The Galapagos Islands

Feel the thrill of encountering the flora and fauna that famously inspired Darwin—and in his footsteps, generations of nature lovers.

The Galapagos Islands hold a central position in modern scientific and evolutionary history. In a place where human presence is relatively minimal, take the opportunity to observe and photograph these remarkable species up close — either sitting quietly to watch blue-footed boobies or snorkeling with inquisitive and playful sea lions.


The Galapagos Islands

Dates: June 8 – 15, 2024

Standard $6,295,
Classic double $7,395,
Classic twin $7,795,
Premium suite $9,595.

Single (Standard): $ 10,695

Prices are per person based on double occupancy.

Your Tour Price Includes:

  • 2 nights at the 5-star Casa Gangotena hotel in Quito (or similar) prior to embarkation.
  • 4 nights aboard the Isabela II with exploration by panga boats and glass-bottom boats, naturalist-led hikes and excursions, and evening lectures.
  •  1 night at Wyndham Quito Airport Hotel – Quito (or similar) after disembarkation; a city tour of Quito, a welcome reception plus 7 breakfasts, 6 lunches, and 4 dinners.
  • All excursions and presentations.
  • Complimentary use of kayaks, paddle boards, shorty wetsuits, and snorkeling equipment.
  • Galapagos National Park entrance fee and transit card.
  • Internal airfare (from Quito to the islands on Day 3, and return to Quito on Day 7).
  • Gratuities to local guides, hotel porters, and drivers in Quito.
  • Airport transfers for guests arriving and departing during the suggested times.


Book your trip today by filling out the brochure and emailing it to ietravel@ucsc.edu or book directly through our travel operator.


Travel Dates: 

June 8, 2024

After an evening arrival in Quito, transfer to your award-winning hotel for a comfortable night’s sleep.

Overnight: Casa Gangotena – Quito

June 9, 2024

Head out for a full-day, guided tour of historic Old Town. A local expert will take you through a Quito neighborhood where you’ll visit with local artisans, including shopkeepers, hat makers, and confectioners. Explore the San Francisco Market—one of the oldest in the capital. There, learn about unique Ecuadorian fruits and vegetables, as well as local culinary traditions. Stop by a chocolatier to learn how cacao beans are processed, and taste the finest chocolates of Ecuador!

Next, head north toward the political heart of the city. Following a brief narrative, stroll to the Jesuit church of la Compañía to admire its stunning gold-leaf interior. Relax and enjoy a lunch that highlights the unique and diverse flavors of this culturally rich South American country.

In the afternoon, head to the Casa del Alabado Archaeological Museum inside a restored 17th-century colonial mansion to view its collection of pre-Columbian art. This evening, enjoy a welcome reception and prepare for your upcoming adventure.

Overnight: Casa Gangotena – Quito (B,L,R)

June 10, 2024

Arrive by plane to Baltra Airport and transfer to the Itabaca Channel to ferry across to Santa Cruz Island. After a short, scenic drive across Santa Cruz Island, arrive in the Highlands to enjoy lunch and visit the iconic species for which the Galapagos Islands are named. Spot the saddle-backed shell of the lumbering Galapagos giant tortoise and walk among them. Your naturalist guide describes their habits and the conservation efforts surrounding this remarkable reptile.

Take a late afternoon stroll along the main street of Puerto Ayora before embarking on Isabela II.

Join the captain this evening for a cocktail and briefing on the exciting activities to come.

Overnight: Isabela II (B,L,D)

June 11, 2024

This morning offers a wonderful opportunity to see land and seabirds. Following a wet landing onto the black, sandy beach, take a trail that leads to close-up encounters with recently reintroduced land iguanas amid a landscape full of tuff-stone layers and lava flows. At low tide, marine iguanas can be spotted grazing upon the algae beds and colonies of fur seals seen on Santiago Island at Puerto Egas. Enjoy snorkeling and swimming at this active location.

