Two Incredible 8-Day Trips in the Galapagos Islands – Which One is For You?
Vaya offers two incredible eight-day trips in the Galapagos Islands, each with unique itineraries that explore one of the world’s most biodiverse wildlife destinations. Both trips are conducted on the Ocean Spray luxury yacht, which boasts deluxe amenities and top-quality bilingual naturalist guides and offers an array of excursion options, including hiking, kayaking, and snorkeling.
The two trips cover different areas in the Galapagos Islands – the western islands of the archipelago and the southern islands. In a bid to better protect the fragile ecosystem of the Galapagos Islands, tourist vessels are prohibited from visiting the same island site more than once in 14 days, so most vessels follow a sort of figure-eight pattern around the islands, offering alternating cruises itineraries. This helps to protect this spectacular part of the world.
So, which itinerary should you choose? Let’s take a look at the difference between the two itineraries and what each one has to offer.
Itinerary A (8 days): Western / Southern Islands:
Saturday: Arrive in Baltra / Sombrero Chino
Sunday: Vicente Roca Point (Isabela) / Espinosa Point (Fernandina)
Monday: Isabela: Tagus Cove / Urbina Bay
Tuesday: Isabela: Elizabeth Bay / Moreno Point
Wednesday: Santa Cruz: Charles Darwin Research Station / Highlands
Thursday: South Plaza / Santa Fe
Friday: Espanola: Suarez Point / Gardner Bay
Saturday: San Cristóbal: Interpretation Center / Return to Mainland
Itinerary B (8 days): Southern Islands:
Saturday: Arrive in San Cristóbal / Lobos / Kicker Rock
Sunday: San Cristóbal: Punta Pitt / Cerro Brujo
Monday: Floreana: Post Office Bay / Cormorant Point
Tuesday: Black Turtle Cove (Santa Cruz) / Bartholomew
Wednesday: Genovesa: Darwin Bay /El Barranco
Thursday: Santiago: Espumilla Beach / Buccaneer Cove / Egas Point
Friday: North Seymour / Highlands (Santa Cruz)
Saturday: Mosquera Islet / Return to Mainland
Similarities Between Trips to the Southern Islands and Western Islands
Although the trips venture to different areas of the Galapagos Islands, many of the activities you will enjoy will be very similar, such as hiking at land-based sites, snorkeling, panga rides, and kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding along the coastline. Scuba diving can also be done in the Galapagos Islands, though it is not a standard offering on most cruises and must be set up separately.
Highlights of trips to both the southern and western islands will include seeing some of the world’s most unique wildlife, like land and marine iguanas, sea lions, Galapagos penguins, blue-footed boobies, and frigate birds.
However, the places that you visit and the landscapes that you will see on each trip will vary significantly.
Itinerary A (Western / Southern Islands)
This is one of the few trips that combine the western and southern islands. It travels to some of the remotest islands in the Galapagos, such as Isabela and Fernandina, which have few people and some incredibly unique landscapes and animals.
Fernandina Island is one of the furthest west in the Galapagos archipelago, and although it has less vegetation than other islands, the wildlife here is unrivalled. You may see Galapagos penguins, Sally Lightfoot crabs, fur seals, sea lions, snakes, blue-footed boobies, flightless cormorants, and the Galapagos hawk.
The slightly further east Isabela Island has several visitor sites to explore, including Elizabeth Bay, Moreno Point, Tagus Cove, Urbina Bay, and Vicente Roca Point. Wildlife abounds, from boobies, cormorants, penguins, and both land and marine iguanas to Galapagos doves, Galapagos hawks, and the famous giant tortoise.
There are other fascinating sites to discover on this Galapagos cruise. At the Charles Darwin Research Station, learn about conservation in the islands, and efforts to protect native tortoise populations. Visit Suarez Point on the island of Espanola for potential sightings of rare wildlife, like waved albatross and blue-footed boobies, and explore the ancient volcanic island of Santa Fé. You’ll also have the chance to spend some time in San Cristóbal, which is the second most populated island in the Galapagos.
You’ll fly into Seymour Airport on Baltra Island, which is the busiest of the two main airports in the Galapagos. Baltra is a tiny island that basically only has the airport, so from there you will be transferred directly to your cruise vessel or across Itabaca Canal to adjacent Santa Cruz Island. Santa Cruz is the most populated island in the Galapagos with plenty of hotels, restaurants, and tourist shops, located in Puerto Ayora.
Itinerary B (Southern Islands)
This itinerary will take you around the southern islands of the Galapagos archipelago, and offers an amazing variety of beautiful beaches, unique landscapes, and a wealth of Galapagos wildlife.
You’ll fly into the airport on San Cristóbal Island in the town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, which is somewhat smaller than the airport on Baltra. Spend the first few days of this trip exploring San Cristóbal and its surrounds, visiting beautiful spots and little islands in the vicinity such as Lobos, Kicker Rock, Punta Pitt, and Cerro Brujo (Witch Hill).
Kicker Rock (León Dormido) is one of the best-known scenic sites in the Galapagos Islands, a fascinating landmass that is home to a variety of nesting birdlife. Punta Pitt is a great spot for wildlife viewing, with many different types of nesting birds such as red-footed boobies, blue-footed boobies, and Nazca boobies in the cliffs. The sandy coral beach of Cerro Brujo is home to myriad species of flora and fauna and some spectacular landscape views.
Floreana Island has many points of interest, from a green-tinged beach at Punta Cormorant, home to green sea turtles and pink flamingos, to Post Office Bay with its antiquated postal system, which is still in operation today.
You’ll visit Darwin Bay and the shield volcano on the island of Genovesa, known for its abundance of frigatebirds and other interesting seabirds; take in the towering cliffs and pinnacles on the island of Santiago, home to millions of nesting sea birds, and head to the island of Santa Cruz, which is renowned for exquisite sandy beaches and endangered giant tortoises in the Highlands.
Main Differences Between the Southern and Western Islands
The main differences between the trips to the southern islands and the western islands in the Galapagos archipelago are the landscapes you will experience and some of the wildlife.
If you are an avid birder and want to see red-footed boobies and the rare and unusual waved albatross, you’ll have to head to the southern islands like Espanola, Genovesa, and San Cristóbal. The rare flightless cormorant can only be found on Isabela Island and Fernandina Island in the western islands of the Galapagos, and you’ll have a greater chance of spotting a giant tortoise in its natural surroundings and dolphins and whales in the seas around the western islands. The western islands are also more geologically interesting to visit as there tends to be more volcanic activity in the west.
Whichever itinerary you choose, you are assured an incredible experience in the Galapagos Islands. This archipelago is unlike anyplace else in the world, with unique landscapes and flora, plus dense concentrations of fearless wildlife. Galapagos cruises are done on expedition ships with few passengers, assuring you an exclusive experience. Want an even more exclusive feeling for your Galapagos cruise? Consider a Galapagos charter, reserving the entire ship for the private use of your travel group. We can arrange cruises and charters on a variety of Galapagos ships, offering a variety of different itineraries. Each has something special to offer.
Galapagos is also a great destination to combine with other South American highlights. Check out our Machu Picchu & Galapagos itinerary or our Galapagos Islands & Colombia Tour for inspiration. Pressed for time? Click here for some ideas on comfortably Touring Peru and the Galapagos in Under 2 Weeks.