the Galapagos Islands

16 Reasons Why The Galápagos Islands Are Worth Visiting

The Galápagos islands are one of the world's most popular destinations for rare wildlife watching from sea lions and marine iguanas on land, to green sea turtles, manta rays and sharks in the sea. Throw in pristine beaches, towering volcanoes, and lush highlands, and you have one of most diverse and beautiful places in the world. Here are 15 reasons why the Galapagos Islands are worth visiting.

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Are The Galápagos Islands Worth Visiting?

Hell yeah, of course the Galápagos Islands are worth visiting! (as long as you can afford it)

 

These islands are some of most unique landscapes on earth, and there’s nowhere else in the world you can find a list of incredible species such as the Giant Tortoise, Darwin Finch, and Galápagos Fur Seal.

 

If you are a nature lover then visiting the Galapagos islands is a must!

 

And whilst the price of a visit can be off-putting, visiting the Galapagos Islands can easily be done on a budget if you avoid the expensive cruises, haggle for tours, and enjoy all the free activities on the islands. 

Pinnacle Rock, Galapagos Islands

16 Great Reasons To Visit The Galapagos Islands

1. You Can Visit The Galapagos Islands On A Budget (Kind of)

When people hear the Galapagos Islands, they may think of cruise ships, liveaboards, luxury hotels, expensive restaurants and return flights.

 

None of these things makes a traveller jump with joy when planning a trip to the Galápagos Islands.

 

However, a visit to the Galápagos Islands can be done on a budget (kind of).  The return flights ($200-250) and entrance fees  and taxes ($100) are what cost the most. 

 

But once you’re there you can easily stick to a budget of $50 a day.

 

Here’s how:

 

  • Eat at inexpensive local restaurants
  • Explore the islands by bicycle or foot
  • Enjoy the many free activities
  • Find the cheapest tours by booking last minute

 

These are some of the ways I managed to save money whilst visiting the Galapagos Islands.

Check out how to visit the Galapagos Islands on a budget with these 13 great tips:

 

 

Joe and a friend with Sea Lions on the Galapagos Islands

2. You Don't Need To Book An Expensive Cruise To See The Galapagos Islands

Most travellers get put off by the Galapagos Islands as they think they need to purchase an expensive liveaboard cruise or naturalist guide to see everything.

 

Neither of which is true.

 

You can easily explore the islands by yourself without a guide, travel between them easily by ferries and see almost everything for free.

 

I spent 5 days on the islands, kept myself busy everyday with free activities and saw so much!

See how I visited the Galapagos Islands without a tour in the full step-by-step guide linked below:

 

 

3. The Animals Are Everywhere And Easy To See

On the Galapagos Islands, you won’t have to worry about taking tours to see the famous animals.

 

They are all over the place and often get in your way. There’s a real sense that the Islands are their home rather than humans.

 

Here’s a list of all the animals you’ll see:

 

  • Sea lions and marine iguanas are the easiest to see and can often be found chilling on the beaches.
  • Walking paths will lead to blue-footed boobies and frigate birds nesting among the volcanic rocks and cliffs.
  • You’ll see the Galápagos giant tortoise strolling through the highlands (deserving of its own spot on this list)
  • You can watch Darwin finches bounce around the paths watching you curiously.
Iguanas on the Galapagos Islands

4. The Free Activities On The Galapagos Islands Are Excellent

You can do so many things for free on the Galapagos Islands!

 

Pristine beaches, free museums, hiking trails and some of the best snorkelling in the world. You don’t need to spend money on the Galápagos Islands to have a good time.

 

My favourites included:

 

  • Playa Punta Carola – a beach on Isla San Cristobal full of sea lions
  • The Darwin Centre – a fantastic museum on Isla Santa Cruz filled with information on all the species living on the islands, along with an enclosure raising baby giant tortoises.
  • Tortuga Bay – a great place to go snorkelling among mangrove forests where you will find baby white tip sharks, manta rays and green sea turtles.
  • Las Greitas – a huge rock formation filled with water where you can go swimming for the day

Check out this post for list of all the free activities on each island:

 

 

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5. The Paid Tours On The Galapagos Islands Are Also Great

Whilst you can only stay on 3 of the 13 islands in the Galápagos.

 

However, you can visit the many of the others on day trips.

