The Galápagos Islands, a province of Ecuador, lie more than 600 miles off its coast in the Pacific. Because the islands are remote, their plants and animals are unique, including some found nowhere else on Earth, as documented in Charles Darwin’s seminal work “On the Origin of Species.”
The government of Ecuador fiercely protects the Galápagos, including restricting access to its uninhabited islands. A cruise is the best way to travel to the Galápagos Islands because you can island hop and, with the help of local guides, will see the remarkable.
Getting to the Galápagos
A trip to the Galápagos typically begins with a flight to Quito, Ecuador’s capital, on the mainland, followed by a flight to Baltra, the primary airport of the Galápagos. There, you will board your Silversea ship on a journey throughout the islands that will be led by a skilled expedition team.
Nineteen large islands make up the Galapagos, all set within a protected marine reserve, and 97 percent of the Galápagos Islands are a designated national park. The remaining 3 percent is allotted for human settlement.
Floreana, Isabela, San Cristóbal and Santa Cruz islands are inhabited. Day trips to the protected nature reserves on the other islands must be made under the supervision of an official park ranger.
What is the best way to get to the Galápagos?
A ship is the most versatile way to see several Galápagos Islands during a one- or two-week cruise. There are north-central routes as well as a western itinerary; guests can choose to book either passage for a distinctive experience or combine the routes for a two-week, back-to-back sailing.
If you’re wondering how to choose your Galápagos cruise, consider the specific wildlife of the islands on your itinerary; some are better known for sea turtles and sea lion colonies, but only Fernandina and Isabela islands are home to Galápagos penguins.
You’ll see the startling frigate bird and the blue-footed booby, whose mating rituals are peculiar and inventive. Regardless of your destination, the entirety of the Galápagos is teeming with breathtaking wildlife.
Why see the Galápagos?
Nature is a huge draw for many travelers, and in some places, the creatures and plants are so stupendous that we travel thousands of miles to see them in person. In such wildlife-rich destinations as Alaska or Costa Rica, you must do sightings from a distance. In the Galápagos, the animal inhabitants are fearless. The distance visitors must observe is to protect the wildlife. Sea lions, iguanas, birds and other critters are liable to walk right up to you. Do not touch them.
This unbridled nature is not only thrilling but also an education in some of this Earth’s rare natural wonders and the admirable environmental protection.
The same flora and fauna captivated researcher Charles Darwin in 1835 during his time in the Galápagos as part of a larger global voyage and sent ripples through the scientific community for centuries.
You may not make groundbreaking evolutionary discoveries on your voyage, but the naturalists and experts that make up the crew will talk you through every fish or flower you see. Connecting with such pristine nature is not only informative but also emotional.
Exploring the Galápagos
Forged from the fire of volcanic activity over the millennia, this archipelago remains one of the most volcanically active places in the world. It has 13 active volcanoes, so besides the marvel of its wildlife, it’s also a geological marvel.
On your cruise itinerary, you will visit at least a half-dozen of these islands during a week or more. Here are a few examples of ports of call on a Galápagos Islands cruise, including the highlights of each.
Fernandina Island, third largest of the Galápagos chain, is best known as the home of an endangered subspecies of the Galápagos tortoise discovered as recently as 2019. Of course, the island hosts many other creatures by land and sea, including its variety of mangroves.
You can find the marine iguana taking a dip along the shores of Fernandina, and you can spot charming penguin colonies. Fernandina is one of only two larger islands that has never introduced mammals.
Fernandina is the most active and intact of the volcanoes in the Galápagos. Unlike their amphibious brethren, land iguanas like the heat and nest alongside and even within the caldera. Growing in young lava are the lava cactus, endemic to the island and known to survive with hardly any water.
Punta Espinosa is the only visitor landing on the island, offering a short and long walk to spot flightless cormorants or Galápagos hawks, among other surprise guests. At either of two primary dive sites, visitors can submerge themselves into the world of sea turtles, sharks, rays, seahorses and other underwater dwellers.
