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Signature Galapagos: Island hopping

10 days from £4,331pp

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Signature Galapagos: Island hopping:
Trip Dossier

Hop between islands on this innovative lodge-based holiday with guided explorations by motor yacht and by hiking, snorkelling and kayaking to observe wildlife and wild volcanic landscapes. 

For a while now you could visit the Galápagos by expedition cruise, or base yourself at a lodge or hotel on one of the islands. Now you can combine the experience with a few days staying at top quality lodges on two contrasting islands, but also make day visits to other sites by motor yacht.  

This way you get the best of both worlds.  Based at your lodges, you venture forth to explore an active volcano, and visit many other sites within the National Park and Marine Reserve in search of wildlife. These excursions offer you the opportunity for more active experiences (some included, others charged locally) such as snorkelling, paddling, kayaking, cycling and walking than you’d get on some cruise-only holidays.  

Finch Bay Eco Hotel (Santa Cruz Island) is in a tranquil location close to the Galápagos principal town Puerto Ayora and a lovely beach, while Scalesia Lodge has you glamping in luxury fixed tents in the highlands of Isabela Island. 

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Quito, capital of Ecuador.

Day 2

Guided walking tour of colonial Quito

Day 3

Fly to the Galapagos; light aircraft flight to Isabela Island.

Day 4

Excursion to explore the vast crater of Sierra Negra volcano.

Day 5

Wildlife watching and snorkelling in the National Park and Marine Reserve

Day 6

Visit North Seymour and continue to Finch Bay on Santa Cruz Island.

Day 7

Explore the highlands of Santa Cruz and spot giant tortoises.

Day 8

Cruise to Santa Fé Island, snorkelling opportunities.

Day 9

Visit Tortuga Bay, turtle beaches and snorkel or kayak off the shore.

Day 10

Fly to Guayquil and connect with international flight.

Detailed itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Quito, capital of Ecuador.
 
Quito, Ecuador

Upon arrival at high altitude Quito airport in the Andes you will be met and escorted to your boutique hotel in the historic centre of the city. 

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Quito, Ecuador

Day 2

Guided walking tour of colonial Quito
 
quito

Explore Latin America's largest and best preserved colonial quarter through the intimate lens of a guided walking tour. Quito was the first city ever to be listed as a World Heritage Site. Narrow cobblestone streets are lined with whitewashed walls and rising above are the steeples and cupolas of the city´s numerous spectacularly decorated historic churches.

Walk through the main plaza, where you will see the Government Palace, the Cathedral and churches built in the 16th and 17th centuries including the richly ornamented San Francisco Monastery, considered one of the most impressive religious buildings in Latin America and Basilica del Voto Nacional, most famous for its quirky gargoyles.  View the church of Compania de Jesus, bedecked entirely in gold.

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quito

Day 3

Fly to the Galapagos; light aircraft flight to Isabela Island.
 
Isabela Island

Transfer to the international airport and fly by commercial jet to Baltra in the Galapágos Islands (2-3hrs). Connect to your inter-island twin engine light aircraft – which accommodates 5-9 passengers – to continue to Isabela Island.This is a scenic, mind-blowing start to your adventure. (If the flight departure has to be cancelled the journey will be made by speedboat.)

Transfer by road to Scalesia Lodge – it’s just a 20 minute drive. In the afternoon, you begin to get to know this, the youngest side of the archipelago, exploring wetland lagoons and the giant tortoise-breeding centre.

Visit Sucre cave, in an area of farmland where there'll be a short guided walk to survey and learn about the endemic plants. Continue to Mango Gazevo with views over the cultivated landscapes of southern Isabela. You will be able to spot finches there too. Wrap up your day at the stunning white beach of Puerto Villamil before returning to the lodge for dinner. 

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Isabela Island

Day 4

Excursion to explore the vast crater of Sierra Negra volcano.
 
Sierra Negra

Enjoy an early breakfast before setting out to explore Isabela Island and its most stunning feature: Sierra Negra volcano. Walk along the rim of the world’s second largest caldera (its diameter is a staggering 10km) to observe recent volcanic activity and the resulting fascinating formations.  The rim is smothered in vegetation which clambers down the sides of the rim until it reaches the floor of the caldera.

You'll also visit Volcán Chico, which too is active: sulphur vents can be observed steaming in its vicinity. This volcano is bald of foliage, the rust-red lava tubes with across the barren lunar landscape. You’ll have a guided walk across the lava fields and volcano slopes

Back at the lodge, stroll along the beach at Puerto Villamil, explore the little port or just take it easy in the afternoon. Enjoy an evening drink while catching the sunset – a veritable artist’s palette of pinks, lilacs and golds. 

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Sierra Negra

Day 5

Wildlife watching and snorkelling in the National Park and Marine Reserve
 
Wall of Tears, Isabela Island

Today will feature exploration of both the Galápagos National Park and the Marine Reserve. From Puerto Villamil it's just a short boat ride to the islets of Tintoreras, ringed by coves and hidden beaches. You take a guided walk to observe marine iguanas, various species of sea birds and sea-lions, and basking white-tipped reef sharks.

