Our hotel-based tour brings you the best of Isabela and Santa Cruz

Galapagos land tours are increasingly popular holidays and this is one of our best trips, snorkelling with amazing marine life and getting up close to animals on land.

Evenings are spent free to roam these relaxing islands, sleeping in cosy hotels and waking refreshed for another adventure.

We dedicate eight days to discover these two majestic islands, mixing activity, relaxation and enjoyment.

More on Galapagos land tours

You join up with different groups during the day.

Tours available include a hike up Sierra Negra volcano on Isabela, visiting Giant Tortoises on Santa Cruz and kayaking in calm bays.

In the water we offer some great snorkelling – including Tuneles, one of the best snorkels in Galapagos.

As well as getting up close to the tame wildlife, by staying on the islands you get a feel of the lifestyles of the people who live on the Galapagos.

The following is a guideline tour; we can offer a wide variety of day trips with this itinerary.

Read more in our blogs about day tours:

Santa Cruz

San Cristobal

Isabela



Trip Highlights

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  • Snorkel with sea turtles, sea lions and more, including sharks and turtles.

  • In depth visits to two of the best Galapagos islands - Isabela and Santa Cruz.

  • Hike up the active volcano Sierra Negra, and see one of the biggest calderas in the world.

  • See the famous giant tortoises in their natural habitat.

  • Completely flexible itinerary - add more activities, islands, diving - the choice is yours.

  • Choose from two to five star hotels (where available) to suit your budget.

This has to be one of my best trips ever!! Highly recommended! The Galapagos has to be on everyone's bucket list!

I am reborn! Simply the best holiday I have ever been on. I don't think I would change anything.

MY Chang, Galapagos

Full Itinerary

Day 1: Santa Cruz Island – Highlands – Charles Darwin Station (L)

After arriving at Baltra Airport we take a bus, short ferry ride and then a hike to the Highlands of the island.

Here, we visit the Primicias Ranch where we will be bushwalking and looking for some Giant Galapagos tortoises.

After a walk, we visit the lava tunnels and have lunch in a typical farm restaurant.

We continue down to Puerto Ayora where we tour the important Charles Darwin Research Station, visit some of the largest Galapagos tortoises and land iguana breeding centers.

The local guide will give us a detailed explanation about the islands’ evolution.

Drop off at your hotel, evening free to explore the town and eat in one of the local restaurants.

Day 2: Santa Cruz Bay Tour – Boat to Isabela Island (B,L)

In the morning we take a tour around the bay of Santa Cruz, and get into the water for the first time – a great experience in Galapagos.

We start at Punta Estrada, a small gulf of calm waters, and a place where you can see Terns, Boobies, Frigates and sea lions. We jump into the water here, for our first snorkel of the trip.

Having swam with (hopefully) sharks, fish, sea lions and turtles, we visit the Sharks’ Channel. This was formed by magmatic chamber swellings. From the viewpoint you can see the port and the upper part of the Santa Cruz.

Next, we hike 15 minutes to a beach, to an area called The Channel of Love, another fissure formed by magma – very scenic.

Finally, we head towards to Las Grietas, where we can enjoy some snorkelling. We then walk back to the boat and then return to Puerto Ayora.

Lunch in Puerto Ayora.

In the afternoon, a speed boat takes us to Isabela, one of the most beautiful islands in the Archipelago.

After a cruise of 2 ½ hours we reach this corner of paradise where a local transfer takes us to our hotel to relax.

Evening free to explore the small town and restaurants.

 

Ferry Speed Boat Crossings: 

Residents and tourists alike use this method of shared transport regularly between the main inhabited islands. Out on the open ocean, this is your best chance to see whales and dolphins. Each crossing takes about 2 hours. Less time if the sea is calm, more time if the sea is rough. Boats are usually 30-35 feet long and hold 20-30 passengers. If you’re prone to seasickness or not sure, bring some seasickness pills just in case.

Day 3: Wetlands – Wall of Tears – Orchilla Viewpoint – Breeding Centre (B,L)

Today we walk through the Wetlands and drive to visit the Wall of Tears.

This historical place was built by the prisoners of Ecuador’s first jail – your guide will explain more about its history.

On our way back we stop at the Orchilla Viewpoint. From the top you can see the entire coastal wetland system including Poza de los Diablos, Puerto Villamil, the beaches, the volcanoes and the islets to the south-east of Isabela. It’s a great location for a panoramic photo on clear days.

Next we visit the Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre where you can observe tortoises of all ages and sizes. We also learn about the breeding and farming of giant tortoises and see all the work that is being done to help recover the wild populations of these species.

