The fascinating Galapagos Archipelago is located in the Pacific Ocean, 600 mi. west of mainland Ecuador (2 hr. flight from Guayaquil), and composed of 19 main islands (four inhabited) plus over 40 small islets (see island details below). Discovered by European navigators in 1535, the Galapagos were not colonized until the 19th century although the islands had served as a pirate refuge, whaling station, and even as a penal colony. The archipelago is volcanic in origin with incredible geological formations including lava flows, spatter cones, blowholes, tunnels, craters, and beaches of all colors and shapes. Some islands feature imposing volcanoes that become active sporadically, offering spectacular views of incandescent lava rivers flowing into the ocean. Main visitor attraction, however, is the unique opportunity to interact with wildlife at close range. Swimming with sea lions, snorkeling with penguins, sharing trails with blue and red-footed boobies, and sunning on the beach beside inquisitive iguanas is all part of the experience. The islands are normally visited aboard ships and yachts that cruise from three to 11 nights. Small hotels in the main islands also offer guests adventurous day trips.
When to go
The Galapagos is a year ‘round destination with two distinctly different seasons regulated by the Humboldt and Panama ocean currents. Dry season (June-November) brings cooler water and air temperatures, trade winds, and some moisture to higher elevations. Wet season (December-May) is warmer, with blue skies, and occasional showers. Average temperatures range from