Our most popular Birding Tours
Andean Discovery takes you to some of the most renowned birding spots in the rainforests and cloudforests of Peru and Ecuador. Choose from one of the birding trips below.
Andean Discovery takes you to some of the most renowned birding spots in the rainforests and cloudforests of Peru and Ecuador. Choose from one of the birding trips below.
Colombia is a great place to visit throughout the year because of its proximity to the equator. Although the official dry season is from December to March, the Caribbean coast and Medellin experience warm, dry weather all year round. The tourist high season is December to February and areas like Santa Marta and Tayrona National Park can be crowded during this time. Generally, Colombia requires light clothing suitable for warm to hot weather. During these months, the nights in the highlands can become chilly in areas of higher altitude so travelers should pack layers for when the sun goes down.
The lowlands enjoy similar tropical temperatures year-round but more frequent rain showers occur in April to June and again in October and November.
The Amazon climate is wet all year long. Pack very light clothing but long sleeves and trousers to prevent mosquito bites during the evenings. It is also essential to have waterproof clothing in preparation for downpours.
The style of clothing worn by local Colombians generally depends on the region they inhabit. To fit in with the locals, pack a selection of light, summer-friendly options for visits to tropical Cartagena and a variety of big-city brights and fashionable nightwear for cities like Medellin and Bogota. Dressing in lightweight, easy-dry layers is a great way to stay cozy and comfortable throughout your trip to Colombia as the weather varies in each region depending on the time of day you travel.
Residents throughout Colombia pride themselves on being fashion forward and formal dress is often expected for fancy dinners and night-time activities. Male visitors may wish to purchase a Guayabera, or “fancy white shirt” after they arrive in Colombia as these garments are favored by locals and are considered acceptable attire for nearly any social situation within the country.
Colombia is a popular hotspot for international tourists and South American natives alike and travelers have several options for accommodations during their stay. Our personalized Colombia tours offer a wide variety of lodging experiences and guests are able to choose from a huge selection of the best Colombia hotels available. We partner with several leading accommodation providers from small hostels to five-star hotels to ensure you have the best experience possible on your trip to Colombia!
Colombia’s tourism sector has experienced huge growth over the last decade – and for good reason! Read on to learn more about the top trips and tours in Colombia at Andean Discovery!
Coffee lovers curious about the origin of their morning buzz will love exploring eje cafetero, home to world-renowned Arabica coffee. The area’s mysterious scenery, an assortment of flora and fauna, charming Andean villages, and tasty traditional trucha (trout) will captivate the interest of people who don’t even drink the famed beverage.
Colorful colonial history, tropical Caribbean setting, and wonderful weather come together in Cartagena. Enjoy a laidback ambiance as you explore Ciudad Amurallada, one of the world’s best-preserved walled cities containing a plethora of flowers, colorful buildings, and intimate plazas. Make sure to pack your dancing shoes because Cartagena has a variety of authentic salsa joints where the bands play as their pay depends on getting people to dance.
View the Amazon rainforest from the comfort of a low-impact, small-scale settlement with easy access to natural marvels. The Calanoa Project promotes respectful tourism by working with nearby indigenous communities to preserve ancestral knowledge and cultural practices. They have planted hundreds of hardwood trees, fruits and palms have been planted in order to supply food, fibers, and building materials for a self-sufficient operation. You will also enjoy Calanoa’s cuisine, a fusion of local Amazonian traditions with Brazilian, Colombian, and Peruvian influences using organic and fresh local produce.
One of Colombia’s most popular national parks, Tayrona National Park, encompasses the Caribbean coast from the Bahía de Taganga near Santa Marta to the mouth of the Río Piedras. Tayrona National Park includes beaches, a rainforest, and even an arid landscape with cacti and light-brown hills in the western section. The park is home to at least 56 endangered species.
Birders and wildlife enthusiasts shouldn’t miss El Dorado Reserve, considered to be a Holy Grail for birding in the Americas. This 1,600-acre reserve hosts the highest concentration of continental, range-restricted bird species found anywhere in the world, just a two hours drive from the tourist city of Santa Marta. You can also find endemic and threatened amphibian specie, as well as local flora and fauna.
A historically infamous city, Medellin is now gaining attention for its incredible rebirth and inventiveness. Colombia’s second-largest city even beat cities like New York and Tel Aviv to be awarded “World’s Most Innovative Cityâ€ in 2013. Known as the â€˜City of Eternal Spring’, the area boasts pleasant temperatures year-round and supports lush botanical gardens in its picturesque location in the Aburrá Valley. This vibrant city is filled with public art, modernist architecture, and impressive museums, but the party really starts when the sun goes down and rhythms of Colombian Salsa and Vallenato music fill the air. This city likes to eat, drink, dance, and watch soccer in its numerous bars and restaurants.
