This comparison table has holidays from the following holiday companies:
Oasis Overland, Pura Aventura, The Adventure Company, Exodus and Travelsphere.
Prices range from £1155 to £7345, and departure dates months are December 2012, June 2013, July 2013, August 2013, September 2013, October 2013, November 2013, December 2013, January 2014, February 2014, March 2014. Prices are updated frequently from data supplied by the tour operators and are subject to change and availability - confirm with the tour operator before you book. Last updated: 03:38 19/May/2013.
In a nutshell
When to visit
Good for ...
Not great for ...
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The Galapagos Islands In a Nutshell
The Galapagos is a small group of islands belonging to Ecuador in the eastern Pacific Ocean. The archipelago is made up of 13 major islands and six smaller ones, covering 19,500sq metres of ocean area.
The islands are renowned for the amazing amount of flora and fauna both on and offshore. All reptiles, half of the plants and 40% of aquatic species are endemic to the Galapagos Islands, which is way so many natural historians, both amateur and professional, are keen to visit these remote islands.
Ecuador took charge of the islands in 1832, just three years before Charles Darwin’s first visit, which led to his seminal work ‘The Origin of Species’. In 1959 the islands were declared a National Park and become a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978.
The Galapagos Islands are six hours behind UK time, the local currency is the US dollar and the main language spoken is Spanish.
Getting To The Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Islands really are quite remote and there are no direct flights on to the islands, you will arrive on the Ecuador mainland at either Quito or Guayaquil before transferring to the islands.
The military owned airlines then operate daily flights to either Baltra or San Cristobal islands. Baltra is linked to the main population centre of Santra Cruz island by a road bridge and there are buses to take tourists there. Most visitor head first to Puerto Ayora the main city for hotels and organised cruise boat departures.
On arrival at San Cristobal island airport, you are about a 20 minute drive away from the main town Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.
Travel from the mainland is long from Quito as it involves a 45 minute flight to Guayaquil then an hour’s wait before the two hour flight to the Galapagos.
The islands are one hour behind the Ecuador mainland. Flights are expensive, around 405USD from Quito and 360USD from Guayaquil.
As Baltra is a naval base, it’s not part of the National Park, but once you enter any of the other islands, a one-off National Park entrance fee of 100USD is payable.
For British nationals on a visit of 90 days or less, no visa is necessary, but you will need to complete a tourist card on arrival at the airport and if you buy a single flight out of the Ecuador mainland, you will need to show proof that you will be leaving the island. If you buy a return it is possible to change the return leg dates.
Once on the Galapagos, travel between the islands is by boats, with daily services meaning it’s fairly easy to island hop. This is considered to be the most sustainable and ecological model of tourism as actually staying on the islands benefits the local economy, rather than staying on a cruise boat.
Your Holiday To The Galapagos Islands
The National Park areas are open from sunrise to sunset each day and visitor numbers are limited on each island of the Galapagos in an effort to protect this unique collection of islands.
There is only a small number of tourist accessible landing and visitor sites. All visitors are required to be accompanied by an official National Park naturalist tour guide.
Nevertheless, it is well worth actually going onshore onto islands, rather than just seeing the wildlife from a boat, as you will find the animals are incredibly tame. There are strict park rules advising you to not approach animals, but if you stay quiet and calm, more often than not the animals approach you.
There really is an awful lot to see on the islands, but some of the absolute must dos are:
- Climb the hill on Bartolome for the best panoramic views
- Visit the Galapagos Giant Tortoise breeding centre on Santa Cruz island
- Spot the Galapagos penguins and flamingos native to the islands on Isabela and Floreana
- Look out for exotic birds such as the Magnificent Frigategird on Seymour and the Blue-footed Boobies
- Watch the Marine Iguanas laze in the sunshine on the rocks on Fernandina
When choosing your islands boat tour, take care to pick one that offers in-depth tours as many stay on around the inner islands, meaning you miss the real delights of Fernandina, Isabela and Genovesa.
To appreciate the marine life, many visitors try snorkelling. The scuba diving on the Galapagos Islands is consistently voted the best in the world, but is really only suitable for experienced divers and can be very expensive, but incredibly rewarding.
The Galapagos Islands: Staying There
Given the remoteness of the Galapagos Islands and the restricted access to the visitor sites, most tourists arrive on the islands as part of pre-arranged escorted tours.
Many of these tours are based on cruise boats, so you stay off-shore and sail around the islands.
This means many tourists don’t actually get a real taste of island life, even though there is a good range of hotels and hostels in the main towns of Puerto Ayora, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno and Puerto Villamil.
Nightlife and eating is a relaxed affair, with a few bars and cafes playing music and even salsa dancing.
Visitors to the Galapagos are more likely to be interested in taking photos of the wildlife than buying souvenirs, but even so there are shops and stalls selling goods like T-shirts, jewellery and handcrafted goods.
There are also goods from Ecuador such as wool clothing, hammocks and crafts.
The Galapagos Islands Food & Eating Mini-Guide
Being surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, the local seafood is fresh and plentiful. Lobster and crab often feature on menus, along with the local delicacy of sea cucumber.
The main island of Santa Cruz has a good choice of restaurants with seafood, sushi, italian and more traditional beef or chicken-based dishes from Ecaudor to be found.
Recommended local dishes include Ceviche (shrimps marinated in lemon and onions), Encebollado (fish soup) and Aji sauce (a hot sauce which accompanies many meals).
There is an abundance of vegetables and fresh fruit grown on the island such as papaya, passion fruit and patacones that feature on many menus.
When To Visit The Galapagos Islands
There are basically two seasons in the Galapagos; rainy and hot.
The hot season runs from December to June, with high humidity and temperatures easily into the 30s. The rainy season is from June to November with cooler temperatures often accompanied by a misty drizzle known locally as ‘garua’.
Although the National park visitor areas are open all year round, due to these seasons, most tourists tour the islands in April, May and November.
The Galapagos Islands Is Good For ...
- Wildlife enthusiasts and nature photographers
- Adventurous types who are looking for a holiday with a difference that’s not about artifacts and stuffy museums
- Advanced level scuba divers wanting to see unique aquatic life
The Galapagos Islands Isn't Great For ...
- Those looking for a lazing on the beach in the sunshine type holiday
- The less agile traveller as there is a lot of walking and getting on an off boats
The Galapagos Islands are very remote, but with such a unique flora and fauna, they have to collectively be one of the ‘must see’ destinations of modern times with an abundance of endemic species spread across the 19 islands that make up the Galapagos.