Planning a trip to the Galapagos Islands can be an exhilarating experience. The unexpected excitement from such a trip creates memories for a lifetime. The Galapagos Islands are located 600 miles from the Ecuador coast, in the Pacific Ocean, and it is the ultimate exotic destination you have to visit at least once.
The archipelago is known as the home of a wide range of flora and fauna. It is the place where Charles Darwin explored the fundamentals of the origins of evolution, introduced in the “Origin of Species” in 1859.
There’s so much more to know about the Galapagos’ history. But for now, let’s focus on your trip and plan it the best you can. There are certain things you need to know before embarking on Galapagos and here we’ll discuss exactly that!
1. Decide The Type of Itinerary
Galapagos is a distant destination that can be reached via cruise or flight from Ecuador. Simply book a trip to Ecuador and take a tour or a cruise to the islands. It’s worth mentioning that there are no international flights to the islands currently. Therefore, the only route to access Galapagos is either through a direct flight from Europe or the US. Arrive in Quito or Guayaquil, which are the closest airports, and then travel from there.
If you choose to take a cruise, ensure you have enough time to visit the islands for the ultimate experience. You will be able to visit the main destinations while enjoying water activities like snorkeling, swimming with sea lions, sunbathing, kayaking, and animal spotting tours. And if you prefer a boat tour, you can visit remote parts of the islands, untouched by humans. Either way, your Galapagos islands vacation will be a one-of-a-kind experience you’ll remember forever.
A cruise package includes visits to the island’s main locations, thereafter you return to the cruise and sail to the next island. You can choose from a range of itineraries, starting from 4 days, up to an 8-day trip.
Each cruise package has a different route for visiting specific islands. Some things to consider when taking a cruise are:
Overnight travel will save you time and you can visit remote islands like Genoves, Fernandina, and Espanola.
A cruise is more expensive than a boat tour. It is a more luxurious option with more amenities available on board.
All meals are usually provided.
More inclusive Galapagos experience, with additional entertainment provided.
A land-based package includes a day trip that lets you explore the base islands while taking tours to the nearby islands. At the end of the day trip, you’ll be dropped off at your hotel.
Things to consider when booking a land-based package:
Hotel rooms are more spacious than cruise cabins.
More flexibility in terms of free time of your own.
This is a cheaper alternative.
2. Book Early
Make sure to book your trip early and plan your itinerary in advance. Ideally, the best time to book a trip to Galapagos is between 6 months to 1 year before especially if you have a specific accommodation or cruise in mind.
Furthermore, it’s recommended that you research the history and wildlife of the islands as it can help you decide where you want to go and what to see. Plus, it will save you extra time that you’ll spend on planning the itinerary as you go!
3. Pack Light
Packing effectively for the Galapagos Islands is crucial. It doesn’t have to be tough. Due to its proximity to the equator, Galapagos is a place with warm temperatures, which means you should pack light. But always check the weather, as it may vary depending on your season of travel.
Nevertheless, you’ll need to pack a raincoat, comfortable shoes, and a jacket. In terms of luggage, we suggest using a backpack for day trips and a small rolling suitcase to carry the rest of your belongings. You’ll be traveling on all types of transportation, including airplanes, taxis, buses, and vans. Hence, something light and practical is recommended.
In terms of clothing, it’s recommended you prepare a pair of hiking sandals, flip flops or sneakers for the evenings in town, tank tops, some pairs of socks, underwear, yoga pants, swimsuits, light sweatshirts, sunglasses, and a hat. Additional items to carry are sunscreen, bug repellent, band-aids, hair ties, any medicines you need, makeup and hygiene items, phone charger, reusable water bottles, a camera, and most importantly – cash! (There are very few ATMs on the islands.)
4. Decide On Your Preferred Season
The Galapagos Islands have a subtropical climate due to their equatorial position. The tropical heat keeps temperatures at a certain level and weather changes between cool and warm throughout the year.
While there’s never a bad season to visit Galapagos, the warm wet season is between January to June. In this period, temperatures may rise up to 30 Celsius degrees during the day. You may also encounter cloudy conditions, with occasional showers.Meanwhile, the cool and dry season lasts from July to December. If you travel at this time of the year, you will encounter blue skies and cooler evenings. Hence, the best time to visit Galapagos depends on what you want to explore and why you want to visit the islands.
Best Time to Visit Galapagos Islands
If you want to visit it to see the animals breeding, learn more about their mating cycles or explore the wildlife, you can travel in the later months, let’s say November or December.
If you want to catch the islands at their peak, then the best months are from June to August. The weather conditions are sunny and pleasant and it’s the best time to dive into the beautiful Galapagos waters to experience some sea life.
The holiday season in Galapagos starts from December to mid-January, which is another popular time to visit the islands. Cruise itineraries are booked months, or even a year in advance, especially for this time of the year. So if you plan on visiting Galapagos at this time of the year, make sure you book well in advance!
Finally, if you are a fan of the sea life and water activities, we’d recommend visiting Galapagos sometime from December to May so you can enjoy snorkeling and diving. The ocean temperatures tend to be warmer, and you can have a pleasant swim with these magnificent creatures.
5. Choose Which Places to Visit
A Galapagos trip will probably get you hooked on traveling to exotic destinations! Before you rush and book the trip right now, it’s important to note a couple of other things. Planning your itinerary well will help you navigate easily during the trip. In this section, we recommend some places you should visit while wandering the islands.
San Cristobal is one of the four inhabited islands on the Galapagos archipelago and the main hub for tourism. Apart from several dining and shopping options, there are several outdoor activities not to be missed! Don’t miss out on exciting activities like a hike to the volcanic crater lake and Cerro Las Tijeretas, spotting frigatebirds, spot surfing and so much more!
Isabela island is the largest one in the archipelago, covering 4,640 square kilometers. On the southern shore of the island, you will find plenty of restaurants, hotels, and tour offices in case you want to fill your evenings with some fun activities. You can take a boat tour to Los Tuneles, a lava arch that expands through a lava field, called Tintoreras where you’ll see baby iguanas and hawks.
Santa Cruz is another populated island, or in fact, the island with the largest human population. The majority of its land is protected due to the endemic species living there – the finches, marine iguanas, etc. This island is a perfect place for island exploration, learning about the conservation projects, visiting the Charles Darwin Research Station, or just taking a casual walk to Turtle Bay.
Floreana is the home to giant tortoises, yes, the ones you see on National Geographic. It’s one of the oldest islands filled with idyllic beaches and lush highlands. On Floreana is the Devil’s Eye, a volcanic crater submerged under the ocean, which makes a great spot for snorkeling activities. This island is one of the less inhabited, with less than 200 people living there. It’s recommended that you take a day trip to the island as accommodation is limited.
Before You Go
Excited already? Here are some extra tips to consider when you travel to Galapagos Islands:
Prepare motion sickness medication.
Prepare for limited internet access.
And finally, have fun!