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The Ultimate Galápagos Islands Travel Guide

Discover the islands that inspired Charles Darwin.

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The Galápagos Islands, located roughly 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, remained a closely guarded natural secret for millions of years. Over that time, the archipelago evolved into a home for an all-star cast of plants and animals. Sometime in the 1800s, some swashbuckling pirates and intrepid explorers started arriving in the Galápagos Islands. The most famous early visitor was Charles Darwin, a young naturalist who spent 19 days studying the islands' flora and fauna in 1835. In 1859, Darwin published On the Origin of Species , which introduced his theory of evolution — and the Galápagos Islands — to the world.

Since then, word of these islands and their magnificent beauty has steadily grown. In 1959, the Galápagos became Ecuador's first national park, and in 1978, it was named a UNESCO World Heritage site . Today, more than 275,000 people visit the Galápagos every year to see those incredible animals and landscapes for themselves.

As amazing as you think the Galápagos Islands will be, they routinely exceed expectations. It's a place where lizards swim, birds walk, and humans — for once — don't take center stage.

Reasons to Visit

Biodiversity brings over 100,000 visitors each year to these remote islands that were totally unknown to the world until 1535. Without the influence of a human presence, the island's flora and fauna, and the surrounding marine life, thrived for thousands of years by evolving into unique species you won't find anywhere else in the world, such as the charismatic giant tortoises and blue-footed boobies. Beyond seeing the main stars of the island, many visitors also enjoy the beautiful beaches and choose the Galápagos Islands as their honeymoon destination .

This is also one of the world's top scuba diving destinations, so spending time on or in the water is a must, whether that means you're ready to jump in with your snorkel for a sea lion swim or are happy to enjoy the views from the deck of your adventure cruise . Brimming with natural beauty, the Galápagos is for many a once-in-a-lifetime destination where the marvels of the natural world are waiting to astound you.

Best Time to Visit

There's no bad time to visit the Galápagos Islands. No matter what time of year you go, the adventure is sure to be unique and wonderful. June through December are the cooler and drier months. Even though this is the dry season, a garúa (or light, misty rain) is still possible, particularly in December, and skies can be cloudy and gray.

January through May are the warmer and wetter months, but the rain creates brilliantly clear blue skies between showers — great for photography. March and April tend to be the hottest and wettest months, while August tends to be the coolest time.

Water temperatures vary throughout the year because of the powerful ocean currents in the archipelago. Between June and December, the colder currents dominate and the water temperature dips low. A wet suit (likely provided by your boat or hotel) may be required while snorkeling during these months. However, the upside is that the cold current brings in huge quantities of plankton, which attract hungry marine life.

If you're set on seeing a particular species in the Galápagos, talk to the tour operator and pick the month and itinerary that will give you the best chance for a sighting. Some species are seasonal, and many exist only on specific islands. For example, the waved albatross, also called the Galápagos albatross, is not a full-time resident. These birds just show up for mating in the spring and summer.

How to Get There

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Flights to the Galápagos Islands depart multiple times each day from Quito or Guayaquil on mainland Ecuador. Flights from the U.S. are plentiful to both cities. Hotel options are better in Quito and, in general, this city is more compelling with a stunning colonial center, which was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1978. It's also home to ample museums, shopping, and restaurants to easily fill a few days. However, Quito is over 9,000 feet above sea level, so altitude can be a problem for travelers arriving from lower elevations. Steamy Guayaquil, Ecuador's largest city, is at sea level, so altitude is not an issue. However, the hotel and restaurant selection is much more limited in Guayaquil.

If you're booking your own flights from mainland Ecuador to the Galápagos Islands, remember that there are two airports on two different islands in the archipelago. San Cristóbal Airport is on the island of the same name. Seymour Airport, which runs entirely on sun and wind power, can be found on tiny Baltra Island, which is separated from Santa Cruz Island by a narrow channel. Be sure to book your flights to the same island you'll be based on, or where your boat departs and returns.

By Land or By Sea

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The first decision you have to make when visiting the Galápagos Islands is also the most difficult. Do you want to stay in a hotel on one of the three inhabited islands, exploring other islands and areas via day-trip boat rides? Or do you want to be based on a live-aboard boat, which provides accommodations and transportation from island to island? There are three main factors to consider when choosing between land and sea: cost, time management, and access.

A trip to the Galápagos Islands can be pricey. However, it's easier to craft a less expensive experience if you choose to be land based. These days, there are hotels and restaurants at many price points on San Cristóbal Island, Santa Cruz Island, and, to a much lesser extent, Isabela and Floreana Islands. Live-aboard boats come in a range of price points, too. However, all but the most bare-bones boats still add up to more than a land-based vacation.

If you choose a land-based vacation, expect to spend a lot of time getting from your hotel onto a boat, out to the day's destination, then back to your property. On the other hand, live-aboard boats do most of their navigating during the night when travelers are asleep in cabins on board. This means passengers wake up in a new destination ready for a full day of exploration. Because land-based explorations are limited to the five islands that can be reached in one day, travelers won't be able to visit the more distant islands that boat-based itineraries include.

Unless you're terrified of sailing, suffer from seasickness , or hate the idea of being on a boat for a week, book a cruise. You'll waste less time running back and forth, plus you'll see as many distinct areas of the Galápagos Islands as possible.

Most live-aboard boats offer five- to eight-day itineraries, with set departure dates and routes. Routes are dictated by Galápagos National Park officials to mitigate crowding and environmental stress. Your boat will provide a northern or southern itinerary (sometimes called eastern and western itineraries), alternating weekly. Both include wonderful land excursions, plenty of time in the water, and ample opportunities to see the famous flora and fauna of the Galápagos.

Boats in the Galápagos Islands are limited to a maximum of 100 passengers, but most carry fewer than that. The benefit of traveling on a smaller-capacity vessel is a more intimate onboard experience and faster transfer times between your main vessel and the rubber dinghies. Smaller boats also tend to have more character and history. And if you're traveling with a big group, don't worry, as larger-capacity boats tend to have more onboard services, like guest lectures and medical facilities.

Ecoventura , which has several vessels that allow for up to 20 passengers at a time, is another excellent operator. In addition, two naturalists take guests onshore and explain every animal and plant in great detail.

Scuba divers who want to focus on underwater adventures have a few options in the Galápagos Islands as well. The Galapagos Sky , Galapagos Aggressor III , and Galapagos Master are live-aboard boats that were designed specifically for scuba divers. They ply the waters all the way to the little-visited northernmost islands in the archipelago, where deep, cold, current-filled diving yields time with manta rays, whale sharks, sunfish, and hammerhead sharks. Note that these are for experienced divers only.

Best Hotels and Resorts

A wide range of hotels can be found on Santa Cruz Island and San Cristóbal Island, and several boats operate out of harbors on those islands as well. Be sure to book a hotel that's located near the harbor (not in the highlands), so you can be close to the boat's boarding spot for day trips.

For example, the 19-room Golden Bay Galapagos is situated right on the harbor of San Cristóbal Island. You can watch sea lions cavort on a small beach directly in front of the property, and day-trip boats leave from a dock that's no more than a three-minute stroll away. Book the corner suite, which features a living-room bathtub and glass walls that slide open to eliminate all barriers between you and the nature outside. Meanwhile, the Angermeyer Waterfront Inn is right on Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island. The hotel's newest room has been cleverly fashioned inside a beached wooden boat.

Or, book a hotel that owns and operates its own boats to ensure a seamless standard of service and the most practical and convenient itineraries. For example, the unparalleled Pikaia Lodge , located in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island, has its own boat that is used exclusively for guests on packages that include land and sea adventures.

The Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel , set in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island, also has its own yacht, dubbed the Sea Lion . This vessel can hold up to 20 passengers plus two guides (many other day-trip boats carry 16 passengers and have just one guide). Sea Lion itineraries also encompass all five islands that day-trip boats are allowed to visit.

Last-minute deals are sometimes available for travelers who can afford to spend a few days searching for sales after arriving. However, the Galápagos Islands are a major tourist destination, so it's advisable to book well in advance. Dive boats, in particular, tend to fill up fast because there are so few of them.

If you are spending the night in Quito or Guayaquil, there are a few nice hotels that we also recommend checking out. In Quito, Casa Gangotena , on Plaza San Francisco in the heart of the capital's colonial center, is the best hotel in Ecuador, combining history, style, and service. Another top option is Illa Experience Hotel , a 10-room boutique hotel in the city's central San Marcos neighborhood. The property sits in a renovated mansion, and each floor presents different decor, including colonial, republic, and contemporary styles. In Guayaquil, Hotel del Parque , located in the city's leafy Parque Histórico, is a sophisticated boutique property with 44 rooms. The restored building dates back to 1891, and houses a spa where you can book a massage in a repurposed church bell tower.

Best Restaurants

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As you can imagine, the seafood in the Galápagos Islands is extremely fresh and the islands have many fine dining establishments to cater to hungry visitors. You'll find a range of dining options across all the islands' main hubs, many of which are associated with hotels, such as the Finch Bay Restaurant in Santa Cruz, which blends local Ecuadorian cuisine with international style. Another popular restaurant is the FraFre GastroBar , where the fish is served with a regional flair that's popular among locals and tourists. You'll also find more casual eateries like the humorously named Booby Trap that serves up fish tacos and pizza on Isabela Island alongside wonderful oceanfront views.

If you are looking for a memorable meal in Quito, Zazu is the only Relais & Châteaux restaurant in Ecuador. For a more casual experience, head to sibling restaurant Zfood , where a Hamptons-style fish-shack vibe is replicated perfectly and seafood reigns supreme. At Urko , chef/owner Daniel Maldonado stays focused on showcasing Ecuadorian ingredients and flavors. Go for the tasting menu to get a full sense of what he calls cocina local .

Things to Do

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Aside from observing the fabulous animals above and below the water, you can incorporate many other striking landscapes into your adventures. If you want to island-hop, you can coordinate visits to these sites yourself, but if you're on a cruise you may have to follow the pre-planned itinerary.

Throughout the islands you can enjoy the white sands of beaches like Tortuga Bay and Puerto Villamil, or take the adventurous route for a hike to the top of the Sierra Negra Volcano, an active shield volcano that last erupted in 2018, providing a dazzling show for offshore boaters. For something more tame, you can pay your respects at the Charles Darwin Research Station in Puerto Ayora, which has been used as a scientific base since 1964. Visitors can access the exhibition hall, gardens, and public library.

Best Islands to Visit

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There are 127 islands that make up this tropical archipelago, but only about 20 are frequently visited by tourists, and only four have major populations. Isabela Island is the largest of these, but despite its size, it has fewer people than Santa Cruz, which is the most populated island with approximately 12,000 inhabitants between the towns of Puerto Ayora and Santa Rosa. When you fly into the Galápagos, you will most likely arrive through Baltra Island, which is separated from Santa Cruz by a short ferry ride. Meanwhile, the province's capital is located on San Cristobal Island.

Booking a live-aboard boat trip will give you more opportunities to see the many different islands that make up these enchanted isles. However, if a particular attraction or animal captures your attention, you may want to seek out specific sites like Bartolomé Island, known for its volcanic rock formations like Pinnacle Rock, and Española Island, where you'll find the nesting sites of the waved albatross at Punta Suarez. If you're interested in the history of human discovery, Floreana Island was the first to be visited by people. Here, you can hear the stories of the many seamen who rolled into these waters and learn about the fascinating postal system they set up using a simple wooden barrel. Bird-watchers are especially fond of Genovesa Island, where frigatebirds and red-footed boobies are frequently spotted. For Galápagos penguins and flightless cormorants, the sparsely vegetated Fernandina Island is another popular spot.

Packing Tips

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A trip to the Galápagos is a big adventure, so you should come prepared with the right clothes and tools to face the elements. It may be tough to find what you need once you arrive on the islands — especially if you are spending most of your time at sea — so we've broken it down into essential categories and created a packing list to get you started.

Basic supplies are available at small shops on both San Cristóbal and Santa Cruz islands, but prices are high and the selection is limited. It's best to have the essentials with you. These include sturdy closed-toe walking shoes with durable soles. Although land excursions are generally short and trails tame, you may be walking over jagged volcanic rock and other obstacles from time to time. However, you will also want sandals or flip-flops to wear in towns and on boats. Leave the heels at home, especially if you've booked a boat-based itinerary. Even the most luxurious boats have narrow, steep stairways that are nearly impossible to navigate safely (or gracefully) in heels.

You'll also be glad to have rain gear and good weather protection for your camera. You will be traveling on boats and in dinghies, and rain showers can occur at any time. If you're exploring an island when wet weather rolls in, there will be no place to shelter out of the rain.

Health and Comfort

Stock up on lots of insect repellant and water-resistant, high-SPF sunscreen. As you might have guessed Ecuador is on the equator, which magnifies the strength of the rays, and most Galápagos excursions are completely exposed to the sun. We also recommend purchasing reef-safe sunscreen to help protect the coral, animals, and waters around the islands. A hat with a brim for sun protection during land excursions is also recommended. If you're planning to participate in kayaking and snorkeling excursions, a rash guard is also useful for sun protection. When water temperatures are colder, a wet suit will be provided. If you have fins, a mask, and a snorkel that you love, bring them with you. Snorkeling gear is provided, but the quality and cleanliness vary.

Seas are generally calm, and boat captains take great care in choosing protected anchoring spots. However, if you're prone to motion sickness, bring some Dramamine with you. Prescription preventions like scopolamine patches work well, too. Note that scopolamine is generally not available for sale in Latin America. Bring a reusable water bottle , so you can fill it up for day-long excursions and reduce your plastic waste.

There are ATMs on Santa Cruz and San Cristóbal islands, but they can run out of cash, so bring some with you to cover tips. Credit cards are also often accepted at shops and restaurants. The official currency of Ecuador is the U.S. dollar.

What Not to Bring

The introduction of non-native plant species is considered a top environmental threat to the Galápagos Islands, so do not bring any fruits, vegetables, or plants of any kind with you. Anything that might have seeds or spores clinging to it, such as the soles of your shoes and any outdoor gear or camping equipment, should be washed and inspected thoroughly before being brought to the islands. The threat of invasive plant species is so great that visitors arriving in the Galápagos have to sign an affidavit swearing that they're not bringing in any food, animals, seeds, or dirty camping gear.

In 2012, Ecuador's then-president Rafael Correa abolished fees at national parks and reserves in the country. However, Galápagos National Park was not part of that exemption and still requires a $100 entrance fee per person, which is payable only in cash upon arrival at either airport in the Galápagos Islands. In addition, each visitor must buy a $20 transit card, which is also payable only in cash at the airport. The transit card is a measure of immigration control, so all visitors must purchase one at the airport when they arrive and return it when they leave. If you are booked on a tour, your tour operator might take care of this for you, but it's better to ask ahead of time.

Before Visiting the Galápagos Islands

With the anticipation building for your trip, you may be looking for books and movies to get into the spirit of an adventuring naturalist. Here are some of our recommendations of what to read and watch to prepare for your trip.

  • My Father's Island by Johanna Angermeyer: Published in 1998, this book provides an account of the author's German ancestors, who were among the first to settle on Santa Cruz Island. Their challenges and triumphs are humbling, offering valuable perspectives on the Galápagos. Members of the Angermeyer family still live on Santa Cruz Island, where they run the Angermeyer Waterfront Inn.
  • The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden: Released in 2013, this documentary cleverly splices video footage, letters, and other archival material to recount a real-life murder mystery involving a self-proclaimed baroness, her lovers, and other settlers on Floreana Island in the 1930s. Cate Blanchett narrates one of the main characters.
  • On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin: This classic and its author will be referenced repeatedly during your time in the Galápagos. Read up on Darwin's seminal theory of evolution, which was inspired, in part, by observations he made in the archipelago.

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Galápagos Conservancy

Planning a Trip to Galápagos

The Galápagos Islands are governed by a Special Law that supports conservation and the preservation of its unique environment. The Galápagos Governing Council is responsible for the overall management of the Archipelago, working to ensure a balance between the populated areas and protected areas. For this reason, the movement of visitors and inhabitants in and out of the Islands requires careful management.

Traveling to Galápagos

What documents do I need to travel to Galápagos?

Most visitors will travel to Galápagos by air from mainland Ecuador. Flights depart daily from the principal cities of Guayaquil or Quito (direct or via Guayaquil). Three companies currently offer flights: TAME, LAN-Ecuador, and Avianca. Airfares are similar between the companies, but you may get lucky and find a promotional offer. In general, you should expect to pay between $380 and $500 for a round-trip ticket. Non-residents cannot buy a one-way ticket to Galápagos.

There are two main airports in Galápagos, one on Baltra Island and the other on San Cristóbal. At the airport in mainland Ecuador before checking in, you will be required to have your bags inspected by the Galápagos Biosecurity Agency quarantine staff and obtain a mandatory $20 tourist transit card. Upon arrival in Galápagos, you will have to pay an entrance fee  in cash  to the Galápagos National Park (currently $100 for non-Ecuadorian adults and $50 for children). Returning to the US or other international destination from Galápagos generally requires an overnight stay in either Quito or Guayaquil.

Choosing a Time of Year

Galápagos is a terrific place to visit anytime of the year. Because of the Islands’ location on the equator, the air and water temperatures remain relatively stable all year long. During peak seasons (mid-June through early September, and mid-December through mid-January), it is particularly important to make your travel arrangements well in advance.

From December through May, the water temperature (avg. 76°F/25°C) and air temperature (avg. low/high 72-86°F/22-30°C) are slightly warmer. Seas tend to be calmer. Rainfalls are common for a short period of time each day, but the remainder of the day tends to be very sunny resulting in high humidity. Flowers come into bloom and vegetation is more colorful. This is a good time to observe birds mating or sea turtles nesting on the beaches.

From June through November, the Humboldt Current brings colder water (avg. 72°F/22°C) and cooler land temperatures (avg. low/high 66-79°F/19-26°C) It also brings nutrient-rich water that attracts fish and sea birds: albatross arrive on Española and penguins are easier to encounter. This is the mating season for blue-footed boobies. During this time of year clouds fill the sky and a misty rain called Garua is common. Winds tend to be stronger and seas a bit rougher. The abundant marine life makes this the preferred time of year for experienced divers.

