How to Get to the Galapagos Islands
The magical and wild Galapagos Islands have some of the most unique wildlife on Earth. The archpelago of volcanic islands that make up the Galapagos Islands are located west of Ecuador in South America, in the Pacific Ocean, and are technically part of Ecuador. From these spectacular islands, which are also a national park and biological marine reserve, you can take an extraordinary Galapagos cruise between the islands and discover some of the most diverse species of animals native to this part of the world – so famous that Charles Darwin came to the Galapagos Islands to study them in the late nineteenth century. While it isn't particularly difficult to get to the Galapagos Islands, with the islands' two main airports, it can sometimes take a while and it is impossible to fly directly to the islands, so make sure you arrive in Ecuador at least two days before your planned cruise, to allow yourself plenty of time to catch your adjoining flight.
Flying to the Galapagos Islands
There are three main airlines that fly to the Galapagos Islands, TAME, Avianca and LAN. The islands have two airports on the islands of Baltra and San Cristóbal. From Quito all flights to San Cristóbal are via Guayaquil, but to Baltra both LAN and Avianca offer some direct flights, TAME still operating indirectly via Guayaquil. It takes two hours to fly from Quito in Ecuador to Baltra Airport direct, or three-and-a-half indirectly via Guayaquil. To San Cristobal Airport via Guayaquil is roughly the same, three-and-a-half hours. Alternatively, you can make a two hour flight directly from Guayaquil to either the San Cristóbal or Baltra Airports.
Please note that AeroGal airlines have merged with Avianca Ecuador in 2009. Avianca Ecuador is based in Quito, and provides passenger and cargo flights between the mainland and the Galapagos Islands.
If you arrive in Isla Baltra you will most likely be taken to the docks by a local bus, from here you can take either a ferry or boat to the island of Santa Cruz. If you arrive in Isla San Cristóbal airport, the oldest geographical island and oldest settlement island in the Galapagos, you will most likely take a short bus to the capital of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, which is located on the island. You can fly directly from most destinations in South America to Guayaquil and Qutio, although flights to San Cristóbal can get booked up in the high season, so book well in advance if you would prefer to touch down on this island.
Flying from North America to the Galapagos
You can't fly directly to the Galapagos Islands, but you can fly directly to Quito or Guayaquil in Ecuador via Houston, Miami and New York in North America. Flights can be very cheap, particularly during the low season when they can cost as little as $350. Both American Airlines and Continental Airlines fly from North American destinations directly and indirectly to Quito and Guayaquil. You can also connect with these airlines from Montreal and Toronto in Canada. There are several flights daily from Quito or Guayaquil to the Galapagos using domestic airlines such as Avianca and LAN.
Flying from Europe to the Galapagos
The only direct flights into Quito, Ecuador, is with Iberia Airlines from Madrid or KLM airlines via Amsterdam or Paris. With other airlines, such as British Airways or LAN, you will usually change in Miami or another South American capital city, and while most European airlines offer connecting flights into Ecuador the journeys can be lengthy and involve a number of changes. It is often cheaper to fly from London than anywhere else in Europe to Quito, and connections on these flights are usually made in New York, Atlanta, Houston or Miami.
Flying from Asia and Australasia to Galapagos
Most flights to and from New Zealand and Australia will connect via Honolulu or Los Angeles, before connecting elsewhere in the US, with Auckland and Sydney being your easiest set off points. If you are travelling from Asia, airlines such as Air China, Japan Airlines, KLM, Lufthansa, and American Airlines fly from Beijing and connect in Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles, or Frankfurt, while flights from Tokyo will usually stop in Amsterdam, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston or Washington, in both instances the flights may involve other stops in South or Central America.
Arriving by Boat to Galapagos
When you arrive in Guayaquil, Ecuador, either from another South American country or another part of the world, it's tempting to travel to your next destination via boat – and this case it is perfectly possible, however, it's not really a recommended method of transport. Boats from Guayaquil to the Galapagos take about three and a half days, and the trip on the open seas of the Pacific Ocean can be rough. The trip is also, surprisingly, usually more expensive than flying, and a one way ticket can set you back over $150. It can be difficult to get a bunk/room, so you may have to travel with a sleeping bag or hammock and find a spot to get some rest during the trip. The boats are usually very basic, as they are mostly used for transporting cargo to and from the islands, so be prepared. Unless you are an adventurous type, it is generally much cheaper, quicker and a lot safer to fly to the Galapagos Islands.
The Galapagos Islands may seem a little isolated, but with the direct flights from Guayaquil, the largest city in Ecuador, and cheap flights from Quito, it can be a simple and very worthwhile journey. Avoid taking the cargo ships across the Pacific if you can, and book up a domestic flight over the treacherous waters to arrive in the incredibly unique Galapagos Islands.
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