Adventure Awaits You!
It’s been nearly 200 years since Charles Darwin studied the Galápagos archipelago, which consists of 13 volcanic islands and 16 small islets off the coast of Ecuador. It’s an area filled with an extraordinary variety of many of the world’s most unique flora and fauna.
Just a few of the animals to be enjoyed in their habitat are sea lions, seals, giant tortoises, water and land iguanas, frigate birds and blue-footed boobies. Nearly a third of the plants in the region can’t be found elsewhere. Much of the volcanic terrain is barren, but you’ll find saltwater lagoons, green areas filled with vegetation and you will experience multiple elevations. Hiking, paddle boarding, snorkeling, and diving are among the more active options to see the region.
The islands can be reached by flights from Quito or Guayaquil to Baltra Island or San Cristobal Island. Some tourists will stay on one island and make day trips by boat to other points of interest. A land-based stay with vessels as transportation limits the number of islands you can get to and has you back-tracking at the end of each day.
Alternatively, cruise ships offer accommodations, meals, and transportation, enabling you to visit more areas to enjoy the unspoiled wildlife and land that attracts so many nature-lovers. Smaller cruise ships sail with 16 to 100 guests. Many of the ships are older and have been refurbished. Two new cruise ships, Celebrity Flora and Silversea Origin, have state-of-the-art environmental features and were built explicitly for Galápagos Islands cruising.
Cruise lines and local tour operators tend to market that they keep their excursions limited to 12-16 people and that their guides are certified naturalists. But note that these are not exclusive amenities provided by a limited number of companies. Galápagos National Park requires all touring groups to be small and that all be escorted by their excellently capable and knowledgeable trained naturalist guides. The guides travel on the cruise ships and will be with you throughout your entire time on the cruise. They are excited to share information and tips to fulfill the curiosity and experience of all visitors.
December through May is the “wet season” with temperatures ranging from low-70s to mid-80s. Expect 2-4” of rain per month and an average 76F water temperature.
June through November is the “dry season” with upper-60s to low-80s and some wind. Although days are often overcast, there’s usually under 1” of rain each month. The water temperature is a bit cooler at 72F.
Best Time to Visit
Peak tourist seasons are mid-December through mid-January along with mid-June through early-September. Choices between the seasons depend primarily on the preferred type of wildlife and activity experiences you most want.
Whales, sharks, dolphins, penguins, and sea lions are highlights you’ll see in the wet season. Turtles and tortoise hatchlings, colorful marine iguanas, and blue-footed boobies acting out their mating dance are among the many highlights in the dry season.
(Click here more information on the best time to visit the Galápagos Islands.)
The primary language is Spanish though you’ll find the naturalist guides to have a lot of experience with English..
The U.S. Dollar is the official currency in the Galápagos Islands and throughout the rest of Ecuador.
Onboard accounts for cruise ships catering to the U.S. market are in U.S. dollars. Depending on the ship, you’re likely to have little to no shipboard costs as many of the lines offer an all-inclusive or multi-inclusive cruise package that you’ve paid for as part of your upfront cost.
Passport & Required Documents*
U.S. citizens can travel this region as a tourist for up to 90 days without a visa. Your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond the return travel date. Upon arrival to Ecuador, your passport will receive a tourist visa stamp valid for 90 days. You must have access to sufficient funds during your stay and have proof of onward travel or return flights. Tourists must have travel health insurance.
When departing from either Quito or Guayaquil for your flight to the Galápagos, you will have to pay a $20 Transit Control Card fee in cash unless it was included in your cruise package. There is a $100 ($50 for children under 12) National Park Entrance Fee upon arrival in Baltra or San Cristobal. If your cruise package did not include this fee, you would need to pay it in cash.
*Information is subject to change.
Travelers should be current on your routine immunizations. It is advisable to check the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website for currently suggested vaccinations and health-related items.
Sample 17-Day Ecuador & Peru Itinerary Featuring a Galapagos Islands Cruise & Machu Picchu
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