Return to the hotel.

Day 4: Isabela – kayak – Concha Perla (B,L)

After breakfast we transfer to the port to start a kayak tour of the bay at Puerto Villamil.

There is a lot to see here, mangroves, penguins, turtles and reef sharks to name but a few.

After this you have your lunch and in the afternoon we jump into the water for some snorkelling fun at Concha Perla. Keep your eyes peels for rays, sharks, turtles and more in this beautiful little bay.

Return to the hotel, evening free.

Day 5: Sierra Negra and Chico Volcano Walk (B,L)

Lace up your hiking boots, we’re heading up a volcano. Sierra Negra Volcano is one of the most active volcanoes in Galapagos; its last eruption was in October 2005.  A short uphill hike takes us to the perimeter of the caldera.

Once we reach the rim, we’ll have a nine kilometre view that stretches across one the most active calderas in the world.  We continue on to traverse the vast lava fields of Chico volcano to a lookout that boasts breathtaking views reaching to the north of Isabela.  With a hearty sense of accomplishment, we make our way back to town.

Return and lunch in a local farm where we can also watch Isabela Giant Tortoises ambling slowly around.

In the afternoon return to Puerto Villamila and our hotel, free evening.

 

Volcano hike notes: You walk 2-4 hours with frequent rest stops and a lunch break. From the National Park checkpoint, there’s about a 45-minute walk uphill to the rim of the volcano. The trail around the rim has only slight up and downs with a few short steep inclines. The lava fields of Volcan Chico are uneven and rocky in areas.

The path in and out is dirt: if it’s been raining, it could be muddy. There’s one proper bathroom at the beginning of the trail. The majority of walking is on level terrain. If you have weak ankles, use athletic braces and wear hiking boots. If you have knee trouble, bring a hiking pole or two. This is a non-technical hike.

Day 6: Tintoreras – free afternoon (B,L)

Breakfast at the hotel and then we visit Tintoreras.

This tour consists in three activities: snorkel, trekking and a Panga ride.

We start with the Panga ride which lasts 40 minutes during which we can see penguins and Blue-Footed Boobies.

Next, we disembark in the islet and continue walking for around 40 minutes on the lava and beaches we find. Hopefully, we can see marine iguanas, sea lions and sharks. Nearby hundreds of marine iguanas can be observed, as ‘Las Tintoreras’ is one of their main breeding sites.

A colony of white-tip reef sharks can often be seen resting in a lava canal.

We finish this tour with a snorkel so you can have a close encounter with marine fauna, and be able to see sea lions, sharks and turtles.

Return to Puerto Villamil and free afternoon to rest, or enjoy the beach…our final day with the chance to enjoy activities in Galapagos.

Evening free.

Day 7: Tunnels of Cape Rosa – free afternoon (B,L)

Prepare yourself for one of the best days of this trip!

After sailing for 45 minutes from Puerto Villamil, we reach Cape Rosa on the western side of the island. This is one of the most beautiful and amazing places nature has bestowed upon humankind.

Here we can walk over the connected lava tunnels surrounded by the crystal sea waters. From the surface, you may be able to see dozens of turtles, penguins and rays. You can also snorkel or simply swim along with this rich marine fauna.

As we sail to and from Isabela, we might be able to see manta rays of different sizes, a truly unique experience. And if it is their mating season, we can watch them floating upside down on the surface, perfect for having their pictures taken.

Return to the hotel.

The afternoon is yours to explore the island, relax on the beach or perhaps play volleyball with the locals.

Day 8: Boat trip to Santa Cruz, transfer Baltra Airport, fly out (B)

We have an early departure on the public speed boat back to Puerto Ayora.

We take a bus across Santa Cruz Island to Baltra Airport for our flights to the mainland.

 

Inter-island flights

Those who want can take an inter-island flight in a 5-9 capacity plane (extra cost).

The flight from Isabela to Baltra airport is 30 minutes and connects with flights to the mianland (no Isabela-Baltra flights on Sundays).

This service is optional and is charged extra and should be reserved at least 48 hours in advance.


Prices From $2,217 / £1,774 per person

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What's Included?

Accommodation in double or triple room with private bathroom, meals as specified, land and sea transport, daily group trips as listed, sea kayaks, mountain bikes, snorkelling equipment

What's Not Included?

International flights, Ecuador-Galapagos return flights, Galapagos National Park entrance fee, Ingala transit card, alcoholic drinks, soft drinks, tips, meals other than stated, anything not specified in the package, optional diving (please enquire about diving packages), airport transfers on first and last day, Quito services, Isabela port arrival tax, water taxis


Accommodation

Hotels – singles, twin, doubles and some triples and family rooms available.

