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Monday, August 14, 2017

Galapagos Islands: Best Time to Go, How to Get There and Where to Stay

There is no place in the world like the Galapagos Islands. Tours and cruises to the mysterious islands vary, but there is something for everyone to enjoy in this amazing natural wonder. Experience the unusual volcanic landscape, the array of marine life and the idiosyncratic animals on a Galapagos holiday.

There are a few variations of Galapagos island tours available, depending on how much time you have to spend in this beautifully unique and awe-inspiring place.

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The Galapagos Islands are a small archipelago of islands belonging to Ecuador in the eastern Pacific Ocean. The islands are quite remote and isolated, lying some 620 miles (1000 km) west of the South American continent. The Galapagos consists of 13 main islands and 6 smaller isles, which together embrace some 19,500 sq miles (50,000 sq km) of ocean.

Only five of the islands are inhabited by humans; the rest are set aside for the province's protected fauna and flora in the National Parks which occupy all but about three percent of the Galapagos. Tours to the parks will introduce you to a land where giant tortoises live for a century, where birds have blue feet, and where you can see vastly different species like marine iguanas and flightless cormorants taking to the water together.

Best Time to Visit The Galapagos:

From June to November, you can expect cool winds, occasionally bringing with them a light misty-type drizzle called "garúa." Temperatures average in the 70s F (20°-24° C) during the day and lower at night. Winds can cause choppy seas, especially in open water between the islands.

Each month brings unique climate variations and wildlife viewing opportunities. Peak season for naturalist tours and the best time to visit is typically December through May when the seas are the calmest and the weather the warmest. During the peak season you can expect temperatures ranging from the 70s to the mid-80s, making pleasant conditions for hiking and wildlife-spotting. However summer months June, July and August are also very popular as the animals are more active. September through November is typically low season when most boats will leave the islands for dry dock. For divers peak season is from July - November when whale sharks can be found at Wolf & Darwin.

So, although the Galápagos is beautiful year-round, its peak season and best time to visit is from December to May.

Getting There:

By Plane:

Flights to the Galapagos are relatively easy to arrange and depart from Quito and Guayaquil on a daily basis for the Isla Baltra Airport, about two hours by public transport from Puerto Ayora, the main settlement of the Galapagos, on the central island of Santa Cruz. There are also daily flights to San Cristóbal. The airport is a 20 minute walk from the center of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.

Isla Baltra Airport

Flights from Guayaquil are slightly less expensive than from Quito, however as there is more availability from Quito as there are typically 2 flights a day from Quito and only 1 from Guayaquil. Most flights from Quito route through Guayaquil.

It's not possible to buy a one way ticket without proof of transportation from the islands. It's easy however to change the date of your return ticket or to switch your departure to another island.

Find Cheap Flights to Ecuador

Galapagos Cruises:

The best way to absorb the variety of the islands is to embark on a Galapagos cruise which will allow you to see how the animals differ from place to place. You may even be able to notice the variations of finches (or "buntings") from island to island just as Charles Darwin did on his famous voyage in the nineteenth century.

You can choose between a number of Galapagos cruise experiences, with the craft varying depending on your tastes and length of the voyage. There are graceful sail-powered yachts; large, sturdy vessels that have facilities for ninety passengers; and smaller, sleek luxury yachts with about 20 cabins.

Each boat on the best Galapagos cruises will have its own naturalist guide who will accompany you on daily excursions to the islands, explaining about the curious and unique species of animals you may come across, and how they influenced Charles Darwin's great theory.

Most people book their place well in advance (as the boats are usually full during the high season). Booking a cruise with a company in your home country or on-line is usually the most convenient. There are many travel companies selling Galapagos cruises - it is recommended that you look for those that are dedicated experts, with agents that can answer all of your questions about Galapagos.

If you haven't the time to deal with all the planning and figuring out itineraries, transport and cruises, you would be better served checking out the excellent cruise tours offered by G Adventures  and Intrepid Travel.  (gadventures.co.uk for visitors from the United Kingdom) Both of these companies have an excellent reputation around the world.

Staying There:

If boats aren't your thing, or perhaps you would prefer a more settled experience on your Galapagos holiday, cruises aren't the only option. There are hotels and other accommodation in the towns of Puerto Ayora, Puerto Villamil, and Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. The recommended hotels are on Santa Cruz. The Royal Palm Galapagos is one example. It is an exclusive retreat with a dual emphasis on seclusion and nature. Another is the Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel, an award-winning hotel only a minute walk to the beach!

Finch Bay Ecohotel, Puerto Ayora

If you really want to see lots of good wildlife, you will need to combine your stay on these islands with daily boat tours to other islands.

Hotels and hostels are available on San Cristóbal, Santa Cruz, Isabela, and Florena from $25-$500+, while hotels along the water are generally full especially in Santa Cruz. During peak season (Christmas & Easter weeks) as well as during special events all hotels are frequently sold out well in advance. However, if you are traveling at other times of the year you may be able to find availability by just showing up.

Red Mangrove Lodges
A compromise between the cruise and hotel experiences is one of the Red Mangrove Galapagos Lodges. This property is an excellent base for snorkeling, diving, hiking, and island hopping wildlife tours. Overlooking the ocean, it's an 8-minute walk from the beach and features stylish accommodations with free Wi-Fi and breakfast in Puerto Ayoras, the largest town in the Galapagos Archipel. A restaurant and a bar are featured. Santa Cruz Island Dock is a 5-minute walk away.

Their buffet breakfast including bread, yogurt, fruits and eggs is served daily. The restaurant serves a wide variety of international dishes. Drinks can be enjoyed at the bar.

Red Mangrove Lodges

Shuttle services to the continent and to the other islands can be arranged. Red Mangrove Aventura Lodge is 45 minutes from Baltra Airport on boat.

Galapagos Tours:

Galapagos Islands tours tend to begin in Ecuador, the nearest mainland landmass and the country that controls and protects the islands. Ecuador's busiest port and largest city is Guayaquil. Some ten-night Galapagos cruise packages will set aside a day for exploration of this vibrant city with its historical district of wooden buildings and riverside monuments.

Again, If you're looking to save a lot of time with all the planning and figuring out itineraries, and transport, check out the excellent Galapagos tours offered by G Adventures  and Intrepid Travel.  (gadventures.co.uk for visitors from the United Kingdom).

Peru is the other gateway country for Galapagos Island tours, so you should bear in mind that the best tour operators will help you form an itinerary of your own. Imagine seeing the wonders of the Machu Picchu and the Galapagos in one holiday!

However you approach your Galapagos cruise, the islands are certain to amaze you. Where else can you walk on a cooled lava flow and then have a conversation with a sea lion on the beach?

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