In a world where “unique” has ceased to mean much, the word remains worthwhile when applied to the Galapagos Islands Tours — there are dozens of species living on this Ecuadorian archipelago found nowhere else. The majority of its extraordinary menagerie evolved here before the arrival of people in the 1500s so remain unusually curious and even amateur photographers can feel as though they’re part of a National Geographic expedition here.
Darwin’s finches, marine iguanas and gregarious sea lions are all permanent residents in Puerto Ayora’s port, as blue-footed boobies and brown pelicans swerve black-tip reef sharks while dive-bombing the water for smaller marine life. The fact that wildlife viewing like this is possible in the islands’ biggest town is a clue as to how much wilder things are when you take an organised tour — either overnight on a ship, staying in a local hotel, or even just jumping on a bike.
Times Travel has partnered with Tourhub to bring our readers a wide selection of escorted tours from trusted travel partners. Here, we’ve selected the very best tours that showcase the Galapagos.
1. ‘Galapagos Island Hopping’, Uniquely Galapagos
Cruising has long been the best way to explore the archipelago, but even before the pandemic there was growing interest in land-based tours. This eight-day sampler is a good example of how you can use boats to get around without having to do it overnight. Included on the diverse itinerary are trips to the islands of Isabela and San Cristobal, as well as hikes, visits to giant-tortoise sanctuaries and the sensational beach at Tortuga Bay.
2. ‘Private Galapagos’, Journey Latin America
This itinerary uses light aircraft to island-hop west to the extraordinary wilderness of Isabela Island — ideal if you’re prone to seasickness or just want to be as efficient as possible during your time in the Galapagos. There’s world-class snorkelling at Los Tuneles and a chance to hike Sierra Negra; a vast and active volcano in the south part of the island. Isabela is made up of five peaks, fused together by eruptions and time.
3. ‘Galapagos and Quito Enchantments’, Metropolitan Touring
As well as the wonders of the Galapagos, this tour includes a day trip to Quito, Ecuador’s remarkable capital, to reveal the profound difference between that high-altitude colonial city and the altogether wilder world of the Galapagos. Itineraries vary according to weather conditions, but when possible, tours include a visit to the striking bay in Santa Fe, home to healthy populations of sea lions and Galapagos hawks.
4. ‘Central and East Islands’, G Adventures
It’s hard to properly fathom, but the youngest of the Galapagos Islands are in the west, the oldest in the east, and the whole archipelago is slowly being dragged under the South American continent. Essentially, this means that the oldest islands, including Espanola and San Cristobal, have had the longest for life to evolve on them. This ten-day tour includes visits to both, giving you plenty of opportunities to snorkel, hike and, if you’re lucky, meet some incredibly rare waved albatross.
5. ‘Ecuador and Galapagos Adventure’, Latin Routes
Jam-pack nine days in Ecuador with this itinerary designed to maximise your time. You’ll be quite literally breathless at the high altitudes of Quito and even more so at the beautiful Cotopaxi where you can hike to 15,750ft above sea level. The trip out the Galapagos will feel like a journey to another dimension by comparison, though it too will provide a chance to hike volcanoes out on Isabela Island.