How to spend 10 days in the Galapagos — 4 itineraries

Located around 960km from the Ecuadorian mainland, and boasting one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, the Galapagos Islands are a dream destination for nature lovers. That’s especially the case for travellers who love to explore the great outdoors on land and sea. To help make your Galapagos adventure all the more glorious, take inspiration from the following 10 day Galapagos itinerary ideas. Curated by our Ecuador travel experts, they cover everything from exhilarating three-island experiences, to luxurious wildlife-watching cruises.

Short on time? See our 7 day Galapagos itinerary ideas, or talk to our local Ecuador experts to customise your trip. To get the most out of your trip, also read our guide on the best time to visit Galapagos Islands.

Want to be prepared for your upcoming trip to Ecuador? Start by exploring our tips for traveling in Ecuador. You might also find it helpful to read about what you need to know before traveling to Ecuador.

Itinerary 1 — Luxury Santa Cruz

Kicking off in decidedly fancy fashion, our Luxury Santa Cruz itinerary will have you experiencing the extraordinary wildlife and landscapes of the Galapagos in blissfully comfortable style. That is to say, it’ll see you stay in an exquisite lodge, dine on fine food, and enjoy expert-led tours that can be totally tailored to your interests. 

After arriving in Quito — capital of Ecuador — you’ll fly to Santa Cruz for 10 days of magic. By which we mean taking tours of extraordinary lava landscapes and volcanic craters. Taking inspiration from nature reserves, coffee plantations, and sightings of remarkable endemic species. 

Add to that taking trips to uninhabited islands — perhaps also getting your adventure on through snorkelling, kayaking and hiking — and this amounts to an unforgettable experience.


Our suggested luxury 10 day Galapagos itinerary kicks off in Quito, Ecuador © Shutterstock

Itinerary overview

Your experience kicks off in Quito on day one, when you’ll have time to explore the city’s UNESCO Heritage Site attractions, picturesque plazas and markets before bedding down in a boutique hotel.

On day two, after departing Quito for the island of Santa Cruz, you’ll settle into your luxurious lodge in the highlands before visiting nearby lava fields. You might also catch your first sighting of an iconic giant Galapagos tortoise.

After lunch, explore the lush grounds of your lodgings — or rest up in a hammock — before dining in the high-quality restaurant.

Day three will see you tour a coffee plantation that produces top-tier beans, with time to relax at your leisure in the afternoon before you venture to Cerro Mesa Reserve on day four.

Owned and operated by a local family, the wetlands here are home to a bounty of birdlife, and the island’s largest crater. Hike to the top to be rewarded with a splendid 360 view of the island before boarding a bike to whizz down to Garrapatero beach.

You can spend the afternoon bathing or kayaking in the company of sea lions and flamingos.

Come day five  depending on the weather and permissions granted by the National Park — you’ll board a boat to see either Santa Fé, South Plazas, Bartolomé or North Seymour island.

Whichever island you head to, look out for frigate birds and land iguanas. Around North Seymour, you might also see blue-footed boobies.

More water-based adventures lie in wait on day six, courtesy of a trip in the company of a local fisherman. After a delicious lunch, you’ll head to a secluded bay to snorkel (or bliss out on the beach).

Day seven will have you exploring in Darwin’s footsteps when you visit the Charles Darwin Research Station, along with the tortoise breeding centre.

You’ll also have time to meander Puerto Ayora — the largest community in the Galapagos archipelago. A great place to pick up local craft products, the town’s bay and docks offer opportunities to see sea lions, iguanas, rays, sharks and turtles.

We suggest devoting day eight to Tortuga Bay. With soft white sand and impossibly clear waters that are ripe for kayaking, this stunning spot is known for its white tip reef sharks and iguanas. 

On your last full day on Santa Cruz, you could relax around the resort and its glorious. grounds, or else further explore Puerto Ayora.

On day ten, it’s time to fly back to the mainland.

 Galapagos Marine Iguanas, tortuga bay, santa cruz island © Shutterstock

Galapagos Marine Iguanas, Tortuga Bay, Santa Cruz island © Shutterstock

Day one — Welcome to Ecuador 

  • Arrive in Quito and overnight.

Day two — Santa Cruz

  • Fly from Quito to Santa Cruz.
  • Visit nearby lava fields; relax around your luxury resort.

Day three — Santa Cruz

  • Coffee plantation tour.

