Galapagos Islands, how to visit them for less

Who I am
Valery Aloyants

Author and references

Le Galapagos islands are (rightly) the dream in the drawer of many travelers, but unfortunately many give them up a priori frightened by the damn exaggerated costs: in any case, the fact that the islands are expensive does not mean that it is not possible to try to visit them by spending a little less.

This post is based on my personal experience: even if the costs refer to that period, an in-depth research on the web confirmed me that despite everything the prices have not changed / grown much.

Isole Galapagos, Espumilla Beach

The Galapagos Islands, although in a certain sense they are very touristy, are one of the few still unspoiled places on our planet.

If you decide then to organize a trip to the Encantadas, or Enchanted islands, it is necessary to put a hand on your heart and one on your wallet: the Galapagos in fact are not a journey that you can think of doing completely low cost (at least low cost as I mean it): only the flight to Ecuador and the flight to the islands has a high price, not to mention the mandatory entry fee of 100 USD, but despite this there are some ways to save something.

    • Galapagos Islands, which ones and why
    • How to find cheap flights to the Galapagos
    • Save on a last minute cruise
    • Cruise vs land-based
    • Free activities in the Galapagos

Galapagos Islands, which ones to choose and why

Marine iguana

A premise must be made: in the Galapagos you must go prepared. I mean that given the particularity of this very delicate ecosystem, which sees different flora and fauna according to the various islands, it is better to plan an itinerary having in mind what you want to see before leaving.

For example if you wish to see land iguanas you should aim for Plaza Sur, the flightless cormorant is found in only two islands, Fernandina e Isabelawhile a Spanish you can spot the floating albatross.

Reading various articles on the internet I noticed that some claim that the Galapagos Islands would be 13, others 17 and still others 19. Regardless of their number, the Galapagos are made up of a few major islands and many smaller islands. In this list I have limited myself to the most important.

1 – Bartholomew

In addition to the unmissable Pinnacle Rock , from which you can enjoy a splendid view of the surrounding lunar landscape, Bartholomew it is home to penguins and lava cactus (brachycereus); swimming in its waters you can spot reef sharks, rays and a large multitude of multicolored fish.

2 - Spanish

Spanish is located in the extreme southeast of the archipelago: it is a relatively flat island softened by low hills and evidence of volcanic activity dating back to 1980 has been found here. Its vegetation includes many thorny plants, while the animals that are native to the the island include the floating albatross, marine iguanas and lava lizards.

3 – Fernandina

Fernandina it is the only island that has never been influenced by the arrival of foreign species: it is therefore one of the the world's most pristine island ecosystems. The volcano The top dominates the landscape with lava fields reaching the ocean. The strong point of the island is that it hosts the nesting site of the Aroused cormorant.

4 – Floreana

Officially "Santa Maria", it is located in the extreme south of the archipelago. Famous for its neighbor Devil's crown, a submerged volcano covered with corals, an excellent place for snorkeling, Floreana it is associated with a strange and curious history of its inhabitants. Snorkeling here is some of the best in all of the Galapagos.

5 – Isabela

The largest island of the archipelago, Isabela was formed by the union of five young volcanoes.

While the regions affected by volcanic activity feature extensive lava fields and little vegetation, the southern highlands are covered with dense vegetation including red mangrove. Here too you can spot the terrified cormorant.

Plaza Sur

6 – North Seymour

Famous for its abundance of animals, including frigates, Galapagos sea lions and boobies (blue-footed boobies). The island was formed by a series of underwater lavas containing layers of sediments that were subsequently raised above sea level by tectonic activity. The island is characterized by an area of ​​arid vegetation.

7 - Santa Cruz

Home of the largest city in the Galapagos, Puerto Ayora, the island, characterized by a great variety of vegetation, is composed of a younger part formed by volcanic cones and lava and an ancient and narrow strip of earth formed by lava flows and tuffs.

8 - San Cristobal

San Cristobal it is home to a small town, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, and the Junco Laguna, located 700 meters above sea level. El Junco was the subject of a study on sediments at the bottom of the lake which were analyzed to discover information about the vegetation and climate of the archipelago thousands of years ago.

This is the only one of the islands where it is possible observe three different species of boobies and in the same area frigates can be seen making their nests.

