Galapagos Travel Information
The Galapagos Islands (Spanish name: Archipiélago de Colón) is an archipelago made up of 13 main volcanic islands, 6 smaller islands, and 107 rocks and islets. The very first island is thought to have formed between 5 and 10 million years ago as a result of tectonic activity. The youngest islands, Isabela and Fernandina, are still being formed, with the most recent volcanic eruption in 2005.
The Galapagos archipelago is politically part of Ecuador, a small yet beautiful country in northwestern South America.
The Galapagos Islands are distributed around the equator, 965 kilometers (about 600 miles) west of Ecuador (0° N 91° W).
The Galapagos archipelago is world-renowned for its unique and fearless wildlife – much of which was inspiration for Charles Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection. The islands are therefore very popular amongst natural historians, both professional and amateur.
Giant tortoises, sea lions, penguins, marine iguanas and different bird species can all be seen and approached. The landscape of the islands is relatively barren and volcanic, but beautiful nonetheless. The highest mountain, at 1707 m (5600ft), amongst the islands is Volcano Wolf on Isla Isabela.
The Galapagos were claimed by newly-independent Ecuador in 1832; a mere three years before Darwin’s visit on the Beagle. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, the islands were inhabited by very few settlers and were used as a penal colony, the last closing in 1959 when the islands were declared a national park. The Galapagos were subsequently listed as a World Heritage Site in 1978.
Strict controls on tourist access are maintained in an effort to protect the natural habitats and all visitors must be accompanied by a National Park Certified Naturalist Tour Guide. The islands currently receive an average of 60,000 visitors per year.
Named after a variety of Giant tortoises that resemble the Spaniard riding saddle. The great interest is due to the ease of observing the activities of different marine and terrestrial animals together with the beauty ofthe island landscapes.
The Galapagos Islands have at your disposal a great diversity of hotels and services to make your trip pleasant. Here you will find from cheap hotels to the most luxurious ones. Each of the hotels offers something unique in terms of quality and value, designed to satisfy the most demanding tastes.
The Islands are the ideal place to practice some activities such hiking, surfing, sea kayaking, beach, scuba diving, snorkeling, observing the fascinating flora and fauna of the sea.Each of these activities is carried out with the help of naturalist guides who indicate to the visitors each of the attractions that can be found in the Archipelago.
This paradise has a pleasant climate all year round, perfect to enjoy your vacation at sea. The weather on the Galapagos Islands is determined by the nature of the ocean currents and winds. There are two main seasons: the rainy season (December-April) and the dry season (July-October). The average annual temperature is around 24° C. From July to November the temperature drops slightly. The Galapagos has a high level of solar radiation. Therefore, it is recommended to use sunscreens and hats, especially from December to April.
You can find different cruise and land toursthat meets your needs and expectation.
Taking a cruise in Galapagos is one of the most popular ways to get to know the Islands. Their costs are usually higher than the land tours but they allow you to travel very conveniently to the various places of interest on the Islands.
The cruises are of different types and prices. You can sail in a large boat full of amenities or on a small sailboat. Generally, the cruises last 4-7 days. Visiting the Galápagos Archipelago by boat allows you to get to know the most remote islands. You can enjoy an adventure expedition, which will cover all aspects: discovery, environmental interpretation, water activities, outstanding service and excellent dining options.
The land based tour allows visitors to observe the flora and fauna of the islands during the day and rest in comfortable hotels at night to enjoy the natural environment of the Galápagos Archipelago.During a land tour you will have enough time to walk, photograph and observe the abundant variety of fauna and flora, enjoy unparalleled scenery in the Islands.
The largest island of the archipelago. It is decorated with many picturesque lagoons where you can see flamingos, pelicans, frigates, hawks, big cormorants and penguins, and observe plenty of marine life around the island.
- Urbina bay – the largest colony of giant turtles and nesting penguins. This bay is famous forits huge multicolored iguanas. It is agreat place for snorkeling.
