Camping is perhaps the best way to immerse yourself in nature, and this 9-day Galapagos Camping Adventure is perfect for those seeking a truly unique outdoor vacation. Stay close to the amazing landscapes and wildlife found in these famous islands and experience for yourself the abundance of nature they have to offer.
Start in the Colonial City of Quito on the Mainland
You’ll first arrive in Quito, on the mainland of Ecuador, and spend a short time exploring this bustling capital city. Roam through the colonial city center and learn its history, and visit the actual Equatorial Line a short distance away. You’ll also have the exciting opportunity to learn about the fine chocolate produced here and even experience a decadent tasting in an art museum wine cellar.
Galapagos Islands Camping Adventure Begins
After a short flight from Quito to Baltra Island, you’ll find yourself in the midst of the famous Galapagos Islands. A quick taste of what these natural islands have to offer occurs in the Itabaca Channel. Kayak, snorkel, or paddleboard the beautiful turquoise waters here or wander along the shore to see what wildlife you can spot.
Santa Cruz Island is your next destination and where you will stay in the Magic Galapagos Tented Camp. For your two nights here, you’ll be surrounded by nature day and night, taking in the sounds around you and enjoying the starry nights above you. Giant tortoises roam nearby, and chatty birds fill the skies. Expert chefs prepare gourmet evening meals, after which you may want to venture to the reserve’s so-called ‘Lava Lounge’ for a nightcap in the nearby naturally-formed lava tubes.
You’ll also have chances to explore the neighboring island of Isabela and its active volcanoes. A stay in the Isamar Boutique Hotel here gives you the perfect opportunity to rest and relax and adds to the glamour of your island adventure.
Moving on to San Cristobal Island, home of the oldest settlement in the islands, you’ll enjoy a hotel stay at the luxurious Galapagos Sunset Hotel, which is convenient to the beach and nearby shops. Spend your time here catching glimpses of sea lions, red and blue-footed boobies, tortoises, and marine iguanas. Bike or walk along the coastal areas or grab a snorkel and mask and immerse yourself in the gorgeous water.
The well-known Kicker Rock is another adventurous place you’ll have a chance to experience. Recognized as one of the best snorkel and scuba diving sites in the Galapagos Islands, you can swim around spotting tropical fish, spotted eagle rays, and maybe even dolphins and sharks. Before returning to the mainland, spend your last hours learning about the challenges the islands continue to face and the conservation measures already in place to ensure their protection for future generations.
Itinerary & Prices
Arrival in Quito
You arrive in the historical city of Quito and are transferred to your hotel in the comfort of our private, air-conditioned vehicle. Quito is the most populous city in Ecuador, and the second-highest capital city in the world. Founded in 1534 by Spanish Conquistadors, it is nestled in the lower Andes mountain range, creating quite a dramatic backdrop to the colonial architecture of the center and the more modern suburbs, which sit in the rocks of the mountains themselves. Quito is located a short drive south of the equator – Ecuador is, in fact, the Spanish word for the equator, the city sits on the eastern slope of the Pichincha volcano.
Quito lies in the valley of the Guayllabamba River, flanked by volcanoes, many of which are snow-capped, and visible from the city on a clear day. Quito’s altitude is listed at 2,820 meters (9,250 feet). The colonial influence is strong in the traditional center of the city and any visit to Quito should include a stroll around this area, which was one of the world’s first UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Buildings of particular interest being the Carondelet Palace, the Cathedral, the four main churches, and the Basilica del Voto Nacional. The center of Quito is the most untouched and also the biggest colonial center of any city in the Americas.
City Tour & The Equatorial Line
A trip to Ecuador encapsulates a mix of history, fascinating indigenous cultures, slow winding rivers, and lush tropical forests, spectacular snowcapped volcanoes, and some of the most exciting wildlife on earth.
Our starting place today is the ‘Mitad del Mundo’, a site located just 45 minutes north of Quito, where a monument marks the equator at its closest point to the city. Archaeological evidence shows that both pre-Inca and Inca civilizations recognized and celebrated the equinox, the day the sun is directly over the equator. We make the 45-minute journey northwest to the equatorial line, where we will walk the rim of the extinct Pululahua volcanic crater. From there we visit the “Ciudad Mitad del Mundo” a group of buildings designed to explain the significance of the site, as well as the Ethnographic Initñam Museum, located right on the Equator. Here you will have the chance to plant your feet in two hemispheres at the same time!
