The Galapagos Islands are a once in a lifetime kind of destination. Spread over 18 islands and providing endless adventure possibilities, it can be hard to figure out where to start when it comes to crafting your own itinerary – which is where I come in! I just got back from an amazing trip to the Galapagos with my sister, and I’m going to share with you our ultimate one-week Galapagos itinerary to enjoy the Enchanted Islands to the fullest!
Visiting the Galapagos Islands without a cruise is absolutely possible and a much more cost-friendly option. There are three islands you can visit on your own: Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, and Isabela. However, while there are many things you can do (sometimes for free!) on each of these islands included in this itinerary, I would highly recommend splurging on a few day tours to visit places you would otherwise not have access to on your own.
Day 1: Exploring San Cristóbal
We landed at San Cristóbal airport around noon after a short stop in Guayaquil. The airport is ideally located right next to the town, so we just picked up our bags and walked to our hostel. After checking in, we dropped by the local market to have lunch and headed straight to Cerro Tijeretas, where we spent the afternoon exploring its surroundings and getting our first glimpse of Galapagos’ wildlife.
Day 2: 360° San Cristóbal Tour
Friends of mine recommended me this tour when I was planning our trip, and I can now highly recommend it as well! The 360° Tour is a great option for travelers on a budget with a limited amount of time on the island. As its name suggests, it takes you all around the island from Kicker Rock to remote beaches including my favorite, Bahía Sardina!
Day 3: Transfer to Santa Cruz
On day three, we took the ferry from San Cristóbal to Santa Cruz, where we arrived around 9:30 am. We checked into our hostel, grabbed breakfast, and headed to the Darwin Research Station to learn more about the islands’ wildlife and ongoing conservation projects. Then, we walked to Playa Brava and Tortuga Bay to enjoy the afternoon at the beach.
Day 4: Santa Cruz Highlands
The second day on Santa Cruz, we got an early start at Las Grietas, snorkeled for a bit, and then made our way up north to Santa Cruz Highlands. We rented bikes and paid a visit to the Galápagos tortoises at El Chato Reserve, where you can also walk through three lava tunnels. Bonus: the ride back to Puerto Ayora is almost all downhill and really fun.
Day 5: Bartolomé Island Tour
Bartolomé Island is one of the Galapagos Islands’ iconic sights and a place I really wanted to visit (being quite the volcano enthusiast). The tour includes a short hike up to the top of the island and snorkeling near Sullivan Bay. Located on the southeast end of Santiago Island, the beach is a huge lava field formed by relatively recent lava flows. The excursion is a little expensive but still worth it in my opinion for the unique landscapes.
Day 6: Transfer to Isabela
Out of all three islands, Isabela was my favorite. Less populated and wilder, I wish we could have stayed longer. We traveled from Santa Cruz to Isabela in the early hours, leaving us the rest of the day to explore the island by bike. We basically followed the path leading to the wall of tears, stopping at various beaches along the way, like Playa del Amor to see marine iguanas and El Estero to spot blue-footed boobies.
Day 7: Los Tuneles Tour
You cannot leave Isabela without going to Los Tuneles. Snorkeling there is like diving in an aquarium. The water is crystal clear and shallow, making it ideal to observe sea life. Turtles, whitetip sharks, Galápagos sharks, seahorses, rays, blue-footed boobies… We stayed in the water for about an hour and a half, despite the water being (really) cold. That’s how much fun it was!
Day 8: Santa Cruz Transfer
Day 8, a.k.a. go home day. We took the ferry back to Santa Cruz in the morning to slowly make our way back to Baltra airport. We had a few hours to spare on Santa Cruz before heading to the airport so we walked around for a bit, shopping for gifts and enjoying reading on the port’s benches.
I truly loved our stay in the Galapagos Islands and would recommend this itinerary to anyone looking to visit all three main islands and hidden gems in a small amount of time. I hope you find it useful! Let me know in the comments if you have any questions regarding Galapagos and I’ll gladly help you out. For more on the Galapagos Islands, check out 10 Reasons Why You Should Visit Galápagos.
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