Galapagos Islands travel guide, including map of the Galapagos, top Galapagos travel experiences, tips for travel in the Galapagos Islands, plus the best wildli
The remote Galápagos archipelago was discovered in 1535, and named Las Encantadas (The Enchanted Isles) by passing Spanish seafarers. Charles Darwin's survey voyage aboard the HMS Beagle and later publication of The Origin of Species helped cement the Galápagos Islands' reputation as a magical land.
Straddling the equator 1,000km west of mainland Ecuador, the Galápagos Islands were pushed up out of the Pacific by volcanic eruptions around five million years ago; the younger islands remain very active. The scenery is arid along the coast, with lush, forested highlands and turquoise lagoons, while the beaches are some of the finest in the world.
These unique climatic conditions, combined with the lack of dangerous predators, few human inhabitants and protected status, make this Pacific paradise an utterly unique wildlife destination.
Evolving in the isolated Galápagos, the animals are fearless: here you can walk among reptiles and swim with sea lions, watch iguanas sit motionless on black lava, step over nesting boobies, be licked by curious seal pups and come face to face with giant tortoise.
Consider taking/hiring a wetsuit so that you can snorkel for longer if the water is chilly. You can choose between three-night, four-night or seven-night cruises – try to stay for a full week: much of the first and last day is spent travelling, so on a four-day trip you will only get two full days actually exploring the islands.
The best three visitor sites are on Española, Genovesa and Fernandina – pick an itinerary that includes these islands. Specialist cruises – for divers, bird-watchers, anglers etc – are available.
The Galápagos is exciting year round. If you like it hot, go between December and March, when average temperatures range from 25-33°C, and the sea is ideal for snorkelling and diving. Land-based creatures thrive at this time of year, as there is plenty of food for insects, seeds for birds and fruits for iguanas. At sea, marine turtles come to mate and lay their eggs along the sandy beaches.
From April onwards the weather is cooler; there is lots of activity on land and at sea, and the islands are still green with plenty of flowers and insects. It’s also the time when albatross come back to Española to start their courtship.
By June many trees have shed their foliage and the islands take on a more arid appearance with no rain but a morning mist. Tortoises and sea lions begin breeding, as do many seabirds such as boobies and frigates. The seas get quite choppy between July and September and temperatures drop to 18-23°C.
Baltra (GPS) on Baltra Island, one hour from Puerto Ayora
Domestic flights to the Galápagos Islands from Quito or Guayaquil are generally booked in conjunction with your cruise. Practically all visitors to the Galápagos get around by boat, joining a multi-day cruise. Tourism is strictly controlled on the Galápagos, with visitors only allowed at certain sites. The national park administration controls the routes of all boats in order to prevent overcrowding. The individual boats all follow their own set itineraries and are not allowed to deviate from them.
There are a few hotels on the Galápagos, on Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal, Isabela and Floreana. However, most visitors stay on boats. There are broadly three categories: small (12 to 20 passengers); medium (about 50 passengers – these include the most luxurious vessels); and large (about 100 passengers – which are all first- to luxury-class cruises).
The cheaper boats are generally the smallest and least spacious, though most have cabins with private bathrooms. One advantage of small boats is that much less time is spent embarking and disembarking, meaning you get more time ashore and you will have a more intimate experience with the islands.
If you’re after comfort and a firm hull for unsteady sea legs, opt for a bigger ship.
Food on Galápagos cruise ships varies depending on the class of boat. The more expensive and luxurious vessels will serve up large, Western-style meals of excellent quality – mostly meat or fish with plenty of salads, vegetables and fresh tropical fruit; ceviche (raw seafood marinated in lemon) is a delicious speciality if prepared properly. There will be three main meals a day, plus snacks between shore landings and snorkel dips. Cheaper boats will offer more basic fare.
Food in general is quite expensive on the Galápagos – most produce has to be imported. Wine (often shipped up from Chile) is fairly pricey; local beer is a cheaper option.
Vegetarian food isn’t commonplace but if you notify your cruise operator before departure you will be well catered for.
No inoculations are required and there are no nasties to catch, except the usual stomach bugs. Seasickness is an issue, so if you are prone take some remedies and consider a bigger boat if travelling during the cooler, rougher season. For mainland Ecuador hepatitis A, typhoid and dengue are present so consult your doctor before you go.