- Punta Moreno – this place is impressive with the diversity of its flora and fauna in mangroves, especially withits brackish lagoons and lava fields
- Wolfe volcano – the highest point of the Galapagos Islands
- Sierra Negra (Black Mountain) volcano – one of the largest craters in the world (diameter 10 km.)
Santa Cruz (Indefatigable) –
the second largest and most densely populated island of the archipelago. Here you can find the largest city of the Galapagos – Puerto Ayora, which is a tourist center with a well-developed infrastructure. Numerous bays of the island are stunning with their unique fauna and flora.
- Charles Darwin Research Station. Its most important task is the control of the reproduction of 11 species of turtles of the island
- Twin craters (Los gemelos) are located in one of the highest points of the island. In the space between the craters there is an unusual vegetation and a multitude of rare species of birds.
Fernandina (Narborough) – the third largest island, located in the western part of the archipelago.
The places of interest – La Cumbrevolcano, Punta Espinosa (the world’s largest colony of sea iguanas, as well as pelicans and flightless cormorants). The Urbina bay is famous for its beautiful coral reef, and Elizabeth bay serves as a habitat for penguins and pelicans.
San Salvador (Santiago, James) – a medium sized island, the entire coastal zone of which has a black rock volcanic origin. The main visitor sites are the lava field at James bay where you can observe both pahoe hoe and ah ah lava formations as well as fossils within the dried flow and the multiple colors of the minerals that have crystalized. A unique sense of humbleness arises amongst visitor who admire the force of nature. Another interesting location in Puerto Egas, it is home to the only colony of fur seals in the archipelago (different from Sea Lions) and fun to admire.
Santa Maria (Floreana, Charles) – an island located in the southern part of the archipelago. Its main attraction is the Devil’s Crown, the crater of an extinct volcano, divided into three prongs and partially submerged in water. The vicinity of the crater is ideal for diving. In addition, in the coastal waters of the island there are sperm whales, killer whales and dolphins, and in the Shark Bay there are both relatively harmless reef sharks and with a lot of luck whale sharks. Also here you can see pink flamingos and a variety of water and land birds.
Española (Hood) is the middle-sized island in the south of the archipelago. This is the only place where albatrosses nest. Its beaches have been chosen by sea lions, seals, iguanas and mockingbirds.
San Cristobal Island – The easternmost and eldest of the Islands. Here is the capital of the archipelago – Puerto Baquerízo-Moreno and the airport. Here you can see all the vegetation zones of the Galapagos – from the low desert to the luxurious pampas. Besides, it is the only island in the archipelago, on which there is a constant fresh water source. The island is inhabited by giant turtles, seals, gannets and frigate birds. And just 15 minutes from town there are beaches, ideal for snorkeling, diving or just swimming.Punta Pitt at the easternmost point of the Island is the only location in the archipelago and perhaps in the world where you can find 3 types of boobies nesting together, red footed, blue footed and masked booby birds.
Flights to the Galapagos Islands are provided by airlines Tame, Avianca and Latam. The flights depart from Quito and Guayaquil, arriving at one of the two airports on the Baltra and San Cristóbal islands. There are no international airlines yet that arrive directly to Galapagos.
The most used airport to travel to Galapagos is on Baltra Island, through a narrow channel from Santa Cruz Island. The other airport that also receives flights to the archipelago is located at Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristóbal Island. The two islands are separated by a distance of 96 km.The duration of the flight from Quito to the Galápagos is 3 hours, from Guayaquil to the Galápagos – 1.5 hours.
Discovering the Galapagos Islands means discovering nature in its purest state. Access to most places on the islands is forbidden to tourists and travelers who are not accompanied by a certified Naturalist Guide.
In the Galapagos Islands there are land and sea transport systems. Land transport is used in the 4 populated islands of the Archipelago: Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal, Isabela and Floreana. Moving around the islands is very easy: there are bicycles, cargo ships, buses, taxis and other types of public transport.
The fluvial transport is used basically for the communication between islands. There are boats providing services that unite San Cristóbal, Santa Cruz and Isabela Island with several daily frequencies for the native inhabitants and the tourists as well.