The Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands

Join fellow alumni and friends as we explore the Galapagos Islands. Designated the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978, the Galapagos Islands have been described as a “unique living museum and showcase of evolution.” They are home to a fascinating array of wildlife inhabiting an unspoiled ecosystem, living in harmony with their human visitors.

This exciting journey features a day of guided touring in Quito plus an intimate cruise through the archipelago with up-close access to endemic species. Expert naturalists guide you through the wonders of this national park, whale sanctuary, and marine reserve.

Accommodations for this adventure are aboard the Isabela II, a 40-guest vessel with spacious cabins, local cuisine, and a staff dedicated to ensuring both your comfort and maximum enjoyment of this truly extraordinary destination and its diverse inhabitants. And sailing by small ship allows for flexibility in the itinerary to maximize wildlife viewing, as well as access to exclusive ports.

Trip Itinerary:

February 19 En Route from U.S. / Arrive in Quito, Ecuador

After an evening arrival in Quito, transfer to your award-winning hotel for a comfortable night's sleep.
Overnight: Casa Gangotena – Quito

February 20 Quito

Head out for a full-day, guided tour of historic Old Town. A local expert will take you through the Quito neighborhood called San Roque, where you'll visit with local artisans, including shopkeepers, hat makers, and sweet confectioners. Explore the San Francisco Market—one of the oldest in the capital. There, learn about unique Ecuadorian fruits and vegetables, as well as local culinary traditions.

Continue your journey to the cobbled street of La Ronda, featuring balconies festooned with colorful flags. Stop by a chocolatier to learn how cacao beans are processed, and taste the finest chocolates of Ecuador!

Next, head north toward the political heart of the city. Following a brief narrative, stroll to the Jesuit Church of la Compañía to admire its stunning gold-leaf interior. A lunch of Ecuadorian specialties, featuring Cocina Mestiza—a perfect blend of international flavors and locally sourced ingredients—will be served at the beautiful Theatrum Restaurant.

In the afternoon, head to the Casa del Alabado Archaeological Museum, inside a restored 17th-century colonial mansion, to view its collection of pre-Columbian art. This evening, meet your traveling companions for a welcome reception and prepare for your upcoming adventure.
Overnight: Casa Gangotena – Quito (B,L,R)

February 21 Quito / Flight to Baltra / Santa Cruz: Highlands | Puerto Ayora – Embarkation

Arrive by plane to Baltra Airport and transfer to the Itabaca Channel to ferry across to Santa Cruz Island. After a short, scenic drive across Santa Cruz Island, arrive in the Highlands to enjoy lunch and visit the iconic species for which the Galapagos Islands are named. Spot the saddle-backed shell of the lumbering Galapagos giant tortoise and walk among them. Your naturalist guide describes their habits and the conservation efforts surrounding this remarkable reptile.

Take a late afternoon stroll along the main street of Puerto Ayora before embarking on Isabela II.

Join the captain this evening for a cocktail and briefing on the exciting activities to come.
Overnight: Isabela II (B,L,D)

February 22 Santiago: Puerto Egas | Chinese Hat Islet

This morning offers a wonderful opportunity to see land and seabirds. Following a wet landing onto the black, sandy beach, a trail leads to close-up encounters with recently reintroduced land iguanas amid a landscape full of tuff-stone layers and lava flows. At low tide, marine iguanas can be spotted grazing upon the algae beds and we can also observe a colony of fur seals on Santiago Island at Puerto Egas. Enjoy snorkeling and swimming at this active location.

Santiago also has several satellite islands, including Bartolomé and Chinese Hat. The Chinese Hat Islet, formed only fairly recently, features a 1,312-foot long wildlife trail, which begins at a crescent-shaped, white sandy beach. The cove is ideal for swimming and snorkeling among white-tipped reef sharks and Galapagos penguins.
Overnight: Isabela II (B,L,D)

February 23 Genovesa: Prince Philip's Steps | Darwin Bay

After breakfast, embark on a panga ride along the cliffs of Genovesa Island (also known as Bird Island) before visiting Prince Philip’s Steps, which itself is the start of a steep but short climb up a wooden staircase. Once at the top, the terrain is pretty flat, which allows for a mesmerizing, mile-long walk to the other side of this small island. Along the way, check out large colonies of Nazca boobies, great frigatebirds, and storm petrels as well as the elusive short-eared owl. Those not wishing to hike on shore can enjoy a longer dinghy ride along the cliffs (depending on weather conditions). Snorkeling and kayaking activities are available here as well.

Following lunch, arrive at the beach on Darwin Bay for an easy stroll that involves observing hundreds of birds, mainly frigatebirds, red-footed and Nazca boobies, gulls, herons, finches and mockingbirds.
Overnight: Isabela II (B,L,D)

February 24 Santa Fe / Santa Cruz: Punta Carrion

This morning, visit an idyllic sandy-white beach populated by colonies of sea lions. Galapagos hawks are often easily observed, perched atop salt bushes. The Santa Fe land iguana may also be spotted during our exploration. Enjoy a walk followed by time to snorkel and swim along a natural wave barrier, paddle board, or take a glass-bottom boat ride.

In the afternoon, cruise to the north coast of Santa Cruz Island to the eastern mouth of the Itabaca Channel. After lunch there will be additional time to swim and snorkel with hopes to spot playful sea lions, dozens of reef fish (including puffers, surgeonfish, angel fish, groupers, hog fish, hawk fish, and parrot fish) and white-tipped reef sharks.

Later, board pangas to explore the rocky coastline’s interesting formations, plant life, and wildlife.

This evening, join fellow travelers and crew for a festive farewell toast followed by dinner and stargazing.
Overnight: Isabela II (B,L,D)

February 25 Baltra – Disembarkation / Flight to Quito, Ecuador

Bid a fond adiós to the Isabela II crew this morning prior to departing Baltra for Quito, where you will spend the final evening of the program.
Overnight: Hilton Colon – Quito; Post-tour guests may overnight at an alternate hotel near the airport. (B,L-aloft)

February 26 Quito / Depart for U.S.

After breakfast, guests departing during the suggested times will take a complimentary transfer to the airport for flights home. Guests continuing on the post-tour will depart Quito for flights to Cusco, Peru. (B)


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