Darwin's Islands & Colonial Quito

An 8-night exploration of the Galapagos Islands and Quito's historic city

From $8,545

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Darwin’s discoveries in the Galapagos had a profound impact on the way we understand the world. From Ecuador’s northern highlands to a yacht cruise among these notable islands—adventure, culture, wildlife, and discovery awaits you.


  • Two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Galapagos Islands and Quito’s Colonial city center
  • Two nights at Quito’s historic boutique Casa Gangotena Hotel
  • Six-night Galapagos cruise aboard La Pinta
  • A private dinner at Quito’s premier view restaurant
  • Set foot on seven islands and islets
  • Nesting birds and wildlife in their natural habitat
  • View marine life by snorkel and glass-bottom boat
  • Charles Darwin Research Center
  • Certified guides escort small groups of 12
  • Roundtrip air between Quito/Galapagos
  • Alcoholic beverages on La Pinta

Departure Dates & Rates

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Your day-by-day details

Roundtrip Quito, Ecuador



Quito / Arrival
Welcome to Ecuador! Begin your journey in this historic city rich in legends and culture. Your first stop is the grand Casa Gangotena*, voted the #1 Hotel in Ecuador by TripAdvisor and where you will stay these first two nights. A gorgeous example of Spanish Colonial style, enjoy this restored boutique hotel just steps away from picturesque Plaza de San Francisco, built atop Incan temples and markets.


Once called the Northern Capital of the Inca Empire, the capital city of Quito has long been a center of commerce and culture. The city’s growth after Spanish took over in 1534 included the building of many outstanding convents, monasteries and churches, earning Quito the title, “Capital of Art of Spanish America.” Discover why the city’s exquisitely preserved historic center is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site—departing from your hotel, a walking tour explores its past, present, and future. With time on your own in the afternoon, opt for a visit to the fascinating pre-Columbian, Museo Casa del Alabado or explore the cultural center at leisure. Your full day of exploration ends at a local restaurant with sunset views overlooking the city.


Quito / Isla Baltra – Embarkation / Isla Seymour Norte
On this morning, travel to the second UNESCO World Heritage Site on your itinerary: the legendary Galapagos Islands. From Quito, fly to Isla Baltra where your captain and crew welcome you aboard Yacht La Pinta. As Charles Darwin certainly was in 1835, you’ll be awed by the unique beauty of the islands as you take your first exploratory steps on Isla Seymour Norte—home to Blue-footed boobies and Magnificent Frigatebirds. Formed by volcanic uplift, the small island of scruffy vegetation is ideal nesting terrain. Get an up-close view of these birds’ quirky characteristics by hike and panga ride.


Isla Isabela / Isla Fernandina
Explore Punta Vicente Roca, a marine site of impressive geological formations, by panga—your guide helps with decoding the visible clues of the islands’ fiery beginnings. Beyond the geology, spy winged residents including Blue-footed boobies and flightless cormorants. The wildly rocky coast with a partially sunken cave provides phenomenal conditions for a menagerie of fish and green sea turtles. If conditions allow, don your mask, fins, and snorkel and dive in for a close-up view! Later, stretch your legs on a guided walk experiencing one of the most pristine islands in the Galapagos, Isla Fernandina. The island’s active volcano erupted as recently as 2009. Thousands of bright land iguanas reside here, and it’s also a favorite haunt of Galapagos penguins.


Isla Isabela
Large in landmass and young at 1 million years old, Isla Isabela supports abundant wildlife and sea life. An Urbina Bay shore walk reveals large, colorful land iguanas and perhaps giant tortoises. Crossing from Urbina Bay to Tagus Cove, scan the water for whales and dolphins that frequent Bolivar Channel from one of La Pinta’s spacious decks. At Tagus Cove—an otherworldly landscape of eroded tuff cones—there’s a chance to snorkel, kayak, or ride a panga before hiking the backside of Darwin Crater to a saltwater lake. There’ll be excellent opportunities for viewing penguins, Galapagos Hawks, cormorants, petrified rain (bits of lava that cooled quickly after contacting water), and old signatures from pirates and whalers etched into the rock.


Isla Rabida / Isla Santa Cruz
Isla Rabida’s unusual red beach is a favorite sunbathing spot for sea lions and marine iguanas. Go eye-to-eye with Blue-footed and Nazca Boobies, Yellow Warblers, several species of Darwin’s Finches, and pelicans. The warm maroon-colored beach also makes a great jumping in spot for from-the-beach snorkeling. Or keep your eyes above the waterline, inspecting marine life from the glass-bottom boat. You’ll have a birds-eye view from Isla Santa Cruz hiking Cerro Dragon—or, Dragon Hill—and enjoy a well-earned panorama of the western islands, the bay below you, and possibly even lounging land iguanas.


