How Much Time to Spend on the Galapagos Islands
A visit to the unique and spectacularly beautiful Galapagos Islands is simply a must for all nature-loving travelers. From the vast array of fascinating endemic species to the breath-taking volcanic and coastal landscapes, this is a travel experience like no other. But how much time do you really need to make the most of the islands?
Many visitors on a tight schedule are keen to try to fit as much as possible into as little time as possible, sometimes inquiring whether spending as little as 2-3 days is a viable option. In theory, short trips are possible (though we’d recommend 5 days as the absolute minimum, including transfers), and might be the right option for bucket-listers or those on a really tight timeline. But in general, we strongly believe that the longer you’re able to stay the better. We find that many visitors who opt for shorter cruises, visiting only a small handful of islands, strongly regret not having spent more time!
The Galapagos islands are remote and there are high overhead costs involved in getting there. You’ll need to factor in 2 days just to get there and back from Ecuador. Whilst it can be tempting to squeeze it into a short time slot as part of a wider trip, you might benefit from planning a single trip dedicated exclusively to the Galapagos, especially if you’re serious about experiencing the islands to the full.
To really make the most of the time and effort that needs to be invested in planning a trip and getting to the islands, we recommend staying at least a week. You’ll find that plenty of Galapagos cruises have 8-day itineraries, and many find that this is an ideal amount of time. Naturally, wildlife enthusiasts and avid photographers may be inclined to linger a little longer, spending time getting to grips with the flora and fauna and learning about the natural history in more depth. Many also find that the Galapagos are a wonderful place to slow down, soak in the distinct atmosphere and even contemplate different perspectives on life.
On a more practical level, the islands are well spread out from one another, so travel time between them needs to be factored in. The best way to experience as much as possible is to take a cruise on a small vessel that typically carries around 16 people and which can easily visit many of the sites inaccessible to the larger cruise ships. We offer 4, 5, 6 and 8 day cruises on a variety of boats, each offering plenty of variety to suit all tastes and budgets. Take a look at our Galapagos cruises.
It’s also possible to arrange your own island stay outside of a cruise schedule. This provides greater flexibility and a glimpse into daily life on the islands. However, from a land base you won’t get to experience the full diversity of the islands or a broad overview of the archipelago that a cruise so easily provides. For these reasons, some travelers choose to combine a cruise with a few days either side staying in one of the port towns and taking trips independently to some of the nearby sites. In particular, after your cruise you may want to schedule in some downtime on the beaches and in the towns, especially Puerto Ayora. Likewise, if you’re looking to add another dimension to your experience, perhaps through organizing a scuba dive or visiting the conservation centers, then this will require more time and planning as well. If you are interested in combining a cruise with a land-based itinerary than we’d recommend a minimum of 10 days, and more if you can spare it!
The Galapagos is a truly unique destination, and for most people it’s the sort of place you’re only going to visit once in a lifetime. So we’d say, if you’re going, it makes sense to spend that little bit longer to really maximize your time and ensure you fully reap the benefits this fascinating place has to offer. Please contact us for more information about booking a Galapagos tour.