Santiago also has several satellite islands, including Bartolomé and Chinese Hat. The Chinese Hat Islet, formed only fairly recently, features a 1,312-foot long wildlife trail, which begins at a crescent-shaped, white sandy beach. The cove is ideal for swimming and snorkeling among white-tipped reef sharks and Galapagos penguins.

Tonight after dinner (conditions permitting), look up and experience the enchantment of stargazing.

Overnight: Isabela II (B,L,D)

June 12, 2024

After breakfast, embark on a panga boat ride along the cliffs of Genovesa Island (also known as Bird Island) before visiting Prince Philip’s Steps, a steep but short climb up a wooden staircase. Once at the top, the terrain is flat, which allows for a mesmerizing, mile-long walk to the other side of this small island. Along the way, watch for large colonies of Nazca boobies, great frigatebirds, and storm petrels, as well as the elusive short-eared owl. Those not wishing to hike on shore can enjoy exploring the coast by powered watercraft. Snorkeling and kayaking activities are available here, too (depending on weather conditions).

Following lunch, make a wet landing at the beach on Darwin Bay for a walk to observe hundreds of birds, such as frigatebirds, red-footed and Nazca boobies, gulls, herons, finches and mockingbirds.

Overnight: Isabela II (B,L,D)

June 13, 2024

This morning, visit an idyllic sandy-white beach populated by colonies of sea lions. Galapagos hawks are often easily observed, perched atop salt bushes. The Santa Fe land iguana may also be spotted during our exploration. Enjoy a leisurely walk, followed by time to snorkel and swim along a natural wave barrier. Or, take a glass-bottom boat ride.

On the final afternoon, disembark with a dry landing in the South Plaza Island channel, just off the coast of Santa Cruz. South Plaza is full of life, color, and extraordinary creatures, including the hybrid iguana. Admire the contrast of turquoise waters with the white sand and black lava of the shoreline. Look along the coastline to find sea lion colonies, while frigates, and shearwaters glide and play with the thermals. Red-billed tropicbirds and swallow-tailed gulls are some of the many birds that can be found nesting along the cliffs. South Plaza is also home to the beautiful succulent Sesuvium, which changes from bright green in the rainy season to red, orange, and purple during the dry season.

Overnight: Isabela II (B,L,D)

June 14, 2024

Bid a fond adiós to the Isabela II crew this morning prior to departing Baltra for Quito, where you will spend your final night. Guests who are going back to the U.S. and not engaging in the post-tour will stay at the Wyndham Quito Airport Hotel, or similar.

Note: dependent on prevailing air schedules at the time, Machu Picchu post-tour guests will connect with an evening flight to Lima, Peru, and overnight at the Wyndham Costa del Sol Airport Hotel, or similar, in Lima.

(Accommodations are subject to change as needed and available.)

Overnight: Wyndham Quito Airport Hotel if returning to the U.S.; Wyndham Costa del Sol Airport Hotel in Lima if joining the post-tour (B,L-aloft)

June 15, 2024

After breakfast, guests departing during the suggested times will take a complimentary transfer to the airport for flights home. Guests continuing on the post-tour will depart Quito for flights to Cusco, Peru, this morning or may have already exited the evening of the previous day, depending on air schedules. (B)

B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner

Please Note

Local Conditions and Physical Activity

We will do our best to adhere to our printed itinerary. Occasionally, though, unexpected obstacles – and opportunities – may arise that will force us to deviate from the itinerary as written. We would ask you to be open-minded and flexible should we vary the itinerary slightly. In addition, please note that airline schedules are subject to change. We will provide you with updated flight information closer to your
departure. Additionally, this trip involves considerable walking on uneven or cobblestone streets and at sites of ancient ruins, and you should be in good physical condition to enjoy the tour to the fullest.

Activity Level:


Guests should be sure-footed on stairs and able to walk at least one mile on rocky, volcanic, and uneven ground. Some nature hikes will be on irregular and steep terrain. Guests should also be comfortable managing wet beach landings and boarding small vessels, both from shore and the deck of the Isabela II. Also keep in mind that you will experience varying altitudes to which you may not be accustomed.

