All Islands and Highlights on the Galapagos Islands

Explore all Highlights

The Galapagos Islands, a magnificent archipelago situated in the eastern Pacific Ocean, boasts a wealth of natural wonders, endemic species, and unique landscapes. From the moment you set foot on these enchanted isles, you’ll be captivated by the extraordinary creatures, fascinating history, and breathtaking vistas that await you. Join us as we embark on an unforgettable journey through the Galapagos Islands, exploring their unparalleled wildlife, rich culture, and unforgettable experiences.

The Galapagos Islands, located approximately 900 km west of South America and on the Equator, are home to an astounding array of endemic species not found elsewhere in the world. The archipelago consists of 18 main islands, 3 smaller islands, and 107 rocks and islets, providing a remarkable diversity of habitats for its unique flora and fauna.

Charles Darwin’s visit to the islands in 1835 sparked his groundbreaking Theory of Evolution, as he observed the unique adaptations of species such as the finches, marine iguanas, and giant tortoises. Today, the Galapagos National Park and Marine Reserve safeguard these endemic species and their habitats, ensuring that future generations can marvel at the wonders of the Galapagos’ natural world.

The Rich History and Culture of the Galapagos
The history of the Galapagos Islands is a fascinating tale of discovery, adventure, and scientific breakthroughs. Credited with the islands’ discovery in 1535, Bishop Tomás de Berlanga stumbled upon them by accident while en route to Peru. In the centuries that followed, pirates and explorers found themselves drawn to the Galapagos, seeking refuge and resources. It was not until Charles Darwin’s arrival in 1835 that the islands gained global recognition for their unique flora and fauna.

The Galapagos Islands have seen significant changes since those early days, with the development of tourism and new fisheries bringing an influx of settlers from mainland Ecuador. Today, the majority of the islands’ inhabitants reside on Santa Cruz and San Cristóbal, with a population of slightly over 33,000 as of 2020. Ecuadorian Mestizos constitute the largest ethnic group in the Galapagos Islands, adding a rich cultural dimension to the archipelago.

Exploring the islands will allow you to delve into their history and culture. Make sure to visit museums and cultural sites, like the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island. Discover the stories of the islands’ early inhabitants, the challenges they faced, and the ongoing efforts to protect and preserve the unique wonders of the Galapagos for future generations.

Island Hopping: Exploring the Inhabited Islands
The Galapagos Islands, including the Santa Cruz Islands, offer a wide variety of experiences across their inhabited islands, each boasting unique attractions and opportunities for adventure. Let’s focus on Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, and Isabela Islands, as they are the main attractions for most visitors. From bustling towns to pristine beaches and breathtaking landscapes, these islands provide a captivating mix of natural beauty, cultural experiences, and unforgettable wildlife encounters.

Santa Cruz Island
Santa Cruz Island, the most populous in the Galapagos, offers a diverse array of activities and attractions for visitors to enjoy. From hiking and snorkeling to kayaking and wildlife watching, there’s truly something for everyone on this versatile island.

You can also delve into the islands’ history and culture by visiting the Charles Darwin Research Station and the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center, where you can learn about the islands’ unique flora and fauna and the ongoing conservation efforts to protect them.

San Cristobal Island
San Cristobal Island, home to the provincial capital of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, offers a unique blend of cultural experiences and natural beauty. Here, you can explore the island’s history and culture by visiting the Charles Darwin Research Station and local markets, or immerse yourself in the island’s stunning landscapes by visiting its spectacular beaches and verdant forests.

From wildlife encounters to captivating cultural experiences, San Cristobal Island is sure to leave a lasting impression on every traveler.

Isabela Island
As the largest island in the Galapagos Archipelago, Isabela Island boasts an impressive array of diverse landscapes and wildlife encounters. Formed by the joining of six shield volcanoes, Isabela Island is home to a variety of unique species, including:

  • Giant tortoises
  • Marine iguanas
  • Penguins
  • Sea lions
Whether you’re exploring the island’s stunning volcanic terrain or marveling at its abundant wildlife, Isabela Island offers an unforgettable experience for every traveler.

