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The Galapagos islands are one of the most exciting destinations in the world. This place is a chain of volcanic islands located in the Pacific Ocean about six hundred miles west of the coast of Ecuador. The remote location offers an incredible opportunity to see a variety of flora and fauna that are not found anywhere else in the world that is why the United   Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) agrees: The islands were among the original twelve locations to be listed as World Heritage sites in 1978.

The Galapagos Islands are home to some of the highest levels of endemism (species found nowhere else on earth) anywhere on the planet. About 80% of the land birds you will see, 97% of the reptiles and land mammals, and more than 30% of the plants are endemic. More than 20% of the marine species in Galapagos are found nowhere else on earth. Favorites include the giant Galapagos tortoise, marine iguana, flightless cormorant, and the Galapagos penguin — the only penguin species to be found in the Northern Hemisphere.

Here, you will be able to visit the famed Galapagos tortoises in their natural habitat, snorkel among bright tropical fish, marine iguanas, and sharks that pose no threat to humans are just a few of the unusual, natural phenomena here that intrigue the mind, engage the senses, and entice the soul. Also hike among spectacular volcanic landscapes that look as though they belong to another universe.

Requirements to Enter Galápagos

In June of 2017, the government Ecuador announced that all national or foreign tourists must show the below documents prior to entering the province of Galapagos — however, these requirements have yet to be implemented. We will update this page when those changes take place; the necessary documents that will be required are listed below for information purposes:

  • Return airline ticket.
  • Reservation in a hotel, land-based tour, or with a cruise tour, that matches the dates of your return airline ticket, OR a letter of invitation to enter as a guest of a permanent or temporary resident in the Galapagos Islands for no more than 60 days per year (a limit outlined in the Special Law for Galapagos). The letter must come from the resident – not from the visitor
  • Transit Control card issued by the Galapagos Governing Council which can be acquired at the Governing Council counters in the airports in Quito or Guayaquil, Ecuador.

Traveling to Galápagos Islands

Most visitors will travel to Galapagos by air from mainland Ecuador. Flights depart daily from the principal cities of Guayaquil or Quito (direct or via Guayaquil). Three companies currently offer flights: TAME, LAN-Ecuador, and Avianca. Airfares are similar between the companies, but you may get lucky and find a promotional offer. In general, you should expect to pay between $380 and $500 for a round-trip ticket (as of 2016). Non-residents cannot buy a one-way ticket to Galapagos.

There are two main airports in Galapagos, one on Baltra Island and the other on San Cristóbal. At the airport in mainland Ecuador before checking in, you will be required to have your bags inspected by the Galapagos Biosecurity Agency quarantine staff and obtain a mandatory $20 tourist transit card. Upon arrival in Galapagos, you will have to pay an entrance fee in cash to the Galapagos National Park (currently $100 for non-Ecuadorian adults and $50 for children). Returning to the US or other international destinations from Galapagos generally requires an overnight stay in either Quito or Guayaquil.

Weather and Climate

Usually, in Galapagos, there are only two seasons: the hot/rainy season and the cool/dry season.

– Cold/dry season (July-December):

During this season, temperatures are lower than they are during the rest of the year. Cold waters come up from the Antarctica region, carrying with them the makings for a subtropical (rather than tropical) climate. A fine, misty rain (or garúa) blankets the tops of the islands, which turn lush and emerald green.

– Hot/rainy season (January-June):

In the first three months of the year, the annual rains arrive; they are strong but of short duration. Temperatures rise, and sunny days are frequent. Warmer waters heading south from the north making this, for some, a favorite time for snorkeling.
However, never is a bad time to see and visit the Galápagos. This season is sometimes described as mid-June through early September and from mid-December through mid-January. When Galápagos National Park Service started to work with tour providers to coordinate every ship’s itinerary and has restrictions on the number of visitors to each island at any one time, you will never feel as if you’re one in a throng of people. It does not matter the time of the year, you can be sure that you will feel as if the islands are yours to enjoy in peace and natural solitude.
Water and the air temperatures are warmer, but it drizzles for a short period of time almost daily. Strangely, however, this is also the sunniest time of year, making your visit to the islands enjoyable.
This is the breeding season for land birds, so it’s likely that you’ll witness some unusual mating rituals. During this time, you may also find Galápagos green turtles nesting on the beach.

Another benefit of traveling to the Galápagos at this time of year is that the ocean is much calmer, so you’ll have less chance of getting seasick. The waters start to get a bit choppy in July and are at their roughest from August to October.

Cruises vs Hotel-Based Tours

Most people visiting Galapagos opt for the live-aboard experience lasting from 4 days/3 nights to 12 days/11 nights. Boats range from 12–110 passengers and are divided into four categories of service: economy, tourist, first class, and luxury. Cruise itineraries take advantage of night hours to travel long distances between islands in order to arrive at the next visitor site refreshed and ready to explore. Groups of 12 or more might want to consider chartering an entire boat. This approach can actually be less expensive per person than joining an organized tour, and can provide opportunities for customization of the tour.
Another option is to stay ashore in a hotel on one of the larger populated islands (Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal, or Isabela) and take day trips to nearby uninhabited islands. While this option can be more economical and provides an interesting perspective for travelers, the range of islands that can be visited is limited by distance. Also, there are several animal species that likely will not be encountered on day trips.