There will also be a boat ride where you can look out for penguins. Your guide will then take you to the aquamarine waters of La Calera or Loberia Chica for some snorkelling among marine turtles, rays, reef fish, starfish and octopus.  There's also a visit to the turtle breeding centre.

In the afternoon you can discover a melancholy bit of the history of Isabela Island at the Wall of Tears, constructed between 1945 and 1959 by prisoners in the now defunct penal colony on the island. 

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Wall of Tears, Isabela Island

Day 6

Visit North Seymour and continue to Finch Bay on Santa Cruz Island.
 
frigate birds

After breakfast, you’ll be escorted back to Puerto Villamil’s airport. A short flight will take you back to Baltra, where you board the motor yacht Sea Lion for a short cruise to North Seymour Island. Marvel at the sight of Galápagos sea lions and fur seals, blue-footed boobies and frigate birds. Torchwood trees and prickly pears, pillow lava boulders and white sand add to an unforgettable landscape.

In the afternoon cruise to Itabaca Channel and drive across the island Santa Cruz to reach Puerto Ayora, the islands’ largest settlement, a lively town with many shops, bars and restaurants. Just a short dinghy ride away, set in a peaceful beachfront location among mangroves is the top-of-the-range Finch Bay Eco Hotel. Your choice for dinner is up to you: choose the hotel´s high class, signature cuisine or one of the many options in town. 

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frigate birds

Day 7

Explore the highlands of Santa Cruz and spot giant tortoises.
 
Santa Fé

After breakfast, you set off for El Manzanillo. Situated in Santa Cruz’s rugged highlands, which are blanketed in grassland dotted with palms, Manzanillo is within the natural path of one of the species of giant tortoise. A short walk will lead you to the grazing areas and water ponds where these giant reptiles roam at liberty and wallow in pools. The cooler uplands are also home to many interesting land birds, plants and trees exclusive to the archipelago.

You will stop briefly at the volcanic ‘Gemelos’, or Twin Craters (actually collapsed magma chambers surrounded by Scalesia trees, ferns, mosses and orchids, where there is a good opportunity to observe Darwin's finches). In the afternoon, you will stop briefly at a farm where tropical crops such as sugar and cocoa are cultivated before returning to enjoy the hotel facilities. 

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Santa Fé

Day 8

Cruise to Santa Fé Island, snorkelling opportunities.
 
Sea lion

After breakfast, board the yacht Sea Lion and cruise to Santa Fé, an impressive volcanic island 16nm from Puerto Ayora. After a wet landing on a pure white sandy beach among basking sea lions, you take as guided walk along a rocky terrain in search of the endemic Santa Fe land iguana patiently waiting under the enormous giant cacti for falling fruits and pads.

Other species to be spotted are pelicans, boobies and the archipelago´s top predator, the Galápagos hawk. Return to the yacht and enjoy one of Galápagos best snorkelling sites. Cruise back to Puerto Ayora, scanning the sea’s surface for marine birds and whales. Enjoy cocktails around the pool and stay for dinner or make it a night out in town. 

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Sea lion

Day 9

Visit Tortuga Bay, turtle beaches and snorkel or kayak off the shore.
 
galapagos beach

After breakfast you’ll leave for Tortuga Bay, voted Ecuador´s best beach. Take a guided walk from Puerto Ayora for 2Km along a paved path to discover more about the arid zone´s deciduous forest and its wildlife inhabitants.

You reach Playa Brava, a stunning 1km long snow-white beach, a seasonal nesting site for the green sea turtles. A few minutes further on Playa Mansa, a secluded natural mangrove cove, has clear and tranquil waters ideal for swimming, snorkelling, paddling on tandem kayaks or stand-up paddle boards.  Or simply enjoy the landscape in the shade of mangroves.

Sail back to The Hotel´s dock at Academy Bay. In the afternoon, you can stroll around the Charles Darwin Research Station where the conservation programme for the giant tortoises was founded.

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galapagos beach

Day 10

Fly to Guayquil and connect with international flight.
 
guayaquil

Transfer to Baltra Island airport and fly to Guayaquil to connect with your international flight or continue with an extension in Ecuador.   

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guayaquil

Essential information

Transport

4 flights (longest 2-3hrs). 

Accommodation

This holiday incorporates a boutique hotel in Quito, a deluxe tented lodge on Isabela Island and a first class beachside eco-lodge on Santa Cruz Island in the Galápagos.

Meals

Breakfast daily, full board at Scalesia Lodge, breakfast and lunch at Finch Bay Resort.

Guides

We carefully select our local partners, some of whom we have worked with for over 25 years. Their English-speaking guides understand the expectations of our clients very well, and are consistently singled out for praise by the latter on their return.