Navigating the Uninhabited Islands
The Galapagos Archipelago is also home to a number of uninhabited islands, each offering unique landscapes and opportunities for wildlife encounters. These islands, untouched by human settlement, provide a glimpse into the pristine beauty and ecological richness of the Galapagos. Whether you’re an avid bird-watcher, a nature enthusiast, or simply seeking a serene getaway, the uninhabited islands are sure to captivate your senses and ignite your imagination.

Fernandina Island, for example, is renowned for its Galapagos penguins and flightless cormorants, while Bartolomé Island is famous for its striking volcanic rock formations, such as Pinnacle Rock. Espaola Island, on the other hand, is home to the nesting sites of the waved albatross, attracting bird-watchers from around the world. Genovesa Island is another beloved destination for bird enthusiasts, as it teems with various avian species.

As you embark on your Galapagos adventure, keep in mind that access to these uninhabited islands is often limited to preserve their delicate ecosystems. Be sure to consult with your tour operator to select the best itinerary for your interests and to maximize your chances of encountering the unique wildlife and landscapes that have made the Galapagos a destination unlike any other.

Experiencing Galapagos Marine Life
The marine life in the Galapagos Islands is as diverse and unique as the terrestrial species that call the archipelago home. With the Galapagos National Park and Marine Reserve protecting the islands’ marine habitats, visitors have the opportunity to witness an incredible array of sea creatures, including:

  • Sea turtles
  • Hammerhead sharks
  • Rays
  • Dolphins
  • Sea lions
  • Marine iguanas
  • Galapagos penguins
  • Whale sharks
These are just a few examples of the amazing marine life, including the marine iguana, you can encounter in the Galápagos National Park, located in the Pacific Ocean.

Scuba diving in the Galapagos is a particularly rewarding experience, offering unparalleled encounters with the islands’ remarkable marine life. For those who prefer to stay closer to the surface, snorkeling is a fantastic way to explore the islands’ vibrant underwater world, providing up-close encounters with playful sea lions, graceful sea turtles, and colorful schools of fish. Kayaking along the island’s shores also offers a unique perspective on the marine life, as you paddle through crystal-clear waters teeming with baby rays, sharks, and other aquatic residents.

Keep in mind, the marine ecosystem of the Galapagos is fragile and susceptible to dangers like overfishing and illegal fishing practices. Being a responsible visitor requires respecting the islands’ conservation efforts and following the guidelines set by local authorities and tour operators. This will contribute to the survival of the Galapagos’ unique marine life.

Sustainable Tourism and Conservation Efforts
The Galapagos Islands are a treasure trove of natural wonders and unique species, but they’re also facing significant challenges due to human activities and the pressures of tourism. Recognizing the need for sustainable tourism and conservation efforts, the Ecuadorian government, along with organizations like the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), have launched initiatives to protect the islands’ ecosystems and promote responsible travel practices.

The WWF, for example, has been instrumental in supporting the Galapagos National Park by:

  • Improving the control and surveillance system of the Marine Reserve
  • Promoting sustainable fishing practices
  • Helping to design and implement ecotourism-based models that support conservation and enhance people’s livelihoods
By choosing to travel responsibly and supporting these conservation efforts, visitors can play an active role in preserving the Galapagos Islands’ unique biodiversity and ensuring that future generations can experience the wonders of this remarkable archipelago.

Planning Your Trip: Best Times and Travel Tips
When planning your trip to the Galapagos Islands, it’s important to consider factors such as the best time to visit, your preferred activities, and essential travel tips to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience. Here, you’ll find useful information on the best time to visit and practical advice for your journey, ensuring an unforgettable time in this extraordinary destination.

When to Go
While there’s no definitive best time to visit the Galapagos Islands, certain factors may influence your decision. The climate and wildlife activity can vary throughout the year, with December to May typically offering warmer temperatures and calmer waters.