Back in Quito, after lunch we will visit the city’s impressive colonial center, the reason Quito was the first city to be named a world heritage site. First on the agenda is a walk through the main plaza, the ‘plaza de la Independencia’, where you will see the Government Palace, the Cathedral, and some of the most important churches built around the XVI and XVII centuries, including the San Francisco Monastery, the first building built in the whole city. We wind down from a busy day’s sightseeing with an excursion all about chocolate! Ecuador’s unique equatorial climate provides the perfect environment for growing the world’s finest cocoa – Cacao Arriba. Cocoa has been revered in Latin America for over 5,000 years and Spanish explorers loved it so much they called it the ‘Food of the Gods’. Our chocolate experience starts with a guide explaining the history of cocoa in Ecuador, followed by a chocolate tasting.
Meals (B, L)
Exploring Itabaca Channel
Today we arrive at Baltra Island, the gateway to the Galapagos. This tiny island was a military base during the Second World War and hosts the Islands’ principal airport. The airport was built using the most advanced environmental techniques to reduce emissions and energy use, some of which you’ll notice as you walk through the facility. This was the first ecological airport in the world.
We dive into our adventure as soon as we arrive! We enter the airport through a special VIP lounge where you will have a chance to change clothes, put on some sunscreen and get a cool drink before we transfer to the Itabaca Channel to explore its spectacular turquoise waters. We will have a chance to kayak, snorkel, and stand-up paddleboard (SUP), as well as encounter some of the most famous Galapagos wildlife such as blue-footed boobies, sea lions, brown pelicans, a variety of herons, and white-tipped reef sharks.
There is no better introduction to the Galapagos than to get on the water as soon as possible! We will glide through beautiful red mangrove forests and along lava rock cliffs on water so clear we can see the marine life in the shallows. From the Itabaca Channel, we head up to the Santa Cruz highlands to a private reserve that borders the National Park, where we can see the famous Giant Tortoises roaming in the wild. There will be lunch at the reserve for us.
After lunch, we drive to our exclusive giant tortoise reserve where our tented camp is located. Perched high on a hillside overlooking the ocean, Magic Galapagos Tented Camp will be our home for the next two nights. The sounds of nature will serenade us in the evenings, and the Milky Way will be our night light. We’ll be able to feast our eyes on the mountains and forests surrounding the camp and enjoy the peace of having the entire hillside to ourselves, with the exception of seasonal resident giant tortoises.
Watching the colorful sunset from Magic’s western perch is the perfect segue into the evening. Dinners are sumptuous three-course affairs, prepared by expert chefs in an open-air kitchen in the main lodge. A favorite post-dinner activity is a short walk to the reserve’s natural lava tubes, for a nightcap in the one-of-a-kind ‘Lava Lounge!’ It’s the perfect spot to relax around the fire and share stories from the day’s adventures.
Meals (B, L, D)
Exploring Neighboring Islands
Embark on our comfortable motor yacht to enjoy a daily excursion with our welcoming crew members and knowledgeable naturalist guide. We will take you to experience the Galapagos Islands in a safe and comfortable manner.
Depending on the day of the week we may visit North Seymour, which is located directly north of Santa Cruz and a great place for bird lovers and you will have the chance to spot many kinds of birds including, if you are lucky, a blue-footed booby performing its fascinating courtship dance, or South Plazas, the only one of the two Plazas that can be visited by tourists and a great place to snorkel and spot manta rays, or maybe Santa Fe Island, located East of the Island and a great place to spot sea lions and turtles, rays, marine Iguanas, as well as mockingbirds, Bartolome Island, located Northwest of Santa Cruz an excellent spot for snorkeling where you may get a chance to see white-tipped reef sharks and penguins, amongst others, or Sullivan Bay which has less wildlife but makes up for this with some amazing and bizarre lava formations formed as recent as the 18th century.
The tours let you see the Islands and their wildlife in their most pristine state and, along the way, we might see leaping rays or other sea life while enjoying the vastness of the Pacific.
Meals (B, L, D)
From Santa Cruz to Isabela Island
Today we take an early morning speedboat to Isabela Island where we will check into our hotel. Our adventure begins with a tour of the Tintoreras, a group of small islands close to the town of Puerto Villamil. The islands are named after the white-tipped ‘Tintoreras’ reef sharks that swim in these calm waters. On the Tintoreras, we will see almost all the archipelago’s iconic wildlife: white-tipped reef sharks, sea lions, turtles, rays, penguins, and of course pelicans and blue-footed boobies. This is a Galapagos in miniature! After walking on the island, we will have a chance to snorkel in the bay. Don’t be surprised if some of the penguins or sea lions jump in to play alongside you in the water!
