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Classic Galapagos

Trip type: 
Wildlife
Adventure level: 
1.Easy
Max group size: 
12
Avg user rating: 
5
Americas, Ecuador, The Galapagos Islands | 13 days
Trip code: 
GLKA
What's included: 

Transport - Minibus, in country flight, first class cruise boat, on foot

Accommodation - Hotel (4nts), twin berth cabin with private facilities (7nts)

Meals - 11 breakfasts, 6 lunches, 7 dinners.

Trip Highlights: 
Swim with dolphins & sealions
Comfortable first class yachts
Spot incredible birdlife
see full itinerary >>

Please note that for 2012 the itinerary follows two routes. This is due to restrictions put in place by the Galapagos National Park to help protect the islands. The route taken depends on the date and each is marked with an (A) or a (B).

Unpublished
Itinery Map

Itinerary (A)

(Departures in 2012)
  • Day 1 - Arrive in Quito
  • Day 2 - Quito
  • Day 3 - Galapagos; start cruise
  • Day 4 - Isabela; south
  • Day 5 - Isabela; west
  • Day 6 - Fernandina
  • Day 7 - Santiago
  • Day 8 - Rabida & Sombrero Chino
  • Day 9 - Santa Cruz
  • Day 10 - Santa Cruz; Quito
  • Day 11 - Quito
  • Day 12 - Quito; trip ends
Extensions and Extras: Extend your holiday and see more of the world. View additional tours for this trip »
Unpublished
Day
1
Arrive in Quito

Arrive in Quito

Arrive in Quito and check into your hotel. Hotel – 2 nights

Patio Andaluz The hotel is situated just a short distance from the main square of Quito in a converted colonial building. Rooms are comfortable and the communal areas are full of local character. There is an excellent bar and restaurant. This is a comfortable and ideally located hotel.

Day
2
Quito

Quito

Please meet your tour leader in the hotel reception at 09.00. You'll have the morning free to relax before heading out with a local guide to explore the colonial heart of the city. Quito has spread along a valley sandwiched in by volcanoes. The old colonial section has some fantastic buildings and churches. From the foot of the angel on top of the Panecillo hill, you get a fantastic view across the city. You will then continue to the Mitad del Mundo (centre of the earth). This monument marks the spot that in 1736 Charles-Marie de la Condamine declared to be the equator, according to his measurements. It is possible to see how water drains clockwise on one side of the equator and anti-clockwise on the other. You then drive back into Quito. (B)

Day
3
Galapagos; start cruise

Galapagos; start cruise

This morning you make an early start to fly down to Guayaquil, Ecuador's largest city and economic dynamo. After a short stop, your flight continues almost 1000km directly west to Baltra, one of only two commercial airports on the islands. More importantly for you, it's the starting point for your voyage through the so-called "Enchanted Islands" and you immediately board the boat that's to be your floating home and set sail.

In the departure lounge at Quito airport you will meet the representative of the M.Y. San Jose who will assist you with your group check-in and payment of the $10 transit card fee. Lunch is normally served on the flight. On arrival at Baltra Airport in the Galapagos you must pay the US$100 arrival tax for entry to Galapagos National Park. This is best done using cash, as using credit cards can be a time consuming process. You are met in the arrival hall of the airport by your naturalist guide and transferred to the 'San Jose'.

Once settled on board, your cruise departs for Las Bachas. The sandy, white beaches on the north shore of Santa Cruz Island are a nesting site for the Pacific green turtle, and marine iguanas are also commonly seem. The rocks provide a great snorkelling experience and are the perfect habitat for the Sally Lightfoot crabs, which are plentiful on the island. A saltwater lagoon near the beach is home to flamingo and whimbrel, and look out too for great blue herons. Boat (twin cabins) - 7 nights (BD)

San Jose The M.Y. San Jose is a modern, comfortable vessel built in 2003. It has a large and comfortable lounge and dining area, as well as a sun deck where you can watch the wildlife or just kick back and relax. There are eight well appointed, individually air conditioned, twin cabins. There are 9 including English speaking Naturalist guide. The guide is certified by the National Park Level II.