9 - Santiago

Santiago it is a narrow strip of land that offers a landscape of extraordinary beauty adorned with cliffs and pinnacles, where hundreds of seabirds rest. Over the centuries, pirates have used this place to keep their ships safe and to stock up on fresh water, meat and firewood.

10 - Plaza Sur

This small island with steep cliffs was entirely formed by lava and is now covered with Opuntia cactus.

Plaza Sur it is also home to one of the largest colonies of sea lions and red and yellow land iguanas. Its vegetation colors the island differently depending on the season, from bright green to fiery red and yellow.

11 – Santa Fe

Santa Fe (Barrington) is home to a small and picturesque bay on the northeastern coast of the island. The bay has two paths for visitors to visit, one leading to a cliff-top vantage point, and the other leading from a small beach to a tall prickly pear forest.

If you want to learn more, you can find lots of information on the islands on the website (in English) of Galapagos Conservancy

How to find cheap flights to the Galapagos

Find cheap flights to the Galapagos it can be a very challenging undertaking indeed. Generally you have to fly to Guayaquil or Quito first and then take a flight to the islands: certainly out of season it is easier to find some good offers for Ecuador, while in high season the prices take off.

To find some opportunities you can try to wait for some errors to come out as explained in this my article, but it is very difficult for it to happen and above all to happen on the dates that interest you.

To get to the islands instead you have to take a flight from Guayaquil (generally the flights from Guayaquil cost slightly less than those from Quito) or from Quito and generally the prices are quite fixed, around 450 USD, but online you can also find them in 350. Generally for those who book a cruise through an agency, it is the agency itself that deals with the purchase of flights because they have seats already booked.

Save on a last-minute cruise

During our cruise to the Galapagos

When buying a cruise on the web you pay a lot more due to the fact that the agencies inflate the prices exorbitantly on the tickets they manage to sell in advance. In fact, on these tickets it is true that the actual cost of the cruise is included, but a hefty commission is also added for the agency and possibly for the mediator, that is the one who acts as an intermediary between the user and the agency on site.

The good news is that, despite the fact that when you contact the agency you are always told that the seats are running out, this is not true: if this were really the case, in fact, Quito and Quayaquil would be literally littered with agencies and hostels that offer last minute cruises.

The bad news, on the other hand, is that it is by no means certain that we will be able to find the cruise that best suits our needs immediately: for this it is necessary to take enough time and have flexible times to sift through all the various offers and to wait for the right cruise. we jump out.

It is possible and even cheaper to look for a cruise directly on the islands: you fly from Guayaquil toBaltra island, with a cheap bus you can reach it Puerto Ayora on the island of Santa Cruz and here we look for the cruise.
When I was on the island he met two backpackers who, by doing this, paid for the cruise at half the price of the same one sold on the internet, not bad, right?

Crociere last minute vs land based

Galapagos sea lion

There are two ways to live the Galapagos experience: opt for the cruise or base on the islands and book daily visits to the other islands directly on site (land-based tours).

Although in my humble opinion the best way to visit the Galapagos Islands is with a cruise, it is undeniable that opting for land-based has, from an economic point of view, countless advantages.

In the meantime, you can choose to stay in an apartment: the offer is quite wide and generally you don't spend much. And you can save on meals by eating at local restaurants and taking the daily menu. The supermarkets on the main street of Puerto Ayora are quite expensive, better look for small out-of-the-way shops.

I tried to make a scheme with the prices that I spent and those that I had asked for the day trips in order to have a slightly clearer picture of the costs involved in one or the other choice.


These are the prices we paid for a 7 day cruise in high season. Traveling in the low season generally saves about 30% on cruises.

He flew: even
Cruise 8 days - 7 nights: $ 1200 USD
Galapagos National Park fee of USD 100: excluded
Accommodation: included
Breakfasts, lunches and dinners: included. Alcohol is excluded, a beer on board can cost from 4 USD upwards
All tours and activities: included


Excursions booked on site

If you do not buy a cruise + flight package, you can spend several days on the islands but you have to make your own arrangements to find where to sleep and to book daily excursions.

It must also be taken into consideration that the cost depends on which islands you want to visit as the price for the excursions varies from case to case.

I counted 9 nights (the ones I wanted to do) here is an estimated cost of what they would have cost me.

