Isabela & Santa Cruz Land Safari in the Galapagos

Explore the Ecuadorian capital of Quito before travelling to the Galapagos and setting foot on the two largest islands in the archipelago, Isabela and Santa Cruz, where you can scale an extinct volcanic caldera, visit seabird nesting sites and walk through an endangered tortoise reserve.

Duration 10 Days
Price From $5,189
When Year-Round
Destination Galapagos Islands

Safari Overview

The Galapagos are one of the world's wildlife havens, but with 21 islands to choose from, it can be difficult deciding what to include on your safari. This trip is centred around the two largest islands in the archipelago – Isabela and Santa Cruz – while focusing on the activities and wildlife-viewing opportunities available on land. The region's marine creatures won't be left out though, as you'll be able to take to the water alongside turtles, penguins, iguanas and sea lions, to name but a few species. Also included are two nights in Ecuador’s capital, Quito, where you can experience a fascinating admixture of Indigenous and colonial cultures before heading to the Galapagos for a week-long exploration of its natural treasures.

What makes this trip extraordinary

  • Enjoy a private guided city tour of Quito, one of UNESCO’s first ever World Heritage Sites.
  • Follow expert naturalist guides and get up close with the wildlife of the Galapagos, from giant tortoises and marine iguanas to frigatebirds and blue-footed boobies.
  • Make the most of multiple snorkelling, hiking and photography opportunities with sea lions, sea turtles and more.
  • The geology of the Galapagos is like no other; explore lava tunnels, coral beaches, lagoons and more.
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Day by day

Day 1

Arrive Quito

At the beginning of your safari you'll be welcomed into Quito, the incredible colonial capital city of Ecuador, by your local guide who will take you to your hotel. As Ecuador is located at 2,800 metres above sea level, you may feel light-headed due to the altitude. Make sure to drink plenty of water and avoid heavy foods. On this first evening you can settle in and discover the history of the local area while looking forward to your onward adventures.

Overnight: La Casona de la Ronda

Day 2


Enjoy an exploratory half-day tour of Quito, which was the first city declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO back in 1978. The Old Town unquestionably features some of the finest examples of colonial architecture in Latin America and is a beguiling mix of Spanish and Indigenous cultures. You will start your tour at a panoramic viewpoint to enjoy a bird's eye view of the city. Get your bearings a little by understanding Quito's layout and fully appreciating its breathtaking valley setting. Strolling through the magical Old Town, you will pause to admire some of the staggeringly well-kept architecture, from the Cathedral to the President's Palace on Plaza Independencia. Many of the colonial buildings were built atop an old Inca settlement, and your guide will talk you through the detail, while you weave through the streets and plazas observing the local way of life.

Overnight: La Casona de la Ronda B

Day 3

Quito - Isabela Island, Galapagos

Prepare for an exciting early-morning departure as you are picked up and transferred to the airport for your flight to the remote Galapagos Islands. Arriving into the airport on Baltra Island, you will switch to a light aircraft for your scenic flight to Isabela Island. On arrival, after checking in to your lodge, enjoy lunch before heading out on your first afternoon of adventure. This is the youngest side of the archipelago and there are national parks, wetland lagoons and the giant tortoise breeding centre all to discover here. End your first day in the Galapagos on the stunning white beach of Puerto Villamil, before returning to your lodge for dinner.

Overnight: Scalesia Lodge B, L, D

Day 4

Las Tintoreras Islets / Tortoise Breeding Centre

Take a short dinghy ride this morning to Las Tintoreras. Formed by lava flows, the islets' name is derived from ‘tintoreras’, the Spanish name for white-tipped reef sharks which often frequent the turquoise waters of the surrounding area. The Galapagos penguin is often seen here as well as marine iguanas. A stunning place to snorkel, the waters are filled with tropical fish and playful sea lion pups that join you for a swim. After lunch, you will visit Los Humedales, an area identified by the four types of mangroves found in the Galapagos. Here you'll find solitary beaches and lava tunnels as well as natural pools and estuaries where flamingos and other birds reside. Later, pay a visit to the Tortoise Breeding Centre on Isabela Island where the future of tortoises in danger of extinction is beginning to look brighter. Many tortoises have been released back into the wild and can be found on nearby trails. Finally, you will visit the "Wall of Tears", constructed by Ecuadorian prisoners between 1945 and 1959 when Isabela served as a penal colony.

