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Top Trip Memories

  • Getting closer to wildlife than at any other place on the planet, on islands where animals have no fear of humans.
  •  Viewing the mesmerizing courtship “dance” of the blue-footed booby, in which the two birds lift one foot, then the other, and peck at each other with their bills.
  •  Snorkeling among sea lions, sea turtles, barracuda, and (harmless) sharks in crystal-clear, warm waters.
  •  Spotting the world’s most northerly -- and some of the world’s smallest -- penguins, frolicking in the water.
  •  Marveling at sleek black frigate birds – known as the “pirates of the sea” – as they swoop down and steal food out of other birds’ mouths.
  •  Stepping carefully amid hundreds of marine iguanas as they emerge from the sea where they’ve been feeding, then scurry up on the rocks to dry out.
  •  Watching as colorful red-orange Sally Lightfoot crabs skitter across a shallow tide pool.
  •  Climbing a volcanic hill via boardwalk for a panoramic view, which astronaut Buzz Aldrin once compared to a moonscape.
  •  Sharing a field with dozens of giant tortoises as they inch along, looking like they just emerged from the dinosaur era.
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Tour Tips

  • Guided tours are essential if you want to see Galapagos wildlife; even private yachts are required to hire guides if they wish to tour the islands.
  •  Small ship cruises allow you to make more island landings than big ships, and they can also get much closer to land to view penguins and other creatures visible mainly from the sea.
  •  A Galapagos tour can be expensive – when you add up flight costs from the Ecuadorian mainland along with flying to Ecuador and the cost of the cruise and park entrance fee – so choose your tour company carefully.
  •  Don’t even think about bringing home lava rock or other natural features from the Galapagos – you’d be subject to a $3,000 fine if caught.
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Galapagos Islands Travel Reviews & Ratings

4.9 out of 5

99%

recommend

110 Reviews

  • Excellent 97
  • Great 11
  • Average 1
  • Disappointing 1
  • Terrible 0

Rating Details

  • Value
    4.9
  • Guide
    4.9
  • Activities
    4.9
  • Lodging
    4.9
  • Transportation
    4.9
  • Meals
    4.9

Tour Reviews

5.0
January 2017
Myths and Mountains
Recommend: Yes
My family and I had a great time in the Galapagos in May 2015 and the ship you recommended to us after listening to our preferences worked out really well. The ratio on board the ECLIPSE of 12 passengers per naturalist was a big win, and so was having a professional photographer like Jonathan Green on board. We were able to take phenomenal photos after just 12 hours of lessons with him – the fact that this was a photography expedition was a nice touch. The work you did on our behalf, your fast responses to so many of my questions, all of it was just outstanding and couldn’t be more perfect. All in all, it was a memorable Galapagos trip. Thank you, Allie.
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Thank you for making this memorable trip happen!

Classic Galapagos: Cruising Darwin’s Enchanted Islands

5.0
January 2017
Myths and Mountains
Recommend: Yes
Our first visit to the enchanting Galapagos Islands in December 2014 was simply spectacular! We’re still talking about it—the wildlife captivated our senses (omg!), the grayish-blackish mysterious landscapes, the impossibly white sand beaches dotted with playful sea lion pups & iguanas, diving the gorgeous aquamarine water, the tiny penquins, the giant tortoises and so many endemic wild ones only found in the Galapagos.

Allie—thank you for making this memorable trip happen! Because of your clout and exceptional relationship with Ecoventura, we got the best cabin and best seats on domestic flights. My Galapagos detailed itinerary was a surprise hit with my cruise buddies! This trip could not have been stress-free without your guiding star and expertise of the Galapagos. You are a consummate professional Allie!!
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5.0
January 2017
Myths and Mountains
Recommend: Yes
Allie was terrific, very quick responses to any questions, very good insight into the pros and cons of different boats
5.0
January 2017
Myths and Mountains
Recommend: Yes
Allie responded very quickly to my e-mails. The snorkeling was probably my favorite activity, but the whole trip aboard the Coral 1 was incredible for my family. The accommodations were great and everything from food to staff was exceptional. Here are some tips you might find helpful for the Galapagos:
– Make sure any shoes you bring are already broken in and comfortable.
– Bring more sunscreen than you think you’ll need.
– Bring sufficient cash for tips at the end of the cruise.
– Always pack some sort of upset stomach medication and Imodium.
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5.0
January 2017
Myths and Mountains
Recommend: Yes
Allie Almario was warm, personable and a consummate professional from the start. She listened to what our goals and interests were and then worked to best meet our wishes on this trip of a lifetime to the Galapagos Islands. Allie was recommended by a friend and boy was she right – Allie is the best!

