Our top sights, highlights and exclusive tips
At the southern tip of Galapagos is Puerto Ayora, the largest town on this enchanting island. After settling in, head to the excellent bars and restaurants on Avenue Charles Darwin and have a Ceviche. A strong tourism industry means there is an international presence, and although the town itself serves as a base for many an explorer, it offers more than enough idyllic outdoor activities before a decamp.
1. Tortuga Bay 2. Charles Darwin Research Station 3. Santa Cruz Highlands 4. South Plaza Island 5. Bartolome Island 6. North Seymour Island 7. Santa Fe Island 8. Floreana Island 9. Dragon Hill
If wildlife is your thing, then Tortuga Bay is a feast for the eyes. A walking path provides a delightful route through this coastal bay as you look out in search of the rich marine life. A swim, snorkel, or dive will bring you closer to the numerous sea iguanas, so don’t miss out on one of these activities.
Charles Darwin Research Station is a foundation focused on sustainability and conservation of the rich biodiversity found on the islands. Here, you can witness the various stages of the Galapagos Tortoise as it grows to six feet in length and 500 pounds in weight. This educational experience will further enhance your understanding as you see firsthand the remarkable work that goes into ensuring wildlife inhabitants remain protected.
Head inland towards a peak altitude of 2,835 feet when entering the Santa Cruz Highlands. Due to its climate, this area attracts a variety of animals such as the Giant Galapagos Tortoise. No visit is complete without heading to El Chato Ranch—prepare to be amazed by all that it is you find when entering these highlands.
Mustard colored Iguanas (largest on-land population), prickly pear cacti, and blood red vegetation make South Plaza Islands one of the most unspoiled parts of the country. Colonies of sea lions and countless bird species, as well as quirky rock formations, all await you here.
Serene blue shades of waters surround this eastern volcanic islet. Take a short hike and look out across a horizon riddled with the sensational looking humps of neighboring islands. Pinnacle Rock presents a rock formation formed from magma. Enjoy a swim or snorkel in this wonderland of skylines and bubbling marine life.
An island formed by lava, North Seymour is covered with low bushes and plants such as Palo Santo and Opuntia (prickly pear). Birds are a big reason why many visit an underpopulated land that’s home to blue footed boobies, swallow-tailed gulls, as well as sea lions and iguanas.
The blue lagoon reached at Sante Fe Island once served as an anchoring point, and the name of the island was actually given by an admiral. The land iguana here is endemic, as is the rice rat, and several other species that have now colonized the island. Let a snorkel or dive to take you closer to underworld life.
Floreana Island was named after Ecuador’s first president, Juan Jose Flores, during the island’s colonization. Marine iguanas, giant turtles, sea lions, coupled with the sense of isolation make you feel as though you’ve left the urban world far behind. Fun fact: the first post office of the Archipelago’s was opened here.
Join one of the longest trails found anywhere in the Galápagos and journey through the desert-like landscape. If lucky, you may be able to glimpse a flamingo as it feeds from a saltwater lagoon. Look up and breathe in the coastal air of this magnificent landscape.
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