Isla Santa Cruz
Today, it’s all about the magnificent giant tortoise. Touring the Charles Darwin Research Station, you’ll witness the exceptional conservation program where baby tortoises, “galapaguitos,” are reared in protective captivity until they are old enough to safely repatriate back to their native areas. Embrace Galapagos conservation by learning about threats that still endanger this fragile ecosystem. After a lingering poolside lunch at the Finch Bay Eco Hotel (bring your swimsuit just in case), explore the misty, forested highlands and see the lumbering and charming tortoises in their natural habitat. You’ll also have a chance to walk inside the island’s famed lava tubes for a geological exploration of these remarkable volcanic channels.


Isla Floreana
Your day will be chock-full of adventure, with opportunities to snorkel, hike, kayak, skiff, ride the glass-bottom boat, or simply relax on the beach. Send a note home from Post Office Bay, dropping your postcard in Isla Floreana’s famous, historic barrel mailbox. Then take in the island’s geologic history with a panga ride or kayak investigation of its maze of volcanic channels. A stop at Baroness Viewpoint provides the perfect vantage for a photo-op. A tale of two beaches, walk along the green olivine beach of Punta Cormorant to a brackish lagoon known to be a flamingo hideout, then on to a white-sand beach where green sea turtles come ashore to rest at night.


Isla Baltra / Quito – Disembarkation
Your adventure of a lifetime aboard La Pinta concludes on Isla Baltra. From here, transfer to the airport for your flight to Quito and await your connecting flight home. If you’ve opted for the Peru/Machu Picchu Extension, you’ll disembark en route during a short stop in Guayaquil.

*Casa Gangotena: hotel bedding will either be two double beds or one king bed

Passport required. Itineraries are guidelines; variations in itinerary and the order days may occur to maximize your experience.

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Rates and Dates

Fares are per person double occupancy, in USD. Select cabins are available for single occupancy at 175% of double occupancy rate. Triple accommodations are available in the Admiral cabins. Inquire for pricing details. Charter up to 48 guests.

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Departure Dates

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See ALL 2018 Galapagos Rates & Dates (.pdf)

Jun 27


Quito to Quito
La Pinta

La Pinta was designed to keep the magnificent surroundings in the spotlight. Three spacious decks, an outdoor Sky Bar, and an Observation Lounge with floor-to-ceiling windows provide vantage points to absorb and witness the scenery around you. This elegant vessel is outfitted with modern, nautical décor and while the yacht is sophisticated, the atmosphere is relaxed.


  • 48 guests
  • 24 cabins
  • 27 crew members
  • 209 feet in length
  • 41 feet wide
  • Cruising speed of 10 knots
  • Renovated in 2007 in Callao, Peru
  • Registered in Ecuador
  • 1.7:1 Guest-to-crew ratio
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Ports & Places

The places you visit play a starring role throughout every journey. While this list isn’t exhaustive of every nook-and-cranny you’ll explore along the way, we’ve included descriptions of key ports and places to help you get to know the wilderness areas, landmark locations, notable regions, and coastal towns relevant to this itinerary.

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Isla Santa Cruz

The second largest by land size and largest by population, Isla Santa Cruz is geographically located in the center of all the other islands. Known for its giant tortoise populations, the island has seen much change from the influence of its human inhabitants and has become a nucleus for conservation efforts.

One of the results of human development and change can be seen at the impressive Charles Darwin Research Center and Fausto Llerena Tortoise Center. In the 1960s, it was discovered that only 14 of the Española giant tortoises remained. In an effort to protect and save these and the other species of Galápagos giant tortoises, the centers’ piloted an incredible conservation program. Since, they have successfully raised and released several thousand of these wondrous and magnificent creatures safely back to their native islands.

The giant tortoises can be observed at the Tortoise Center and also in their natural habitat. Renowned for its lava tubes, Santa Cruz has several diverse zones from the dry, volcanic coastal zone to the misty, forested highlands where lumbering tortoises can be seen. In addition to the tortoise, Santa Cruz and its coastal islets are home to blue-footed boobies, reef sharks, Galápagos penguins, rainbow-colored sally lightfoot crabs, and frigatebirds. The marvelous hiking on land is matched only by the fantastic snorkeling and diving in the water.


