The Galapagos Islands will transport you to a prehistoric world of strange beasts and birds roaming volcanic landscapes in a mesmerising display of one of Earth's most fascinating destinations. You will find a series of 19 islands rising from the South Pacific Ocean off the west coast of Ecuador known as the Galapagos Islands.

The Galapagos Islands will transport you to a prehistoric world of strange beasts and birds roaming volcanic landscapes in a mesmerising display of one of Earth’s most fascinating destinations. You will find a series of 19 islands rising from the South Pacific Ocean off the west coast of Ecuador known as the Galapagos Islands.

While the word ‘island’ may bring images of a tropical paradise to mind, the Galapagos Islands’ allure is a little different. With some of the world’s most diverse and interesting wildlife set in amongst an alien landscape, this has become the number one destination for biologists and geologists worldwide.

Marine Iguanas on the beach and lava coastline of Punta Espinosa on Fernandina Island Galapagos, from the La Cumbre Volcano pictured in the background
Marine Iguanas at Punta Espinosa on Fernandina Island Galapagos

Galapagos travel is not, however, only for the biologists of the world. To explore this otherworldly landscape with all that it has to offer is an experience that everyone can enjoy. What makes the wildlife of the Galapagos Islands so unique is that the animals are neither shy or cautious around humans. This is due to the fact that the islands have no natural land predators, allowing the animals to thrive in a safe and well-suited habitat. While the marine iguanas and giant tortoises plod along the ashen ground, casting your eyes skyward will leave you awestruck by the immense diversity and rarity of the birds overhead; these islands truly are a birdwatchers paradise.

Sunset over Genovesa Island as frigatebirds fly above at Darwin Beach. Isla Genovesa is a volcanic caldera which can be sailed to on a Galapagos Cruise.
Sunset over Genovesa Island as Magnificent Frigatebirds fly overhead at Darwin Beach on Isla Genovesa

With the islands lying almost directly on the equator, the blazing midday sun illuminates the various landscapes with a brilliant light, allowing you to observe even the smallest details of this fascinating terrain. A Galapagos cruise only enhances the experience, allowing you to explore the islands from both land and sea.  At first glance, you may be struck with the impression that this landscape doesn’t look even remotely terrestrial. Scientists believe that there is a fixed magma hotspot beneath the earth’s crust. As the crust moves, the hotspot stimulates the development of a new island. This explains the volcanic nature of the islands and the fact that over the years more islands have appeared.

Wildlife in the Galapagos Islands

Travelling is all about exploring new worlds, and experiencing the incredible sights, sounds and smells that they offer. The very first thing that will strike you when you set foot on one of the Galapagos islands is the incredible wildlife that seems to surround you in all directions. An undeniable sense of excitement will wash over you as you scan the landscape around you, curious creatures and prehistoric beasts roaming the dusty ground just metres away. Galapagos travel is a truly unique experience because it is so far removed from anything else on the planet, there really is nowhere quite like it.

To add to the unique nature of the Galapagos wildlife, since there are little to no land predators on all the islands, the creatures are all very curious and unafraid of humans. What this means for you is that you’re able to get up close and personal with all these strange animals, allowing you to get a clearer look at what makes them so unique. The Galapagos Marine Iguana is one of the most plentiful and interesting reptiles of all on these islands. Their ability to spend up to 30 minutes underwater is truly a marvel to watch. Making their way off their sun-baked rocks and into the clear waters of the South Pacific Ocean to feed.

Marine Iguanas climb along the coastline of Fernandina Island Galapagos islands Ecuador.
Marine Iguanas climb along the coastline of Fernandina Island

With a giant tortoise in one direction, a Galapagos Land Iguana in another and a Magnificent Frigatebird overhead, the Galapagos islands can often be a rather overwhelming place to visit. This feeling, however, is far outweighed by the thrill of being surrounded by some of the world’s most curious animals.

The birdlife is unparalleled in its rarity and diversity. One of the island’s most popular birds is the Galapagos Booby. With 3 different species of Booby soaring through the Galapagos skies, you will find yourself searching for the Nazca Booby, the Red-Footed Booby and the Blue-Footed Booby. These birds are particularly fun to watch because of their hunting technique. Flying high above the ocean’s waves, the Boobies search for prey with their beady eyes. When they catch sight of something darting beneath the surface they twirl into a spectacular dive and plummet with breathtaking precision and focus. After disappearing into the water for a moment they burst through the surface once again, a slippery fish held firmly in their beak.

