Why Travel to the Galapagos Islands?
The Galapagos Islands are a place like no other on Earth!
Wildlife in the Galapagos has not been affected by humans. Therefore, they are not afraid of visitors. Galapagos wildlife goes along with their day-to-day activities literally feet away from you.
Don’t think the Galapagos Islands are a tropical paradise like the Bahamas or Hawaii. In fact, most of the islands are barren and only inhabited by the unique wildlife.
The Galapagos Islands are shrouded in mystery and legends. Visited by influential characters like Charles Darwin, pirates of yesteryear, Ecuadorian convicts, Spanish explorers, adventure bound Europeans, and soon you. This means, you don’t have to be a biologist, evolutionist, or pirate, to visit these Enchanted Islands.
Come along with a sense of adventure and intrigue and enjoy this destination included in most bucket-lists!
The Galapagos Islands are located in the Pacific Ocean, and lie on the Equator line. The archipelago consists of 13 major islands, 6 small islands and many islets and rock formations. However, only 5 islands are home to humans, these islands include; Isabela, Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Baltra and Floreana island. The rest are only accessible on a tour led by a naturalist guide.
Types of Travel
Galapagos Travel Options
You can visit the Galapagos Islands aboard a cruise or on a land-based island hopping tour.
There are pros and cons for each option. Regardless of your choice, you will have a splendid time in the Enchanted Islands!
Exploring the Galapagos Islands aboard a cruise is truly magnificent!
Pros of a Galapagos Cruise:
Aboard a cruise you can choose your itinerary, length of stay and yacht class. Also, on a cruise you will sail at night and wake up the next morning at a new visitor site. During a cruise, you will usually have two island visits during the day, lunch on board, an extra activity such as snorkeling or kayaking (if available), dinner on board, a nightly briefing by the guide, and time to chill and enjoy the amenities provided. These amenities can include; a hot-tub, charming sundecks, al-fresco dining options, a BBQ area, relaxing lounge areas, well-appointed bars, espresso machines, among others. In other words, it’s nice being able to enjoy yourself knowing your lodging, meals and entertainment are taken care of.
Cons of a Galapagos Cruise:
Being aboard a boat for an extended time is not everybody’s cup of tea. Likewise, getting sea-sick is something you don’t want happening during a vacation. To offset this, you can choose to book your trip on bigger cruise ships or the more steady catamarans rather than a small single hull yacht. Moreover, if you bring children along, a bigger ship will provide more things to do for them so you can focus on enjoying your trip. In addition to this, cruises have fixed itineraries and availability is hard to come by for specific travel dates.
Island hopping refers to hotel based lodging. In other words, you will “island hop” back and forth between islands and visitor sites.
Pros of Island Hopping:
Island Hopping provides more flexibility than cruise departures. This means, availability is easier to find, and you can personalize your trip with ease. So, you wont have to worry about getting sea-sick all the time (except for inter-island travel on a speedboat). Therefore, you will have more time on land to explore the islands, rent a bike, kayak, take surfing lessons, go on a diving day tour, eat at local restaurants, or sunbathe and swim at a beautiful beach.
Cons of Island Hopping:
Transferring from island to island is not the best experience, because you can get sea-sick en route. In addition, Island hopping tours spend more time moving from island to island, which means less time at the visitor site. Since, it usually takes about 2-3 hours of sailing each way to reach these visitor site. All this, on a small jumpy speedboat.
Most islands can only be accessible by cruise ship.This means, Island hopping tours are limited to a handful of visitor sites.
How to choose you Galapagos tour
It really depends on you, and what you want to get out of your trip.
If you want a hassle-free, all-inclusive trip, where you will get to experience the islands in comfort and style, choose a cruise.
If you cant find availability on a cruise or don’t fancy being on a boat all the time, a more flexible and budget friendly option would be an Island hopping tour.
And, if you cant make a choice, you can opt for a combo package which can include a short 4-5 day cruise and some days on land.
If you have questions about all this CONTACT US and we will be happy to help you in the decision making process.
Galapagos Travel Highlights
Top 10 visitor sites in the Galapagos Islands
1. Devil’s Crown
Floreana Island – The Devil’s Crown is a rock formation that resembles a crown off of Floreana Island. It’s hands down the best snorkeling site and the most remarkable marine site in the entire archipelago. You will be able to swim along with sharks, tropical fish, playful sea lions, marine turtles and find a hidden beach inside the crown!
2. Punta Suarez
Española Island – Witness the magnificent waved Albatross take flight off this enchanting island.
3. Los Tuneles
Isabela Island – The lava formations and tunnels found here will provide a top-notch snorkeling experience along with many endemic Galapagos underwater species.
4. Highlands of Santa Cruz and Isabela
Get close and personal with the Giant Tortoises. See how they live in slow motion mode and learn everything about these mythical creatures.
5. Isabela Island
Enjoy pristine beaches, kayaking adventures, and spot penguins during a visit to the most sought after island in the Galapagos.
6. Pinnacle Rock
Bartholomew Island – Take the quintessential Galapagos pic with Pinnacle Rock in the background. This is the most renowned site in the Galapagos and appears in movies such as Master and Commander starring Russel Crowe.
7. Tortuga Bay
Santa Cruz Island – Relax and sunbathe at one of the most beautiful white-sand beaches in South America. After a long eventful trip taking it easy at a pristine beach is just what the doctor ordered.
