The Galapagos Islands are a bucket-list destination for adventurous travelers of all ages—there’s so much to do and see, not even a month is long enough. And since few have that kind of time for travel anyway, it’s smart to get your itinerary right so you don’t miss any must-see sights and experiences when visiting Galapagos on a budget.
You can do the Galapagos in two ways, a land-based, island hopping tour or a cruise. Cruise itineraries are controlled by the government and arranged into two categories—both to control the flow of tourists to the delicate island ecosystems and to ensure passenger safety with ships navigating tight spaces. You don’t have a lot of options to design your own itinerary if you travel by boat.
Island hopping tours offers more flexibility to create the type of experience you crave in the Galapagos Islands. A good tour operator will give you several options for arranging your days and activities for a personalized vacation. Additionaly, thay are more flexible on burget too, as thay allow you to choose form various hotel categories.
Keep in mind that any Galapagos itinerary requires a full day of travel on either end; you’ll fly to mainland Ecuador and then a shorter hop to the islands themselves. So if you choose a 7-day itinerary, you’ll need to block out at least nine days for your trip.
Here’s our suggestion for an adventure-packed itinerary for 30+ explorers.
Day 1: Arrive in San Cristobal and set your sights on the frigate birds.
You’ll definitely want to hit the Interpretation Center as soon as you arrive to help you orient yourself to the Galapagos Islands and the amazing wildlife. Don’t forget to take the trail to to Frigate Bird Hill to see your first frigate birds. Did you know these amazing birds can stay aloft for weeks at a time? And how awesome that you’ll see your first glimpse of our unique Galapagos wildlife within hours of arriving.
Day 2: Snorkel with the sea lions and sharks at Kicker Rock.
Kicker Rock is one of the most popular destinations in the Galapagos—it’s an underwater paradise for marine life. Galapagos sharks, white tip sharks, rays, sea turtles, and an abundance of colorful fish make this an ideal place for snorkeling. Swim with the sea lions and look for Nazca boobies and the iconic blue footed booby, both of which flock to the rock during the day.
Day 3: Zip across the sea to Tortuga Bay to kayak with the sea turtles.
Hop on a speedboat for a trip to Santa Cruz and kayak adventure at Tortuga Bay. The pristine beach is the perfect place to grab a little sun and hang out with the marine iguanas and sandy lightfoot crabs. Feel like surfing? You can hang 10 here—or take a kayak adventure and get up close and personal with the sea turtles and sharks.
Day 4: Swim with the Galapagos penguins on Bartolomé.
Want an experience you’ll remember for the rest of your life? Take a dip in the waters off Pinnacle Rock and frolic with the Galapagos penguins. The island of Bartolomé is home to a colony of these iconic animals—as well as sea lions, green sea turtles, spotted eagle rays, stingrays, and sharks. You won’t want to miss an excursion to this fascinating island.
Day 5: Hike Sierra Negra volcano on Isabela—and catch a glimpse of the Galapagos Tortoise at Flamingos Lagoon.
Sierra Negra is one of the most impressive volcanoes in the Galapagos archipelago. Its caldera is the second-largest in the world, measuring a massive 10 kilometers across. Spend a few hours hiking and taking photographs of the incredible landscape and then cool off with a trip to Flamingo Lagoon and the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center. Did you know these crazy reptiles live about 155 years and can go up to 18 months without food or water?
Day 6: Snorkel the lava tunnels at Cabo Rosa (and don’t be surprised if you spot a few blue-footed boobies nearby!)
A quick boat ride to the Cabo Rosa lava tunnels is a great way to really appreciate the unique history and geography of the Galapagos islands—these volcanic lava formations flow seamlessly between crystal-clear sapphire pools and wild ocean waves. And the marine life is abundant as well.
But this is also a great place to catch a glimpse of the blue-footed booby. Did you know the blue-footed booby prefers to nest on land while the red-footed variety nests in trees?
Day 7: Check out the white tip sharks at canales de las tintoreras.
Las Tintoreras on Isabela is the perfect place to really get close to the white tip shark and other marine life in the Galapagos (canales de las tintoreras means literally “shark canals”). It’s also a great place to interact with marine iguanas, sea lions, sea turtles, and the gangly blue herons. Go snorkeling or just take a relaxing swim.
Don’t forget to visit the Humedales and the Wall of Tears, one of the best places in the Galapagos to see migratory birds as well as Galapagos ducks, flamingos, finches, and plovers.
Day 8: Head to Ecuador to visit the mighty Cotopaxi, the world’s largest active volcano.
You don’t have to be an amateur vulcanologist to appreciate Cotopaxi, one of the most iconic features of Ecuador’s geography. If the weather cooperates, you can even ascend to the glaciers! And the incredible biodiversity of the Andean Paramo will blow you away—make sure your camera is fully charged and ready to go!
Day 9: Get your head in the clouds at the Mindo Cloud Forest.
The Mindo Cloud Forest is a transitional zone between the lowlands and the tropical Andes—a place where you can enjoy your favorite outdoor adventures like tubing, rafting, mountain biking, horseback riding, and canyoning. It’s a birdwatcher’s paradise, as well.
Why not end your Ecuador adventure with a night or two in one of the luxurious eco-spas and resorts in the Mindo area? It’s an unforgettable way to pamper yourself and wind down your journey.
Day 10: Enjoy a foodie tour of Quito before your return flight home.
Flying home out of Quito? Take advantage of the time to enjoy a foodie tour of this historic city. Ecuadorian cuisine is some of the tastiest in the world—the ceviches and stews are flavorful and delicious. Treat yourself to espumillas, a meringue foam flavored with tropical fruits and topped with sprinkles and syrups.
Something catch your eye?
Ready to see yourself swimming with sea lions or searching for sharks in the Galapagos Islands this year? Get in touch today and find out how easy it is to plan the ultimate adventure vacation. And if you’re not ready to speak with a travel consultant, sign up for our free email course to learn everything you need to know about planning your perfect Galapagos tour.