Flamingo walks across a lagoon near Dragon Hill (Cerro Dragon) on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos Islands
Flamingo on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos Islands

While it may seem that all wildlife on the Galapagos Islands is thriving in this predator-less terrain, there are a few animals that still need to be protected. The population of the Galapagos Flamingo reaches no more than 350 birds, which is the world’s smallest population. This has led to the Flamingo being put on Ecuador’s endangered bird’s list. Feeding on brine shrimp, these wonderful birds can be found in the saltwater lagoons close to the ocean.

The wildlife on these islands has a far deeper historical significance than most might realise. Charles Darwin visited the islands on September 15, 1835, as a crew member of the HMS Beagle. It was on this trip that he made observations of several species and the differences between them on each island which lead to his theory of evolution. Two of his most carefully studied subjects were the Galapagos tortoises and the mockingbirds.

Other-worldly Landscapes of The Galapagos Islands

The beauty and fascinating diversity of the Galapagos Islands do not end with the wildlife. These islands display a truly spectacular range of terrains and landscapes. Whether you’re exploring the volcanic rocks on foot, or you’re enjoying a Galapagos cruise, you’ll be sure to find endless views of this extra-terrestrial landscape.

What makes the terrain so amazing is how much it differs from one island to the next. One moment you will be standing on a landscape that is reminiscent of the moon’s surface, and the next you will be on a beautiful, white sandy beach. Whether you’re exploring these islands on foot or you’re enjoying them from the deck of a Galapagos cruise ship, Galapagos travel is a photographers dream.

Santiago Island in the Galapagos is also called San Salvador or James Island. Pahoehoe lava, a type of basaltic lava, was erupted here in 1897
Pahoehoe lava erupted here in 1897 on Santiago Island (also called San Salvador or James Island)

Santiago Island boasts an incredible range of geological and geographical marvels to choose from during your visit. One of the most interesting and unique of these is the expanses of volcanic rock that have formed since the eruption in 1897. Though exploring these islands by way of a Galapagos cruise is an excellent experience, nothing can quite compare to seeing the micro details in this terrain. The fields of volcanic rock seem somehow handcrafted as if they have been meticulously stitched together. This impression is because of the incredible patterns that run through the rock that you would only be able to see if you were standing right on top of it.

The sun’s rays warm the ashen ground as it rises over this majestic landscape, breathing life into the animals and plants. Your surroundings sparkle in the early morning sunlight as the rich details, colours and textures are put on vibrant display.

View from Dragon Hill on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos Islands. Isla Santa Cruz can be visited on a galapagos cruise.
View from Dragon Hill on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos Islands

The story behind the development of these islands and their magnificent terrains becomes even more compelling when standing there and witnessing the strange beauty for yourself. The Galapagos Islands were formed above a magma hotspot as the earth’s crust shifted. Magma rose to the surface to create each of the islands that we see in the Galapagos today. Each island is slowly inching its way to the south-east at a rate of roughly 58km every 1 million years. As this happens, the surface is left open for the magma to boil to the surface and create a new island. To add to the fascinating phenomenon taking place here, you will notice that the newer islands have the least amount of vegetation. The eastern islands of San Cristóbal and Española are several million years older than the western islands of Isabela and Fernandina.

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Explore the Islands on a Galapagos Cruise

Each island in the Galapagos is so full of incredible sights and amazing attractions that you will really want to make the most of the time that you spend here. This means that you will have to choose the best tour option for your trip to ensure you experience as much as possible. After having flown into the island of Isla Baltra, you will have the choice of setting up your base in one of the towns and exploring outwards from there or stepping off the plane onto a boat and enjoying a Galapagos cruise.

Galapagos Cruise on a sailing catameran is a great way to explore the Galapagos Islands and galapagos travel.
The Galapagos Cruise experience; A sailing boat is the best way to explore the Galapagos Islands

You will be able to choose a different tour depending on the reason for your visit to the Galapagos islands. Whether you’re an avid birdwatcher, a photographer looking to get some unique shots or even a snorkelling enthusiast hoping to catch a glimpse of the strange underwater world around the islands, there is a tour for everyone. It’s important to choose a tour that’s best suited to your needs as well because even a 9-day trip will not allow you to see all of the islands and explore them in their entirety.

