Masked Booby, Galapagos Islands

How long should I spend in the Galapagos islands?

One of the first questions travellers ask us when planning a trip to Galapagos is how much time they need to visit the islands.

My usual response is to first ask, how much time do you have?

Then, what are your reasons for visiting the Galapagos islands?

How long is long enough?

Let’s face it, for most visitors to Galapagos it is a once-in-a-lifetime trip so it makes sense to experience as much as possible in the time you have available.

For bucket-listers – believe it or not I’ve been asked more than once if the islands can be visited in a day – I recommend you talk to one of the 100 passenger cruise ship operators that offer trips as short as 3 nights i.e. 2 full days in the islands. Tick! Now that’s over and done with you can move onto the next destination on the list.

However, for lovers of wildlife, stark natural beauty and natural history my advice is the longer you stay in the islands the better. See, do and learn as much as you can in the time you have available. But don’t rush. The Galapagos islands are not only a wonderful place to spend time; along with their fauna they provided the inspiration to radically change our understanding of how species evolve.

Let’s talk numbers

The amount of time most visitors end up spending in the islands is heavily influenced by the way they decide to travel.


The way to see as much as possible of the islands is to take a small-yacht cruise. These vessels can travel to the most distant parts of the archipelago and have access to sites the larger cruise ships are not permitted to visit. Most carry only 16 passengers – the maximum a licensed Galapagos guide can lead – so offer the bonus of an intimate, safari-like experience.

All cruises run to a two week itinerary authorized by the Galapagos National Park under a system designed to distribute the impact of visitors across the 70 land and 79 marine sites designated for tourism. Most vessels divide their two week itinerary into shorter cruises determined by the days the vessel is in one of the two port towns that have access to airports: Puerto Ayora or Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.


An alternative mode of visiting the islands is to stay in one or more of the four port towns and take day trips to nearby sites. From a land base you won’t have the opportunity to see as much biological and geographical diversity as on a typical cruise but you do have more flexibility with regard to your length of stay as well as more opportunity to get a feel for daily life in the islands. Fixed itinerary “island-hopping” tours are available for those that prefer to have everything planned out for them.


A third alternative, if you want both the broad experience offered by a cruise plus the flexibility of an island stay, is to add a few extra land-based days either before or after your cruise.

The verdict?

So, you ask, how long should I spend in the Galapagos islands? My personal recommendation is to aim for 10 to 15 days if you want a comprehensive overview of Galapagos’ wonders. And more, much more, if you can manage it.

For those on a tighter timeline I’d say stay as long as you can but no less than 8 days / 7 nights. That will give you 6 full days in the islands once you discount the first and last days for flights to and from mainland Ecuador.

Any less than that will only be a taster and have you wishing you’d taken my advice!

Still not sure?

If you still need some help deciding how long to spend in Galapagos take a look at what you’ll get to see on a range of itineraries using the Cruise Selector or get personalised advice from one of our Local Travel Experts.


Are you planning a trip to the Galapagos islands? If so, how long do you plan to visit?

Or if you’ve already been to Galapagos, how long did you stay? Where you happy with the length of your trip?

Join the conversation with your fellow travellers by leaving a comment below.


Galapagos Travel Planner - FREE Download


Photo credit: Max Goldberg

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