You’ve decided to book a Galapagos cruise vacation of a lifetime, and now comes the big decision: which itinerary should you choose? Galapagos Inner vs. Outer Loop, Northern vs. Southern Loop—how do you decide?

Each cruise itinerary departs from and returns to Baltra. You’ll also enjoy an expedition day at the Charles Darwin Research Center on Santa Cruz Island no matter which sailing you choose.

People on a boat in Galapagos

Galapagos

Itineraries also follows a similar daily pattern, visiting at most two islands or sites per day, then cruising overnight so you arrive in the morning refreshed and ready to begin another day of exciting exploration.

The Galapagos itinerary you choose depends largely on which islands and wildlife most interest you and when you’d like to schedule your unforgettable vacation.

Galapagos Inner Loop Itinerary

Celebrity Flora ship exterior

Celebrity Flora

Sail Inner Loop Galapagos cruise itineraries aboard the luxury mega-yacht Flora, Celebrity’s newest expedition ship. This itinerary sails a westward course calling on Daphne Major for your first view of sea lions, tropical birds, and the elusive blue-footed booby.

Egas Point on Santiago offers a black-sand beach, blue-water grottoes, and sights of iguanas, sea lions, Galapagos Hawks and Galapagos fur seals. On a snorkeling excursion, you’ll get glimpses of colorful fish, sea turtles, and sea lions.

Deep blue water and mountain view of Rabida Island

Rabida Island, Galapagos

The red sand, sapphire water, and lush green foliage on Rabida Island will amaze. At Elizabeth Bay, explore this sheltered bay’s unique red mangrove ecosystem and its varied marine wildlife. At Tagus Cove on Isabela Island, see the nesting home of the flightless cormorant and the saltwater Darwin Lake.

Rocky shore with turquoise waters of Santiago Island

Santiago Island, Galapagos

Fascinating geological landscapes of hardened black lava await on Santiago Island’s Sullivan Bay. Capture images of the barren volcanic landscape and Galapagos penguins on Bartolome Island, where the snorkeling is excellent.

Las Bachas, Santa Cruz Island’s white-sand beach, is one of the largest nesting areas of the Pacifc Green Sea Turtle. You’ll even see flamingos as you walk along the beach.

Two blue footed boobies on a rock

Blue-footed Boobies in North Seymour Island, Galapagos

On North Seymour Island, see the largest colony of frigate birds in the Galapagos. Here, male frigates and male blue-footed boobies conduct impressive mating rituals. Visit San Cristobal Island to shop, walk, and learn about the island, then see a breeding ground for three varieties of boobies.

Galapagos Outer Loop Itinerary

Sealion resting on a beach

Sea lions in Espanola, Galapagos

Celebrity Flora also sails an Outer Loop itinerary that takes a wide southward approach after a first call at Daphne Island. Gardner Bay at Espanola offers pristine white-sand beaches that invite swimming and relaxing, along with colonies of sea lions. At Espanola, you’ll be amazed at  the Waved Albatross.

On Floreana Island, stop first at Cormorant Bay, with its green-tinted sand and brackish lagoon where flamingos and stilts cool off, and sea turtles nest on one special beach. Sail on to Post Office Bay, where leaving addressed postcards in a barrel and sorting through the barrel for mail to deliver at home is an ongoing tradition.

Beach with clear water and rocky shore

Moreno Point in Isabela Island, Galapagos

At Isabela Island, the largest of the Galapagos islands, stop at Moreno Point, where marine iguanas, sea turtles, sharks, stingrays, and flightless cormorants congregate on land and sea. In Urvina Bay, walk through the remains of an underwater reef and maybe sight a giant tortoise.

Pear-shaped cactus

Pear cactus in Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos

At Vicente Roca Point, explore volcanic cliffs and many species of indigenous wildlife. See land dragons, batchelor sea lions, Galapagos cotton plants, and giant prickly pear cactus at two stops on Santa Cruz Island.

Galapagos Inner Loop vs Outer Loop

When deciding on Inner Loop vs. Outer Loop Galapagos itineraries, consider your degree of interest in the flora and fauna of the islands visited on each loop.

Waved Albatross bird

Waved Albatross in Espanola, Galapagos

If seeing the Waved Albatross is on your bucket list, choose the Outer Loop with a stop at Espanola, where most of these incredible birds reside.