Little is known about the natives who inhabited the area that is now Colombia before the Spanish arrived in 1500.
Shortly after arriving, the Spanish established the colony of New Granada and built the settlement of Santa Fe de Bogota, which subsequently becomes known as Bogota. These new colonies thrived and many African slaves were taken to these cities to assist with building and maintenance. After a 14-year struggle, Simí³n Bolívar’s Venezuelan troops defeated the Spanish at the battle of Boyacá in Colombia in 1819. The resulting Republic of Gran Colombia united Colombia, Venezuela, Panama, and Ecuador as a single country under one central leader. Due to regional differences, Gran Colombia dissolved in 1829-1830 when Bolívar lost Venezuela and Ecuador to separatists.
In the 19th century, Colombia was a troubled country and suffered eight civil wars between its liberal and conservative parties as conservatives believed in a strong central government and a powerful church while liberals believed in a decentralized government, strong regional power, and a limited role of the church. Political instability continued through the late 19th century and culminated in the War of a Thousand Days which began in 1899 and resulted in the death of nearly 120,000 people.
In the early 20th century, social legislation was introduced and Colombia was generally peaceful and without conflict – trade unions were encouraged, the economy developed and the export of coffee increased. This period of rest was short-lived however and the assassination of the well-liked and respected left-wing mayor of Bogota in 1948 caused riots and began a civil war that lasted until 1957.
At the beginning of the 21st century, the situation in Colombia improved. In 2000, the United States pledged $1.3 billion to fight drug trafficking with “Plan Colombiaâ€. Violence in Colombia declined after 2002 when President Alvaro Uribe increased Colombia’s security, aggressively campaigned against the drug trade, and passed several economic reform bills.
In 2012, the United States-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement (CTPA) went into effect. This agreement eliminated tariffs and other trade barriers to the exchange of goods and services between Colombia and the United States. In the early 21st century, the Colombian economy grew rapidly and poverty and unemployment declined. Today, Colombia is booming, tourism is increasing and the country has a bright future.
The history of Peru (before the Inca era) as we know it today has been uncovered, in large part, through large archaeological excavation endeavors. Historical artifacts including ceramics, textiles, and cave drawings have been collected, sorted, and displayed throughout Peru’s archaeological museums – a collection of clues as to the lives of Peruvian inhabitants who lived and worked nearly 20,000 years ago. Advanced hunting tools and well-planned irrigation systems lead many to believe that these early colonies were cutting-edge, organized, and well-established.
The Incan empire ruled from around 1400 A.C. to 1500 and is widely considered one of the largest dynasties in American history before the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492. This small tribe of peoples was based out of Cusco, which served as the country’s capital city throughout Inca rule. Machu Picchu is one of the most well-preserved ruins left behind by the Incan peoples, and thousands of tourists flock to visit the historical site’s peak each year. The Incas grew to be one of the largest and most powerful forces in South America and had a complex and interesting society that is well studied to this day.
Spanish soldiers arrived in the South American land in 1532 and began plotting to take over the rule of the fertile and bountiful country. These European soldiers brought smallpox and other illnesses into Peru, killing thousands of “New World” inhabitants including Huayna Capac who served as the 11th Inca or King. Capac’s sons were each given half of his kingdom and a civil war that began between the brothers helped to quicken the downfall of the Incan empire. Spanish rulers changed the capital of Peru from the land-locked Cuzco to coastal Lima to accommodate arriving soldiers and facilitate trade.
Peru’s Independence Wars were fought from 1810 until 1824 when a battle led by General Antonio Jose de Sucre secured freedom from Spanish rule. Peru continued to fight for freedom throughout the 1800s and 1900s – defeating Spanish rulers in 1866 and losing a large piece of land to Chile in a war that spanned from 1879 to 1883. A war with Ecuador in 1941 over borders wasn’t resolved until 1998 when Peru agreed to allow Ecuador access to the Amazon rainforest in exchange for keeping control over the land.
In 2001 Peru elected its first Native Indian President, Alejandro Toledo. The country has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of South America and thousands of tourists visit to hike, swim, shop, and to learn more about Peruvian history firsthand through the exploration of archaeological sites and artifacts each year.
