

Besides, you will find spectacular beaches such as Tortuga Bay beach and Playa Alemanes, El Garrapatero and A spectacular snorkeling spot called Las Grietas. I wrote a detailed post about Santa Cruz that you can find here.

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Tortuga bay beach – Santa Cruz

Baltra Island

Baltra Island is a small island located north of Santa Cruz and separated by the Channel of  Itabaca which you will cross if you fly from Quito or Guayaquil to Santa Cruz, as Santa Cruz airport is actually in Baltra.

Isabela Island

The spectacular geological formation of Isabela includes 5 volcanoes spread along the biggest island of the Galapagos which stretches from north to south.

Only the southern part is inhabited, in the small town of Villamil home of only 3000 souls. Some of the volcanos are active including Vulcano Sierra Negra which is also one of the main attraction of the island and you can hike there with an organized tour.

The island overall is very laid back and with little services and scarce food choice if you need to cook your own meals. Otherwise, there is quite a choice of restaurants and lovely hotels.  A few spectacular tours and interesting spots are available in and from the island, where a populated colony of funny sea lions seems to be the in charge of the territory, especially around the pier and the nearby Isabela Beach.

If you wish to know more about what to do in Isabela island this post is for you.

Hotels in Isabela Island: my pick

Hotel Albemarle – cute tiny hotel right in front of the beach and close to everything. The white rooms are nicely decorated with fine art and elegant touches and the internal courtyard is just a cozy little corner of paradise.

For more hotel options in Puerto Villamil, Isabela Island, click here. To check out TripAdvisor reviews, click here.

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The view from The wall of tears – Isabela Island

San Cristobal Island

San Cristobal island is the oldest island of all Archipelago, geologically speaking. It is composed of three or four fused volcanoes, all extinct. It is the island where Darwin first went ashore in 1835.

It’s my favorite island both for its laid-back atmosphere and the tiny quaint village where restaurants and hotels are situated. San Cristobal also offer a good amount of things to do and places to visit in and around the island itself.

The main pier and the seafront promenade is literally occupied by an uncountable number of sea lions which you hear and smell. It didn’t bother me at all, though. I really love those creatures and I had a blast watching them in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the name of the main town.

Here you should not miss snorkeling at Las Tijeretas and watching the sunset at Punta Carola, where another bunch of Sea Lions will keep you company.

Check out this post to know all about San Cristobal.

Hotels in San Cristobal Island: my pick!

Galapagos Sunset Hotel, located right in front of the pier the hotel boasts modern rooms with elegant furniture and decorations and a spacious terrace from which you can admire breathtaking sunsets.

For further hotel and home options, you can click on this link. To check reviews on  TripAdvisor, click here.

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Furry cuteness in San Cristobal

Floreana Island

It was the first to be inhabited and it’s known for its distraught history.  If you want to know more about it you can check out an interesting book Floreana: A Woman’s Pilgrimage to the Galápagos, by Margaret Wittmer, the daughter of one of the first inhabitant. They also made a movie-like documentary called The Galapagos Affair. I haven’t read the book nor watched the movie, yet.

Floreana Island is connected to Santa Cruz by boat but not every day like it is for the other islands. Otherwise, you can join a one day trip from Santa Cruz where a guide will show you all the highlights of the island.

A few other islands are reachable on a day tour or if you join a cruise and only specific points are accessible to tourists.

To know all the information and practical tips about the islands, transportations, tours, cruises and what not, you can check out this huge guide I have written, by clicking here.

Here below I will give you examples of itineraries which you can read about in more details in the above-mentioned article.

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One of the tortoirses at El Chato in Santa Cruz

ONE WEEK TRAVEL ITINERARY IN THE GALAPAGOS

Considering the amount of wildlife, history, and geology that the Galapagos offer, one week is quite tight. However, I understand that we have such little time for our vacations and we would like to have a taste of everything.

It is possible to see the Galapagos in a nutshell, and cover a lot in a week. Here is my suggestion, considering 7 days on the island including flights in and out.

Day 1  – Arrival in Santa Cruz ( Baltra Island)

There is a flight that leaves from Quito at 6.45 and gets to Baltra Island at 9.20 which gives you basically all day to discover your first Galapagos destination. And since you have only 7 days I would recommend getting this one.

