Galápagos Itinerary: 7 Remarkable Days of Joy & Adventure
Galápagos Itinerary October 2023 ——
My trip to the Galápagos Islands with Hurtigruten Expeditions was far better than I could have imagined. The itinerary for our trip was so well curated that I left feeling completely satisfied with my all-inclusive Galapagos experience.
In other words, Galapagos owes me nothing. 😉
It was marvelous…. The landscape. The wildlife. The adventures.
Every aspect of this trip was unforgettable.
After a few days touring Quito and exploring the rainforest at Mashpi Lodge, we took a domestic flight from Quito to Baltra Island on Latam Airlines. Prior to boarding we were required to obtain a Transit Control Document for Tourism in the Galapagos Island.
The cost for the document was $20 USD. In our case, Metropolitan Touring, Ecuador’s Main tourism provider, worked with with Hurtigruten Expeditions to get us situated.
Once we had our Transit Cards in hand, we proceeded through multiple security checkpoints. The Galápagos Islands is a protected habitat as most species are endemic to the region— meaning you won’t find them anywhere else in the world. Therefore, there are certain items you will not be able to enter the region with that can potentially harm their environment.
Our Galápagos Itinerary:
DAY 1: LOUNGIN’ WITH HURTIGRUTEN
When we arrived at the Baltra Ecological Airport in the Galapagos, we were greeted by Hurtigruten’s top personnel, Anders Lindstrom, and ushered inside the VIP Airport Lounge Area.
This was the moment I knew that this Galapagos experience was going to be one of the best…. This was our third warm welcome during our time in Ecuador and the hospitality shown by Metropolitan Touring and Hurtigruten spoke volumes!
We hung around the lounge until it was time to board our ship. There were local bites, drinks, and a chill atmosphere to indulge in. Definitely a vibe!
Once we were ready to go, we were asked to identify our luggage with the our cruise information and sent through one last screening.
We were then ushered off to buses that took us to the dingy boat (called a Zodiac) and then to our ship, the Santa Cruz II.
It was the beginning of an adventure.
Sailing to the Santa Cruz II on the zodiac made it real. I have to admit, there were several times where I just could not believe that I was in the Galápagos Islands.
This was one of those story book type places you learn about, but never really think you’d have the opportunity to visit.
Once we got to the ship, we were greeted by the staff and brought on board. We checked in and went straight to lunch — which was perfect because by this time we were hungry for more than finger foods!
Lunch offered us a delicious buffet meal and non-alcoholic beverage.
After lunch, the adventure officially began. They grouped guests by names of the endemic species and were referred to by their group name in all announcements.
Excursions started immediately after lunch.
Our first visit was to the white sand beaches to Mosquera Island – a small volcanic island between North Seymour and Baltra Islands.
We were able to catch the sunset from this island and see a number of sea lion colonies just chillin’ and enjoying life.
DAY 2: THE HIKE – SAN CRISTOBAL ISLAND
This was our hardest day! It was a truly wild and remote adventure.
We enjoyed a buffet breakfast and then hopped on a zodiac to the white sand beach of Galapaguera on San Cristobal Island.
Opting for the longer, faster walk, we set out to locate and observe San Cristobal’s endemic giant tortoises in their natural habitat.
This was a 6 mile hike round trip.
One mile in and all I could think was, who signed me up for this??! LOL!
It was not an easy hike, but it was well worth it.
On that hike we saw a total of about 11 giant tortoises while most of our fellow cruise guests saw one or two.
As grueling as that hike was, the only thing I would actually do differently is bring more water in a thermal canteen to keep it cool all day.
On the way back, I along with fellow creator Tomiko Harvey, were dragging so much that we ended up with a whole different group than who we started with. We laughed so hard at ourselves for getting left behind! Later we’d find out that our group stopped to wait for us a few times, but we took too long!
We eventually caught up to our group, and made it back to the beach and back to the ship in time for lunch.
That afternoon we disembarked in the residential area of San Cristobal island – Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.
We were surprised to see that aside from the area where we found ourselves hiking that morning, there was a whole bustling city!
We hopped on a bus waiting for us at the dock and rode 40-minutes to visit the center for endangered giant tortoises at Cerro Colorado.
After viewing the tortoises at the center, we made a special request to spend a little time in the city before returning to the ship.
Our guide did not hesitate to oblige our request, and took us back to the dock area of San Cristobal to offer us some free time to enjoy the city.
We walked around and found a bar close to the dock playing music and advertising happy hour. Marlie & Anthony Love of Traveling While Black Seattle reported that the Quesadilla they ordered from the bar was the best quesadilla they had ever had! I’m still sad I didn’t get to try it for myself!
