GALAPAGOS ISLANDS, ECUADOR

TRAVEL GUIDE: GALAPAGOS ISLANDS, ECUADOR

Follow the groups of sea lions or dolphins to this paradise place. Galapagos is made up of 13 large islands, six medium islands and another 215 smaller ones. Wherever you go you will always find beautiful animals and other surprises, from penguins to turtles, to alligators, to iguanas. At the San Island you can even see some sharks resting in the quiet waters of the ocean.

Galapagos was declared both a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978 and a National Park in 1959; this place protects endangered species. It was home to Lonesome George, the last species of the Giant Turtle of Pinta - when he died he was about 112 years old.

Get ready for this wonderful place that is full of adventure, magic, and gorgeous scenery. Forget about the time and the list of things you have to do, and absorb the beauty of Galapagos. There are so many great activities to take advantage of in Galapagos: whether it is scuba diving in Floreana or relaxing on San Cristobal, you are sure to have fun. Below is our Galapagos Islands travel guide with information on all the best things to do, places to go and what not to miss.
THINGS TO DO IN Galapagos Islands
These are the most recommended islands:

ISABELA – this is the largest island and the one with the best landscapes. It’s also the best option for Island Hopping (going from one island to another). Isabela is a young island with untouched volcanic buildings. Here lives the only cormorant that does not fly in the world (although it is able to dive 80 metres deep). We can also find the biggest penguin community in Galapagos on Isabela.

FLOREANA – A good island for those who want to do scuba diving and snorkelling. It has a beautiful volcanic landscape at the summit and a lagoon with a colony of flamingos. Quiet and peaceful, there are only three or four properties on the island of Floreana.

SAN CRISTOBAL – Here is Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the capital of the islands. It is slightly more authentic and relaxed than Puerto Ayora city. On San Cristobal, there are all kinds of accommodation and services. Just outside the town is an interpretive centre that is very modern and well-equipped, worth a visit to learn more about the archipelago. Right there begins a well-paved path up to the viewpoint of Cerro Tijerita, and it reaches Baquerizo beach - the bay where Darwin first put foot on the Galapagos. A statue reminds visitors of this fact. Other areas of interest on San Cristobal are Punta Pitt, the eastern end of the island and the entire archipelago, with a beach frequented by single male sea lions and a trail that climbs to red-legged boobies' nests. It’s a good place to snorkel with the sea lions.

ESPAÑOLA – The most southern island and a must visit in Galapagos. It’s uninhabited, so the only way to go is by boat from San Cristobal Island. Being the southernmost island it is the first to receive the Humboldt Current, making it very rich in plankton and food. It is not surprising that large colonies of seabirds are found here! The island is full of marine iguanas resting on the black volcanic rocks of the coast - it is the typical picture of the Galapagos Islands.

SANTA CRUZ – Baltra Airport, built on a nearby island, receives the most flights (the two options for airports being Baltra or San Cristobal), and Santa Cruz is a must for many travelers. It's not the most spectacular island but it has some attractions, such as the breeding centre of giant turtles in captivity beside the Charles Darwin Research Station, just outside Puerto Ayora. It is one of the three islands that have allowed the recovery of 10 of the 14 species of turtles that were on the islands, before the indiscriminate killing of the XIV century almost ended them. Here lived the legendary Lonesome George, and Diego, the oldest giant turtle that now is known. At the top of the island, covered by a guayabillos forest, the turtles can be seen. There are also several farms that allow you to visit lava tubes, and the recommended beach is half an hour drive from Puerto Ayora.

BARTOLOMÉ – It’s not inhabited, so you have to go by boat. It has wonderful and unaltered volcanic landscapes, and this has enabled the park to host incredible wildlife. But what has become famous on the island is from the postcards - another one of those iconic images of Galapagos - The Pinnacle Rock. This is a cone-shaped rock feature that sticks up from the ocean; an image that we have seen in countless reports and films. It is authorized to swim and snorkel at Pinnacle Creek, where there is a possibility to see sea lions and penguins.

*** WHAT NOT TO MISS ***
Visit the main islands and swim or snorkel with the sea lions.

Relax and walk around the islands to find all these beautiful animals in their natural habitat.
PLACES TO EAT
Go to La Calle de Los Kioscos on Santa Cruz Island: this is a street where you will find street restaurants with different types of food, with the main one being the seafood specialty lobster.

La Garrapata (Av. Charles Darwin y Tomas de Berlanga) in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz is the place to go to for delicious seafood. It’s a relaxing place to enjoy a good-quality meal. Galapagos Deli (Tomas de Berlanga y Av. Baltra) is another place in Puerto Ayora to check out. It’s not fancy, but it serves amazing, freshly-made sandwiches, fish and chips, and pizza. Leave space for the ice-cream and coffee!
NIGHTLIFE
Galapagos is very busy during the day and by night is still the same: go out and walk around, you might be lucky and find some playful sea lions along the way!

The best spot to go is Avenida Charles Darwin, in Puerto Ayora. Bongo Bar (Av Charles Darwin) attracts a mixed crowd of tourists and locals, and is the perfect place to start the night off with a few drinks. Head to La Panga (Av Charles Darwin) for wild dancing – here you’ll find Latin, pop, and electronic music. When your feet need a rest, there’s a comfy seating area where you can relax and enjoy a well-deserved drink or two.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Galapagos receives more than 150,000 visitors each year: the high seasons are June to September and December to January, because everyone wants to go when the kids are on vacation. Consider going in the low season - the autumn months are the driest weather in Galapagos. Some divers prefer to go in the rainy season from December to May because the sea is calmer.
GETTING THERE
From Quito, catch a plane to the Galapagos - it takes 2 hours and 10 minutes.

Go by boat to travel between the islands.
PLACES TO STAY
On the populated islands, there is a wide range of hotels of all categories. You can find a room in a small family hotel from $27USD per night. The international hotels have much higher rates.

Hotel Espana (Tomas de Berlanga) is located in Puerto Ayora, and is owned by a local family. The rooms are spacious, quiet, and comfy, and have good air-con. It’s also a few minutes walk to everything you need. Gloria - Galapagos Inn (De Febrero y Charles Binford 12) – also in Puerto Ayora - is in a great location, close to everything you need, and the rooms are clean and comfy.
IMPORTANT INFO
American Dollars are now the official currency in Ecuador, but always take some small banknotes with you because the shops, restaurants, and taxi drivers normally don’t have change.

Respect the rules, your naturalist guide will insist that you stay on the roads and marked trails. Do not try to touch or feed the animals. You can’t smoke in the park and you have to collect all your rubbish. Responsible operators make passengers wash their shoes when they’re going from one island to another to avoid contamination of the flora and fauna.