Considering the time for the transfer and all the airport formalities I would imagine you will arrive at Puerto Ayora at around 11.30. It will give you plenty of time to settle in your chosen hotel and then off to Tortuga Bay beach, where you can bask in the sun, snorkel or kayak or take pictures as we did.

Day 2 – Bartolome’ island

This is an unmissable tour where you will hike up to Bartolomé island sleepy volcano. It’s a mild hike from which you will enjoy spectacular views of the bays.

Then you will snorkel around Pinnacle rock or by a beach in Santiago island. The navigation there is itself a tour.

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Bartolome’ Island

Day 3 – Transfer to Isabela Island

I would leave on the early morning boat at 6 am. So you will get there by 8 and you can enjoy all day on the island.

Once you get there you can settle in your hotel, have an earthy breakfast and then, rent a bike and ride towards the Wall of Tears, have the little hike to the viewpoint for spectacular views and then, on the way back you can make all the stops that you will find along the way, by the lagoon and at the beach Playa del Amor.

You can bring something to eat with you or go back to town, which is basically at the end of the path, and eat something in one of the local restaurants.

INSIDER TIPS – In Flamingo road there is a small kiosk which is a private house with the best empanadas. 🙂

If you are not tired, around 4.00 pm you can walk to the Tortuguero.

It’s a 2.5 km on a nice boardwalk (no hills)  through the mangroves and ponds where you can spot the elegant flamingos.

It’s most likely to see them around that time or on your way back, around 5 pm.

Or if you are more fond of the sea I would do the tour to Los Tuneles which leaves at around 11 am and comes back around 4 pm.

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One of the few Galapagos Pinguin that I could see.

Day 4 – Kayak tour to Las Tintoreras  and transfer to Santa Cruz

It’s a kayak and snorkeling tour where you will see penguins and a lot of marine life.

You can take this tour in the morning and leave to San Cristobal in the afternoon on the 2 pm boat to Santa Cruz. You will sleep in Santa Cruz and will take the early morning boat to San Cristobal on the following day (day 5)

In this way, you can save time because you would be traveling where there is no activity available.

Day 5 – Transfer to San Cristobal – Punta Carola – Interpretative Center and las Tijeretas

The first day is all for you. After you settle in the hotel at your arrival in San Cristobal, around 8.30 am, you can walk to Playa Mann and then to the Interpretative center where you will have an interesting tour through the history, geology and conservation projects of the Galapagos.

Then you will keep following the path to the Mirador Las Tijeretas with stunning views over the bay where you will snorkel too in a few minutes. 🙂

In fact, you will take the path down the hill and gear up for your solo (with no guide)  snorkeling adventure. It’s a spectacular place to watch the marine life, especially if it’s in a full moon or new moon day when the water is crystal clear.

After the snorkeling, you will have 10 minutes walk to Punta Carola Beach where you will bask in the sun and relax together with your new friends the sea lions.

You can even snorkel there if you wish, but most of all, wait for the spectacular sunset.

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Playa Bianca Rosa – San Cristobal

Day 6 tour 360 around San Cristobal

This tour will take you on a fishing boat all around the island with 3 snorkeling stops, spectacular views of the coast and local flora and fauna, accompanied by a knowledgeable nature guide.

You can check out the video I made here below.

Day 7  departure flight from San Cristobal

If you managed to book a late flight you have two options for the afternoon:

  1. go to playa  La Loberia and relax or snorkel
  2. hire a taxi and go visit the highlands, the juncos lake, El Garrapatero, and Puerto Chino, which is another beach.

IMPORTANT NOTE – In order to follow this itinerary you will need to make sure to book all the tours in advance otherwise you will run the risk not to find a place or that maybe that specific tour doesn’t run in the day you want. In this way, you are prepared and you can shift things around.

10 DAYS  TRAVEL ITINERARY IN THE GALAPAGOS

With 10 days you can cover a little more and at a more relaxed pace. Here below my suggested Galapagos Travel itinerary for 10 days. Please consider to check out the 1-week itinerary as a base, for more detailed information on the activities. Here I have just added more days, to avoid repeating myself.

