Planning Galapagos travel for one? It’s hard to know where to start. Without question, you’ll need to fly into Quito. Spend some time exploring the city, and make your way out to the islands for a mix of diving, snorkeling and animal spotting. We recommend taking the Western/Northern Route, which will give you the best mix of things to do on land and at sea.
Whether you camp on each island, take a cruise or charter your own boat, here are the places to hit—and what order to hit them in. Have fun!
You’ll start in San Cristobal, where you’ll see “Kicker Rock,” a well-known tuff cone rising 500 feet out of the ocean. You’ll get the best views of it from your hike to Cerro Tijeretas, and when you come back down, you can swim in turquoise waters with sea lions at Cerro Brujo, one of the most spectacular white coral beaches in all of the Galapagos. Punta Pitt is also not to be missed. It’s a tuff formation that serves as a nesting site for seabirds, and it’s the only spot in the islands where you can see three species of boobies and two of frigatebirds nesting all together.
This island is known for its bird-watching! The island was formed from a volcanic eruption and resulting caldera, one side of which eventually collapsed. When you get here, you’ll walk up the steep Prince Philip’s Steps past endless colonies of seabirds (like great frigatebirds), and spend your day hiking through its rocky landscapes or swimming in its sparkling waters. There’s plenty of marine life to swim with, as well as sharks. Beware!
Next, make a stop at Fernandina, a pristine island where volcanic eruptions are common. (The island actually sits at the center of the hot spot that was responsible for the formation of the Galapagos Islands.) Don’t let the volcanoes sway you from going! There are no new species here, but you’ll see plenty of flightless cormorants nesting, the largest colony of marine iguanas in all of the Galapagos Islands, and running through them all, remnants of recent lava flows.
Visit Isabela during your Galapagos travel for its giant coral skeletons, random volcanic eruptions, beautiful views of lava fields and throngs of indigenous Galapagos flamingos wading in its surrounding lagoons.
This is the fourth largest island in the archipelago, and one that’s very popular amongst tourists. Head to the black shores of Puerto Egas to see sea lions resting in large numbers or marine iguanas eating algae during low tide. Just a short boat ride away, Sombrero Chino (or “Chinese Hat”) is an island shaped like its name, where you can hike over dried lava and snorkel with adorable penguins and sea turtles.
When you do go to Santiago, make a stop on Rabida Island, as well; it’s thought to be the geographic center of the Galapagos Islands. The characteristics of this island are unmistakable. The sand is dark red (due to the high iron content of the volcanic stones), the lagoons are made of saltwater and filled with Galapagos flamingos, and the island is packed with yellow warblers, mockingbirds and nesting brown pelicans.
When on Santa Cruz, you can experience all the major vegetation zones of the Galapagos—coastal, arid and humid highlands—at once. This is the last stop on your journey, so head to Las Primicias, in the highlands, you’ll see giant tortoises and lava tubes, the latter of which are basically caves formed out of lava. Los Gemelos, or “The Twins,” is a pair of large craters created from magma chambers that collapsed when the Earth’s plates started to shift. Santa Cruz is also home to the Charles Darwin Research Station, where you can see 100 scientists, educators, volunteers and research students conducting environmental experiments and operating a breeding center with new turtle hatchlings and miniature tortoises. Finally, you can spend your time walking the streets of Puerto Ayora, the social heart of the islands, which has the largest population of them all: 24,000 inhabitants.
Need someone to help with the planning? You should—Galapagos travel is a once-in-a-lifetime and you want to make sure it’s perfect. Ask the experts at Surtrek, the leader in custom South American travel, for help with your solo adventure.