The best Galapagos travel itineraries

Thinking of heading to the glorious Galapagos Islands, but not sure how to plan your trip? You’re in the right place. Here we present ideas for how to spend 7, 10, and 14 days in this incredible Ecuadorian archipelago. Want to be prepared for your upcoming trip to Ecuador? Start by exploring our tips for traveling in Ecuador.

7 day Galapagos itinerary —  luxury Santa Cruz

Who said nature and wildlife trips have to mean compromising on comfort and quality? Not us, that’s for sure, as demonstrated by our customisable Luxury Santa Crux itinerary.

Easily adapted and/or extended to include highlights of mainland Ecuador, this Galapagos Island itinerary will see you experiencing the extraordinary wildlife and landscapes of the Galapagos in elegant style. 

After arriving in Quito — the capital of Ecuador — you’ll fly to Santa Cruz, where you’ll be afforded opportunities to see everything from lava landscapes and volcanic craters, to some of the world’s most remarkable landscapes and wildlife. 

And all the while staying in a beautiful lodge that’s renowned for dishing up delicious local food.


Our 7 day Galapagos itinerary kicks off in Quito © Shutterstock

Itinerary overview

On arrival in Santa Cruz, you’ll settle into your luxurious highland lodge before visiting nearby lava fields, and — in all likelihood — spotting your first giant Galapagos tortoises.

Having explored the lodge’s lush grounds in the afternoon, you can look forward to a first-class fine dining experience in the on-site restaurant that evening — fresh local produce looms large on the menu.

On a similar theme, day two will see you visit a local coffee plantation. Once you’ve toured the site and sampled coffee created from top-tier beans, you’ll head to Cerro Mesa Reserve. 

While its wetlands play host to a bounty of birdlife, the grounds also house the island’s largest crater. 

We suggest hiking the summit to enjoy 360 views over the island before biking down to Garrapatero beach. On arrival, spend the afternoon bathing or kayaking, keeping your eyes peeled for sea lions and flamingos.

Day three will see you venture further afield on a wildlife-focussed boat trip. Depending on the weather and permissions granted by the National Park, you’ll visit Santa Fé, South Plazas, Bartolomé or North Seymour.

Expect to see frigate birds and land iguanas, with North Seymour also typically offering the chance to see iconic blue-footed boobies.

You’ll take to the water on day four, too, with a boat trip led by a local fisherman. After lunch, you’ll head to a secluded bay to snorkel or relax on the beach. 

On day five, you’ll have the chance to visit the Charles Darwin Research Station, along with an important tortoise breeding centre. Come the afternoon, there’ll be time to explore the town of Puerto Ayora.

Alongside checking out the local crafts, be sure to visit the town’s bay and docks, where you can see sea lions, iguanas, rays, and sharks.

More wildlife beckons in the afternoon, when a visit to Tortuga Bay is likely to reveal white tip reef sharks and iguanas while you kayak its clear waters.

Day six your last full day in Santa Cruz — will give you time to relax around your resort, or perhaps revisit Puerto Ayora before you return to Quito on day seven.

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

Galapagos marine iguanas, Tortuga Bay, Santa Cruz © Shutterstock

Day one — Welcome to Ecuador

  • 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

  • Fishing trip with 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 your Luxury Santa Cruz experience with Rough Guides.

Galapagos iguana

Galapagos iguana © Shutterstock

10 day Galapagos itinerary —  three islands

Covering three extraordinary islands, this Galapagos Special itinerary will see you kick off your trip in Quito.

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

The island of Santa Cruz will also be your base for a few days. Alongside presenting incredible opportunities to see stacks of endemic wildlife, it’s a wonderful launchpad for outdoor adventures, including exploring an active volcano, and snorkelling marine-life-rich bays.

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

Giant Galapagos tortoise © Shutterstock

Itinerary overview

After landing in Quito, there should be time to see some of reasons it’s a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site on day one of this Galapagos Island itinerary before you fly to San Cristóbal on day two.

Once you’ve checked into your accommodation, head to the Galápagos National Park’s Centro de Interpretación for insights into the region’s history, geology and wildlife before enjoying a comfortable hike up Cerro de las Tijeretas (Frigatebird Hill). The views from the summit are something else.

On day three, a thrilling day-trip to Isla Lobos awaits. With a guided walk around the island enabling you to see several iconic Galapagos residents — among them marine iguanas, sea lions, blue-footed boobies and Nazca boobies — the experience is sure to be a real highlight of this Galapagos Island itinerary.

Come the afternoon, you can snorkel one of the island’s secluded bays.

On day four you’ll transfer to Santa Cruz and visit the Charles Darwin Centre and a turtle-rearing station after tucking into a tasty lunch at a farm.

Day five presents opportunities for more unforgettable wildlife encounters when you move to La Isabela. Tintoreras Islet, for example, is a top spot for Humboldt penguins, marine iguanas, sea lions and sharks.