Day 1  – Arrival in Santa Cruz ( Baltra Island)

Arrival at Baltra airport at 9.20 am on a 6.45 flight from Quito.

Considering the time for the transfer and all the airport formalities I would imagine you will arrive at Puerto Ayora at around 11.30. It will give you plenty of time to settle in your chosen hotel and then off to Tortuga Bay beach, where you can bask in the sun, snorkel or kayak or take pictures as I did.

Day 2 – Bartolome’ island

(see the previous itinerary)

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A view from Bartolome’ island while returning from our hike. You can see far away one of the cruises.

Day 3  Darwin Foundation, Las Grietas, and Playa Alemanes

You can have a walk up to the Darwin Foundation Center in the morning learning about the conservations effort and checking out the tortoise breeding center.

Then you can have a light lunch and get a taxi boat to Playa Alemanes. Take a walk to Las Grietas, it’s just about 20 minutes. Enjoy snorkeling among the tall rocky walls and then back to playa Alemanes where you can snorkel again or just relax on the beach. (Remember to bring water with you)

Day 4 Another activity of your choice in Santa Cruz

It can be:

  • Diving to Golden rock or Seymour (depending on your level as a diver) Seymour is easier.
  • Half day trip to Santa Fe
  • One day trip to Floreana

There are many more choices of free activities or organized tours.  You can check them out here

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Sea Lions fighting for territory in Puerto Ayora – Santa Cruz

Day 5 – Transfer to Isabela Island

I would leave on the early morning boat at 6 am. So you will get there by 8 and you can enjoy all day on the island.

Once you get there you can settle in your hotel, have a earthy breakfast and rent a bike and ride towards the Wall of Tears, have the little hike to the viewpoint for spectacular views and then, on the way back you can make all the stops that you will find along the way, by the lagoon and at the beach Playa del Amor. You can bring something to eat with you or go back to town, which is basically at the end of the path and eat something in one of the local restaurants.

INSIDER TIPS – In Flamingo road there is a small kiosk which is a private house with the best empanadas. 🙂

If you are not tired, around 4.00 you can walk to the Tortuguero. It’s a 2.5 km on a nice boardwalk (no hills)  through the mangroves and ponds where you can spot the elegant flamingos.

It’s most likely to see them around that time or on your way back.

Or if you are more fond of the sea I would do the tour to Los Tuneles which leaves at around 11 am and take you back at around 4 pm.

Galapagos travel itinerary - Galapagos islands Vacations - Boundless Roads

Flamingos in Isabela Island

Day 6 – Kayak tour to Las Tintoreras  and snorkeling in Concha de Perla

It’s a kayak and snorkeling tour where you will see penguins and a lot of marine life.

On the way back you can have lunch in the local kiosk right by Concha de Perla, which is right there across the road from the beach (Playa Isabela) and then you can snorkel in Concha de Perla and relax on the beach.

Day 7 – Transfer to Santa Cruz/Cristobal

Today it’s basically lost for the transfers, but not completely. You must take the morning boat from Isabela to Santa Cruz and will get to Santa Cruz around 9.30 am.

You have a lot of time to go and hang out either to Playa Alemanes or Playa Estacion, inside the Darwin Center.

Just make sure to be back by 1om since you need to be one our before embarking to your boat to San Cristobal.

You will get to San Cristobal around 4.00. You will have the time to settle in your hotel and have a nice dinner. Getting ready for the next adventures.

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The cute sea lion

Day 8 – Cristobal – Punta Carola – Interpretative Center and las Tijeretas

The first day is all for a DIY activity packed day.

First, you can walk to Playa Mann and then to the Interpretative center where you will have an interesting tour through the history, geology and conservation projects of the Galapagos.

Then you will continue the path to the Mirador Las Tijeretas with stunning views over the bay where you will snorkel in a few minutes.

In fact, you will take the path down the hill and gear up for your solo snorkeling adventure.

It’s a spectacular place to watch the marine life, especially if it’s in a full moon or new moon day when the water is crystal clear.

After the snorkeling, you will have 10 minutes walk to Punta Carola where you will bask in the sun and relax together with your new friends the sea lions. You can even snorkel there if you wish, but most of all, wait for the spectacular sunset.

