Indulge in luxury as you cruise the famous islands of Galápagos on this seven-day adventure tour. Begin your exploration in the fascinating colonial city of Quito, then fly to the famed islands for a four-night stay aboard a luxury yacht.
Begin in the Colonial City of Quito
As you arrive in the capital city of Quito, you’ll find yourself immersed in a colonial city full of history and culture. Flanked by volcanoes and nestled in the lower mountain range of the Andes, this unique city offers historical sites and modern neighborhoods, both full of charm and sophistication.
Tour the mesmerizing colonial architecture and historic churches within the traditional city center, stroll along cobblestone streets, and enjoy views from Panecillo, the highest hill in the city.
Before leaving Quito, you’ll experience the city’s artistic side as well, delving into the rich history and art to be found here. You’ll also see how the finest Ecuadorian chocolate is made and end with an extravagant tasting as you lounge in the historical wine cellar of the Fundacion Guayasamin art museum.
Explore the Galápagos in Style
Board your flight to the famous archipelago and prepare yourself for an incredible Galapagos style nature adventure. Once you land on Baltra Island, you’ll transfer to the luxury yacht, the Elite, for your luxury accommodations for the next four nights.
This sturdy, high-end catamaran will astonish with its beauty the second you walk onboard. Settle into your choice of nine spacious cabins on either the main deck or upper deck. In each, you’ll enjoy panoramic views from your own floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors, which open up to a private balcony. When not relaxing in your cabin, venture up to the indoor-outdoor Skydeck or soak in the scenic whirlpool.
Casual buffets abound during breakfast and lunch each day, and for dinner, enjoy elegant meals in the alfresco dining area. The expert, attentive staff are ready to ensure every part of your cruise is perfect, so don’t hesitate to ask for whatever you need.
Expert naturalist guides will also accompany you on your cruise to lead you on exciting excursions and provide valuable insight into the island environment and history.
Daily island visits offer opportunities to learn about the giant Galapagos tortoises, explore volcanic craters, visit underground lava tubes, hike along pristine coastlines, snorkel sheltered bays, admire unique rock formations, and relax on pure white sand beaches. For an added thrill, you’ll take panga rides along the coast of these volcanic isles, and get to visit Buccaneer Cove, where pirates used to rest and repair their ships.
Whether you’re an avid birdwatcher or not, you’ll be amazed at the abundance of birds on the Galápagos Islands. Sight Blue-Footed or Red-Footed Boobies, Lava Gulls, Darwin finches, short-eared owls, and so many more.
After your last breakfast on board the Elite, you’ll see Kicker Rock, just off San Cristobal Island, before boarding your flight back to the Ecuadoran mainland.
Itinerary & Prices
Arrival in Ecuador
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, Chocolate & Guayasamin
Colonial Quito: a city of narrow cobblestone streets lined with whitewashed walls and, rising above, the steeples and cupolas of the city´s many spectacularly decorated historic churches. Quito has one of the best-preserved colonial centers in all South America, and its integrity was assured in 1978 when the United Nations declared Quito a World Cultural Heritage site – one of the first in the world!
Our tour begins with a walk through the Main Plaza, where you will see the Government Palace, La Compañía, and some of the most important churches built around the XVI and XVII centuries. The San Francisco Monastery, Quito’s oldest, was started only 5 days after the founding of the city in 1534. From here, we will visit the city’s famous La Ronda street, where we will learn about traditional work in Colonial Quito. For our last stop, we will also be visiting the ‘Panecillo’, the hill that dominates the South of the city, and where we will be able to admire the famous statue of Our Lady of the Panecillo and enjoy spectacular views of Quito.
Chocolate & Art Experience:
In the afternoon, we are in store for a special treat. Journey through 5,000 years of culture with the finest chocolate & art that Ecuador has to offer. Partnering with To’ak Chocolate and Fundación Guayasamín, we will enjoy a one-of-a-kind journey that celebrates the rich history, art, and chocolate of Ecuador. To’ak uses the oldest and rarest cacao variety on earth to make extremely limited editions of single-origin Ecuadorian dark chocolate. Visitors then get to taste the extraordinary results while guided by a chocolate specialist akin to a fine wine or aged whiskey tasting.
