Galapagos Cruise Itineraries

Choosing the perfect Galapagos cruise itinerary is imperative to ensuring you discover the sights you want to see in this beautiful part of the world. There is no 'one size fits all' - instead, you'll have to consider which islands are at the top of your bucket list, what wildlife you're eager to see and any other personal preferences.

It’s not possible to fly direct to the Galapagos from North America on the same day, meaning you’ll be required to have a stopover. This is a blessing in disguise, giving you the opportunity to explore the colourful capital of Ecuador, Quito. With routes to the Andes, the Amazon, and even Machu Picchu, Quito is truly a goldmine of adventure and we highly recommend you add on a Cruise & Stay package for at least two nights.

Highlight Overview
Quito Old Town Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Quito’s Old Town is teeming with intricate and vibrant architecture nestled among quaint cobblestone streets.
La Compania de Jesus Scaling 2,500km up the side of the volcano, the cable car in Quito will take you to breath-taking (literally!) views. Be sure to take your time when hiking as the altitude will affect newcomers quickly.
Quito Cable Car (TeleferiQo) One of the largest saltwater aquariums in Europe, the Atlantic Sea-Park will delight and educate visitors of all ages.
Equator Line There are a few spots in Ecuador where you’ll be able to stand on the equator line- some more accurate than others! Mitad del Mundo hosts the most tourist attractions, though the Intinan Museum is technically more accurate.

All cruises begin or end at either Baltra Island or San Cristobal Island. A Galapagos cruise can typically range between 4 to 11 days in duration, though with stopovers included you’ll be looking at an 18-day round trip. Because of rules established by the Galapagos National Park, ships cannot visit the same destination twice during the itinerary.

If you’re desperate to experience all the habitats of the Galapagos, we recommend a 14-night cruise. Shorter cruises will inevitably miss out some stops but passengers can combine these to extend their journey, so it’s best to speak to one of our cruise experts to tailor your holiday to your requirements.

Typical excursions on a Galapagos cruise holiday include:

  • Snorkelling
  • Diving
  • Kayaking
  • Guided hikes
  • Zodiac tours

Top 10 destinations to visit on a Galapagos cruise itinerary

Depending on the duration of the itinerary, some islands may not be a port of call on your trip. While some species can be found across many of the islands, there may be a particular ‘port’ you’d like to call at. Below are our top 10 destinations in the Galapagos Islands for the best spots and wildlife.

Galapagos Islands Map

1. Santa Cruz

Where you’ll find the largest town in the Galapagos (Puerto Ayora), Santa Cruz often serves as a starting point for Galapagos cruises. You’ll find numerous shops, restaurants and galleries as well as tour agencies and must-visit attractions. Below are our favourites.

Highlight Overview
Charles Darwin Research Station The centre of environmental education and research, the Charles Darwin Research Station will provide endless knowledge of the island’s exotic inhabitants.
El Chato Tortoise Reserve This is the place to be for ultimate tortoise spotting! These crawling critters roam freely giving you a glimpse into the daily life of the famous gentle giants.
Lava Tunnels There are countless lava tunnels in the Galapagos, formed by solidified lava flow. These tunnels are truly fascinating to explore.
Fish Market Though this may be an odd suggestion, witnessing the frenzy at the fish market is a must! Watch as cheeky seals wait impatiently for scraps while pelicans do their best to get away with some goods.
Tortuga Bay beach The hike to this stunning white-sand beach is well worth it. The waves are perfect for surfing and less-so for swimming, but you’ll find a sheltered spot for paddling at the end of the beach.

2. Champion Islet

The cooler temperatures of the water around Champion Islet make this the perfect destination for diving and snorkelling. With countless exotic species onshore and beneath the waves, it’s well worth braving the cold to witness such a fascinating ecosystem at play.

3. South Plaza Island

Despite being one of the smallest islands, South Plaza Island is teeming with golden and marine iguanas and tropical birds including the famous blue-footed boobies. Cruisers can snorkel in this area to spot rays, sharks and sea turtles, while a hike is a great way to get up close to the iguanas, birdlife and prickly pear cacti.

4. Rabida Island

The deep red colour of the beaches here comes from the high iron levels in the volcanic material. When you arrive you’ll be greeted by a colony of sea lions lazing on the beach and totally unbothered by your presence, which makes for a great photo opportunity. Nesting pelicans are also abundant here, as well as flamingos and hawks.

5. Española Island

Estimated to be around four million years old, Española Island boasts one of the top 25 beaches in the world, Gardner Bay. Famed for its lush flora and fauna, it’s perfect for adventurous activities such as snorkelling and kayaking, as well as laid-back relaxation such as wildlife spotting.

6. Fernandina Island

This volcanic island is often referred to as the “land without time”. At around 300 thousand years old, it has no introduced species and has an otherworldly nature to it’s rugged landscape. The huge population of iguanas can even make this island feel like Jurassic Park, but don’t forget to keep an eye out for sea lions, flightless cormorants, sea turtles and herons too.

7. Floreana Island

Where you’ll find the famous Post Office Bay, Floreana Island is teeming with unique history. There’s no shortage of wildlife and snorkelling opportunities here, as well as diving at the Devil’s Crown diving site. Here, you’re able to mingle with beautiful marine life at an underwater volcano cone.

8. Daphne Island

Although access to Daphne Island is quite restricted, a circumnavigation around the island will prove to be enriching and insightful. You’ll witness the flight and hunt of the Nazca Booby, as well as a new breed of finch that was first encountered on the island itself.

9. Baltra Island

Where you’ll find one of the main airports of the Galapagos, Baltra Island is often a starting point for visitors voyaging this destination. Though it is not within the boundaries of the national park, it’s home to a population of Galapagos land iguanas, making it a great welcome to the islands!

10. Isabela Island

As the largest island in the Galapagos, Isabela Island is one of the most volcanically active places in the world and is a paradise of fascinating wildlife and stunning beaches. It’s not always a stop on a Galapagos itinerary, but it’s a fantastic, laid-back island to experience.

Galapagos Islands San Cristobal cruise

Best cruise lines for Galapagos cruise itineraries

While an expedition cruise is the best way to soak up as much of the Galapagos as possible, this doesn’t mean you have to forfeit luxury. Cruise lines have also gone above and beyond to ensure the ecosystem of the islands are treated with the utmost respect and care. Below are our top three recommendations for cruise lines offering Galapagos cruises.

Cruise line Best ship Guests Best for...
Celebrity Cruises Celebrity Flora 100 Luxury, environmentally-conscious cruising that brings you to the heart of the destination in comfort using high-tech zodiacs.
Silversea Cruises Silver Origin 100 Showcasing authentic Ecuadorian culture through cuisine and expert guides, with luxury all-suite cabins.
G-Adventures Eden 16 Intimate, yacht-style sailing with a strong focus on destination immersion.

Galapagos Islands San Cristobal cruise

As you can see, you'll find numerous different itineraries to suit cruisers of all interests. With numerous cruise lines offering a range of cruises, you'll be spoilt for choice when choosing your perfect Galapagos cruise itinerary. Check out our Galapagos cruise deals to find your holiday of a lifetime, or read our blogs to find out more information, including the best time for a Galapagos cruise. What's more, to help you make the most of your time in this incredible part of the world, we've put together a guide to Galapagos cruise tips.