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A luxury travel guide to the Galapagos Islands

By Melanie Kruger on 11th August 2019

If you’re planning your next luxury getaway, wildlife lovers will find few destinations quite as appealing as the Galapagos Islands. Boasting azure waters fringed with pristine white sandy beaches and lush green palm trees, this picture-perfect collection of islands are a paradise in more ways than one – and with so much to see and do whilst there, they make the perfect choice for those who enjoy combining action and relaxation.

Located along the equator, almost 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, the islands are a vast archipelago of volcanic outcrops, and with so many to discover, the best way by far to take them all in is by embarking on a luxury cruise.

The cruise

The spacious accommodation afforded by the Galapagos Legend allows each passenger the space to relax and soak up the atmosphere of the islands

If you’re looking for wildlife encounters and adventure travel combined with impeccable service and an opulent experience all round, then you’re in for a treat, with expedition cruises offering a unique experience you’ll never forget.

Our top pick? The Voyagers Travel Company’s Galapagos Legend Cruise. Offering spacious accommodation in elegant surroundings, a luxury experience is guaranteed – and with a team of multilingual naturalists on board who can help give you a better understanding and appreciation of the islands, it has to be one of the best ways out there to experience Galapagos.

During the days, head out on foot to explore some of the natural habitats of the islands, and observe the wildlife up close. Then, after a long day of taking in some extraordinary sights and experiences, passengers can enjoy a well-earned rest in the spa or relax around the pool and admire the view. Head to their website to find out more about the range of itineraries on offer.

The Islands

A view of the beach of the island of Isabela, on the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
The Galapagos Islands are made up of 18 major islands, many with their own endemic species of plants, animals and birds

The Galapagos Islands are made up of 18 major islands, many with their own endemic species of plants, animals and birds. Visiting them all in one go can be challenging – so here are a few of our favourites.

San Cristobal

Due to its proximity to the San Cristobal airport, this island is usually the starting and finishing point for most trips. The small port town of Puerto Baquerizo is worth taking the time to explore, and a great spot to stop off and enjoy lunch and a cocktail or two.

If you’re interested in learning a little more about the history of the island, its nature, and the impact humans have had on it over the years, then drop into the Interpretation Centre – an interesting museum with plenty of displays and exhibits to take in.

On San Cristobal, you can see sealions, giant tortoises, marine iguanas and lava lizards – while bird spotters will delight in the chance to encounter pelicans, frigate birds and both blue and ref footed boobies.

Galapagos Marine Iguana walking on Tortuga bay. Many Marine iguanas on beach on Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos Islands. Animals, wildlife and beautiful nature landscape in Ecuador, South America.
The Galapagos are a subtropical year-round destination

Espanola

Home to the idyllic Gardner Bay – an idyllic white sandy beach on which sleeping sealions can often be found, Espanola is also a paradise for bird spotters, and here you can see everything from albatross, blue-footed boobies and mockingbirds to sharks, marine iguanas and sealions,

Santa Cruz

Home to the colourful city of Puerto Ayora, this lively island is awash with shops and restaurants along with a selection of high-end hotels. The island is also home to the Charles Darwin Research Station – which plays an important role in the preservation of the islands – as well as Los Gemelos – two large sinkholes, lava tubes through which visitors can walk and the Cerro Dragon (Dragon Hill) viewpoint. If you’re lucky, wildlife encounters will include land iguanas, sealions and gaint tortoises.

What to do

Snorkelling & Scuba Diving: An absolute must for Ocean lovers, snorkelling and scuba diving in the Galapagos Islands offers the chance to encounter a plethora of amazing marine life, from manta rays and green turtles to huge schools of hammerhead sharks. If you’re really lucky, you might even spot a whale shark or a humpback – an unforgettable experience that will stay with you for years to ccome.

Hiking: The most popular route to walk is known as ‘Prince Phillip’s Steps; on Isla Genovesa, but there are many other routes across the archipelago. Ask your cruise provider to provide a guide for you to ensure you get the very best experience – and find the most spectacular viewpoints along the way.

Kayaking: Many yachts and catamarans have kayaks on board for passenger use, so take full advantage if you can. Exploring the islands by kayak can be a great way to get up close and personal with some of the wildlife in the area, so don’t forget your camera.

RABIDA ISLAND, ECUADOR -APRIL 22: Unidentified people visit Rabida Island on April 22, 2015 in Galapagos National Park, Ecuador. Galapagos Islands are UNESCO World Heritage Site
If you’re planning your next luxury getaway, wildlife lovers will find few destinations quite as appealing as the Galapagos Islands. Image credit: Donyanedomam/Bigstock.com

Climate and when to visit

The Galapagos are a subtropical year-round destination, temperatures on average range from 21°C – 30°C. However, there are two defining seasons;

January – May: Classed as the wet season, or low season, it is also the hottest part of the year, although winds die down and the seas are generally calmer. The increased temperature of the sea makes this time of year ideal for snorkelling.

June – December: This is the dry season, also known as the high season. The Humbolt current brings cooler waters to the islands, and this is also the time when wildlife is at its most active. It’s also the best time of year for scuba diving.

On land

Fancy extending your trip with a few days on land? These luxurious hotels are our top picks.

Hotel Angermeyer
Get the celebrity treatment with world-class service at Hotel Angermeyer Waterfront at this spectacular five-star hotel

Hotel Angermeyer, Waterfront Inn

Get the celebrity treatment with world-class service at Hotel Angermeyer Waterfront at this spectacular five-star hotel, set in a picturesque building constructed from lava and driftwood in pretty Puerto Ayora – on the Punta Estrada Waterfront, beside Gus Angermeyer’s legendary caves.

Rooms feature free Wi-Fi and cable TV, with large windows overlooking the sea, while the on-site restaurant offers regional and international dishes, which can be enjoyed on the patio or on the water deck. Guests can relax on the private waterfront, or practice snorkelling.

Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel

The opulent Finch Bay Galapagos Hotel is located just 0.6 miles from the spectacular Garrapatero Beach and Tortuga Bay and features an outdoor swimming pool, garden, a bar and shared lounge in Puerto Ayora. Featuring a concierge service, this property also provides guests with a restaurant – a beautiful five-star hotel that guarantees a relaxing stay.