The land formation of Isabela Island, the largest island in the Galápagos, bears an uncanny resemblance to a seahorse. It’s home to people, too, in such towns as Villamil, where fishing and agriculture have given way to the tourism economy. Visitor sites are spread throughout the island, including the Tortoise Center, offering ample chances to explore.
The presence of human beings is small compared with the whales and dolphins. At least 16 species of whales have been identified near Isabela alone.
Like Fernandina, Isabela has penguins and marine iguanas, perhaps because it also has a lava field and nutrient-rich waters. Visitors will head to Punta Moreno to hike the land, which features coastal lagoons smack in the middle of the lava field. These small bodies of water are a favorite hangout of white-cheeked pintail ducks and even flamingos.
If you are lucky, you might spot the Mangrove Finch, considered one of the rarest birds in the world – fewer than 100 are known to survive – on the northwest coast.
Tourists boats and cruise ship guests just might encounter the fur seal on a visit to James Bay on Santiago Island. It’s also one of the islands Darwin visited during his voyage aboard the Beagle in the 1830s.
After human beings plundered the island, Santiago has spent the past decade focusing on conservation and restoration to native vegetation. Although there was an attempt to colonize Santiago in the early 20th century, it is uninhabited and has eradicated all introduced pigs, goats and donkeys.
You can find glistening Sally Lightfoot crabs skittering around Sullivan Bay, where you also can walk across recent (within the past 150 years or so) lava flows. The ropelike formations of lava borrow the Hawaiian word pahoehoe to describe it. Santiago also offers seven dive sites, and besides fish, fur seals and sea lions, snorkelers and divers might also find stunning underwater rock formations.
The wildlife of the Galápagos
Part of what makes the Galápagos is the protection afforded the plant and animals. The region is known not only for species found nowhere else on Earth but also for their remarkable environment. Whether it’s a giant tortoise lumbering around a conservation park or blue-footed boobies nesting in vertical cliffsides, the many species that cohabitate here do so undisturbed.
The Galápagos’ “location at the confluence of three ocean currents makes it one of the richest marine ecosystems in the world,” UNESCO notes. Along with their extreme isolation, these islands have fostered some unique organisms, including massive cactuses, swimming marine iguanas and flightless cormorants.
Here is a look at some of the Galapagos’ more famously unusual inhabitants, as well as a peek into what makes the islands such an unbelievable ecotourism destination.
1. Marine iguana
The Marine iguana epitomizes the story evolution. It has learned to adapted its breathing so that it can stay underwater in order to feed on saltwater algae. It can hold its breath up to 30 minutes.
2. Giant tortoises
Imagine a lumbering creature that resembles a garden-variety turtle…on steroids. These behemoths can grow to more than 3 feet, and males of the species can weigh as much as half a ton. (Females are generally about half that.) In the wild, they may live a century or longer.
3. Galápagos sea lion
Don’t challenge a Galápagos sea lion to a foot race. Their anatomy is such that they can reach speeds on land that, it’s said, meaning a human being will come in second in a footrace between the two. Likewise, don’t challenge this species to see which of you can hold your breath longer when you’re underwater. Unless you’re an experienced free diver, you’ll probably lose; these animals can clock as much as 10 minutes. Instead, admire them as they loll on the beach, and be thankful that your main meal isn’t, as theirs is, sardines.
4. Galápagos fur seal
The “fur” in their names explains why they were nearly wiped off the face of the Earth. New regulations saved them, but they remain endangered because a warmer ocean affects their source of food as does plastics pollution. They are found mostly in the western islands and when on land, prefer, not surprisingly, the shade.
5. Galápagos penguins
These penguins are munchkins compared with penguins farther south; these penguins weigh 5.5 pounds at most and don’t generally grow more than 20 inches tall. By contrast, Emperor penguins, the largest of the penguin species and found in Antarctica, can weigh as much as 100 pounds and stand 50 inches tall. Most of these northerly penguins live on Isabela and Fernandina islands.
