One Week Galapagos Islands Itinerary: Bucket List Travel Guide
The Galapagos Islands are one of the most magical places I have had the privilege of visiting. Filled with stunning natural beauty and an ecosystem that cannot be found anywhere else in the world, the Galapagos Islands are home to an array of endemic species that inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. As one of the few remaining places still relatively untouched by humans, the Galapagos Islands offer travelers a combination of natural wonders, unique wildlife, and once-in-a-lifetime outdoor opportunities that make it a bucket list destination for adventure-seekers and animal lovers. While I wish I had multiple weeks to enjoy the Galapagos Islands, it is still entirely possible to have an INCREDIBLE trip in only one week. Here is my one week Galapagos Islands itinerary and bucket list travel guide!
How to Get to the Galapagos Islands
Made up of a group of volcanic islands located in the Pacific Ocean, about 2-3 hours flying from mainland Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands can be easily reached by air. Two of Ecuador’s major cities, Quito and Guayaquil, offer daily flights to the islands. Most visitors fly into Seymour Airport, also known as Baltra Airport. The other option is to fly in or out of San Cristóbal airport.
If you only have a week in the Galapagos Islands and your goal is to see multiple islands, my recommendation is to follow what I did, which is to fly into Seymour Airport and out of San Cristóbal Airport. That way, you are not forced to waste time backtracking. Note: book flights in advance because they will likely get booked up!
How to Plan the Perfect Galapagos IslandS Trip
I spent countless hours doing my own initial research, only to realize I could have saved so much time by reaching out to a tour company for help. Frankly, I was really worried about cost, but I quickly learned that the right tour company will guide you to the perfect itinerary while still keeping your budget in mind. I HIGHLY recommend the company, Book-ec. Every tour arranged by Book-ec was top notch and communication was impeccable. I truly cannot recommend Book-ec enough if you want to have an amazing, stress-free bucket list trip to the Galapagos Islands. All the activities I share in this itinerary are bookable through Book-ec!
Island-hopping vs. Cruising the Galapagos Islands
The biggest question I had when I first started planning my one week Galapagos trip was whether I should book a cruise or do a land-based itinerary that consisted of island-hopping and organized day tours. There is no right answer as there a pros and cons for each.
Pros of Island-hopping
- More flexibility to design your own itinerary and explore at your own pace
- Lower cost compared to a cruise
- Opportunity to interact with the local population and experience Galapagos culture
- Chance to stay longer on each island and get to know it better
- A wide range of accommodation options are available, from budget to luxury
Pros of CRUISING
- Access to more remote areas and a wider range of wildlife viewing opportunities
- Ability to visit multiple islands in a shorter amount of time
- Comprehensive pre-planned itineraries
- Onboard amenities and services
CONS of Island-hopping
- More limited access to some of the remote islands and wildlife sites
- Can be more time-consuming and require additional planning to organize transportation, accommodation, and activities
CONS of CRUISING
- Higher cost compared to island-hopping
- Limited flexibility to design your own itinerary and explore at your own pace
- May feel more crowded or less private, especially on larger cruise ships
- Some people may experience seasickness on a boat
Ultimately, the decision between island-hopping and cruising in the Galapagos Islands depends on your personal preferences, budget, and travel style. Both options offer an incredible opportunity to experience the Galapagos Islands. If you are not sure or want to get some ideas, it is best to consult a Galapagos expert, like Book-ec, who can help guide you to your perfect bucket list Galapagos trip.
I ended up choosing the land-based option due to itinerary flexibility, cost, and an interest in experiencing the local island culture. The choice ended up being perfect for what I was looking for!
How to Spend One Week in the Galapagos Islands: A Land-Based Itinerary
There are three inhabited islands that visitors are allowed to stay on, including Santa Cruz, Isabela, and San Cristóbal. All three islands offer a distinctly different vibe and experience, thus it was important for me to visit each one – even if I only had a week!
