How to spend 7 days in the Galapagos — 4 itineraries

Some 960km from the Ecuadorian mainland, the volcanic Galapagos Islands are a bona fide bucket-list destination for nature lovers. But with so much to take in, crafting the perfect trip takes some planning, which is where the following 7 day Galapagos itinerary suggestions could come in very handy. Curated by our Ecuador travel experts, there are ideas to cover a range of interests.

Not sure how long to stay? See our 10 day Galapagos itinerary ideas. 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 — Galapagos Three Island Special

Taking in three extraordinary islands, our customisable Galapagos Special itinerary will see you start and end your journey in Quito — capital of Ecuador, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site to boot.

As for the islands you’ll get to visit on this epic 7 day Galapagos itinerary, you’ll spend time on San Cristóbal before taking a day trip to Isla Lobos for an immersive wildlife-watching adventure. 

Alongside enjoying more remarkable encounters on Santa Cruz and La Isabela, this will also see you visit an epic active volcano, and snorkel some sublime, marine-life-rich bays.

Read on for detail on this three-island, 7 day Galapagos itinerary, which can easily be extended to an immersive 10-day option.

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

Witnessing a giant tortoise in the wild is a highlight of any 7 day Galapagos itinerary © Alberto Loyo/Shutterstock

Itinerary overview

Day one will see you arrive in Quito. Tucked between majestic mountain peaks, this UNESCO Heritage Site stunner is stacked with picturesque plazas, markets and rich culinary heritage — be sure to sample some local food when you overnight here.

Come day two, you’ll transfer to San Cristóbal, the administrative seat of the Galápagos and its fifth largest island. Your afternoon will be spent discovering the history of the region at the Centro de Interpretación, the Galápagos National Park’s exhibition centre.

Once you've seen its impressive installations — among them a reconstruction of a ship’s hold stuffed with giant tortoises as they would have been stored by whalers – you’ll walk to Cerro de las Tijeretas, AKA Frigatebird Hill.

After following a path through fragrant palo santo forests, you’ll be rewarded with a panorama of Wreck Bay, with Isla Lobos to the north and León Dormido to the northeast. 

Directly below, a rocky cove plays host to sea lions while frigate birds circle overhead. If you visit in March or April, you’ll get to see them nesting. 

Water-based adventures await on day three, when you’ll take a trip to Isla Lobos for an immersive wildlife-watching experience. Expect to see marine iguanas, sea lions, iconic blue-footed boobies, Nazca boobies and frigate birds.

After a guided walk around the island, you can snorkel a secluded bay.

Next up is a trip to Santa Cruz on day four. 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 move to La Isabela. Here you can explore Flamingo Lagoon, or 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.

Finally, you’ll return to Santa Cruz, with time to explore the island’s beaches and Puerto Ayora town on day seven before returning to Quito.


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 day trip

  • 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

  • Transfer to Santa Cruz; explore beaches and Puerto Ayora.
  • Overnight in Santa Cruz before returning to Quito for your departure.

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

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

 Galapagos marine iguanas, Tortuga Bay, Santa Cruz © Shutterstock

Itinerary 2 — Galapagos Diving Adventure

With one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, the Galapagos Islands are packed with iconic animals wherever you go — 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, though this suggested 7 day Galapagos itinerary also includes opportunities to see plenty of extraordinary land creatures, too. Frankly, it would be a crime not to!

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

Sea lions resting in the sand along Gardner Bay.

Sea lions resting on Gardner Bay

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 take the public speedboat to San Cristobel — your base for the next few nights. A highlight of this segment of the trip is the opportunity to dive iconic Kicker Rock.

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.

Española Island and Gardner Islet await on day six. 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. 

After returning to San Cristobel and overnighting, it’s time to fly back to Quito on day seven.


Quito, Ecuador © Shutterstock

Day one — Welcome to Ecuador

  • Arrive in Quito and overnight.

Day two — Santa Cruz

  • 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 — San Cristobel

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

Day six — San Cristobel

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

Day seven — Goodbye Galapagos

  • Return to Quito ready for your homeward flight.

To cut out a whole lot of time (and stress), 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 — Luxury Santa Cruz

Longing to experience extraordinary wildlife and landscapes in exceptional style? Our Luxury Santa Cruz itinerary has your name all over it.

After arriving in Quito, you’ll fly to Santa Cruz for immersive exploration of everything from lava landscapes and volcanic craters, to nature reserves, and coffee plantations. 