June through December, on the other hand, are cooler and drier months, with the colder currents bringing an abundance of plankton – a food source for many marine species. Ultimately, the optimal time to visit the Galapagos will depend on your personal preferences and interests, so be sure to consult with your tour operator to select the ideal itinerary for your adventure.

Essential Travel Tips
When preparing for your Galapagos adventure, keep these essential travel tips in mind:

  1. Prioritize quality and safety when selecting your tour operator.
  2. Use reef-safe sunscreen to protect the delicate marine ecosystem.
  3. Consider booking a hotel that owns and operates its own boats for a more convenient and practical experience.
Additionally, be aware of the items you bring to the islands, avoiding any fruits, vegetables, or plants that could introduce non-native species and disrupt the delicate balance of the ecosystem. With careful planning and responsible travel practices, you can ensure a memorable and enjoyable journey through the enchanting Galapagos Islands.

Choosing Your Galapagos Adventure: Land or Sea Tours
One crucial decision in planning your Galapagos adventure is choosing between a land and sea tour. Each option has its own advantages and experiences. So, take into account factors like cost, time, and accessibility to different islands when making your decision.

Land-based tours often provide a more flexible and affordable option, allowing you to stay in hotels on inhabited islands and explore the surrounding areas at your own pace. However, these tours may limit your access to more remote islands and visitor sites, as you’ll need to rely on day boats for transportation.

On the other hand, live-aboard boat tours offer the advantage of waking up in a new destination each day, providing more opportunities to explore the numerous islands and their unique attractions.

Ultimately, the choice between land and sea tours will depend on your personal preferences, budget, and desired itinerary. Be sure to discuss your options with your tour operator to find the perfect Galapagos adventure tailored to your interests and needs.

Gastronomy in the Galapagos: Dining Options and Local Cuisine
During your visit to the Galapagos Islands, don’t miss out on the scrumptious local cuisine and diverse dining options that highlight the unique flavors of the region. From fresh seafood to traditional Ecuadorian dishes, the culinary offerings of the islands are sure to delight your taste buds and enhance your Galapagos experience.

Across the main hubs of the islands, you’ll find a variety of dining options ranging from upscale restaurants to charming local eateries. For instance, the Finch Bay Restaurant on Santa Cruz Island combines Ecuadorian cuisine with international flair, while the more informal Booby Trap on Isabela Island serves up fish tacos and pizza with breathtaking oceanfront views. No matter your culinary preferences, the Galapagos Islands offer a diverse array of dining experiences that cater to all tastes and budgets.

Summary
The Galapagos Islands truly offer a once-in-a-lifetime experience that will leave you with unforgettable memories and a deep appreciation for the incredible biodiversity and natural beauty of our planet. From exploring the unique wildlife and rich history of the islands to immersing yourself in the enchanting landscapes and vibrant marine life, the Galapagos adventure awaits you. As you embark on this extraordinary journey, remember to travel responsibly and support the ongoing conservation efforts to preserve the magic of the Galapagos for generations to come.

SAIL YACHTS, CRUISES, CATAMARANS & SHIPS

Cruise your way through the islands, live-aboards offer you the best Galapagos experience, taking you to the most remote locations in the archipelago, otherwise not accessible via other methods, and make the most of your visit. With different itineraries across a wide variety of ships, you will surely find something that adjusts to your budget and needs.

VIEW ALL GALAPAGOS CRUISES

HOTEL PACKAGES & ISLAND HOPPING

Land based tours are a great approach to the islands, with Hotels strategically located in the main islands, (Isabela, Santa Cruz, Floreana & San Cristobal) many activities are arranged in the surroundings of the Hotels such as biking, horseback riding, snorkeling & kayaking. Island Hopping will connect you through different Hotels for a more in depth and adventurous tour.

VIEW ALL LAND BASED TOURS

LIVE-ABOARDS, LANDBASED, DAILY DIVES & COMBINED TOURS

Among the top favorite diving destinations in the world. The Galapagos is home to a huge variety of sealife, going from reef fish to whalesharks, hammerheads, dolphins, flocks of different species of manta rays,and much more! Approaches to diving in the islands are limited to daily dives or live-aboards, what are you waiting for, come experience a unique diving experience.