Island-hopping tours, designed to experience Galapagos without having to be onboard for the entire trip, are becoming more popular. Visitors take speed boats or public transportation between inhabited islands, staying overnight at hotels and exploring local sites and enjoying activities near the towns. Day trips can be arranged from San Cristóbal and Santa Cruz, whereas island-hopping is mainly based from San Cristóbal and Santa Cruz, with lodging also available on the less populated islands of Floreana and Isabela.

Day trip operators range widely in comfort and safety standards, and it will be important to choose a reputable tour provider. There are many providers to choose from, and we recommend that you visit our Travel Partners page for a list of our trusted providers.

Visitors Sites and Guides

Ninety-five percent of the land area of Galapagos is designated as protected by the Galapagos National Park Directorate (GNPD), and tourists are permitted to explore specific visitor sites only with Park-certified naturalist guides (refer to the Park rules). The GNPD coordinates group visits these 60+ sites and carefully monitors ecological conditions. Different sites are known for their specific scenery, vegetation, and wildlife. However, many species, such as sea lions, marine iguanas, lava lizards, and a variety of coastal birds such as herons, tattlers, plovers, turnstones, and whimbrels, are commonly seen at most locations.

Each visitor site has a marked trail, most of which are less than a mile long — often passing over rough lava or uneven boulders. Some sites have “wet landings” (visitors wade to shore from rafts or dinghies) and others have “dry landings” (passengers step foot directly onto dry land). All live aboard cruises and reputable day-tour outfitters employ licensed guides who must accompany travelers to these sites.

Diving in Galapagos

Galapagos is a world-class destination for scuba divers because of the abundance of sharks, sea lions, fur seals, marine turtles, rays, mantas, marine iguanas, and reef fishes. The GNPD has granted permission to a select number of tour providers. If you plan to dive on your trip, check with your provider to make sure the company is authorized to offer this activity.

Each visitor site has a marked trail, most of which are less than a mile long — often passing over rough lava or uneven boulders. Some sites have “wet landings” (visitors wade to shore from rafts or dinghies) and others have “dry landings” (passengers step foot directly onto dry land). All live aboard cruises and reputable day-tour outfitters employ licensed guides who must accompany travelers to these sites.

When visiting the Galapagos Islands, a National Park and World Heritage Site, all visitors are expected to act responsibly and to treat the environment with respect. Below are 14 rules of the Galapagos National Park Directorate (GNPD) that all visitors are expected to abide by while in the Islands:

  • Visitors to any protected areas within the Galapagos National Park must be accompanied by a naturalist guide authorized by the GNPD.
  • Travel only with tour operators and/or boats authorized to work in the protected areas of Galapagos.
  • Remain on marked trails at visitor sites and respect signs at all times for the protection of wildlife, and for your safety.
  • Maintain a distance of at least six feet (two meters) from wildlife to avoid disturbing them, even if they approach you.
  • Never feed wildlife, as this can cause health problems.
  • Flash photography is not permitted when taking photos of wildlife. Professional photography and videos recorded for commercial purposes must be authorized by the GNPD.
  • Camping is only allowed in a few authorized areas in the Islands. Request authorization to camp at the Galapagos National Park’s offices at least 48 hours in advance.
  • It is your responsibility not to introduce food, animals, or plants into the Archipelago. Cooperate fully with all environmental inspection and quarantine officials during your visit.
  • Do not take or buy any products or souvenirs made from banned substances, including black coral, shells, lava rock, animal parts, or any native wood or vegetation prior to leaving Galapagos. This is illegal and must be reported.
  • Practice “leave-no-trace” principles in order to maintain the beauty of the environment.
  • Pack out all trash and dispose of or recycle it in the populated areas or on your tour boat.
  • Smoking and/or campfires are strictly prohibited within the Galapagos National Park, as fires pose a serious risk to the flora and fauna of Galapagos.
  • Fishing is only permitted on recreational tour boats authorized by the GNPD.
  • Motorized aquatic sports, mini-subs, and aerial tourism activities are not permitted in the Galapagos National Park or Marine Reserve.

What To Bring?

  • Shorts.
  • T-Shirt.
  • Sunglasses.
  • Cap.
  • Long Pants.
  • Long-Sleeve shirt.
  • Raincoat.
  • Sandals.
  • Camera.
  • Comfortable shoes.
  • Sunscreen.
  • Insect repellent.
  • Seasickness tablets.

What To do in Galapagos?

  • Trekking.
  • Scuba Diving.
  • Snorkeling.
  • Mountain Biking.
  • Kayak
  • Fishing
  • Volunteer
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