While there are some benefits to staying in one of the towns and doing day trips from there, a Galapagos cruise is by far the best way to experience the islands. With the sails flapping in the wind as you glide through the clear blue water your experience of the Galapagos is sure to be a memorable one. The sails carry you around the islands without the noise of an outboard motor to drown out the peace of the moment. You’re able to imagine what it would have been like as a crew member of the HMS Beagle, exploring these strange islands with wonder and excitement. The experience of a Galapagos cruise is so incredible, in fact, that it’s almost not worth it to tour any other way.

Snorkelling with a Galpagos Sea Turtle
Snorkelling with a Galapagos Sea Turtle

Snorkelling is one activity that everyone should participate in during your visit to the Galapagos islands. The fact that the Galapagos cruise allows you to look at the islands from above the surface before plunging into the ocean is truly phenomenal. If you think that the islands are full of animals, just wait until you see the life beneath the surface. You may even spot some marine iguanas feeding on the rocks underwater. Displaying their true unique nature and contentment in any habitat.

If you’re lucky, you might have the chance to swim alongside the Galapagos sea turtle. Though you may not be allowed to interfere or interact with them, the privilege of being in the company of such a graceful animal can not be understated. While you may want to focus on the marine life that surrounds you the moment you jump into the water, it’s worth considering the geography around you as well. The Galapagos islands offer the truly unique experience of viewing these incredible landscapes from 3 different levels. First from the sky as you fly into the Galapagos islands, where you have the bird’s eye view of these spectacular islands, second on foot as you explore the marvellous terrain and third from beneath the water’s surface.

Galapagos Islands Map

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1. Isla Baltra, Baltra Island : -0.425373, -90.277405
2. Isla Genovesa, Genovesa Island: 0.318259, -89.947472
3. Isla Santiago, Santiago Island (San Salvador or James): -0.269164, -90.773849
4. Isla Bartolome, Bartolome Island: -0.284442, -90.546741
5. Isla Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz Island: -0.730571, -90.324097
6. Isla Isabella, Isabella Island: -0.790990, -91.120605
7. Isla Fernandina, Fernandina Island : -0.417477, -91.455688
8. Isla San Cristobal, San Cristobal Island: -0.867887, -89.428711
9. Isla Santa Maria, Santa Maria Island: -1.318243, -90.455933
10. Isla Espanola, Espanola Island : -1.378651, -89.670410
11. Isla Daphne, Daphne Island: -0.420567, -90.374222

 

Read more about travel around Ecuador in our Ecuador Travel Guide.

1.Baltra Island, Isla Baltra

Isla Baltra Galapagos, also known as Baltra Island has one main role to play amongst the archipelago (large group of islands). The airport that links the Galapagos to mainland Ecuador can be found here on Isla Baltra. What this means is that everyone who visits the islands will first arrive on Baltra Island where they will be transported by bus to their Galapagos cruise ships or a ferry which will take you to the main island of Santa Cruz.

Galapagos Land Iguana (Conolophus subcristatus) on Snata Cruz Island in the Galapagos Islands.
Galapagos Land Iguana (Conolophus subcristatus) in the Galapagos Islands.

The reason for the airport being on Isla Baltra Galapagos actually dates back to the 1930’s when Franklin Roosevelt visited the island to establish a US airbase in the Pacific. Construction of the airbase began in 1942 and has developed a lot over the past few decades into the airport that we now use.

Though many may see Isla Baltra as an island with little to do other than to board or disembark your aircraft, there is one attraction that is worth looking into. Nearby you will find the small sandy islet of Mosquera where one of the largest populations of sea lions reside. This small detour will be a great start to your tour of the Galapagos islands, allowing you to cross sea lions off your list early.

2. Genovesa Island, Isla Genovesa

The rocky coastline of Genovesa Island Galapagos displays the strange beauty of the islands quite nicely. This image is further enhanced by the knowledge that these cliff faces are in fact the rim of a volcano. Isla Genovesa is a volcano caldera with an extraordinary landscape that sinks away into a massive void like a giant empty tank. Located in the northeastern region of the archipelago it is set aside from the rest of the islands.

