The Galapagos Islands are one of those dreamy, pinch-me-I-can’t-believe-I’m-here destinations. This archipelago is 600 miles from mainland Ecuador, and its 21 islands are home to some of the most unique wildlife on the planet.
I first fell in love with the islands when I saw a vlog from my favorite group of travel journalists, The Bucket List Family. This humble family of five (four at the time the video was shot) gave viewers a little glimpse of what makes this place so special: the miles of coastline, powdery beaches, crystal waters, balmy weather even during its cool season, and incredible wildlife. For me, it was love at first sight.
Like any trip, you need to do a bit of homework before you jet off, especially in light of the current pandemic. There are some specific travel requirements for the Galapagos Islands that you need to fulfill including proof of a negative COVID test, travel insurance, and a “safe passage” certificate from your hotel or tour guide.
You can then start planning the fun part… your itinerary. But how do you even begin to choose what to do while you’re there? To help you plan, here are top five must-see and do attractions in the Galapagos Islands:
One of the best ways to see the islands is by boat. Island tours not only give you a robust experience of everything the Galapagos has to offer, but you’ll get a front row seat to all the creatures on land and in the sea – everything from penguins to marine iguanas to the blue-footed booby. Bonus: many of the tour guides on these cruises will give you a little history about the places and things you see.
They’re probably the most famous things about the Galapagos Islands, and weighing nearly 500 pounds with a lifespan of over 150 years, it’s not surprising. If you’re traveling to the islands, you absolutely must spend some time observing these beautiful creatures. You can find the tortoises in the wild, but there’s never a guarantee you’ll see them. The safer bet is to visit The Charles Darwin Research Station, which is a program aimed at conserving these endangered reptiles.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you may also want to take a dip with some of the islands’ most massive and majestic creatures – the whale shark. At 18+ feet, they can seem scary, but whale sharks are relatively docile and pose little threat to humans. Most tours will offer both scuba and snorkel options for guests.
Located on Isabela Island is the infamous Wall of Tears– a structure erected shortly after World War II by prisoners who were living in a penal colony on the island. Chiseling and moving giant blocks of lava, the prisoners were forced to labor night and day to build the 65-foot-high, 300-foot-long wall. This historical site serves as a physical reminder of the lives lost and dark history of this island.
Bellavista is a bohemian city nestled between the Mapocho River and San Cristobál Hill. If you’re looking for a fun place to let your hair down, mingle with locals and maybe have a drink or two after a day of sightseeing, this is the place to be.
As well as being home to a thriving nightlife, Belavista is known for its intriguing graffiti art, which you can find around every corner. There are also local markets where you can pick up everything from local fruits to handcrafted gifts.
From the wildlife to the nightlife, the Galapagos Islands are certain to be an adventure you’ll never forget.