The islands aren’t known for glamorous lodgings, and our starting price hotels are standard hotels (comparable to 2* hotels), that we have chosen on the basis of comfort and cleanliness.

Upgrades to 3-5* hotels available on request (extra cost).

 

Tour Staff

Staff are “Galapagueños”, most of the guides, captains and crew members were born and raised in the Galapagos Islands.

They know the area well and are prepared to show you the islands only like a native can do it.

Our Naturalist-English speaking guides have studied and been trained at Charles Darwin Scientific Station, and have long years of experience guiding at the Galapagos Islands.


Meals

We can cater for many special dietary requirements on this tour. Please let us know at the time of booking.

Breakfasts at hotels and lunches are provided on this tour.

Lunch will either be a packed lunch while on a trip, or your guide will take the group to a locally-run restaurant on the island, where they will be a choice of dishes. Galapagos is a very remote area and not everything is available here.

Typically, there is a lot of eggs, fish, chicken, rice and some potatoes, plus fresh fruit and vegetables and coffee. There are also international plates such as pasta, pizza, hamburgers etc.

When you have free time (evening meals) to choose your own meals, our guide can make recommendations or you can explore on your own.

Activity Level

This is an active tour where you will have 1-2 activities each day, each being 2-3 hours in length.

Snorkelling last 1-2 hours usually, depending on water temperatures.

The hiking day on Sierra Negra involves 4-5 hours of walking in total. A shorter, 1-2 hour hike is possible, too – please ask at time of booking for the shorter hike.

All activities are within the scope of people that like to be active. No previous experience is necessary for any of the activities, however, as none are designed to be overly strenuous.

Enquire about booking

Practical Information

Introduction to Galapagos

These magical islands comprise of 50 volcanic islands of varying shapes and sizes, which lie 1,000 kilometres off the coast of Ecuador.

Here, unlike anywhere else on Earth, you can enjoy a thousand close encounters with a weird and wonderful variety of ‘friendly locals’, including giant tortoises, fur seals, sea iguanas, frigate birds and blue-footed boobies.

Read our Galapagos Islands Guide and more about diving.

In 1535, Tomás de Berlanga, Bishop of Panama, floated into this archipelago and named it Galapagos after the giant tortoises he encountered. Pirates used the islands for refuge and to bury their stolen treasure after that.

The islands’ most celebrated visitor was Charles Darwin, who arrived aboard the HMS Beagle in 1835. The rare life forms he encountered helped him formulate his theory of evolution, which he published in The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.

It wasn’t until 1959 when it became part of Ecuador’s national park system that this fragile ecosystem with its rare and endemic species came under protection.

In 1979 the Galapagos archipelago was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Weather in Galapagos

 

When to visit Galapagos Islands: weather and wildlife

There is no real ‘best’ time to visit Galapagos on holiday as there is always wonderful wildlife and weather to enjoy. Read our blog for more.

Most animals – tortoises, sharks, sea lions and boobies – are found year round and many of the species here are non-migratory.

The Galapagos Islands are located right on the equator so air and water temperatures do not vary by much.

Having said that, there are two recognised seasons, and each months brings natural marvels for the visitor to enjoy.

Below is our quick guide to the weather and wildlife you can find on the Galapagos Islands.

 

General weather information

 

The warm season (Jan-Jun)

  • Calm, clear warm waters, great for snorkelling, often without a wetsuit.
  • Great weather, with February and March being the hottest and sunniest months with blue skies and sunshine.
  • Occasional heavy bursts of rain in the afternoons.

Sea temperatures:  22-25°C / 72-77°F

Land temperatures:  21-32°C / 72-90°F

 

The dry ‘garua’ season (Jun-Dec)

  • It’s a great time for marine life in the cooler seas. Snorkellers may want a wetsuit.
  • August and September the coolest when you may need a jacket in the evenings and the sea can be choppy.
  • There can be mist on the islands in the mornings (garua) which usually burns off by midday leaving overcast skies or a sunny afternoon.

Sea temperatures:  15-22°C / 60-72°F

Land temperatures:  18-24°C / 65-75°F

 

Galapagos sea and air temperatures and rainfall month by month

Air and sea temperatures in Galapagos, month-by-month

Galapagos park fees

Before you fly from Quito or Guayaquil airport, you need to pay USD 20pp for a transit control card. Some cruises pre-pay this and include it in your trip cost.

