We owe our greater understanding of our presence on Earth to the Galapagos Islands. More specifically, we owe it to Charles Darwin and his theory of natural selection and evolution following his observations of the natural diversity on these remarkable islands. Understandably, tours of the Galapagos Islands are incredibly popular and a fine balance has to be struck between exaltation of this special place and the protection of it for future generations. Therefore, only certain islands are open to visitors.
All tours run from the Ecuadorean capital city, Quito, and require a return flight ticket and hotel reservation in order to limit delinquency and stop-ons. Most Galapagos tours simply include this return flight to Santa Cruz island as part of the package, followed by hotels and/or sea transportation from there. There are many tour companies running trips to the Galapagos, but it’s essential to book with a reputable and environmentally-responsible operator, especially here. Trips of under a week are possible, but the best options spend two weeks or more allowing ample opportunity to spot wildlife in action. Here are the top four Galapagos tours and cruises from Quito based on a variety of factors including price, itinerary and ratings from previous guests.
FROM: $1,753/per person
First-up is one of the few regularly-running tours, with daily departures. This week-long Galapagos highlights tour involves four nights on the islands, with five days devoted to exploring some of the real highlights, including a hike to the top of the active Sierra Negra volcano, one of the six volcanoes that formed Isabela Island. This is the main base for the duration of the tour, where you can snorkel through lava tunnels for the chance to spot sea turtles, eagle rays and even sharks. There’s also a tortoise breeding centre and the Charles Darwin station. Another highlight is the kayak trip to Las Tintoreras to spot Galapagos penguins and sea lions.
From $1,862/ per person
For an enthralling adventure that visits a few other islands, this nine-day tour is a great option. Go snorkelling with curious sea lions and look out for the endemic marine iguanas, among many other species within this teeming marine park. This is perhaps the best-value Galapagos tour from Quito, but the tour company aims it mainly at people aged 40 years old and under. Much of the accommodation is in hostels or camping-based, with at least one night spent camping in the Isabela Highlands. Most meals are provided as part of the fee although, as with all tours on this list, there many be some additional costs to factor in as well. This tour runs between once and twice a week.
From $2,329/ per person
Another highly-rated nine-day tour spends a little more time on the lesser-visited Floreana Island, where local community-run services feel the full benefit of the tourism to their home island. The black sand beaches and quiet highlands of the island are a great place to go bird watching, due to the less frequent disruption that tour groups to Santa Cruz and Isabela islands bring. Take a boat over to Isabela midway through your trip to experience some of the top sights of the Galapagos, including the Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre, and a hike to Tortuga Bay, where you might catch a glimpse of marine iguanas and sea turtles. This tour runs only twice a month. Accommodation on this tour is mostly in hotels.
From $7,244/ per person
Given that trips to the Galapagos Islands are often a once-in-a-lifetime experience, it’s not uncommon that people want to push the boat out. In this case, quite literally, as this top-notch 17-day tour touches down on practically every island that it’s possible for tourists to visit. This is a true Galapagos cruise aboard the Yolita, a 16-passenger ship with large cabins and plenty of deck space. During the tour, 14 nights are spent bedded down here between the islands, while most meals are also provided by the onboard kitchen team. You name the famed species here and there’ll be an opportunity to see it, including the Galapagos penguins, blue footed boobies, marine iguanas and more. The tour runs between once and twice a month and, despite the higher price, tends to be sold out months in advance, such is its stature.