We were totally taken care of from the moment we landed in Guayaquil to when we landed back home. The hotel in Guayaquil was lovely, the tour and tour guide around Guayaquil were just the right amount of information and activity. All the detail of flying to the Galapagos was completely taken care of too – we felt like total VIP’s! We loved our boat that Allie had found and she made sure we got the cabin we wanted! Our Galapagos experience was out of this world – the very best all around! And then upon returning to Guayaquil, we were treated with care and comfort once again.

Allie made all of this happen and we are forever grateful to her!! We will definitely come back to Allie Almario and Myths and Mountains for another trip of a lifetime experience!
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Top Tour Operators and Travel Companies


Classic Itineraries

Galapagos in 1 Week

Day 1-2, Quito: Take a tour of “Colonial Quito”, see La Compania church and the city of San Juan

Day 3-4, San Cristobal Island: Visit the Interpretation Center to learn the history of the islands. Playa Mann, spot the famous blue footed boobie and other indigenous bird species in Punta Pitt. Take zodiac rides around the island.

Day 5, Isla Espanola: See more rare and significant bird species including Darwin Finches. You’ll also see sea lions in Gardner Bay, and have the opportunity to go sea kayaking and snorkeling to view wildlife under the water’s surface.

Day 6-7, Santa Cruz Island: Las Primicias tortoise reserve, visit the Darwin Research Station. Spend some time in Puerto Ayora.

Trips that follow this itinerary:

Galapagos Coral East with Tucan Travel - 7 Days, basic trip

Galapagos Multi-Active Private with Butterfield & Robinson - 6 Days, luxury trip

Galapagos Islands Cruise with ROW Adventures - 8 Days, premium trip

Or see All Galapagos Islands in One Week Trips

Galapagos in 2 Weeks

Day 1-2, Quito: Explore Quito’s old town and discover the colonial history. See La Compania church and the city of San Juan. Visit the nearby cloud forest

Day 3, Isabela Island: take in the volcanic structures, explore Tagus Cove, observe marine iguanas, blue footed boobies, and sea lions. Visit the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center.

Day 4-5, Isla Floreana: Green Beach with it’s olivine crystals, snorkel with sea turtles, visit the “highlands”.

Day 6-7, Santa Cruz Island: Las Primicias tortoise reserve, visit the Darwin Research Station. Spend some time in Puerto Ayora.

Day 8, Isla Santa Fe: More snorkeling and wildlife viewing! Take a hike to see the prickly pear cactus forest.

Day 9, Punta Morena: See amazing lava formations, observe Galapagos penguins

Day 10, Isla Espanola: See more rare and significant bird species including Darwin Finches. You’ll also see sea lions in Gardner Bay, and have the opportunity to go sea kayaking and snorkeling to view wildlife under the water’s surface.

Day 11, Santiago Island: Puerto Egas, wildlife viewing

Day 12-13, San Cristobal Island: Visit the Interpretation Center to learn the history of the islands. Playa Mann, spot the famous blue footed boobie and other indigenous bird species in Punta Pitt. Take zodiac rides around the island.

Trips that follow this itinerary:

Classic Galapagos Southern Islands with Peregrine Adventures - 10 Days, premium trip

Galapagos Wildlife Adventure Cruise with Mountain Travel Sobek - 11 Days, premium trip

Galapagos West Islands with G Adventures - 10 Days, premium trip

Or see All Galapagos in Two Weeks Trips

Galapagos & Machu Picchu in 2 Weeks

Day 1-2, Cuzco: Take a walking tour, and use this time to acclimate to the altitude. Visit Plaza de Armas and take a Sacred Valley tour.