We will then bike the Wetlands Trail where we can see marine iguana colonies and a number of different types of mangrove trees (all four can be seen here), as well as enjoy the networks of trails, beaches, and historic sites. At the end of the trail is the Wall of Tears, built in the late 1940s by Second World War prisoners held at the US base on the islands. Our guide will explain the importance of the Wall of Tears, giving us a glimpse into the lives of the island’s previous inhabitants. On this network of trails, you will catch some beautiful views of the village below and we will have the chance to see birds and, maybe even some wild giant tortoises. Your accommodations while on Isabela will be at Hotel Isamar.
Meals (B, L, D)
A Day Hiking Isabela
Volcanic eruptions created all the Galapagos Islands, and you will have a chance to see this geologic process first-hand as we explore Isabela, one of the archipelago’s youngest and most volcanically active islands.
We have the whole day to explore the Isabela highlands, and we start by hiking up to the crater of the massive Sierra Negra volcano, and then onward to the rim of the Volcan Chico. This fascinating walk usually begins with some morning fog and drizzle, which sometimes persists in the shadow of the volcano, adding to its mysterious character. Despite the drizzle, we may see Galapagos Hawks, finches, flycatchers, and Short Eared Owls en route.
When we reach the rim of the Sierra Negra crater, the second largest in the world after the Ngorongoro in Tanzania, we will see the reward for our efforts. The crater is so large, and the views so expansive, photos can’t do it justice, but bring your binoculars and camera anyway!
Later, as we head towards Volcan Chico, we may get the feeling we are walking on Mars due to the alien landscape. And while the land appears to be utterly desolate, a closer look will reveal small lizards scurrying about among the rocks. From the crater’s rim, we will enjoy more amazing views along with lava tubes and fumaroles.
After Volcan Chico and its extreme landscape, we will be able to relax in the shade of a lovely “jaboncillo” tree, and enjoy our box lunch while taking in the spectacular and expansive views over the central and northern parts of the Island. In the distance, we will be able to see Fernandina, Pinzon, and Santa Cruz Islands. We then head back down to complete our day of hiking (16 kilometers / 9,94 miles in total) and relax on the beaches of Puerto Villamil.
Meals (B, L, D)
Isabel to San Cristobal Island
Today we take an early morning flight to San Cristobal Island. San Cristóbal is the easternmost island in the Galápagos archipelago, as well as one of the oldest geologically. With an area of 195 square miles (505 square km) San Cristóbal is the most populated as well fertile island of the archipelago. The Island is home to the oldest permanent settlement and is where Darwin first went ashore in 1835. This island hosts frigatebirds, sea lions, tortoises, blue and red-footed boobies, tropicbirds, marine iguanas, dolphins, and swallow-tailed gulls.
After arrival and check-in at the hotel, we will head out to visit La Loberia. La Loberia is located on the south-west coast of San Cristobal Island, approximately 2.5km south of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the main town on the island. It is the favorite spot for sea lions. We will grab our bikes, or walk along the coast, do a bit more snorkeling, or just sit and watch a playful colony of sea lions while we admire the brilliant ocean sunset.
Meals (B, L, D)
Snorkeling at Kicker Rock
Today we leave early from Baquerizo Moreno Port and head to the impressive Leon Dormido or Kicker Rock, the name it is better known by. This volcanic ash formation towers almost 500ft/150m from the ocean floor and above water, it has the shape of a sleeping lion. Don’t worry, before we get there, we will try out our snorkeling gear in a small protected bay with calm water and playful sea lions.
Kicker Rock is considered one of the top snorkel and dive sites in the Galapagos, and here we will explore the channel between the rocks. Stingrays, white-tipped reef sharks, hammerhead sharks, turtles, tropical fish, and eagle rays all live in the waters around the sleeping lion and if you are lucky you may even get to spot dolphins and whales!
Meals (B, L, D)
Return to the Mainland
It is time to say goodbye to the enchanted islands, and after an early breakfast, we will pay a quick visit to the Interpretation Center located at the northern edge of town.
The Center provides great information about this fascinating archipelago, including the natural history of the Islands’ as well as the impact of humans on the ecosystem. You will also learn about the efforts to conserve the Galapagos and the challenges facing the Islands. At midday, we will board the flight to mainland Ecuador (Quito or Guayaquil).