History When Charles Darwin first arrived in the Galápagos, he wasn’t sure what he’d discover. He’d been sailing on the HMS Beagle for more than four years before arriving on these volcanic islands, and he’d seen some incredible sights along the way. Once on the islands, he found an amazing diversity of animals—a diversity that left him wondering how some animals could appear so similar at first glance, yet are so different on closer inspection
Major Organisms - Marine Iguanas, land iguanas, giant tortoises, and finches
How to go there? Most visitors will travel to Galapagos by air from mainland Ecuador. Flights depart daily from the principal cities of Guayaquil or Quito (direct or via Guayaquil). Three companies currently offer flights: TAME, LAN-Ecuador, and Avianca. Airfares are similar between the companies, but you may get lucky and find a promotional offer. In general, you should expect to pay between $380 and $500 for a round-trip ticket (as of 2016). Non-residents cannot buy a one-way ticket to Galapagos.
What to see? Ninety-five percent of the land area of Galapagos is designated as protected by the Galapagos National Park Directorate (GNPD), and tourists are permitted to explore specific visitor sites only with Park-certified naturalist guides (refer to the Park rules). The GNPD coordinates group visits to these 60+ sites and carefully monitors ecological conditions. Different sites are known for their specific scenery, vegetation, and wildlife. However, many species, such as sea lions, marine iguanas, lava lizards, and a variety of coastal birds such as herons, tattlers, plovers, turnstones, and whimbrels, are commonly seen at most locations.
Where to stay? is to stay ashore in a hotel on one of the larger populated islands (Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal, or Isabela) and take day trips to nearby uninhabited islands. While this option can be more economical and provides an interesting perspective for travelers, the range of islands that can be visited is limited by distance. Also, there are several animal species that likely will not be encountered on day trips.
Things to do? Sight-seeing and diving
Galapagos is a world-class destination for scuba divers because of the abundance of sharks, sea lions, fur seals, marine turtles, rays, mantas, marine iguanas, and reef fishes. The GNPD has granted permission to a select number of tour providers. If you plan to dive on your trip, check with your provider to make sure the company is authorized to offer this activity. View our marine life reference card for divers and snorkelers.