Day 3-4, Machu Picchu: Take the VistaDome train to Machu Picchu and explore the town of Agua Calientes. Get a good night sleep before the dawn bus up to the ruins for an all day tour learning the history of the famous site. Climb Huayna Picchu for spectacular views.

Day 5, Lima: Tour this colonial-era city

Day 6, Quito: Explore Quito’s old town and discover the colonial history. See La Compania church and the city of San Juan. Visit the nearby cloud forest.

Day 7, Santa Cruz Island: Las Primicias tortoise reserve, visit the Darwin Research Station. Spend some time in Puerto Ayora.

Day 8, Isla Espanola: See more rare and significant bird species including Darwin Finches. You’ll also see sea lions in Gardner Bay, and have the opportunity to go sea kayaking and snorkeling to view wildlife under the water’s surface.

Day 9, Santiago Island: Buccaneer Cove, incredible rock formations

Day 10, Bartholomew Island: Penguins, lava lizards, and beautiful white beaches

Day 11-12, San Cristobal Island: Visit the Interpretation Center to learn the history of the islands. Playa Mann, spot the famous blue footed boobie and other indigenous bird species in Punta Pitt. Take zodiac rides around the island.

Trips that follow this itinerary:

Machu Picchu & Galapagos with Exodus - 15 Days, value trip

Machu Picchu & Galapagos Cruise with SmarTours - 16 Days, premium trip

Machu Picchu and Galapagos with Explore! - 15 Days, value trip

Or see All Galapagos with Machu Picchu Trips

Galapagos Islands Trips & Tour Advice

The Galapagos Islands, which lie more than 600 miles off the west coast of the Ecuadorian mainland, were formed by lava flows millions of years ago. Most of the animals and birds that call it home swam, flew or were swept here by “rafts” of vegetation floating on the ocean. The Galapagos ecosystem is probably the best preserved in the world, partly because of its remoteness.

Nowhere else is the evolution of species as clear as here; the Galapagos are a natural laboratory, as Charles Darwin quickly discovered during his 19th-century expedition aboard the Beagle. (Finches evolved from one species to 13 here, due to differing conditions for survival on each island.)

The islands’ animals and birds display little or no fear of humans, which means you can get very close to them – as long as you don’t touch or disturb them or leave the designated paths.

Strict Enforcement

The Ecuadorian government enforces strict environmental codes on the Galapagos, a national park. Only a comparatively few visitors can go ashore on each island at one time.

With 140,000 total visitors per year, the Galapagos present a complex juggling act to tour operators, who must time their visits exactly or risk losing key stops on their itineraries. So you’re expected to rise early and be on time for excursions to shore.

Groups visiting any one site are limited to eight each, so even small ships carrying just 15 or 16 passengers must divide up and take separate trails. Of the eight most visited islands, just two – San Cristobal, site of the airport, and Santa Cruz, site of the largest town and Darwin Station -- are populated by humans, mostly island natives or long-term residents.

The rest of the islands are reserved for the wildlife: everything ranging from marine iguanas to sea lions, giant tortoises to sea turtles, penguins to albatrosses, red-throated frigate birds to blue-footed boobies (given to doing a courtship “booby” dance that entrances onlookers).

Small Ship Cruising

While some people visit the Galapagos by staying in one of the few towns and taking day trips by boat to other islands, the best method is to tour by a week-long small ship expedition-style cruise. (Large ships do cruise the Galapagos, but can’t visit as many sites, some of which are too fragile for large numbers of visitors.)

Taking a small ship allows you to visit up to two islands in a day as well as go snorkeling or diving for close-up views of sea turtles, tropical fish, and sea lions.

A number of tour operators run small ship cruises through the Galapagos, and, by government decree, they must hire local guides and ship captains. Staying on trails is paramount, so as not to disturb the fragile environments. Except for the tropical heat, most trails are easy for anyone to navigate, and being aboard a ship allows plenty of time to cool off between stops.