The tasting is held in a private wine cellar of Fundacion Guayasamin, one of the most unique and fascinating art museums in the world. Some of the 20th century’s most notable people such as Fidel Castro, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and the King of Spain were entertained in the wine cellar. Guests are guided through a comprehensive tasting of raw and roasted cacao beans, as well as four different editions of To’ak Chocolate while learning about different cacao varieties, terroir, fermentation methods, barrel-aging, and how they influence the expression of chocolate.
Meals (B, L)
Departing Quito & Cruise Embarkation
AM: After breakfast, at the scheduled time, you will be picked up from your hotel and privately transferred to Quito airport, ready to board your departure flight to the Galapagos Islands!
Arrival at Baltra Island Airport. Reception and Assistance at the airport by our members and transportation to our first visitor site. We will embark at 10:15 PM from San Cristobal Port.
PM: The Fausto Llerena Giant Tortoise Breeding Center is managed by the Galapagos National Park Service and biologists from the Charles Darwin Research Station. The purpose of the center, named for a legendary park ranger, is to raise Galapagos tortoise hatchlings in a protected environment. When the tortoises are large enough to fend for themselves, they are released into the wild. The program has been a great success and in recent years hundreds of young tortoises have been released on several islands.
You will see different sub-species of tortoises in various species of development, from tiny young ones smaller than your fist to fully-grown behemoths lumbering about their enclosures. Your guide will accompany you and provide information about the programs and facilities.
The breeding center is located at the Charles Darwin Research Station, just outside of the town of Puerto Ayora. In addition to the tortoises, you may see finches, warblers, and other birds in and around the tall tree cacti, and tiny lava lizards scurrying about underfoot. After visiting the Research Station, passengers will be taken to the Puerto Ayora pier to board the M/C Elite.
Meals: (B, L, D)
Prince Philip's Steps, El Barranco & Darwin Bay
AM: Genovesa Island is famous for birdlife and neither of its two visitor sites disappoints. Genovesa is the remnant of a once-mighty volcanic crater, and the island still has a distinctive crescent shape. The body of water formed by the crescent is called Darwin Bay, in spite of the fact that Charles Darwin did not ever visit this particular island.
There are no large land animals on Genovesa: not even tortoises or land iguanas. Unlike other islands, Genovesa never had a problem with destructive introduced animals like feral cats or goats, which has allowed birdlife to thrive unmolested on the island for millennia. In the morning, you will visit the Prince Philip’s Steps site. Getting to the visitor site from the landing area is tricky and involves a bit of climbing skill, but once you’re up, Prince Philip’s Steps is a visitor favorite.
There is a magnificent view from the upraised plateau, especially on a clear day. An easy trail winds through a low, scrubby forest and ends up at a rocky ravine of sorts, where lucky visitors will spot the rarely-seen Short-eared Owl. Visitors may also see Red-footed Boobys, gulls, or other birds nesting or visiting the site.
PM: The Darwin Bay visitor site is on the interior side of the crescent-shaped island, protected from wind and currents. It is a wide, sandy beach with a short trail that leads off to one side of the beach and up into some rocky formations. There are many bird species here: visitors can expect to see Blue-footed Boobys, Frigate Birds, Lava Gulls, Herons, Swallow-tailed Gulls, and more.
It is one of the few visitor sites in the islands where you can see Red-footed Boobys. There are some tidal pools off the trail: lucky visitors may spot a ray or some fish trapped there until the tide returns. Following the visit, guests will get to snorkel in the sheltered waters of the bay. Although deep water currents can sometimes cause the water to be chilly or cloudy, the crescent shape of the island protects the bay from strong winds.
The bluffs along the side of the bay drop sharply into the water, which means that snorkelers can stay close to shore but still have deeper water off to one side. Lucky snorkelers might see sharks, rays, sea lions, sea turtles, and dazzling reef fish including parrotfish, wrasses, king angelfish, and damselfish.
