The Galapagos islands find themselves on every traveler’s bucket list for all the good reasons. This volcanic archipelago comprises 19 islands and many small islets situated 1000 miles out into the Pacific.
These isolated islands of Galapagos served as an inspiration for the Theory of Evolution by Charles Darwin. Indeed, there is something spectacular and mesmerizing about Galapagos Islands that cannot be compared to any other destination.
Galapagos Islands are a UNESCO world heritage center where you have the opportunity to explore its protected lands and waters. What makes the destination special is that the wildlife species in these islands cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
Furthermore, the unbeatable rich biodiversity, scenic landscapes, and interesting natural history make this isolated archipelago an exclusive destination to visit.
So, if you are intrigued by this magical place on earth, check out our guide to Galapagos islands:
Climate and weather
Despite its equatorial position, the Galapagos Island has a subtropical climate. There are two seasons experienced in the islands: the warm wet season and the cold dry season.
The warm season occurs from January to June where ocean and air temperatures are the warmest. During these months, cloudy conditions and occasional showers take place.
The cold dry season occurs from July to December. During these months, the air and ocean temperature cools down while mist-like drizzle keeps the highlands and volcanos of the Galapagos green.
When is the best time to visit?
The best time to go to the Galapagos islands depends on what you want to experience and the weather you prefer.
- Peak season- From the tourism perspective, the busiest months tend to be June to August as well as December and January.
- Wildlife – If you would like to experience flourishing wildlife, there are no fixed months to visit. Animals in Galapagos have different breeding cycles throughout various times of the year. Moreover, the wildlife activities vary not only from months but also islands. Yet, animals can be seen all year round as there are only a few migratory species.
- Snorkeling and swimming – From December to May, the Galapagos waters tend to be warm and shallow. You can swim along with various marine animals such as white-tipped reef sharks and sea turtles.
What islands should I see in Galapagos?
There are 13 major islands in Galapagos including six other smaller islands. Out of the 13, only four islands are permanently inhabited by humans. The rest of the islands require visitors to travel with guides at designated places like marine and terrestrial sites only.
The Galapagos National Park was established to protect the unique animals, plants, and birds living on the archipelago. The park encompasses around 97 percent of the entire land area of the islands and 100 percent of the neighboring marine habitat.
Here are the most popular islands in Galapagos to visit:
Santa Cruz Island
This island is home to the largest human population in Galapagos but the majority of its land remains protected. Santa Cruz Island is also considered to be a good starting point for other islands. Here, you can see giant turtles in their natural habitats at El Chato. Moreover, you can learn about conservation projects at the Charles Darwin research station and enjoy the beautiful beaches such as Tortuga Bay.
Isabel is the largest island in the Galapagos where you can observe various species of penguins, giant tortoises, flamingoes, and sea lions. You can take a boat ride to a lava arch known as Los Tuneles, enjoy a day trip to Volcano Sierra Negra and check out Centro de Crianza, a breeding center for giant tortoises.
San Cristobal Island
On San Cristobal Island, the habited town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is steadily being developed as the main hub for tourism. The town is easily navigated on foot and is home to Kicker rock, a prominent landmark rock formation known for snorkeling. San Cristobal is also the top spot for surfing.
North Seymour is a tiny island that is well-known for its arid vegetation. The popular blue-footed booby, a large population of Frigatebirds, and land iguanas thrive on this island. Snorkeling on North Seymour gives you a chance to see tropical fishes, garden eels, rays, reef sharks, and more.
Floreana is one of the oldest Galapagos islands. On its idyllic beaches, one can see endemic giant tortoises roam around the coasts. One of the magnificent spots for snorkeling on the island is Devil’s Crown, a volcanic crater almost submerged under the ocean. Floreana is also famous for its Post Office Bay that continues to operate even today!
What animals are there in the Galapagos islands?
Islands in Galapagos are referred to as a living museums wherein many animals are native only to the archipelago. Over thousands of years of evolution, these creatures have adapted to different weather conditions and landscapes.
Here are some iconic animal species found in Galapagos:
1. Marine iguanas
Marine iguanas are the only marine lizards and have the largest colony in Fernandina. This iguana species lives on seaweed and dives up to 30 feet in the water. Marine iguanas are found on the rocky shorelines, mangrove beaches, and marshes of the Galapagos islands.
The frigatebird is a huge seabird and an endemic species of the Galapagos Islands. The male frigatebird has the distinctive feature of a giant red throat pouch under its beak. Frigatebirds can be seen all across the archipelago in deciduous trees and mangroves, as well as scavenging over coral reefs and the coast.
3. Galapagos penguins
Galapagos penguins are the only penguin species living in the north of the equator. This species can survive due to the unique biogeography of the Galapagos islands. They are frequently spotted on the west coast of Isabel and Fernandina Island.
4. Galapagos giant tortoises
Galapagos giant tortoises are the world’s largest tortoises, growing up to 230 kg (500 lbs.) and live for more than 100 years. Although these species are found on several islands, they exist in larger numbers on the Isabel Island.
5. Blue-footed booby
These bird species come to the Galapagos islands to nest along the rocky coasts. Their large blue feet are unique features which are very popular among visitors along with an entertaining dance they perform during the mating season.
Is cruise better or land tour?
One of the most enjoyable ways to travel around the Galapagos islands is on multi-day cruise. These cruises generally cover a great range of islands and provide an activity-packed itinerary all set for you. Vessels also travel to islands in the night so that you can wake up to a new destination every day, increasing your chances of seeing diversified wildlife.
Several of the terrestrial and marine sites in the Galapagos are extremely isolated and are only accessible by boats. Moreover, some cruises are already equipped with snorkel gears, kayaks, and paddleboats for expedition activities.
As compared to cruises, land tours are less expensive and offer more flexibility. It is also the most sought after for those susceptible to seasickness. After wildlife viewing and nature excursions, travelers have the freedom to unwind or explore other towns without any restrictions.
When you opt for land tours, you can plan your entire itinerary including day trips to national parks within selected islands. Additionally, you can customize your schedule to stay overnight on islands such as Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, and Isabel.
How to get to Galapagos Islands?
Mainland Ecuador is the most popular option to get to Galapagos Island. You need to travel to the capital city of Quito or Guayaquil, where the islands are much nearer. There are two airports in Galapagos: Seymour Airport and Airport Isla San Cristobal.
Additional tips for travel in Galapagos Island
- It is recommended to book for your Galapagos trip at least a year in advance as cruises usually sell out soon, especially in the peak seasons.
- Although medical care in Galapagos is improving, the destination is still remote. Carry all your prescriptions, including those prone to seasickness.
National Park rules
- To enter Galapagos national park, you need to pay a mandatory fee of $100 for adults and $50 for children, less than 12 years old.
- Stay at least 2 meters away from plants and animals.
- Touching, feeding, and petting animals is not allowed.
- Camping is only allowed in designated areas of the park.
- You cannot visit uninhabited islands unless and until you travel with a naturalist guide.
- Do not take any organic materials like shells, rocks, or plants when you leave the island.
What to pack
- Bring along comfortable and lightweight clothes for outdoor excursions in Galapagos. Long sleeves and pants offer protection against the sun while a light sweater and jacket are perfect for cooler evenings.
- Wear hiking or mesh water shoes.
- Other essential items to bring along include a waterproof backpack, reusable water bottle, insect repellent, sunblock, hat, camera, and binoculars.
Visiting Galapagos Island is a unique experience that unravels the hidden natural wonders of the archipelago. If you are keen to visit the islands of the Galapagos, feel free to refer to this guide.
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