A land of myth and mystery, the Galapagos Islands have a history almost as rich as their natural treasures. Governed by mainland Ecuador, the chain of volcanic islands formed in the Pacific Ocean along the infamous Ring of Fire, roughly 800 km off the coast.
A fierce environment of stark contrasts, life here has adapted to its surrounds in surprisingly wonderful ways. Here’s what makes a Galapagos Island holiday so tremendous:
Ecotourism in the Galapagos
Juxtaposing the salty, dry and barren landscape at sea level, the Galapagos islands’ soaring volcanic peaks are swathed in misty rainforest, made up of vegetation so prolific it smothers everything in sight.
Famously, the archipelago’s remote location and isolation made them ideal for Charles Darwin’s studies on evolution. Slight adaptations to the different environments that each islands’ population of tortoise, finch and other species made, opened the window of understanding for Darwin to see evolution at play.
With the islands and surrounding ocean teeming with life, the Galapagos is a worthy attraction for visitors with an interest in eco-tourism or who are simply looking for a novel destination to spend their honeymoon in South America. Galapagos Island holidays offer some of the world’s most astonishing wildlife experiences, from scuba diving with swarms of hammerhead sharks, whale sharks and marine iguanas to hiking among the world’s only equatorial penguins, curious blue-footed boobies and albatross (with their record-breaking wing span).
What’s the weather?
There are so many different experiences on offer during a Galapagos holiday, and your preference in activity will certainly impact on when it’s best for you to travel here and where you choose to stay.
The busiest months tend to be June, July and August when the weather is cool and dry, with December through January being hotter and wetter.
Rough seas and colder ocean currents are found June through to November. This is prime time for scuba divers to explore the fascinating world beneath the waves.
While boat-based holidays may prove the most popular, land-based ones are equally as rewarding, especially during rough ocean seasons when shorter forays out to the ocean are recommended and, of course, for those prone to seasickness.
Besides the excitement of the myriad bird watching opportunities available to visitors, land-based activities include hiking to the rim of an active volcano, exploring the thick vegetation of tropical forests and photographing the incredible plant life.
Where to stay in the Galapagos
Pikaia Lodge is an eco-centric lodge with a distinct vantage point atop an extinct volcano on Santa Cruz island.
With its own micro climate 450m above sea level, Pikaia Lodge is sandwiched between the arid savanna below and the tropical mist forest of the volcanic highlands above.
Pikaia offers a luxurious eco-adventure experience in the pristine Galapagos National Park by day and, by night, the chance to rest your head in spacious, quiet luxury, personalised attention and fine cuisine high on the holiday agenda.
Once you’ve had your fill of Galapagos adventures, mainland Ecuador is the obvious next stop on your itinerary.
Sitting neatly on the equator, Ecuador offers a diverse travel experience, from bustling cities to isolated escapes. The democratic republic presents four unique worlds in one place, showing off the Amazon rainforests, Andes mountains, Pacific coast and Galapagos Isles, making it a clear Plan South America favourite.
Explore the lofty streets of Quito (at 2 850m, it is the highest capital city in the world), and you’ll want to visit its true soul. Old Town is a district steeped in history and a beautiful place to get lost in.
Where to stay in Ecuador
With a well-positioned location and quintessential comforts, Casa Gangotena Boutique Hotel is a three-storey historic mansion. Its effortless blend of classic architecture and contemporary interior design make it a clear favourite.
Adventure further in Ecuador
Hacienda Zuleta in the Northern Andes is a grand colonial working farm set in the highlands north of Quito. An area of rich pasture populated by herds of horses and cattle. There are also rivers, immense volcanoes, lakes and colonial towns. These Sierras are heaven for walking, riding and cycling, staying at traditional haciendas and visiting indigenous craft markets.
Travel to the Amazon’s protected Mashpi Reserve and stay at the “luxury cacoon in the clouds”. Mashpi lodge is a five-star lodge nestled inside the rainforest, providing the perfect base to explore one of the world’s most important biodiversity sites.