6. Galápagos short-eared owl
The short-eared Galápagos owl is a stealthy creature; they make no noise when they fly, despite a wingspan that may measure more than 3 feet. Like most owls, they are active at night, but this bird isn’t afraid to hunt during the day, especially in the absence of the Galápagos hawk .
7. Blue-footed booby
The name “blue-footed booby” is enough to elicit a smirk, but what if your potential mate evaluated your fitness by your feet? These birds try to sweep female birds off their feet by doing a little dance that displays what apparently is their best quality, the bluer the better. As for the name, early explorers thought these birds weren’t very bright and labeled them “boobs.” Untrue, at least when it comes to hunting; when a fish is spotted, several of the blue-footed birds may dive at a time, it’s said, to confuse the fish.
8. Flightless cormorant
Most cormorants can fly; these do not, so they stick close to Isabela and Fernandina islands. When you see their wings opened, as in Photo 8 above, it’s because they aren’t waterproof as most ocean-adjacent birds tend to be, and they have to dry themselves off. As for their lack of flight? That, too, is evolution, it’s said; they had few enemies and lost the ability to fly.
9. Galápagos hawk
Study the face of the Galápagos hawk and you’ll see it makes no effort to disguise what it is: an apex predator. Its wingspan is 4 feet, its beak is strong and helps it scavenge, and its razor-sharp talons allow it to pick off rodents, snakes and lizards as part of their diet. As strong as they are, their population has dwindled to about 150 nesting pairs.
- Decide the best time to go. It's never a bad time to travel to the Galapagos. ...
- Book your trip early. ...
- Research before you go. ...
- Choose between a cruise or hotel. ...
- Pack light. ...
- Bring comfortable clothes. ...
- Prepare for seasickness. ...
- Respect the wildlife.
November to December is generally a good time to visit the Galápagos Islands; temperatures begin to rise and the calmer seas mean underwater visibility for snorkellers is good.What is the dress code for Silver Origin? ›
What is the dress code on Silver Origin? Casual wear is appropriate for daytime aboard ship or ashore and consists of standard sports outfits as worn at five-star resorts. Shoes should be flat or low heeled for deck activities. Evening attire falls into three categories: casual, informal and formal.How many days do you need on the Galapagos cruise? ›
However, if you are planning a trip to Galapagos as your sole destination, then we really recommend choosing an 8 to 15 day itinerary for your cruise. Because of the longer time available, a cruise of this length will typically allow you visit up to three times as many islands and visitor sites as a shorter trip.What you Cannot bring to Galapagos? ›
You MUST NOT bring any agricultural or plant materials or any unprocessed food products to the islands. To avoid problems at customs and bag check we suggest only traveling to Galápagos with pre-wrapped snack products such as chocolate bars, etc.Do you need cash in the Galapagos Islands? ›
The Galapagos islands operate mainly on cash, the US dollar being the official currency since 2000. Please note, though, that $100 bills are NOT readily accepted anywhere in the islands.What is the rainiest month in Galapagos? ›
MARCH. March brings in the rainiest season of the Galápagos; an average of two inches of precipitation fall within the month.What month is the warmest water in Galapagos? ›
Water temperature in the Galapagos Islands ranges from 66-76 degrees Fahrenheit (19-24 degrees Celsius). The warmest Galapagos water temperatures occur from December through May. From June through November Galapagos water temperatures are cooler.Which loop is best in Galapagos? ›
Outer Loop Galapagos itineraries, consider your degree of interest in the flora and fauna of the islands visited on each loop. If seeing the Waved Albatross is on your bucket list, choose the Outer Loop with a stop at Espanola, where most of these incredible Galapagos birds reside.Does Silversea have a formal night? ›
There will always be at least one formal night on every Silversea cruise. On formal nights, ladies should wear an evening gown, while men should wear a tuxedo or dark suit with either a tie or bowtie. If you don't wish to dress up on a formal night, several restaurants onboard still accept informal dress.