From using light to being ready to react, Graeme Green reveals the skills that will help your photos stand out as you start your career as a wildlife photographer More
Immerse yourself in local culture, learn a traditional skill and get swept up in celebrations. There's something new to learn every day of the journey with these top experience trips More
From charging elephants and hunting polar bears, to posing penguins and a kingfisher in flight. Witness the diversity of wildlife photos that have made the finals of Wanderlust Travel Photo of the Year More
The nights are drawing in and the temperatures are dropping, but it’s not too late to book a bit of sun – in Jordan, Costa Rica, the Galapagos islands ... or even the sugar white beaches of the Seychelles More
The world is a classroom and travel is a great teacher. Nichola West reveals the destinations that will engage, delight and educate your child in ways they will never forget More
From touching the North Pole to reaching Antarctica, some of the best adventures can only be undertaken by expedition cruise – here are some of our favourites More
Condors, cranes, pelicans, vultures, flamingos… Wildlife photographer Graeme Green’s evocative pictures of birds, from Japan to Tanzania, will help your imagination take flight… More
From walking with polar bears to swimming with humpbacks, these wonderful wildlife experiences, as picked by travel bloggers, including Johnny Jet and The Planet D, will stay with you forever... More
It’s not all ‘bad news’ when it comes to wildlife conservation. From African elephants in Chad to Channel island foxes in the US, here are the 7 inspiring stories of species whose numbers are increasing. More
Ahead of World Animal Day (Oct 4), leading wildlife photographers, including Brian Skerry, Angela Scott and Peter Eastway, pick their favourite countries for photographing lions, gorillas and more... More
The right lens can be the difference between capturing incredible wildlife photos and major disappointment. Here are 6 of the best wildlife lenses around, all costing £2,500 or less… More
Looking for unique Galapagos wildlife experiences? From walking with tortoises to swimming with hammerheads, these are the 5 must-do experiences in the world famous natural wonderland More
Remote, beautiful and friendly, the islands of the Pacific, including Fiji, Tahiti and Papua New Guinea, are the perfect antidote to the stresses of modern life. Go there to experience life as it was meant to be lived. More
National Parks house and protect many of the world’s natural wonders, from the peaks of Torres del Paine to the dragons of Komodo. Travel bloggers The Planet D, Swedish Nomad and more pick the best... More
From penguins to puffins, Birds-of-Paradise to condors, the world of birds is full of colour and spectacle. Here are the top spots on Planet Earth for birdwatchers More
From volunteer projects in Africa and Asia to eco-aware tours of the Galapagos and the Amazon, these fantastic trips give back as much as they give you More
Be blown away by the Galápagos Islands' unique wildlife, untouched islands, and incredible natural beauty More
Canadian traveller Savannah Grace, aged 26, is on a mission to see every country in the world as soon as possible. Here, she shares some of the most memorable experiences from her journey so far More
Ever wanted to know what it's like to hike up a volcano and peer into its crater? Wonder no longer. These ten behemoths offer all that excitement and some are easier to scale than you think ... More
Inspired by Wanderlust's Travel Hot List for 2017? Here's how you can book your own awesome journey to the hottest destinations on the planet next year More
New ﬂights. New walking trails. New experiences. Here's the definitive guide to the destinations you'll want to add to your travel wishlist for 2017 More
10 years on, Planet Earth is back. We talk to producer Elizabeth White about sloths, penguins, the epic journey to remote Zavodovski island and what it takes to be a wildlife film-maker… More
The clear waters of the Mafia Archipelago are now an inexpensive short hop away from Dar es Salaam. Anna Dubuise discovers whale sharks and pristine coral in Tanzania’s desert island paradise More
Scottish singer-songwriter KT Tunstall on hiking in Skye, chewing coca in Peru, dancing with Jarvis Cocker in Greenland and animal attacks in Galapagos More
Seven places that have become synonymous with exceptional biodiversity and high rates of endemism, just like the real Galapagos Islands More
From Great Wall to Grand Canyon – skip the queues and leave flag-waving tour guides in your dust with these alternative approaches to the world’s most-visited sites More
An upcoming screening of Shackleton’s iconic film ‘South’ has inspired us to celebrate his great achievements – and reveal how you can follow in his footsteps More
Forget crowded beaches and busy public pools – we highlight the best places to strip off and swim in the wild More