Genovesa Island; Climbing the Prince Philip steps, which is the the volcanic caldera wall in Great Darwin Bay. Isla Genovesa is visited on a galapagos cruise.
Climbing the Prince Philip steps in Great Darwin Bay on Genovesa Island

Upon arrival at Genovesa Island, you will disembark your Galapagos cruise onto a small dinghy which will carry you to shore. It will be more evident the closer you get that the shoreline is not a beach, and you are actually facing a small climb up what’s known as Prince Phillips Steps. This incredible volcanic wall really gives you a sense of the inside of a volcano. The way in which the rocks stick out make them look almost cube shaped as you clamber up this rough cliff face. The first thing that will hit you the moment you reach the top is the tremendous noise of hundreds and thousands of birds overhead.

If you’re a birdwatcher, then Genovesa Island will be at the top of your list of places to visit in the Galapagos islands. Its reputation of having more birds than any other island has led to its nickname of ‘The Bird Island‘. Red-Footed Boobies, Magnificent Frigatebirds, Nazca Boobies, Swallow-Tailed Gulls, Storm Petrels, Red-Billed Tropicbirds, Finches and Mockingbirds all call these skies home. Be careful where you put your feet while you watch the birds, though, the uneven terrain is also dotted with marine iguanas.

Standing on Genevosa Island in the Galapagos Islands
Genevosa Island in the Galapagos Islands

The lines of bird droppings set a stark contrast against the dark, barren landscape and give you a good idea of just how many birds are above you. Curiously enough, many of the birds actually use their droppings as a way to mark off their territory.

A visit to Genovesa Island would not be complete without spotting the 3 different Galapagos Boobies. These large birds have an average wingspan of 80cm and can sometimes reach up to 90cm wide! As if their size wasn’t already enough to make them easy to spot, you will also be able to pick them out of the crowd by looking for their unique flight movement. After beating the air powerfully with their large wings they spread them out and relax into a peaceful glide, surveying the ground and water beneath them.

Frigatebird on Genevosa Island in the Galapagos Islands. The male has a gular pouch which are inflated during mating season to attract a female. Visit the Glapagos on a galapagos tour and cruise.
The male Frigatebird has a pouch which is inflated during the Galapagos Islands mating season

Though the Galapagos Boobies truly are a spectacle, the Magnificent Frigatebird certainly takes first place as the most fascinating of all. At first glance, they may seem like any other bird, with glossy black feathers and a hooked beak. Their strange characteristic only becomes apparent when a male spots a female and attempts to court her. After throwing his wings up in the air and strutting around proudly, he turns to display a vibrant inflated pouch beneath his beak.

A visit to Genovesa Island will have you craning your neck and looking skyward for the entirety of your tour. Tear your gaze from the skies for a moment to view Darwin beach in all its splendour. It almost feels as if you’ve been transported back in time as you view this prehistoric scene with the sun setting in the distance. Almost as if you could expect to see a dinosaur lumbering along the beach as colossal colonies of seabirds fly overhead. To add to this ancient sensation, the echoing noise of the birds surrounds you as you lose yourself in the moment.

Darwin Beach, Genovesa Island Galapagos Ecuador is home to large colonies of breeding colonies of seabirds
Darwin Beach in the Galapagos Islands on Genovesa Island

3. Santiago Island, Isla Santiago

Santiago Island’s main attraction is known as Sullivan Bay and is located on the south-east coastline. This breathtaking bay looks like something right out of a science fiction movie. It illustrates two worlds meeting with a white sandy beach cut off halfway by a rugged lava field, both of which are bordered by a sensational turquoise blue ocean. The dark rubble blending into the white sandy beach is a very bizarre sight. If for a moment, you are able to ignore the lava field then you’ll easily see the resemblance between this beautiful beach and the Hawaiian coastline. It’s the lava field that makes it so unique to the Galapagos islands.

Santiago Island in the Galapagos is also called San Salvador or James Island. Pahoehoe lava, a type of basaltic lava, was erupted here in 1897
Santiago Island in the Galapagos is also called San Salvador or James Island

Pahoehoe lava, a type of basaltic lava, was erupted here on Santiago Island in 1897 Sulivan Bay is a popular stop on a number of Galapagos cruises, allowing you to view the incredible lava formation known as Pahoehoe lava in Hawaii. This undulating surface has a ropey texture to it and provides a pattern that looks a little like tree bark.

During your Galapaos cruise, you will have the chance to hop off the catamaran into a small zodiac boat and head for Sullivan Bay. Jumping out into the water you will immediately need to put on your hiking boots to make your way through the water and over the jagged, rough patches of volcanic rock. Be very aware of your footing as you do this, Pahoehoe lava really isn’t a surface you would want to trip and fall onto. What makes this experience so worthwhile is the fact that after having seen the towering volcanoes in all their grandeur, you get a much closer look at the finer details of these majestic features.