Galápagos guides have all undergone strict training in order to work in the islands, many have naturalist qualifications. Guides on activities such as kayaking and cycling are familiar with the local conditions. 

Included excursions

• Colonial Quito walking tour.
• Guided excursions and activities in the Galápagos Islands. Some activities are included, others are charged extra locally. 

Summary of nights

10 days, 9 nights: Quito 2; Isabela Island 3; Santa Cruz Island 4.

Included in the journey price

• Services of our team of experts in our London office.
• Services of Journey Latin America local representatives and guides.
• All land, sea and air transport.
• Accommodation as specified.
• Meals as specified.
• Galápagos National park entrance fee.
• Ingala fee.
• Excursions as specified.

Not included in the journey price

• Tips and gratuities.
• Meals other than specified.
• International flights to Latin America.
• Airport taxes, when not included in the ticket.
• Optional excursions.

Currency

The unit of currency in Ecuador is the US dollar; in the Galápagos it is the US dollar.

Daily spend

It is very difficult to give a guideline for essential expenses but a budget of around US$45 per day should cover the cost of good quality meals on those days in the holiday itinerary when not on the cruise, drinks and the odd souvenir. Eat at the very best restaurants and you will pay considerably more.

How to take it

Cash machines are available in Quito, and so taking a debit or credit card with a PIN number is the most convenient way of withdrawing money while on your trip, and in most shops and restaurants you can also pay by card. However, since cards can get lost, damaged, withheld or blocked, you should not rely exclusively on a card to access funds. 

We recommend that additionally you take a reasonable quantity of US dollars cash (no more than is covered by your insurance), which you can spend as the dollar is the local currency. Dollar bills should be in good condition, soiled or torn bills may be refused.

Tipping

Tips are welcomed and local guides often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income.

Most service industry workers will expect a tip of some kind and so it is useful to have spare change for hotel porters, taxi drivers and the like. It is common to leave 10 - 12% in restaurants.

You might tip your guides in the Galápagos $US10 per person for a half day excursion or more for a full day.  

Tipping guidelines can be found in our Briefing Dossier.

Insurance

Travel insurance is essential. 

Details of our recommended policy can be found on our Travel Insurance page. 

Airport taxes

If you have purchased your flights through Journey Latin America, the international departure tax is usually included in the ticket.

Journey grade

This holiday is suitable for all able, reasonably fit visitors. There are a number of outdoor activities to choose from at the lodges, advice can be given locally about their suitability for you personally. 

The sea can be choppy around the Galápagos islands.

Climate

In the Galápagos, from January to April it’s hot and the sun is relentless, with some sudden showers. May to July, and October to December is cloudier; August and September it’s often cloudy and cool, and a stiff breeze makes the waters choppier. High and Low seasons reflect demand rather than the best time to go.

Clothing and special equipment

For day-to-day wear you should go prepared to encounter all seasons. Trousers, skirt or shorts made from light, quick-drying synthetic materials work well on the Galápagos Islands. Long-sleeved shirts will protect you from insects and sun burn. 

Strong, comfortable footwear is essential and you should bring insect repellent, sun block, hat and sun glasses. You should take swimwear for ocean swimming (Galápagos). You can hire snorkelling equipment but may prefer to bring your own. Aqua-socks or rubber sandals are useful for embarking and disembarking on wet landings. Bring a light waterproof jacket in case of rain. For June to November departures, wetsuits are recommended, as the waters can be chilly for snorkelling.

Don’t forget your binoculars, camera, charger and cards.

Please get in touch with the office before departure if you have any doubts. Good equipment is very important and hard to come by in South America and Galápagos.

Vaccinations

Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following: typhoid; polio; tetanus; hepatitis A. You should consult your GP.

For admission to the Galápagos a yellow fever certificate is required for anyone over 1 year old coming from an area with risk of yellow fever transmission. 

You can also find helpful information on the Masta Travel Health website. 

Visas

Holders of a full British passport do not require a visa, although passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the trip begins. Anyone with a different nationality should enquire with us or check with the relevant consulate.

APIS and ESTA - important flight information:

ESTA - if flying to the US, or via the US you will need to fill in your application to ESTA online at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/esta.html

This costs $14 per person, and must be done by you personally.
Passports must also be e-passports with an embedded chip. Avoid locking suitcases if transiting the USA, as their customs authorities retain the right to break into them.

APIS - many countries now oblige airlines to provide additional information about passengers prior to the flight departure. This Advance Passenger Information (APIS) must be supplied to us promptly in order to issue tickets and avoid fare increases. We will provide the airlines with the relevant details if we are booking your international flights. If the information is not provided you may be denied boarding.
 

Water-To-Go

We’ve partnered with Water To Go to offer Journey Latin America clients a 50% discount on 7cl filtered, reusable water bottles with every booking. The bottle can be refilled at any water outlet and has a filter that eliminates 99.9% of bacteria and viruses, allowing the water to be safe to drink.
Contact your Travel Consultant for more information and to include the purchase in your booking.
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