Silversea. Silversea has send-out washing and dry cleaning available, and self-service launderettes are available on all ships, free of charge.What toiletries does Silversea provide? ›
Silversea takes its pledge to pamper seriously, giving guests a choice of three different bath products including my favorite, Bulgari. Enjoy the shampoo, conditioner, shower and bath gel, body lotion and soap from this high-end purveyor of jewels and fragrances founded more than a century ago in Italy.How much cash should I bring to Galapagos? ›
How much cash you bring is up to you but be mindful of the following: Suggested gratuities and tipping are USD$50 per guest for the guide for one week and USD$150 per guest for the crew. Galapagos National Park Fees per person are $110. Alcoholic beverages in Ecuador are heavily taxed (~$10 per drink on board).Do I need PCR to go to Galapagos? ›
Ecuador also eliminated its COVID-19 entry requirements for the Galapagos Islands effective October 20, 2022. International travelers are no longer required to present COVID-19 vaccination cards or proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior to entering the Galapagos Islands.Which island is the best to stay in Galapagos? ›
Santa Cruz is the best island to stay in the Galapagos Islands, it's the most popular when it comes to tourism, it has great hotels such as Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel, and you can take a boat trip to other islands from here.Are Ziploc bags allowed in Galapagos? ›
Single-use plastics are NOT allowed into the Galapagos Islands. You need to bring a reusable water bottle!What to combine with a trip to Galapagos? ›
- Ecuadorian Amazon. Most of Ecuador's Oriente region lies in the Amazon basin. ...
- Highlands of Ecuador. You don't have to go far out of Quito to see some of the incredible sights that mainland Ecuador has to offer. ...
- Colombia. ...
- Peru. ...
Insect repellent: The Galapagos doesn't have many mosquitoes or biting insects, but bring a little repellent just in case. If you're traveling onto the Amazon, this is a must.Do cell phones work in the Galapagos? ›
Galapagos cell phone coverage can be spotty. Generally, the populated areas have decent coverage, but the uninhabited islands and open ocean are typically out of range.What is the most popular food in the Galapagos Islands? ›
A thick fish-based soup, Encebollado is perhaps the most popular dish throughout all of the Galapagos Islands. Consisting of boiled cassava (yucca), the freshest albacore tuna, onions, tomato, pepper, and coriander, this delicious soup is filling and delicious any time of day.
Do not leave the trail. Keep your distance – please keep at least two metres away from all animals and NEVER touch them no matter how tame they appear. Don't feed the animals. Buy responsibly – when purchasing souvenirs, do not buy anything made from the flora, fauna or rocks of the Islands.What is the best time of year to snorkel in Galapagos? ›
The Best Time to Snorkel the Galapagos
The dry and cooler season runs from June to November while the wet and warmer season lasts from December through the end of May. If you're planning to snorkel in the Galapagos, the wet season is generally preferred.
Average annual water temperature on the coast in Galapagos Islands is 75°F, by the seasons: in winter 73°F, in spring 72°F, in summer 76°F, in autumn 78°F. Minimum water temperature (68°F) in Galapagos Islands it happens in September, maximum (83°F) in March.Is it cold in the Galapagos Islands? ›
Galapagos Islands Weather
Good Weather for visiting all year round. Galapagos is on the Equator but the weather is not tropical. Temperatures range from 69°-84°F / 21°-30°C.
Galapagos penguins can be seen at Galapagos all year round. Their nesting season lasts from May to December. During these months the Humboldt current arrives from Antartica. This is a cold water current, bringing rich nutrients to Galapagos waters.Can you sunbathe in Galapagos? ›
You can enjoy “playa mansa”, an special zone of the beach that is very good for tanning and sunbathing. It is also a great place for surfing and snorkelling. Garrapatero is a marvelous and exotic beach, with very warm water and a great wildlife.
