The legendary group of islands, where Darwin got his first ideas and proof for the theory of evolution, where nature is unspoiled and unique, The Galapagos Islands.
Galapagos, a group of 21 volcanic islands situated in the Pacific, west of Ecuador. It is not the best place for budget travel and the number of people visiting the sights is limited. Most of the islands you are able to visit only with a licensed guide, some not at all.
You can visit Galapagos on a guided cruise trip. There is a big variety of the boats, destinations, and length of the cruises.
You can fly into Isla Santa Cruz and find accommodation from Puerto Ayora and do your own excursions from there. Islands San Cristobal and Isabela also have accommodation.
I decided to buy flights from the mainland of Ecuador and we flew into Santa Cruz from Guayaquil. Capital Quito is also another hub for the islands. In Santa Cruz, you are able to explore the island independently and in the town is loads of travel agencies to book tours for other islands.
Entry Fee for foreigners is 100 USD which you need to pay at the airport on your arrival.
Isla Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz has one town. From Puerto Ayora you can find many hotels, tour agencies for day trips and restaurants for dining. In Santa Cruz you are able to discover the island yourself.
Turtles and lava tunnels
On the highlands of Santa Cruz you can see giant turtles almost everywhere but close to Santa Rosa are couple turtle farms to visit. You can combine a trip to see the turtles with exploring lava tunnels.
The best way to go is to rent bikes. Follow the main road to the airport all the way to Santa Rosa and then follow the road through the town and a little bit forward. You can see signs on that road when to turn.
The way to Santa Rosa is up the hill so it’s 1-2 hours cycling. But coming down shouldn’t take you more than half an hour. Remember to pack enough drinks but from Santa Rosa you can find a restaurant and a mini market for eating.
A gorgeous white sand beach only a half an hour walk away from Puerto Ayora. Have a relaxed day at the beach or rent a kayak for some exploring. Perfect beach with a crystal clear water and some wildlife!
You can find the route to Tortuga Bay from on top of small steps from the south side of Puerto Ayora. Remember snacks, these are no services on the beach.
Isabela is the largest one of the islands in Galapagos. You can get there without a tour as well. There are ferries leaving from Puerto Ayora Port to Puerto Villamil in Isabela all day but I recommend leaving early on morning cause it’s about two hour boat ride.
Isabela also has lots of wildlife from penguins to sea lions, flamingos, land and water iguanas, marine life and birds.
In Puerto Villamil is many restaurants and hotels to stay as well. But remember to bring cash because there are no ATM’s or banks on this island.
Isabela is formed by six volcanoes five of them being active. Sierra Negra is the closest volcano to visit from Puerto Villamil. You can go there with an arranged tour, taxi or a combination of bus and 8 km hike.
Tortoise Breeding Center
See turtles from giants to babies and learn about the important project. There is five different tortoise breeds in Isla Isabela. The distance from the village is walkable being less than 2 km.
On the way from Puerto Villamil to the Tortoise Breeding Center, you can choose to walk through the lagoons. Follow the cobblestone path around this unique landscape and four lagoons with pink flamingos and other wildlife.
Concha de Perla
A small bay on a short walking distance from the port is a perfect place for some snorkeling. You have a good chance to see a lot of marine life including sea lions and penguins.
Many beautiful beaches like Playa de Amor’s tidal pools or more intimate Playa del Estero.
Check also lava tunnels, Tagus Cove and Las Tintores for wildlife. But to visit you need to be accompanied by a guide so plan ahead!
Snorkeling in Galapagos
We bought a guided day trip including everything for the day to do some snorkeling. Galapagos is great for diving and especially famous for hammerhead sharks but unfortunately, I still haven’t tried diving.
The trips are quite expensive for a low budget traveler but I think it definitely paid off. Best snorkeling experience ever seeing loads of sea life from fishes to octopuses, swimming with sea lions and meeting a bunch of whitetip sharks.
And not to brag, we saw a killer whale what I heard is not so common sight in Galapagos. Also, we met an amazing massive manta ray and not lying it was at least three meters wide!
You can find many tour agencies from Puerto Ayora and I recommend checking few before buying any to get the best deal. There is a lot of variety depending what you want to see and do and when.
The unique nature and fearless wildlife of Galapagos make it a truly a memorable experience. I hope I have a chance to visit there again some day.