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An exploration of the some of the Galapagos’ smaller northern islands, with plenty of opportunities to view exceptional wildlife on hikes or panga rides.

This memorable journey begins with a visit to the glorious white beach of Las Bachas on Santa Cruz Island, where you can see stilts and flamingos feeding in the lagoons.  Buccaneer Cove on Santiago Island will delight you with its large number of marine birds and sealions.  Your trip continues with a visit to the red-sand beach of Rábida Island, with some lovely walking trails along the cliffs, followed by some swimming or snorkelling on Bartolomé. From there you will sail north to the sunken crater that is Genovesa, a wild place home to thousands of marine birds, before ending your voyage with the giant tortoises of San Cristobal.

A typical Northern Islands itinerary is shown below, on board Santa Cruz II, however we offer a variety of other voyages, durations and vessels.

Typical itinerary

  1. Day 1: Arrive at Baltra and transfer to vessel

    After settling in to your cabin, you’ll make a landing at Las Bachas on Santa Cruz, a glorious white sandy beach with a couple of brackish lagoon only a few steps from the sea.  These lagoons are the feeding grounds of various wading birds, from stilts to flamingos.

  2. Day 2: Santiago Island

    After breakfast explore the coastline of Santiago along the impressive cliffs of Buccaneer Cove and learn about its distant and recent history. The cove is home to a large number of marine birds, sealions, and inter-tidal organisms. This is also a great site for snorkelling or a panga ride.

    You’ll then move on to Puerto Egas to swim or snorkel along the rocky shoreline, usually in the company of green turtles. From here, you’ll head off to a walk, offering a great opportunity to see land and marine birds amidst a landscape of tuff-stone layers and lava flows.  At low tide, marine iguanas graze upon the algae beds and you should also be able to observe a colony of fur sealions.

  3. Day 3: Rábida and Bartolomé Islands

    Today you will either go for a panga ride along the shore, or disembark on Rábida’s red-coloured beach, so named because of the unusually high content of iron in the volcanic material. A walk brings you close to a large colony of sealions, marine iguanas, mockingbirds, yellow warblers and several species of Darwin’s finches. Close to the beach, a salt pond hosts migrating greater flamingos at certain times of year. It’s also a great place to snorkel from the beach, due to the unique combination of underwater species and submarine landscapes. Non-snorkelers can enjoy a ride on the glass bottom boat or a panga ride.

    In the afternoon, enjoy some more snorkelling and swimming off the golden beaches of Bartolomé Island, before landing on the island for a hike to the summit for great views of the archipelago.

  4. Day 4: Genovesa Island

    The morning starts with a landing on Genovesa and a steep climb (approximately 25 metres) up the Prince Philip Steps to reach a flat rocky plateau – during the walk you can observe large colonies of Nazca boobies, red-footed boobies, great frigatebirds and storm petrels.

    In the afternoon, you will land at Darwin Bay, a beautiful beach, for some swimming and/or snorkelling. Then it’s an easy stroll to observe hundreds of birds, including frigatebirds, red-footed and Nazca boobies, gulls, herons, finches and mockingbirds.

  5. Day 5: San Cristóbal Island, disembark and transfer to the airport

    After breakfast there is an option to see the giant tortoise breeding programme at Cerro Colorado on San Cristóbal, before disembarking and transferring to the airport for a flight back to the mainland.

You should note: Exact itinerary and duration will depend on your chosen vessel, departure date and local conditions.

Key info

  • Duration and price excluding international flights: 5 days from £3,570 pp
  • Group size: Varies according to vessel
  • When to go: Jan-Dec: Departs Wednesdays year round
  • Departures: Please contact us for departure date details.
  • Included in the price/package:
    • Accommodation in twin-share cabin
    • All meals on board ship
    • Guided shore excursions
    • Transfers
    • Snorkelling gear
  • Activities available:
    • Birdwatching
    • Panga ride
    • Snorkelling
    • Swimming
Featured locations:

Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is home to the Charles Darwin Research Station and Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre. The island’s rocky coastline and mangrove-lined inlets are good for marine life. The lush greenery of the highlands offers a welcome contrast, with its huge craters, lava tunnels and giant tortoises roaming freely.

  • Where: Central Islands
  • Ideal for viewing: giant tortoise, green turtle, marine iguana, vermilion flycatcher, Galapagos rail

Santiago

Santiago Island has a narrow, steep-sided point of land, which provides an extraordinarily beautiful landscape with cliffs and rocky pinnacles that create a nesting site for hundreds of marine birds. In the 17th and 18th centuries, pirates used this place to maintain their vessels and replenish their supplies.

  • Where: Central islands
  • Ideal for viewing: Galapagos penguin, South American fur seal, Galapagos hawk, lava lizard, American flamingo
  • Excellent for: Birdwatching

Rábida

This island – also known as Jervis – is one of the most colourful and varied islands in the archipelago, with several different types of lava. It is famed for its beach of maroon sand and stunning viewpoint. The island is a delight for birdwatchers, with some of the rarest bird species in abundance.

  • Where: Central islands
  • Ideal for viewing: Galapagos hawk, brown pelican, white-cheeked pintail, Galapagos penguin, Galapagos sealion
  • Excellent for: Birdwatching

Bartolomé

Home of the iconic Pinnacle Rock, Bartolomé consists of an extinct volcano (114 metres altitude) with a variety of red, orange, black and even green volcanic formations. The trail that leads to the summit offers one of the finest views in the islands, including the black lava flows on nearby James Island.

  • Where: Central islands
  • Ideal for viewing: Galapagos penguin, lava lizard, brown pelican, blue-footed booby, Galapagos green turtle
  • Excellent for: Penguin watching

Genovesa

Isla Genovesa is one of the best places for birdwatching – here you can find the lava gull, the rarest gull in the world. A lava field on the north shore provides the ideal nesting place for storm petrels in its cracks and tunnels. The marine iguana is the only reptile on the island, and are the smallest in the archipelago.

  • Where: Northern islands
  • Ideal for viewing: lava gull, red-billed tropicbird, South American fur seal, South American sealion, Galapagos mockingbird
  • Excellent for: Birdwatching

San Cristóbal

Home to frigatebirds, red and blue-footed boobies, Galapagos tortoises and sealions, this was the first island on which Charles Darwin set foot in 1835. A crater in the highlands holds the largest freshwater lake in the Galapagos, which is home to a lot of birdlife. It has one of the two commercial airports in the Galapagos.

  • Where: Eastern islands
  • Ideal for viewing: blue-footed booby, magnificent frigatebird, South American sealion, great blue heron, swallow-tailed gull
  • Excellent for: Birdwatching
This itinerary is available on the following cruise vessel:

Santa Cruz II

The Santa Cruz II is an elegant vessel, which carries 90 passengers in 50 modern cabins. Air conditioned throughout, facilities across the five spacious decks include indoor and outdoor dining, a lounge bar, library, a gym and two hot tubs overlooking the ocean. Activities include kayaking and snorkelling.