The Galapagos: Frequently asked questions

Travel Advice

A Galapagos expedition cruise offers one of the most unique and unforgettable wildlife experiences on earth. From the tiny finches that influenced Darwin to the giant tortoises that gave the islands their name, the fearlessness and diversity of the animal life is astounding.

For most people this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip, so we thought we'd put together this guide to answer any questions you might have, and ensure that you get the most out of your trip to the Galapagos...

Where are the Galapagos Islands?

600 miles to the west of Ecuador, in a remote location on the Equator way out in the Pacific Ocean.

Why would I want to visit?

The flora and fauna are breathtaking - you will see a huge variety of marine creatures and birds, including dinosaur-like marine and land iguanas, sea lions and giant tortoises, all quite fearless. What's more, the volcanic islands themselves are amazingly beautiful, with their looming peaks, rugged coastlines and idyllic sandy beaches.

Marine iguanas in the Galapagos

When is the best time to visit the Galapagos?

There is never a bad time to visit. The 'peak' seasons are during school holidays, but this is not necessarily the best time to go. We suggest planning your adventure around what you want to see and do.

December to May is considered the 'warm/wet' season with an average temperature of 30°C. If you're an avid snorkeller then we'd recommend visiting at this time as the ocean is warm. The Galapagos 'cool' season is June to December, with an average temperature of 25°C and very little rain. The Humboldt Current comes from Antarctica, bringing much colder water, but this is the mating season for the blue-footed booby and the time when the majority of sea lion pups are born.

Fur seals on Punta Carola beach, San Cristóbal Island, Galapagos

How do I get there?

Flights to the Galapagos islands depart from Quito (2 hours 15 minutes) and Guayaquil (1 hour 30 minutes) in mainland Ecuador. The flight from Quito will always depart in the early morning as it stops in Guayaquil en route to the Galapagos.

As for getting to Quito or Guayaquil, you can fly via the US, or to avoid immigration you can take a European carrier such as KLM via Amsterdam or Iberia via Madrid. There are currently no direct flights from the UK.

Basilica in Quito, Ecuador

Are there any luggage restrictions?

You are allowed one checked suitcase weighing 20kg and a carry-on bag on the flight to Baltra. If you are planning a longer trip, you can store luggage at your hotel on the mainland.

Do I need special equipment?

Not really… Sturdy shoes to hike on the lava, a good camera, maybe binoculars, and high quality sunscreen and sun hat. Your vessel will provide snorkelling equipment.

Woman with camera on a Lindblad Expeditions cruise to the Galapagos

What happens on board a Galapagos cruise?

Each evening before dinner, a briefing is given about the plans for the following day. Your ship will carry approved naturalist guides, who will often give a short talk about a particular aspect of the islands or their flora and fauna.

Days are constructed around the shore landings, with early starts in order to make the most of the cooler mornings. Passengers disembark by zodiac (sturdy rubber boats specifically designed for this type of expedition) for wet landings (straight onto the beach) or dry landings onto a landing stage or rocky shore, accompanied by a naturalist guide. They return to the ship mid- to late morning, and have relaxation time after lunch, until the afternoon's activities.

Silver Galapagos - Going ashore by zodiac

Who are the naturalist guides?

They are employed by the National Park, and have a wide-ranging knowledge about the islands. They are usually Ecuadorian, but with a perfect command of the English language.

How active do I need to be?

This is an isolated location, and to enjoy it to the full you would need to be active and relatively sprightly to ensure that you can get in and out of the zodiacs and walk on uneven terrain. Much of the wildlife is under the water.

Turtle in the Galapagos

Are the Galapagos Islands a good destination for families?

Fantastic! Older children (from 8 upwards) will be totally fascinated by the wildlife, and will consider this to be the trip of a lifetime

Can I snorkel in the Galapagos?

Snorkelling is offered in a number of locations, and on most vessels equipment is provided free of charge on board, including mask and snorkel, fins and wet suits (check with us before you book).

Can I dive in the Galapagos?

Diving can be more of a problem as it is strictly regulated. Some vessels have specific dive cruises, so if this is your priority, speak to us.

Family on the beach in the Galapagos

What duration of trip should I take?

Galapagos cruises can be 3 or 4 days, or you could stay on board for 7 or even 14 days with certain companies, without repeating a call. How long you choose to stay depends on your level of interest: each day is effectively the same (remote island, beach landing, short hike, snorkelling) but also completely different (varied landscapes, different wildlife). We would certainly recommend 7 days.

South Plaza Island, Galapagos

What else could I do to make it into a longer trip?

You can easily combine a Galapagos cruise with a visit to Peru and the magical site of Machu Picchu. Ecuador is also a great destination with extraordinary biodiversity and some amazing eco-lodges in the cloud forest, whilst the upper Amazon basin is also easily accessible. We can create a bespoke programme to your specification.

Mist over Machu Picchu, Peru

How are the islands protected?

The whole area is designated a National Park, and all visitors pay an entry fee on arrival (currently US$100). The only vessels permitted are those with Ecuadorian registry, and fall under the auspices of the National Park, whose responsibility is to conserve and preserve this unique UNESCO World Heritage Site. They limit the number of visitors to any location at any one time, and ensure an approved guide is on board.

Find out more about the Galapagos...

Our Galapagos guide contains everything you need to know about these wonderful islands, including when to visit, how to get there and where to spot the archipelago's most iconic wildlife.

Meet the author

Edwina Lonsdale is Managing Director and together with husband Matthew, owner of Mundy Adventures. Her most recent adventure was a cruise on Silver Origin and she has also sailed with Seabourn, Ponant and Aqua Expeditions. Her favourite adventure destination is the Galapagos however she's also enjoyed cruises in the Middle East, East Africa & Indian Ocean, Brahmaputra, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, the Mekong, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and the Arctic. When she’s not travelling she loves reading, food and wine.

More about Edwina

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