Forget predictable, all-inclusive cruises - these sea and river odysseys have adventure and excitement in spades... From the frozen Arctic to the temples of Bagan, where will you end up? More
Calories don't count at Christmas, right? Come Christmas Day, you'll find us hiding behind the tree with a big slice of one of these traditional deserts from all over the world More
From water dancing to wrestling, we reveal some of nature's most curious courtship rituals and where to witness them in the wild More
The Arctic and Antarctica are poles apart, but packed with similarly spectacular wildlife, icebergs and adventures. Plan your adventure now. More
Family Man, Will Gray, on visiting the Galápagos islands with the family in tow More
Don a mask and fins and ready yourself for the ten best reef encounters in the world... More
Whether you want to hike the Andes, self-drive Brazil, delve into the Guianas or take the train to Machu Picchu, these eight journeys will inspire a Latin adventure More
These extreme museums will take you to the edges of the earth – indeed, getting there is half the fun... More
A whole new world awaits the traveller under the sea. Here's your guide to diving in and making the most of it... More
A trip to the Galápagos Islands is a trip of a lifetime for many people. Wanderlust's Simon Chubb shares his top tips from a recent trip More
There's a whole world of wildlife out there. But where to start? Here's our guide to nature's superstars, and where to spot them in their natural habitat More
The Galápagos Islands are a dream destination for anyone curious about the natural world. Here’s everything you need to know to plan your trip More
The Galápagos Islands top many a traveller's bucket list. Most of us dream of making a pilgrimage to this mystical archipelago – but it's time to stop dreaming and start planning. Here's where to begin More
They're spooky and they're creepy. And the perfect place to spend Halloween! More
Want a wildlife interaction with a difference? Jo Price takes a deep breath and reveals the best underwater animal encounters More
Island survival doesn’t come much tougher than on the Falklands archipelago, the place to meet a wealth of wonderful wildlife and the equally resilient human residents More
Over the years, you've told us your ultimate travel experiences – so here it is, the definitive travel wish list... More
Wildlife-nut Lyn Hughes reveals six spots where you really do get up close and personal with the wildlife More
Nothing ruins a spectacular sea voyage like the onset of motion sickness – but these tips will help you combat the quease, whenever it strikes... More
Everyone loves watching these adorable sea birds sliding around on their bellies, so here's our pick of the places you're most likely to find them More
Visiting the Galapagos Island doesn't have to cost the earth. Bob Around The World tells you how to save money – and still enjoy everything the islands have to offer More
To celebrate the 90th anniversary of Footprint's South American Handbook we pick the most fascinating extracts from editions across the decades More
Want to travel more but pay less? Here’s how to enjoy the world's 12 ultimate travel experiences for less – and the low cost alternatives... More
The Cayman Islands: just a pretty tax haven, right? Wrong. This idyllic Caribbean trio has prolific and wonderful wildlife for divers and hikers alike More
Whether you want to hone your skills or just get to grips with your new camera, we pick the trips to make sure you bring back envy-inducing snaps More
With the Cayman Islands' blue iguana on the road to recovery, we thought it's time to honour animals that have successfully clawed their way back from extinction More
From secret shark-calling ceremonies to gruesome reminders of its head-hunting past, novelist Graeme Kent reveals the Solomons' secret places More
Whisk yourself away like a leaf on an autumn breeze with one of these four last-minute trips! More
Wildlife expert, author and Wanderlust contributor Mark Carwardine reveals his favourite worldwide birdwatching spots More
Author G W Kent reveals all about his riveting Solomon Island-based murder mysteries More
The founder of Bradt Travel Guides looks back on time in the Falkland Islands – and ponders its future More
Pictures taken from boats all too often end in repetitive seascapes and wonky horizons. Steve Davey stabilises your waterborne photography More
When we think of our travels, it is often the small, personal moments that linger in our memories; the strongest of all are those of sheer happiness and joy More
Ever wanted to surf but worried where you could learn? From Cornwall to Australia we cover the ten best places around the world More
It's all about perspective, says Steve Davey. Abandon the stereotypes and think past the predictable angles and compositions More