Cruises vs. Hotels and Day Trips

One can visit Galápagos on a live-aboard experience lasting from 4 days/3 nights to 12 days/11 nights. Boats range from 12–110 passengers and are divided into four categories of service: economy, tourist, first class, and luxury. Cruise itineraries take advantage of night hours to travel long distances between islands to arrive at the next visitor site refreshed and ready to explore. Groups of 12 or more might want to consider chartering an entire boat. This approach can be less expensive per person than joining an organized tour, and can provide opportunities for customization of the tour.

Another option is to stay ashore in a hotel on one of the larger populated islands (Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal, or Isabela) and take day trips to nearby uninhabited islands. Visitors take speed boats or public transportation between inhabited islands, staying overnight at hotels and exploring local sites and enjoying activities near the towns. Day trips are most often arranged from San Cristóbal and Santa Cruz, but also from the less populated islands of Floreana and Isabela where lodging is more limited. While this option can be more economical and provides an interesting perspective for travelers, the range of islands and variety of wildlife that can be visited is more limited.

Day trip operators range widely in comfort and safety standards, and it will be important to choose a reputable tour provider. There are many providers to choose from, and we recommend that you visit our  Travel Partners page for a list of our trusted providers.

Visitor Sites and Guides

Ninety-five percent of the land area of Galápagos is designated as protected by the Galápagos National Park Directorate (GNPD), and tourists are permitted to explore specific visitor sites only with Park-certified naturalist guides. The GNPD coordinates group visits to these 60+ sites and carefully monitors ecological conditions. Different sites are known for their specific scenery, vegetation, and wildlife. However, many species, such as sea lions, marine iguanas, lava lizards, and a variety of coastal birds such as herons, tattlers, plovers, turnstones, and whimbrels, are commonly seen at most locations.

Each visitor site has a marked trail, most of which are less than a mile long — often passing over rough lava or uneven boulders. Some sites have “wet landings” (visitors wade to shore from rafts or dinghies) and others have “dry landings” (passengers step foot directly onto dry land). All live-aboard cruises and reputable day-tour outfitters employ licensed guides who must accompany travelers to these sites.

Diving in Galápagos

Galápagos is a world-class destination for scuba divers because of the abundance of sharks, sea lions, fur seals, marine turtles, rays, mantas, marine iguanas, and reef fishes. The GNPD has granted permission to a select number of tour providers. If you plan to dive on your trip, check with your provider to make sure the company is authorized to offer this activity. 

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galapagos islands tourism

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Galapagos Islands Tours & Vacations

Male Marine Iguanas and Sally lightfoot crab on the rocks of the Galapagos islands, Ecuador.

Step into an isolated world. See giant tortoises roaming and unforgettable landscapes unfurl before your very eyes. 

Inquisitive sea lions and spiky marine iguanas breach and bask between island and shore. Friendly hammerhead sharks patrol the depths and blue-footed boobies cut through the sky. Come with us on our Galapagos Islands tours & holidays and observe the local wildlife in the same, untouched way Charles Darwin did hundreds of years ago. Nowadays, these Ecuadorian islands host a steady stream of modern-day explorers from animal-seekers who long for face-to-face encounters to sun-chasers itching to relax on a pristine beach or two. Embark on your own adventure as you wander from isla to isla, soak in crystal-clear waters, traverse volcanic landscapes, and spot animals you've only ever seen pictures of . To be honest, there's simply no place on Earth quite like the Galapagos.  

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Transport in the galapagos islands.

Intrepid believes half the fun of experiencing a new country is getting there, and getting around once there! Where possible, Intrepid uses local transport options and traditional modes of transport - which usually carry less of an environmental impact, support small local operators and are heaps more fun.Depending on which trip you're on while in the Galapagos Islands, you may find yourself on:

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Galapagos Islands at a glance

Capital city.

Puerto Baquerizo Moreno

US dollar (USD)

(GMT-06:00) Galapagos

CALLING CODE

Electricity.

Type A (North American/Japanese 2-pin), Type B (American 3-pin)

Learn more about Galapagos Islands

Best time to visit.

Simply put, there’s no bad time to visit the Galapagos Islands. Good weather is mostly found year round, as are the animals. This being said, November through to June is the preferred time to visit, with clearer skies, calmer seas and decreased winds. Of these, March and April have less rain, while November and December are the warmest. July to November is the best time for divers as whale sharks can often be spotted at Wolf and Darwin islands.

Learn more about the best time to visit the Galapagos Islands

Culture and customs

Ever since Charles Darwin brought attention to the giant tortoises, sea lions, hammerhead sharks and other spectacular wildlife of the Galapagos Islands, people have been fascinated by this archipelago of volcanic islands. Originally a pirate hideout, people started migrating to the islands from Ecuador after it became part of the country in 1832. Of the 13 major islands and scores of smaller islands and islets that make up the Galapagos, only five of them are inhabited – about 26,000 residents spread over the islands of Isabela, Santa Cruz, Floreana, Baltra and San Cristobal. The wildlife rules the rest of the islands, which are carefully managed to help protect the precious environment.

Geography and environment

Located in the Pacific Ocean about 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands are a volcanic archipelago of 13 major islands, six smaller islands and more than 100 islets. Some are sparsely vegetated with largely mountainous interiors, whereas others are comparatively lush with white-sand beaches. Many of the islands are in a state of flux, as continual volcanic eruptions cause them to erode and expand.

The largest island, Isabela, makes up half the land area of the Galapagos and is characterized by three active volcanos, a blue lagoon, clear lakes filled with flamingos and beaches where iguanas and sea lions roam. Santa Cruz is the second largest island with giant tortoises, marine iguanas and Galapagos crabs residing in Tortuga Bay. The oldest and most remote island, Espanola (also called Hood), boasts boobies, albatrosses and many species of birds and lizards not found anywhere else in the world. 

Top wildlife to spot

1. Sea Lions

Whether you're loafing about on the beach or snorkeling offshore, you’ll be hard-pressed not to come face-to-face with these frolicsome critters at some stage. Playful, plentiful, and pretty much fearless, you’re supposed to keep a 2-meter distance from these guys at all times - though their insatiable curiosity can make this hard.

2. Marine Iguanas

The only lizards in the world that can live and forage in the ocean, the marine iguana is found solely in the Galapagos. Fierce and ferocious though these Godzilla-like reptiles may appear (Darwin called them ‘Imps of Darkness’), it’s all bluff – they only feed on algae. And with lung capacities permitting up to half an hour of underwater foraging, you’re just as likely find them gorging on the islands’ surrounding seabeds as scampering about the craggy rocks they inhabit.

3. Hammerhead Sharks

Boasting one of the animal kingdom’s most puzzling physiologies, hammerhead sharks are found in abundance off Wolf, Bartolome, Santa Cruz and Darwin islands. Unlike most sharks, they will often merge into schools of over 100 during the day - making for some incredible and surreal photo opportunities. And with no known human fatalities and a wealth of choice natural prey on offer, diving amongst them isn’t as scary or dangerous as one might think.

Darwin finches gave rise to one of the most game-changing theories of all time. By studying the differences between finches from different islands, Darwin hypothesized that the birds’ adaptations to their habitats resulted in their mutation into different species: his Theory of Evolution.

5. Giant Tortoises

No trip to the islands is complete without a visit to its most famous residents. Weighing up to 882 pounds, regularly living for more than 100 years, and able to go for up to 1 year without food, these gentle and slow-moving monsters are an intriguing and humbling spectacle to observe.

6. Sea Turtles

Snorkeling alongside these majestic creatures of the deep (or more accurately, the shallows) is one of those rare, life-affirming moments that makes a trip to the Galapagos immediately worthwhile. Keep your eyes peeled on the beaches for turtle nests too - the Galapagos is a hotbed of activity for these critters. 

7. Blue-Footed Boobies

Despite essentially looking like handsome seagulls with painted toenails, blue-footed boobies, when caught hunting, serve up one of the Galapagos' most thrilling spectacles. Diving from heights of up to 100ft, groups of boobies hit the water at speeds up around 60km per hour. They usually let out a shrill whistle before letting rip, which means you'll usually have warning enough to get your camera out too. How considerate.

8. Flightless Cormorants

Granted, a flightless cormorant spotted on land isn't one of the most invigorating sights you'll see during your time here. But wait until you don your snorkel gear and spot one weaving elegantly through the water - the flightless cormorant will likely become one of your favorite discoveries in the Galapagos Islands for this reason alone.

9. Frigatebird

With its striking wingspan and deeply-forked tail, the magnificent frigate bird is easily one of the most impressive birds in the skies of the Galapagos archipelago. But they don't have such a swell reputation amongst other birds. Whilst they hunt fish on the oceans surface, they also force their winged brethren to regurgitate their food, which then they eat - a process known as kleptoparasitism. Still, they look gorgeous – particularly the males, with their bright-red chin sac.

Healthy and safety

Intrepid takes the health and safety of its travelers seriously, and takes every measure to ensure that trips are safe, fun and enjoyable for everyone. We recommend that all travelers check with their government or national travel advisory organization for the latest information before departure:

From Australia?

Go to:  http://www.smartraveller.gov.au/

From New Zealand?

Go to:  http://www.safetravel.govt.nz/

From Canada?

Go to:  https://travel.gc.ca/

Go to:  http://travel.state.gov/

Go to:  http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/

The World Health Organisation

also provides useful health information:  Go to:  http://www.who.int/en/

Further reading

Similar destinations.

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Comparison 

Galapagos or Madagascar? 

Galapagos Islands travel FAQs

Do i need a covid-19 vaccine to join an intrepid trip.

Trips from 1 January 2023 onwards

From 1 January 2023, Intrepid will no longer require travelers to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 (excluding all Polar trips and select adventure cruises).

However, we continue to strongly recommend that all Intrepid travelers and leaders get vaccinated to protect themselves and others.

Specific proof of testing or vaccination may still be required by your destination or airline. Please ensure you check travel and entry requirements carefully.

Do I need a visa to travel to Galapagos Islands?

Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveler. Entry requirements can change at any time, so it's important that you check for the latest information.

Please visit the relevant consular website of the country or countries you’re visiting for detailed and up-to-date visa information specific to your nationality.

Check the Essential Trip Information section of the itinerary for more information.

Is tipping customary in the Galapagos Islands?

While tipping isn’t mandatory, tips are very much appreciated by service workers and guides.

Leaving a 10% tip is customary in restaurants.

Some automatically add a 10% service charge to your bill, in which case an extra tip isn’t required.

What is the weather like in the Galapagos Islands?

The Galapagos Islands enjoy almost perfect weather all year with two distinct seasons offering warmer, rainier months and cooler, drier months.

Temperatures rarely dip below 70°F or reach higher than 90°F. You can travel to the islands anytime throughout the year and experience fantastic weather.

Light rainfall is expected from January to May (along with high humidity levels), but it never lasts for long and doesn't often turn into heavier downpours.

What is the internet access like in the Galapagos Islands?

There are reliable internet cafes in Puerto Ayora (Santa Cruz Island) and Puerto Baquerizo (San Cristobal Island).

Some hotels and restaurants on other islands will have a Wi-Fi connection, but it is best not to rely on it.

Can I use my cell phone in the Galapagos Islands?

There's good cell phone reception on the larger islands, but don’t expect it when at sea. The best local telephone companies are Porta and Movistar.

Ensure you have global roaming activated before leaving home if you wish to use your cell phone.

What are the toilets like in the Galapagos Islands?

Most towns have Western-style flushable toilets, though you will likely encounter squat toilets as well. Regardless, it’s a good idea to carry your own toilet paper and hand sanitiser, as they are not always provided.

What will it cost for a...?

  • Juice = USD 1
  • Street food snack = USD 1.50
  • Simple lunch at a local restaurant = USD 3-5 
  • Sit-down dinner at a cafe or restaurant = USD 10–20

Can I drink the water in the Galapagos Islands?

Tap water isn’t considered safe to drink in the Galapagos Islands.

Avoid drinks with ice and make sure to peel fruit before eating it.

Help the environment and try to avoid buying bottled water. Instead, fill a reusable water bottle with filtered water. Your leader or hotel can tell you where to find filtered water.

Are credit cards accepted widely in the Galapagos Islands?

No, credit cards are not widely accepted.

There are a handful of shops on Santa Cruz that may accept major credit cards, but it’s preferable to pay in cash.

How many islands make up the Galapagos Islands?

The Galapagos Islands are made up of 13 larger islands and more than 60 smaller islands and islets. 5 islands are habitable to just over 30,000 people.

These 5 islands are Isla Baltra, Isla Floreana, Isla Isabela, Isla Santa Cruz, and Isla San Cristobal.

What is ATM access like in Galapagos Island?

The banks in Puerto Ayora and Puerto Baquerizo have ATMs.

The Banco del Pacifico in both towns is open from 8 am to 3:30 pm Monday to Friday and 9 am to 12.30 pm on Saturdays.

It's best to withdraw your money on the mainland in case these are out of order.

Check each bank's website for up-to-date opening hours.

What public holidays are celebrated in the Galapagos Islands?

  • 1 Jan: New Year's Day
  • 6 Jan: Epiphany
  • 1 May: Labour Day
  • 24 May: Battle of Pichincha
  • 10 Aug: Independence Day
  • 9 Oct: Guayaquil Independence Day
  • 2 Nov: All Soul's Day
  • 3 Nov: Cuenca Independence Day
  • 25 Dec: Christmas
  • 31 Dec: New Year's Eve

Please note, Galapagos Islands public holidays may vary.

Are the Galapagos Islands a safe destination for LGBTQIA+ travelers?

The Galapagos Islands are a relatively hassle-free destination for LGBTQIA+ travellers.

Same-sex marriage was legalised in Ecuador in 2008. The country hosts several fiestas where it’s acceptable for men to cross-dress as women.

However, homophobic attitudes do exist among the older generations. It is best to avoid public displays of affection where possible.

For more detailed advice, we recommend visiting   Equaldex   or   ILGA   before you travel.

What to drink in the Galapagos Islands

Quench your thirst after a glorious day spent exploring the Galapagos  by sipping on a glass of canelazo, horchata tea, or freshly made fruit juice.

During your cruise around the islands, it makes sense to try as many traditional Ecuadorian drinks as you can, especially since there are heaps to choose from.

Do I need to purchase travel insurance before traveling?

Absolutely. All passengers traveling with Intrepid are required to purchase travel insurance before the start of their trip. Your travel insurance details will be recorded by your leader on the first day of the trip. Due to the varying nature, availability and cost of health care around the world, travel insurance is very much an essential and necessary part of every journey.

For more information on insurance, please go to: Travel Insurance

Are Intrepid trips accessible for travelers with disabilities?

We are committed to making travel widely  accessible , regardless of ability or disability. We do our best to help you see the world, regardless of physical or mental limitations. 

We are always happy to talk to travelers with disabilities and see if we can help guide them toward the most suitable itinerary for their needs and, where possible, make reasonable adjustments to our itineraries.

Does my trip support The Intrepid Foundation?

Yes, all Intrepid trips support the Intrepid Foundation. Trips to this country directly support our global Intrepid Foundation partners, Eden Reforestation Projects and World Bicycle Relief. Intrepid will double the impact by dollar-matching all post-trip donations made to The Intrepid Foundation.

Eden Reforestation Projects

Eden Reforestation Projects are helping to mitigate climate change by restoring forests worldwide; they also hire locally and create job opportunities within vulnerable communities. Donations from our trips support restoration across planting sites in 10 countries around the globe. Find out more or make a donation World Bicycle Relief

World Bicycle Relief provides people in low-income communities with bicycles to mobilize school kids, health workers, and farmers in far-out areas – giving them access to vital education, healthcare, and income. Donations help provide Buffalo Bicycles – specifically designed to withstand the rugged terrain and harsh environment of rural regions – to those who need them most. Find out more or make a donation

Iguana on the Galapagos Islands.

© Sebastian Modak/Lonely Planet

The Galápagos Islands

The Galápagos Islands may just inspire you to think differently about the world. The creatures that call the islands home, many found nowhere else in the world, act as if humans are nothing more than slightly annoying paparazzi.

Leave the planning to a local expert

Experience the real The Galápagos Islands. Let a local expert handle the planning for you.

Attractions

Must-see attractions.

León Dormido

León Dormido

Isla San Cristóbal (Chatham)

About an hour’s boat ride northeast of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is León Dormido (Kicker Rock), so named because of its resemblance to a sleeping lion. León…

El Chato Tortoise Reserve

El Chato Tortoise Reserve

Isla Santa Cruz (Indefatigable)

South of Santa Rosa is El Chato Tortoise Reserve, where you can observe giant tortoises in the wild. When these virtually catatonic, prehistoric-looking…

MAPRAE

Puerto Ayora

The first of its kind in the world, this museum uses augmented reality to showcase a permanent exhibition of 55 pre-Columbian artifacts. The ancient…

Volcán Alcedo

Volcán Alcedo

The summit of this volcano (1097m) is famous for its 7km-wide caldera and steaming fumaroles. Hundreds of giant tortoises can be seen here, especially…

Ecuador, Galapagos Islands, Galapagos giant tortoise

Charles Darwin Research Station

Just northeast of Puerto Ayora is this iconic national-park site, where over 200 scientists and volunteers are involved with research and conservation…

galapagos islands tourism

Puerto Egas

Puerto Egas is one of the most popular sites in the Galápagos – a long, flat, black lava shoreline where eroded shapes form lava pools, caves and inlets…

galapagos islands tourism

Darwin Lake

A dry landing deposits you at the beginning of a 2km-long trail that brings you past this postcard-perfect saltwater lagoon. It has twice the salinity of…

galapagos islands tourism

Cerro Brujo

Possibly one of the nicest beaches in the Galápagos, Cerro Brujo is a huge white expanse found on the west side of the island. The sand here feels like…

Plan with a local

Experience the real Galapagos Islands

Let a local expert craft your dream trip.

galapagos islands tourism

Latest stories from The Galápagos Islands

Filter by interest:

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galapagos islands tourism

National Parks

Mar 25, 2024 • 2 min read

To combat overtourism and promote sustainability, authorities on the Galápagos Islands are raising fees this summer for most visitors from US$100 to $200.

galapagos islands tourism

Oct 11, 2023 • 5 min read

Galapagos Islands 2022

Jan 30, 2023 • 16 min read

A Galapagos giant tortoise crossing a straight dirt road.