The drinks, however, were right on point! Some of us ended up having to take our drinks to go, but the experience of being there – even for a few minutes – was well worth it.
DAY 3 – SANTE FE ISLAND
By day 3 I began to recognize that the idyllic white sand beaches along with the massive sea lions and bright red crabs were a staple of all the Galápagos Islands.
On this particular island though, our purpose was to see the endemic land iguana. This hike was much more laid back than the day before. The terrain beyond the beach was the same — sandy and rocky. However, the walking distance to view the species unique to the island was much shorter with incredible views.
After spotting a few land iguanas and learning about the overall habitat of the island, we made our way back to the ship. (We had to be off of the island by 10AM.)
We were, however, able to return for snorkeling and water activities in the Bay Area of the island before lunch.
That afternoon we visited South Plaza Island — An island adorned with warm colored sesuvium succulents and the giant prickly-pear cactus. Hues of yellow, orange, red, and green engulfed the entire island. The colors along with the scenic view made it an immediate favorite.
On our way off of the island, we managed to witness two swallow-tailed gulls getting it in.
It was a sight to see!!
We definitely disappointed about how short and uneventful it was, but uh… that’s all I’m gonna say about that! LMAO!
We returned our boat and enjoyed a delicious barbecue happy hour on the boat before dinner.
It was another day well spent.
DAY 4 – CHARLES DARWIN RESEARCH CENTER (Santa Cruz Island)
On Monday morning of our trip, we made our way to the Charles Darwin Research Center on Santa Cruz Island. At the center we were able to observe ongoing conservation projects on the islands.
After visiting the center, we hopped on mountain bikes and rode 30 minutes to have lunch where the Giant Tortoises endemic to Santa Cruz reside happily in their natural environment. The mountain bike ride was diff-i-cult. Those mountain bikes are heavier than I was used to! I did not take that into account!! That’s a whole other story, but the experience was well worth it!
These tortoises were huge!!! Larger than the tortoises we saw days before on San Cristobal Island.
It was incredible walking around in their natural habitat, avoiding their poop, and taking photos that I still can not believe I took!
We made our way back to the dock by bus, and requested a bit of time to hang out in the town area.
We walked around, stopped in a few shops, got drinks, laughed about our experiences (namely struggling on that bike!!!!), and made our way back to the dock.
Back on the boat, we enjoyed another evening of barbecue and free happy hour drinks before dinner.
DAY 5 – PADDLEBOARDING ON GARDNER BAY (ESPANOLA ISLAND)
I can’t even lie to you. By day 5, I was exhausted… we all were. Prior to this cruise we had also spent a few days exploring the rainforest at Mashpi Lodge. We desperately needed a break!
We ended up excusing ourselves from the morning excursion to Punta Suarez on Espanola Island. Instead, we took some time to catch up.
After lunch, we were back in full swing! There were several water activities available. Tomiko, Christina, and I decided to sign up for paddleboarding since we each had never done it before.
I won’t even hold you. I barely made it out. The only trooper in this picture was my swim cap.
Fortunately, the Hurtigruten expedition staff was so patient.
They were great at giving directions that I was able to enjoy the experience without hitting the water involuntarily.
I was not able to stand up completely due to the waves, but I was able to get up onto my knees for 30 good seconds and do a little something!
DAY 6 – DEEP WATER SNORKELING
On the last day of excursions, we ventured out to Santa Cruz Island for Deep Water Snorkeling.
It was so picturesque.
We swam alongside large schools of fish, sharks, and frigates while watching Blue Footed Boobies dive into the water.
It was something out of a Disney movie! You’ll have to watch the YouTube video to really get a sense of this day!
That afternoon a few of us tapped out again for the final visit to North Seymour Island.
After the visit to North Seymour, we enjoyed a final toast, a slideshow presentation and a farewell dinner.
DAY 7: RETURN TO BALTRA
On the last day we placed our luggage outside at 7AM and enjoyed our last breakfast onboard.
We waited for the staff to call our group to board the zodiac to the dock and Baltra Island.
And of course, Baltra airport’s VIP lounge access with food and drinks was available until our flight back to Quito.
Once in Quito, we checked into our flights home and said our final goodbyes. A few of us stayed in Quito an extra night and flew out to Miami the next day.
*Check out my blog post about Where to Stay in Ecuador – coming soon!
This was by far one of my best trips. If the Galapagos is on your list, check out the packages offered by Metropolitan Touring and Hurtigruten Expeditions for a well-curated Galapagos Itinerary.
I promise you will not regret the experience!