It's the trip of a lifetime, but how do you get the most from the Galápagos? Steer your way around this pacific paradise with the help of our expert guide More
Amid the still-potent legacy of war, these South Atlantic islands offer vibrant and varied wildlife and many, many stories to tell More
Voodoo festivals, rainforest treks, irresistible rhythms, stunning beaches... the list goes on. There's an authentic Caribbean just waiting to be explored - ditch your preconceptions and go More
We asked, you voted: these are the Wanderlust Top 75 World Wonders. How many have you been to? More
Mark Carwardine finds the Galápagos Islands as rewarding as ever, but now far busier than is good for them More
Done lions, tigers and bears? Try turtles, sharks and penguins. Some of the world's most thrilling wildlife encounters await you – so grab a snorkel and dive in More
Lyn Hughes gets up close and personal with the king penguins and elephant seals of the south Atlantic More
What better place than the Galápagos Islands for a Festival of Wildlife? Lyn Hughes joins the experts for a different take on this unique archipelago More
Mark Carwardine looks back over his seven favourite wildlife experiences - and his newest is the Galápagos Islands More
10 island hops to help you join those dots More
Sea lions, pelicans and in-your-face wildlife in harmony with humans on the Galapagos Islands More
Thought Tenerife was all about beach bums and clubbing? Think again... More
Wanderlust subscribers now receive a free £50 voucher valid on trips from a great selection of top tour operators
And the best bit is, this isn't a one-off offer, you get one every time you renew as well!
The £50 discount can be redeemed against one trip booking with one of our tour operator partners, by the expiry date printed on the voucher. The £50 can even be redeemed on top of any discounts our partners are already offering, ensuring Wanderlust subscribers get the best deal possible.
Simply quote your unique voucher code when booking to claim the discount. This offer is only available to Wanderlust subscribers.
UK subscribers automatically receive the voucher each year. Overseas subscribers receive it upon request.
This 14 day tour includes a 7-day Galapagos cruise on a comfortable motor yacht; and visits Quito, the capital of Ecuador surrounded by volcanoes in the Andes.
From: £Contact us
This voyage explores in depth some of the larger islands in the Galapagos, with landings to see Galapagos penguins, Galapagos giant tortoises and a host of unique bird species.
Perfect for... Budding David Attenboroughs looking for a fast-track education in evolution (and a cocktail on a Costa Rican beach).
Perfect for... Wildlife lovers and intrepid adventurers who like to get off the beaten track.
This 14 day tour includes an 8-day Galapagos cruise on a 14-berth sailing yacht; and visits Quito, the capital of Ecuador surrounded by volcanoes in the Andes.
Perfect for... Taking you from one of South America’s most famous wildlife havens to one of its most splendid colonial cities, this itinerary is perfect for anybody looking to find out what Ecuador an
From: £Contact us
Discover noisy sealion colonies, Galapagos sharks, and a wealth of the archipelago's colourful birdlife on this one week trip in the Galapagos.
This 11 day tour includes an 5-day Galapagos cruise on a high quality motor cruiser yacht; visits Quito, the Ecuador’s capital surrounded by volcanoes, and Guayaquil Ecuador's largest city
Always a winning combination, this classic Ecuador and Galapagos holiday is perfect for first-time visitors looking to discover the main highlights of Ecuador - including the iconic wildlife-abunda...
Perfect for... Fans of wildlife, outdoor activities and spectacular scenery.
Perfect for... Couples, families and groups looking to get a taster of the Galapagos- including those prone to seasickness, who can travel on a large, flat-bottomed boat that travels smoothly through
Perfect for... Couples looking for a bit of history, culture, wildlife and adventure on their honeymoon.
This 10 day tour includes an 8 day cruise visiting the eastern islands of the archipelago, including Floreana and Española; expect exceptional snorkeling, plenty of bird life and diverse landscapes.
Enjoy a fascinating trip to mainland Ecuador, including the historical centre of Quito and the colourful markets of the north, before heading to the Galapagos Islands for your closest ever encounte...
Perfect for... Anyone who prefers not to be on a boat (such as families, those who get seasick, or free spirits who like to head out whenever they choose). It's also great if you like to be a bit more
Perfect for... Adventurous honeymooners and families, and anyone looking to see some of the main highlights of Peru and the Galapagos all in one trip.
This 10 day tour which includes an 8 day cruise is a great experience in one of the most unique and protected areas of the planet - the Galapagos Islands.