Overnight: Scalesia Lodge B, L, D

Day 5

Sierra Negra Volcano

Today you will visit Sierra Negra Volcano. After driving to the highlands, begin a walk up this incredible volcano. It last erupted in 2005 and is considered the second-largest active caldera on the planet, with a diameter of approximately 10km. You will walk along the rim of this dramatic volcano which opens up to spectacular views. Your hike continues to Volcan Chico, where active sulphur vents can be seen, and a dramatic collage of coloured rocks in hues of red, yellow, orange and black adorn the volcanic landscape. Return to your comfortable lodge for a freshly cooked meal after this long day of exploration.

Overnight: Scalesia Lodge B, L, D

Day 6

Isabela Island - Santa Cruz Island

Transfer this morning to Puerto Villamil’s small airport for a short scenic flight to Baltra. From here, your new guide will join you and take you by boat across the Itabaca Channel to Santa Cruz. Before transferring to Finch Bay just outside of Puerto Ayora, you will visit the Los Gemelos volcanic site, home to the most elusive land birds of the Galapagos. After lunch and a tour of the Tortoise Reserve, you’ll arrive at your new lodge where you can settle in and relax for the rest of the day.

Overnight: Finch Bay Eco Hotel B, L, D

Day 7

El Manzanillo and Highlands

Travel by vehicle this morning to the highlands of Santa Cruz and the tortoise reserve of El Manzanillo. Tortoises can be seen year-round grazing on the surrounding vegetation, wallowing in muddy banks or in a small red-coloured pond (impressively tinted by red pondweeds). The area is teeming with life: finches, mockingbirds and flycatchers, as well as ducks, herons and gallinules make this an exciting morning visit. Lunch is served in the cooler highlands, with stunning views of Santa Cruz Island. After lunch, you'll have the chance to visit a small farm, where coffee, sugarcane and cocoa beans are grown, harvested and prepared – all organic and sustainable. You will also have the chance to taste the products while learning about the local way to burn island spirits! Return to the lodge to relax by the pool or on the beach.

Overnight: Finch Bay Eco Hotel B, L, D

Day 8

Bartolomé Island

After breakfast, head back to the Itabaca Channel for the 2.5-hour boat trip to Bartolomé and a shared outing. This island is one of the smallest in the archipelago, with two very different visitor sites. The first landing is wet, followed by a 10-minute walk across a sand dune that takes you to the southern beach, where blacktip reef sharks and rays are often seen in the shallow water. Ghost crabs creep across the beach and disappear into the sand as you approach. The second site is a dry landing for a trek up to the island’s summit, from which there are spectacular views. If you look carefully you can make out sunken craters in the sea below. In the distance, you can see most of the central islands, the peaks of Isabela to the west, and (on a clear day) Marchena and Pinta to the north. Here you have the opportunity to snorkel with Galapagos penguins and marine iguanas, and observe the Galapagos hawks that can be spotted here.

Overnight: Finch Bay Eco Hotel B, L, D

Day 9

North Seymour Island

Today involves another shared boat outing as you begin your journey to North Seymour Island after breakfast. Lifted from the ocean floor by a seismic event, North Seymour has a low, flat profile and is teeming with life. You might have to give way to a passing sea lion or marine iguana, while blue-footed booby nests sit beside the trail where mating pairs perform their courtship dance. Further along, the rocky shore is interspersed with white sand, while large flocks of pelicans mass for a dive-bomb feeding frenzy, painting a tableau for you from ages long past. The trail turns inland to reveal the largest nesting site in the Galapagos for the magnificent frigatebird, the males of which can be identified by the eye-catching red sac on their chest, which can be inflated in order to attract a mate. After the excursion, head back to the port before transferring to Finch Bay.

Overnight: Finch Bay Eco Hotel B, L, D

Day 10

Depart Galapagos Islands

After your final breakfast in these unique islands, it is time to say goodbye to your hosts as you are met by your driver and transferred to Baltra Airport for your return flight to mainland Ecuador. It is possible to extend your trip and spend a further night in Quito after returning to the mainland – please enquire for details.

Trip Details

About Tailor-made Safaris

A tailor-made safari is one designed according to your specific requirements, including budget, dates, personal interests, the number of people travelling, and more. This itinerary is just an example and can be refined and altered to make it perfect for you.

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