Resting in the Pacific Ocean 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, these 19 volcanic islands have been inspiring travellers with their natural wonders for hundreds of years. Charles Darwin famously rocked up here during his voyage on the Beagle and the observations he made went a long towards proving his theory of natural selection.
Despite the popular image of the islands as essentially an ecological theme park containing little more than lizards and strangely named birds, the Galapagos boasts several towns (the largest, Puerto Ayora, has a population of around 18,000) which have built up around the tourist industry. Outside of these however, most of the islands are still preserved at their wild best, with fearless animals and stunning landscapes.
We’ve already told you All You’ll Ever Need to Know About Travelling the Galapagos Islands but now we’re giving you our pick of the top 5 experiences too!
Definitely not a “seen one island seen them all” kind of place, the landscape of the Galapagos ranges from sheer, craggy cliffs to white sand beaches to stunning hidden coves and taking a sailing trip is the best way to explore the diversity of this area.
Make port at several different islands, snorkel over extinct volcanoes and walk with fearless wildlife. Many of the best companies also have an on board naturalist who will help you gain a deeper understanding of exactly what you’re seeing (which makes a change from the classic “ahhhh look at the sea lion” approach we normally go for).
See Some Boobies
On the Galapagos Islands bird watching is not just for the dedicated twitchier. There are hundreds of species of birds, many of which are unique to the island including Darwin’s finches, Galapagos penguins and even the American flamingo. There are also the instantly recognisable blue footed boobies (snigger) whose mating dance is entertaining to say the least.
Visit a Real Life Jurassic Park
The Galapagos Islands are a place where you get the feeling that perhaps humans really aren’t that important after all. Instead jumping up and scurrying away at the first footsteps, the giant tortoises, sea iguanas and lava lizards will stoically go about their business scarcely bothered by your presence.
Some of these creatures look like they’ve just stepped out of the prehistoric and on to the beach next to you – though most are less aggressive than your standard Velociraptor.
Volunteer for Nature
Let’s face it, a collection of fantastically ecologically diverse islands miles away from the coast with limited development and a reputation as an exclusive destination are never going to be cheap! One of the most economical ways to see the islands is to give something back to them and volunteer.
Whether you’re helping to conserve wildlife species or native forests, or enjoying your weekends off with a visit to the beach, you’re bound to make some great friends while you work to make sure this island paradise will stay protected for those who come long after you.
Snorkel off Tortuga Bay
Unlike many island escapes, the Galapagos is not famed for its beaches – which tend towards the lavic rather than the luscious! Tortuga Bay is an exception to the rule, a beautiful stretch of sand leading to a sheltered natural cove perfect for a dip in the crystal clear ocean.
Strap on a snorkel and you might be lucky enough to spot sea turtles and small sharks while sharing the beach with basking marine iguanas and frolicking sea lions.