Your Guide To Seeing The Galapagos Islands By Land Or Sea

galapagos vacation


There’s nowhere in the world more famous for biodiversity than the Galapagos Islands. Ever since Charles Darwin’s discoveries gave way to evolution as we know it, the Galapagos have been synonymous with exploration.

The chain of 19 islands is located 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador. And it’s filled with animal life. But unlike most other places in the world, the reptiles and birds that live in the Galapagos Islands don’t shy away from humans. They don’t have any reason to fear people, so travelers can get much closer to the action than they might elsewhere.

Here’s what you can expect from a Galapagos vacation.

Galapagos National Park

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South America’s rocky volcanic islands are not only a national park, but they’re also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The national park is 3,000 square miles of land and the surrounding Galapagos Marine Reserve is another 53,000 square miles of ocean. There are more than 2,000 animal species living here, from mammals such as sea lions to reptiles such as iguanas.

Cruising The Islands

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For obvious reasons, the best way to see the Galapagos Islands is to be on the water. That means booking a cruise. Most itineraries vary from five to eight days and take strict routes through the islands. You know exactly where your boat will sail because the Galapagos National Park service determines all courses through the archipelago.

There are plenty of vacation packages to book everything all together, from airport transfers to hotels to cruises. But if you’re seeking animal interaction, check with the tour operator to see what your chances are of spotting blue-footed boobies, albatross, penguins, marine iguanas, sea lions and more. Expect to pay between $700 and $1,500 for a budget cruise and much more for a spot on a luxury boat. Like other wild ventures and island excursions, the trip doesn’t come cheap.

Land-Bound Adventures

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If a cruise is out of your price range or you get terribly seasick, then stick to land. You might not be able to access the truly remote islands, but you can still experience San Cristóbal Island, Santa Cruz Island, or Isabela Island, where most of the hotels are located, and do day trips to the nearby locales. Prices range from guesthouse-style Galapagos Native’s $65 rooms to more than $600 for glamping at Galapagos Safari Camp.

How To Get There

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To start your Galapagos explorations, you can fly into Baltra Island or Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal Island from Quito on mainland Ecuador. Once you’re on an island, you can grab a ferry to Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island to catch your cruise connection or venture on your own by land.


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