Maximum elevation: 9,350 feet in Quito, Ecuador

Roxanne Beltran is an Assistant Professor in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department at UC Santa Cruz. She received her BS at UC Santa Cruz, her MS at the University of Alaska, Anchorage, and her PhD at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. At UC Santa Cruz she leads the Beltran Lab, a group of postdocs, graduate students, technicians and 12 undergraduate student researchers from a wide range of backgrounds. Most of Roxanne’s research projects focus on elephant seals, such as exploring how behavior and physiology interact to drive the ecological and evolutionary patterns we see in nature.
Patrick Robinson is the Director of Año Nuevo Reserve at UC Santa Cruz. He received his BS and PhD at UC Santa Cruz where he studied seals and sea lions from California to the Galapagos and Antarctica. He is interested in the at-sea behavior of pinnipeds and developing tools to understand how they make a living in their environment. This encompasses a variety of research areas ranging from movement ecology to diving physiology and foraging energetics. In his current role, he facilitates internationally recognized research programs and interprets findings to classes, docents, and the public.

Casa Gangotena – Quito / Day 1-2

The elegant, five-star Casa Gangotena is located across from Plaza San Francisco in the heart of Quito’s Spanish Colonial Old Town. The hotel offers easy access to the rich culture, tradition, and charm of the city’s historic center—a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978.

Embrace the property’s well-adorned interior, featuring Art Nouveau and Art Deco elements dating back to the mid-1920s. Antique furniture pieces, restored painted tin ceilings, and endless hallways lined with Egyptian marble are among the unique qualities of this sophisticated and divinely comfortable hotel. See why readers of Condé Nast Traveler have voted Casa Gangotena among South America’s top 25 hotels and resorts.

During leisure time, stroll the gardens, enjoy tea on the patio, or relax on the rooftop terrace while admiring the spectacular sweeping views of Quito’s historic district.

Luxury Room Amenities: Individual climate control, flat-screen cable TV, complimentary Wi-Fi, phone, bathrobes and slippers, safe, and en suite bathroom with separate shower and bathtub plus L’Occitane sundries and hair dryer.

Portable oxygen tanks—to assist in preventing ill effects of altitude sickness—are available and may require an additional fee. Per the hotel’s policy, oxygen will be provided after a consultation with the house physician or a release is signed. As the supply of oxygen tanks is numbered, these should be requested in advance through Orbridge’s Guest Services department or at the time of check-in for best availability.

Isabela II / Day 3-6

With a capacity of only 40 guests, the 183-foot Isabela II was designed to provide the ultimate in comfort and adventure while cruising the Galapagos Islands. Her 21 staterooms provide spacious, fully air-conditioned accommodations with en suite facilities.

Guests can savor healthy, fresh, and delicious international and Ecuadorian cuisine at every meal. Enjoy her three public decks, dining room, lounge, library, hot tub, and fitness area. Relish the services of an enthusiastic crew who are committed to your comfort.

Sailing by small ship allows for flexibility in the itinerary to maximize wildlife viewing, as well as access to exclusive ports. While on board, learn about the area’s history, biology, and conservation from the ship’s multilingual naturalists. Experience all the Galapagos Islands have to offer through a variety of perspectives—hiking, snorkeling, kayaking, or riding rigid inflatable and glass-bottom boats.

Room Amenities: Individual climate control, safe, and en suite bathroom with hair dryer and sundries (biodegradable shampoo, conditioner, soap, and shower gel). Additional towels are provided for shore excursions.

Stateroom Categories

Standard: Features a full-size bed, window, private bathroom. (128 sq.ft.)
Classic Double: Features a full-size bed, view window, private bathroom, and day bed. (139 sq.ft.)
Classic Twin: Features two twin beds, view window, private bathroom. (139 sq.ft.)
Premium Suite: Features a queen bed, view window, private bathroom. (170 sq.ft.)