Note that if you have longer, this trip can be easily — and rewardingly — combined with exploring Ecuadorian nature and culture beyond the glorious Galapagos Islands.

Either way, it blends unforgettable expert-led tours with staying in the very best lodges, dining on delicious local food, and witnessing some of the world’s most remarkable wildlife.


Quito, Ecuador © Shutterstock

Itinerary overview

After flying from Quito to Santa Cruz, you’ll settle into your luxurious lodge in the highlands before visiting nearby lava fields, and catching your first glimpse of iconic giant Galapagos tortoises. 

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

As such, day one, gives you an inviting flavour of the islands, before day two will see you visit a unique coffee plantation that produces top-tier beans before venturing to Cerro Mesa Reserve.

While its wetlands host a bounty of birdlife, the grounds are also home to the island’s largest crater. Head to the top to be rewarded with an epic 360 view before boarding a bike to whizz down to Garrapatero beach for an afternoon of bathing or kayaking. You’ll most likely spend it in the company of sea lions and flamingos.

Come day three, the beauty and wildlife wonders of outlying islands await, when you’ll board a boat to see either Santa Fé, South Plazas, Bartolomé or North Seymour, depending on the weather and permissions granted by the National Park.

Editor’s tip: 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 are in store on day four, courtesy of a trip in the company of a local fisherman. After a delicious fish-based, on-board lunch, you’ll be whisked to a secluded bay to snorkel or bliss out on the beach. 

Next up is the chance to follow in Darwin’s footsteps through visiting the Charles Darwin Research Station on day five. You’ll also have an opportunity to check out the tortoise breeding centre and explore Puerto Ayora — the largest community in the Galapagos archipelago. 

Editor’s tip: don’t miss spending time around the bay and docks, where sea lions, iguanas, rays, sharks and the odd turtle are frequently sighted.

After lunch, head to the white sand and clear waters of Tortuga Bay to kayak in a stunning spot that’s known for its white tip reef sharks and iguanas. 

Day six will see you have time to further explore Puerto Ayora (don’t miss the artisan craft products), or relax around the resort. 

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

 Galapagos marine Iguanas, Tortuga bay, Santa Cruz island © Shutterstock

Day one — Welcome to Ecuador and Santa Cruz

  • Fly from Quito to Santa Cruz.

Day two — Santa Cruz

  • Coffee plantation tour; visit Cerro Mesa reserve; bike to Garrapatero beach.

Day three — Santa Cruz

  • Trip to an uninhabited island.

Day four — Santa Cruz

  • Boat trip with fishing, lunch and snorkelling.

Day five — Santa Cruz

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

Day six — Santa Cruz

  • Further explore Puerto Ayora, or relax around the resort. 

Day seven — return to Quito

  • Fly from Santa Cruz to Quito ready for your homeward journey

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


Blue footed booby, Galapagos-Islands © Shutterstock

Itinerary 4 — Cruise the Galapagos

Another way to add more than a touch of luxury to your Galapagos experience is to enjoy this Cruise the Galapagos trip.

Your home for the duration of this very special 7-day Galapagos itinerary will be the islands’ first 50m luxury super yacht. With a 1:1 crew to passenger ratio, you can expect first-class service — including on-board meditation sessions — fine food, and truly extraordinary wildlife experiences on land and sea.

What’s more, this trip can be easily extended to include additional islands, and/or spending time on the Ecuadorian mainland.


Marine iguana, 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 of this UNESCO World Heritage Site before dining and overnighting in a boutique hotel. 

Day two will see you board the beautiful Aqua Mara yacht, meet your crew and be kitted out with your personal snorkelling gear. Next, 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 sail to 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 in 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 on to Santa Cruz, where a second hike will see you explore Cerro Dragón — AKA Dragon Hill.

On day six, you’ll set off for Punta Suárez, which is known for its remarkably high number of endemics species, including lava lizards and the waved albatross. After taking a tender to explore islets, you’ll spend time snorkelling Bahia Gardner in the company of sea lions, turtles and rays.

The final day of this unforgettable cruise 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.

Galapagos Giant Tortoise © Maridav/Shutterstock

Galapagos giant tortoise © Maridav/Shutterstock

Day one

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

Day two

  • 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 Punta Suárez; explore islets; snorkel Bahia Gardner.

Day seven

  • Return to Santa Cruz to fly back to the mainland, ready for your homeward journey.

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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