May 20, 2021 • 2 min read

Galapagos sea lions (Zalophus wollebaeki) sunbathing in the late afternoon on a beach at Espanola island..

Mar 25, 2021 • 2 min read

Five people jumping from a sailboat into the ocean during summer.

Aug 7, 2020 • 4 min read

galapagos islands tourism

Jul 6, 2020 • 2 min read

Piazza San Marco at sunrise in Venice, Italy.

May 22, 2020 • 6 min read

galapagos islands tourism

Mar 4, 2020 • 4 min read

Aerial view of the mountains and the sea at the Galapagos Islands

Mar 1, 2020 • 5 min read

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The Galápagos Islands and beyond

Fur seals at Punta Carola beach, Galapagos islands (Ecuador)

Take advantage of the search to browse through the World Heritage Centre information.

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  • Description

Situated in the Pacific Ocean some 1,000 km from the South American continent, these 19 islands and the surrounding marine reserve have been called a unique ‘living museum and showcase of evolution’. Located at the confluence of three ocean currents, the Galápagos are a ‘melting pot’ of marine species. Ongoing seismic and volcanic activity reflects the processes that formed the islands. These processes, together with the extreme isolation of the islands, led to the development of unusual animal life – such as the land iguana, the giant tortoise and the many types of finch – that inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection following his visit in 1835.

Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

Îles Galápagos

Situées dans l’océan Pacifique, à environ 1000 km du continent sud-américain, ces dix-neuf îles et la réserve marine qui les entoure constituent un musée et un laboratoire vivants de l’évolution uniques au monde. Au confluent de trois courants océaniques, les Galápagos sont un creuset d’espèces marines. L’activité sismique et le volcanisme toujours en activité illustrent les processus qui ont formé ces îles. Ces processus, ainsi que l’isolement extrême de ces îles, ont entraîné le développement d’une faune originale - notamment l’iguane terrestre, la tortue géante et de nombreuses espèces de pinsons qui inspira à Charles Darwin sa théorie de l’évolution par la sélection naturelle à la suite de sa visite en 1835.

أرخبيل جزر غالاباغوس

على مسافة 1000 كيلومتر من القارة الأمريكيّة الجنوبيّة، تقع الجزر التسعة عشر والمحميّة البحريّة التي تحيطها وتكوّن متحفاً ومختبراً حيّين فريدين من نوعهما في المحيط الهادئ. وعند نقطة تلاقي تيارات المحيطات الثلاثة، تشكّل غالاباغوس بوتقة الأصناف البحريّة. فحركة الزلازل والبراكين الثائرة تجسّد عمليّات تكوين هذه الجزر. ولقد أدّت هذه العمليّات، ناهيك عن انعزال هذه الجزر التام، إلى تطوّر ثروة حيوانيّة فريدة من نوعها وخصوصاً الإغوانة البريّة والسلحفاة العملاقة وأصناف عديدة من عصافير البرقش التي استوحى منها شارل داروين نظريّته الشهيرة بعد زيارته عام 1835.

source: UNESCO/CPE Description is available under license CC-BY-SA IGO 3.0

群岛地处离南美大陆1000公里的太平洋上,由19个火山岛以及周围的海域组成,被人称作独一无二的“活的生物进化博物馆和陈列室”。加拉帕戈斯群岛处于三大洋流的交汇处,是海洋生物的“大熔炉”。持续的地震和火山活动反映了群岛的形成过程。这些过程,加上群岛与世隔绝的地理位置,促使群岛内进化出许多奇异的动物物种,例如陆生鬣蜥、巨龟和多种类型的雀类。1835年查尔斯·达尔文参观了这片岛屿后,从中得到感悟,进而提出了著名的进化论。

Islas Galápagos

Situadas en el Pacífico, a unos mil kilómetros del subcontinente sudamericano, estas diecinueve islas de origen volcánico y su reserva marina circundante son un museo y un laboratorio vivientes de la evolución, únicos en el mundo. Las Galápagos están situadas en la confluencia de tres corrientes oceánicas y concentran una gran variedad de especies marinas. Su actividad sísmica y volcánica ilustra los procesos de su formación geológica. Estos procesos, sumados al extremo aislamiento del archipiélago, han originado el desarrollo de una fauna singular con especies como la iguana terrestre, la tortuga gigante y numerosas especies de pinzones, cuyo estudio inspiró a Darwin la teoría de la evolución por selección natural, tras su viaje a estas islas en 1835.

source: NFUAJ

Galápagos Eilanden

De Galápagos Eilanden liggen in de Stille Oceaan, zo’n 1.000 kilometer van het Zuid-Amerikaanse continent. Ze omvatten 19 eilanden, die samen met het omliggende zeereservaat een ‘levend museum en toonbeeld van evolutie’ worden genoemd. Voortdurende seismische en vulkanische processen hebben de eilanden gevormd. Deze processen en de extreme afzondering van de eilanden, hebben geleid tot de ontwikkelingen van ongebruikelijk dierlijk leven, zoals de landleguaan, de reuzenschildpad en vele soorten vinken. De Galápagos eilanden liggen op de plek waar drie oceaanstromingen samenkomen en het gebied bevat daarom ook een mix van marine soorten. Het gebied inspireerde Charles Darwin tot de ontwikkeling van de evolutietheorie, na zijn bezoek in 1835.

Source: unesco.nl

galapagos islands tourism

Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

The Galapagos Islands area situated in the Pacific Ocean some 1,000 km from the Ecuadorian coast. This archipelago and its immense marine reserve is known as the unique ‘living museum and showcase of evolution’. Its geographical location at the confluence of three ocean currents makes it one of the richest marine ecosystems in the world. Ongoing seismic and volcanic activity reflects the processes that formed the islands. These processes, together with the extreme isolation of the islands, led to the development of unusual plant and animal life – such as marine iguanas, flightless cormorants, giant tortoises, huge cacti, endemic trees and the many different subspecies of mockingbirds and finches – all of which inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection following his visit in 1835.

Criterion vii: The Galapagos Marine Reserve is an underwater wildlife spectacle with abundant life ranging from corals to sharks to penguins to marine mammals. No other site in the world can offer the experience of diving with such a diversity of marine life forms that are so familiar with human beings, that they accompany divers. The diversity of underwater geomorphological forms is an added value to the site producing a unique display, which cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

Criterion viii: The archipelago´s geology begins at the sea floor and emerges above sea level where biological processes continue.. Three major tectonic plates—Nazca, Cocos and Pacific— meet at the basis of the ocean, which is of significant geological interest. In comparison with most oceanic archipelagos, the Galapagos are very young with the largest and youngest islands, Isabela and Fernandina, with less than one million years of existence, and the oldest islands, Española and San Cristóbal, somewhere between three to five million years. The site demonstrates the evolution of the younger volcanic areas in the west and the older islands in the east. On-going geological and geomorphological processes, including recent volcanic eruptions, small seismic movements, and erosion provide key insights to the puzzle of the origin of the Galapagos Islands. Almost no other site in the world offers protection of such a complete continuum of geological and geomorphological features.

Criterion ix: The origin of the flora and fauna of the Galapagos has been of great interest to people ever since the publication of the “Voyage of the Beagle” by Charles Darwin in 1839. The islands constitute an almost unique example of how ecological, evolutionary and biogeographic processes influence the flora and fauna on both specific islands as well as the entire archipelago. Darwin’s finches, mockingbirds, land snails, giant tortoises and a number of plant and insect groups represent some of the best examples of adaptive radiation which still continues today. Likewise, the Marine Reserve, situated at the confluence of 3 major eastern Pacific currents and influenced by climatic phenomena such as El Niño, has had major evolutionary consequences and provides important clues about species evolution under changing conditions. The direct dependence on the sea for much of the island’s wildlife (e.g. seabirds, marine iguanas, sea lions) is abundantly evident and provides an inseparable link between the terrestrial and marine worlds.

Criterion x: The islands have relatively high species diversity for such young oceanic islands, and contain emblematic taxa such as giant tortoises and land iguanas, the most northerly species of penguin in the world, flightless cormorants as well as the historically important Darwin’s finches and Galapagos mockingbirds. Endemic flora such as the giant daisy trees Scalesia spp. and many other genera have also radiated on the islands, part of a native flora including about 500 vascular plant species of which about 180 are endemic. Examples of endemic and threatened species include 12 native terrestrial mammal species (11 endemic, with 10 threatened or extinct) and 36 reptile species (all endemic and most considered threatened or extinct), including the only marine iguana in the world. Likewise the marine fauna has an unusually high level of diversity and endemism, with 2,909 marine species identified with 18.2% endemism. High profile marine species include sharks, whale sharks, rays and cetaceans. The interactions between the marine and terrestrial biotas (e.g. sea lions, marine and terrestrial iguanas, and seabirds) are also exceptional. Recent exploration of deep sea communities continues to produce new additions to science.

The Galapagos archipelago is located about 1,000 km from continental Ecuador and is composed of 127 islands, islets and rocks, of which 19 are large and 4are inhabited. 97% of the total emerged surface (7,665,100 ha) was declared National Park in 1959. Human settlements are restricted to the remaining 3% in specifically zoned rural and urban areas on four islands (a fifth island only has an airport, tourism dock, fuel containment, and military facilities). The islands are surrounded by the Galapagos Marine Reserve which was created in 1986 (70,000 km 2 ) and extended to its current area (133,000 km 2 ) in 1998, making it one of the largest marine reserves in the world. The marine reserve includes inland waters of the archipelago (50,100 km 2 ) in addition to all those contained within 40 nautical miles, measured from the outermost coastal islands. Airports on two islands (Baltra and San Cristobal) receive traffic from continental Ecuador with another airport on Isabela mostly limited to inter-island traffic. All the inhabited islands have ports to receive merchandise. The other uninhabited islands are strictly controlled with carefully planned tourist itineraries limiting visitation. Around 30,000 people live on the islands, and approximately 170,000 tourists visit the islands each year.

Protection and management requirements

The main threats to the Galapagos are the introduction of invasive species, increased tourism, demographic growth, illegal fishing and governance issues (i.e. who takes responsibility for decisions given the large number of stakeholders with conflicting interests involved in managing the islands). These issues are constantly analyzed and monitored to adequately manage them and reinforce strategies to minimize their impact.

In 1986 a law was passed to control fishing and over-exploitation of Galapagos marine resources. Protection was further strengthened by the “Special Regime Law for the Conservation and Sustainable Development in the Province of the Galapagos” of 1998, and inscribed in the Constitution of the Republic of Ecuador. This law designated the current Galapagos Marine Reserve as a protected area under the responsibility of the Galapagos National Park Service. Among other issues, it provides the specific legal framework over which many aspects of island life are to be regulated, including provincial planning; inspection and quarantine measures; fisheries management; control and marine monitoring; residency and migration of people to the islands; tourism through a visitor management system, permits and quotas; agriculture; waste management; and “total control” of introduced species. This management imposes some limitations on the exercise of the rights of people living in this geographical area, but also provides them with preferential rights to use the natural resources sustainably. Within this framework the Galapagos National Park Service has periodically prepared Management Plans since 1974 to date, which have been developed in a participatory manner among the different social and economic groups through community representatives and local authorities to address the changing realities of the Galapagos ecosystem. This includes tools for development and conservation management of natural resources in harmony with international standards. For example, a zoning system has been implemented to establish areas of sustainable use and areas prohibited to the local population. Governmental institutions contribute to the funding of conservation and management in the archipelago. Other support comes from the entry fee paid by tourists and a small percentage from international donations.

  • [in Italian] Uno sguardo sulle Galapagos
  • [in Italian] Galapagos, paradiso troppo affollato
  • Galapagos Links (Ecuador: Tierra hermosa)
  • Galapagos Conservation Trust
  • Charles Darwin Foundation
  • Protectedplanet.net

galapagos islands tourism

List of World Heritage in Danger

Inscription Year on the List of World Heritage in Danger

State of Conservation (SOC)

Protections by other conservation instruments.

1 protection / 1 element

  • Humedales del Sur de Isabela

Read more about synergies

Galapagos Islands   Travel Guide

galapagos islands tourism

Courtesy of prasit chansarekorn | Getty Images

galapagos islands tourism

Why Go To Galapagos Islands

With its untamed terrain and notoriously fearless creatures – from sea lions to seagoing lizards – the isolated isles of the Galápagos lure those looking for exhilarating encounters in the wild. After all, where else can you observe giant tortoises grazing on tall blades of grass, short-feathered penguins waddling along the equator or blue-footed boobies conducting their unique mating ritual, all unbothered by the presence of onlookers? More than 100 years after Charles Darwin visited during his legendary voyage aboard the HMS Beagle, adventurers continue to use his footsteps as a guide for their own extraordinary journeys.

The Galápagos archipelago sits approximately 600 miles west of mainland Ecuador and comprises 234 isolated islands, islets, and rocks, warranting plenty of exploration. But with so much to see and do across this remote string of islands, you'll have to be selective about which islands you choose to discover. To get acquainted with the Galápagos' famous dome-shaped tortoises, head to El Chato Tortoise Reserve or Rancho Primicias on Santa Cruz Island. If you're keen to delve into the history of giant tortoises, witness conservation initiatives, and grasp the captive breeding endeavors for endangered turtle species, consider visiting the Tortoise Trail in the Galápagos National Park in Santa Cruz. Additionally, don't miss the chance to see the iconic Lonesome George, whose preserved body is a poignant reminder of the importance of preventing species extinction. Afterward, trek east to the Charles Darwin Research Station to learn more about Darwin's work. If you would prefer a rendezvous with sea lions, head to San Cristóbal Island, where the cheery mammals engage in barking conversations along chalky white sands . And for a more serious adrenaline rush, head to Isabela Island to hike the active and imposing Sierra Negra volcano. Wherever your Galápagos adventure takes you, don't forget to bring your camera.

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  • # 3 in Best Places to Visit in Central and South America in 2023
  • # 9 in Best Places to Visit in Winter
  • # 9 in Best Places to Visit in March 2024

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Best of Galapagos Islands

Best hotels in galapagos islands.

  • in Finch Bay Eco Hotel
  • in Hotel Solymar

Finch Bay Eco Hotel

Best Things to Do in Galapagos Islands

  • # 1 in La Ruta de la Tortuga (Santa Cruz Island)
  • # 2 in Tortuga Bay (Santa Cruz Island)
  • # 3 in La Lobería (San Cristóbal Island)

galapagos islands tourism

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Galapagos Islands Travel Tips

Best months to visit.

The best time to explore the Galápagos Islands is from December to May. While the islands are excellent year-round, these months offer temperatures ranging from the low 70s to mid-80s, making pleasant conditions for hiking and wildlife-spotting. And though this season experiences frequent (but short) showers, the sun shines brightly on most days. Between June and November, the Humboldt Current, a current that runs northwest along South America's west coast, ushers in cooler temperatures and nutrient-rich water that attracts rare fish and birds. Albatrosses are exclusively found on Española Island in the Galápagos, and they can be observed there only between April and December. In August, Galápagos Penguins begin their migration from Isabela and Fernandina islands to central islands such as Bartholomew. Additionally, during these months, the region experiences longer rain showers and stronger winds, resulting in rougher seas.

To minimize the ecological impact on this fragile ecosystem, strict regulations are in place, including guidelines for site visits, allowable activity lengths and maximum passenger limits. You'll need to book several months in advance to secure a spot, regardless of your preferred travel dates.

Weather in Galapagos Islands

Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center

What You Need to Know

Dive into shoulder seasons The "warm phase" (December to May) offers sun-soaked days and inviting ocean temps, while the "dry phase" (June to November) brings vibrant wildlife interactions, from bustling sea mammals to seabird chicks. For nature lovers, the "dry phase" is unbeatable.

You need a TCT The Galápagos government requires all tourists to purchase a Transit Control Card, which helps monitor tourist time on the islands. You can fill out your information online in advance or do so at the airports in Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca. The fee is $20, payable in cash at the airport. Keep the card safe during your trip; you'll need to present it upon departure.

You have to pay to play In order to tour Galápagos National Park (which occupies nearly the entire archipelago), foreign tourists not residing in Ecuador must pay an entrance fee. Individuals 12 years and older pay $100, while those younger than 12 pay $50. This entrance fee bolsters sustainable human development and vital conservation efforts in the region.

Prepare for sun The sun scorches the Galápagos Islands, and shade is hard to come by. Protect yourself with sunglasses, a hat and lots of sunscreen. A sun shirt wouldn't hurt, either.

Respect the Galápagos Code The islands aren't just a breathtaking destination but a national park and a World Heritage Site. As a visitor, you're entrusted with their care. The Galápagos National Park Directorate has set forth 14 crucial rules to ensure we all help preserve this natural wonder. Before your adventure, familiarize yourself with the guidelines .

Embrace the digital detox With its pristine beauty, the Galápagos is also a testament to life off the beaten digital path. Be prepared for limited internet access and unstable cellphone coverage. Embrace this opportunity to disconnect and immerse yourself in the wonders of nature.

How to Save Money in Galapagos Islands

Visit in the offseason If you plan a trip in October, November or between February and May, you'll find significantly lower costs. You'll still want to book a few months in advance to ensure availability (this is true of no matter the time of year you book).

Plan daytrips Though cruises are a remarkable way to experience the Galápagos Islands, they often come attached to exorbitant price tags. You'll find a handful of affordable expedition options available in Puerto Ayora , Puerto Villamil and Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. Plus, you can pick and choose tours based on your interests.

Get your fill of free attractions Though an entry fee applies to visit Galápagos  National Park, many of San Cristóbal Island and Santa Cruz Island's top attractions, including the Giant Tortoise Breeding Centers overseen by the Galápagos National Park Directorate and the Charles Darwin Research Center do not charge an additional entrance fee.

Maximize your first moments There's a wealth of activities in San Cristóbal and Baltra, the two places where you're likely to fly into. Visit Los Gemelos (the Lava Tunnels) or ranches hosting giant tortoises prior to visiting another location.