Wyndham Quito Airport Hotel / Day 7

Conveniently located near the Mariscal Sucre International Airport, the Wyndham Quito Airport Hotel offers comfortable and convenient accommodations for the last night of the program. Maintain your workout regimen with the well-equipped fitness center or simply relax by enjoying the on-site restaurant, bar, and indoor pool. Special extras are also available via the spa and room service. (Additional fees apply.)

Standard Deluxe Room Amenities: Individual climate control, writing desk, flat-screen TV, complimentary Wi-Fi, alarm clock, phone, coffee maker, minibar, safe, bathrobes, iron and ironing board, and en suite bathroom with sundries and hair dryer.

Mashpi Lodge

Price: $2,495 per person

*Airfare is not included in the price.

The breathtaking surroundings of the Mashpi Rainforest Biodiversity Reserve look and feel like a dream—misty clouds, crashing waterfalls, and endemic species of wildlife found in the Ecuadorian Chocó, one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. Take the unparalleled opportunity to visit both a cloud forest and a rainforest—each rich with a myriad of flora and fauna species in every layer from below the forest floor to above the canopy.

Spend your days exploring hidden paths, discovering colorful flora and fauna, and relaxing amidst the contemporary comforts of Mashpi Lodge, located within this private reserve consisting of roughly 70% lush primary forest in thousands of acres.

Activity Level

Guests should be able to physically tolerate vehicle motion of a long (3.5 hours) drive on bumpy roads. Those prone to motion sickness are encouraged to bring appropriate medication to combat it. Guests should be sure-footed on stairs and able to walk at least one mile on rocky, uneven ground. Some optional nature hikes will be on irregular, steep, and/or muddy/slippery terrain (depending on the weather).

What’s Included
  • 1 night accommodations at Casa Gangotena in Quito and 2 nights accommodations at award-winning Mashpi Lodge
  • 3 breakfasts, 3 lunches, and 2 dinners
  • Entrance to Mashpi Reserve
  • Dragonfly aerial tram experience
  • Full guiding services, including interpretation on all activities and experiences within the reserve, and use of spotting scopes and binoculars
  • Specialized lectures and field presentations on research conducted in the reserve by local experts
  • Souvenir reusable stainless steel water flask for filtered water available throughout the pre-tour
  • Use of rain gear (waterproof poncho, rubber boots) and walking sticks
  • All transportation for excursions using vehicle transport in the reserve
  • All gratuities and porterage
  • Group transfers from Quito Mariscal Sucre International Airport to Casa Gangotena during suggested arrival times, from Casa Gangotena to Mashpi Lodge, and return to Quito to join the main program

Day +1: Arrive Quito, Ecuador
Arrive at your hotel to relax and refresh before tomorrow’s full day of activities.
Overnight: Casa Gangotena

Day +2: Mashpi Lodge / Mashpi Reserve
After an early breakfast, depart via group transfer, journeying through the northwest corner of Quito’s Metropolitan District. Embrace the sweeping landscape along the western flank of the Andes next to Mitad del Mundo (middle of the world), which marks the equatorial line. Along the way, stop to stretch your legs before continuing the final descent into the Mashpi Reserve. Observe the changes in vegetation with every significant drop in altitude, following the course of the Rio Blanco.

After 3.5 hours, arrive at Mashpi Lodge, where the staff and your naturalist guides greet you and conduct a quick briefing.

Enjoy lunch, settle into your room, and perhaps take a brief rest. In the afternoon, you’ll have the opportunity to begin one of several optional activities. Take a guided hike to one of several waterfalls or follow the Howler Monkey Trail to the Life Centre, which educates visitors about the butterfly’s life cycle and other wildlife found in Mashpi. Here, relax in lounge chairs set on an expansive observation deck to spot wildlife, and later, visit the adjacent butterfly house.

