Galapagos Islands Destination Guide
Animals in the Galapagos Islands are used to human presence and exhibit no fear. You can easily move around nesting frigate birds, gaze at iguanas and giant tortoises, cosy up to blue-footed boobies and cormorants, go near sea lions, and watch penguins and fur seals do their thing. Albatrosses, flamingos, different types of finches and other birds enthral everyone, not just birdwatchers. Take to the sea and swim with turtles, dolphins, sea lions and penguins. Corals and schools of colourful fish make snorkelling so much fun. For divers, there are few places better than the Galapagos. With its rich and varied marine life, breeding season is when the sea really comes to life. Sharks and whales are commonly sighted during this time. Sailing, kayaking and hiking are some of the other popular activities on the islands.
The incredible wildlife and the amazing underwater world are the real attractions of the Galapagos Islands.
Use our Galapagos Islands Destination Guide below to choose what you wish to see and do during your stay in the Galapagos Islands. You should also take a look at our Galapagos Islands tours, which provide some adventurous exploration options. If you would like general information for your holiday in Ecuador, visit our Ecuador Country Guide.
Things to See & Do in Galapagos Islands
Follow the links below or scroll further down the page for details on some of the many interesting tourist attractions in the Galapagos Islands:
Puerto Ayora, on Santa Cruz Island, is the main settlement on the archipelago. A bustling harbour town with good tourist infrastructure, this is the hub of the islands' tourism industry. A wonderful base from which to explore the islands, Puerto Ayora has a few luxury hotels, many small Galapagos Islands hotels, restaurants and shopping establishments. Most of the tour operators are based here and visitors who haven't booked in advance can take their pick based on itineraries, services or prices offered.
Located near Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island, the Charles Darwin Research Station is a tortoise breeding centre, where endangered Galapagos tortoise species are reared and reintroduced into the wild. It also contains a museum and a national park information centre.
There are 13 main islands, 6 small islands and a number of atolls and rocks in the archipelago. All the islands are special in their own way and have different attractions. The landscape, the flora and the fauna, and even the climatic conditions change as you move from one island to another.
The headquarters of the Galapagos National Park Service is responsible for the conservation and management of the National Park (which accounts for about 97 percent of the total land area of Galapagos), It is located here, as is the Charles Darwin Research Station. The two sinkholes at Los Gemelos are a major attraction, along with the many lava tunnels created by hot lava. There is lush vegetation in the highlands and mangroves along the Black Turtle Cove. Tortoises and land iguanas are common, while sea turtles, sharks and rays can be spotted near the cove.
Animals found here include frigate birds with their characteristic red neck sacks, giant tortoises, red crabs, sea lions, blue- and red-footed boobies, lava gulls, marine iguanas and dolphins. A small historical museum, Centro de Interpretacion, is a major attraction. The main town is Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.
This is the largest and one of the most picturesque islands in the Galapagos and offer great views. Home to a variety of birds and tortoise species, the island also offers great hiking and mountain biking trails, as well as excellent scuba diving and snorkelling. Some of the volcanoes on the island are still active.
This is a great place to watch the famous flightless cormorants, the only ones in the world. Other wildlife includes marine iguanas, penguins, pelicans and sea lions. The youngest island in the Galapagos (around 1 million years of age), it is still active volcanically and last erupted in 1995.
The island offers wonderful snorkelling and birding. Wildlife includes fur seal, sea turtles, Darwin finches, Galapagos hawks and different species of herons.
North Seymour Island
Bird watchers will love this place located right next to Baltra (South Seymour). Large colonies of fabulous frigate birds (pictures of which you find on covers of every brochure on Galapagos) and blue-footed boobies nest here. The boobies fishing in flocks make great viewing. Sea lions and marine iguanas are also found on this small islet.
This beautiful island with red sand beaches is populated by sea lions and flamingos. It is a great place for snorkelling and swimming alongside penguins, iguanas and sea lions.
This island offers classic views of Galapagos. The view is particularly dramatic from the top of the extinct volcano. The landscape is barren, but the snorkelling is excellent. A wonderful place to watch Galapagos penguins and green turtles.
Few places in the world offer better snorkelling, swimming, scuba diving and sailing opportunities than Galapagos. Tortuga Bay on Santa Cruz and Cerro Brujo are wonderful beaches, while the surf off San Cristobal Island is absolutely spectacular. For those who would prefer to stay on land, there are many good hiking, climbing and biking trails on the islands.
Galapagos is one of the world's top ranked diving destinations, based on the dive locations and the abundance of marine life, which includes many of the biggest sea animals. However, beginners may find it difficult here because of the currents, cold waters and depths. Devil's Crown, a sunken volcano near Floreana Island, is a great dive spot with its corals and colourful fish. Academy Bay near Puerto Ayora is also a wonder place for diving. Diving and snorkelling equipment are usually available with tour operators. See the Galapagos tour pages for more information.
The Galapagos National Park rules are strict and taken seriously to ensure that tourism is not detrimental to the ecosystem; we all want the islands to be here in the same condition for future generations. Some guests may consider various rules to be excessive, but please be respectful of our regulations in order to maintain this unique archipelago in its current state. One of the most important rules of the national park is that a naturalist guide must be with you at all times. He or she will tell you what you can or cannot do while visiting the islands. Please obey their instructions.
The most important rules are the following:
1. Always follow the marked trail and never leave it.
2. Do not touch the animals.
3. Do not take souvenirs from the islands.
4. Do not get too close to animals.
5. Do not litter.
6. Do not smoke on the islands.
7. Do not take food to the islands.
8. Clean soles of your shoes before disembarking onto the islands. You may have carried some seeds endemic to one island and we would not want to introduce them to another.
9. Always stay together with your group.
We appreciate your understanding and participation in helping us to preserve the fragile environment in the Galapagos Islands.