Culture & Customs

Ever since Panamanian bishop Tomás de Berlanga accidentally stumbled upon this isolated archipelago in 1535, the Galápagos Islands have entertained a bevy of visitors, from pirates and whalers to scientists and tourists. But the most iconic Galápagos visitor of all was British scientist Charles Darwin, who developed his ground-breaking theory of evolution after his stay in 1835, three years after the islands were claimed by Ecuador.

In 1959, organized tourism spiked significantly with the establishment of Galápagos National Park. This designation covered nearly 97% of the total land, solidifying its status as one of the most protected and biodiverse natural reserves on the planet. Today, the Galápagos Islands welcome more than 200,000 visitors every year.

While this tourism boom benefits Ecuador's economy, the eclectic array of species found here – and nowhere else – continue to be threatened. In fact, the remote region became so popular among tourists that the park was declared a World Heritage Site in Danger in 2007. Widespread preservation efforts have reduced imposing threats to the archipelago. It is no longer considered to be "in danger," yet conservationists continue to monitor tourist activity to reduce the damage caused by an ever-expanding human footprint. Travelers can minimize their impact by abiding by park rules and walking along the marked trails. 

According to the last government census conducted in 2015, the Galápagos Islands were home to roughly 25,000 inhabitants. However, the population has likely grown since then, with estimates suggesting that more than 30,000 people now reside on the islands. Of this population, a significant majority, nearly 20,000 individuals, call Santa Cruz Island their home, making it the most densely populated of the Galápagos Islands. This increase in population presents unique challenges and opportunities for the region, particularly in terms of sustainable development and conservation efforts in this ecologically sensitive and globally significant archipelago.

The dress code in Galápagos is generally casual: T-shirts, shorts or light trousers are your best choices. Evening dress code is generally quite casual, but it's a good idea to bring along a change of clothes. Given the archipelago's unique equatorial location, it's important for visitors to be mindful of the weather. Packing light layers and wearing ample sunscreen is essential to protect yourself from the strong UV rays. Additionally, comfortable walking shoes are a must if you plan to explore hiking trails. If you're inclined toward underwater adventures like snorkeling or scuba diving, including a wet suit in your luggage is advisable, as are multiple swimsuits. Keep in mind that evenings and higher elevations in the Galápagos Islands can get cooler. Be sure to pack a light jacket or sweater to keep you warm during breezy nights or while exploring the captivating highlands.

The U.S. dollar is the official currency of the Galápagos. While the island vibe embraces cash for most of its dealings (from boutique hotels to local diners), some establishments welcome Visa and MasterCard. Just a heads up, though – American Express isn't a local favorite. Should your wallet run thin, Banco del Pacífico and Banco Pichincha have your back with ATMs, normally open 24 hours a day.

The region's most widely spoken language is Spanish, but a growing tourism market has brought English to major isles like Santa Cruz, Isabela and San Cristóbal. Additionally, hotels and local tour companies can connect you with English-speaking nature guides. But if you plan on visiting more remote regions, you may want to learn a few key Spanish words and phrases – such as "hola" (hello), "adios" (goodbye), "por favor" (please) and "gracias" (thank you) – to use during your vacation.

What to Eat

Dining takes on a unique and flavorful character on the islands. Galápagos cuisine echoes the simplicity and rich flavors of mainland Ecuador, featuring staples like potatoes, yucca, plantains and rice. These ingredients come together to create dishes that are light yet incredibly satisfying. Additionally, there's a strong emphasis on locally sourced, fresh seafood, particularly in the handful of restaurants situated in Puerto Ayora , Puerto Villamil and Puerto Baquerizo Moreno .

One can't-miss item is the Galápagos lobster, a delicacy best enjoyed between September and December when the fishing ban is temporarily lifted. Additionally, indulge in the canchalagua , a mollusk unique to the region, as well as albacore or yellowfin tuna, which grace the menus with their exquisite tastes . Fish enthusiasts can relish dishes featuring camotillo , also known as the white-spotted sand bass; pez brujo , the Pacific spotted scorpionfish; and bacalao rey , the Galápagos golden grouper. If seafood isn't your preference, you'll find dishes with chicken, beef and pork on offer.

As for breakfast, the day commonly starts with bolones (fried plantains stuffed with cheese and meat) and coffee or freshly squeezed juices like guanabana (or soursop, an acidic yet sweet fruit believed to help fight cancer), tree tomato (a tomato-like fruit known outside South America as tamarillo ) and passionfruit. During other mealtimes, expect to see ceviche and fish-based soups like biche (which has a creamy peanut base with a piece of white fish and chopped vegetables) and encebollado (made with tuna, yucca, cilantro, tomatoes and pickled onions) on restaurant menus.

It's also common for locals and tourists to enjoy typical local dishes on Sundays in the highlands of Santa Cruz and San Cristóbal, particularly in the Bellavista and El Progreso parishes. These dishes often feature hearty stews like secos and aguado , prepared with free-range chicken.

Many of the Galápagos' islands are home to wild animals, so you should take precautions when exploring the region. You must not touch or feed any animal you see. When snorkeling or diving near sea lions, stay a safe distance from bulls – the larger, more aggressive and very territorial males. Also, do not provoke sharks. When diving, remember to practice safe diving practices like equalizing your ears as you descend and knowing where your scuba buddy and guide are at all times.

The archipelago is spread across the equator, so you'll need to protect yourself from the sun while visiting. Wearing a hat and lathering on sunscreen (even on areas covered by clothing) is strongly recommended. 

Packing any essential medications and medical equipment is a must due to the region's limited medical services. While 911 services and local hospitals are available in the islands (and can handle first aid and common medical needs), it's important to note that the region may lack specialist doctors for certain medical conditions. Before your trip, speak with your doctor about any medications and vaccinations needed for diseases present in the area, such as malaria, Zika, dengue and yellow fever. Travelers should consider purchasing comprehensive travel insurance to cover potential medical emergencies or evacuations during their visit.

Galápagos is generally a safe destination, and thefts aboard tourist boats are extremely rare. The local community values and safeguards visitors, making the archipelago a secure place to explore. However, taking standard precautions to protect your belongings while traveling is always advisable.

If you will be flying into Quito, Guayaquil or Cuenca before continuing to the Galápagos, keep an eye on your belongings at all times at these airports and in these cities. If you choose to spend a day or two in these cities, it's advisable to stay vigilant (especially on hiking trails and public transportation), as robberies have occurred. Additionally, it's best to avoid hailing taxis on the street and traveling alone, as there have been reports of express kidnappings (sometimes involving taxis) and incidents of harassment, even in tourist areas.

Before visiting Ecuador, the U.S. State Department strongly advises all Americans sign up for the free Smart Traveler Enrollment Program , which ensures the nearest embassy or consulate is aware of your travels. Additional information about security concerns and how to stay safe in Ecuador is provided on the U.S. State Department's website .

Getting Around Galapagos Islands

The best way to get around the Galápagos Islands is by boat. The key islands for island-hopping are Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal and Isabela. You can stay overnight on any of these islands or all three, using them as your starting points for daily excursions. Island-hopping packages usually include both sea and land transportation. You'll want to arrange an organized multiday cruise or boat tour several months in advance; that said, sea journeys aboard luxury liners are often attached to a lofty price tag, especially during the high season (December to May). If you wish to steer clear of the water altogether, you can fly from Baltra (a small island north of Santa Cruz Island) to San Cristóbal Island or Isabela Island.

You can fly to the Galápagos from Guayaquil's José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport (GYE), located in mainland Ecuador. If you would prefer to fly to the Galápagos from Quito's Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO), plan to stopover in Guayaquil and tack an additional hour onto your flight time. You can also fly from General Eloy Alfaro International Airport (MEC, located in Manta, Ecuador). Airlines EQUAIR, LATAM and Avianca offer flights to Seymour Airport (GPS) and San Cristóbal Airport (SCY). Most cruise operators will arrange to meet you at either airport and transport you to your ship. If you're planning on visiting the islands without a tour guide, it's easy to navigate your way from Baltra to Santa Cruz Island. To reach Puerto Ayora, take the bus or taxi.

Puerto Baquerizo Moreno (on San Cristobal) and Puerto Villamil (on Isabela) are both within a short drive of San Cristóbal Airport (SCY) and General Villamil Airport (IBB), respectively. However, it's important to note that General Villamil Airport primarily serves small inter-island aircraft and does not have commercial flights.

Entry & Exit Requirements

Americans will need to present a valid passport before entering Ecuador. U.S. travelers can stay in Ecuador for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa, though the Ecuadorian government requires that you carry proof of identification and a photocopy of your passport at all times. Upon entry into the Galápagos, you'll also need to pay a fee. Adults and children 12 years and older are charged $100, while those younger than 12 pay $50. This fee grants access to Galápagos National Park (which comprises roughly 97% of the archipelago) for the duration of your stay. Sometimes, the cost of your tour or cruise will cover the fee; if that's not the case, you must be prepared to pay in cash upon arrival in the Galápagos. You'll also need to pick up a Transit Control Card, available from the Galápagos Government Council offices at Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca's airports. Some tour companies will take care of card registration for you, but if you are traveling independently, allot extra time for purchasing a card. Each card costs $20 and must be bought with cash. You'll need to present your passport and Transit Control Card again when you leave. To learn more, visit the U.S. State Department's  website .

Galapagos sea lions love lounging on San Cristóbal and Rábida islands' beaches.

Explore More of Galapagos Islands

Tortuga Bay (Santa Cruz Island)

Things To Do

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How to Visit the Galapagos IsIands: Travel Guide 2019

How to Visit Galapagos Islands: Travel Guide 2024

Last Updated on March 15, 2024

The Galapagos Islands are some of the best wildlife destinations in the world. Here’s a detailed guide on how to visit Galapagos Islands.

The Galapagos Islands are one of the most beautiful and unique places I’ve ever been. Having been isolated from the world for thousands of years, they are home to unique animal species found nowhere else on Earth. Blue-footed boobies, sea lions, and marine lizards roam freely on this archipelago.

A Galapagos Islands trip might come with a hefty price tag, thanks to the $100 entry tariff and pricey island cruises. But don’t let that stop you. It’s one of the best wildlife destinations in the world for good reason. We have been twice and it  remains our favorite place on Earth! For those are planning to visit Galapagos Islands, here’s my Galapagos Islands travel blog and comprehensive guide.

How to Visit Galapagos Islands

Table of Contents

How to Visit ​Galapagos Islands

What make the galapagos islands special, a brief history of the ​galapagos islands, when to visit ​galapagos islands, how to visit the galapagos islands, the 2 airports on the galapagos islands are:, 1. go on a galapagos cruise, 2. do day tours on the galapagos islands, 3. take the inter-island shuttles, puerto ayora, santa cruz, puerto baquerizo moreno, san cristobal, puerto villamil, isabela, what to eat on the ​galapagos islands, 1. santa cruz island, 2. san cristobal island, 3. isabela island, 4. north seymour island, 5. bartolome island, 6. floreana island, 7. española island, 8. genovesa island, 9. fernandina island, 10. santiago island, how much time to visit ​galapagos islands, how to stay connected on the galapagos islands, cost of travel on the galapagos islands, rules of the ​galapagos islands national park, packing list for galapagos islands, final tips for galapagos islands travel, travel resources, galapagos islands travel guide.

The ​Galapagos Island​ archipelago is a collection of 13 major islands, seven smaller islands and about 125 islets and rocks. They lie about 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) off the coast of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean and are some of the world’s most secluded islands .

Historically the Galapagos Islands were uninhabited and only served as bases for everything from scientific research to English pirates raiding Spanish treasure ships. They remained relatively undeveloped until Ecuador claimed them not long after gaining independence from Spain.​

How to Visit the Galapagos IsIands: Travel Guide 2019

The plants and animals that live on the Galapagos Islands today are descended from animals that arrived by sea or air. Because the islands are so remote and far from one another, the animals evolved and adapted to conditions unique to their new homes. That’s why wildlife here are so special and cannot be found elsewhere on Earth.

Because of a lack of predators, most Galapagos animals never developed a fear of humans. Don’t be surprised to find sea lions lying by the streets and giant lizards swimming around your boat in the Galapagos. They are not the least bit afraid of us. The Galapagos is such a great destination for kids as they can get up close to wildlife and learn all about the planet here. Read my guide to traveling the Galapagos with kids.

Today, over 97 % of the land is national park , and Ecuador limits who may live there and how many tourists may visit. The Galapagos Islands are some of the most unspoiled places on Earth thanks to protection laws and conservations efforts.

During Charles Darwin’s nearly five-year circumnavigation of the globe aboard HMS Beagle, he spent only five weeks on the Galapagos Islands. His discoveries on the islands were paramount to the development of his Theory of Evolution. His book “The Origin of the Species: also put the Galapagos Islands on the world map.

Santa Cruz Island is now home to the Charles Darwin Research Station, which serves as the front line for long-term preservation programs protecting the unique Galapagos animals and plants for future generations.

visit galapagos islands - galapagos islands travel - marine lizard

One of the perks of the islands’ location along the equator is that the weather is going to warm and sunny all year round. Regardless of when you visit the Galapagos Islands, prepare for high temperatures.

There are two main seasons in the Galapagos: January to May is the hot season, giving calmer seas and warmer ocean temperatures. July to December is the dry season which sees cooler temperatures, making it great for hiking inland.

In general, the best time to visit the Galapagos Islands is from January to May for the best conditions to go snorkeling or scuba diving and cruising around the islands. The Galapagos Islands offer some of the best scuba diving in the world .

visit galapagos islands - galapagos islands travel - sea lion

It’s easy to add the Galapagos into any Ecuador itinerary . You just need to plan (and save!) in advance to make the most of your time in the Galapagos.

Most foreign tourists over the age of 12 pay $100 , while children pay $50. Visitors from the Andean Community and Mercosur nations over the age of 12 pay $50, and children pay $25.

This entry tax may seem a bit high, but it is important to keep in mind that these fees are helping to protect the fragile environment here. Funds from the entry tax are said to finance the conservation of biodiversity of flora and fauna, and benefit the local community.

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How to Get to the ​Galapagos Islands

The only way to get to the Galapagos Islands is to fly from Ecuador. Flights to the Galapagos Islands depart from only two cities in Ecuador: Quito and Guayaquil.  Guayaquil is the main gateway city to the Galapagos, check out this list of things to do in Guayaquil .

You can fly direct to Quito from Miami, and return flights cost around US$400. Check for flights from USA to Ecuador . From Europe, most flights go from Amsterdam or Madrid to Quito for around US$700 return.

Flights from Quito/Guayaquil to Galapagos Islands cost around US$300 to $400 return. All flights are with either LATAM or Avianca , which are both reliable South American airlines. Foreigners are only allowed to book flights on premium class (and sadly they are very strict about it).

  • Baltra Airport (GPS): Baltra is the airport closest to Santa Cruz Island. To get to Santa Cruz island, take a ferry for $5 and another $5 bus to Puerto Ayora, the main town on Santa Cruz. Or book a fuss-free airport transfer here .
  • San Cristobal Airport (SCY): This airport is less than 5 minutes drive from the center of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. It costs only $2-$4 per taxi (not per person). Most flights to San Cristobal will make a stopover on Baltra.

*TIP: I recommend flying into Baltra and out of San Cristobal like we did on our recent trip. It’s the same price as flying return to either island. 

Book Your Flights to Galapagos Islands

Getting Around the ​Galapagos Islands

Traveling to the Galapagos Islands requires some planning (and saving!) as it isn’t the cheapest or easiest place to get around. It’s easy enough to do it yourself so you don’t have to book a Galapagos tour. There are three possible ways to explore the Galapagos Islands and hop from one island to the next:

The most popular way is going on a luxury Galapagos cruise, which brings you to several islands within a short time. You sail at night and arrive to a different island every morning. Cruise packages typically include all accommodation and meals, visits to the islands with a certified naturalist, and access to snorkeling gear and kayaks.

A 1-week Galapagos cruise can set you back around US$2,500 for budget standards or $3500 for luxury cruises. This includes all expenses, food and snorkeling equipment. You can save some money by showing up on the Galapagos Islands and shopping around for last-minute deals.

Those traveling the Galapagos Islands with kids might find that cruises aren’t particularly suitable for kids due to the intense schedule and limited space. Also, it can get choppy on the waters of the Pacific Ocean; many people get seasick while cruising the Galapagos. My friend was seasick the entire time he was on a Galapagos cruise. If your kids aren’t comfortable at sea yet, I wouldn’t recommend going on a cruise.

visit galapagos islands - galapagos islands travel - sailing cruise

Budget travelers can opt to go island-hopping round Galapagos Islands independently, which was what we did on our first Galapagos Islands trip. We based ourselves on Santa Cruz and did day tours to other islands from there. There are plenty of local operators offering Galapagos tours online or at certain locations on the islands. Most Galapagos Islands day tours cost around $200-300 depending on where you’re visiting.

There are four islands that you can stay on without being on any tour:

  • Santa Cruz: This island has the biggest tourist town and has most sights
  • San Cristobal: It has a quieter town with iconic attractions
  • Isla Isabela: Smallest town with few options but great for wildlife
  • Isla Floreana: Only 1 hotel and no scheduled speedboats to other islands

Here are the most popular Galapagos Islands tours:

  • Kicker Rock day tour from San Cristobal island (pictured)
  • North Seymour day trip from Santa Cruz island
  • Bartolome day trip from Santa Cruz island
  • Floreana day tour from Santa Cruz island
  • Snorkeling in lava tunnels on Isabela island

visit galapagos islands - galapagos islands travel - kicker rock

Besides day tours, there are also several speedboat companies that offer an inter-island shuttling service. You need to plan really well as there are limited departures each day and journeys can be long! For instance, the shuttle from Santa Cruz to Isabela takes around three hours.

The public ferries cost between  $25-35US per person each way . It’s best to check with a couple of ticket sellers in town before buying your tickets.  Or book these ferry transfers that include hotel pickups!

Public ferries only run these routes (back and forth):

  • Santa Cruz (Puerto Ayora) – Isabela (Puerto Villamil)
  • Santa Cruz (Puerto Ayora) – San Cristobal (Puerto Baquerizo Moreno)

visit galapagos islands - galapagos islands travel - beach

Where to Stay on the Galapagos Islands

I’ve listed my hotel recommendations for the three most popular towns to stay at. If you’re wondering where to stay on the Galapagos Islands, these are the biggest towns.