On arrival in the Galapagos, you will be asked by a representative of the Galapagos National Park to pay the Park fee in cash (currently US$ 100 per person, USD 50 per person for under 12s).

The dock tax is US$5 on Isabela Island, and the airport tax is US$15 for flights between islands.

All National Park fees subject to change without prior notice.

Fitness and experience

The Galapagos Islands are a suitable destination for most ages and fitness levels. Walks are generally short, although some volcano hikes are more challenging and may involve 2-3 hours of walking. Snorkelling is a real highlight on the Galapagos, so the ability to swim and snorkel is recommended. Snorkelling is suitable for those that have never tried before.

You need to be able to make some wet landings i.e. stepping out of a panga onto a sandy shore, and you may need to ascend or desend small ladders when getting on or off boats at docks or to snorkel.

The fitter you are, the more you will enjoy the Islands, but they really are accessible to all. You can choose to skip any activities you do not wish to partake in.

Read more in our blog about a typical day on Galapagos.

Galapagos kit list

Good kit is vital for every trip.

Book with Andean Trails and get 15% off Páramo’s fantastic ethical and high performance outdoor gear.

 

Galapagos – general advice

Galapagos is warm and humid, and you will need t-shirts (moisture wick-away or breathable t-shirts can be very useful, it can get very hot in the day), shorts, lightweight skirt or trousers and bathing suits.

One or two cotton shirts can be used to protect you from sunburn, especially when snorkelling (not very elegant worn in the water over a swimsuit, but practical – and Galapagos is NOT an elegant place!).

You may want to change into different clothes for the evening, but don’t take anything dressy or smart – there really is a very relaxed atmosphere in island hotels.

Pack something warm and windproof for being the inter-island speedboats – and a waterproof for the Highlands.

Strong sandals, trainers, or light hiking boots are ideal footwear – you may like to have something suitable for easy walks and another for tougher terrain – your guide will advise you daily what the walking will be like.

Do take a hat!

Seasickness tablets if you think you will have problems – i.e. Sturgeon, or Mareol if you buy them in Quito. The sea can be choppy, so it is recommended to take them as a precaution.

 

Galapagos – detailed kit list

  • First aid kit – aspirin, imodium, sun tan lotion (facter 50 recommended), sunburn cream, lip salve, throat lozenges, insect repellent, etc.
  • Earplugs, if you sleep lightly.
  • Sun glasses and sun hat.
  • Snorkelling equipment is provided on every tour, but it may suit you better to take equipment in your size that you know will fit you. Even if you have not snorkelled before, DO have a go – under water Galapagos is a very special experience. Try it first of all from the beach, to get the hang of breathing through gritted teeth, then take the plunge!
  • Towel, for the beach.
  • Money belt.
  • Passport, with at least 6 months remaining from date of return from Ecuador.
  • US Dollars cash and mixed denomination notes, undamaged and unmarked.
  • Visa/MasterCard, Cash card.
  • Personal & Medical insurance.
  • Camera and film / memory cards (take at least twice the amount you think you will need!). You may want to take an underwater camera for snorkelling.
  • Camera charger
  • Binoculars
  • Small backpack – to keep your sun cream, water, shirt etc in when you are on shore/activity.
  • Small plastic water bottle, 1-2 litres, depending on how much you drink.
  • Biodegradable (v. high factor, 50+ recommended) and lip salve.
  • Toiletries (featuring biodegradable soap).
  • Wet Wipes/antiseptic hand wash cream
  • Travel alarm clock.
  • Sewing kit.
  • Spanish/English phrasebook.
  • Book, e-book, mp3 player/ipod or other for free time.

The Galapagos Islands are a very fragile environment and the arrival of more and more inhabitants to the islands, as well as tourist have an impact.

Please try to minimise your impact by:

  • Bringing a water bottle to refill, rather than using a new bottle each time.
  • Recycling your rubbish where possible, not leaving any rubbish behind.
  • Taking batteries back home with you – they cannot be recycled properly in Ecuador.
  • Saving water where possible.
  • Leave toiletries that contain microbeads at home
  • Saving energy by switching your lights off when you leave the room. Electricity on the islands comes from a generator, fuelled by petrol. For this same reason, please think about whether you really need to use your air conditioning.

 

Quito

Pleasantly warm during the day, but can be quite chilly during the morning or at night when you might want a jacket or a fleece, plus a waterproof.

You may want to dress up a little more in the evening here, depending on where you are staying, and what sort of restaurant you like.

 

Guayaquil

Conditions here are similar to Galapagos – hot and humid. T-shirts and shorts in the day, and like Quito, something smarter for eating out in restaurants at night.

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