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?

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Puero Ayora, Galapagos

Visiting the Galapagos Islands on a Land-based Tour

Land-based tourism is another way to see the natural wonders of the Galapagos Islands. This option is growing in popularity. You may go on a prearranged tour with an agency or go independently.


What exactly is a land-based tour?

Instead of spending your time on a yacht (where you eat, sleep and travel through the Galapagos archipelago), you stay in hotels on one of the three inhabited islands: San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, and Isabela. Floreana Island overnight stays are rarely included on land-based tours, though it does have several hotels. Each day, you travel to one or two visitor sites, either on land or at sea. Some packages island-hop, taking in several of the populated islands.


Why take a land-based tour?

Cost: Galapagos land-based tours tend to be more cost-effective than cruises.

Wildlife: Many Galapagos animals – particularly sea lions, marine iguanas, Sally Lightfoot crabs and a variety of sea birds – can be observed in and around the port towns. In addition to visiting sites close to town, visitors take day cruises to other nearby (uninhabited) islands, where you can spot wildlife and often snorkel or even scuba dive.

Sea sickness-free (or nearly so): With each night spent firmly on land, this is a preferable choice if sea motions make you nauseous (though note you will still travel between islands by boat).

Experience island life: With nights spent in hotels and meals eaten at hotels or restaurants, you will interact with locals in a way that isn’t possible on a cruise.


Are there any disadvantages to taking a land-based tour instead of a multi-day cruise?

Not all of the sites in the Galapagos Islands are accessible by a day tour, so there will be certain areas – and islands – that a land-based tour just can’t reach.

Also, as cruises often travel overnight and hotel-based stays require going back-and-forth from site to hotel with daytime travel, you’ll see less places overall.


Anything else I should know?

One increasingly popular choice is for visitors to combine a Galapagos multi-day cruise with a land-based tour. This option allows you to maximize wildlife viewing, experience island life, and squeeze in a day trip or two if you’re still yearning to see more.

If you make your own arrangements, remember that the Galapagos Islands entry regulations require you to show proof of all hotel reservations for your entire stay in the islands, as well as a round trip ticket.


Do you have other questions about land-based tours? Write your questions below in the comments or contact us and we’ll help you plan your dream Galapagos Islands vacation.


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Destination info Galapagos islands

Insider’s Galapagos Goes Live!

Welcome to Insider’s Galapagos – your go-to resource for planning a trip to the Galapagos Islands.

With so much information out there on the islands – and with hundreds of tours, cruises, hotels and agencies to choose from – it’s no surprise that planning a visit to the islands can be a little overwhelming. Read more