Puerto Ayora , the main town on Santa Cruz island, is a lively town with a good range of midrange hotels and affordable guesthouses. Puerto Baquerizo Moreno , the town on San Cristobal island, is smaller but its accommodation options are more affordable. Puerto Villamil on Isabela island is the smallest but accommodations are cheapest.

Luxury: Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel — Undoubtedly the best hotel on Santa Cruz, this stylish hotel is slick and unpretentious. It’s got a beautiful swimming pool and beachfront location, with even its own pier and private yacht. Excellent place if money isn’t an issue! Check the rates.

Midrange: Hotel La Isla — A beautiful boutique hotel with stylish designs that blend naturally with the surroundings, and its small scale provides an intimate atmosphere. It’s within walking distance from Tortuga Bay and the town centre of Puerto Ayora. Check the rates. 

Midrange: El Descanso del Guia — This new midrange hotel offers panoramic views over the coast from its rooftop. It also has a nice swimming pool, and clean and spacious rooms. Check the rates.

Budget: Hostal Gardner Galapagos — We stayed at this place located in the heart of town and minutes from the pier. Rooms are cheap and spacious, and relatively well maintained. Great value! Check the rates.

visit galapagos islands - galapagos islands travel - puerto ayora

Midrange: Eco Hotel Katarma — The best hotel on the island is an eclectic and colorful eco lodge with an indoor swimming pool. Katarma is inspired entirely by art; it mixes different architectural, design, painting and sculptural influences to create a space where peace and life take the upmost importance. Check the rates.

Midrange: La Zayapa — Located right on the dock, La Zayapa is the heart of the town, offering room with views of the pier. We absolutely loved staying here. Good prices for such excellent location. Check the rates.

Budget: Hotel Cactus & Cactus — With a minimalistic design, this artistic hostel features clean lines and very simple but beautiful decor. Rooms are well-priced for what it is, highly recommend it! Check the rates.

visit galapagos islands - san cristobal

Luxury: Flip Flop House — With capacity for four people, this beautiful, modern house has 2 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms and a hot tub. The property was built in 2016, and makes a comfortable home away from home. I highly recommend this if you are traveling with family or friends. Check the rates.

Midrange: Drake Inn — Located right on the beach, this simple but comfortable guesthouse offers well-priced rooms just three minutes from town. Its rooftop has excellent ocean views and makes a great spot to chill in the evenings. Check the rates.

Budget: Hotel La Jungla — This budget place offers great value for money, and a rustic jungle setting despite being just a few feet from the sea. All of its rooms have wide windows that look out to the ocean. Check the rates.

visit galapagos islands - galapagos islands travel - isabela island

Food, especially seafood, is a huge part of island culture here and the restaurants to ​not disappoint. There are full spreads fit for kings as well as authentic, local eateries that boast fresh and cheap grub.

Here are four places I highly recommend checking out:

Los Kioskos — Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz

This row of street food was our favorite spot to eat at night! Los Kioskos is basically a street lined with small, local stalls selling freshly caught seafood. You’ll hear sizzling from the charcoal parillas  and smell smoky, grilled fish long before you stumble across this little alley. Food here is reasonably priced and oh so bueno!

Galapagos Deli — ​Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz This deli is famous for its brick-oven pizza ranging in price from $6.50 to $9.75 USD and high-quality deli sandwiches from $4.70 to $8.75. Of course, it wouldn’t be a seaport deli without fish and chips, as well as piping hot espresso and delicious frozen gelato. Read reviews here.

Booby Trap —​ Puerto Villamil, Isabela Island Booby Trap is the best place to grab a slice of pizza, but it’s their fish tacos that I loved. The lobster also comes highly recommended at a very reasonable rate. The restaurant is owned by a greagarious retired American man and his Ecuadorian wife.  Read reviews here.

Muyu Galapagos — Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, San Cristobal

If you’re looking to splurge, definitely book a table at Muyu Galapagos, one of the best restaurants in the whole archipelago. They serve up modern fusion food, focusing on fresh seafood with a contemporary twist. Read reviews here.

visit galapagos islands - galapagos islands travel - lobster at the market

Things to Do on the Galapagos Islands

With over 21 islands spread out over a large area, the Galapagos Islands really do have a lot to offer for active travelers who like to get out and about. Here’s a round-up of the BEST things to do on the Galapagos Islands and the best Galapagos tours to book. I will indicate below how to visit each site below.

See Lizards and Sea Lions at Tortuga Bay

A 45 minute hike leads you to Santa Cruz’s most beautiful beach and bay. There are plenty of marine iguanas and sea lions lounging on the beach when we were there. It’s also a great spot for snorkeling with white tip reef sharks, and occasionally tiger sharks. It was the first spot we visited and we were blown away!

How to : Visit independently by walking or taking a taxi from Puerto Ayora.

visit galapagos islands - galapagos islands travel - tortuga bay

Snorkel in Las Grietas

Las Grietas is a beautiful naturally formed freshwater pool formed in a crack between two volcanic cliff faces. During midday when the sun is high, the pool is a bright, clear blue. There isn’t a lot of wildlife here, but the crystal clear waters make it just a fun swimming spot. Plus it’s free to visit the site! No guide or tour needed. We absolutely loved it here and could have spent a day here if not for our fomo!

visit galapagos islands - galapagos islands travel - nellie at las grietas

Visit the Charles Darwin Research Center

The Charles Darwin Research Center is a breeding centre and rehabilitation facility for animals from local islands. First stop by the Ruta de las Tortugas for a guided tour ($10) — they run tours in both English and Spanish every hour. The guide brings you on a short walk and talks about the endemic wildlife and plant life on the Galapagos, before showing you the tortoise breeding area (which is fenced up). At the end of the tour, you’ll be led into a room where the famous Lonesome George (the last tortoise of its kind who passed away in 2012) stands immortalized.

After the tour, walk to the end of the centre to visit the museum and learn more about the wildlife of the Galapagos. There’s also a station beach where you can swim and see black-tip reef sharks. All in all, the research center is a great spot to visit for those traveling the Galapagos with kids .  

See Giant Tortoises at Reserva El Chato

Just a short drive from Puerto Ayora, Reserva El Chato is the best place in the Galapagos to see the rare Galapagos Giant Tortoises. You’ll see their ancient animals roaming around in their natural habitat, with no cages, fences, or walls to obstruct the view – and all for just $3. Book your entrance tickets here.

visit galapagos islands - galapagos islands travel - giant tortoise

Swim with Sea Lions at La Loberia

San Cristobal is the best island to go for sea lions. Here at La Loberia, not only can you snorkel with tons of sea lions, but you will also see marine iguanas, lava lizards, frigate birds, and more. We had SO much fun swimming with the sea lions! Those animals can be really cheeky. It’s free to enter, just rent snorkeling equipment beforehand.

How to : Visit independently by walking 30 minutes or taking a taxi ($3 ride) from Puerto Baquerizo.

visit galapagos islands - galapagos islands travel - swimming with sea lions

Snorkel or Scuba Dive at Kicker Rock

Around 3 miles north of San Cristobal island is this volcanic cone that rises from the sea. Kicker Rock, known locally as León Dormmido, is home to a smattering of blue-footed boobies and fregate birds, but it is really its below-water inhabitants that has visitors in awe.

The natural erosion of the cone has created a channel between the rocks that serves as the ideal place to view sharks and rays. If you come at the right time, you can see hundreds of Galapagos sharks (and come into touching distance of them if you choose to snorkel through the canyon). You might have the chance to see schools of spotted eagle rays, turtles, jellyfish, and sea lions.

How to : Only by cruise or on a day tour to Kicker Rock from Puerto Baquerizo.

visit galapagos islands - galapagos islands travel - kicker rock

Hike around Punta Pitt

Punta Pitt is one of the best places to see a huge variety of wildlife on the Galapagos. Both the blue-footed and red-footed boobies, and various species of frigates live in the area. They have chosen this site because its rugged geography prevents species that would be a threat to these birds from accessing here. Another species commonly found here are the iguanas, also due to its complex geography.

How to: Visit independently or a day tour from Puerto Baquerizo .

visit galapagos islands - galapagos islands travel - punta pitt

See the Views at Mirador Cerro Tijeretas

The Cerro Tijeretas lookout point offers a panoramic view of Shipwreck Bay and Kicker Rock. It’s definitely a spectacular spot and well worth the two-mile hike there from the visitor center. You’ll be hiking through a dry forest area full of cacti, acacia trees and lava lizards. The trail also leads to a calm, protected inlet along the shore which is a great spot for snorkeling.

How to: Visit independently by taking a taxi to the visitor center and walking from Puerto Baquerizo.

visit galapagos islands - galapagos islands travel - cacti desert

Hike and Snorkel around Los Tuneles

Los Tuneles or lava tunnels is a hugely popular site to visit. We hired a guide and came here on a day tour. A boat first takes you along the coast to a landscape characterized by bizarre lava formations and tunnels that provide shelter for an abundance of sea life.  You’ll then need to hike for a bit before getting the chance to snorkel with sea lions, turtles, sharks, rays, sea horses among innumerable fish species.

How to: The only way to get here is on a cruise or day tour from Puerto Villamil .

visit galapagos islands - galapagos islands travel - hammerhead sharks

Snorkel at Las Tintoreras

Las Tintoreras is an islet just off the main dock of Isabela Island. It’s often called mini Galapagos since almost a ll the Galapagos marine wildlife are found here. There is actually more wildlife here than on the main island.

It’s one of the few places to see the Galapagos penguins, the second smallest penguins in the world. It was incredibly getting to swim with them and see them in the water! You can snorkel in the area without a guide.

How to: Take a half-day tour from Puerto Villamill.

visit galapagos islands - galapagos islands travel - galapagos penguin

See Flamingos at the Wall of Tears

The Wall of Tears, or El Muro de Las Lagrimas,   is one of the most famous hikes on the Galapagos Islands . It’s the only place to see the Galapagos Flamingos and you can do it without a guide. The name comes from the wall at the end of the hike. The Wall of Tears was built in the 1950’s by 300 prisoners, toiling away under the hot sun to cut and haul heavy black volcanic rock in order to build their own prison.

How to: Visit independently by walking from Puerto Villamil.

visit galapagos islands - galapagos islands travel - galapagos flamingo

Our favorite spot, North Seymour, is a small uninhabited island that is hugely popular with all kinds of birds that live in the Galapagos. It’s a fascinating place with open nesting grounds of blue-footed boobies and the archipelago’s largest colonies of fregate birds. If you’re lucky, you might even see blue-footed boobies perform their courtship dance in the more open areas.

How to: The only way to get there is on a cruise or a day tour from Santa Cruz island .

visit galapagos islands - galapagos islands travel - blue-footed boobie

Bartolome Island is the most scenic island in terms of landscapes. Be sure to climb up to the top of the viewpoint for a 360 degree panorama. There are black volcanic formations, which contrast sharply with the red, orange and green of the rest of the island. Also don’t miss the Pinnacle Rock, home to a colony of Galapagos penguins.

How to: The only way to visit is on a cruise or a day tour from Santa Cruz island .

galapagos islands tourism

Another island I really enjoyed visiting was Floreana, where Charles Darwin visited and collected the Floreana Mockingbird. On the island, you can find beaches of different color and a fresh water lagoon where flamingos can be observed during the hot season.

Devil’s Crown is an old eroded, semi- submerged, volcanic cone where you can spot penguins, sea lions, sea turtles, dolphins and colorful fish. It’s one of the best snorkeling sites in the Galapagos Islands because of the coral reef in the middle which is a perfect attraction for marine life.

How to: Visit on a cruise, public ferry (no fix schedule) or day tour from Santa Cruz island .

visit galapagos islands - galapagos sea lions on floreana

One of the oldest islands of them all, Española Island is about 4.5 million years old and located on the southern east corner of the archipelago. This island is home of the Española Mockingbird, the only carnivorous one. Here there is also the only Marine Iguana population that remains red and green throughout the year. About 1500 tortoises live there today.

This is the only nesting site for the  Galapagos Waved Albatross, thanks to the cold waters from the Humboldt current. This endemic animal nests on the flat grounds of this island. They breed from the month of April to December.

How to: You can only visit by cruise or on a day tour from San Cristobal island .

visit galapagos islands - galapagos sea lion

Also known as the “Bird Island“, Genovesa Island most certainly lives up to its name in a spectacular way. It’s common to spot these birdlife on the island: puffball chicks, crowned and lava herons, red footed boobies, Nazca boobies and also the swallow–tailed gulls, the only nocturnal gulls in the world that will be nesting at the cliff’s edge.

Be sure to visit Prince Philip’s Steps, an 81-foot stairway that leads to a narrow stretch of land which opens out onto the plateau surrounding Darwin Bay on the north side of the island.

How to: The only way to visit this island is on a Galapagos cruise.

visit galapagos islands - bird life

Fernandina Island is often referred to as a “land without time” as it is a volcanic island without any introduced species. The island is 300 thousand years old and it is still active.

There are an estimate of around 100,000 black and gray iguanas on Fernandina Island. As you look out the lava rocks they may look like they are moving – they are covered in these reptiles basking in the sunshine. Their dark coloration is an adaptation that allows them to hold onto heat so that they can stay under the water and search for food.

galapagos islands travel - marine lizard and cormorant

Despite being the fourth largest island, Santiago Island is an uninhabited island that can only be visited on a cruise. The   black lava pools at Puerto Egas are  home of a great variety of fauna, including marine iguana basking in the sun, hundreds of   red crabs ,   herons ,   fur seals   that will swim with you.

From there it’s a 2km walk to Sugarloag Volcano where you can get a spectacular view of lava lizards, Galapagos doves, and Darwin finches.

galapagos islands travel - santiago island

On our first trip there as backpackers, we spent 5 days in the Galapagos Islands and based ourselves on Santa Cruz the entire time. This time round, we had 1 week and stayed on Santa Cruz and San Cristobal, but we still wished we had more time. Ideally, I would recommend spending 10 days in the Galapagos Islands so you can enough time to base yourselves on the three main inhabited islands.

You’ll probably want to combine another week or so on mainland Ecuador to make the most of your trip. On this recent trip, we spent two weeks in Ecuador , combining time in the historic center of Quito with hikes in Otavalo and Cotopaxi National Park.

Our 1-week Galapagos itinerary:

  • Day 1: Fly to Santa Cruz
  • Day 2: See Tortuga Bay + Visit Charles Darwin Center
  • Day 3: Do a day trip to Bartolome Island
  • Day 4: Take the ferry to San Cristobal
  • Day 5: Explore the Loberia, Puerto Chino, and the Giant Tortoise Reserve
  • Day 6: Do a 360 day trip around the island + Kicker Rock
  • Day 7: Fly to Quito from San Cristobal

Recommended 10-day Galapagos itinerary:

  • Days 1-3: Santa Cruz Island  
  • Days 4-6: Isabela
  • Days 7-10: San Cristobal

visit galapagos islands - galapagos islands travel - sea lion

Internet connection is limited and slow on the Galapagos Islands. Even in our hotel and Airbnb, the download speeds were very slow. Get prepared to disconnect abit while you’re here.

I recommend getting an eSIM card with data plan as that works faster than the WiFI in hotels. I personally use eSIMs wherever I travel these days as they are SO much more convenient – you can buy them online, and don’t need to go to the shop or activate your eSIM through the store. Most phones are compatible with eSIMs, including all of the new iPhones, Samsung, Google and Huawei phones. For a comprehensive list of phones compatible with eSIMs you can check out this article .

Airalo is the world’s first eSIM store and it has eSIMs from over 190 countries and regions around the worlds. I have bought eSIMs from Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Ecuador and Peru from Airalo and never had any issues.

Check out  Airalo’s eSIMs  here. 

Let’s face it: the Galapagos is quite an expensive destination mainly due to the tourist tariff and the flight to get there. First you’ll be spending around US$500 for your flight and entry tariff . Day tours are around US$200-300 each, and a week-long cruise can set you back at $2500 .

Galapagos Islands travel is not cheap as the archipelago is so remote, almost everything needs to be imported. Accommodation on the islands are more expensive than on mainland Ecuador but you can still find decent guesthouses at $40/night for a double room and luxury hotels for $200/night.

Food is quite affordable especially at the local eateries. Expect to spend around US$8-10 on a local meal, and $20-30 in a hotel restaurant. There are also supermarkets in towns and you can cook on your own to save money.

All in all, you’ll have to budget for the kind of adventure you want. Just remember, the Galapagos Islands are a truly unique place in the world and they are definitely worth saving up for!

visit galapagos islands - galapagos islands travel - lying on red lava beach

80% of the Galapagos Islands is actually protected as a national park and there are rules in place to protect the fragile ecosystem in the park.

  • Some protected areas can only be visited with a licensed guide, so make sure you research before venturing out on your own.
  • When you encounter wildlife, remember to stay back and not get too close as you might cause them stress. Don’t feed them or use flash photography.
  • If you are traveling to the Galapagos Islands with kids , make sure they stay close to you and remind them not to go near or touch the animals as they’ll be interfering with the natural environment.
  • Any professional photography or filming recorded for commercial purposes must be authorized by the GNPD.
  • Camping is only allowed in a few authorized spots. To get permission, you need to request authorization from the Galapagos National Park’s offices at least 48 hours in advance.
  • The Galapagos Islands take the practice of “leave-no-trace” very seriously. Since fire poses a serious risk to the flora and fauna, smoking of any kind, as well as campfires, are strictly prohibited.
  • When shopping for souvenirs, do​ not​ take or buy any products made from banned substances like black coral, lava rock, native woods, and animal parts.

visit galapagos islands - galapagos islands travel - fregate bird

What to Pack for the Galapagos Islands

Any Galapagos Islands travel involve lots of time in the water and under the sun. Be sure to prepare yourself for the weather and pack sunscreen, sun-proof swimming gear and snorkeling gear . We didn’t bring our own snorkeling gear as we were traveling South America for a few months, but I highly recommend bringing your own to avoid having to rent one everywhere you go.

One item that I strongly recommend bringing is waterproof footwear. My favorite shoes from KEEN footwear have never failed me. They’re perfect for both land and water activities (like walking on corals or waterfalls). Also don’t forget a sun-proof swim shirt that can protect your skin even while snorkeling (bikini/shorts are not enough!).