There's never a bad time to visit the Galápagos. The peak season lasts from mid-June through early September and from mid-December through mid-January.What are 3 things Galapagos Islands are famous for? ›
What are the Galapagos Islands famous for? Giant tortoises on Isabela, marine iguanas on Fernandina, blue-footed boobies nesting on North Seymour, and 17 other land, marine, and avian species not found anywhere else in the world are the major reasons for the Galapagos Islands' fame.Which is better inner loop or outer loop Galapagos? ›
The Inner loop is best for abundant bird life, as it includes North Seymour Island and Punta Pitt on St Cristóbal – the only place in the Galápagos where you can see three species of booby in one place.What is the difference between the inner and outer loop of the Galapagos? ›
The largest notable difference between the inner and outer loops is the likelihood of seeing the red-footed booby on the inner loop, while the outer loop may give you opportunity to view the waved albatross during their breeding season.
Our crew-to-guest ratio of almost 1:1 ensures flawless service from pole to pole, but with us, you never have to think about who should get a tip, how much you should give and when. It's all included! We believe that not having to deal with tipping helps make your luxury cruise even more special and stress-free.Are Silversea Cruises stuffy? ›
Silversea's ships aren't stuffy.What is the dress code for the Silversea Galapagos? ›
Dress code: Casual. Casual wear consists of pants, blouses or casual dresses for women; open-neck shirts and slacks for men are appropriate.What is the average age on a Silversea cruise? ›
Guests are mostly couples, sophisticated and affluent with an average age of 55.What plugs are used on Silversea cruises? ›
For your convenience, 110-volt (American current) and 220-volt (European current) outlets are provided in your suite, accommodating small appliances without the use of adapters or electric converters. The Silver Explorer has only 220 volt/60 Hz AC power and accepts Europlug or Type C plugs.What is Silversea cruises known for? ›
The 'jewel in the crown' of the Royal Caribbean Group, Silversea Cruises is the leading ultra-luxury and expedition cruise line—acclaimed for both its all-inclusive lifestyle offering and its global destination portfolio.What time is tea on Silversea? ›
Tea is held between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. daily, with the exception of embarkation day, in various locations across its fleet, including its crystal chandelier-clad Queens Room and intimate Grill lounges for Grills passengers.Is champagne served on Silversea? ›
From exquisite service and cuisine to such niceties as free-flowing Drappier champagne and Ferragamo and Bulgari bath products in the marble cabin bathrooms, the line's six ships offer the best of everything.How much is laundry on Silversea? ›
Silversea. Silversea has send-out washing and dry cleaning available, and self-service launderettes are available on all ships, free of charge. A shirt costs $8 to dry clean, $5 to launder and $4.50 for press only. Passengers in top-category suites receive complimentary laundry service.What 4 things do you need to enter the Galapagos Islands? ›
Visitors must have a current passport valid for more than three months, adequate funds to support themselves and a return ticket. Be sure to bring your C-card or proof of certification.
