Travel to the Galapagos Islands
It’s where Charles Darwin was inspired to write his theory on the Evolution of Species… and today, the Galapagos Islands is a haven of wildlife showcasing the abundance and diversity of the plant and animal life of the islands.
Travel to the Galapagos Islands is a bucket list item for so many travellers and it’s a destination we build into many South American itineraries. It’s perfect for travelling all year round due to the climate and the range of activities across the islands.
The Galapagos Islands Location
The Galapagos Islands is a province of Ecuador, located about 1000km off its coast. Just a one-hour flight from Quito or Guayaquil in Ecuador, the islands are easy to navigate via bus, ferry, speed boat and the popular Galapagos Islands cruises.
The Galapagos Islands are made up of 19 islands, four of which are inhabited and offer various accommodation options. Many of our travellers struggle with the decision of where to visit… but you needn’t worry because everywhere in the Galapagos Islands is fabulous!
Santa Cruz is the main starting point for many Galapagos Islands visits.
With hotels, restaurants, bars, shops and dive centres, Santa Cruz is also home to the Charles Darwin Research Station – a great place to learn about the conservation, history, geology and ecology of the Galapagos.
Many of the beautiful sites on Santa Cruz can be reached without a guide. The famous giant tortoises are best viewed from the Santa Cruz highlands while Tortuga Bay and Laguna Las Ninfas offer safe swimming and wildlife viewing.
The largest of the islands with active volcanoes and an array of excursions, Isabela is paradise for bird watchers. You may be lucky to catch sight of the elusive flightless cormorant, amongst many other bird species.
At Los Tuneles you can snorkel through collapsed lava tunnels alongside sharks, lobsters, penguins, sea lions, boobies and marine turtles. However, Los Tuneles is only accessible if you are staying on Isabela.
Home to the first inhabitants of the Galapagos Islands, Floreana boasts one of the best destinations for snorkelling in the entire archipelago – Devil’s Crown, a half-submerged volcanic cone.
Floreana has a history rich with prisoners and pirates. You can hike through pirate caves, spotting wildlife as you go. The island’s Post Office Bay has the historic post office utilised by 19th century whalers.
La Loberia is a sea lion breeding space where you can swim with sea lions, marine turtles, manta rays and a variety of colourful coral fish.
San Cristobal is the most visited of the islands and the provincial capital. With white sand beaches offering an array of water sports, including snorkelling, scuba-diving and surfing, San Cristobal is also the only island with permanent fresh water.
Cerro Brujo on San Cristobal is a beach known for its exotic wildlife, home to creatures like sea lions and the famous marine iguanas.
Off the tourist trail on the Galapagos Islands
If you want to head off the tourist trail in the Galapagos Islands, there are so many opportunities to do so.
Visit Sierra Negra Volcano, one of the oldest volcanoes of Isabela. Hike up the mountain and then continue on horseback to the crater… don’t forget to keep an eye out for the local wildlife on the way!
Another prime spot in Isabela is the Iguana Crossing. The views from the hotel are stunning as you watch marine iguanas wander from the pristine beach to the picturesque lagoon where brilliantly-coloured flamingos wade.
Cruising the Galapagos Islands
While there are some benefits to staying on the islands, cruising the Galapagos Islands gives you access to islands and sites only accessible by cruise.
There are more than 60 boats cruising the Galapagos Islands… which one you choose will depend on your budget, timeframe and the wildlife you hope to see on your journey.
Boats in the Galapagos Islands work on four, five and eight-day itineraries… eight-day cruises are the most popular, but shorter trips with an added island stay to relax and explore further also work well. Ultimately, we can tailor-make a journey that gives you exactly what you want from your holiday experience!
There are four classes of boat that cruise the Galapagos Islands: tourist, tourist superior, first class and luxury.
With smaller cabins – usually with bunk beds, small portholes and often non-opening windows, tourist class is a ‘lead-in’ budget option. Common space is limited and the guides on board tend to have less experience.
Aida Maria offers a great combination of comfort, style and value, with a spacious deck to enjoy the sunny Galapagos days. The owners have been running tours in Galapagos since the 1960s, making the Aida Maria one of the most traditional Galapagos yachts. The perfect Galapagos budget option!
A popular way to balance budget and comfort, tourist superior boats have lower berths, larger windows and more expansive outdoor spaces.
Archipell II is a stable, double hulled catamaran, for smooth cruising around the Galapagos Islands. It has spacious and modern social areas, including a shaded upper deck. All cabins have lower berths and windows to enjoy great views as you cruise.
If you are after a more personal experience with guides who can offer a little more knowledge, go first class. The quality is higher all round… from the cabins to the service and the guides. While we can never guarantee any wildlife viewing, first class is a wonderful experience.
Treasure of Galapagos is a stunning first class catamaran for fast and stable cruising. Spacious suites have private balconies and there is a restaurant, a lounge, bar areas, a meeting room and a library. Head up to the sun deck for a bar, hot tub and shaded area.
If you want more choices, more space and more stability, then a larger boat is for you. Nothing too big, though! Ships with 40-90 passengers give you more guides and smaller groups for activities, averaging just 11 people. Groups are split by language or activity, so you can choose your experiences instead of everyone doing the same excursion, which is often the case on small boats.
Isabella, La Pinta and Santa Cruz are great boats for expedition cruising with comfort and choice.
The Galapagos Islands Animals
Much of the wildlife studied by Charles Darwin still thrives on the Galapagos Islands today. The wildlife is abundant and fearless, offering close encounters above and below the water where you can walk or swim within inches of numerous species.
When planning any travel to the Galapagos Islands, we recommend building your trip around the wildlife you want to see.
The Galapagos Islands animals aren’t the same on every island… in fact the plants and wildlife have adapted to the unique environment of each island.
If flamingos are your thing, you will need to visit Isabela, Santiago or Floreana. To see an albatross, you will need to hop on a cruise that visits Espanola.
Sea turtles can only be found on Isabela and Bartoleme and the Galapagos Penguin on Isabela, Bartoleme and Floreana. If you tell us what Galapagos Islands animals you want to see, we will build your itinerary to give you the best chance of seeing the wildlife.
We love working with our clients on travel to the Galapagos Islands and have developed some really interesting itineraries, selecting the most outstanding highlights of the Islands. We tailor-make personalised itineraries for our travellers and would be delighted to help you plan for your journey of a lifetime to the Galapagos Islands.