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8 Unforgettable Days in Quito & the Galapagos Islands 7-Night Itinerary

In just over a week, this awe-inspiring tour of Quito and the Galapagos Islands tour allows you to explore two of the best and most diverse destinations in this southern continent. From the colonial landmarks of historic Quito nestled in the Andean highlands to the exotic evolutionary wonders of the Galapagos Islands, these vastly different destinations are located in the compact and character-rich nation of Ecuador. Here, you’ll find each leg of this journey packed with stunning impressions and remarkable experiences. 

On this customizable 8-day/7-night travel itinerary, you will first discover Quito as a treasure trove of architectural and artistic delights, boasting one of South America’s best-preserved colonial historic districts. Your guide will take you to neo-Gothic and Baroque churches, expansive plazas, political buildings, and lavish palaces. And, depending on your tastes, you might also wish to visit some of the city’s museums or boutiques, or simply stroll along the colonial cobblestone streets as you learn more about the history of this vibrant metropolis. 

Leaving the hustle and bustle of the big city, we’ll head for the Galapagos archipelago, where snorkeling with sea lions, soaking up the sun alongside basking marine iguanas, and marveling at natural beauty is just a typical day! Sailing on board the Elite luxury catamaran, you’ll spend five simply amazing days exploring this isolated archipelago. Experience for yourself that the Galapagos is a haven of biodiversity, home to a dazzling array of birds, reptiles, fish, flora and mammals that you won’t find anywhere else – as Charles Darwin himself well noted. 

All in all, this Quito + the Galapagos Islands Tour will be truly unforgettable …a once-in-a-lifetime journey you’ll never forget.


“My husband, daughter and I want to thank you again for making our trip to the Galapagos extremely awesome!”Herlena and Richard Orellana


Quito, Middle of the World, Galapagos Islands, Espumilla Beach, Bachas Beach, Kicker Rock

Itinerary at a Glance

Day 1: Arrival in Quito – Transfer to hotel
Day 2: Visit of Quito and Middle of the World
Day 3: Arrival in Baltra Airport (Baltra Island airport) – Charles Darwin Research Station (Santa Cruz Island)
Day 4: Prince Phillip's Steps – El Barranco – Darwin Bay (Genovesa Island)
Day 5: Espumilla Beach – Buccaneer Cove – Puerto Egas (Santiago Island)
Day 6: Bachas Beach – Los Gemelos Twin Craters – Highlands (Santa Cruz Island)
Day 7: Kicker Rock – San Cristobal Island Airport (San Cristobal Island)
Day 8: Transfer to airport for your international flight home
South America Map

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1
Arrival in Quito – Transfer to hotel

When you arrive in Ecuador’s capital of Quito — which lies at 2,800 meters above sea level at the foot of the Pichincha Volcano — you will be met at the airport and taken to your hotel.

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Day 2
Visit of Quito and Middle of the World

On this one-day tour, we will visit the historic district of the Ecuadorian capital, enjoying this urban jewel and its artistic and architectural treasures. One of the largest and best preserved colonial centers in South America, Quito’s “Old Town” area was declared the first “World Heritage Site” by UNESCO, in 1978.

The visit to the historic center begins with the Basilica del Voto Nacional, one of the largest churches in Ecuador and one of the most important works of Ecuadorian neo-gothic architecture. While the outside of the building stands out for its stone carvings that represent plants and animals of the country, the inside consists of 24 chapels. Beneath the structure are crypts in which lie the remains of several former presidents of the Republic, and on top of the 100-meter-tall church is a beautiful gazebo that also serves as a small cafe.

We will continue on to the always vibrant Plaza Grande (“Independence Square”), which is surrounded by the Cathedral, the Presidential Palace, the Municipal Building and the Archbishop’s Palace. We will then visit the church of the “Compañia de Jesus” to find its impressive interior inlaid in gold.

Your tour of historic Quito will end with a birds-eye view of the city from the panoramic “Virgin of Quito” monument atop El Panecillo Hill, which overlooks the capital. This will give you a chance to appreciate Quito from above, and – if the weather permits – to catch a view of the spectacular “Volcano Avenue,” two parallel mountain ranges containing eight of the country’s ten highest peaks.

