In the Galapagos Islands, seeing is believing.
The Galapagos Islands are the definition of isolated. But that’s what makes them so special. These islands have experienced very little human influence and remain largely as nature intended, with a fabulous array of remarkable creatures and pristine landscapes to discover. Follow in the footsteps of Darwin and explore the archipelago where the lack of predators means that many animals are happy to let us humans walk among them. Beyond the wildlife these 19 islands are geologically fascinating too, their stark volcanic landscapes framed by pristine white sandy beaches and inviting, gin-clear waters.
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Top three things to do in the Galapagos Islands
There are many wonderful experiences to be had on this fascinating archipelago. For further inspiration take a look at the trip ideas put together by our trusted local experts, but in the meantime here are our top three things to do in the Galapagos.
Discover unique creatures
These wild pinpricks of land - sitting a thousand kilometres off the coast of Ecuador and slap-bang on the equator - are home to some of Earth’s most extraordinary creatures. Wildlife is everywhere, and you get the impression that the animals are in charge. The archipelago is home to some of the highest rates of endemism on the planet, allowing us to see evolution at close quarters. Adaptations to the harsh environment are extreme, unique, and still occurring in many species.
The spice of life
Variety of habitats, of species, of landscapes is all part of the Galapagos experience. These islands are geologically very young, at 2 to 4 million years old, meaning that in some cases the barren volcanic rock is yet to support significant vegetation. Others are older, greener and more fertile. This in turn ensures a variety of ecosystems - from deserts and equatorial rainforest to the beaches and chill waters of the Pacific Ocean - each supporting a variety of life.
Birds of a feather
Abundant birdlife is a feature of all the islands. Sea birds are unsurprisingly dominant, but there are also 29 species of land birds, 22 of which are endemic. How the land birds came to live here is a mystery, but nevertheless they are thriving. The most memorable aspect of Galapagos birdlife is getting really close to the action. You can wander among colonies of nesting birds and they barely notice. Major species associated with the Galapagos are the blue-footed booby, Galapagos waved albatross, frigatebird, Galapagos penguin, short-eared owl and swallow-tailed gull.
Lesser-known highlights in the Galapagos Islands
While there are many well-known things to do in the Galapagos Islands, what about the lesser-known highlights? Our local experts have shared some of their top tips for where to go and what to do if you fancy a bit of an alternative adventure.
Get to know Puerto Ayora
You may not have planned your trip to the Galapagos in order to see its townscapes, but any time spent in Puerto Ayora, the largest town in the Galapagos, will not be wasted. It’s a relaxed and friendly place with a convivial bar and restaurant scene and a lively fish market. It is home to the Charles Darwin Research Station, a hub for the conservation processes and ecological research of the islands. It is also home to the breeding programme for the Galapagos giant tortoises.
Make sure you pack your swimmers and maybe your wetsuit, because the Galapagos is a fantastic destination for swimming and snorkelling. Snorkelling is possible in many locations around the islands, among them Devil’s Crown and Punta Espinosa are particularly good in terms of the marine life you can experience. Los Tuneles on Isabela island is an unusual spot for snorkelling due to the surrounding rock formations which were formed when lava came into contact with seawater.
Discover beautiful beaches
Uncontaminated nature is the main attraction in the Galapagos archipelago, and the fantastic beaches are no exception. If your idea of the perfect beach is an expanse of powder soft sand, untouched surroundings and entertaining wildlife, there are some perfect examples to explore. From the postcard-worthy Tortuga Bay to the varied wildlife and russet sands of Red Beach on Rabida island, there are plenty of diverse beaches to discover.
Interesting facts about the Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Islands are a fascinating place. But did you know any of our top facts about them?
97% of the archipelago is protected as a National Park
Penguins are mostly found in the southern hemisphere, and in fact the Galapagos Islands are the only place in the northern hemisphere where they live in the wild.
Due to its location on the equator the archipelago enjoys a consistent split between day and night all year round.
Twenty percent of the marine wildlife of the Galapagos and around half of the land based species are endemic.
The Galapagos Islands are 1000 kilometres from the nearest continental landmass, and emerge from the ocean at the point where three tectonic plates converge, a site of volcanic activity which formed the islands.
The human population of the Galapagos is just 25,000.
You can find a kaleidoscope of beaches here - white sand (Santa Cruz), black (Isabela), olive green (Floreana), red (Rabida) and yellow (Bartolome).
When is the best time to go to the Galapagos Islands?
The most popular months for visitors tend to be June, July and August, alongside December and January. In terms of climate, bear in mind that it can be a little unpredictable so far from any land mass, but generally speaking December to May is the sunniest period, although there will be some rain. Low season - June to November - brings slightly cooler temperatures, overcast skies and less rainfall. Divers prefer the cooler, cloudier period because the colder water brings even more diverse marine life to the islands.
What to read before you go to the Galapagos Islands
If you're looking for something to get you in the mood before you set off on your travels to the Galapagos Islands, we've gathered a list of our favourite books to inspire you.
'The Voyage Of The Beagle' by Charles Darwin
The journals of the young naturalist whose voyage beginning in 1831 would take him on his first visit to the Galapagos, the islands which captured his attention for a lifetime.
'The Encantadas' by Herman Melville
This novella is a collection of ‘sketches’ which are stories set in and around the Galapagos islands, conjuring up the otherworldly landscapes with a rare skill.
'Galapagos' by Kurt Vonnegut
A science fiction novel which plays on the theme of evolution, depicting an apocalypse which sees a group of holidaymakers stranded in the Galapagos, and examines how human life unravels from there.
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