Day four — Santa Cruz

  • Visit Cerro Mesa reserve; bike to Garrapatero beach.

Day five — Santa Cruz

  • Trip to an uninhabited island.

Day six — Santa Cruz

  • Fishing trip with lunch and snorkelling.

Day seven — Santa Cruz

  • Visit the Charles Darwin Research Station; explore Puerto Ayora.

Day eight — Santa Cruz

  • Visit Tortuga Bay.

Day nine — Santa Cruz

  • Further explore Puerto Ayora, or relax around your luxury resort. 

Day ten —  goodbye Galapagos

  • Fly to Quito ready for your homeward journey.

Make crafting your dream trip all the dreamier by booking it with us.

Galapagos iguana

Galapagos iguana © Shutterstock

Itinerary 2 — Galapagos Three Island Special

Covering three extraordinary islands, this suggested Galapagos Special itinerary will see you start and end your journey in Quito.

As for the islands you’ll get to visit on this diversely rewarding, 10 day Galapagos itinerary, you’ll spend a couple of nights on San Cristóbal and take an immersive wildlife-watching day-trip to Isla Lobos. 

Santa Cruz will also be your base for a few days, during which time you’ll visit an epic active volcano, snorkel marine-life-rich bays, and see stacks of endemic wildlife.

Blue footed boobies with iguana, Galapagos ©

Blue footed boobies with iguana, Galapagos ©

Itinerary overview

Packed with picturesque plazas, markets and rich culinary heritage, day one will see you arrive in Quito. Be sure to sample some local food when you overnight in this UNESCO Heritage Site stunner.

On day two, you’ll transfer to San Cristóbal, the administrative seat of the Galápagos and its fifth largest island. 

After settling into your hotel, spend the afternoon discovering the history of the region at the Centro de Interpretación, the exhibition centre of the Galápagos National Park.

Next up, walk to Cerro de las Tijeretas, or Frigatebird Hill, to be rewarded with a panorama of Wreck Bay, with Isla Lobos to the north and León Dormido to the northeast. 

Come day three, you’ll take a trip to Isla Lobos for an immersive wildlife-watching experience. Look out for marine iguanas, sea lion, iconic blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies and frigate birds as you enjoy a guided walk around the island before snorkelling a secluded bay.

Next up, day four will see you move to Santa Cruz. After enjoying lunch at a local farm and spotting giant turtles, you’ll visit the Charles Darwin Centre and a turtle-rearing station.

More wildlife adventures are in store on day five when you venture to La Isabela. Here you can explore Flamingo Lagoon, and the Giant Tortoise Breeding Station. 

We also suggest taking a trip to Tintoreras Islet to see Humboldt penguins, marine iguanas, sea lions and sharks.

Day six will see you venturing to the second-largest volcanic caldera in the world. Namely, Sierra Negra, which also happens to be Isabela’s biggest, most active volcano.

You’ll return to Santa Cruz by speedboat on day seven, with free time to explore the town of Puetro Ayora, or visit local beaches.

Day eight is devoted to Isla Floreana. With a population of just 150, its history is packed with tales of piracy in paradise.

After overnighting in Santa Cruz, you’ll return to Quito on day nine, ready to leave Ecuador.


Isabela island, the Galapagos © Shutterstock

Day one — welcome to Ecuador

  • Arrive in Quito.

Day two — San Cristobel island

  • Fly to San Cristobel island.
  • Visit the Interpretation Centre and Frigatebird Hill.

Day three — Isla Lobos

  • Boat trip to Isla Lobos.

Day four — Santa Cruz

  • Transfer to Santa Cruz, see giant turtles and visit the Charles Darwin Centre.
  • Overnight in Santa Cruz.

Day five — La Isabela

  • Transfer to La Isabela; visit Flamingo Lagoon, the Giant Tortoise Breeding Station and Tintoreras Islet.
  • Overnight in La Isabela.

Day six — La Isabela

  • Visit Sierra Negra volcano.
  • Overnight in La Isabela.

Day seven — Santa Cruz

  • Return to Santa Cruz; free time to visit Puetro Ayora, or beaches.
  • Overnight in Santa Cruz.

Day eight — Isla Floreana

  • Day trip to Isla Floreana.
  • Overnight in Santa Cruz.

Day nine — Santa Cruz

  • Return to Quito.

Day ten — goodbye Ecuador

  • Depart Ecuador.

Save yourself a whole lot of hassle — customise this trip with us today.

