Galapagos Islands are an archipelago of volcanic islands on either side of Equator in the Pacific Ocean. A part of the Republic of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands are situated 906 km west of Continental Ecuador. The islands are one of the biggest tourist attractions in the region. Far from the coast of mainland Ecuador, the islands are home to a vast variety of plants and animal species. Galapagos Islands are also important from the historic point of view as Charles Darwin visited the archipelago in 1835 and was inspired to pitch theory of evolution only after observing various species in Galapagos.
The Galapagos became the first national park of Ecuador in 1978 and it was later named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was only after the 1980s,when tourists visited the islands in large numbers. However, the enthusiasm about the islands has increased ten times in the 21st century, with people from all across the world visiting the islands. Close to 3,00,000 people visit the islands every year and the number is expected to go higher as international travel becomes more accessible.
However, visiting Galapagos is not everyone’s cup of tea. Not for now, at least. If you are a solo traveller or a backpacker, visiting the islands can certainly leave a hole in your pocket. However, the cost can be reduced to some extent, if you plan and keep a few things in mind.
First, there are hundreds of places to visit in the vastly distributed islands, and it is almost impossible to explore all the spots.
When to Visit the Galapagos Islands?
The peak season for tourism includes the June to August period and the time between mid-December to January. However, the prices will be higher during these days because of high demand. You can save some money if you visit the islands during the off season. But if you are in the Galapagos to see the diverse marine life, the islands between June to November when the weather is on the cooler sider.
In order to visit the Galapagos islands, hire a guide licensed with the Galapagos national park. You can’t explore the archipelago without a guide. Puerto Ayora is among the main tourist hubs and you can cover it on a day trip. The best way to explore the remote islands of the archipelago is via a cruise on a small yacht. There are a lot of travel companies on the islands and you can book your tour with any of them. They will also provide you with suitable packages for hiking trips, adventure activities and eco-hotels.
Galapagos is a premium tourist destination and hence it is advisable to book your slots in advance as the slots may fill real quick specially during the peak season.
How To Reach the Galapagos Islands?
Since Galapagos Islands are a part of Ecuador, reach the capital city of Quito or Guayaquil. If you are travelling to another country, you’ll most likely land in Quito. Many people prefer Guayaquil as the base, as it is closer to the islands. You can find an early morning or evening flight from mainland Ecuador for Galapagos islands.
The best way is to fly to Baltra Island and take a bus and ferry ride from there to Puerto Ayora. Puerto Ayora is the most popular tourist hub and you’ll find tourists from all over the world here.
Where to stay in Galapagos Islands?
There are a lot of budget stay options in Quito and other mainland cities. However, you’ll have to spend a little more for a stay on the islands, as they are purely dedicated to tourism. But you can get a superb deal if you book the entire package from a travel agency, which includes flight tickets as well.
While in the Galapagos Islands, you can indulge in a lot of adventure activities like diving, hiking, snorkeling, kayaking, and surfing. Galapagos Islands are an absolute heaven for adventure lovers. While in the islands, you should have your action camera ready within seconds as you will get so many opportunities to capture mesmerising sea creatures underwater.
Species You Can’t Miss
A visit to the Galapagos can’t be complete without spotting animals that are a speciality of the islands. Some of these creatures inspired Charles Darwin to propose the evolution theory.
Galapagos Tortoise: There are several tortoise breeding centres on the islands, including the Charles Darwin Research Center in Santa Cruz, where you can see the magnificent Galapagos Tortoise that is famous all over the world.
Penguins: I am yet to meet a travel lover who doesn’t want to see penguins from a close distance at least once in their life. The Galapagos Islands is one of the best places to fulfil that wish. The Galapagos Penguins can be spotted in a huge number around Tagus Cove on Isabela.
Marine Iguanas: Marine Iguanas are another speciality of Galapagos Islands. The largest colony of marine iguanas in the archipelago is in Fernandina. It is the most volcanically active island.
Albatross: Most of us have only heard about Albatross in poems, but Galapagos provides the opportunity to see the creatures for real. If you want to spot Albatross, head to Punta Espinosa in Espanola, where you can easily spot the largest seabird that has a wingspan of 2.5 meters.