From here, we will continue our journey 15 miles north of Quito to the Mitad del Mundo (“Middle of the World”), the monument on the equator that was built to commemorate the French scientists who in the 1830s made history by determining the shape of the planet thanks to their studies at this location.

Next to the monument is “Middle of the World City,” a village built in a colonial style – with the main square, a church, a post office, a bullring, restaurants and several souvenir and crafts shops.

The highlight of this visit is the equatorial line running along the latitude of 0° 0’ 0.” Here, you will be able to stand with one foot in each of the earth’s hemispheres – a great photo op!  

We will also visit the Intiñan Solar Museum, where you will have the opportunity to perform various unusual experiments like balancing an egg on a nail, losing weight in a second, or straddling the equatorial line that separates the two hemispheres.

After the visit, we will drive you back to your hotel.

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Day 3
Arrival in Baltra Airport (Baltra Island airport) – Charles Darwin Research Station (Santa Cruz Island)

A.M:  In the morning, you will fly from Quito or Guayaquil (on the Ecuadorian mainland) to Baltra Island, which is the heart of the Galapagos archipelago and the main point of entrance to this natural paradise. Upon your arrival at the airport, you will need to pay the national park entry fee, which goes to protecting both the Galapagos National Park and Marine Reserve. A member of the Surtrek team will then welcome you and accompany you to your ship, the Galapagos Elite Catamaran. Re-inventing the very concept of luxury, class and travel, this sleek, twin-hulled catamaran will provide its up to 16 guests a steady and safe cruise through this secluded haven of biodiversity.

As for your accommodations on board the Elite, each suite is spacious, comfortable and well appointed – the perfect place to relax and recharge after a day spent exploring the islands’ dazzling array of birds, reptiles, fish and mammals found nowhere else. Bed sizes depend on you, whether you want a king size bed or two twin beds, as all of the beds are convertible. Added to this feature, each suite will have large windows for panoramic ocean views, in addition to your own private outdoor balcony for watching the island landscape pass by.

The Elite’s social areas have also been designed to allow for more space per guest on board, including integrated social areas that creatively blend indoor and outdoor designs and experiences. In fact, the interior passenger lounge on the main deck provides a 180-degree panoramic view. In addition to this main deck area, guests of all ages will enjoy the spacious semi-covered sky deck, as well as the al fresco dining area and the cozy bar-salon.

Professional cuisine specialists have been lined up to prepare three delicious and nutritious meals daily, with breakfast and lunch to be served buffet-style, while more elegant sit-down dinners will be served al fresco on the partially covered sky deck. Special dietary needs? No problem. Plus, kids’ meals will be available.

Notwithstanding the host of features incorporated into the catamaran itself, the main reason for traveling to the Galapagos is to experience the islands. For this, the Elite provides an enviable menu of itineraries from which to choose, with visits to the best visitor sites that the Galapagos Islands and seas have to offer. Within the archipelago, travelers will be able to select from these 8-, 5- and 4-day itineraries covering the western, central and eastern islands.

To experience these sites to their fullest, the Elite has contracted experienced bilingual National-Park- certified guides who will lead you on daily excursions on different islands to explore, hike, swim, snorkel, and view the extraordinary natural wonders and rich wildlife of the Galapagos. In addition to its well-qualified guides, the Elite has enlisted the best captains, chefs and crewmembers for the catamaran’s operation, as the management believes that the people, as much as the ship itself, is what will make a trip memorable to you as a guest.

Finally, as it almost goes without saying, passenger safety is an essential part of any luxury Galapagos experience. Therefore, the Galapagos Elite will feature state-of-the-art navigation instrumentation and premium safety equipment to ensure your complete safety during your visit to this legendary “bucket-list” destination that remains nature’s greatest living laboratory.

