The article was sponsored by Nomadic Ecuador. You can join their unique Pride Month cruise experience, June 24 – 29, 2024.
The Galapagos Islands are the glittering diamonds in Ecuador’s crown. The enchanting archipelago sits snugly out in the Pacific Ocean, 1,000 kilometers off the main coast of Ecuador. This remoteness has kept the islands securely in the hands of Mother Nature, forming a lost world of unparalleled biodiversity, unique geological features and ecosystems found nowhere else on our planet. Charles Darwin himself once visited, leaving such an indelible mark on him that it inspired his theory of evolution – quite the accolade!
The Galapagos consists of a grand total of 13 major islands, each with its own distinctive wildlife and captivating sites of natural beauty – choosing between which to visit within the often limited time frame of a trip feels like choosing between pockets of utopia. However, if you really must choose, then these five really stand out.
San Cristobal – One of the Oldest and Most Fascinating Islands in the Galapagos
As the easternmost of the islands, with an airport providing direct flights from Guayaquil or Quito, San Cristobal is one of the most accessible of the Islands and the beginning port of many a Galapagos voyage – indeed it was where Darwin himself began his explorations. It is also stunning all within itself and home to the famous Kicker Rock – a world famous snorkeling and diving location – as well as a huge freshwater lake, the oldest settlements in the Galapagos and a plethora of perfect sandy beaches.
No trip to San Cristobal is complete without a visit to Colorado Hill Tortoise Protection and Growing Centre to the Southeast of the island. It includes a large corral filled with…well turtles and an interpretive trail, to follow and observe different species of endemic plants and exotic birds such as the San Cristobal Mockingbird, the coolly named Yellow Warblers and various rare species of finches.
Española Island – A Thriving Heaven Of Seabirds and Endemic Species
The first non-inhabited island – by humans – on this list, you have no doubt seen many a photo of this island’s iconic beach, Gardner Bay, as it is the popular sunbathing location of one of the Galápagos’ most beloved inhabitants: the sea lions. The beach is also a wonderful spot for some sunbathing yourself as well as for kayaking, snorkeling, and swimming in the crystal-clear ocean waters. If you´re lucky you might even catch a glimpse of the sharks that frequent the water – if you consider that luck!
Espanola Island is one of the isolated islands in the Galapagos and thus home to its own unique species, including the Espanola lava lizard and the largest birds in the Galapagos Islands, the waved albatross. At Suarez Point the high cliffs afford visitors views of exotic passing birds and a spouting water hole below.
Floreana Island – Legends of Pirates and Post Office Bay
Floreana island has the bold claim of being the site of the first ever “post office” – that is a wooden barrel used as the dropping point for letters in the 18th century to be delivered by sailors returning home. It is still there to this day and even still in use! The island’s historical relevance does not stop there, and the island was also the landing spot of one of the first island colonists, Baroness Eloisa von Wagner.
Cormorant Point on the island contains the best Flamingo lagoon on the Galapagos and the island is host to many other species of extravagant shorebirds. Two other stunningly beautiful sites of interest are “The Green Beach ” – so called due to the olivine crystals glimmering in its sands – and “Flour Sand Beach”, a bay made entirely of coral.
Santa Fe – A Hidden Gem Nestled Within the Enchanting Galapagos Archipelago
Santa Fe is a small, underrated gem of an island located in the Southeast part of the archipelago and is believed to be the oldest in the Galapagos. The whole island is also remarkably flat since it was formed from an uplift and not of volcanic origin like its neighboring islands.
As you set foot on Santa Fe’s shore, you’ll be greeted by the endemic Santa Fe land iguanas, an awe-inspiring sight found nowhere else on Earth. Stroll along pristine white sandy beaches, fringed by turquoise waters and discover a haven for playful sea lions basking under the sun. Snorkel through crystal-clear coves, where curious sea turtles and colorful fish gracefully glide through a marine wonderland.
Santa Cruz – Where Mother Nature’s Harmony Unfolds
Santa Cruz is most well-known as the tourist hub of the Galapagos, due to its international airport and wide range of hotels, restaurants, and bars Therefore it is always either the beginning or end of any visit to the islands – with boats and cruises leaving its port for all the other main islands. Being a tourist spot comes with its own pros and cons, but its popularity does little to mar its own natural beauty. Delight in the lush highlands and experience the unrivaled joy of observing the majestic Galapagos giant tortoises in their natural habitat!
Two impressive twin volcanic craters loom high above the island, reaching out from the Scalesis cloud forest – open to exploration and filled with plant species unique to the high-altitude and quirky birdlife like the red-breasted vermillion flycatcher. Many bays and gorgeous beaches surround Santa Cruz, such as Tortuga Bay, Black Turtle Cove and Playa Las Bachas. Another unusual must see is one of the three lava tunnels open to the public.
How To Get Around
Taking a cruise guarantees you’ll see the best of The Galapagos islands in a shorter time frame. When it comes to showing the world the essence of what makes them unique, you can’t beat tour operator Nomadic Ecuador. Their cruises visit all the aforementioned islands and run throughout the entire year. What’s more, they are offering a unique Pride Month cruise experience, June 24th – 29th, 2024.
The spirit of Pride expands beyond the parties and Nomadic Ecuador proudly embraces diversity and inclusion on their tours and cruises, crafting tailor-made programs that celebrate the LGBTQ+ community – including hikes, kayaking, snorkeling and on-board diners. Their charters are private with space for up to 15 travelers along with their friendly and dedicated Tour Leaders, guaranteeing an intimate experience. Any escapade deserves a home base and Nomadic Ecuador’s is a luxury Catamaran equipped with all the desired creature comforts – not to mention a Jacuzzi to relax those muscles after a hard day’s adventure.