The Three Major Galapagos islands

Santa Cruz Island

This is the most populous and commercially developed of all the Galapagos, and the best place for viewing giant tortoises. You’re guaranteed to see tortoises when you visit the Charles Darwin Research Station, but even better is viewing these mammoth creatures in the wild, as they slowly migrate to find mates and lay their eggs.

Isabela Island

The largest of the Galapagos, Isabela Island is rich in many forms of wildlife. The island is home to thousands of giant tortoises, to the most northerly penguin colony on earth, and to the rare pink iguana, which inhabit the slopes of a volcano. Sea turtles, marine iguanas, offshore whales, and a number of bird species make this an island not to miss.

San Cristobal Island

This is the site of the Galapagos’ major international airport and second most populous in the chain, and where Charles Darwin first set foot in the islands in 1835. This is one of the prime birding areas of the Galapagos, with boobies –- Blue-footed, Red-footed, and Nazca – sharing the spotlight with finches and frigate birds. You can also snorkel amid sea turtles, sea lions, and tropical fish.

What to Expect From a Tour of  the Galapagos

Most tours to the Galapagos are small-ship cruises that last about one week and visit between six and eight islands. Tourism is strictly regulated by the Ecuadorian government to protect the fragile environment and wildlife.

This is a wildlife viewing experience like no other in the world. The animals have virtually no fear of humans since they have no reason to think any harm will come from them. In practical terms, this means you can get close to the wildlife but never touch or disturb the animals.

The government places a strict quota on which trails the highly trained guides can take groups each day and how many can be in each group. A particular trail may be closed one day and open the next. It’s imperative that you don’t stray off the trails.

Small-ship cruises – holding about 16 passengers -- are ideal because you can visit more islands and spend more time on each than if you’re based on one island and take day trips from there. You’ll also sleep and take all your meals onboard. Of course, you pay more for the privilege – but for most people travel to the Galapagos is a once in a lifetime trip, so you’ll want to make the most of it.

The Galapagos are hot, tropical and casual so you need only pack light, breathable clothing along with sturdy, comfortable walking shoes, sandals, hats, and long sleeves and leg coverings for skin protection, as well as any swim and snorkel gear you wish to bring. Cameras and binoculars are a must. Don’t expect to find drugstores, ATMs or many conveniences on most island stops, so pack what you may need in the way of supplies.

The Wildlife

Galapagos wildlife is truly extraordinary. Each island has its own signature type of bird, reptile or other creature. For instance, Genovesa Island is home to red-footed boobies – it’s the only island where visitors can view them -- but lacks the land reptiles found on other islands. 

Charles Darwin, whose Theory of Evolution and ideas about natural selection emanated from his trip to the Galapagos, first became intrigued by observing the varying species of mockingbirds on the four islands that he visited.

Other notable bird species include Darwin finches (whose beak variations and food-gathering sources from island to island also stirred Darwin’s interest), flamingoes, flightless cormorants, Galapagos penguins – the world’s most northerly penguins, found here right on the Equator – storm petrols, frigate birds, lava gulls, albatrosses, pelicans, swallowtail gulls, owls, hawks, herons, and Nazca, blue- and red-footed boobies, among many others.

Marine life is abundant: sea lions, fur seals (actually a type of sea lion), giant sea turtles, Sally Lightfoot crabs, marine iguanas (the world’s only marine lizards; they number in the hundreds of thousands here), and many species of tropical fish.

“Galapagos” means “islands of the giant tortoises,” and they’re a huge attraction on Santa Cruz Island. Galapagos tortoises can weigh more than 600 pounds and live to age 150 or longer. (One that recently died was present when Darwin landed here.) Their top speed is about one fifth of a mile per hour, so they’re very easy to photograph. The late Lonesome George, the most famous giant tortoise, was the last of his subspecies when he died in 2012. He refused to mate, despite valiant efforts by naturalists to find him romantic pairings.

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