GETTING TO AND AROUND THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS
The Galapagos archipelago is located 600 miles (1000 km) off the coast of mainland Ecuador. There are daily flights to the islands from Ecuador’s two major airports in the cities of Quito and Guayaquil. Traveling by sea is possible but not really an option for most: it’s a three-day rough crossing, and a private vessel is required.
Getting to the Galapagos Islands
Several international carriers operate flights to Ecuador from destinations around the world. From mainland Ecuador, it’s either a three and a half hour journey from Quito airport or a two-hour flight from Guayaquil. Flights land at one of two airports in the islands – Baltra and San Cristobal. Baltra is the busiest and most popular airport to fly to, as it’s close to Santa Cruz Island, where the biggest town in the islands, Puerto Ayora, is located. Puerto Ayora is considered to be the best hub from which to explore the islands. However, if your cruise starts from San Cristobal island – and many do – it is advisable to fly straight there rather than to Baltra.
Three airlines – LAN Ecuador, TAME and Avianca Ecuador (previously Aerogal) – operate daily services to Baltra and San Cristobal airports. Fares are similar for all three airlines and for both destinations, and range between $420-600 round-trip; you’ll find the cheapest deals during off-peak season (April to June, and September through November).
Click here to see flight schedules to and from the Galapagos.
Quito is the point of departure for all flights to Galapagos, but most stop in Guayaquil for at least an hour to pick up additional passengers. Flights leave Quito early in the morning and take a little over three hours (including the layover in Guayaquil) to reach the islands. From Guayaquil it is approximately an hour and a half to the islands (it’s also usually around $50-70 cheaper). Note that all return flights from the islands depart in the morning.
It is possible to reach the Galapagos by private yacht; however, if you wish to cruise around the islands independently, you will need a special permit and must be accompanied by guides licensed from the Galapagos National Park Service.
Getting Around the Galapagos Islands
There are 13 major islands, six minor islands and numerous islets in the Galapagos archipelago. Most visitors travel around the islands on a cruise, however there is public transport (boats and small aircraft) linking the three main inhabited islands (Santa Cruz, San Cristobal and Isabela). Cars, taxis and bicycles (the latter can be hired by tourists) are abundant in the towns located on the islands of Santa Cruz, San Cristobal and Isabela.
Inter-island boat travel between the main islands is easy. Ingala, a government company, operates passenger ferry services between Santa Cruz, San Cristobal and Isabela. Private boats can also be contracted for travel between the major islands and towns.
Boats leave Santa Cruz twice daily at 7am and 2pm for both Isabela and San Cristobal. From Isabela and San Cristobal, boats head to Santa Cruz at 7am and 2pm each day. Each journey is approximately two and a half hours long and costs US$40 one-way.
A local airline, Emetebe, flies small passenger planes between Santa Cruz, San Cristobal and Isabela, with each journey taking approximately 30 minutes.
Tickets cost around US$200 each way and can be purchased at the islands’ airports, at the EMETEBE office in Puerto Ayora or through Galapagos Travel Planner here. Flights leave daily at the following times:
Baltra (for Santa Cruz Island) to San Cristobal: 9.30 a.m.
Baltra to Isabela: 12.30 p.m.
San Cristobal to Baltra: 10.30 a.m.
Isabela to Baltra: 8.30 a.m.
San Cristobal to Isabela: 7.30 a.m.
Isabela to San Cristobal: 1.30 p.m.
We endeavor to keep the above schedules up-to-date, but they are subject to change without notice. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to confirm the most up-to-date schedules for the time you plan to travel.