It is a general practice to tip in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. The local currency in Ecuador is the US dollar. So, if coming from the States, bring some smaller $1 and $5 bills along with you for tipping in Ecuador.Do I need any vaccinations to go to the Galapagos? ›
Vaccinations. There is no vaccination requirement for traveling to the highlands, coastal and Galapagos regions of Ecuador. However, when traveling to the Amazon jungle, ask your doctor about vaccines like typhoid, hepatitis A, diphtheria, and yellow fever.Do you need to wear masks in Ecuador? ›
Whilst masks are no longer mandatory in either indoor or outdoor public spaces, you may be required to wear them by private establishments.Do Americans need visa for Galapagos? ›
Travel Essentials. Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands welcome tourists from every country, and U.S citizens do not require a visa unless they plan to stay in Ecuador for more than 90 days.What is the best time year in Galapagos? ›
November to December is generally a good time to visit the Galápagos Islands; temperatures begin to rise and the calmer seas mean underwater visibility for snorkellers is good.How many days are ideal in Galapagos? ›
That's why we always recommend the bare minimum of 5 days to adequately experience the Galapagos and strongly recommend 7 days to get an even greater and more comprehensive sense of the Galapagos' diversity and otherworldly landscapes.Do i need a pcr test to go to Galapagos? ›
International travelers are no longer required to present COVID-19 vaccination cards or proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior to entering the Galapagos Islands.How safe is it to travel to the Galapagos Islands? ›
Is the Galapagos Safe To Visit? The Galapagos is an extremely safe travel destination. very little crime occurs in the islands and because tourism plays an important role in the economy of the islands and the Galapagos National Park, strict rules are in place when it comes to migrating to the islands.How many days is enough for Galapagos Islands? ›
How many days should I spend in the Galapagos if I want to see every island? Laughter tells that travelers need 14-15 days to see every single island in the archipelago. However, we recommend adding in some free time between snorkeling, hiking, and exploring lava tunnels for two weeks.Is it expensive to visit the Galapagos Islands? ›
Galapagos is not a cheap place to visit (but so worth it). Due to their location, the challenges of sustainable tourism there, and the need to support local development, the Galapagos Islands are more expensive than the mainland of Ecuador. While budget travel is feasible, the trip can still cost you a lot.
- Chickenpox (Varicella)
- Flu (influenza)
- Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR)
You can obtain it at the airport of Quito or Guayaquil in mainland Ecuador. Even before checking in with your airline, go to the INGALA/CGREG counter to purchase the Galapagos Transit Card. It costs 20 USD per person and is preferably paid in cash (card payment is available but the system is often out of service).Can Americans drink water in the Galapagos? ›
Is tap water safe to drink on the Galapagos Islands? The tap water on the Galapagos Islands is not safe to drink so only drink bottled water, which is readily available on board cruise boats. It's wise to avoid ice cubes in drinks, and salads, which may have been washed in unhygienic water.What are the biggest problems in Galapagos Islands? ›
Overfishing and illegal industrial fishing are serious threats to the islands' delicate marine ecosystem. They deplete commercial fish, destroy marine environments, and harm local communities whose livelihoods and health depend on fish.How strenuous is a trip to the Galapagos? ›
A visit to the Galápagos is truly the trip of a lifetime, but it can be somewhat strenuous as well. The trails are about a mile to a mile and a half in length; many have uneven lava rock to traverse, others are hard packed dirt, and still others are merely a “walk on the beach”.How much money should I bring to Galapagos? ›
How much money will you need for your trip to Galapagos Islands? You should plan to spend around $138 per day on your vacation in Galapagos Islands, which is the average daily price based on the expenses of other visitors. Past travelers have spent, on average, $33 on meals for one day and $54 on local transportation.Can you walk on the Galapagos Islands? ›
5. Always walk through marked trails 🚶 There's a few places in Galápagos that you can discover on your own and don't need the company of a certified guide. In those places, make sure you never walk out of the marked trails that have been previously defined by Galapagos government for a reason.Can you spend a night in Galapagos? ›
A: The Galapagos has four inhabited islands that each offer hotel options: Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Isabela, and Floreana. The other islands and islets of the archipelago are not inhabited by humans, and do not permit any overnight stays.Is food expensive in Galapagos? ›
While visiting the Galapagos on a budget, the cheapest way to eat out is to order the menu-of-the-day. They cost between $4 and $7 for breakfast, lunch, or dinner; and come with a variety of food. Consider it like a hamburger combo, but healthier, delicious, and more ROI.Is there WIFI in Galapagos Island? ›
There is internet access available on the islands in almost all hotels and cafes. However, speeds range from bearable to painfully slow — and these vary wildly depending on the time of the day.
Current Exchange Rates
The US dollar is the official currency of Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.