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Galapagos Islands
Galapagos Islands cruise brochure
Galapagos Islands Map
Galapagos Islands sealion on a beach
Galapagos Islands Tortoise
Galapagos Islands Cruise deck plans in travel brochures
Galapagos Islands: sealions snoozing on a boat
Galapagos Islands: Brown Pelican on volcanic rocks

The Galapagos Islands are world famous for their fearless wildlife and dramatic scenery.  The islands and their unique ecosystems inspired Charles Darwin to formulate his
theory of evolution.

The Galapagos Islands -  Ecuador Destinations

The Galapagos Islands are world-famous but they are not, as some people think, a country in their own right, nor are they part of Peru, despite the many package tours which combine the two.  A glance at the map shows that the Galapagos Islands are a province of Ecuador, nearly 1000km off the coast and in a time zone an hour behind the Ecuadorian mainland.
The Galapagos Islands are very young, geologically-speaking.  They are volcanic in origin and have stark, dramatic scenery.  Isabela and Fernandina islands were formed less than a million years ago, though the islands further east are older, up to perhaps 6 million years in the case of San Cristóbal.  There are fascinating lava flows to visit on the jagged, younger islands and you can see how the older islands, further east, have weathered over time with smoother rocks, more developed vegetation and different eco-systems.
It's generally thought that a cruise is the best way to see the Galapagos Islands and their unique wildlife, including the famous giant tortoises.  See the Galapagos Cruises page for tips on choosing a cruise itinerary and boat and check the Galapagos weather for the time of year you are planning to visit.  Not sure when is the best time to visit the Galapagos Islands?  Read the tips on the When to Visit page and see which month appeals from the Galapagos Wildlife Activity Calendar of highlights, then check for Galapagos discounts and offers and be sure to book your Galapagos flights in plenty of time.
If your budget does not stretch to a cruise, you can base yourself in one of various Galapagos hotels and take independent day trips or excursions to see the Galapagos Islands' wildlife, or buy a land-based Galapagos tour package.  You can combine the two - begin or end a four or five day Galapagos cruise with a cheaper couple of days in a hotel on one of the islands.
Volunteering in the Galapagos Islands is an alternative option, though this is still not cheap - expect to pay anything between $50 to $150 per day on a reputable volunteer project.
Don't count on being able to buy anything on the islands other than souvenirs.  Supplies are limited and expensive, so take along whatever batteries, sunscreen, etc., that you will need.  Having said that, the boat cabins are usually smaller than they look in the photos, so don't take everything you own.  (You may be able to store unneeded items at your hotel in Quito or Guayaquil).  If you can, minimise your impact on the delicate environment and fragile ecosystems of the Galapagos Islands by taking eco-friendly sunscreen and toiletries.  For more ideas for your Galapagos packing list, see What to Take to the Galapagos Islands.
Check with your doctor or medical professional for the latest update, but the Galapagos Islands are generally considered to be a malaria-free zone.  Do remember that you will need travel insurance - a Galapagos Islands cruise is likely to be one of the more expensive holidays of your life, so ensure you are protected against a missed flight or sudden illness preventing you from travelling.
There are very strict rules about what you can take into the Galapagos Islands, in order to avoid any more accidentally introduced species.  Make sure you are not carrying any kind of seeds, either in the form of food and snacks, or stuck to your clothes or shoes.  You might like to consider taking environmentally-friendly or organic products to avoid polluting the islands.
It was in the Galapagos Islands that Charles Darwin saw the now famous Galapagos finches which are slightly different on each island, with beaks adapted to the unique conditions of each ecosystem.  This led him to formulate his Theory of Evolution, which at the time was highly controversial.  A foundation and research centre in the Galapagos Islands are now named after Charles Darwin.  Darwin is also a popular christian name for boys in Ecuador.
Whether you are attracted by the incredible wildlife, the fantastic diving, the curious social history or the dramatic volcanic geology, you are likely to always remember your visit to the Galapagos Islands.
Useful Spanish Vocabulary for an excursion to the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador:
Las Islas Galápagos: The Galapagos Islands
crucero: cruise
lobo del mar: sealion (literal translation "wolf of the sea")
tortuga: tortoise
Galapagos Wildlife Photo Gallery from charity CRACYP

Ecuador Destinations: The Galapagos Islands
Tourist information and Galapagos map for cruises and tours to the Galapagos Islands, made famous by Charles Darwin.
The Galapagos Islands' wildlife includes giant Galapagos tortoises, sealions, iguanas and pelicans.
Website www.ecuadortravelsite.org, text and photos by Sarah Clifford.
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