Buccaneer Cove, Espumilla Beach & Egas Port
AM: Back in the days of the great sailing ships, the Galapagos Islands were well known as a place where a traveling ship could stock up on food and water. Among the visitors were pirates, and the sheltered bay now known as Buccaneer Cove was a favorite place for them to repair their ships. Your visit includes a panga ride along the coast, where guests will see some interesting rock formations as well as several species of nesting birds including gulls, boobys, and pelicans. The formations, eroded into the colorful red rock, are quite striking. You may get to see not only sea lions but also their more reclusive cousins, the Galapagos Fur Sea Lion. The panga ride is followed by a visit to unforgettable Playa Espumilla (“Foamy Beach” in English). The beach, known for reddish sand, is a favorite among guests: long, pristine, and beautiful, it is home to a colony of sea lions as well as countless crabs and marine iguanas. It is possible to do some light snorkeling off of the beach.
PM: The human history of the Galapagos Islands is often as interesting as the natural history, and a good example is Port Egas. Decades ago, an Ecuadorian named Hector Egas tried to make his fortune mining salt on Santiago Island. It worked for a while, but in the end, the enterprise failed. Port Egas bears the name of this intrepid entrepreneur, and there are still some remnants of the old salt mine facilities here if you know where to look.
Puerto Egas is a superb visitor site even without its history. The trail is a loop that goes through some low trees before swinging around along the coast. Along the inland part of the trail, look for finches and a medium-sized blackbird: this is the Smooth-Billed Ani, an introduced species which somehow arrived in Galapagos at some point in the 1960s. On the coastal portion of the trail, you can expect to see numerous sea lions, marine iguanas, and shorebirds.
The coast is rocky due to its volcanic formation, but easy enough to walk along. Look in the shallow tidal pools: you never know what might have gotten stranded in there when the tide went out, and you might spot a stingray or an octopus in addition to the small fish usually found there.
Meals: (B, L, D)
Bachas Beach, Twin Craters & Santa Cruz Highlands
AM: Bachas beach is one of the more beautiful ones in all of Galapagos – and that’s saying something. It is a long stretch of pristine white sand where sea lions lounge and crabs scuttle back and forth. It was used by the Americans during World War Two: “Bachas” is a version of the word “barges,” which were once landed here.
Sea turtles nest in some of the dunes here, and your guides will ask you to stay clear of the marked areas so as not to disturb the eggs. A short distance away are two salty lagoons where flamingos are frequently seen. There is no real hike here: only the warm, sandy beach. After a stroll along the sand and a refreshing dip, some of our guests like to do some easy snorkeling in the gentle surf.
PM: The Twins: The “twins” are a pair of sinkholes located in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island. Created ages ago by collapsing lava tunnels, they are not far from the main road through the highlands. From the parking lot, it is a fun, easy hike through a lush tropical forest to the walkways which ring the top of the sinkholes. Butterflies and smaller birds such as finches, doves, and mockingbirds dart and flit through the dense forest on either side of the trail, and attentive visitors may spot the distinctive red flash of a vermillion flycatcher as well.
You will stay in the highlands of Santa Cruz island to see giant tortoises in the wild. This impressive animal gives the name to the archipelago. You can easily appreciate the Galapagos giant tortoises in their natural habitat, eating, walking among others. This is also a good place to see birds such as short-eared owls, Darwin’s finches, yellow warblers, Galapagos rails, and paint-billed crakes. As part of this experience, you will visit underground lava tubes formed by cooled and solidified lava. Then we will continue our journey to board the M/C Elite.
Meals: (B, L, D)
AM: They say your culture influences the way you look at things, and Kicker Rock may just be the proof of that. Kicker Rock is a distinctive, boot-shaped rock formation located off of San Cristobal Island. In English, it gets its name from this shape. In Spanish, its name is “León Dormido,” or “Sleeping Lion.” Does it look more like a boot or a lion? You’ll get a nice close-up chance to look for yourself and make up your mind. Your final visit to the Galapagos Islands will be a memorable one: a panga ride up to and around the rock, with the chance for some snorkeling as well. The snorkeling here is excellent, although the currents can be rather strong. Hammerhead sharks are often seen in the murky depths around kicker rock, and fortunate snorkelers might even see a large ray or two.
We will disembark from the cruise at 8:00 AM from San Cristobal Port. After our early morning visit, passengers will get ready and then be taken to San Cristobal Airport. Our airport personnel will assist passengers with the check-in process. Farwell and boarding the flight back to mainland Ecuador.