For those who prefer staying on the islands, this 7-day Galapagos Islands Land Based Tour provides you with plenty of opportunities to experience the uniqueness of this famous archipelago first-hand. Adventure abounds as you make your base first on Santa Cruz then Isabela Island, both providing ample opportunities to explore nature and discover what the neighboring islands have to offer.
Get Acquainted with Quito
Your arrival and short stay in Quito will allow you time to become familiar with the beauty, history, traditions, and culture of Ecuador. Explore the colonial city center, visit the Equatorial Line while standing in both hemispheres at the same time, and learn about the process of making one of the world’s finest chocolates while here.
Land-Based Galapagos Islands Adventure Awaits
A flight from Quito brings you to Balta Island, where your Galapagos Island hopping itinerary begins. It all starts with an exploration of the turquoise waters of Itabaca Channel. Choose your activity, such as kayaking, snorkeling, stand-up paddleboarding, or seeking out the unique wildlife here, including sea lions, herons, and blue-footed boobies.
The Hotel Ikala on Santa Cruz Island will serve as your base as you join excursions to the neighboring islands via motor yacht. The hotel is situated within its own gardens, creating an oasis for you to return to each day, while shops and restaurants are just a few steps away. Any number of islands may be visited from here, including North Seymour, South Plaza, Santa Fe, Bartolome, and Santiago.
Observe the famed Giant Tortoises as they roam a private reserve. Spend time birdwatching, snorkeling to see manta rays or sharks, or strolling coastlines for a chance to spot marine iguanas, penguins, or mockingbirds. As one of the best Galapagos Islands land based tours, you’ll have chances to see the islands in their natural, pristine state and learn about each one and what it offers the natural world.
From Santa Cruz, you’ll head to Isabela Island for a stay at the Hotel Isamar. This cozy boutique hotel is located within a few steps of the beach and nearby attractions and offers cozy rooms or family suites.
From here, your adventures take you to a smaller group of islands filled with iconic land and water wildlife, a microcosm of all the islands in one. Snorkel in the bay, and you may be joined by frolicking sea lions or penguins. Bike ride through the wetlands, observing marine iguana colonies, mangrove trees, and historical sites along the way.
As one of the youngest and most active volcanic islands in the Galapagos, hiking to see the results of previous eruptions, as well as the volcanoes themselves, are a real highlight. Don’t worry; you’ll still have plenty of time to relax on the beaches of Puerto Villamil as well.
When it comes to Galapagos Island hopping tours, few compare to the active adventure that awaits on this sample – so much so that you may find yourself returning again and again to this remarkable archipelago.
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 of 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 and enjoy lunch. Your accommodations while on Baltra will be at Hotel Ikala Galapagos.
Meals (B, L, D)
Excursion to 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)
Return to the Mainland
It is time to say goodbye to the enchanted islands, and after an early breakfast, we take the speedboat back to Santa Cruz. From there you’ll be transfered by land to Baltra and board your flight back to mainland Ecuador (Quito or Guayaquil).