He flew: excluded
Galapagos National Park fee of USD 100: excluded
Accommodation: USD 20 per night on average
Lunches and dinners: between 20 and 30 USD per day, it depends a lot on which restaurants you choose: better to opt for the menu of the day which is often cheaper but delicious
Tours: USD 500 (5 tours per day, about USD 100 on average per tour). Not all agencies offer the same prices for tours: better not to stop at the first agency, but ask more than one and then choose the lowest price
Other activities: if you do not book a cruise, you must also take into account the costs for the rental of equipment in case of snorkelling or diving


Free activities in the Galapagos

Il 97% of the National Park is protected, therefore only 3% can be visited and a large part of this 3% can be visited only and exclusively accompanied by an official guide. But don't despair, on the 3 inhabited islands, Santa Cruz, San Cristobal and Isabela there are some activities that you can do on your own, without the need for a guide and, above all, without entry costs.

The giant tortoises of the island of Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz

El Chato Tortoise Center: among the hills of the island it is possible to observe the giant tortoises from the island of Santa Cruz. An easy path winds through the trees and small lakes where, in addition to turtles, it is also possible to observe many varieties of birds.

Darwin Research Center: a few minutes walk from the town center of Puerto Ayora is the Darwin Research Center, a center for the conservation of the species of the islands, where it is possible to observe various species of turtles and iguanas.

Spend an evening at the port of Puerto Ayora: it is possible to spot sharks, manta rays and sea lions as well as different varieties of fish. Animals are attracted by the lights of the docks, it may take a little time, but as they say patience is the virtue of the strong.

The island of Santa Cruz also offers beaches where you can spend a few hours: admission is free and you can observe many species of birds, marine iguanas and mangroves.

Bahia Tortuga: a crescent of white sand, famous among surfers for its waves.

Garrapatero Beach: a very popular beach on which you can also camp if you want but you need to apply for a permit.

For those who love hiking, an alternative to the beach can be a walk on the hill of the "Media Luna". The name is due to the shape of its ancient semi-circular volcanic crater: starting from Bellavista the walk takes about a couple of hours during which you can breathe fresh air and enjoy beautiful views around.

San Cristobal

San Cristobal also offers beautiful beaches on which to spend a few hours. In particular Playa Mann, Puerto Chino and La Loberia.

Mann Beach: one of the most popular beaches, here the sea is calm and you can swim while playing with the sea lion cubs.

The Loberia: this beach is located about half an hour walk from the town and is famous for those who want to snorkel and for surfers: be careful, the sea can sometimes be rough.

Chinese port: white sand beach: beautiful rock formations around, if you climb to the top of the large black rock formation you have beautiful views of the crystal clear waters and the numerous animals.

Interpretation Center : a natural history museum that tells a series of circumstances such as the volcanic origin of the Galapagos Islands, the ocean currents, the climate, the history and evolution of the animal species present in the different islands. It is part of the Galapagos Environmental Education and Interpretation Plan project.

The Earwigs or the mount of frigates. It offers a beautiful viewpoint and the cove below makes the waters an excellent spot for snorkeling.

The Junco: a volcanic crater inside which a lake has formed: here the frigates come to wash themselves to remove the salt from their feathers.

Breeding Center Jacinto Gordillo “Galapaguera”: center for the conservation of giant tortoises. Newly built and can be reached about an hour's drive from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno: here the turtles live free in a protected area away from predators.

Bachas Beach on the island of Santa Cruz


Sierra Negra volcano: A picturesque hill, from which you can enjoy beautiful views over the northern part of the island.

Laguna Salinas: a pristine lagoon where you can see many species of animals, especially flamingos.

Wall of Tears: historical site that owes its name to the fact that the prisoners were forced to build it in the years from 1945 to 1959.During the construction of the wall thousands died and today it is said that their ghosts still populate this place.

National Park Tortoise Reserve: Very famous, here you can see a species of turtle that is not found anywhere else in the world.

Concha Perla Lagoon: one of the best spots for snorkeling: here it is easy to spot manta rays, sea lions, penguins, turtles and many other animals.

What it is low cost or not, one thing is certain: plan a trip at Galapagos Islands it requires time and a lot of research: in short, you have to roll up your sleeves, but I assure you that what you will receive in return will have been worth a thousand times all the effort made for the organization of the trip.

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