Destinations

How Long Should I Visit the Galapagos Islands For?

How long should I visit the Galapagos Islands for?

An ecological paradise populated by a unique cast of fascinating animals, the Galápagos will be a richly rewarding experience for anyone lucky enough to visit for any length of time. In fact, there’s so much to see that you won’t want to squander a single minute. With this in mind, even if you have a week or more in the Galápagos, travelling between islands at night is definitely the best approach. Then, after breakfasting on your own version of The Beagle, you can board a Zodiac (also known as a ‘Panga’) and skim off to explore another incredible island.

If you take this sail-by-night approach, even a four-day itinerary in the Galápagos will enable you to tick off some of the highlights of the islands. You could fly into San Cristobal – the easternmost of the major islands – then hike its characteristic volcanic landscape to view the boobies and frigatebirds before letting your feet sink into the sand of Cerro Brujo. From San Cristobal you could head southwest to the birder’s paradise of Española, where snorkelling with sea lions is also a possibility. From here, a northwest bearing will take you to Santa Cruz with its giant tortoise centre and iguanas on Tortuga Beach. 

Got an extra day to play with? You could call in at Santa Fe for further close encounters with iguanas and sea lions.

Slightly longer itineraries

A five-day itinerary along these lines can pack in all of the highlights of the eastern Galápagos, but in the same number of days you could start centrally in Santa Cruz, visit Santiago for snorkelling off white sand beaches, stop at Bartolomé for a hike to the stunning viewpoint of Pinnacle Rock and perhaps plop into the sea with some penguins, then loop round Genovesa in the north of the archipelago – where you can hike to see colonies of red-footed boobies and frigatebirds and dive into the sunken crater of a volcano.

In six days you’ll be able to complete a central-and-western highlight tour that crams in the giant tortoises, iguanas, birds, lava fields and volcanic hikes of Isabela and Fernandina, the birds and fish of Floreana and plenty of time to explore the iguana-abundant sands of Santa Cruz and swim with sea lions off North Seymour. With an extra day you could swap Floreana for Genovesa, and fit in a visit to Rábida for flamingos and finches as well.

Even on an eight-day cruise, which is typically the longest package itinerary you’ll find in the Galápagos, the distances between Española in the south and Genovesa in the north do render them an either/or choice, and for those who want to head out west to Isabela and, especially, Fernandina, a visit to San Cristobal often has to be sacrificed to pack it all in. 

Eight days will, though, enable you to see the best of the central, south and western Galápagos islands – with the option of forgoing Fernandina in favour of Española’s boobies.

Maybe, just maybe, on a bespoke ten-day itinerary you could see and do everything that the Galápagos is famous for. For those with considerably less time, don’t despair. Instead, ensure that Española, Santa Cruz, Bartolomé and the eastern side of Isabela are all included, and you’ll return home enriched by some of the best sights, sounds and sensations that these beguiling islands have to offer.

Another factor when travelling is to work out when to go to the Galapagos Islands. Make sure you have a good read through the relevant information to ensure you are in the right place at the right time to maximise your wildlife experience.

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