Galapagos Travel Guide | Marie Claire

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From giant tortoises to marine iguanas to penguins, the Galápagos Islands are teeming with wildlife. The Galápagos offer unparalleled opportunities to swim with turtles and reef sharks, befriend playful sea lions, observe rare mating rituals in nature, and trek through spectacular landscapes ranging from white-sand beaches worthy of a postcard with hard volcanic rocks. To visit this bucket list destination, plan ahead, to preserve Galapagos National Parkthe government limits the number of travelers who can visit at any one time.

To get to the Galapagos Archipelago, first fly to Quito (UIO) or Guayaquil (GYE) on the Ecuadorian mainland. From Guayaquil, it’s about a two-hour flight to San Cristóbal, the gateway to the Galapagos. Once inside the national park, you will need to be accompanied by a guide, so book ahead. Most people opt for a boat trip which allows you to explore the other islands. Below, the must-see spots to visit in the Galapagos.

Consciously cruising

Most people opt for an inclusive boat tour so you can explore the protected islands more, as the islands have no hotels, restaurants or development on land. Choose carefully to find the right fit considering you will be eating and sleeping, as well as participating in many activities, on the boat.

Most Galapagos ships carry less than 100 passengers and the Ecoventura The luxury yacht Origin allows a maximum of 20 guests. The Relais & Châteaux ship boasts state-of-the-art facilities including comfortable cabins, a decadent sundeck, multi-course dinners and an open bar. The environmentally conscious company also desalinates its own water on board and employs two naturalist guides on each seven-night cruise.

Start on the island of San Cristóbal

San Cristóbal Island is the first island Charles Darwin visited in the Galápagos and will likely be the first island you see as well. For a history lesson on the region, visit the Interpretation Center and admire its incredible architecture while learning about the islands. Nearby, the beaches are filled with sea lions to offer you your first welcome.

Devil’s Crown Snorkeling

The Galápagos Marine Reserve offers exceptional snorkeling, especially when the waters are colder. Try a drifting snorkel in the sunken Devil’s Crown volcanic crater or snorkel by the sea to spot Galapagos penguins or swim with sea lions.

Spot giant tortoises in Santa Cruz

In Santa Cruz, you can visit the lava tubes of El Mirador and Los Gemelos, a pair of massive craters. But the island’s most notable attraction is Rancho Primicias, where giant Galápagos tortoises roam.

Kayaking with wildlife

In the crystal clear waters of the ocean and in the secret coves and bays along the shore, kayaking will give you the opportunity to observe marine fauna.

Discover the wildlife in Española

On Española, one of the oldest Galápagos Islands, see the blue-footed boobies and the waved albatross, a species that only nests on Española Island with a distinctive (and comical) bonding dance. Keep an eye out for marine iguanas on the lava rocks, which are normally black. During mating season, however, they turn vibrant reds and greens.

Relax like a sea lion in Gardner Bay

Gardner Bay is one of the best beaches in the Galápagos (and maybe the world!) with white sand and brilliant blue water. The only crowds you will find are colonies of sea lions basking in the sun.

Visit an old-school post office in Floreana

A Galápagos tradition, Post Office Bay on Floreana Island is where English whalers put a barrel in the late 18th century to leave messages while ships were at sea for years at a time. To date, visitors can drop a postcard into the barrel (no postage required!) and view cards left by previous visitors to see if there are any near your hometown that you can hand-deliver.

If you fell in love with the Galápagos Islands, book a trip.

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