Galapagos travel itinerary - Galapagos islands Vacations - Boundless Roads

Playa Punta Carola at Sunset

Day 9 tour 360 around San Cristobal

This tour will take you on a fishing boat all around the island with 3 snorkeling stops, spectacular views of the coast and local flora and fauna, accompanied by a knowledgeable nature guide.

You can check out the video a made here below.

Day 10  departure flight from San Cristobal

If you managed to book a late flight you have two options for the afternoon:

  1. go to playa  La Loberia and relax or snorkel
  2. hire a taxi and go visit the highlands, the juncos lake, El Garrapatero, and Puerto Chino, which is another beach.

IMPORTANT NOTE – In order to follow this itinerary you will need to make sure to book all the tours in advance otherwise you will run the risk not to find a place or that maybe that specific tour doesn’t run in the day you want. In this way, you are prepared and you can shift things around.

2 WEEKS  TRAVEL ITINERARY IN THE GALAPAGOS

Here is my suggestion for 15 days.

NOTE: since the majority of the tours are the same as the 1 week and 10 days itinerary, please refer to the above section for more detailed information. In the 15 days, I will just add more activities and will give a more relaxing time, so you won’t be feeling like you are running a marathon.

Day 1  – Arrival in Santa Cruz ( Baltra Island)

Arrival at Baltra airport at 9.20 am on a 6.45 flight from Quito.

Considering the time for the transfer and all the airport formalities I would imagine you will arrive at Puerto Ayora at around 11.30. It will give you plenty of time to settle in your chosen hotel and then off to Tortuga Bay beach, where you can bask in the sun, snorkel or kayak or take pictures as I did.

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Sally lightfoot crab

Day 2 – Bartolome’ island

(see the previous itinerary)

Day 3  Darwin Foundation, Las Grietas, and Playa Alemanes

(see above itinerary)

Day 4 Another activity of your choice in Santa Cruz

It can be:

  • Diving to Golden rock or Seymour (depending on your level as a diver) Seymour is easier.
  • Half day trip to Santa Fe
  • One day trip to Floreana

There are many more choices of free activities or organized tours.  You can check them out here

Sally lightfoot crab

My friend the sealions

Day 5 Biking  (or taking a bus or a taxi) to El Chato Lodge and end up the day to El Garrapatero beach.

Here you can enjoy quite a challenging 20km uphill ride or get on a bus with your bike to the small town of Santa Rosa in the highlands, in the middle of Santa Cruz. There you can ride to  Los Gemelos, two sinkholes immerse in a thick vegetation and then visit the Private Hacienda El Chato to see the giant tortoises hanging out freely in the huge meadow.

If you went on a bike, the way back is much easier, while if you went on a taxi he’ll be waiting for you. Just make sure you agree previously on time and price.

Taxi drivers are not the friendliest or the most honest in the Galapagos, I noticed. Or at least that was my experience.

After that, you can relax on Garrapatero Beach at about 45 minutes from El Chato and 30 minutes from Puerto Ayora.

It is a spectacular beach where you can also snorkel or kayak, or just enjoy the sun.

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One of the few land iguanas in the Darwin foundation center

Day 6 – Transfer to Isabela Island

I would leave on the early morning boat at 6 am. So you will get there by 8 and you can enjoy all day on the island.

Once you get there you can settle in your hotel, have a hearty breakfast and rent a bike and ride towards the Wall of Tears, have the little hike to the viewpoint for spectacular views and then, on the way back you can make all the stops that you will find along the way, by the lagoon and at the beach Playa de l’ Amor. You can bring something to eat with you or go back to town, which is basically at the end of the path and eat something in one of the local restaurants.

INSIDER TIPS – In Flamingo road there is a small kiosk which is a private house with the best empanadas. 🙂

If you are not tired, around 4.00 you can walk to the Tortuguero. It’s a 2.5 km on a nice boardwalk (no hills)  through the mangroves and ponds where you can spot the elegant flamingos. It’s most likely to see them around that time or on your way back

Day 7 – Kayak tour to Las Tintoreras  and snorkeling in Concha de Perla

(See day 6 in the above 10 days itinerary)

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Las Tijeretas – snorkeling

Day 8 Half day tour at Los Tuneles

A spectacular tour packed with lots of wildlife sights including marine fauna, and blue-footed boobies. We even saw penguins and 6 mt manta rays floating by our boat.

