Scattered sporadically just under 1000km from the coast of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands are a mythological set of volcanic islands that awaken visitors like nowhere else on the planet. The inspiration behind Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection, the islands are a wildlife paradise where animals are unafraid of mans existence and where it is possible to walk side by side with, amongst other species, penguins, blue footed boobies, giant tortoise, marine iguanas and sharks.
In total there are nineteen islands plus a host of islets making up this magnificent archipelago. The Galapagos Islands are not your stereotypical romantic getaways like Fiji or the Caribbean however, but a set of rugged islands with landscapes resembling the moon. The islands population is to be found residing on just four of the main islands: Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Isabela and Floreana. At the heart of the set is Santa Cruz and the main town of Puerto Ayora. It is here that most tours of the islands begin and where the largest concentration of accommodation and entertainment is to be found. Nevertheless, visits to the Galapagos should not be restricted to these islands only. Jump on a boat and prepare to be mesmerized by what awaits in the outer islets.
The islands climate lends itself to two distinct seasons although there is never really a bad time to visit. December thru May is considered as the hot season with average temperatures ranging from 26-30°C and high humidity. June to November is the dry season boasting hot and sunny days and the odd shower. Barring extremely rare circumstances all visitors to the Galapagos Islands arrive by plane from Quito or Guayaquil, land on either Santa Cruz or San Cristobal. Once landed, the only way to explore the rest of the archipelago is by boat, of which there are an abundance of varying tours available.
Things to do in
Galapagos Islands Beaches - It will come as no surprise that the Galapagos Islands is blessed with an abundance of stunning bays and beaches and you won’t have to look far before finding a peaceful spot to your liking. Of the many, Cerro Brujo on Isla San Cristobal with its soft white sand and perfect turquoise water is ideal for relaxed swimming and snorkelling. For those here to spot sea life then Las Bachas and Tortuga Bay on Isla Santa Cruz are the place to be. Keep an eye open for sharks, manta rays and marine iguanas at Tortuga Bay. For more snorkelling and spectacular sunsets stop by GardenerBay on Isla Espanola.
Galapagos Islands Wildlife and Nature - The islands are a wildlife spotters dream with the chance to see everything from sea turtles to sharks and iguanas to penguins. Hotspots for nature are Tagus Cove on Isla Isabela, home to colonies of giant tortoises. Penguins and sea lions take centre stage on the beaches of Isla Rabida. And, sightings of hammerhead sharks are often reported at Gordon Rocks off Santa Cruz or snorkelling at Kicker Rock in San Cristobal. Anyone interest in the geology of the islands as well as the limitless wildlife will marvel at the moonscape rock formations on Isla Bartolome and terracotta coastline of Isla Rabida. Be sure to check out the Charles Darwin Research Station in Puerto Ayora.
Galapagos Islands Activities - Snorkeling and scuba diving take top billing of the Galapagos Islands presenting a kaleidoscope of colors beneath the warm blue waters. As the world’s second largest marine reserve there is no difficulty in finding a good spot. Scuba Iguana, Galapagos Dive and Academy Bay Diving run competitive tours to popular dive sites with a wide range of marine life. Depending on the site and your experience it is possible to see Sea Lions, Turtles, Hammerhead sharks, Reef sharks, more fish than you could ever imagine and giant Manta Rays. For a bit of adventure and adrenaline the rugged terrains of Santa Cruz and San Cristobal are ideal for mountain biking. Bike Hike Adventures offer good multi-sport tours including mountain biking, kayaking and snorkeling. Surfing is also popular around the islands with particularly good breaks at San Cristobal and near Puerto Ayora at Tortuga Bay.
Island Hopping - For those not content with staying in one location for the duration of a holiday, island hopping tours are perfect for seeing a selection of the immaculate islands. Check out Nature Galapagos for ideas or ask at hotels upon arrival.
Galapagos Islands Bars - Puerto Ayora is the liveliest town of all the islands with a sprinkling of bars and discos that keep the hoards of visitors entertained. Most bars fall into the same simple laidback hang outs serving up fresh cocktails and cool beers. Worth checking out are Bongo Bar, Champions Bar and Free Soul Café.
Galapagos Islands Restaurants - Eating is a pleasure in the Galapagos Islands with restaurants serving up delicious local meals and seafood and fish are always on the menu. When here be sure to sample the lobster ceviche, encebollado and viche soups and local empanadas. La Garrapata, Restaurant Ronald and Angermeyer Point are all popular joints in Puerto Ayora. For quick eats and snacks head to the street hawkers along Avenida Padre Julio Herrera.
Budget Hotels Galapagos Islands
Casa Rosada - Also known as Caleta Iguana, this is a superb budget option on the beach of Isabela island.
Hotel Casa Blanca - Family run bed and breakfast in San Cristobal. Tel 593 5 252 0392.
Los Pinguinos - Pleasant guesthouse offering 3, 5 and 7 bed dorms in Puerto Ayora, Santa Cruz island.
Midrange Hotels Galapagos Islands
Hotel Casa Opuntia - Overlooking the bay of Isla San Cristobal is an affordable 4-star lodge. Tel 593 5
Hotel Red Booby - Laidback guesthouse in the heart of Puerto Ayora, Isla Santa Cruz. Tel 593 5 252 4631.
Luxury Hotels Galapagos Islands
Finch Bay Hotel - Eco-friendly hotel with rooms set around a garden and overlooking the ocean. Tel (593) 2 298 8200.
Galapagos Safari Camp - Luxury eco tented camp on Isla Santa Cruz modelled on an African safari lodge. Tel 593 9179 4259.
Royal Palm Hotel - Stylish and secluded resort in the highlands of Isla Santa Cruz. All suites come with private Jacuzzi. Tel 593 5 252 4770.
Galapagos National Park this site has a lot of information about all of the visitor sites available, as well as the many projects that are happening around the islands.
Academy Bay Diving has a lot of information about the different dive sites and the level of experience you need, the different island tours you can do, and also some of the cruise options.