 

Here are some of the best tours to look out for on the islands:

 

  • The unique rock formations of Bartolome island.
  • Pinzon Island is surrounded by shallow reefs full of baby sharks and turtles, perfect for a day of snorkelling. I did this tour and had a great time snorkelling among the baby sharks. We even saw a Galapagos Shark which was pretty scary!
  • The Sierra Negra volcano has the second largest caldera in the world, and you can spend a day climbing it if you want. This tour is great value for money.
  • Las Tintoreras is a guided kayak tour on Isabela takes you through the islets and mangrove trees on the island to see Galápagos penguins, blue-footed boobies, marine iguanas, sea lions, blue herons and crabs.

TOP TIP:  Try to avoid booking tours online for the Galapagos Islands. The one linked above is the only one I've found that's good value for money. The best thing to do is to window shop tour agencies on the islands and then haggle for the best prices. You can find much cheaper prices as the agencies want to fill up seats. My Pinzon island tour was $100 which is about half the price of ones advertised online. 

Giant Tortoises In The Highlands of Santa Cruz (Galapagos Islands)

6. There Are Cheap Hostels And Hotels On The Galapagos Islands

Whilst luxury hotels dominate the islands, there are a handful of hostels and smaller hotels that cater to budget travellers. 

 

You can find dorms from around $18-25 which are at the top end for Ecuador but remain affordable. Hotel rooms are available from about $25 in the low season.

 

This means you can visit each of the islands without having to worry about paying for expensive accommodation.

 

Here are the cheapest accommodations I’ve found: 

Cheap Accommodation On Isla San Cristobal

Cheap Accommodation On Isla Santa Cruz

Cheap Accommodation On Isla Isabela

Views From Mirador Cerro Tijeretas, San Cristobal Island (Galapagos Islands)

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7. The Incredible Natural History

Aside from the jaw-dropping wildlife experiences you are bound to have, the islands are most famously known as the place that inspired Charles Darwin and cemented his theory of evolution.

 

Each of the islands has a museum or centre dedicated to teaching Darwin’s work, highlighting the conservation efforts on the islands and the importance of looking after our planet.

 

You will leave the islands with a greater understanding and appreciation for the natural world.

 

 

The Galapagos Islands are the many reasons for visiting and backpacking Ecuador in 2024. For more great reasons, check out the post below:

 

 

8. The Insane Landscapes

Along with having some of the rarest animals in the world, the Galápagos Islands will be unlike any other landscape you’ve come across on your travels.

 

The islands formed because of the powerful volcanic activity in the region.

 

These new land formations were seeded with plants and animals from the mainland for millions of years, creating a melting pot of fauna, flora and geological activity that has produced a place unlike any other on earth.

 

  • Active volcanoes, lava fields and lava tubes.
  • Untouched fine sand beaches dominated by sea lions
  • Highland lagoons full of nesting birds.
  • Crystal clear blue waters and mangrove forests

 

The Galápagos Islands are an incredibly unique and necessary sight for any traveller searching for the best natural wonders.

9. The Galapagos Islands Are Easy To Get To And Travel Between

With a consistent schedule of flights from either Guayaquil or Quitogetting to the Galápagos Islands is easy.

 

Yes, there are additional admin and fees, but this only adds an hour or so to the standard check-in time.

 

Once you land, you’re a short taxi journey away from any of the main towns and the free activities I’ve mentioned are allwithin walking distance, so you’ll be exploring in no time.

 

Travelling between the islands is also stress-free.

 

Small ferries leave each island daily in the morning, cost around $30 and take between 2-3 hours to transport you to the next island.

The full step-by-step guide to booking flights and completing check-in can be found here:

 

 

10. 5 Days Is Enough Time To See The Galapagos Islands

Five days is the perfect amount of time to see two of the islands and leave feeling like you’ve had a complete experience.

 

You can be in and out before you know it, leaving with unforgettable memories and sticking to a budget!

 

I saw San Cristobal and Santa Cruz island in 5 nights / 6 days and was fully satisfied with my trip.

Check out my DIY land-based Galapagos itineraries to see how easy it is to see everything in a short period of time:

 

 

Galapagos Islands From Above

11. The Diving Is Some Of The Best In The World

The Galápagos Islands are host to some of the rarest animals under the sea as well as on land.