Pahoehoe lava, a type of basaltic lava, has a ropy surface. This pahoehoe lava erupted on Santiago Island in the Galapagos Islands in 1897. Isla Santiago, also called James Island can be visited on a Galapagos Tours.
Pahoehoe lava, a type of basaltic lava, has a ropy surface

This Pahoehoe basaltic lava forms at astounding temperatures of between 1100 and 1200 degrees celsius. As it runs down the slopes of the volcano it forms a series of lobes that creates this ribbed pattern. Some of these patterns can even appear to be twisted and knotted, further lending itself to the ropey texture of the lava field. It truly is a wonder to peer down at these organic shapes and patterns and imagine where they came from many millions of years before.

4. Bartolome Island, Isla Bartolome

Isla Bartolome is the Galapagos Island’s most picturesque destination. It is here that you will have the chance to climb to an incredible viewpoint and look out across the magnificent ocean. It’s fascinating to see all the islands of the archipelago dotted around you. What’s more is that just across the canal you will still be able to spot Sullivan Bay and the impressive lava field, giving you an even deeper appreciation for its curious beauty.

Panoramic view of pinnacle Rock and surroundings in Bartolome island, Galapagos, Ecuador
The Galapagos Islands best panoramic viewpoint on Bartolome island

If the walk up to the viewpoint brings a line of sweat to your brow, you can cool off with a little snorkelling and relaxing in the stunning bay before you. Be sure to also keep a lookout for the Galapagos Penguin waddling around the shallows and the Galapagos Hawk soaring through the sky.

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5. Santa Cruz Island, Isla Santa Cruz

Galapagos travel will take you to a number of fantastic islands, but none are as busy as Santa Cruz Island. An excellent tourist destination with plenty to see and do, Santa Cruz serves as a great hub for exploring the Galapagos Islands. Aside from providing the comfort of feeling connected to civilisation once again, Santa Cruz has a number of adventurous activities, accessible beaches and amazing sights on offer. With the Charles Darwin research station and a wildlife sanctuary which was the former home to Lonesome George, Galapagos’ most famous tortoise, you really are spoilt for choice on Isla Santa Cruz.

Las Bachas beach on the north shore of Isla Santa Cruz in the Galapagos Islands is a habitat for iguanas, sally lightfoot crabs, and flamingos in a salt water lagoon. Isla Santa Cruz can be visited on a galapagos cruz from Ecuador.
Las Bachas beach on the north shore of Isla Santa Cruz in the Galapagos Islands

Whether you’re doing day trips to nearby attractions or taking a break from the Galapagos cruise, Isla Santa Cruz’s town of Puerto Ayora will be your hub for almost anything. Puerto Ayora is the archipelago’s largest city both in terms of size and population. You can stop here to get wifi, meals, and information on the surrounding islands and what they have to offer.

On the north shore of Santa Cruz, you will find Las Bachas beach, which is inhabited by iguanas and Sally Lightfoot Crabs. While this beach may be on the island, you will only be able to access it by sailing around the coastline until you reach it. Las Bachas is the epitome of the Galapagos beach experience, with incredible roaming wildlife and stunning beach views in every direction. While there may not be any comforts, this beach truly makes you feel like you are in paradise.

Visiting Galapagos Giant Tortoise in their natural habitat on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos Islands
Visiting the Galapagos Giant Tortoise in their natural habitat on Santa Cruz Island

The el Chato Tortoise Reserve is certainly worth a visit. It is here that you will be able to get up close and personal with the famous giant tortoises of the Galapagos islands. These tortoises were called Galapago in Spanish, which is where the origin of the name for the islands came from. To walk amongst these magnificent beasts is an unforgettable experience, to say the least. You will also be surrounded by green trees and grass, allowing you for a moment to feel as if you’re back on planet Earth. This once again illustrates the incredible diversity of each island. One moment you may feel as if you’re on the moon, and the next you’re immersed in the marvellous natural beauty of the Giant Tortoise Reserve.