VIEW ALL DIVING TOURS

When To Travel

Galapagos Weather

The weather in the archipelago is another thing to behold and marvel about the enchanted islands. as Darwin himself said: “Considering that these islands are placed directly under the equator, the climate is far from being excessively hot” With great climate throughout the whole year, there is no such thing as a bad time to visit the islands.

Warm Season – January To June

Also known as the Hot or Wet season, warmer waters take over the archipelago, with the warm air rising to the point rain clouds are formed, and short afternoon rains become a common affair. With clear skies during the day, vegetation flourishes and there is an abundant food source for herbivore animals in the islands. This is also the nesting and breeding season for a lot of the wildlife in the Galapagos, well into the warm season around March and April the islands will be full of new wildlife. With calmer seas and warmer waters, snorkeling and diving are truly enjoyable, yet there is less marine life as opposed to the dry season.

Dry Season – July To December

The Garua Season, which refers to the common fog and mist on higher elevations displayed this time of the year in the islands is brought in by the great southern Polar current, now known as the Humboldt current, and the upwelling of the ocean that stirs the nutrients, stimulating the growth of algae, as a result rich marine life blossoms in the archipelago. As a cycle of life, many sea birds depend on the wellbeing of marine life in the islands to survive. The highlands receive more moisture this time of year then they do from the rain in the Warm season. Sea currents are colder and rougher; yet are considered to be the best for snorkeling.

Weather Chart

Different events take place during the year that are governed by 2 seasons in the archipelago, the seasonal change is not an exact science and varies somewhat, often with transitional months when either type of weather can occur.

How To Get There

Entering the Islands

The islands can only be accessed by commercial airlines all 7 days of the week. With flights departing from Ecuador (Quito or Guayaquil) only, and arriving to either Baltra or San Cristobal in Galapagos. Flights usually depart early in the morning, passengers arrive late morning to the islands – (10h00 to 12h00). The islands time (UTC – 06:00) is one hour behind mainland Ecuador.

Transit Control Card

Very similar to a visa when traveling abroad, the transit control card became a necessity in controlling people entering and exiting the islands. TCT, the acronym for the Control Card in spanish, serves as a regulation mechanism to ensure only those that are residents of the islands can enter an exit freely, it regulates tourists from extending their stay from the allowed (90 Days) and controls non-compliant visitors from re-entering the islands. The card has a one time fee of $10, applicable for both locals and foreigners, paid at the airport of Quito or Guayaquil (Cash Only).

Airlines

Currently only 3 airlines operate in the Galapagos, (Tame-Aerogal-Lan), all departing from either Quito or Guayaquil in Ecuador, there is no international flights entering the islands for the time being, although connecting flights can be arranged through Lan. In most cases clients who have booked a cruise are required to book their flight with the boat operator, (specific airline & flight) to ensure the smooth operation of their tour, and avoid long waits between flight arrivals. Almost all airlines have a scale in Guayaquil (30 minute stop), a total 3 hour flight from Quito, flights rarely get delayed or cancelled.

Park Entrance Fee & Flight Chart

The Galapagos park entrance fee has a cost of $100 per person, a one-time fee that is paid upon arrival at the airport in Galapagos, some may find this as an excessive fee, but you can be sure that your money is put to good use, almost half of it goes to the park itself for its preservation and conservation, and the other half is distributed throughout the different entities that regulate and control the islands. Costs and schedules detailed below are only an average, and they fluctuate somewhat through they year, your flight details might vary when your tickets are issued, please only use the information below as an indicator.

Sustainable Visit

GreenGo Galapagos

The islands have had quite the run over the years, and it’s our participation, awareness and involvement with its conservation which will ensure the archipelago will prevail over time. Some organizations are headed in the right direction and are worthy mentions of examples to follow, and we are proud to be able to support their efforts.