  • SPF 70 Sunscreen
  • Mosquito repellent with DEET
  • Snorkel mask and fins
  • UPF50+ rash guard swim shirt
  • Dry bag for snorkeling/kayaking
  • Quick-dry towels
  • Sun hat that covers the neck
  • KEEN covered sandals
  • SteriPen to sterilize water
  • Dramamine for motion sickness
  • GoPro Hero 7 for waterproof photos/videos!
  • Quick-dry t-shirts for the hot weather

galapagos islands travel - snorkeling

  • Bring cash in US dollars, which is the main currency on the Galapagos Islands.
  • There are limited ATMs on Santa Cruz and San Cristobal, and none on Isabela island. Most places won’t accept credit cards, or will charge a high fee to do so. So having some spare cash is definitely useful.
  • Learn some Spanish! Knowing some basics like ‘gracias’ (thank you), ‘por favor’ (please), and ‘como estas?’ (How are you?) will go a long way.
  • The water conditions between islands can be rough, remember to bring motion sickness medication ! Even if you don’t usually get seasick, it’s best to be prepared for the rough conditions. I didn’t get seasick at all, but my friend who went on a cruise got seasick many times during the whole voyage.
  • Print your flight itineraries and bring them just in case, because sometimes smaller international airports want to see a printed copy before they let you inside.

visit galapagos islands - bartolome island - galapagos islands travel

Inspired? Pin it!

How to Visit Galapagos Islands

Over the years (and traveling to 140+ countries), I’ve learned a thing or two about travel planning. I’ve put together this list of travel resources that I personally use to find the best deals and book travel! For more details, check out my travel tips resource page .

  • Booking Flights : Kayak is brilliant for finding the best dates to fly as it allows you to search for the lowest airfares within a 3-day period. Then I use Skyscanner as they’ve consistently given me the lowest airfares.
  • Accommodations:  I always use  Booking.com   to book hotels, mainly because of the flexible cancellation policy and good customer service. You can also find short-term rental apartments there (I prefer not to use Airbnb due to the extra charges).
  • Travel Insurance:  It’s important to have travel insurance, regardless of whether you’re traveling for a few days or months. Safety Wing is the most popular travel insurance company for COVID19-coverage. I use their Nomad Insurance plan , which covers any healthcare expenses I may have worldwide. Refer to my travel insurance guide for more details.
  • Health Advice:  I always refer to the travel guides on the   CDC website  for recommended medications and vaccines. You can get them at your travel doctor’s office or a walk-in pharmacy.
  • Tours:  If you’re looking for all-encompassing tours, I recommend small-group adventure tour outfitter, G Adventures . I’ve traveled with them to Antarctica, Mongolia, Svalbard, and Nepal, and loved every single trip. For day tours, I always book with  Viator  and  GetYourGuide ; they have easy booking systems and free cancellations.
  • Car Rental: I always book car rentals on Discover Cars , as they’ve consistently given us the best rates and customer service (with free cancellations). We’ve used them in Seychelles, South Africa, Spain, Peru, and Mexico.
  • Transportation : Whenever possible, I book local transportation online using  Bookaway and Busbud . They’re more reliable than many local transport websites and cover trains, buses, and car hire.
  • Restaurants: TripAdvisor is my go-to resource for restaurant reviews and bookings. I also make restaurant reservations on OpenTable .
  • Travel WiFi: I recommend getting an Ecuador eSIM before arriving here. Airalo is the world’s first eSIM store and it has eSIMs from over 190 countries and regions around the worlds. Check out  Airalo’s eSIMs . 

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Nellie Huang

Nellie Huang is the founder of WildJunket. Originally from Singapore, Nellie has traveled to over 140 countries across 7 continents. As an adventure travel blogger, she has a special interest in unusual destinations and deep experiences. Her work has appeared in many major publications including BBC Travel, CNN and LonelyPlanet.com. Read more about her here and get more life updates from her on her Facebook and Instagram .

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The Comments

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Awesome post! Thank you!

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Great info…thank you! Would love more luxury cruise recommendations.

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very informative and very helpful

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Thanks Richard!

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After being in Guayaquil for a week, I have only 2 days for the Galapagos Islands. Do you have a recommendation for a 48 hour tour?

I will be there in mid-November 2023.

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Fitness Travel

Amazing post and awesome pictures.

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Galapagos Islands Tours & Trips

Located in South America in the Pacific Ocean, the Galapagos Islands are easily accessible by taking a plane from Ecuador 's capital city, Quito, or a boat from the port city of Guayaquil. The volcanic archipelago shelters a wide range of species of plants and animals, making it one of the most appealing destinations for wildlife-lovers . Make the most of your experience and discover all the hidden corners of the islands with one of these incredible adventures.

250+ Galapagos Islands tour packages with 895 reviews

Galápagos Adventure: Snorkelling & Sea Lions Tour

  • In-depth Cultural
  • Christmas & New Year

Galápagos Adventure: Snorkelling & Sea Lions

Very good Guide José

Galápagos Multisport Tour

  • Ocean Cruise

Galápagos Multisport

Loved my trip to the Galapagos with Gadventures. Saw tons of wildlife and did lots of fun activities. My 2nd trip booked with the company ????

Best of Galapagos Tour

Best of Galapagos

Highly recommended! We had a fantastic group leader Katty, she was keeping us informed about all the activities and extra things to do all the times as well as had a great enthusiasm with regards to animals and uniqueness of Galapagos islands. Program was great and time was just right! All meals were also really good.

Galapagos Discovery Tour

Galapagos Discovery

This tour was amazing. And went above and beyond to exceed my expectations. I would definitely recommend this tour, to anyone thinking of going to the Galápagos Islands.

10 Days Galapagos Island Hopping in Santa Cruz and Isabela Tour

10 Days Galapagos Island Hopping in Santa Cruz and Isabela

The tour was relaxed and interesting. The hotels clean with courteous staff. The tours professional. What I really liked is the snorkeling. You float in the water and see many different colored fish. The speedboat rides are a bit tedious, but unavoidable. Kayaking in Tortuga Bay is very nice but it is difficult to see the wildlife. All in all a tour that is definitely worth it.
  • Book With Flexibility This operator allows you to rebook your dates or tours with them for free, waiving change fees.

Ultimate Galapagos Islands Adventure Tour

Ultimate Galapagos Islands Adventure

Go For It! A truly amazing Active Adventure!

Affordable Galapagos 8 Days Tour Tour

  • Hiking & Trekking

Affordable Galapagos 8 Days Tour

Most excursions were good except for two e versions: The one from Santa Cruz to Baltelomeo, the cruise ride was very rough and the captain was going too fast. And the last at Sierra Negra. Time was too tight and the terrain was very muddy. We had to leave the group and return on our own not to miss checking out of the hotel in Isabella Island and catch the speed boat back to Santa Cruz
  • 10% deposit on some dates Some departure dates offer you the chance to book this tour with a lower deposit.

Magical Galapagos (5 Days) Tour

Magical Galapagos (5 Days)

Great experience, loved every bit

5 Days San Cristobal Island Wonders Tour

5 Days San Cristobal Island Wonders

Galapagos Multisport Tour

Galapagos Multisport

The TourRadar website is very easy to navigate and there are many options for tours anywhere you might want to go. I had a few questions about the details of the tour and submitting a question online, I received a response quickly, sometimes within a few hours. Once I decided on a tour, booking on the website was easy. We enjoyed our Galapagos Islands Multisport tour

Galapagos Experience: 5 days Tour

Galapagos Experience: 5 days

  • €134 deposit on some dates Some departure dates offer you the chance to book this tour with a lower deposit.

Galapagos Experience Volunteering & Travel  3 Weeks Tour

  • Volunteering

Galapagos Experience Volunteering & Travel 3 Weeks

Petrel Luxury Galapagos Catamaran 8 Days Tour

Petrel Luxury Galapagos Catamaran 8 Days

GALAPAGOS ISLANDS DISCOVERY TOUR 4 DAYS / 3 NIGHTS Tour

GALAPAGOS ISLANDS DISCOVERY TOUR 4 DAYS / 3 NIGHTS

We had a great time! Very personalized service. Johnny and his family made sure everything was good for us. Each day we had awesome excursions and enjoyed every part of our Galapagos trip. Gracias!!

Highlights Of Quito and Galapagos Islands Tour

Highlights Of Quito and Galapagos Islands

The experience was great. Nearly everyone who assisted us was very helpful. The one exception was Cecelia on Isabella Island. At the beginning of the second day, no one showed up to take us to the designated locations. Our hotel manager called the local tour company and reported that we had been forgotten. The name of the company was something like Georeisen. The representative told me she would get someone to pick us up. Guess who showed up? Cecelia! She made no reference to our being forgotten, and she didn’t apologize. Her English is poor. Actually, my high school Spanish is what allowed us to communicate. She should not be a tour guide.

What people love about Galapagos Islands Tours

This was a great experience if you are looking for a little adventure! It is not a luxury, relaxing vacation, but has a good mix of exciting experiences, eating good food, waking up early to travel to new stops, and some time to chill and interact with other travelers.
This tour is intended for people who are physically fit,able to walk 6 kilometers a day, love to kayak/snorkel/swim/bike, and still have plenty of energy to enjoy the wildlife. I cannot cope up with the group, but luckily our CEO offered me options like museum visit, tour to Tntoreras. I still was able yo see all the wildlife I need to see exvept the cormorant. I did not expect to stay in a 5 star hotel. I find the accommodation suitable enough for my needs: comfortable bed, air condition, water, electricity, wifi. Special thanks to Sandra, CEO. She is one of the best tour guides I met in my years of travel. She is a great listener and teacher. She was born in Santa Cruz. She knows Galapagos like the palm of her hand.
There are a lot of tours to choose from when you are looking at touring in the Galapagos so you need to choose one that is right for you. Best of Galapagos is exactly what it says. We saw everything!!! 10 days was the perfect amount of time to immerse ourselves into everything the islands have to offer. Just brilliant

Galapagos Islands Tours starting in:

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Other Regions in Ecuador

  • Ecuador Andean Highlands (144)
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  • Cotopaxi National Park (42)
  • Amazonian Region Ecuador (41)
  • Cayambe Coca National Park (16)
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International Versions

  • Deutsch: Galapagos Inseln Rundreisen
  • Français: Circuits aux Îles Galapagos
  • Español: Circuitos en las Islas Galápagos
  • Nederlands: Galapagos Eilanden Rondreizen

Galapagos Vacation & Tour Options

For your next vacation, galapagos travel center offers you a great variety of tour options to the galapagos islands as well as on the mainland of ecuador. just choose whatever suits you best.

If you want to see as many islands as possible in a self-chosen amount of time, you can opt for one of our cruises . If you prefer sleeping on firm ground, you can also choose one of our hotel-based tours on the Galapagos islands or the mainland . Are you fascinated by the marine life in the archipelago? Then go for our diving tours . For adding some more sports, you can opt for our adventure tours .

Galapagos Vacation Cruise

Cruises are the most popular choice to tour the Galapagos Islands. Galapagos tour cruises range from luxury class to economy class boats.

Land Based Tours

Taking a land based tour in the Galapagos Islands provides the chance to explore the islands in their entirety through a number of tours and activities.

Galapagos Diving Tours

See whale sharks and large schools of hammerheads in a live-aboard or hotel-based diving tour. Take a land + dive combined nature tour for the full nature vacation experience.

Galapagos Adventure Tours

Adventure travel vacation packages include activities such as kayaking, mountain biking, horse riding and snorkeling. These adventure tours are perfect for active travelers.

Search & Book your Galapagos Tour!

Find the best Galapagos cruise promotions, real time availability and book direct your vacation with the Galapagos Travel Experts:

Find your dream Galapagos cruise now:

Children: ages 6 to 11

Which kind of Galapagos tour is best for me?

Discovering the Galapagos and enjoying the vacation of a lifetime, has never been easier than with the help of our Galapagos experts . Thanks to our years of expertise, we have combined the best land tours , and offer the best cruises in the Galapagos.

But wait… what is the difference between a land-based tour and a cruise?

There is not a lot of difference between a Galapagos land-based tour and a cruise . Considering that the visitor sites will be almost the same as long as they can be reached within a couple hours from your hotel, wildlife will be the same and the experience will be the best of your life.

Nevertheless, and considering the questions that this may arise, we have prepared these FAQs about the difference between these kinds of tours.

Which is the cheapest way to visit the Galapagos?

All of the cruises are all-inclusive, which means that inside the rate everything will be covered, from the meals, drinks (save for alcoholic beverages), to the guided-excursions, night accommodation, and inter-island transfers.

On the other hand, land-based tours not always have everything included in the rate, meaning that most dinners will have to be covered by you, apart from the per person expense of the daily tour and transfers, which does not necessarily means that hotel-based will be more expensive.

In the chart below, you will see referral prices of the average cost per day of land-based tours vs. cruises (in US Dollars):

Will I see the same visitor sites?

Most of the visitor sites seen in both tours will be the same. However, due to cruising time, boats are able to reach some islands that cannot be seen on a land-based tour. This happens because most of the traveling while onboard a cruise occurs at night. Therefore, while you sleep the vessel can reach longer distances.

Is a cruise as comfortable as a hotel?

This is a tricky question. When choosing a good vessel, like the ones suggested by our Travel Experts, you will be comfortable while cruising, anyhow, sea roughness has to be always considered. On the other hand, and indisputably sleeping on land will always be stable and comfortable.

Where does the tricky part come? Transferring between islands occurs aboard speedboats, which can be a really bumpy ride, that can last from 2 to 3 hours.

Above all, these are the most important things to consider when booking a tour to the Galapagos Islands. In order to customize your Galapagos trip, so it can fit your budget and your time, it is highly recommended to receive free-online assistance from one of our Ecuador & Galapagos experts.

Galapagos Islands Visitor Sites Map

Galapagos Conservation

Responsible Travel

Based in the United Kingdom, the Galapagos Conservation Trust (GCT) is a non-profit organization dedicated to raising funds for the protection and conservation of the Galapagos Islands. Established in 1995, the GCT has supported a wide variety of conservation and awareness programs.

GalapagosIslands.com and Galapagos Travel Center have supported GTC in conservation efforts in the Galapagos Islands.

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Customer Reviews

Is not only our expertise and knowledge of the travel market that stand-out for us, but also the outstanding services recognized by our former passengers in their comments and reviews, here and in our TripAdvisor profile .

Traveled to Islands Secrets Land Based Tour Hi Daniela, I'm back in Quito, and off on the birding trip tomorrow. I want to thank you personally for all the organisation and support. David Betram June 2018
Traveled to Galapagos Dream Land Based Tour Thank you so much for all the planning you did for us to make this an unforgettable vacation. We will definitely recommend to friends and family should they ever wish to visit Galapagos or Ecuador. We also hope to return sometime in the future. Terry Bucholtz April 2019
Traveled on the Majestic + Land Ecuador + Amazon + Peru Thank you, thank you, thank you. We had an amazing trip. You could not have planned this any better nor had the staff more attentive, guides were friendly and very knowledgeable and the hotels were very nice. Carol & Craig Bennett May 2018
Traveled to Land Based Galapagos + Ecuador Andes Dear Daniela, I will highly recommended your company and especially you to all the people who ask about our trip. I can’t say enough about how helpful you were. Thank you from all of us, Devon Icaza March 2018

View more Galapagos Reviews

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  • About IGTOA
  • Member Directory
  • Galápagos at Risk
  • Protect the Galápagos
  • Travel Guide
  • Introduction
  • A Place of Giant Reptiles and “Tame” Birds (1535–1569)
  • Putting the Islands on the Map (1570–1590s)
  • Avast, Me Hearties! (1590s–early 1700s)
  • Navigational Charts and a Legendary Rescue (1700s)
  • Whales No More (late 1700s–late 1800s)
  • Settling In: the First Human Resident (1807–1850s)
  • Annexed by Ecuador (1832–1892)
  • Creating an Evolutionary Theory (1835-1859)
  • Utopians and the Empress of Floreana (late 1920s–1934)
  • One of the First World Heritage Sites (1932–2001)
  • They Are What You Make of Them (Present)
  • Introduced Species
  • Human Impact
  • Threats to the Marine Reserve
  • Welfare of Galápagos Residents
  • Welfare and Education of Visitors
  • Governmental Support and Control
  • Challenges Facing the Galápagos Islands Video
  • Types of Landings: Wet and Dry
  • Sombrero Chino
  • South Plaza
  • San Cristóbal
  • Littoral (or Coastal) Zone
  • Transition Zone
  • Scalesia Zone
  • Zanthoxylum (or Brown) Zone
  • Miconia Zone
  • Pampa or Fern-Sedge Zone
  • Challenges Facing Galápagos Plants
  • Efforts to Combat Invasive Plant Species
  • Plant Checklist
  • Greater Flamingo
  • Yellow-Crowned Night Heron
  • Darwin’s Finches
  • Galápagos Hawk
  • Short-Eared Owl
  • Blue-Footed Booby
  • Nazca Booby
  • Red-Footed Booby
  • Flightless Cormorant
  • Frigatebirds: Magnificent and Great
  • Galápagos Penguin
  • Waved Albatross
  • Bryde’s Whale
  • Humpback Whale
  • Minke Whale
  • Bottlenose Dolphin
  • Common Dolphin
  • Orca (or Killer Whale)
  • Short-Finned Pilot Whale
  • Sperm Whale
  • Striped Dolphin
  • Fish: Cartilaginous and Bony
  • Insects and Spiders
  • Intertidal Life
  • Galápagos Fur Seal
  • Galápagos Sea Lion
  • Galápagos Giant Tortoise and Lonesome George
  • Land Iguana
  • Marine Iguana
  • Lava Lizards
  • Galápagos Green Turtle
  • Hawksbill Turtle
  • Leatherback Turtle
  • Olive Ridley Turtle
  • Volcanoes and Eruptions
  • Tectonic Plates
  • Galápagos Hotspot
  • Geologic Terms
  • The Seasons
  • Average Air and Water Temperatures by Month
  • Wildlife Highlights by Month
  • Forces Important to Understanding Galápagos Climate: Ocean Currents, Niño Flow and El Niño Years, and Upwelling
  • Examples of Fahrenheit to Centigrade Conversions

Immigration and Customs in Ecuador

Getting to the galápagos islands, arrival and ground transfer in the galápagos, departure from ecuador, park fees and other additional costs, travel insurance, credit cards, money safety.

