The Galapagos Islands are bucket list-worthy for more than a few reasons. 620 miles off the coast of Ecuador, not only did this island chain serve as the inspiration for Charles Darwin’s famous Theory of Evolution, but it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site two times over (both land and sea are protected). From the vast range of wildlife to the sandy white beaches, volcanic landscapes, and unique local culture, your tailormade trip to Ecuador should definitely include a visit to the Galapagos Islands. When you visit the Galapagos Islands, don’t miss these six things to do:
1. Snap a Photo Next to a Giant Galapagos Tortoise at Rancho Primicias
Right up there with red and blue-footed boobies are the Galapagos Islands’ famous Giant Tortoises, and there’s no better place to see them than at Rancho Primicias on Santa Cruz Island. Less crowded than the island’s more popular El Chato Tortoise Reserve, Rancho Primicias is a privately-owned animal sanctuary brimming with these captivating giants. Though you can’t touch or feed them, you will have plenty of photo ops to take away the ultimate Galapagos Islands vacation souvenir.
2. Explore the Lava Tunnels on Santa Cruz Island
Bellavista Village in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island is home to lava tubes and tunnels large enough to walk through. By the light of your flashlight, wander through tunnels as long as 1,200 feet and marvel at these impressive 23-foot high tubes that once contained molten lava. When the flow of lava eventually ceased, the tunnels cooled and hardened to form this magnificent result. Be sure to pencil this unique experience into your custom Galapagos Tour.
3. Visit the Charles Darwin Research Station
If you’re the scientific type, the Charles Darwin Research Center is a must-stop on your Galapagos Islands tour. The site features an active breeding center maintained by a team of conservation researchers, volunteers, and educators. They have set up plenty of informational displays for you to read up on the Galapagos Islands’ unique ecology and history. You may even spot a few Giant Tortoises roaming the property during your visit.
4. Experience the Fish Market at Puerto Ayora
Puerto Ayora is the Galapagos Island’s primary residential town located on Santa Cruz Island. Full of restaurants, shops, and a low-key nightlife, the Puerto Ayora Fish Market is a nice cultural complement to an otherwise wildlife and outdoor adventure-heavy visit to the Galapagos Islands. Watch the fisherman unload their catch of the day, batting off pelicans looking to steal the bounty. By sundown, the market transforms into an outdoor restaurant with nothing but fresh seafood on the menu and at great prices too.
5. Snorkel or Dive Devil’s Crown on Floreana Island
There are more than a few spots to dive beneath the Galapagos Islands’ turquoise waves, but Devil’s Crown off the coast of Floreana Island is notorious for being one of the best places to snorkel and dive in the Galapagos. The site got its name for its crown-like shape of jagged rocks, a crown only the devil would wear. This former volcanic crater now attracts a plethora of colorful reef fish. Some snorkelers have even spotted Hammerhead Sharks, White-tipped Reef Sharks, sea turtles, and large Manta rays, while others have had the good fortune of sharing the water with a curious sea lion or two.
6. Hike to Volcano Sierra Negra on Isabela Island
If you’re up for a little land-based adventure, add the Volcano Sierra Negra hike to your personalized Galapagos Islands travel itinerary. Not only is Volcano Sierra Negra one of the most active volcanoes in the Galapagos, but its crater is six miles wide, making it the second largest volcanic caldera in the world. This hike takes you up to Sierra Negra’s rim and then across its otherworldly caldera of surreal geologic and active geothermal features. On the way back, you’ll pass lava fields and fumaroles spewing steam and gas.
Plan your visit to the Galapagos Islands with an expert Kuoda Travel Designer and piece together the custom Galapagos trip of your dreams.
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