 

The volcanic rock formations and ocean currents around the islands attract a diverse range of creatures, both large and small.

 

If you love diving, like I do, then diving in the Galápagos Islands is a must.

 

Some of the world’s best dive sites are here such as Gordon Rocks where you can see schools of hammerheads or Kicker Rock where sea turtles, sea lions and sharks are in abundance.

TOP TIP:  You need an Advanced Open Water Diver Qualification and 30+ dives to dive in the Galapagos Islands due to the difficult conditions such as strong currents. I recommend going with Eagle Ray Diving for top quality dive masters. I went with them to dive Gordon Rocks!

12. The Snorkelling Is Also Great

If you’ve never dived before then don’t worry, the snorkelling is some of the best in the world as well.

 

At most beaches you can go snorkelling, and you will soon find yourself swimming with sea lions and turtles.

 

  • Try Playa Mann on San Cristobal to swim with sea lions.
  • On Santa Cruz, Tortuga Bay is the best spot for snorkelling between the mangrove forests searching for baby white tip sharks, rays and turtles.
  • Concha de Perla on Isabela is a quiet bay with crystal clear waters perfect for swimming, and you can even swim with the penguins if you’re lucky.
TURTLE IN THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS
Best Backpack For South America (Osprey Farpoint)
Best Backpack For South America (Osprey Farpoint)

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I love the Osprey Farpoint 50-70L.

 

It’s reasonably priced and perfect for first timers visiting South America.

 

Read more here about why it’s so great or head to the official site below:

13. The Beaches Are Unreal

The beaches on the Galápagos Islands are untouched.

 

  • Playa Punta Carola or Mann on San Cristobal for some of the best sunsets watching on the islands.
  • Playa Estacion on Santa Cruz feels as if you’ve found a hidden beach no one else knows about with only marine iguanas warming themselves on the black volcanic rock for company.
  • Tortuga Bay is perfect for a long, white sand beach to stroll along and observe marina iguanas coming out of the sea for a rest.

14. The Weather Is Great Year Round

The Galápagos Islands have two seasons – the dry season and the wet season.

 

  • The wet season is from January to June, and the temperatures are warmer with a higher chance of rain.
  • The dry season is from June to December, and the temperatures are cooler with a higher chance of a midday shower.

I doubt you’d notice a difference between the two seasons though. Because the islands are on the equator, it means that the weather hardly fluctuates much.

 

I visited in October, and it rained a couple of days but not enough to ruin my plans. 

For more information on when to visit the islands for specific animals and tourist seasons:

 

 

Tortuga Bay, Isla Santa Cruz (Galapagos Islands)

15. It's The Only Place to See The Giant Land Tortoise

The giant land tortoise deserves it’s own spot on this list. 

 

As a bit of a nerd and animal lover (I did Biology at university), I’ll take any travel opportunity to see animals, whether it’s in the Bolivian Amazon or whale watching in Montanita.

 

You can see these majestic creatures in two places:

 

  • San Cristobal – at the rehabilitation centre in the north you can wander around the semi-natural habitat and see them up close. You can also watch feeding time with the babies if you arrive at the right times.
  • Santa Cruz – you can rent your own bike or book a tour to visit them in the highlands.

16. It's A Once In A Lifetime Trip

The reason we’re happy to lug oversized backpacks around the world and leave the comfort of home is to see new places and create new memories.

 

I left my home in the U.K to experience deserts, mountains, and other landscapes worlds apart from England’s dull green hills (don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful country, but when you’ve grown up around it, it certainly isn’t exciting anymore)

 

I nearly didn’t go to the Galápagos Islands due to the extra admin and cost, but that would have gone against my personal travel philosophy and why I went travelling in the first place.

 

If you are in Ecuador and debating whether to go then just do it. You won’t regret it. We certainly didn’t. 

 

When will you be back in Ecuador again?

 

It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. Go now.

Check out the post below to see how you can visit the Galapagos Islands and Machu Picchu for the trip of a lifetime:

 

 

Sea Lions On San Cristobal Islands (Galapagos Islands)

How To Get To The Galapagos Islands

You have to fly to the Galapagos Islands and flights leave daily from Quito or Guayaquil.

 

You can fly into two of the islands: San Cristobal or Santa Cruz.

 

I always recommend flying into San Cristobal as the town is a 5-minute drive from the airport. 

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