A one-of-a-kind wildlife adventure
Have you ever heard of Galapagos, Ecuador? Bike, hike, sail, kayak and paddleboard your way around the greatest wildlife hotspot on the planet. These 13 islands (five of them inhabited) way out in the Pacific Ocean, 1,000km from Ecuador’s coast, emerged from the bottom of the sea from volcanic eruptions, creating awesome lunar landscapes in which to seek out your next adventure. In turquoise mangroves, surreal cactus fields and white, black and red beaches, come within feet of amazing animals like marine iguanas and Galapagos penguins – these guys have never had to worry about predators so show no fear of humans. This is the natural world at its most real and the closest you’ll ever feel to being part of it.
With a miniscule human population of under 2,000, seahorse-shaped Isabela has a real laidback island vibe. Puerto Villamil, the largest settlement where most of the hotels and restaurants are based, is set along a creamy, palm-lined beach. But this isn’t a place simply to chill; Isabela has more things to do and see than anywhere else in the Galapagos with amazing snorkelling, incredible bike rides, a hike up an active volcano, and awesome boat trips in easy reach. Throw in the flamingos, giant tortoises and marine iguanas wandering in and around the town and it’s a wildlife paradise.
WHAT TO DO IN ISABELA
- Hike the active Sierra Negra volcano
- Bike to the Wall of Tears, passing by beautiful beaches, flamingo-strewn wetlands, surreal lagoons and stunning lookout points
- Stroll among giant tortoises in their natural habitat
- Soak up the island vibe at the beach bars
- Take a boat trip to Los Tuneles or Las Tintoreras and snorkel with white-tipped sharks, Galapagos penguins and manta rays
Formed when three or four volcanoes fused together, the eastern-most Galapagos island is full of weird and wonderful landscapes and ecosystems, with beautiful coral beaches and secret coves to explore. Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the charming capital of Galapagos province, is also home hundreds of vocal sea lions who’ll steal your heart before you leave the islands. San Cristobal was the first island visited by scientist Charles Darwin almost two hundred years ago, and if the wildlife inhabiting it today is anything to go by you can see what inspired and captured his imagination.
WHAT TO DO IN SAN CRISTOBAL
- Learn about amazing natural history at the Interpretation Centre
- Visit the fur seals, sea lions and blue-footed boobies on Kicker Rock
- Discover the beautiful, postcard perfect snorkelling beaches of Cerro Brujo and Ochoa Beach
- Kayak or Stand Up Paddleboard around the northern coast
- Spot all the birds at El Junco Lagoon, the freshwater lake full of life
Puerto Ayora, the main settlement in Santa Cruz where most of the hotels are located, may seem like a busy town, but that doesn’t stop the pelicans, sea lions, marine iguanas and white-tipped sharks from making their way around it, oblivious to the humans. Within walking distance are the world famous Interpretation Centre, wetlands, mangroves, salt lakes and weird cliffs to leap off, plus the brilliant daytrips to uninhabited islands and prime snorkelling spots. Up in the highlands the giants await – tortoises that is, in their natural habitat.
WHAT TO DO IN SANTA CRUZ
- Learn about Galapagos conservation projects at the Charles Darwin Research Station
- Leap of a cliff at Las Grietas
- Surf, snorkel or chill at Tortuga Bay, one of TripAdvisor’s best-rated beaches
- Come face to face with giant tortoises in their highland reserve
- Hike around two surreal empty magma chambers known as Los Gemelos
- Take a boat trip to see hidden coves, amazing marine life, and a hilltop crawling with iguanas