Land Iguana at the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos Islands
Land Iguana at the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos Islands

If it’s information that you seek, then the Charles Darwin research centre is the perfect stop for you. Since it’s just a ten-minute walk out of town you will be able to explore some of the city on foot as you make your way to the research centre.  Here you will be able to view a number of interesting creatures including the  Galapagos Land Iguana. These yellow-skinned iguanas really are quite beautiful. Their reptilian skin has incredible details and remarkable textures that make them look like beasts of the prehistoric world.

Dragon Hill on the north coast of Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos Islands. From the beach landing we walk to a lagoon with flamingos, birds and iguanas.
Dragon Hill on the north coast of Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos Islands

One of the island’s most scenic locations is an area known as Dragon Hill. With a black lava shoreline and a scattering of strange looking cacti, this destination looks very otherworldly. Whether your feet are firmly planted on its slopes, or you’re looking at it from a distance, the ominous shape of dragon hill stands out. The name seems appropriate when you consider the number of Land Iguanas that roam the foothills of this extraordinary peak.

6. Isabella Island, Isla Isabella

One of the newest islands to have been formed in the archipelago, Isabella Island is the largest of the Galapagos Islands. It formed its impressive size and shape by joining six volcanoes together to create this large land mass. Not only is it Galapagos’ biggest island, but also its tallest, with Volcán Wolf being its highest peak.

Urbina Bay is found on Isabella Island’s west coast, close to Isla Fernandina. What’s so interesting about this piece of coastline is that it used to be submerged, but after an eruption caused a shift underground, this area was brought up out of the water. You can still, to this day, see evidence of the coastline having been underwater, with remnants of choral on the ground.

Lake Darwin, Tagus Cove on Isabela Island galpagos,
Darwin Lake at Tagus Cove on Isabela Island

One of the main attractions in Urbina Bay is Darwin Lake. The vibrant turquoise water is only 9m deep but still provides a truly impressive lookout across the lake and out to the ocean. To reach this lake and the subsequent lookout point your Galapagos cruise will need to dock in Tagus Cove. Tagus Cove is overflowing with history, early 19th century whalers and pirates wrote their names on the cliffs surrounding the cove. The name comes from an English ship which passed by the cove in 1814 searching for giant tortoises.

Lava flows and lagoons on Isabela Island in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Lava flows and lagoons on Isabela Island in the Galapagos Islands

The peculiar beauty and vibrant colours do not end with Lake Darwin. Isabella Island also boasts some splendid green grass, which is made further radiant by the contrasting lava flow that cuts through the grassland. The crumbling masses of basaltic lava look like the ruins of a once great village, with glistening water and beautiful green grass encompassing these ruins in their natural beauty.

Isabella Island Galapagos has plenty more to offer in the way of interesting sights and attractions. During your Galapagos cruise, you will have the chance to see sights such as Moreno Point, Elizabeth Bay and a number of excellent scuba sites. Don’t let Moreno Point’s harsh appearance fool you, the lava flow is dotted with several thriving lagoons full of life. If you’d like a chance to view some of the famous Galapagos Sea Turtles, then stopping off in Elizabeth bay will raise your chances significantly. Elizabeth Bay is a resting and feeding ground for Sea Turtles.

7. Fernandina Island, Isla Fernandina 

Fernandina Island Galapagos is the archipelago’s youngest island. This does not mean, however, that life has not had time to make its way onto it. This island is famous for its impressive population of Galapagos Marine Iguanas. Spread out along almost the entire coastline, these black lizards laze in the sun’s rays with relish. It is a remarkable sight to behold when you step out from the treeline and emerge onto a rocky shore with these alien-like creatures absolutely everywhere. To add to the peculiar nature of this experience, the iguana’s barely bat an eye at your presence, almost as if you aren’t there at all.

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What makes the Galapagos cruise so worthwhile is that you will have a knowledgeable guide wherever you go. You will be able to ask your guide questions about the geology, wildlife and history of each of the sites that you visit. Whether you’re aboard the boat or exploring the islands on foot, your guide is always with you.

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If there is any island that you should snorkel off the coast of, it’s Fernandina Island Galapagos. The reason for this is that you will step off the iguana coated beach only to find yourself diving beside them in the shallows of the ocean. It really is an interesting contrast to seeing them on the surface, where they are almost entirely static, but under the water they glide and swim and cling to rocks. This is one of the unique experiences that Galapagos travel is famous for.

8. San Cristobal Island, Isla San Cristóbal

Isla San Cristóbal is the capital of the Galapagos islands and the fifth largest land mass. This is the main island where most of the locals live. While it may not be quite as equipped as Santa Cruz, the infrastructure for tourism on this island is also good.

