Ecuador: Exploring the Galapagos Islands

My first taste of the Galapagos Islands was a national Geographic Special back in 1967. Since that time, this stunning string of islands has turned out to be a constant draw for scientists, photographers and tourists. It has never failed to disappoint.

Getting the islands is a challenge in itself.

International flights to Ecuador arrive in Quito or Guayaquil. Typically, travelers will spend a night or two in a local hotel before pressing on with a morning domestic flight (Air Tame or Aerogal) to the Galapagos; which lands at Baltra or San Cristobal. These domestic flights always start from Quito, and then stop at Guayaquil a scant 30 minutes later. After refueling, the flight then continues on to the Galapagos. The Galapagos Islands are about 600 miles west of the Ecuadorian mainland, and total flying time is around 1 hour and 40 minutes.

As long as you’re spending the night in Quito don’t just hang in your room all day. Get out and see the sights! The local Indian markets, the snow-capped Cotopaxi volcano, Mindo cloud forest, the Ecuadorian Amazon, or even combine with a trip to Machu Picchu and Cuzco in Peru. Heck, you might even put off your trip to Galapagos for a day or two!

Remember, you have to pay to have fun.

The Galapagos Park entry fee is $100, the cost of your cruise to the Islands can range from $400 to more than $2,000 depending on cruise length and quality, don’t forget a tip for the crew and guide. On top of this, tack on any other costs of hotels and tours on the mainland.

Pick an island and don’t look back.

At this point you’re limited only by your imagination, curiosity and sense of exploration. The Galapagos Island “Bartolome” is perhaps the most photographed and user-friendly location in the entire archipelago. In addition to stunning natural rock formations, sea lions and penguins can be seen around Pinnacle Rock. Penguins in a tropical setting? You have to se it to believe it! There’s also a sandy beach with great swimming and snorkeling. Great scuba diving and snorkeling is another added extra once you arrive.

Like all great vacations, the time will go by all too quickly. But you’ll relish the knowledge that you plucked the crown jewel of Equator during your visit.

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