Galapagos Conservation Trust

The GCT is a non-profit organization that sets a great example of the many ways we can contribute to the various conservation needs of the Galapagos Islands. Working with key institutions in the islands, GCT is involved in projects to help save endangered species, training locals in the area with enviromental management, protection of fishing activities to protect the marine life, and many other remarkable ways of supporting the islands. You can be part of this support by visitng their site, they have many interesting and fun ways of getting you involved.

Canopy Co

Based in Ecuador, and working closely with local communities, CanopyCo is a great initiative to carbon offset (neutralize the absorption of atmospheric carbon dioxide – Climate Change & Global Warming) our negative impact and balance the scale. Their programs consist of reforestation, native trees will be planted with your donation, local manpower will be used in rural development projects that will benefit the local population, organic agricultural, and many other ways of making your visit in Ecuador a sustainable one. More information can be found in their website.

Getting Ready
Galapagos Resources

There is no better way of getting prepared and build up the excitement to your once in a lifetime dream holiday then researching and anticipating what will await for you in the Enchanted Islands. From documentaries to books, there is a wealth of information available about the Galapagos Islands, and we have listed some worthy mentions below.

THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS

Genovesa

North Islands

Genovesa Island, also known as Tower Island, is a unique and mesmerizing destination in the Galapagos Archipelago, renowned for its abundant wildlife and stunning natural beauty. This 14 km² island, reaching a maximum altitude of 64 meters, is particularly famous for its birdlife, earning the nickname "The Bird...[read more]

Visitor sites: Bahía DarwinEl Barranco

Isla Darwin

North Islands

Darwin Island, alternatively known as Culpepper Island, represents an isolated, uninhabited jewel in the Galapagos archipelago, named in tribute to the renowned naturalist Charles Darwin. As the northernmost island of the Galapagos, it lies over 100 miles northwest of the larger Isabela Island, standing as a remote outpost in...[read more]

Visitor sites: Torres de DarwinEl Arenal

Isla Wolf

North Islands

Wolf Island, also known by its alternative name, Wenman Island, is a secluded and uninhabited gem in the Galapagos Archipelago, celebrated for its unparalleled diving experiences and distinctive wildlife. Spanning an area of 1.1 square miles and reaching a peak altitude of 830 feet, this island is an extinct volcano, forming an...[read more]

Marchena

North Islands

Marchena Island, a captivating part of Ecuador's Galapagos archipelago, stands as a hidden gem steeped in history and bursting with a vibrant natural world. Known as Bindloe in English, this stunning island spans 130 square kilometers and reaches an impressive elevation of 343 meters above sea level. It is a pristine, largely...[read more]

Visitor sites: Punta MejíaPlaya Negra

Santiago

North Islands

Santiago Island, cradled within the mesmerizing Galapagos Archipelago, emerges as a destination of extraordinary appeal, renowned for its compelling historical significance, diverse wildlife, and breathtaking volcanic landscapes. Encompassing roughly 585 square kilometers, it claims the title of the fourth largest...[read more]

Fernandina

West Islands

Fernandina Island, the third-largest yet one of the youngest islands in the Galapagos Archipelago, is celebrated for its untouched natural splendor and dynamic volcanic terrain. Spanning 642 square kilometers and reaching a peak altitude of 1,476 meters, this island stands out in the Galapagos for its lack of human habitation,...[read more]

Visitor sites: Punta EspinozaPunta MangleCabo Douglas

Isabela

West Islands

Isabela Island, the largest island of the Galápagos Archipelago, offers a rich tapestry of wildlife, history, and geographical wonders. Spanning 120 km in length, this seahorse-shaped island was originally named Albemarle Island. It's a vibrant mosaic of six shield volcanoes: Ecuador, Wolf, Darwin, Alcedo,...[read more]

Santa Cruz

Central Islands

Santa Cruz Island, a gem nestled in the heart of the Galápagos Archipelago in Ecuador, is a destination of immense diversity and vitality. Also known as Indefatigable Island, this remarkable landmass sprawls across 986 square kilometers (381 square miles), with its terrain reaching a majestic peak of 864 meters (2,835...[read more]