The rock formations of Los Tuneles is something unique and fascinating.

Day 9 – Transfer to Santa Cruz/Cristobal

Today it’s basically lost for the transfers but not completely. You must take the morning boat from Isabela to Santa Cruz (6 am)and will get to Santa Cruz around 8.30 am.

You have a lot of time to go and hang out either to Playa Alemanes or Playa Estación, inside the Darwin Center. Just make sure to be back by 1 since you need to be one our before embarking to your boat to San Cristobal.

We had lunch at La Regata where I had the best lemonade with lemongrass ever and delicious vegetarian quesadillas. They also have great espresso coffee and decent WIFI.

You will get to San Cristobal around 4.00. You will have the time to settle in your hotel and have a nice dinner. Getting ready for the next adventures.

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Sea Lion during a snorkeling trip in San Cristobal

Day 10 – Cristobal – Punta Carola – Interpretative Center and las Tijeretas

See day 8 from the 10 days itinerary

Day 11 tour 360 around San Cristobal

See day 9 from the 10 days itinerary above.

Day 12. Take a tour to the highlands

You can hire a taxi and go visit the highlands, the tree house, the juncos lake, El Garrapatero, and Puerto Chino, which is another beach where you can relax.  Make sure you agree with your taxi driver in advance about price and schedule.

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El Cerro Brujo – San Cristobal

Dat 13 Snorkel and relax in Playa Loberia or take another tour

If you are a diver I would suggest you should take the Kicker Rock dive. It’s 2 tanks dive around the massive rock. You will have spectacular views of the multicolored wall and you have a high probability to see hammerhead sharks among other underwater guys.

If you are not a diver you could either take one of the half day snorkeling tours or just relax and snorkel in Playa Loberia or go back to Playa Punta Carola, to watch the last Sunset in the Galapagos.

Day 14  departure flight from San Cristobal

Goodbye Galapagos!

IMPORTANT NOTE – In order to follow this itinerary you will need to make sure to book all the tours in advance otherwise you will run the risk not to find a place or that maybe that specific tour doesn’t run in the day you want. In this way, you are prepared and you can shift things around.

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At playa Tortugas Bay

THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE TRAVELING TO THE GALAPAGOS

There are a few things that you should know about traveling to the Galapagos for which I have written an extensive post (click here to read it).

However, the most important piece of information that you really need to know is about entry regulation and park regulation. Being it a protected park the government have installed specific rules which are more or less implemented but you need to know before getting there.

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Playa Salinas – San Cristobal

Here is a list of the most important:

  1. There is an entry fee of 20 USD, that you pay before check in at a separate counter. Here is where they will check your paperwork which they need to be all in order and that is:
    • a printed copy of your travel insurance
    • a printed copy of your hotel reservations for the entire stay or an invitation letter if you go to work for a project or anything different from a hotel/homestay
    • return ticket
    • (they don’t always ask for these proves but its good to have everything in place)
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      Los Tuneles

  2. You cannot stay in the Galapagos islands for more than 60 days. 90 in Ecuador overall, including the Galapagos of course. You can still ask for an extension for Ecuador but you will have to pay a fee.
  3. You will pay 100 USD as an entry fee (for conservations)  once you pass immigration at the airport.
  4. The organized tours have a limited number of sits and they don’t add boats according to the request. This is a strict rule that the park has in order to prevent deterioration of the natural environment. Which means that in high season or if you travel for a limited time you will need to book your tours in advance. Otherwise, you risk missing your favorite spots. This is very important to know if you have a precise goal.
  5. If you don’t like to move from one island to the other by boat, you can always check out the inter-island flights with EMETEBE, a local airline. Their prices are around 200 USD per person one way.
  6. WIFI is decent but not everywhere and not consistent. You can WhatsApp or check Facebook but to load pages it takes forever when it works.
  7. Language Spoken is Spanish, some locals speak English but not so much as you would expect from such a touristic place. Certified guides do speak English and sometimes other languages.

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MAP OF THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS

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