Day
4
Isabela; south

Isabela; south

Today you wake up on the South Coast of Isabela Island, the largest of the Galapagos Archipelago. Isabela was formed by five giant volcanic craters, all of which are still considered active. The island is located in one of the youngest geological areas in the world, having been formed less than 1 million years ago. This southern coast of turquoise blue waters has the largest area of beaches in the Galapagos. You visit Las Tintoreras, where from the viewing walkway you can look down into this narrow channel to see a colony of white-tipped reef sharks swimming and sleeping, and the occasional playful sea lion among them!

Blue-footed boobies and penguins, marine iguanas and crabs also make their home here, and the waters provide further opportunities to swim with turtles. Here you also visit the Giant Tortoise breeding centre and the Wall of Tears, constructed from lava by prisoners of the penal colony here between 1946 and 1959 as punishment. (BLD)

Day
5
Isabela; west

Isabela; west

Sailing along Isabela’s west coast is an exploration of Galapagos history, both natural and man-made. The shoreline has long provided a safe harbour for ships and was also the site of an astonishing geological uplift in the 1950s, when Volcan Alcedo erupted, the coastline rising as much as 1km out of the sea. This morning you visit Punta Moreno and Elizabeth Bay. On the south- western side of Isabela, Punta Moreno has an impressive landscape of Black lava flows and brackish lagoons which are magnet for wildlife. Here amongst the unusual vegetation you are likely to spot Darwin’s finches, Galapagos Doves, blue-footed boobies, mockingbirds and flightless cormorants. From here you have spectacular views of the Alcedo, Sierra Negra and Cerro Azul Volcanoes The jagged, rocky islets of Elizabeth Bay make for classic Galapagos exploration, with an abundance of life on land and underwater.

In the sheltered passages and coves fringed with mangrove forests, rays and many turtles are often seen, as well as sea lions resting on fallen trees. Elsewhere, trails through the sharp lava terrain get you among penguins and Sally Lightfoot crabs.

Elizabeth Bay is also the finest place in the Galapagos for seeing shearwaters further north, Tagus Cove is a beautiful spot – a sheltered anchorage protected by two volcanoes. The name of this small cave originated from a British warship which sailed through the islands in 1814 looking for the Galapagos Tortoise for use as food; the walls of the cave display maritime inscriptions left by the sailors of this era. The waters are alive with marine life here – look out for dolphins and penguins, and perhaps even sunfish. A hike uphill takes you past a saltwater lagoon and through palo santo forest to Punta Tortuga, where the views back down to the cove and lagoon are breathtaking. The trail is also a great opportunity to see Galapagos hawks. (BLD)

 

Day
6
Fernandina

Fernandina

This morning you visit nearby Fernandina Island, the youngest of the Galapagos Islands. The northeast tip, Punta Espinosa is a narrow ledge of lava and sand extending from the base of La Cumbre volcano. Here you walk on Pahoehoe lava and can see lava cactus, it is also a great place for encounters with marine iguanas and flightless cormorants, drying their atrophied wings among the stark volcanic landscape.

In the afternoon you visit Isabela’s northwest tip, Punta Vicenta Roca, it is a stunning spot. Here, exploration in panga boats gets you close to volcanic sea cliffs where penguins and flightless cormorants can be spotted, while a snorkel in the waters reveals one of the archipelago’s greatest places for swimming among green sea turtles, as well a huge number of fish. You might just get to swim with marine iguanas and penguins as well! (BLD)

 

Day
7
Santiago

Santiago

Today you visit some wonderful places. Espumilla Beach, on the northern coast of Santiago Island in James Bay, is one of the most idyllic locations in the Galapagos Islands and is an important nesting site for marine turtles. Espumilla beach is also well known for it’s Palo Santo Forest and some extraordinary lava formations. This morning you also visit Caleta Bucanero (Buccaneer Cove), a natural monument of rocks caused by sea erosion. This cove was used by pirates to careen their ships. It is a place of local legends and stories!

Port Egas is a black sand beach located on the west side of James Bay and northwest of Santiago Island. South of the beach is Sugarloaf Volcano, which has deposits of volcanic tuff. This site is named Puerto Egas, after Hector Egas who last attempted to mine salt here. The walk along the beach offers hundreds of marine iguanas, california sea lions and Galapagos fur sea lions. (BLD)

Day
8
Rabida & Sombrero Chino

Rabida & Sombrero Chino

Rabida, also known as ‘Jervis’ is a tiny island sitting roughly 5 kilometres south of Santiago and is one of the most striking of the archipelago. Introduced species were eradicated in 1971, meaning that the indigenous wildlife has now been returned to a state of splendid isolation. Additionally, volcanic activity here has produced vivid, fantastical colours, not least the beaches of red sand and cliffs of scarlet. From the shore, the trail leads through to what is one of the finest lagoons in the Galapagos for viewing flamingos. Rabida is also a wonderful place to spot nesting pelicans.