Land Iguana with yellow colour on Isabela Island in the Galapagos Islands Ecuador
The unique Land Iguana in the Galapagos Islands

Isla San Cristóbal Galapagos Islands provides you with a range of things to do. You can stroll through the historical town of El Progreso, the oldest surviving settlement in the archipelago. Just 10 minutes from the airport you can take a look at some sea lions at the Sea Lion Rookery. If you’d prefer to go birdwatching, Frigatebird Hill offers the unique opportunity to compare Magnificent and Great Frigatebirds in the same colony. With an abundance of other attractions including but not limited to, Sapho Bay, a Tortoise Reserve, Punta Pitt and El Junco Lagoon, a visit to Isla San Cristóbal would be worth your time.

9. Santa Maria Island, Isla Santa Maria

Santa Maria Island has a rich history with the early settlers of the 19th century. Not only is it the site of the Galapagos island’s first post office, but also the first resident who lived here from 1807-1809. Santa Maria Island became the first in the archipelago to be colonised by Ecuadorians in 1832. This island is also shrouded in mystery, being the site of a series of disappearances in the 1930’s.

A seal swims in the sea along the shoreline of Fernandina Island Galpagos Ecuador
A seal swims in the Galapagos Islands

Though the past may be interesting, the real attraction of this island is a site called Devils Crown. A series of rocks out to sea that forms a semicircle resembling a crown. Standing on land may not give you the best view of this interesting rock formation, but if you go out on a boat you will discover an impressive number of birds and thriving marine life in and around the Devils Crown.

10. Espanola Island, Isla Española

One of the oldest and southernmost islands of the Galapagos is Isla Española. This magnificent island boasts a range of excellent birdlife and marine iguanas that are just too good to pass up. Famous for it’s Waved Albatross colony, birdwatchers should make a beeline for this island. Living as long as 40 years, these colossal birds stand up to 1 metre tall and have an outstanding wingspan of 2.5 metres! To see them soaring above the ocean waves is an absolute marvel to watch.

Punta Suarez cliffs on Isla Espanola in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Punta Suarez cliffs on Isla Espanola in the Galapagos Islands

Punta Suarez is also a popular site to visit during your Galapagos cruise. This rocky trail will provide you with sightings of several fascinating creatures. You may even have to step over a lazy sea lion lounging in the pathway. You will pass by a beach with some vibrant Española Lava Lizards and continue on your scenic tour of this marvellous island’s coastline. Through saltbush filled with chattering birds to nesting colonies of the Galapagos boobies, Punta Suarez leads you through all the best that Isla Española has to offer.

11. Daphne Island, Isla Daphne 

Daphne Island is an impressive yet somewhat inaccessible island. Most Galapagos cruise tours sail right past without stopping, and those that do stop require a special permit. The reason for this is because of the immense erosion that is taking place around this islands coast. Daphne is actually split into two islands, Daphne Major and Daphne Minor. The main reason to visit Daphne Minor is because of the snorkelling and scuba diving sites, but Daphne Major has a far more evident attraction.

Sunsets over Daphne Island in the Galapagos Islands on a Galapagos Cruise in Ecuador
Sunsets over Daphne Island in the Galapagos Islands on a Galapagos Cruise

The entire island is a giant volcanic cone, and to say that there is an abundance of birds here would be an understatement. What this means is that the noise emanating from this island is simply enormous. The cone essentially acts as a megaphone and amplifies the birds’ squawking tenfold. Even if you’re on a Galapagos cruise, and you don’t set foot on the island itself, the noise is still tremendous.

Galapagos Islands Birdlife

The Galapagos islands have a truly phenomenal selection of birds to view, with each different island providing a different look at the marvellous birdlife. Possibly the most plentiful of all would be the Galapagos Boobies. There are three species of booby, the Nazca Booby, the Red-Footed Booby and the Blue-Footed Booby. These birds are not only large but very entertaining to watch as they dive for fish.

Blue footed boobies perched on a cliff top along isabela Island in the Galapagos Islands, close to Tagus Cove and Darwin Lake.
Blue-footed boobies perched on a cliff top in the Galapagos Islands

The Frigatebird is another performer, but not in the same was as the Boobies. The Magnificent Frigatebird’s red pouch is a complete marvel as it inflates to an extraordinary size. To actually watch this pouch expand first-hand is something that you simply can’t capture, you need to be there to experience this event.