PM: This afternoon we will head for one of the most visited spots in the islands. Located on Santa Cruz Island, the Charles Darwin Research Station is primarily an international scientific research station situated on the outskirts of Puerto Ayora. You will be taken to its visitor center to learn about the geology, climate, natural history and the conservation of the Galapagos Islands. However, the highlight of your visit here will undoubtedly be the research facility’s Fausto Llerena Tortoise Breeding Center, which breeds giant tortoises. These enormous and slow-moving reptiles can live up to 150- 200 years and weigh between 250 and 300 kg. Approaching them in their humid and forested spaces is always an inspiring adventure. For decades, the Fausto Center was home to “Lonesome George,” who finally died in 2012 as the last of his particular species. The tortoises you will see here are accustomed to humans, so it’s an excellent spot for visitors to take photographs with them. Remember that looking at the animals is allowed, but touching is not, and it’s absolutely forbidden to jump over the walls or open the pen doors at any time.

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Breakfast - Lunch - Dinner
Day 4
Prince Phillip's Steps – El Barranco – Darwin Bay (Genovesa Island)

Our destination for today is Genovesa Island, considered one of the wildest and most pristine islands in Galapagos National Park. Known as “Bird Island,” Genovesa is one of the few places in the islands where you can see Red-footed boobies.

AM: In the morning, we will go ashore at a crater wall where Prince Phillip’s Steps are located. These stairs were carved in the stone wall and lead up to a wide plateau where you will find nesting places of Great frigatebirds, Red-billed tropicbirds, Bahama ducks, Lava seagulls and Fork-tailed seagulls. During this easy stroll, we will cut through a small scalesia forest where you might observe short-eared owls. With a little bit of luck, you will also be able to observe the unique courtship rituals carried out by the various booby species (Red- and Blue-footed as well as Masked boobies). It truly is a show. After making our way up to the plateau to tour the El Barranco cliffs. Located on Genovesa Island, along the southern part of Darwin Bay, a one-mile (1.5 km) trail stretches out over volcanic rock that leads to this cliff (this hike takes about two hours to cover). The second half of the trail is very delicate, so please stay on the path. It can get very hot so make sure to bring water. Because of the natural erosion, this is the ideal place for the nesting of Storm petrels. Two other species of petrels that can be seen here are the Galapagos petrel and the Wooden petrel. Red-footed boobies and Nazca boobies can be seen here as well as fur seals and several species of seabirds.

PM: Later this afternoon, after a wet landing from Genovesa Island’s Darwin Bay, we will walk along a short path that leads to the nesting sites of booby and frigatebird colonies. On the beach, you can observe the interesting spectacle of how frigate birds try to rob the prey of different species of boobies.

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Breakfast - Lunch - Dinner
Day 5
Espumilla Beach – Buccaneer Cove – Puerto Egas (Santiago Island)

Today, we will land on the fourth largest island in the Galapagos: Santiago Island, also known as “James Island” or “San Salvador Island.” The old rusted machines and run-down buildings of former salt mine workers are still apparent on the island, though the last attempts to populate Santiago Island were given up on forty years ago.

AM: Following breakfast on board the Galapagos Elite, will visit Santiago Island’s Espumilla Beach, where marine iguanas relax and sea turtles nest. While snorkeling, you might come upon octopuses, morays and many types of tropical fish. There is also a Palo Santo forest close to this beach. From there, we will go to Buccaneer Cove, which in the 18th and 19th centuries was a shelter for pirates, whalers, and sailors. The bay is surrounded by high tuff cliffs where many sea-bird nests. In the cliffs, you can try to find two rock formations that look like a monkey and an elephant.

PM: This afternoon we will make a wet landing on Santiago’s Puerto Egas Beach. Its black volcanic sand was visited by Darwin in 1835 and still maintaining an abundance of marine iguanas. After a short walk of about 2 km along the coast, we will reach the rugged lava coastline of James Bay. The unique, truly striking layered terrain of Santiago’s shores is home to a variety of resident and migrant birds, including the bizarre Yellow-crowned Night-heron and an astounding array of marine wildlife – including lobsters, starfish and marine iguanas grazing on algae beds alongside Sally Lightfoot Crabs. Colonies of endemic fur seals swimming in cool water pools formed by volcanic rocks are another highlight.