As the evening sets in, take an optional guided night walk along the Luminous Trail in search of large and small (and some transparent!) creatures, including frogs, snakes, insects, and even tarantulas.
Overnight: Mashpi Lodge (B,L,D)

Day +3: Mashpi Lodge / Mashpi Forest Canopy Exploration
As morning breaks, listen for the bright songs from the menagerie of birds stirring around the lodge. A staggering 400 species of birds—including some 36 endemics—are estimated to inhabit the forest and flutter through the canopy.

Mashpi is also home to a plethora of plant species, from ferns and bromeliads to a vast variety of orchid species—many newly discovered, which biologists come from the world over to observe.

For those who would like to enjoy the beauty of dawn in the forest, early morning activities are organized before breakfast. Spot birds and visit a hummingbird garden (host to 32 hummingbird species) with breakfast al fresco. The birds will be active and calling, and the views are often the most spectacular.

After lunch, take an opportunity to view the Mashpi Forest canopy during a guided ride aboard the Dragonfly—an aerial cable car that offers a unique and spectacular way to see an expanse of the reserve. Go for the entire two-hour ride, or opt to combine the Dragonfly experience with a guided nature or waterfall hike.

Located close to the lodge, the Sky Bike makes for another unique and exciting way to explore the forest canopy. Designed for two people to use at once, you can pedal between two points of the forest approximately 655 feet apart. Next, climb the Observation Tower to take in the reserve in its entirety, and watch the sun set behind the clouds.

This evening, join fellow travelers to hear a collection of lectures by a resident biologist or naturalist, perhaps including “Secret Wildlife of Mashpi: the Camera Trap Project,” “The Chocó: a Biological Hotspot” about the formation and diversity of the Chocó, or talks about current scientific research projects.

Overnight: Mashpi Lodge (B,L,D)

Day +4: Mashpi / Quito / Main Program Begins
After a leisurely breakfast, take a group transfer to Quito to join guests arriving for the main program. (B,L)

B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner

*Space is limited on the Mashpi pre-tour, so it’s recommended to reserve early for best availability. This pre-tour is not escorted by an Orbridge Expedition Leader, however, staff naturalists at the Mashpi Lodge are available for assistance with activity planning.

Machu Picchu, Cusco, and the Sacred Valley

Price: $3,995* + $740 internal airfare (per person)

Travel to the mist-shrouded mountain citadel of the Incas. So remote and inaccessible that it was left untouched by the Spanish conquistadors, Machu Picchu was unknown to the outside world until Hiram Bingham rediscovered it in 1911. During your time in the Peruvian highlands, you will have a chance to explore the famous city of Cusco and the Sacred Valley of the Incas. Ride the train through the Urubamba Valley, marvel at the massive stone stairs at Ollantaytambo, and break bread in the home of a local Peruvian family outside of Cusco.

What’s Included
  • 5 nights premium accommodations and a private day room on departure day
  • 5 breakfasts, 6 lunches, and 5 dinners
  • Fully guided tours and field presentations from local experts
  • All ground excursion transportation, including Vistadome train through the Urubamba Valley
  • Luggage porterage
  • Gratuities to guides, drivers, and wait staff for included meals
    Airport assistance for guests arriving and departing during the suggested times

Day 7: Depart Main Program from Quito to Lima, Peru 
Depart Quito and arrive in Lima, Peru for an overnight.
Overnight: Wyndham Costa del Sol Lima Airport

Day 8: Lima / Cusco / Sacred Valley

This morning, fly east over the Central Andes’ peaks and plateaus to the ancient capital of Cusco, Peru.

After arrival, meet the guide and transfer to the Sacred Valley. From harrowing mountain peaks and rural villages to roaming llamas and alpacas, the Sacred Valley of Peru is legendary. Photo stops are included along the way.

In the afternoon, have a late, light lunch with great views of the Sacred Valley. This 70-mile narrow strip of land in the Peruvian Andes runs roughly from the old imperial capital of Cusco to the enigmatic citadel of Machu Picchu.