My itinerary and recommendation for how to spend one week in the Galapagos Islands, with a stop on each of the inhabited islands, is the following:
1 Night: Santa Cruz Island
2 Nights: Isabela Island
3 Nights: San Cristóbal Island
One Week Galapagos Islands Itinerary: Santa Cruz Island
Santa Cruz is the most populated island in the Galapagos, with the largest town, Puerto Ayora, serving as the tourist center. Puerto Ayora has a lively atmosphere, with plenty of restaurants, shops, and accommodations to choose from. Despite its development, Santa Cruz Island has preserved much of its natural beauty and endemic wildlife. I found Santa Cruz to be the most touristy of the three islands.
What to Do on Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos
See the Giant Tortoises at Reserva El Chato
Reserva El Chato is a nature reserve located in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos. Here you can observe giant tortoises in their natural habitat and walk near them. The tour also takes you through lava tunnels, which was nerve-wracking for me as someone who is visually impaired but it was worth it!
Admire Los Gemelos in the Highlands
Los Gemelos, also known as the Twin Craters, are two large sinkholes. The craters were formed by the collapse of underground magma chambers, and are now surrounded by lush vegetation. There is an easy, accessible path that leads to both craters. My pre-trip research gave me mixed reviews about this destination, but I personally loved my visit and would recommend adding Los Gemelos to your one week Galapagos itinerary.
Arrange a Highlands tour, including Reserva El Chato and Los Gemelos, as part of the airport transfer to Puerto Ayora. The stops were both on the way to town, making it particularly convenient for a time-sensitive trip.ITINERARY TIP
Explore Tortuga Bay
Tortuga Bay is a beautiful white sand beach that is also home to a variety of marine life, such as sea turtles and marine iguanas. The beach can be accessed by foot or by a boat taxi. I recommend walking to the beach, which takes about 45 minutes, and then taking a boat taxi back. The Tortuga Bay trail starts from town and is paved the entire walk until the beach. Bring lots of water!
Check Out the Santa Cruz Fish Market
Stop by the fish market in the late afternoon to watch the local fishermen sell their daily catch. The sea lions were so interesting to observe, too! They LOVE fish, to say the least.
Extra time IN YOUR ONE WEEK GALAPAGOS ISLANDS ITINERARY?
Visit Las Grietas! Las Grietas is a natural swimming hole surrounded by cliffs and crystal-clear water. As one of Santa Cruz Island’s most popular spots for swimming, try to arrive early to avoid crowds. You can also visit Charles Darwin Research Station. The Charles Darwin Research Station is a scientific research facility where visitors can learn about the islands’ biodiversity, as well as ongoing conservation efforts and the history of Charles Darwin.
Where to Stay on Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos
Luxury: Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel
Mid-Range: Hotel Cucuve
Budget: Posada del Mar
One Week Galapagos Islands Itinerary: Isabela Island
Isabela is the largest island in the Galapagos and has a more relaxed and laid-back vibe than Santa Cruz. With a small town, the island is less developed and offers visitors a more remote and unspoiled experience. Isabela is known for its breathtaking natural landscapes, including the Sierra Negra volcano, pristine beaches, and, of course, spectacular wildlife, such as marine iguanas, giant tortoises, blue-footed boobies, and Galapagos penguins.
What to Do on Isabela Island, Galapagos
VISIT Sierra Negra Volcano
Sierra Negra is an active volcano on Isabela Island, and visitors can hike to the rim of the crater for stunning views of the surrounding landscape. The hike is moderately challenging, but the views are well worth the effort.
If you are short on time, or are less interested in a 7+ hour hike, I recommend going by horse! Organized by Book-ec, seeing Sierra Negra volcano by horseback is a bucket list experience that you must add to your one week Galapagos Islands itinerary.
Los Tuneles Day Tour
Another one of my favorite activities was a day tour in which we visited an untouched paradise known as Los Tuneles. The tour is a chance to not only see volcanic lava which has formed striking tunnels and arches, but an opportunity to spot marine life such as the sea turtle. During the Los Tuneles Day Tour, you can also encounter sharks, seahorses, sea lions, fish, blue-footed boobies, and sometimes even penguins!
Extra time IN YOUR ONE WEEEK GALAPAGOS ISLANDS ITINERARY?
With a one week Galapagos itinerary, tough decisions have to be made. However, if you do have extra time, Las Tintoreras is another one of the more popular wildlife viewing excursions in the Galapagos Islands.
