A trip to the Galapagos is a unique, once-in-a-lifetime adventure – the holy grail for wildlife encounters, wilderness exploration, incredible views, and scuba diving and snorkelling in one of the world’s most biologically diverse marine protected areas.
The Galapagos archipelago consists of 14 major islands and numerous smaller islets, 97% of which are within the borders of the Galapagos National Park. They’re most famously known as the habitat for the various species of Galapagos Giant tortoise, all of which are listed as being at some level of under threat on the IUCN Red List, but they’re also home to hundreds of other unique species of flora and fauna.
“The Galapagos Islands provide a window on time. In a geologic sense, the islands are young, yet they appear ancient.”
– Frans Lanting
So, how can you prepare for this trip of a lifetime?
To help reduce the stress of planning your Galapagos adventure, we’ve put together this brief guide on how to plan the perfect Galapagos trip.
Determine Your Budget
Budgeting is crucial when you’re planning any trip, but especially when the destination is as remote as Galapagos.
Once you decide on a total budget for your adventure, it’s time to break it down into sections and assign individual budgets for the accommodation, food, flight, cruise trip, souvenirs, activities, etc.
Remember that you need to add the costs for the flights to and from the islands because some islands don’t have connected flights. This means you might need some extra cash to stay at a hotel overnight on a particular island.
Having a clear budget will help you decide which islands you’ll visit and whether you’ll book a cruise, a hotel, or both.
Which Islands to Visit
Before you go into the details of organizing your itinerary, you need to determine which islands you’re going to visit. The only way to access some visitor sites and remote islands are via Galapagos private tours or a boat tour that will take you through the islands.
Islands like Isabela, Santa Cruz, Bartolome, San Cristobal, Fernandina, and Genovesa await your exploring spirit. Visit any of these to learn more about the locals, their customs, traditions, and specialities.
Bartolome Island is famous for its “Pinnacle Rock”, a rocky formation that has volcanic origins. Visitors can climb the stairs that lead to the peak and enjoy the panoramic vistas.
More advanced hikers will love Santa Fe Island for its steep ravines and rocky paths. You’ll trek through lush forests, dotted with huge Prickly Pear, and be on the lookout for Santa Fe iguanas and Galapagos hawks.
Fernandina Islandis a volcanic canvas with its terrain of igneous rocks and surreal landscapes of clusters of lava cacti. The island is home to hundreds of marine iguanas and the centre of a shield volcano, La Cumbre.
Choose The Means of Transport
Whether you’re visiting for a few days or two weeks, you’ll definitely want to consider a cruise. Cruising will allow you to see much more of the Galapagos archipelago and to visit uninhabited islands. A common mistake most travellers make is they don’t plan a longer itinerary to get to know the area.
The optimal Galapagos stay is six to ten days because the islands are scattered through the ocean and you’ll need more time to visit most of them. And, of course, you don’t want to miss anything, right?
When Can You Travel?
Galapagos is a destination that is worth visiting all year round. There are two seasons on these islands, a warm season, from December to May, and a cool season, from July to November.
During the warm season, you can see plenty of wildlife, participate in watersports activities and explore the remote island corners.t can get quite foggy in the cooler months, particularly on islands like Santa Cruz, but for the most part the islands are all still worth visiting. You may just need a wetsuit if you want to snorkel or scuba dive.
Whether you opt for a land-based tour or a cruise, make sure to pack light. It will save you time, energy, stress, and potential additional fees. The best way to pack light is to carry essential items, like hiking shoes, Teva-style sandals, hiking shorts, t-shirts, a light backpack, light fleece, and thin, breathable socks. Lightweight layers are the key.
It can be daunting to plan a trip to Galapagos, but you’ll be glad of your planning once you’re on a beach, sipping a cocktail at sunset, or having a close encounter with a majestic Galapagos tortoise.
Have you been to the Galapagos? Got any questions, comments, updates or corrections? Let us know by commenting below.