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Breakfast - Lunch - Dinner
Day 6
Bachas Beach – Los Gemelos Twin Craters – Highlands (Santa Cruz Island)

AM: This morning, we will arrive on the northern coast of Santa Cruz Island, where we will visit the long and sandy Las Bachas Beach, one of the most important nesting beaches for sea turtles. Here you can also find flamingos, Black-winged stilts, sea lions, herons, marine iguanas, and — with a little bit of luck — tiny Galapagos penguins. In addition, this beach is one of the main nesting sites of sea turtles in the Galapagos. A female can lay eggs 3 or 4 times with an average of 70 eggs each, but they then spend 3 to 5 years without breeding. At this paradisiacal site, we will also find the remains of barges that sank long ago; these were once the property of the United States Navy when they operated an airbase on Baltra Island during World War II. In fact, the beach got its name because the English word “barges” was hard to pronounce for the local people – hence “Bachas” Beach. You will also have the opportunity to swim on this soft white sand beach or explore the fascinating underwater by snorkeling.

After Bachas Beach, we will go to the Santa Cruz Highlands and see the twin “Los Gemelos” craters, which will be explained by your naturalist guide. These craters are surrounded by scalesia forest, where also live Ruby tyrants and small and large Tree finches.

PM: While on Santa Cruz Island, we will also visit the Highlands of Santa Cruz Island, where the lush landscape is a welcome contrast to the arid scenery of the smaller, lower islands. On the way, we will cross through different vegetation zones – from the dry lower region full of cactuses to the scalesia woods in the Highlands. There one can find two small agricultural communities that grow the famous organic Galapagos coffee. While in the Highlands, you will have the option of visiting one of two tortoise-breeding centers: El Chato or Rancho Las Primicias. At either site, approaching these enormous and slow-moving reptiles is always an inspiring adventure. The El Chato tortoise reserve was founded in 1964 to allow visitors to observe the island’s huge Galapagos turtles and White herons in their natural habitat. You will also be able to walk through nearby underground lava tunnels formed during volcanic eruptions. As the outside of the lava hardened, the inside continued to flow to the ocean, creating these tunnels. Alternatively, Rancho Primicias is a great place to see about ten to fifteen Galapagos giant tortoises in the wild. In addition to being able to view the ocean from this location in the Highlands, you can walk through a lava cave that was formed by a volcanic eruption. 

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Breakfast - Lunch - Dinner
Day 7
Kicker Rock – San Cristobal Island Airport (San Cristobal Island)

AM: In the morning, we will follow the route that Charles Darwin once took and sail around the massive tuff-rock called “Kicker Rock,” which is a nesting site for hosts of seabirds. Here, you will be able to find Blue-footed boobies, pelicans, and frigate birds. This is a great site for scuba diving, and hammerhead sharks can be seen in the area.

PM: From the dock on San Cristobal Island, we will take a short bus ride to the San Cristobal airport for your flight back to the mainland. Enjoy the last view of the “enchanted islands,” a unique paradise with fascinating natural highlights.

Arriving in Quito in the afternoon, you will be driven to the Euro building Hotel, located in the airport area.

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Day 8
Transfer to airport for your international flight home

After your breakfast, you will be driven to the airport for your international flight home.

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Price per person
8 Days
DoubleUS$ 5,790 PP
*Price per person based upon double occupancy.
*PP (per person)
Included in the price:
  • Airport transfers in Quito
  • Accommodation in Quito
  • Mentioned excursions in Quito
  • Airport/yacht/airport transfers in the Galapagos Islands
  • Airport reception and assistance
  • Double accommodation
  • Guided excursions, according to the itinerary
  • Top-notch bilingual (English / Spanish) National Park guide(s)
  • Services of a cruise service officer
  • Daily activity briefings
  • All meals and snacks
  • Soft drinks and juices
  • A glass of house wine for dinners
  • Captain’s Welcome and farewell cocktails
  • Supplied expedition gear (transparent sea kayaks, paddle boards, snorkeling equipment, [mask, snorkel & fins], wet suits, excursion bag, water container
Not included in the price:
  • Round trip to/from the Galapagos Islands
  • Galapagos National Park Entrance fee
  • Transit Control Card
  • Alcoholic and bottled beverages
  • Tips and gratuities for guide and crew
  • Travel and health insurance (highly recommended)
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