Galapagos Islands – The Enchanted Isles

bartolome island galapagos islands

Ships at anchor at Bartolome Island, Galapagos Islands

When Charles Darwin visited the Galapagos Islands in the early 19th Century, he didn’t have much choice of what ship to use. The little wooden sailing vessel, HMS Beagle, had carried him and his crewmates over halfway around the world, from England, around Cape Horn, up the South American coast and then to the little collection of remote islands some 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador. It was here that he saw a perplexing array of animal and plant life that he’d never seen anywhere else.

Much of what he saw and collected on his trip to the Galapagos Islands helped form the basis of his book On the Origin of Species, a work that shook the foundations of science (and religion) more than almost any other work.

Today, the islands belong to Ecuador and are a UN World Heritage Site. They also have become a very popular tourist destination. Though you can stay in some very comfortable (even luxurious) lodges, most people prefer to see the islands by cruise ship. You can choose from smaller yachts that hold up to 16 passengers or larger cruise ships that hold 100+.

The best advice is to travel aboard the smaller ships. Because they spend less time moving large numbers of passengers on and off the boat, you’ll have more time to hike the trails and watch the fascinating wildlife. And, who wants to contend with a hundred other people on a beautiful remote beach or along a trail?

If you have issues with seasickness, you generally don’t have to worry, as the seas of the Galapagos Islands are rarely rough. However, if just looking at a glass of water make syou seasick, then you might be a candidate for one of the larger ships. Try to pick one like the Galapagos Explorer II, which holds about 100 passengers, and has excellent amenities. For nostalgia and style, you can’t beat the M/V Grace, a 16 passenger vessel that used to be the personal yacht of Princess Grace of Monaco.

If you’ve got the time, be sure to pick a cruise of around eight days. Any shorter and you won’t get the full experience of the magic of the Galapagos Islands. While it’s possible to do shorter cruises, it just doesn’t provide a cross section of the remarkable sites available to the visitor.

To reach the islands, you fly into either Quito or Guayaquil, Ecuador, overnight, then fly by jet to one of two airports in the Galapagos Islands. Quito is your best choice to fly into, as there are more choices of flights and it is a stunningly beautiful Spanish Colonial era city. Plus, it’s centralized location in the Andes (it’s at about 9,000 feet elevation), means you can take a few extra days and explore further, like the Otavalo Indian Market. Plan on spending another night on the mainland on your return, before catching your flight back home.

Your cruise or tour operator will make the reservations for your flight from the mainland to the islands because they have to make sure there’s enough space on the flight for all of the boat passengers.

A number of companies offer trips to the Galapagos. One of the most experienced tour operators is International Wildlife Adventures, which offers a variety of Galapagos Islands cruises and add-on land excursions to mainland Ecuador and Peru.

Galapagos Islands Gallery

[Photos courtesy International Wildlife Adventures]

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  1. Ah, sorry. I read the entire article on and it answers most of my questions about the Galapagos Islands.

  2. Man, do I ever want to visit the Galapagos! Does organize tours there? I’ve heard that you can’t actually stay on any of the islands so you have to stay on the boat that takes you there. Is that true?
    And thanks for posting on

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