Where to Stay on Isabela Island, Galapagos
Mid-Range: La Casa de Marita
Inter-island ferries can take you from Santa Cruz to Isabela, but in order to travel from Isabela to San Cristóbal by ferry, you need to first take a return ferry to Santa Cruz then a second ferry from Santa Cruz to San Cristóbal. This will take up an entire day. When you only have one week in the Galapagos, I strongly suggest splurging on a flight from Isabela Island directly to San Cristóbal – an easy 45 minutes!ITINERARY TIP
One Week Galapagos Islands Itinerary: San Cristobal Island
The last stop on this one week Galapagos Islands itinerary is San Cristóbal Island. San Cristóbal is the easternmost island in the Galapagos and the second most populated island after Santa Cruz. The main town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno feels more local with plenty of fun restaurants and shops along the waterfront. It is a perfect base to spend three nights and two days exploring more of the beautiful landscapes of the Galapagos Islands.
What to Do on San Cristóbal Island, Galapagos
Experience a 360° Tour
A 360° Tour on San Cristóbal is the best way to explore the island’s most impressive sights in a short amount of time. The full-day tour, arranged by Book-ec, includes a naturalist guide, boat, and snorkel gear to explore picturesque beaches, coastline, and Kicker Rock. If you only have one week in the Galapagos Islands, I would make sure to book this tour and the Española tour (noted below).
Snorkel at Kicker Rock
Technically, you will have the chance to do this if you partake in the 360 Tour, but if you need extra convincing, I’ve added this notable experience as a must-do in the Galápagos Islands. Kicker Rock, also known as Leon Dormido, consists of spectacular rock formations off the coast where you can snorkel and, if you’re lucky, see a hammerhead shark.
You will spot colorful fish, sea turtles, and other native marine life. If you are certified, this is also one of the best diving spots in the Galapagos!
Watch the Sea Lions at Playa de los Marinos
Walking around the town of Puerto Baquerizo Morena on San Cristóbal, you will not miss Playa de los Marinos. At this beach, you will see lots of sea lions relaxing and playing together. Always make sure to observe sea lions from a safe distance – for your protection as well as theirs!
Visit the Galapagos Interpretation Center
Less than 10 minutes walking from the center of the main town is the Galapagos Interpretation Center. Visiting this center was a spontaneous decision, but I am so glad I went as it is a special opportunity to learn about the history and geology of the Galapagos Islands. The exhibits were insightful and added to an important understanding of this remarkable place.
Take a Day Trip to Española Island
With three nights in San Cristóbal, this gives you the chance to do two full-day tours. In addition to the 360° Tour, an extremely popular day trip is to the island of Española, the oldest island of the Galapagos Islands.
EXTRA TIME IN YOUR ONE WEEEK GALAPAGOS ISLANDS ITINERARY?
If you have more time in San Cristóbal, consider a tour to Lobos Island or Punta Pitt. Punta Pitt can also be combined with Kicker Rock if you book with Book-ec.
Where to Stay on SAN Cristóbal Island, Galapagos
Budget: Hostal Romy
One Week Galapagos Islands Itinerary: Add a MAINLAND Stop in Quito
Due to flight routes, many tourists combine a trip to the Galápagos Islands with a visit to Quito, the capital of Ecuador. I had the chance to spend a full day exploring Quito, visiting museums, admiring architectural wonders, and learning about Ecuador’s history. If you need a place to stay in Quito, I loved staying at Casa Anabela Hotel Boutique, a beautiful boutique hotel located in the historic district and a wonderful base to see the city.
One Week Galapagos Islands Itinerary: FINAL THOUGHTS
As I reflect back on my trip to the Galapagos Islands, I am immensely grateful for the experiences and visual memories I created. I wish I had more than a week to explore because there was so much to do and see, but if you only have one week for a trip, do not hesitate to visit the Galapagos Islands. It was such an incredible adventure and I am sure that one day I will return.
A very special thank you to Book-ec for helping me plan my dream trip to this bucket list destination. Whether you are traveling on a budget or a luxury traveler, Book-ec will help make your Galapagos dreams come true!