  • Best Practices for Galápagos Travelers Video
  • Best Practices on Your Boat Video
  • Best Practices Against Invasive Species Video

Electrical Current

Inoculations, seasickness, altitude sickness, traveler’s diarrhea and constipation, safety video, general packing pointers, travel documents, additional gear, medications and first aid, reading list, plant and wildlife checklists.

  • Itinerary Variations
  • Cruise Boats
  • Catamarans (Motor & Motor-Sailing)
  • Sailboats & Motor-Sailers
  • Typical Daily Schedule
  • Walks & Hikes
  • Panga Rides
  • Scuba Diving
  • Quito City Tour
  • Otavalo Market Visit

Essential Galápagos Travel Information

When traveling, it’s good to go with the flow and welcome the unexpected — especially when it comes to nature travels. You never know when a friendly sea lion will attempt to snorkel with you or a blue-footed booby will offer a ringside seat for his “dance” performance. These are things you won’t find printed on your itinerary.

However taking whatever happens in stride doesn’t mean that you should leave for your Galápagos Islands trip poorly prepared. Use the IGTOA essential information below to help comfortably navigate any eventuality on your upcoming adventure!

Getting to and from the Galápagos Islands

Your Galápagos Islands tour provider will supply you with detailed instructions on the arrival and departure processes. Here’s a basic overview of what to expect:

All international travelers must pass through Immigration and Customs upon their first entry into Ecuador (usually this is in Guayaquil or Quito). All bags, including both checked and carry-on luggage, will be subject to inspection. Personal effects, cameras, and camera accessories may be temporarily imported without duty.

On your flight to the Galápagos, you may bring with you one or two checked bags with a combined weight of no more than approximately forty-four pounds and one carry-on bag. The carry-on bag may weigh no more than about seventeen pounds and must fit under the seat in front of you or in an overhead compartment. Excess baggage may be left behind or may be brought along at an additional cost. (Your hotel in Ecuador may offer an option of safely storing your extra luggage during your visit to the islands.)

Passengers are required to check in for their Galápagos flights ninety minutes prior to departure. Before checking in at the AeroGal, LAN, or TAME airline counters, you must pass by the INGALA counter to acquire a Tourist Control Card, which costs $10. Check with your tour provider regarding this step as most register guests upon reserving and confirming their cruises, requiring that this $10 fee be prepaid.

Next to the INGALA counter, you will find the SICGAL luggage inspection area. Once you have passed these two points, proceed to the airline counter (AeroGal, LAN, or TAME) to check in for your flight.

Non-native plants and animals pose one of the biggest challenges to the conservation of the Galápagos Islands. The Ecuadorian Animal and Plant Health Service and the Quarantine and Inspection System of Galápagos (SICGAL) have developed a program to prevent exotic species from arriving in the islands. To minimize the entry of such species, you will be given a declaration form to fill out on your flight to the islands. Please declare any agricultural products you are transporting and cooperate with the quarantine officers as they inspect your luggage.

Upon arrival at the airport on Baltra or San Cristóbal, you will pass through Immigration, then collect your bags and proceed through Customs. If you have not yet paid the Galápagos National Park entrance fee of $100 per adult (or $50 per child, eleven years old or younger), you must pay it in cash at this time.

You will be met by a representative from your tour provider. After collecting your luggage, he or she will escort you on the short bus ride to the Baltra or San Cristóbal dock (or in some cases a longer trip to Puerto Ayora ) to board your boat. Once at the dock, a panga will transport you to your ship, where the crew will welcome you on board. After setting off, you will make your first island visit.

Here’s a short summary of the procedure on getting to the Galápagos:

  • Enter the national departure terminal with your original passport and electronic airline ticket printout ninety minutes prior to your flight’s departure.
  • Head to the INGALA counter to get a Transit Control Card.
  • Pass through the SICGAL luggage inspection (no agriculture products permitted).
  • Check in at your airline counter (AeroGal, LAN, or TAME).
  • Once you land in the Galápagos, pass through Immigration.
  • Collect your bags and proceed through Customs.
  • Your tour guide will be waiting for you. Look for a sign with the name of your particular cruise and/or your tour provider.

When departing Ecuador, you must once again pass through Immigration before boarding your outbound flight. Your bags may be inspected.

Upon arrival in the United States, you must pass through both Immigration and Customs.

Currency and Other Money Matters

The U.S. dollar is the official currency of Ecuador. It is best to carry sufficient cash to pay for incidentals, meals not included in your trip’s itinerary, alcoholic beverages, gratuities, souvenirs, and the departure tax.

Do not bring $100 bills with you, since they are not accepted by Ecuador’s commerce and banking systems. If you plan to visit the Otavalo Market, bring small bills ($1s, $5s, and $10s) since vendors rarely have much change. Larger bills ($20s and $50s) are fine for gratuities and bar tabs. Traveler’s checks are not recommended since they will be hard to cash.

When arriving at the airport on San Cristóbal or Baltra, all travelers must pay the Galápagos National Park entrance fee ($100.00 per person). The park tax for children under the age of twelve is $50.

All tourists to the islands must also purchase a Transit Control Card for $10. The card must be presented upon departure from the Galápagos. It’s a good idea to keep it with your passport and other travel documents.

A comprehensive travel insurance policy may cover everything from trip cancellations and delays to lost luggage and unexpected medical emergencies. In addition, in the unlikely event that inclement weather restricts you to port and forces you to disembark your ship, be aware that you would be responsible for your hotel and meal costs. Many companies, such as TripMate, offer both medical evacuation and comprehensive policies.

Because international medical coverage can be expensive, you may wish to review your personal health insurance policy before leaving to ascertain what will be covered.

There are few ATMs in the Galápagos. It is best to go to your bank card’s website to find its ATM locations. Be sure you know your daily withdrawal limit before you leave home.

Be aware that many banks impose a fee every time you use a card at another bank’s ATM and that fee can be higher for international transactions (up to $5 or more) than for domestic ones. In addition, the bank from which you withdraw cash may charge its own fee. For specific international withdrawal fees, consult your bank.

Most shops and restaurants in Quito take credit cards. Visa and MasterCard are much more widely accepted than Discover or American Express. Credit cards may be used to pay bar tabs on board boats, but check with your tour provider to see which ones are accepted. There is a mandatory 12 percent tax (plus 10 percent service charge, for a total of 22 percent) that will be included in the price of all drinks purchased on board.

It is customary to tip your naturalist guides and boat staff, although it is completely at your discretion and should reflect your level of satisfaction with the services you received. Recommended tipping amounts vary, but they tend to range from a total tip of $140 to $250 on a full-week cruise (or $25 per night). Please check with your tour provider for more specific guidelines.

If you book additional day-tours in Ecuador, a gratuity of $12.00 is recommended for your guide and $7.00 for your driver, per person, including children.

When alone in large cities, pay close attention to bumping and shoving, which are common techniques used by thieves to grab valuables. If possible, do not carry a purse or a wallet. Instead, either store your valuables in a hotel safe or purchase a money/document pouch that can be kept hidden underneath your clothing. Also be alert for possible con games such as unbeatable bargains and offers of friendship and assistance involving money.

Ideally, you should wear your camera underneath a coat and not have it dangling on your shoulder or around your neck when you are in Quito or anytime you are not in the remote areas of the Galápagos. As a visible sign of wealth, a camera may draw unwanted attention.

On your flight to the Galápagos, do not put anything valuable in any unlocked, outside pockets of your luggage. Do not leave any valuables unattended in vehicles. There are no safes on board small boats.

Galápagos National Park Regulations and Best Practices for Visitors

Rarely can you see and experience wildlife and nearly pristine landscapes like you can in the Galápagos Islands. To protect this unique place, the Galápagos National Park Service has established rules for visitors. Please familiarize yourself with them before your departure and follow them stringently while in the islands to conserve this one-of-a-kind archipelago — now and into the future.

  • Fully cooperate with environmental inspection and quarantine services personnel during your visit. Introduced plants, animals, and certain foods not native to the islands are a serious threat to the delicate ecosystems here.
  • While visiting the islands, you must be accompanied by a licensed Galápagos National Park guide.
  • To help with conservation, stay in the officially approved areas and on the marked trails at all times.
  • No plants, animals, or their remains (including shells, bones, and pieces of wood), or other natural objects should not be removed or disturbed on land or in the water.
  • Be careful not to transport any live material to the islands, or from island to island. Also, be careful not to transport sand.
  • Do not take any food or drink other than water to the uninhabited islands.
  • Do not touch or feed the animals. A distance of six feet between you and an animal is required. Also, do not allow them to touch you.
  • Do not startle or chase animals from their resting or nesting spots. Flash photography disturbs them, so do not use it.
  • Do not deface the rocks, trees, or walls. Making any type of graffiti is illegal.
  • Do not leave any litter or trash on the islands or throw any off your boat.
  • Smoking and campfires are forbidden in the national park.
  • Do not fish from your tour boat.
  • Motorized aquatic sports and aerial tourism are prohibited.
  • Do not buy souvenirs or objects made of native plants or animals from the islands, especially black coral, volcanic rocks, native woods, sea lion teeth, or tortoise shells.

For updates and a more comprehensive explanation of the rules, please consult the Galápagos National Park Service.

And to learn more about how you can help ensure to keep your footprint on the islands small, please watch these short videos:

Best Practices for Galápagos Travelers

Best Practices on Your Boat

Best Practices Against Invasive Species

The electrical current in Ecuador and on your boat is the same as in the U.S.: 110 volts, 60 cycles AC. Generators on boats, however, are not usually running continuously.

Outlet configurations are also the same as in the U.S., so no power converters or outlet adapters are necessary.

Your Health and Safety in the Galápagos

Before leaving on your adventure, check with your health care professional on what medications you may need or want to bring with you. Below, please find a few general guidelines:

Currently, international regulations did not require any inoculations for entry into mainland Ecuador or the Galápagos Islands. However, check with your physician or local public health office for the most up-to-date information. You may also contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, at (800) 232-4636 or visit www.cdc.gov. If you are traveling to other countries before or after your expedition, check the requirements for those nations.

Galápagos waters are generally calm, but the seas can feel rough during bad weather and when the boat is traveling against the current. If you are at all susceptible to motion sickness (or if you are unsure), you may want to bring some sort of seasickness medication with you.

For those sensitive to motion sickness or seasickness, there are three factors to keep in mind:

Time of year:

  • Try to avoid late August through October, as the seas are generally more turbulent during this time of the year;

Type of boat:

  • Try to avoid sailboats (or motor-sailer) boats since the narrower the boat, the more prone it is to rocking in open waters; while the wider (and heavier) the boat is, the more stable it is.
  • The most stable boats are large cruise ships and motor catamarans, followed by wider motorboats; the least stable are narrow sailing boats.

Cabin location on the boat:

  • Every sailor knows that the roughest ride is at the top of the boat; the lower down and centrally located you are, the less you feel the motion.

Because Quito is located at 9,200 feet above sea level, the air there may be thinner than what you are used to. Upon arrival, you may feel a bit lethargic and short of breath. It is important to take it easy for the first couple of days. To lessen the effects of altitude sickness, you might want to avoid drinking alcohol while in Quito.

Also, proper hydration is essential: Drink plenty of water, particularly on your international flight to Ecuador and on your last day in the islands before returning to the mainland.

Should you experience problems with altitude, speak with your naturalist guide.

Whenever you travel through a new environment, eat unfamiliar food, or drink water with a different mineral content, you become a candidate for traveler’s diarrhea. As a precaution against getting sick, you may choose to take Pepto-Bismol tablets or acidophilus capsules every day, starting a couple of days before your departure, until a few days after you return.

If you do become ill, one dose of Imodium will often clear up any symptoms. In the meantime, replace lost fluids and minerals — such as sodium and potassium — to avoid dehydration and eat a mild diet, drink caffeine-free beverages that are in factory-sealed containers, and avoid dairy products.

Bacterial diarrhea caused by eating contaminated food or drinking impure water, however, can potentially be very serious (Imodium is not recommended for this type of illness). If you experience persistent symptoms, notify your naturalist guide who will assist you in seeking medical attention. Please check with your doctor regarding carrying emergency antibiotics.

Alternatively, some people find that when traveling in a new environment, constipation can occur. You may also wish to bring laxatives with you.

On the majority of cruises, however, only the highest quality food is served. In this situation, it is perfectly safe to eat all fruits and vegetables. Bottled or purified water is typically available.

Here are some guidelines to follow if traveling on your own before or after your cruise trip:

  • Drink only bottled or filtered water.
  • Use bottled or filtered water for brushing your teeth.
  • Order your drinks without ice.
  • Don’t eat food purchased from street vendors; raw vegetables; fruits not peeled yourself; or raw, partially cooked or cold seafood.
  • Keep away from dairy products, unless you are certain that they have been pasteurized.

To maintain your safety during your Galápagos adventure, please watch the short video below:

Packing for the Galápagos: What to Bring

One of the secrets to enjoying adventure travel is to pack lightly. That will certainly be true for your exploration of the Galápagos Islands. Airlines serving the Galápagos generally allow only one checked bag per person, which cannot weigh more than about forty-four pounds. And space aboard ship is limited, so a collapsible, duffel-style bag often works best. Since there will be no room for an open suitcase in your cabin, all luggage will need to be stashed away.

Dress is purely casual in the islands. It’s a good idea to pack a change of clothing, rain gear, and any essentials (including TSA acceptable travel-sized toiletries) in a carry-on bag in the unlikely event that your luggage is delayed or lost by the airlines. Secure all parts of your bag before checking it on the flight to the Galápagos.

Following are some general packing guidelines and a checklist to help you determine the right amount of gear to bring with you.

  • Due to the hot and humid conditions usually found at sea, bringing clothes made of synthetic, quick-drying material is advisable. Cotton items may not dry completely if they get wet with rain, seawater or sweat.
  • Hairdryers are usually available in all cabins. Check with your tour provider.
  • Carry any necessities, including travel documents, money, medications and other vital supplies, in your carry-on bag and not in your checked luggage.
  • Keep cash in more than one place. Should something happen, not all will be lost.
  • Leave expensive jewelry at home.
  • You and your travel partner may wish to temporarily combine your belongings and divide them between your two suitcases for your flights. If one suitcase is lost or delayed by the airlines on your way to the Galápagos, having a portion of your gear is better than having none.
  • Check the current weather on The Weather Channel (www.weather.com) so that you can be prepared for any unseasonable changes.
  • If you plan to lock your luggage, be sure to use a TSA (Transportation Security Administration) approved security device.
  • Check with the TSA (www.tsa.gov) to determine which items are suitable for carry-on baggage and which items should be packed in your checked luggage.
  • Valid passport (with a photocopy, or scan it and send to your e-mail account). A valid passport is required for all U.S. citizens traveling to Ecuador. Your passport must remain valid for at least six months after your expected return date to the U.S., or you may be not allowed entry into Ecuador. If your expiration date is within six months of your return date, you must have your passport renewed. Carrying a copy of your passport separately from your original will help in the replacement process if it is lost or stolen.
  • A copy of your complete flight itinerary.
  • A copy of applicable travel and/or medical evacuation insurance (including the policy number and insurance contact information).
  • Personal medical and dental insurance cards.
  • Credit cards (record your card number and the international phone number to report loss or theft and keep in a separate place).
  • The names and phone numbers of emergency contacts.
  • Any pre-departure materials sent to you by your tour provider.

Money (also see “ Currency and Other Money Matters ”)

The following will help you to determine the amount of cash you may need to bring with you on your expedition. Consider:

  • Optional gratuities (number of trip days multiplied by $14 to $35 per person)
  • Extra drinks
  • Personal spending money (laundry, internet fees, meals not included in the itinerary, etc.)
  • Travel money for before and after your trip (and for any extensions)
  • Lightweight, breathable waterproof (not water-resistant) rain jacket with a hood
  • Light sweater (for cool-month nights ) or a windbreaker
  • 2 Pairs of comfortable, rubber-sole walking shoes or lightweight hiking boots or sneakers with good traction (Tennis shoes or other appropriate soft-soled shoes are preferred while on board the boats.)
  • Sport sandals (such as Tevas, Chacos; water-resistant sport sandals are highly recommended for getting in or out of the pangas during wet landings. You must not go barefoot while wading in the water, as the sharp coral can cut like glass. Flip-flops are not recommended.)
  • 2 Pairs of comfortable, lightweight pants
  • 1 Pair of nylon, zip-off pants (useful for warm days and cooler mornings and nights on the boat)
  • 1 Pair of jeans or heavier pants (optional for cooler nights on the boat)
  • 2 Long-sleeved shirts
  • 6–8 Short-sleeved shirts (you may also want to bring an extra T-shirt to wear while snorkeling if you sunburn easily)
  • 3 Pairs of shorts (you may not need as many pairs of shorts if you bring zip-off pants)
  • Undergarments
  • 2 Swimsuits (for daily snorkeling excursions)
  • Wide-brimmed sun hat (with a string to secure it when it gets windy) or a billed cap with a neck flap (The sun is very strong on the Equator, especially from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; and although island visits are scheduled in the early morning and late afternoon to avoid the most intense part of the day, protecting yourself against too much sun exposure is wise.)
  • Prescription glasses/contact lenses
  • Small, lightweight binoculars
  • Camera and camera equipment (such as extra batteries and sufficient memory cards; disposable underwater cameras are great for taking photos while snorkeling)
  • Ziploc Baggies (several sizes, for wet or dirty clothing and to protect camera equipment)
  • Water bottle (to avoid using multiple disposable plastic bottles)
  • Sunglasses (with UV protection and a secure strap; polarized glasses help you to see through the reflection at the surface of the water and can be very useful while looking for marine life)
  • Sunscreen and lip balm (at least SPF 30)
  • Toiletries (you may want to check with your tour provider to see what your ship supplies)
  • Earplugs (useful for blocking out boat noises)
  • Small sewing kit
  • Insect repellent
  • Headlamp or small flashlight for exploring caves and lava tunnels or for emergencies
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Walking stick (Terrain may be rocky and uneven at times, so some travelers find a walking stick helpful.)
  • Small, water-resistant daypack (to carry camera gear and other equipment during island walks)
  • Snorkeling gear and wet suit (if not provided on your boat)
  • Spanish/English dictionary
  • Alarm clock (although there is a wake-up call on the ship)
  • Extra duffle bag (If you wish to buy souvenirs in Ecuador, bring an empty, collapsible duffel bag that you can fill with your purchases for your trip home. Keep in mind that you are generally only allowed one checked bag on your flight to the Galápagos, but it may be possible to safely store excess luggage at your mainland hotel during your visit to the islands.)