Quito, Ecuador

Nestled in the Guayllabamba River Basin and at an impressive elevation of 9,350’ (2,800meters), Ecuador’s capital city sits on the eastern slopes of Pichinca, an active stratovolcano. Surrounded by the dramatic, beautiful high peaks of the Andes, historic Quito has long been a center of importance. The city’s history dates to late 900AD when the Quito tribe set up a commercial center here. Later after many battles, the area and its people came under control of the Incan Empire. The arrival of the Spanish ushered in a new wave of change as Quito was conquered in 1534 and declared a city in 1541.

The arrival of Spanish colonialists brought European art, architecture, and culture to the area, along with a new important influence, Roman Catholicism. Beautiful churches, convents and monasteries were built in neo-Gothic, Baroque, Italian Renaissance, and Spanish Colonial style as the city grew over the centuries. Infused with native colors, shapes, elements, and artistry, the city earned the title, “Capitol of Art of Spanish America” and the mixed styles became known as the “Quito Colonial School of Art.” One of the best-preserved and most beautiful colonial cities in the Americas, the historic city center of Quito was named a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site in the 1970s.

Highlights of the “old city” include Basilica del Voto Nacional, a magnificent example of neo-Gothic Ecuadorian architecture. The largest neo-Gothic basilica in the Americas, it’s noted for its gargoyles of native wildlife including Galápagos tortoises and lizards. La Compañia de Jesus Church offers an outstanding example of baroque style featuring a nave that glows opulently with gilded statues and gold leaf decorations.

Another very popular destination is Plaza de la Independencia, also known as Plaza Grande. Surrounded by some of the city’s most important buildings, this central square commemorates the “first cry of rebellion” in the people’s push for independence from the Spanish in the early 1800s. On the plaza, the Carondelet Palace is the seat of Government of the Republic of Ecuador.

Quito’s impressive displays of rich art and history don’t just dwell on the colonization era. Providing clues and insight into older cultural influences, the impressive pre-Columbian art museum, Casa del Alabado takes visitors on a journey through the Under-world, Middle-World and Upper-World of early Ecuadorian peoples.


Isla Baltra

A small island off the north coast of Isla Santa Cruz, Baltra was a U.S. Air Force Base during World War II and today is both an Ecuadorean military base and the location of the mainland airport. Palo Santo trees, prickly pear cactus, and saltbush vegetate this small island, home to frigatebirds and boobies. Isla Baltra is also the location of an active conservation program to reintroduce the Galápagos Land Iguana back to the island.


Isla Seymour Norte

A beautiful, flat island, brushy Isla Seymour Norte is located near Isla Baltra, and like its neighbour, was created by the uplift of a submarine lava formation. The island boasts a large population of blue-footed boobies, swallow-tailed gulls, sea lions and land iguanas. It also is home to one of the largest populations of frigate birds. Nazca boobies and pelicans are also frequently seen on the island. Unique to Isla Seymour Norte, cliffs located only a few feet from the shoreline are a big attractant for the islands large populations of birds, as is its small forest of palo santo trees.


Isla Isabela

One of the younger islands in the Galápagos and the largest island with an area of 1,792 square miles, Isla Isabela was formed by six shield volcanos. The dramatic geologic origins of this island can be easily seen—remains of lava flows and tuff stone layers are readily visible. Once a favorite stopping point for pirates, this seahorse-shaped island—also known as Albemarle—was officially named in honour of Queen Isabela. There is abundant wildlife on and around Isabela. The cliffs that stretch deep into the water are prime habitat for green sea turtles and several species of whales ply the waters of Bolívar Channel. On land, the wild menagerie includes Galápagos penguins, flightless cormorants, marine iguanas, pelicans, Sally Lightfoot crabs, colourful land iguanas, Darwin finches, Galápagos hawks, Galápagos doves and the huge Galápagos tortoises.


Isla Fernandina

Officially the youngest island, and the most pristine in the archipelago, Isla Fernandina was named in honour of King Ferdinand II who sponsored Columbus’s voyage. At about 1 million years old, Fernandina is still volcanically active—the steeps of the volcano provide astounding views of the landscape—with the most recent eruption occurring in 2009. The landscape of the island has visibly changed since European discovery with the relatively frequent volcanic activity. In addition to its evolving landscape, Isla Fernandina also sits in a unique position within the ocean. Cold waters of the Cromwell Current hit the archipelago from the west, and this western most island reaps the benefits. The cold upwelling of water is a boon for marine life, particularly flightless cormorants and Galápagos penquins. Fernandina hosts hundreds of marine iguanas who sun themselves on black lava rocks and Galápagos hawks, pelicans, and sea lions are all abundant here.