Transfer to your hotel to refresh for tomorrow’s exciting expedition to the heights of Peru—and into its past, when the largest empire in pre-Columbian America ruled the Andes and beyond.
Overnight: Sonesta Posadas del Inca – Yucay (B,L,D)

Day 9: Sacred Valley / Machu Picchu
After breakfast, make your way through the intimate cobblestone streets of Ollantaytambo, a “living” Inca town. Here, Inca descendants inhabit the largely unchanged homes of their ancestors and continue to maintain ancient customs and traditions. The massive fortress, perched among steep stone terraces carved into the hillside, is where the Inca won their greatest victory against the conquistadores.

Journey to the rail station to board the Vistadome train to Aguas Calientes, a town along the Urubamba River Valley that is a gateway to the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu.

Disembark the train for a bus ride up the mountain. Lunch will be at the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge, followed by guided exploration of the ruins.

As it lies before you, learn about the archaeology and history of Intihuatana (the Sun Dial), the Sacred Plaza, and the Temple of the Sun, with plenty of time to wander, hike, and take pictures of the photogenic site.

Return to the village at the base of the mountain and then the hotel. Perhaps take a short stroll through the lush gardens at the hotel before dinner.
Overnight: Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 10: Machu Picchu / Sacred Valley / Cusco
After an early breakfast, experience the wonder of a quiet morning at Machu Picchu, imagining the sanctuary as it was centuries ago. Today have a more in-depth look at this amazing place and its surroundings by enjoying the sanctuary at your own pace.

Pause for lunch before returning to the Ollanta Station to begin the return to Cusco.

This evening, share impressions of your day while dining with your travel companions at a restaurant built with foundation stones of a colonial mansion.
Overnight: Aranwa Cusco Boutique Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 11: Cusco / Saqsayhuaman / Kenko / Villa Tipon / Cusco
Immersive excursions in Cusco this morning include visits to the colorful San Pedro market and Qorikancha (Temple of the Sun). From here, continue to Saqsayhuaman and the Kenko archaelogical sites.

Relax with lunch at a private home and hear an informative discussion about modern Peru. Relish the opportunity to witness a traditional Pachamama ceremony.

The rest of the afternoon is for you to enjoy at leisure.

This evening, dine at a local restaurant offering exquisite Peruvian cuisine and a festive atmosphere.
Overnight: Aranwa Cusco Boutique Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 12: Cusco 
Today, discover the culture, food, history, and people of the magical city of Cusco!

Morning activities may include a visit with a historian or a stop at one of Cusco’s intriguing museums. Visit with artisans who make Andean musical instruments or hats.

Did you know the instrument makers in Cusco are among the most skilled on the continent? This artful tradition goes back many generations. Instruments important to traditional Andean music include the guitar, violin, charango, manolin, banduria (a 16-stringed guitar played for carnival), recintu (a variation of the guitar), harps, and even drums.

In the Peruvian highlands, hats symbolize not just protection from the elements, but cultural identity, social class, age, and family professions. A red felt hat called a montera can be filled with flowers, fruit, and other adornments. These are worn by Quechua women throughout the Sacred Valley. When worn at an angle, it also may tell others she is a widow. Traditionally, brown or green hats made from sheep’s wool indicate women of Andean heritage.

Dine at a local restaurant for lunch and delight in leisure time during the afternoon.

Explore Cusco’s streets still flanked in places by Inca walls built with gigantic carved granite blocks. View the unique masonry up close to truly appreciate the astonishing perfection and mass of this true Inca marvel.

This evening, celebrate the rich rewards of your journey during a special farewell dinner.
Overnight: Aranwa Cusco Boutique Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 13: Cusco / Flight to Lima / Depart for U.S.
After a leisurely morning, head to the airport for the flight to Lima.

An Orbridge representative will meet guests in Lima to assist with connections to tonight’s international flights. A hotel room for this evening will be provided for rest and comfort between flights. International flights begin departing Lima later into the evening and overnight.
Room: Hotel Estelar Miraflores  (B,L)

B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D =  Dinner

*Post-tour space is limited, so it’s recommended to reserve early for best availability.

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Mashpi Lodge

Machu Picchu, Cusco, and the Sacred Valley

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