Red footed boobies at Darwin Beach on Genovesa Island in the Galapagos Islands Ecuador. Darwin beach is home to large breeding colonies of seabird and frigates. Darwin beach is visited on a Galapagos Cruise.
Red-footed boobies at Darwin Beach on Genovesa Island

While there may be plenty of birds in the sky, the Galapagos Penguin and Flamingo often catch visitors’ attentions due to their cute nature and striking colours. Whether you’re visiting the islands to look at Darwin Finches, Mockingbirds or the Galapagos Hawk, you really will be spoilt for choice.

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Wildlife of the Galapagos (Traveller’s Guide)

Julian Fitter, Daniel Fitter, David Hosking - William Collins - Edition no. Revised edition (01/14/2016) - Paperback: 288 pages

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The Galapagos Islands Iguanas

The Galapagos Marine Iguana’s are often considered to be the stars of the show when it comes to touring the archipelago. Not only are their huge numbers on land impressive, but to see them dive beneath the water’s surface to feed adds an entirely new aspect of wonder to them.

Marine Iguanas climb on top of each other along the coastline of Fernandina Island at Punta Espinosa in the Galapagos islands Ecuador.
Marine Iguanas along the coastline of Fernandina Island at Punta Espinosa

Though the Galapagos Land Iguanas may not have strength in numbers like their marine cousins, their impressive size and vibrant colouring provide us with an interesting sight. Watching these iguanas slowly lumbering around places like Dragon Hill makes you feel as if you’ve been transported back to the prehistoric age.

Galapagos Giant Tortoise

Of all the Galapagos animals, the Giant Tortoise is arguably the most impressive. Not only are they the island’s namesake, but they are one of the most popular attractions in the Galapagos. Lonesome George was by far the most famous of all the Giant Tortoises, being one of the biggest and by far the oldest, having lived for well over a century. The Galapagos National Park protects a number of these endangered tortoises to ensure that they will not be lost to the world forever.

The Galapagos giant tortoise on Santa Cruz Island, in the Galapagos Islands.
The Galapagos Giant Tortoise on Santa Cruz Island

How to visit the Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands are one of the world’s most fascinating destinations. To visit this incredible archipelago and experience all that each island has to offer is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity. The more we learn about this phenomenal place, the more exciting it becomes to visit. That being said, there are certain things that we need to take into account before embarking on this fantastic trip.

The only way to arrive at the Galapagos Islands is by air. The most common route is from the coastal Ecuadorean city of Guayaquil. From here you will fly to Isla Baltra and begin your incredible journey throughout the Galapagos Islands. Just to ensure that you make the most of every minute you spend in the archipelago, you could consider arriving in Isla Baltra and leaving from Isla San Cristóbal where the other airport is situated. This will allow you to cover as much ground as possible without returning to the same place twice.

Arriving on Isabela Island at Tagus Cove in the Galapagos Islands
A Galapagos Cruise provides the best way to explore the Galapagos Islands

When to visit the Galapagos Islands?

How to get there maybe very important, but when to go is arguably more important. The Galapagos Islands have two distinct seasons, the wet and warm season taking place between January and May, and the cooler, drier season between June and November. There is no doubt that the warmer season is the best time to visit, the ocean is calmer, the cruises are more relaxed and the snorkelling is at its prime.

If your desire to learn more about Ecuador and all that it has to offer has not been met, be sure to read more about the wonders of Ecuador.

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Lonely Planet Ecuador & the Galapagos Islands (Travel Guide)

Lonely Planet, Regis St Louis, Greg Benchwick, Michael Grosberg, Luke Waterson - Lonely Planet - Edition no. 10 (08/14/2015) - Paperback: 416 pages

£16.99 - £2.11 £14.88
Sale
Wildlife of the Galapagos (Traveller’s Guide)

Julian Fitter, Daniel Fitter, David Hosking - William Collins - Edition no. Revised edition (01/14/2016) - Paperback: 288 pages

£16.99 - £2.11 £14.88
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The Rough Guide to Ecuador & the Galápagos Islands (Rough Guide to Ecuador & the Galapagos Islands)

Rough Guides, Sara Humphreys, Stephan Küffner - Rough Guides - Edition no. 6 (09/01/2016) - Paperback: 440 pages

£16.99 - £2.11 £14.88

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