If you’ve always wanted to see the blue-footed booby, the Inner Loop offers multiple opportunities to witness their mating ritual at North Seymour Island and see two other species of boobies at San Cristobal.

Galapagos Northern Loop Itinerary

Celebrity Xpedition ship exterior

Celebrity Xpedition

On Northern Loop itineraries, sail to islands above the equator on Celebrity’s luxury expedition ships, Xploration and Xpedition.

Start your expedition sailing south to Santa Cruz Island to get your first sightings of marine wildlife, including sharks, rays, and sea turtles. At Las Bachas on Santa Cruz, see the largest nesting area of Pacific Green Sea Turtles, and swim or snorkel along the white-sand beach.

Iguanas on a rock

Marine iguanas in Santiago Island, Galapagos

On the red sand of Rabida Island, view colonies of penguins and sea lions. The black-sand beach of Egas Point on Santiago Island shows off Galapagos hawks, marine iguanas, and fur seals, and offers excellent snorkeling.

Isabella Island, the largest of the Galapagos, invites three points of exploration: Tagus Cove, historically a pirate and whalers port and the nesting place of the flightless cormorant; Urvina Bay, where you can witness the landscape disruption caused by a 2015 volcanic eruption; and Vicente Roca Point, where you’ll see marine iguanas and the oddly shaped sunfish.

Two beaches of Bartolome Island

Bartolome Island, Galapagos

Sail to Espinoza Point on Fernandina Island to be impressed by masses of black lava rocks and the largest colony of marine iguanas. Take spectacular photos of Bartolome Island’s moon-like volcanic landscapes and its endemic Galapagos penguins. At Daphne Major, get a fascinating look at the breeding site of the blue-footed booby.

Sail north over the equator to Genovesa Island to see nesting colonies of red-footed boobies and Nazca. At Darwin Bay, soft white sand and deep blue water encourage snorkeling, swimming, and kayaking after witnessing lush mangroves and lots of local wildlife.

Galapagos Southern Loop Itinerary

Pear cactus

Pear cactus in Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos

Celebrity’s luxury expedition ships, Xploration and Xpedition, also sail Southern Loop itineraries. Your cruise begins at North Seymour Island, where you’ll marvel at male frigates and blue-footed boobies doing their impressive mating dance.

Tendered at South Plaza, Santa Cruz Island, see land iguanas walk among giant prickly pear cactus and batchelor sea lions sunning on rocky cliffs. Visit Santa Fe Island to view endemic island species like the Galapagos hawk, snake, and mockingbird.

Vegetation in Punta Pitt, Galapagos

Punta Pitt in San Cristobal, Galapagos

Arrive overnight to San Cristobal Island’s Punta Pitt. Hike for spectacular views and to see the breeding ground of three different booby bird species. Then, visit the waterfront town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno for a long walk, shopping, or a local tour.

Flamingo on shore

Flamingos in Floreana Island, Galapagos

At Floreana Island, land on green-hued sand and watch flamingos, white-cheeked pintail ducks, and stilts go about their business. At Post Office Bay, drop a postcard in the barrel that’s served as a post office since the 1700s.

Tour the rocky black-lava shores of Moreno Point on Isabela Island, sighting marina iguanas, sea turtles, stingrays, and more. Elizabeth Bay, the westernmost point of the Southern Loop, offers a mangrove ecosystem within its sheltered cove.

Espanola Mockingbird on a branch

Espanola Mockingbird in Galapagos

Espanola, the oldest Galapagos island, offers two stops: Gardner Bay, where you’ll want to swim in clear blue water from a white-sand beach and see three species of Darwin’s finches and Espanola mockingbirds; and Punta Suarez, home of the Waved Albatross.

Galapagos Northern Loop vs. Southern Loop

Landscape view with crystal clear water

Galapagos

When it comes to deciding between Galapagos Northern Loop vs. Southern Loop, the Southern Loop bypasses the most northern part of Isabela Island, the Galapagos’s largest island, opting instead for Floreana Island, Post Office Bay, and ports of call on San Cristobal Island.

The Northern Loop is the only itinerary that ventures south first, then comes around to sail north over the equator for stops in Genovesa Island and Darwin’s Bay.

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