Isla Rabida

Small and arid, Isla Rábida has a fantastic, intriguing volcanic landscape. Steep slopes of the craters reach down to a wide reaching beach colored a startling, unexpected maroon. Rich in iron, Rábida is distinctively red from its sand to its old lava flows. Along the beach, marine iguanas, mockingbirds, and yellow warblers and can be observed going about their daily business. Brown pelicans, blue-footed boobies and Nazca boobies are also found in salt brush and cliffs behind the beach. Inland among cacti, palo santo trees and scrubby brush Galápagos doves, and several species of Darwin’s finches can be found.


Isla Floreana

The first post office in the islands was established on Isla Floreana in the 1790s by whalers—and the historic barrel that has served as the archipelago’s post office for over two centuries is still in use today. The island has an interesting human history, including several intriguing mysteries of prominent settlers who went missing. First colonized by Ecuadorian’s in the mid-1800s, Floreana’s current human population are predominantly farmers.

Located at the southern end of the archipelago, Isla Floreana’s prominent high-point is an extinct volcano that reaches to about 2,100’. One of the islands most unique locations, Punta Cormorant is host to a wide range of species. On one side of Punta Cormorant, pintail ducks, stilts, large-billed flycatchers, several species of finch, and many other shorebirds can be seen on a green olivine-crystal beach—including greater flamingos who hideout at a brackish lagoon behind the beach. On the other side of the point, a white sand coral beach is nesting grounds for green sea turtles. In addition to turtles and birds, Isla Floreana’s islets and sunken craters are vital habitat for marine life including color fish, several species of shark, and eels.

Extend Your Experience



Amazon Rainforest Voyage – Pre-Cruise
2018 RATES: From $2,795

On a 4-night pre-cruise extension in Ecuador, enjoy a night in Quito then cruise along the Napo River through the legendary Amazon Basin. Experience the rich biological diversity of the mythical Amazon Rainforest.

4 Nights


Package Includes:

  • All tour services, transfers, lodging, meals, and beverages (water, tea, and coffee), taxes, tourist tickets, and community entrance fees
  • All excursions come with an English language guide
  • Domestic airfare (Quito-Coca-Quito)

Package does not include:

  • Meals not listed in the itinerary, hotel extras, and personal expenses
  • Tips/gratuities for guides, drivers, and hotel staff
  • Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages


Machu Picchu – Post-Cruise
2018 RATES: From $4,695

After your Galapagos adventure, opt for a 6-night guided Peruvian land tour to another bucket list destination. Travel by air and coach exploring famed Inca lands, the Sacred Valley, Cusco, Lima, and legendary Machu Picchu.

6 Nights


Package Includes:

  • All services, tours, lodging, food and beverages (non-alcoholic) with meals as noted in the trip description, plus taxes, tourist tickets, and entrance fees
  • All excursions come with an English language guide
  • International airfare (Guayaquil, Ecuador - Lima, Peru) as noted in the itinerary description
  • Domestic airfare (Lima-Cusco-Lima) as noted in the itinerary description

Package does not include:

  • Early check-in, late check-out, services and food not listed in the itinerary, beverages during the meals, hotel extras, and personal expenses
  • Tips/gratuities for guides, drivers, and hotel staff

Vessels for this Itinerary


La Pinta

In one of the world’s greatest marine environments you can be sure your surroundings are front and center. Elegant and sophisticated, La Pinta would steal the show anywhere less impressive. Instead, she’s the perfect complement to the great outdoors. Floor-to-ceiling windows in the lounge showcase the views with a décor that nods to the nautical. Geared up for adventure play and wildlife, the yacht also has a fun-to-explore natural history library. Her Ecuadorian crew exudes friendliness, fueled by pride in their vessel, the Galápagos Islands, and a desire to share them both. Because some good things are too good to keep secret.

Onboard Features: Three public decks; on-deck hot tub; exercise room with fitness equipment; natural history library; outdoor Sky Bar and observation lounge

Cabin Features: Floor to ceiling view windows; air conditioning; universal docking station; hair dryer, bathrobes, conditioning shampoo, body wash; in-room safe deposit box

Destination: Galápagos

  • 48 guests
  • 24 cabins
  • 27 crew members
  • 209 feet in length
  • 41 feet wide
  • Cruising speed of 10 knots
  • Renovated in 2007 in Callao, Peru
  • Registered in Ecuador
  • 1.7:1 Guest-to-crew ratio

Sitting area; queen, fixed queen, or twin beds; desk and chair; private bath with shower; safe deposit box


Sitting area with foldout couch; queen or twin beds; desk and chair; private bath with shower; safe deposit box