Next up is a visit to the world's second-largest volcanic caldera on day six. Namely, Sierra Negra, which is Isabela’s biggest — and most active — volcano.

A return to Santa Crux is on the cards for day seven. Spend the afternoon relaxing or exploring Puerto Ayora before devoting day eight to visiting Isla Floreana.

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


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, the Galapagos © Seumas Christie-Johnston/Shutterstock

14 day Galapagos itinerary — cruise plus mainland highlights

If you want to experience the best of the Galapagos and highlights of the Ecuadorian mainland, this 14-day Galapagos itinerary covers exactly that. 

Kicking off with a 7-day luxury cruise of the Galapagos, you’ll spend your first seven nights aboard the islands’ first 50m super yacht.

Blending on-board luxury — fine food, a 1:1 crew-to-passenger ratio, and expert-led talks — with incredible adventure and wildlife excursions, it’s an unforgettable experience.

Meanwhile, the latter portion of the trip will see you explore the Andes on an itinerary that delivers adventure, culture and extraordinary landscapes. 

Andes tourist town thermal baths city Banos de Agua Santa seen from viewpoint hike to Casa del Arbol Tungurahua Ecuador © maphke/Shutterstock

Andean town of Baños  © maphke/Shutterstock

Itinerary overview

On arrival in Quito on day one, take time to see the top attractions of this UNESCO World Heritage Site city before resting up in your boutique hotel. 

You’ll fly to Santa Cruz on day two to board the beautiful Aqua Mara yacht. Come the afternoon, you’ll sail to Bahia Borrero. This white-sand wonder of northern Santa Cruz is a stunning place to snorkel and spot Darwin’s finches. 

Genovesa Island awaits on day three. After taking a tender along El Barranco’s volcanic rocks, you’ll embark on a comfortable 1.5 km lava field hike that offers opportunities to spot red-footed boobies, Galapagos petrels, and great frigate birds. 

After a refuelling through an on-board lunch, you’ll head to the marine-life-rich waters of Bahia Darwin to snorkel.

Day four will see you sail to Santiago Island to see the remarkable recent lava flow at Bahía Sullivan. After lunch, you’ll visit Sombrero Chino Island to observe sea lions and penguins, and to snorkel, paddle-board or kayak.

On day five, the yacht will anchor at Bartolomé Island so you can climb the summit of a volcanic cone for spectacular views before offering opportunities to snorkel, and see turtles and Galapagos penguins.

On day six, you can hike Santa Cruz’s Cerro Dragón (Dragon Hill) and visit the El Chato Giant Tortoise Reserve — also a top spot for Darwin’s finches and Galapagos rails. 

You’ll explore Punta Suárez on day seven,, which is known for its endemic species, including lava lizards and the waved albatross. 

Day eight of your cruise will see you return to Santa Cruz, where you can take a trip to the twin craters of the island’s highlands before flying to Guayaquil on the mainland on day nine.

Next up is a day ten trip to Las Cajas National Park en route to Cuenca. Boasting 200+ interconnected lagoons, you’ll hike around the most prominent before overnighting in Cuenca.

The following morning, you take a tour of UNESCO-designated Cuenca before following an ancient Inca trail to explore the pre-Incan Ingapirca ruins for the remainder of day eleven.

After staying in Riobamba overnight, you’ll venture to Chimborazzo volcano on day twelve before continuing to the Andean town of Baños.

The morning of day thirteen is given over to driving along the awe-inspiring “Avenue of Waterfalls” until you reach El Pailon del Diablo — AKA the Devil’s Cauldron. 

After visiting Baños’ thermal pools, you’ll return to Quito to rest up before your departure on day 14.


Cuenca catherdral, Ecuador © Shutterstock

Day one

  • 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 El Chato Giant Tortoise Reserve and Darwin Station; explore Puerto Ayora.

Day seven

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

Day eight

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

Day nine 

  • Fly to Guayaquil on the mainland.
  • Overnight in Guayaquil.

Day ten  

  • Hike in Las Cajas National Park.
  • Overnight in Cuenca.

Ingapirca, Ecuador © Shutterstock

Day eleven

  • Tour Cuenca.
  • Visit the pre-Incan Ingapirca ruins.
  • Overnight in Riobamba.

Day twelve

  • Visit Chimborazzo volcano.
  • Overnight in Baños.

Day thirteen

  • Drive the “Avenue of Waterfalls”; visit the Devil’s Cauldron and thermal pools.
  • Overnight in Quito.

Day fourteen 

  • Depart Ecuador.

Inspired to take this trip? Book it with us.

For the best travel experience, read our guide to the best time to visit the Galapagos Islands.

Want more trip planning inspiration? 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. You might also find it helpful to read about what you need to know before traveling to Ecuador.

Joanne Owen

written by
Joanne Owen

updated 21.05.2024

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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