San Cristobal

East Islands

Nestled in the easternmost part of the Galapagos Archipelago, San Cristobal Island is not just a destination; it's a portal to a world where nature's wonders unfold in their most pristine form. Known for its rich biodiversity and significant historical relevance, particularly its connection to Charles Darwin's...[read more]

Española

South Islands

Española Island, or Isla Española, a jewel in the crown of the Galapagos Archipelago in Ecuador, captivates visitors with its extraordinary landscapes, a kaleidoscope of wildlife, and immense ecological significance. As a quintessential destination for nature lovers and adventure seekers, this island offers...[read more]

Floreana

South Islands

Floreana Island is a unique ecological haven, home to several endemic species. Notable among these is the critically endangered Floreana Mockingbird, now found only on two tiny islets off Floreana’s coast. Conservation efforts are vital to protect this species, along with other native fauna including Galapagos racers,...[read more]

Baltra

Islets

Baltra Island, often referred to as South Seymour, is a modestly sized, flat landmass situated strategically near the heart of the Galapagos Archipelago. Its distinct geography, shaped by geological uplifts rather than volcanic activity, sets it apart from neighboring islands. Baltra's rich historical tapestry weaves...[read more]

Visitor sites: Aeropuerto Baltra

Bartolomé

Islets

Bartolomé Island is a small, barren volcanic islet situated to the east of Santiago Island in the Galapagos Archipelago. It covers an area of 1.2 square kilometers and reaches a maximum altitude of 114 meters. The island is named after Sir Bartholomew James Sulivan, a friend and colleague of Charles Darwin who served as a...[read more]

Daphne

Islets

Nestled in the Pacific Ocean, just north of Santa Cruz and west of Baltra Airport, lie the Daphne Islands, consisting of Daphne Major and Daphne Minor. These islands, known for their unique geological formations and rich biodiversity, are part of the Galapagos Archipelago, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Both islands are tuff cones,...[read more]

Mosquera

Islets

Mosquera Island, a small yet captivating islet in the Galapagos Archipelago, is a marvel of nature. Nestled between North Seymour and Baltra Islands, it is characterized by its flat, sandy terrain and unique geological features. With an area of just 0.06 square kilometers and a maximum altitude of 1.98 meters, Mosquera is one of the...[read more]

Plaza Sur

Islets

Nestled off the east coast of Santa Cruz, South Plaza Island is a tiny but breathtaking paradise in the Galapagos. Spanning a mere 0.13 square kilometers and peaking at just 23 meters, this island is a powerhouse of natural wonders. It boasts an astonishing array of biodiversity and spectacular geological features that belie its...[read more]

Rabida

Islets

Rábida Island, often referred to as the "Red Island" due to its distinctive red sand and cliffs, is a unique and vibrant part of the Galápagos archipelago. This small, arid island, covering an area of approximately 4.9 km² or 1.89 mi², stands out in the archipelago for its steep slopes and a...[read more]

Santa Fe

Islets

Nestled in the heart of the Galapagos Archipelago, Santa Fe Island, also fondly known as Barrington Island, is a jewel in the crown of the Galapagos. Situated amid this majestic archipelago, just southeast of the vibrant Santa Cruz Island, it’s a paradise waiting to be explored. Covering an area of about 24 square kilometers,...[read more]

Seymour Norte

Islets

North Seymour Island, nestled within the majestic Galápagos Islands of Ecuador, stands as a beacon for wildlife enthusiasts and avid travelers from around the globe. Spanning a relatively modest area of approximately 1.83 km² (0.73 sq mi), this island is much more than its size suggests. It is a thriving natural...[read more]

Sombrero Chino

Islets

Chinese Hat Island, known locally as "Sombrero Chino," stands out in the Galapagos archipelago for its unique, conical shape resembling a traditional Chinese hat. This small, picturesque islet, located a stone's throw from the southeastern coast of Santiago Island, presents a striking visual against the...[read more]