8. San Cristobal Island
Snorkel, surf, kayak or dive from this island. Exploring this beautiful island by bike is one of my favorite memories of the Galapagos Islands. It’s bliss to breeze through San Cristobal on a bike. You can take pictures of everything from sea lions lounging on park benches to beautiful beaches where you can take a load off. A perfect ending to this unforgettable bike ride is downing an ice cold beer at the artisanal beer shop located at the docks.
9. Sierra Negra Volcano
Isabela Island. This is the perfect tour for hiking and trekking enthusiasts. You will get to see one of the biggest “calderas” in the world when you trek the Sierra Negra Volcano. The views are spectacular and you feel minuscule compared to the size of this volcano.
10. Las Grietas
Santa Cruz Island – This is one of my favorite things to do in the Galapagos Islands. Las Grietas is a crevice in the rocks filled with water where you can swim, snorkel and have a blast!
Best time to visit
When to travel to the Galapagos Islands
January – May
I recently visited the Galapagos aboard a luxury cruise ship during the beginning of March. Expect the weather to be sunny and warm. Because of the weather, Inhabitants of the islands stop their activities at midday to avoid the blazing sun. Nevertheless, during this time the seas are less rough and winds are not as strong as other seasons. However, you might get some rainfall but nothing to be worried about.
June – December
This season is known for dry weather and cool temperatures. Expect choppy waters due to the presence of the Humboldt current. On the other hand, if you are a diving aficionado this is the best time to visit the Galapagos Islands!
Rainy and high humidity
- Sea turtles lay their eggs.
- Land birds begin their nesting period.
- Marine iguanas become brightly colored to attract mates
- Giant tortoise eggs begin hatching.
Temperatures in the water and air begin to rise
- Flamingos nest on Floreana Island.
- Penguins migrate away from Bartholomew Island to the western islands.
- Nazca boobies finish their nesting season.
- Marine iguanas nest in Santa Cruz Island.
Very hot days and some drizzle
- Marine Iguanas nest on Fernandina and North Seymour.
- Waved Albatross return to Española Island.
- Frigate birds begin their mating season on San Cristobal and Genovesa.
The rainy season ends
- Sea turtles, marine iguanas, and land iguanas nest.
- Waved albatross begin their courtship and nesting rituals.
Temperatures in the water and air begin to drop
- Sea lions begin their mating season.
- Blue-footed boobies begin their unique courtship ritual.
- Waved albatross lay their eggs.
The Dry Season begins
- Whale sharks are spotted in the northernmost islands such as Darwin and Wolf.
- Frigate birds begin their courtship rituals.
- Giant tortoises migrate to the lowlands.
- Whales are spotted along the western islands.
Strong winds and cold currents
- Blue-footed boobies begin to nest.
- Flamingos begin their courtship rituals.
- Flightless cormorants start to nest.
- Sea lions begin their breeding season.
- Whale sharks are spotted in the northernmost islands such as Darwin and Wolf.
- Blue-footed booby’s chicks are everywhere.
Coldest air and water temperatures
- Frigate bird eggs start hatching.
- Sea lions start giving birth.
- Nazca boobies and swallow-tailed gulls nest on Genovesa.
- Giant tortoises head back to the highlands after laying their eggs.
Light rainy season
- Galapagos penguins begin their courtship in Bartholomew.
- Seabirds can be seen nesting.
- Baby sea lions can be seen all over the place.
Dry and windy season
- Blue-footed booby chicks can be seen on Española and Isabela.
- Galapagos fur sea lions mating season begins.
Warm season begins
- Sea turtle mating season starts.
- Galapagos sea lion pups are born.
- Whale sharks can be spotted
Hot and sunny with great water temperatures
- Giant tortoise’s eggs start hatching.
- Waved-albatross begin migrating.
- Land iguanas start their mating season.
- Sea and fur sea lions begin to breed.
A quick history lesson on the Galapagos
The Galapagos Islands were discovered by chance in 1535 by Tomás de Berlanga. At this time, Tomás de Berlanga was sailing from Panama to Peru and drifted off to the archipelago. He later described it to the King of Spain (Charles V) as the archipelago of the giant tortoises or Galapagos. It should be noted that the Galapagos Islands did not appear on a world map until 1570. Buccaneers drew the first maps and charts of the islands in the 17th century and scientists began to explore and study them the following century.
During this time the islands were used as a base for pirates, buccaneers, whalers, and sealers for close to three-hundred years. The Islands provided; shelter, water, wood, and meat. Consequently, these visitors took giant tortoises aboard their boats and stacked them up in piles, because the tortoises provided fresh meat for the crew. For this reason, it is estimated that approximately 100,000 tortoises were taken during this time. In addition, these buccaneers wiped out most of the fur seal population.
Ecuador officially claimed the islands in 1832 and named General Villamil the first governor of the archipelago. General Villamil was in charge of a colony of rebel soldiers on the island of Floreana. For years, the islands were devoid of many settlers and only had said penal colonies. The last penal colony was located in Isabela Island and was shut down in 1959. At this time, the inmates built the renowned Wall of Tears to show the suffering they experienced on this Island.
The island’s most famous visitor arrived in 1835 aboard the British naval vessel, the Beagle. Charles Darwin visited the islands for about five weeks. Here, he collected information and evidence for his renowned theory of evolution. In 1959, the archipelago become a national park and a touristic destination in the latter part of the 1960s.
Galapagos Islands Travel Map