While you are at sea, medicines will be difficult to obtain, so bring any prescribed or over-the-counter medications you take on a regular basis with you. Keep all prescriptions in their original, labeled containers.

  • Motion sickness medication (If you are sensitive to motion sickness, bring over-the-counter products or ask your doctor about scopolamine patches or pills.)
  • Pepto-Bismol (or Kaopectate) for stomach upset and mild diarrhea
  • Imodium or Lomotil for more severe diarrhea
  • Antibiotic cream
  • Aloe vera cream or gel for sunburn
  • Tylenol or other mild pain relief
  • Small medical kit

Learning as much as you can about the Galápagos will enhance your experience of the islands. Click here for a selection of excellent books on the archipelago.

To become familiar with the plants, birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, and other wildlife you will encounter on your adventure, go to the plant and wildlife sections of this travel guide. You’ll also find Plant and Wildlife Checklists to take with you on your trip.

Spanish is the official language of Ecuador. Your guide will speak both English and Spanish, and most hotel staff and boat crew will speak fluent or some English.

However, local people will appreciate any efforts you make to speak Spanish. You may want to bring along a pocket-sized Spanish/English dictionary.

Mainland Ecuador is located in the Eastern Standard Time (EST) Zone, and the Galápagos Islands are one hour behind (in the Central Standard Time Zone). However, your expedition may choose to follow either the local Galápagos time or EST.

There is little seasonal variation between dawn and dusk, so Ecuador does not observe daylight saving time.

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Galakiwi

Galapagos Land Tours with Galakiwi.

Galapagos local tour operator.

Experience amazing wildlife and culture every day, as the awe-inspiring Galapagos Islands offer world-class nature, as well as an interesting and intriguing human history. Playful sea lion encounters, a walk through an ancient lava tunnel, dining on delicious fresh seafood, and a hike to one of the largest volcanic calderas in the world are all possible. Join us on a Galapagos land tour while island hopping around one of the most amazing places on the planet!

Need even more adventure? Combine your Galapagos trip with our exciting tours in Ecuador and the Amazon to create the ultimate vacation.

Melanie Eustace - 6-day Land Galapagos Tour, January 2024

galapagos islands tourism

Galapagos Doubles Entry Fees to Curb Tourism Pressure and Fund Conservation

T he Galapagos Islands, Ecuador’s precious archipelago and a unique global treasure, will require tourists to dig a bit deeper into their pockets as entry fees are set to double in an effort to preserve the ecologically fragile region. Starting August 1, 2024, the cost of admission to this UNESCO World Heritage site will increase from $100 to $200 for most international visitors, as announced by Ecuador’s Ministry of Tourism.

This fee hike, the first since 1998, comes in response to escalating tourist numbers that are straining the islands’ delicate ecosystem. “The Galapagos Islands are not only a national treasure but a global one. It is our collective responsibility to protect and preserve this unparalleled ecosystem for future generations,” said Niels Olsen, Ecuador’s tourism minister.

The Galapagos archipelago, located 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) off Ecuador’s coast, is often described as a “living museum,” home to a host of rare and endangered species. Despite a residential population of about 30,000 people, the islands see approximately 170,000 tourists in a typical year. This burgeoning influx has led to increased waste, strained food and water resources, and heightened the risk of invasive species, exacerbating the islands’ vulnerability.

The Galapagos Conservation Trust, a UK-registered charity dedicated to promoting conservation and sustainability on the islands, has sounded the alarm on the ecological repercussions of this tourist boom. “This is pushing waste management systems to the limit, exacerbating water and food insecurity, and increasing the threat of devastating invasive species being introduced to the Islands,” the Trust noted.

Visitors from nations within the Mercosur trade bloc, including Argentina, Brazil, and Peru, will also see a fee increase, though at a lower rate from $50 to $100 per person. Children under age two, regardless of nationality, will be exempt from the entry fee. The additional revenue is earmarked specifically for conservation efforts, as stated by Olsen, ensuring that each contribution by tourists directly supports the maintenance and protection of this irreplaceable ecosystem.

The urgency of safeguarding the Galapagos has been underscored by continuous scientific discoveries, such as the recent uncovering of a previously unknown coral reef believed to be thousands of years old. In 2021, UNESCO issued a report praising the Ecuadorean government for mitigating illegal fishing and controlling invasive species but called for an update on conservation efforts by 2024.

Amid the practical concerns of ecological preservation, the islands’ allure as a source of mystery and intrigue is set to be amplified by an upcoming film directed by Ron Howard. “Eden,” starring Sydney Sweeney, Vanessa Kirby, Ana de Armas, and Jude Law, will delve into a scandalous true story from the 1930s set against the backdrop of the Galapagos, potentially heightening the destination’s profile.

Relevant articles:

– Galapagos Islands to double tourist entry fees amid concerns over rising visitor numbers | CNN

– Galapagos Islands to double tourist entry fees amid concerns over rising visitor numbers , Yahoo Movies Canada, Thu, 04 Apr 2024 00:33:45 GMT

– Galápagos to double tourist taxes due to growing visitor pressure , Birdguides, Mon, 08 Apr 2024 08:34:36 GMT

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Tourism taxes are making international trips more expensive

Sean Cudahy

Editor's Note

As you budget for a trip , the list of expenses to consider is long. Sure, there are the big-ticket costs, such as airfare, lodging, theme park tickets and car rentals. But, as every traveler knows, that's often just the beginning. Airline fees, resort charges , food, souvenirs, highway tolls and other extras drive up the overall cost of a trip.

Increasingly, travelers have also had to consider another extra: tourism taxes .

Barcelona recently made headlines after announcing it would hike its tourism tax for the second time in four years. Originally implemented in the early 2010s to combat overtourism, the city's tax on visitors varies based on whether you're staying in a hotel, opting for an ultra-high-end hotel, renting a vacation rental through a platform like Airbnb or visiting as a cruise passenger.

Barcelona isn't alone.

This spring, the ever-popular destination of Venice, Italy, is deploying its long-discussed tourist tax . It's charging daytrippers 5 euros ($5.43) on certain peak days.

galapagos islands tourism

Depending on the destination, you may find tourism taxes or similar fees tacked onto your hotel bill or charged upon arrival across many destinations worldwide.

Sure, they're typically not large enough to make you consider altering your travel plans. However, they are another line to add to your trip budget, whether you're heading to a hotel in the U.S. or abroad to places like Manchester, England; Barcelona; the Balearic Islands in Spain; and New Zealand.

More places may start charging them soon.

Passing costs on to tourists

Governments have long sought to pass costs onto tourists in some form or another.

The amount you pay for most hotel rooms in the U.S. usually includes an additional tax beyond what you'd pay for a purchase at a retailer.

In 2022, while on assignment for TPG in New York, I saw a $38 charge for various city and state taxes (totaling 17% of the rate) on top of my $219 room rate at the Moxy NYC Times Square. That was in addition to the hotel's $30 destination fee.

galapagos islands tourism

You'll find this setup all over the world ... and it has been around for years.

The city of Amsterdam, for instance, charges a 7% fee on hotel rooms, along with 3 euros ($3.26) per person, per night.

galapagos islands tourism

In Paris, how much you pay in room tax depends, more or less, on how nice the hotel is. The fees top out at around $4 per night for a luxury hotel or similar accommodations; it may be something to keep in mind as you plan a trip to Paris for the 2024 Olympics this summer .

Last year, Manchester became the first city in the United Kingdom to charge a tourism tax; visitors staying in city center hotels or at rental properties pay 1 British pound ($1.22) per night.

Extra charges beyond hotels

In recent years, tourist payments have grown to not only include taxes on airfare and hotel stays, but also stand-alone fees for merely visiting the destination itself.

Bhutan may be the most notable example. The country typically charges a flat rate of $200 or more per day. You get a lot for your money, though: The fee includes decent lodging, meals, ground transportation, camping equipment and a tour guide.

However, it's worth noting Bhutan will be offering a temporary (though long-lasting) 50% discount on the fee over the next few years. Late last summer, the government revealed tourists will be charged $100 per day through Aug. 31, 2027, to incentivize travel, according to the country's tourism authority .

Even considering that discount, most tourist fees are considerably smaller than Bhutan's. For example, visitors from most countries pay about $24 upon entering New Zealand as part of its International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy.

Still, when you plan a trip, the costs can add up; these extra taxes and fees are increasingly expenses for which you'll want to account.

galapagos islands tourism

Why are so many places adding tourism taxes?

There are various reasons why cities, regions and countries are adding these taxes and fees.

Infrastructure is a big part of the reason in some places. Tourists strain the environment, from creating trash to using city services, riding public transportation and crowding streets in popular destinations.

In Wales, the government is considering allowing nightly visitor levies of between 0.5 and 5 pounds (61 cents to $6.10) per night; officials say any taxes "will generate revenue to support investment in the tourism industry."

In 2022, New Zealand's tourism minister hinted that increases to the country's tourism tax may come after noting pre-coronavirus pandemic tourism levels were "unsustainable." This is the same word a 2019 Cornell University report used about the "extremely rapid growth" of tourism in Southeast Asia.

galapagos islands tourism

Elsewhere, the motivation has much to do with the impacts of climate change.

Hawaii tourism tax talks revived

In his State of the State address in February, Hawaii Gov. Josh Green proposed a $25 fee on visitors when they arrive and check into a hotel or short-term rental. The proposal came after past years' discussions of tourism taxes in the highly visited state — including a proposal that stalled in the state's legislature last year.

Calling it a "modest fee" that pales in comparison to other resort fees charged to visitors, Green said the levy would generate more than $68 million annually from visitors. He said the state would invest this money into beach preservation and fire safety and prevention measures to stop another tragedy like last summer's wildfires in Maui .

"The responsibility to protect Hawaii's unique natural environment should extend to visitors to our islands," Green said in his speech . "I believe this is not too much to ask of visitors to our islands."

Galapagos Islands' national park entry fees

Similarly, leaders in Ecuador have grown concerned about the effects of increased tourism in the Galapagos Islands.

Starting later this year, entry fees for most visitors to Galapagos National Park will double.

As of Aug. 1, visitors who live outside South America will have to pay $200 (instead of $100) to enter the park, according to the nonprofit Galapagos Conservation Trust; reduced fees will be available for children 12 and under, and entry will be free for children younger than 2.

The move comes following "worrying growth" in the number of visitors.

"This is pushing waste management systems to the limit, exacerbating water and food insecurity, and increasing the threat of devastating invasive species being introduced to the islands," the organization said in a statement , noting it's the park's first fee increase since 1998.

Concerns growing about preserving iconic sites

A 2022 report from the World Travel & Tourism Council — published just as travel began to bounce back from the pandemic — stressed the importance of a "renewed commitment and interest" from travelers "to preserving our planet and the people and communities who are a part of it."

In Venice, leaders have pointed to massive tourist numbers in recent years as underscoring the need for the upcoming changes as the Italian city contends with its place on UNESCO's list of endangered World Heritage Sites .

galapagos islands tourism

"The goal is to find a new balance between the rights of those who live and work in Venice and those who intend to visit the city," Gabriele Vattolo, the city's press secretary, said in a statement to TPG.

Similarly, in the Spanish city of Seville, leaders recently unveiled plans to charge nonresident visitors an entry fee to the famed Plaza de Espana — an iconic, nearly century-old landmark known for its rich history and cinematic appearance in the "Star Wars" saga.

galapagos islands tourism

"With the city council's budget alone we cannot preserve our heritage, nor guarantee the safety of the monument," Seville Mayor José Luis Sanz wrote in a Feb. 26 post (translated from Spanish) on X.

In the post, Sanz shared a video that showed dense crowds in Plaza de Espana, with street vendors, trash, and wear and tear to the landmark.

Bottom line

Out-of-town guests have long been asked to support the communities they're visiting in the form of taxes added to nightly hotel bills.

As travel has surged over the last two years in the wake of the pandemic, it seems cities — and, indeed, countries — are increasingly looking to have visitors help pay for the costs (both financial and environmental) that tourism incurs.

With that in mind, you'll want to factor these added costs into your next trip budget on top of the pricier expenses you're already considering, such as airfare and the advertised hotel rate.

As always, if paying these tourism fees with a credit card is an option (and won't cost you more in processing fees), select the card in your wallet that doesn't have foreign transaction fees and earns you the most rewards on everyday expenses . This will be your best bet to get something back for your purchase.

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A volcano has erupted on an island in the Galápagos, Ecuador. Lava flow from the volcano reaches the ocean. While the eruption posed no risk to humans, the island is home to a number of species, including iguanas, penguins and flightless cormorants.

Lava flow from volcano on an uninhabited Galapagos island reaches ocean

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  1. Ecuador Galapagos Legend Luxury Cruise by Kleintours.com

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  1. The Ultimate Galápagos Islands Travel Guide

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    Situated on a tropical oasis, the restored 19th-century property offers authentic Ecuadorian cuisine and a peaceful setting to catch up on sleep before embarking on the remainder of the journey to the Galápagos. There are two major airports on the Galápagos Islands: Seymour Airport (serving the island of Baltra), and San Cristobal (found on ...

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    7 ways to travel responsibly in the Galapagos Islands 17 Apr 2022. Quito and beyond: 3 things to do in Ecuador after a Galapagos trip 30 Oct 2019. Galapagos Islands at a glance. CAPITAL CITY. Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. POPULATION. 26,640. CURRENCY. US dollar (USD) LANGUAGE. Spanish. TIME ZONE (GMT-06:00) Galapagos.

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    About Galapagos Islands. Abundant wildlife above and below the waves draws eco-tourists to Ecuador's Galapagos. Get up close on a stroll or in a Zodiac boat. Snorkel and dive with denizens of the deep, from sea lions to sea turtles at Santiago's Cousin's Rock. Hike by finches, flamingos and iguanas along the Darwin Trail.

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    Get Galapagos Travel Center's top 10 tips on how to travel to the Galapagos Islands, now! Our website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience. More info That's Fine. Partners & Sponsors: Payment Options: Call the Galapagos Experts. 1-877-260-5552; 0800-098-8940; 593-2-6009-554;

  8. 12 Best Things to Do in the Galapagos Islands

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    The Galápagos Islands will double its fee for visitors in August 2024. Here's why. Mar 25, 2024 • 2 min read. To combat overtourism and promote sustainability, authorities on the Galápagos Islands are raising fees this summer for most visitors from US$100 to $200. in partnership with getyourguide.

  10. Galápagos Islands

    The Galapagos archipelago is located about 1,000 km from continental Ecuador and is composed of 127 islands, islets and rocks, of which 19 are large and 4are inhabited. 97% of the total emerged surface (7,665,100 ha) was declared National Park in 1959. Human settlements are restricted to the remaining 3% in specifically zoned rural and urban ...

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    Check for flights from USA to Ecuador. From Europe, most flights go from Amsterdam or Madrid to Quito for around US$700 return. Flights from Quito/Guayaquil to Galapagos Islands cost around US$300 to $400 return. All flights are with either LATAM or Avianca, which are both reliable South American airlines.

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    20. Tour of the city to Isabela + Tintoreras from Santa Cruz. One day visit to the best of the city of Isabela plus a private tour to Tintoreras islet, ideal for short people without…. 21. Half Day Tintoreras Tour from Isabela Island. "Las Tintoreras", a group of small islets full of inlets and hidden beaches.

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    Galapagos Islands Tours & Trips. Located in South America in the Pacific Ocean, the Galapagos Islands are easily accessible by taking a plane from Ecuador's capital city, Quito, or a boat from the port city of Guayaquil. The volcanic archipelago shelters a wide range of species of plants and animals, making it one of the most appealing destinations for wildlife-lovers.

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    For your next vacation, Galapagos Travel Center offers you a great variety of tour options to the Galapagos Islands as well as on the mainland of Ecuador. Just choose whatever suits you best! If you want to see as many islands as possible in a self-chosen amount of time, you can opt for one of our cruises. If you prefer sleeping on firm ground ...

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    When arriving at the airport on San Cristóbal or Baltra, all travelers must pay the Galápagos National Park entrance fee ($100.00 per person). The park tax for children under the age of twelve is $50. All tourists to the islands must also purchase a Transit Control Card for $10.

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    The island is actually a collapsed volcano that is a nesting location for a variety of seabirds such as Frigatebirds and the elusive Red-Billed Tropicbird, among others. Isla Los Hermanos - This is a small island off Isabela. Isla Sombrero Chino - One of the most recognizable of the Galapagos Islands, Sombrero Chino name means "Chinese Hat." It ...

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    Starting August 1, 2024, the cost of admission to this UNESCO World Heritage site will increase from $100 to $200 for most international visitors, as announced by Ecuador's Ministry of Tourism ...

  25. Galapagos Islands to double tourist entry fees amid concerns over

    "Ecuador's Ministry of Tourism has announced the new fees, which will take effect on August 1, 2024. The entry fee will go from $100 to $200 for nationals of almost all countries, except for other members of the South American trade bloc Mercosur, which includes Argentina, Brazil, and Peru.

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  27. Tourism taxes are making international trips more expensive

    Similarly, leaders in Ecuador have grown concerned about the effects of increased tourism in the Galapagos Islands. Starting later this year, entry fees for most visitors to Galapagos National Park will double. As of Aug. 1, visitors who live outside South America will have to pay $200 (instead of $100) to enter the park, according to the ...

  28. Lava flow from volcano on an uninhabited Galapagos island reaches ocean

    A volcano has erupted on an island in the Galápagos, Ecuador. Lava flow from the volcano reaches the ocean. While the eruption posed no risk to humans, the island is home to a number of species, including iguanas, penguins and flightless cormorants. Published 7:49 PM PDT, April 7, 2024. The Associated Press is an independent global news ...