Bartolome Island, Galapagos, Ecuador. Bartolome Island is a volcanic islet in the Galapagos Islands with an amazing viewpoint at the top © Seumas Christie-Johnston/Shutterstock

Bartolome Island, Galapagos, Ecuador © Seumas Christie-Johnston/Shutterstock

Itinerary 3 — Galapagos Diving Adventure

With one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, the Galapagos Islands are packed with iconic animals on land and under water. To experience the latter in immersive style, it doesn’t get better than taking a trip that’s focussed on diving. 

That said, this suggested 10 day Galapagos itinerary also includes opportunities to see plenty of extraordinary land creatures, too. 

Never dived before? No worries — this unforgettable Diving Adventure trip can be tailored to suit newbies and advanced divers alive.

Things not to miss: Christmas Iguana, Espanola Island, Galapagos, Ecuador.

Christmas Iguana, Espanola Island, Galapagos, Ecuador © Shutterstock

Itinerary overview

After arriving in Quito and spending your first night there, you’ll fly to Santa Cruz on day two. Take time to check out the visitor’s centre at the national park and the Charles Darwin Centre before exploring Puerto Ayora — the largest community of the Galapagos.

If you’re keen to start seeing wildlife, check out the bay and docks, where you’ll most likely spot sea lions, iguanas, rays, sharks and the odd turtle.

Come the afternoon, visit Tortuga Bay. Its white-sand beaches and crystal-clear waters play host to white tip reef sharks, among many other species. You could also take a kayaking trip to see sea lions up close. 

Day three will see you enjoy your first dive to introduce you to the underwater magic off the coast of Santa Cruz, before you venture further afield on day four

Depending on permissions granted by the national park, you might explore Gordon Rocks, Carrion Point, Daphne or North Mosquera.

Come day five, you’ll have a free day in Santa Crux before taking take the public speedboat to San Cristobel on day six, which will be your base for the next few nights. 

A highlight of this segment of the trip is the opportunity to dive iconic Kicker Rock on day seven. Composed of compacted volcanic ash that towers up almost 150m from the ocean floor, it splits into two structures that are connected by a channel that runs between them. 

That’s quite some setting for a diving experience that’ll see you observing the likes of hammerheads and Galapagos sharks.

Day eight will have you heading to Española Island and Gardner Islet. You’ll explore the former on a hike (look out for blue-footed boobies, Española iguanas, albatrosses and Nazca boobies) before re-boarding the boat to snorkel Gardner Bay.

On day nine, you’ll fly back to Quito ready for your onward international flight on day ten.

Seal in San Cristobal Island in Galapagos Archipelago, Ecuador.

Seal on San Cristobal Island © Shutterstock

Day one — Welcome to Ecuador

  • Arrive in Quito and overnight.

Day two

  • Transfer to Santa Cruz. Explore Puerto Ayora and Tortuga Bay.
  • Overnight in Santa Cruz.

Day three — Santa Cruz

  • Dive off the coast of Santa Cruz.
  • Overnight in Santa Cruz.

Day four — Santa Cruz

  • Dive Gordon Rocks, Carrion Point, Daphne or North Mosquera.
  • Overnight in Santa Cruz.

Day five — Santa Cruz

  • Free day in Santa Cruz.
  • Overnight in Santa Cruz.

Day six — San Cristobel

  • Transfer to San Cristobel; free time.

Day seven — San Cristobel

  • Dive iconic Kicker Rock.
  • Overnight in San Cristobel.

Day eight — San Cristobel

  • Day trip to Española Island and Gardner Islet.
  • Overnight in San Cristobel.

Day nine — depart San Cristobel

  • Return to Quito ready for your homeward flight.
  • Overnight in Quito.

Day ten — Goodbye Galapagos

  • Leave Ecuador.

To cut out a whole lot of time (and stress), customise this trip with us today.

Galapagos Giant Tortoise © Maridav/Shutterstock

Galapagos giant tortoise © Maridav/Shutterstock

Itinerary 4 — Cruise the Galapagos

As an alternative to the Luxury Santa Cruz itinerary shared above, you could consider taking a very special 10-day Cruise the Galapagos trip.

And the reasons? First up, your home for the duration of the trip will be the islands’ first 50m luxury super yacht. 

Secondly, given that this offers a 1:1 crew-to-passenger ratio, you can expect first-class service, along with fine wine and food, and extras like meditation sessions, and an on-board scientist.


