Overnight in Quito.
After transferring from the airport to your hotel, visit the interpretation center to learn about the fascinating natural, geologic, scientific, cultural, and social history of the Galapagos. Then continue from the interpretation center on a short hike up to Cerro de Las Tijeretas. Along the walk, your guide will explain to you about the native and endemic vegetation as well as the birds and lizards you are bound to see. Tijeretas offers stunning views of both the land and the sea, and it is the point where Darwin first landed to the Galapagos. This cove offers some of the islands best snorkeling, as you will be surrounded by fish of every color, as well as sea lions and the occasional sea turtle. This is also a good spot to view sea cucumbers, sea anemones, sea urchins and other marine invertebrates.
On the return walk, we will pass by Punta Carola. Lay down next to sea lions and marine iguanas on its long sandy beach, swim, snorkel, or do all of the above. After soaking it all in, we walk back to our hotel. In the evening, we recommend you take a 5 minute stroll to the end of the boardwalk to view the colony of many endemic Galapagos sea lions.
The day begins with a hike to El Junco Lagoon, a freshwater lake located in a collapsed caldera at 2,300 feet (700 meters) of altitude on the San Cristobal Island highlands. The lake and its surroundings comprise a beautiful Miconia forest landscape, where we will find frigate birds washing off salt from their wings, Darwin’s finches, and mocking birds. We continue on to La Galapaguera in Cerro Colorado, a new facility operated by the National Park to breed and protect the subspecies of giant turtles endemic to San Cristobal (Geochelone chathamensis). In the afternoon, visit Leon Dormido, the jagged remains of an old tuff cone and home to thousands of sea birds. We enjoy excellent snorkelling; there is a good chance of seeing Galápagos sharks, eagle and golden rays, as well as dozens of species of tropical fish, clams, starfish, and marine invertebrates. If we are lucky, we may spot hammerhead and white-tipped sharks as well. From here, we return to port where we enjoy dinner and our last evening on San Cristobal Island.
This morning we take a 3-hour boat ride to Santa Cruz Island. Stretch your legs visiting the Charles Darwin Research Station to learn about conservation and management projects in the archipelago. Afterwards, drive to the highlands and hike through El Chato Tortoise Reserve. Along with the gentle giants we're likely to also come across pintail ducks, egrets, flycatchers, finches and frigate birds. Continue your exploration of the islands as we venture into lava caves and unique volcanic tunnel formations. Tonight, we'll relax in the hotel on Santa Cruz.
After a satisfying breakfast, we'll hike into the amazing Santa Cruz cloudforest. Reaching Cerro Crocker, the highest summit on the island, we'll search the area for unique vegetation like the vermilion flycatcher. There's also an excellent chance that we'll encounter more Galapagos tortoises. We'll stop for lunch before taking an easy hike to the white sandy beaches of Tortuga Bay. This serene area is named for the sea turtles that frequent the beach to lay their eggs. We'll spend a relaxing afternoon enjoying the enchanting wildlife. Don't forget your binoculars -- there is plenty of pelicans, finches, doves, and marine iguanas to view. Overnight Santa Cruz.
Take a morning boat to Puerto Villamil on Isabela Island. Isabela is the largest and the most volcanically active island in the Galapagos. This island has six volcanoes and it is well known for the 5 subspecies of giant tortoise that live in the cloudforests. Spend the afternoon visiting the Tortoise Breeding Center and follow a trail along the coastline in search of Galapagos penguins and sea lions. Isabela’s salty lagoons are also home to a wide range of sea birds, offering more spectacular birding. Our afternoon is spent relaxing along white sandy beaches. Overnight in Puerto Villamil.
We’ll begin our day with a 6-mile hike to the very rim of the Sierra Negra volcano. The view from this 6x5 mile-wide caldera is sensational. From here we’ll hike to the puffing Chico Volcano on the northeast side of the caldera. During our hike we have a good chance of seeing Galapagos hawks, short-eared owls, finches and flycatchers. Tonight we’ll spend our last evening in this quiet port town before saying farewell to the Enchanted Islands in the morning.
This morning we return to Santa Cruz and catch our return flight back to the mainland. Tonight, enjoy the sights and sounds of Quito -- toast your travels and the remarkable Galapagos Islands!
$660 single supplement
Add $190 holiday surcharge for departures on between December 15 - 31.