Destinations

The Best Galapagos Islands

Which are the best Galapagos Islands to visit?

Given their volcanic origins, the 18 islands of the Galápagos share the same physical qualities: beautiful bays of white or golden and grey-flecked sand washed by clear but cool Pacific waters, limited but lush flora that’s often short in stature, and one or more peaks crowning the interior. 

No two islands, though, offer exactly the same wildlife-watching opportunities, so you must plan your itinerary with care.

The itineraries

Most visitors arrive at either San Cristobal or Baltra island – the locations of the two airports in the archipelago; those disembarking at the latter board their cruises at Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz island. Itineraries tend to visit several islands in the centre along with one or two in the east, west, north or south of the chain. The larger, more-established tour companies tend to have their pick of routes around the islands. This really has a significant impact on the quality of your Galápagos experience because it is far better to travel between islands at night – waking up every morning anchored off a new island is one of the many pleasures of this enthralling destination. 

Few, if any, itineraries manage a complete tour of the Galápagos, so visitors need to focus on the islands that harbour the unique wildlife they most want to see.

The islands

Of the ten most-visited islands, Isabela is by far the biggest and also best – but certainly not the only – place to see the giant tortoise. This lava-strewn, tectonically torn island with its 1,124-metre-high volcano is also home to marine and land iguanas and a nesting site for hawks, boobies, frigate birds, gulls and flightless cormorants. A similar selection of birds as well as land iguanas can be spied from Fernandina. Both of these islands are in the west of the archipelago.

Centrally located Santa Cruz offers great views from its peaks, two huge vegetation-filled sinkholes, perhaps the best of the beaches (although San Cristobal also has some superlative shoreline), several places to see giant tortoises in captivity and land iguanas aplenty.

Cacti-spiked Santa Fe is home to both land and marine iguanas, and – along with Española, Floreana, Rabida, North Seymour and the white sand-fringed Santiago – is sea lion central.

Besides its snorkelling possibilities, Española is one of the best islands for bird-lovers (followed by Isabela and Genovesa). Here, you can watch blue-footed boobies and waved albatross taking flight off the steep cliffs.

Finally, Bartolomé could offer the chance to snorkel near Galápagos penguins and definitely does boasts the classic viewpoint towards Pinnacle Rock and beyond.

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