Blue footed booby, Galapagos Islands © Shutterstock

Itinerary overview

After arriving in Quito on day one of your trip, you’ll have time to explore some of the top attractions in this UNESCO World Heritage Site before dining and overnighting in a boutique hotel. 

Day two will see you fly to Santa Cruz and board the beautiful Aqua Mara yacht, meet your crew and be kitted out with your personal snorkelling gear. 

Come the afternoon, you’ll sail to Bahia Borrero. This white-sand wonder of northern Santa Cruz is the perfect place to try out your gear, and spot Darwin’s finches. 

On the morning of day three, you’ll enter the waters around Genovesa Island. After taking a tender ride along the volcanic rocks of El Barranco, you’ll embark on a comfortable 1.5 km lava field hike. Watch out for red-footed boobies, Galapagos petrels and great frigate birds. 

Once you’ve enjoyed a tasty lunch back on board, you’ll get to snorkel the marine-life-rich waters of Bahia Darwin.

Come day four, your yacht will head to Santiago Island. Here a landing at Bahía Sullivan reveals a remarkable recent lava flow, with your onboard scientist on hand to share expert insights to the region’s geology.

After lunch, you’ll visit Sombrero Chino Island, and have the chance to observe sea lions and penguins, and to snorkel, paddle-board or kayak.

Land-based adventures are on store on day five when you anchor at Bartolomé Island and climb to the summit of a volcanic cone for spectacular views. 

You’ll have the chance to snorkel, and see turtles and Galapagos penguins, before the yacht sails to Santa Cruz, where a second hike will see you explore Cerro Dragón — AKA Dragon Hill.

On day six, you’ll visit the El Chato Giant Tortoise Reserve, which is also a top spot to see Darwin’s finches, yellow warblers and Galapagos rails. 

After lunch, you’ll hear a talk on Darwin’s finches before boarding a tender to the Darwin Station and National Park headquarters, with free time to explore the town of Puerto Ayora.

You’ll set off for Punta Suárez on day seven, which is known for its remarkably high number of endemic species, including lava lizards and the waved albatross. 

After taking a tender to explore islets, you’ll snorkel Bahia Gardner in the company of sea lions, turtles and rays.

Day eight of this unforgettable cruise experience will see you return to Santa Cruz. Here you might be able to squeeze in a trip to the twin craters of the island’s highlands before flying back to the mainland on day nine, and departing Ecuador on day ten. 

Giant tortoise in El Chato Tortoise Reserve, Galapagos islands (Ecuador) © Alberto Loyo/Shutterstock

Giant tortoise in El Chato Tortoise Reserve, Galapagos islands © Alberto Loyo/Shutterstock

Day one — Welcome to Quito, Ecuador

  • Explore Quito’s UNESCO World Heritage Site attractions.
  • Overnight in Quito.

Day two

  • Fly to Santa Cruz and board your yacht.
  • Visit Bahia Borrero.

Day three

  • Visit Genovesa Island; see the volcanic rocks of El Barranco; hike lava fields; snorkel Bahia Darwin.

Day four

  • Visit Santiago Island and Sombrero Chino Island.

Day five

  • Bartolomé Island hike and snorkel; Santa Cruz hike.

Day six

  • Visit the El Chato Giant Tortoise Reserve; take a tender to the Darwin Station and National Park headquarters; explore Puerto Ayora.

Day seven

  • Visit Punta Suárez; explore islets; snorkel Bahia Gardner.

Day eight

  • Return to Santa Cruz; visit the twin craters of the island’s highlands.

Day nine

  • Fly back to the mainland.
  • Overnight in Quito.

Day ten — goodbye Ecuador

  • Depart Ecuador.

Inspired to take this luxury trip? Book it with us.

For more inspo to help you plan your trip, read up on the best things to do in Ecuador.

Alternatively, if you’re not keen on planning, browse our customisable Ecuador itineraries and talk to our local Ecuador experts.

Joanne Owen

written by
Joanne Owen

updated 31.05.2024

Joanne is a Pembrokeshire-born writer with a passion for the nature, cultures and histories of the Caribbean region, especially Dominica. Also passionate about inspiring a love of adventure in young people, she’s the author of several books for children and young adults, hosts international writing workshops, and has written articles on the Caribbean and inspirational community initiatives for Rough Guides. Follow her @JoanneOwen on Twitter and @joanneowenwrites on Instagram.

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