The Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands

Join us as we explore the Galapagos Islands—one of the most biologically unique places on earth. Undiscovered by Europeans until the 16th century, the Galapagos Islands hold a central position in modern history as the birthplace of the theory of evolution. Designated the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978, the Galapagos Islands 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.

Each island in this volcanic archipelago hosts species that are exquisitely adapted to the available food sources and surrounding environments: the marine iguana, which eats mostly algae and is the only sea-going lizard in the world, and the Galapagos tortoises—some species of which were hunted to the brink of extinction by 18th- and 19th century whalers. You can also observe how species have evolved to interact with each other—certain Darwin’s finches have developed a symbiotic relationship with land iguanas, who will obligingly raise themselves up from the ground so that the birds can more easily pluck parasites from their bellies. Because the human presence is still relatively minimal, many of the animals are remarkably unafraid of visitors.

Your accommodations for this adventure are aboard 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.

Trip Itinerary:

April 1 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: Hilton Colon – Quito

April 2 Quito

Head out for a full-day, guided walking 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, shopkeepers, hat makers, and sweet confectioners. Explore the San Francisco Market—one of the oldest in the capital—up the hill on Calle Rocafuerte. There, learn about the unique fruits and vegetables grown in Ecuador and local culinary traditions, as well as meet herbal healers with shops in the market.

Continue your journey downhill 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 in the beautiful restaurant at Café Colon Restaurant.

In the afternoon, head to the Casa del Alabado Archaeological Museum, within 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: Hilton Colon – Quito (B,L,R)

April 3 Quito / Flight to Baltra / Santa Cruz - 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 these islands are named. Spot the saddle-backed shell of the lumbering Galapagos giant tortoise and walk among them while your naturalist guide describes their habits as well as 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 that are to come.
Overnight: Isabela II (B,L,D)

April 4 Floreana

Floreana is perhaps best known for its colorful history of buccaneers, whalers, and colonists. After breakfast, board the pangas for coastal exploration of Baroness Cove. Look for the bobbing heads of sea turtles, or vibrant Sally Lightfoot crabs and marine iguanas clinging to the intertidal rocks. Visit the historic Post Office Barrel, which originated in the late 1700s as an unofficial mail box. Whalers going out to sea would deposit letters for ships returning home to collect and deliver. Today, postcards continue to be hand carried to far-flung destinations by other visitors.

Mid-morning snorkeling off the beach provides the opportunity to observe sea turtles and colorful fish, or perhaps kayak to spot wildlife near shore. Following lunch, walk along Punta Cormorant to see the flamingos, stilts, and sandpipers that inhabit a brackish-water lagoon. A short walk leads to a sandy beach composed of coral ground so fine that it feels like flour. Green sea turtles nest here, typically from December through March, and it's a good place to see stingrays near shore.
Overnight: Isabela II (B,L,D)

April 5 Española

After breakfast, hike the tumbled terrain of Punta Suárez to the blowhole that shoots water 50 feet into the air. Along the way, observe unique seabird colonies, including striking Nazca boobies and swallow-tail gulls. The Galapagos Albatross—the largest bird in the archipelago—is found only on Española Island between April and December.

In the afternoon, disembark and relax at Gardner Bay on an expansive, white coralline beach, where you can watch sea lions, Hood mockingbirds, and finches.
Overnight: Isabela II (B,L,D)

April 6 San Cristóbal

This morning, arrive at the eastern tip of the island for more spectacular wildlife viewing. San Cristobal is the only place in the islands where you can find the three species of boobies (Nazca, red-footed, and blue-footed) in the same area. Choose a hike up the hill in search of their nests, and admire the unique landscape and spectacular views of the beach below. Or, take a walk on the beach and, if conditions are favorable, swim, snorkel or kayak.

After lunch on board, venture out on a panga ride along the shores to Cerro Brujo's dramatic beach to enjoy a coastline stroll and more bird watching. Join fellow guests and crew for a festive farewell toast followed by dinner.
Overnight: Isabela II (B,L,D)

April 7 San Cristóbal – Disembarkation / Flight to Guayaquil

Bid a fond adiós to the Isabela II crew this morning prior to departing San Cristóbal for Guayaquil, where you will spend your final night.
Overnight: Wyndham Hotel – Guayaquil (B,L aloft)

April 8 Guayaquil / Depart for U.S.

In the morning, transfer to the airport to board your flight back home. (B)


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