Feel the thrill of encountering the flora and fauna that famously inspired Darwin—and in his footsteps, generations of nature lovers. Undiscovered by Europeans until the 16th century, the Galapagos Islands hold a central position in modern scientific and evolutionary history. In a place where human presence is relatively minimal, take the opportunity to observe and photograph these remarkable species up close—either sitting quietly to watch blue-footed boobies or snorkeling with inquisitive and playful sea lions.
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.
Head out for a full-day, guided tour of historic Old Town. A local expert will take you through a Quito neighborhood where you'll visit with local artisans, including shopkeepers, hat makers, and 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. 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. Relax and enjoy a lunch that highlights the unique and diverse flavors of this culturally rich South American country.
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, enjoy a welcome reception and prepare for your upcoming adventure.
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.
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, take a trail that 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 colonies of fur seals seen 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.
Tonight after dinner (conditions permitting), look up and experience the enchantment of stargazing.
Genovesa: Prince Philip's Steps | Darwin Bay
After breakfast, embark on a panga boat ride along the cliffs of Genovesa Island (also known as Bird Island) before visiting Prince Philip’s Steps, a steep but short climb up a wooden staircase. Once at the top, the terrain is flat, which allows for a mesmerizing, mile-long walk to the other side of this small island. Along the way, watch for 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 exploring the coast by powered watercraft. Snorkeling and kayaking activities are available here, too (depending on weather conditions).
Following lunch, make a wet landing at the beach on Darwin Bay for a walk to observe hundreds of birds, such as frigatebirds, red-footed and Nazca boobies, gulls, herons, finches and mockingbirds.
Santa Fe | South Plaza
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 leisurely walk, followed by time to snorkel and swim along a natural wave barrier. Or, take a glass-bottom boat ride.
On the final afternoon, disembark with a dry landing in the South Plaza Island channel, just off the coast of Santa Cruz. South Plaza is full of life, color, and extraordinary creatures, including the hybrid iguana. Admire the contrast of turquoise waters with the white sand and black lava of the shoreline. Look along the coastline to find sea lion colonies, while frigates, and shearwaters glide and play with the thermals. Red-billed tropicbirds and swallow-tailed gulls are some of the many birds that can be found nesting along the cliffs. South Plaza is also home to the beautiful succulent Sesuvium, which changes from bright green in the rainy season to red, orange, and purple during the dry season.
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 your final night. Guests who are going back to the U.S. and not continuing on the post-tour will stay at the Wyndham Quito Airport Hotel, or similar.
Note: dependent on prevailing air schedules at the time, Machu Picchu post-tour guests will connect with an evening flight to Lima, Peru, and overnight at the Wyndham Costa del Sol Airport Hotel, or similar, in Lima.
Flights back to the U.S. may begin late the evening of Day 7 as well (flights departing after 9:00pm).
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, this morning or may have already exited the evening of the previous day, depending on air schedules.
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