Elsewhere, pintail ducks, marine iguanas and sea lions are all present. Sombrero Chino is a small islet located near the south-east coast of Santiago. It's shaped like a Chinese hat (Sombrero Chino) when seen from afar and is geologically fascinating, with many lava tubes leading from the cone to the coast. (BLD)

Day
9
Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz

Today you visit Santa Cruz, the second largest island in the Galapagos. The small town of Puerto Ayora is the economic centre of the archipelago, and home to the Charles Darwin Research Station. As well as undertaking vital conservation work, the station also makes for interesting exploration and offers the best opportunities for close encounters with giant tortoises, including the famous ‘Lonesome George’, the last tortoise of his sub-species (one of 11 sub-species native to the islands). You also observe baby tortoises and land iguanas.

Afterward you head up into the highlands for a total change of scenery. Beginning at the coast you travel across Santa Cruz through the agricultural region and into the misty forests. Here it is a lush humid zone containing miconia bushes, scalesia and inactive volcanic cones. Santa Cruz has more endemic plants than any of the other islands and you are likely to see Galapagos giant tortoises in their natural habitat and perhaps even the bright red feathers of a vermillion flycatcher! (BLD)

Day
10
Santa Cruz; Quito

Santa Cruz; Quito

Today you take and early morning excursion to Caleta Tortuga Negra (Black Turtle Cove) - a red mangrove wetland on the north shore of Santa Cruz Island. You paddle among the cove’s peaceful waters, for your first taste of the underwater riches of these waters – it’s a wonderful place to see green turtle and is a nursery for rays and Galapagos sharks. There is also abundant birdlife, such as the yellow warbler and lava heron. This is also a breeding area for turtles, so it is not uncommon to see them mating. After lunch you visit the small sandy island of Mosquera, it’s a relaxing, picturesque stop. Along the rocks and in the tide pool, sally lightfoot crabs (red lava crabs) scamper back and forth, skipping across small pools of water in search of food. These crabs with their bright red shell tops and blue under shells are stunning against the black lava. Ever aware of movement around them, the sally lightfoot is quick to escape from any approaching movement, a natural defence that helps protecting them from their natural predators, herons, moray eels and hawkfish. This quick escape technique seems in stark contrast to the unabashed way the crabs climb over the sedentary marine iguanas. This is your final excursion before you return to the airport in Baltra for your flight back to Quito.

As you will be leaving the boat this morning, please remember that if you have enjoyed the services provided by your guide and crew, a tip would be very much appreciated by them. As a guideline you recommend each passenger consider US$15 per day for the crew and US$10 per day for your guide. You can leave tips in envelopes that are placed in your cabin on this last day of your journey. Today you transfer by road and boat back to Baltra Airport for your flight back to Quito. On arrival in Quito you are met and transferred to your hotel for you last night. Hotel – 1 night (B)

Patio Andaluz – The hotel is situated just a short distance from the main square of Quito in a converted colonial building. Rooms are comfortable and the communal areas are full of local character. There is an excellent bar and restaurant. This is a comfortable and ideally located hotel.

Day
11
Quito

Quito

The day is left free to relax and shop, or do one of a number of optional excursions (which must be booked in advance during your first stay in Quito). Outside Quito, you can visit the national park surrounding the lovely snow-capped volcanic cone of Cotopaxi (5897m), the largest active volcano in the world and Ecuador's second highest peak. Alternatively, you could head a couple of hours north to visit one of South America's most famous market towns - Otavalo. Although it's not market day, the shops are full of the handicrafts produced in the villages nearby.

The industrious Otavalenos are always instantly recognisable due to their striking appearance: the pony-tailed men in their distinctive uniform of felt hat, navy and grey poncho, calf-length white cotton trousers and rope-soled alpargatas; the women in white blouses, dark skirts and necklaces of gold and coral. For the more active there are options to go mountain biking or white water rafting, or trek up Pichincha on the edge of the city. (B)

Day
12

Quito; trip ends

Trip ends in Quito. (B)