Manual for visiting the Galapagos Islands

Sea Lions in Galapagos Islands

There are many places in the world to see wildlife. But only one where that wild fauna does not run away from the human being. the Galapagos Islands. Five million years of isolation and in the absence of large predators transformed Galapagos animals into the most trusted in the world.

You can lie down to sunbathe next to a 200-pound weight immutable sea lion, you can pass an iguana over your foot while you take photos of the landscape or you have to set off on a trail because a blue footed booby has put himself in the middle and is not ready to move from his sunny location for you to pass, no matter how close you come to him.

The islands are so dry, arid and devoid of food that evolution gave no chance to large mammals. This is the kingdom of reptiles and seabirds. No wonder Charles Darwin was delirious when he arrived in 1835. Any traveler continues to hallucinate in the same way today, in the XXI century, before the singularity of its landscapes and marine and terrestrial species.

The most popular options to visit the Galapagos Islands:

blue footed booby in Galapagos

Entry requirements

97% of the surface area of ​​the islands are declared national park and has strict rules of use. The park management establishes the maximum number of groups that can be at the same time in each of the 70 places authorized for the visits. That is, you cannot move freely; You always have to go with an official guide. However, around the inhabited areas of the four main islands there are what are called recreational places – such as Bahía Tortuga, on the island of San Cruz, or the Chico volcano, in Isabela – where no guide is required.

How to book

Contact with the hotel or boat you have chosen and reserve your place for the desired dates. The availability on the islands changes rapidly, therefore, is highly recommended to book in advance to secure spaces.

Fees to be paid to entrance Galapagos

In Guayaquil or Quito airports, you have to fill in the TCT (Traffic Control Card) that costs 20 dollars. And when you arrive in Galapagos you have to pay an entrance fee of 100 $, important to note that only cash is accepted.

How to get to Galapagos

You have to get to Guayaquil or Quito airports and from there take a domestic flight to Galapagos. There are three airports in the islands: San Cristóbal, Baltra and Isabela. LAN and TAME Airlines offers daily flights from Guayaquil and to Baltra and San Cristóbal.

How to move in the Islands

There are only two ways to Visit Galapagos. From land, staying in a hotel on one of the four inhabited islands. Or on a boat that takes life-on-board tours. This second option is not the cheapest but is the most practical and the one that allows you to see more places in less time, especially the most remote and uninhabited islands.

Best season to visit Galapagos Islands

There are two recommended: May and June, a period of transition between the two seasons in which the breeding season for marine life begins. And November-December, coinciding with the courtship season of seabirds and when, thanks to the clash of currents, there is more food in the ocean and therefore more marine activity.

The most recommendable islands

Isabela: is the largest island and the most breathtaking landscapes. Good as a base for who is going to do island hoping (jumps from one island to another with accommodation on land). Isabela is a very young island that still shows the shield volcanoes with its volcanic buildings intact. The most spectacular landscapes are on the west coast, in the channel of Bolivar. In it lives the only non-flying cormorant in the world, capable of diving up to 80 meters deep but unable to trace the flight. Also living here is the largest penguin community in the Galapagos. The tourist accommodation and services (agencies, diving centers, etc.) are in Puerto Villamil. It has 7 kilometers of white sand beaches repopulated with palm trees.

Floreana:

A good island for those who want to practice scuba diving and snorkeling. It has beautiful volcanic landscapes on the summit and a lagoon with a colony of flamingos. Quiet and peaceful life: barely 200 people live and there are only three or four accommodations on the island.

Bartolomé:

It is not inhabited and is to be reached by boat. It has wonderful and unchanged volcanic landscapes and a trail enabled by the park to see wildlife and craters of volcanoes. But what made the island famous is a postcard, another one of those iconic images of the Galápagos: that of the Pinnacle, remains of an old eruptive cone that emerges sharply along its coast. An image that we have seen in countless reports and in some films. You can swim and snorkel in the pinnacle cove, where you can see wolves and penguins.

San Cristóbal:

In it is Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the capital of the islands, which is a little more authentic and relaxed than Puerto Ayora. In it there are all kinds of accommodations and services. On the outskirts of the village a very modern and well-equipped interpretation center was built which is worth visiting to know more about the archipelago. There, a well-paved trail starts up the Cerro Tijerita viewpoint and then reaches Baquerizo beach, the bay where the HMS Beagle first landed and where Darwin first set foot in the Galapagos. A statue remembers this fact. Other areas of interest are Punta Pitt, the eastern end of the island and the entire archipelago, with a beach frequented by unmarried seabird males and a path that climbs up to a nest of red-footed boobies; is a good place to snorkel with wolves. Another place of interest: Cerro Brujo, formed by gigantic cliffs of lava that are crossed by boat zodiac. Next to the hill opens another of the most beautiful beaches of Galapagos, with a coral white sand that had to come from far away.

Espanola:

It is the most southerly island and an essential visit in every trip through Galapagos. It is uninhabited so you have to go on a cruise or hire some excursion from San Cristobal. Being the most southern is the first that receives the stream of Humboldt which makes it very rich in plankton and food. That’s why it has large colonies of seabirds: peccaries of various types, cormorants, frigates, seagulls. It is full of marine iguanas, which indolent nap in the middle of the berth, not caring if you pass within inches of them, or on the black rocks volcanic rocks of the coast. It is the typical photo of the Galapagos Islands. A footpath authorized by the park allows to cross a good part of the island.

Santa Cruz:

Santa Cruz is the most populous of the islands and one of the most common tourist destinations in the Galapagos. It also is the headquarters for scientific research, housing the Charles Darwin Research Station, where a variety of Galapagos land animals are studied, including the Galapagos giant tortoise. In Santa Cruz is Puerto Ayora, the largest human concentration of Galapagos (30,000 inhabitants), with all kinds of tourist services. In the high part of the island, covered by a spectral forest of guayabillos that grow thanks to the rainwater and the garúa, live and you can still see giant Galápagos in freedom. There are also several farms that allow visiting lava tubes. The most recommended beach is half an hour drive from Puerto Ayora.

 

 

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