Peru is one of the most popular countries for tourist travel in South America. Although visiting Machu Picchu tops the bucket list of many adventurers worldwide, seasoned explorers know that this beautiful and eclectic country is not just a one-stop destination. Learn more about the top five things to do when visiting Peru below.
Machu Picchu is one of the most famous archaeological sites in all of South America and the popular peak has definitely earned its reputation for awe-inspiring views. Voted one of the New 7 Wonders of the World in 2001, the “lost city of the Incasï¿½? contains so many historical monuments and examples of Inca architecture – it’s best to have a tour guide to walk you through the history, legend and folklore surrounding this mystical place. Travel to the peak of this historical mountain by hiking, or via a spectacular train ride via Ollantaytambo train station.
This colorful city was once the capital of the Incan empire and remains a cultural hotspot to this day. This exciting town is extremely close to Machu Picchu and provides an excellent resting point for travellers who are looking to spend a bit of down time before they hike the popular summit. Visit an indigenous market in Pisac to purchase handmade crafts and to sample authentic Peruvian foods or take a brief hike throughout the cities’ ruins that previously made up the Incas’ agricultural system.
This 26 mile trek isn’t for the faint of heart – but the satisfaction gained by finishing this challenging expedition more than makes up for the struggle of navigating a historical land. From beautiful mountain scenery to tropical jungle, hikers experience the beauty and wonder of many Peruvian landscapes. Begin your hike by crossing Cusichaca (aptly named “The Bridge of Happinessï¿½?) and plan to spend around 6-8 hours hiking over a four day period to cross the finish line and enter Machu Picchu.
This large and diverse lake borders Peru and Bolivia and is home to over 500 species of aquatic life. Visit the floating islands of the Uros people to learn about a unique community with a spectacular way of living – or spend time in the small town of Puno, where folklore is cherished and celebrated in weekend festivals and markets.
Peru’s epic Colca Canyon is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon and is home to large families of spectacular Andean Condors. Plan your trip from the comfort of Arequipa, a nearby town that offers hiking, hot springs and magnificent views.
Peru is one of the most popular destinations for travelers to South America and popular tourist areas offer a variety of hotels, hostels and lodges that are as diverse and eclectic as the country itself! Our local guides have an intimate knowledge of the Peruvian landscape and know which locations provide the best experience overall for tourists and travelers alike. We partner with high-quality hotels to make sure each and every guest has the adventure of a lifetime. Read on to learn more about some of the lodging options we offer for custom tours to Peru!
Peru is one of the most diverse countries in Latin America – with warm coastal deserts, cool rainforests and even snowy mountain regions. Located south of the equator, Peru experiences weather patterns that are opposite to those experienced by individuals living on the East Coast of the United States – so cold and snowy weather in Boston is a likely indicator of warm and sunny skies in Lima. If you’re planning to see everything that this amazingly unique country has to offer, you’ll need a wide variety of clothing options to keep you comfortable throughout the trip.
The weight limit for checked luggage on most internal flights, including Cusco and the Amazon is currently 20 kilos (44 pounds) per person. If you are over that limit, you’ll likely need to pay a surcharge.
Large suitcases are not permitted on the train from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu, although these cases can be stored securely at the lodge during excursions. A small weekend bag is recommended as you’ll need a change of clothes and essential items when travelling to Machu Picchu overnight.
The typical dress code throughout the country is functional and casual – female travellers may want to bring one dress and a pair of dressier sandals for night-time outings or fancy dinner reservations.
Packing lightweight layers is an easy and effective way to make sure you’re prepared for any climate – fabrics should be waterproof whenever possible to allow for protection during short and sudden rainstorms.
Peru is made up of three distinct geographical subsections, each with their own weather and temperature patterns. The country is split (N to S) by the Andes mountains and contains parts of the Amazon jungle in the East. Although each of these locals experiences slightly different weather patterns, November through March is generally considered to be the “Wet seasonï¿½? and April through October is generally considered to be the “Dry seasonï¿½? throughout the entire country. Read on to learn more about the best times to visit Peru on your next vacation!
Temperatures are generally warm throughout the year and the coastal region usually experiences little rainfall. High daytime temperatures (80+ F) and lower nighttime temperatures (50+ F) make for a relaxing vacation. The city of Lima can get quite foggy from April through October but the sun breaks through clouds the further out from Lima you travel. The capital city is warm and humid from November through March.
ANDES / MACHU PICCHU
Expect high temperatures and dry climates from April through October – although temperatures vary by altitude so light layers are encouraged for those planning to visit the peaks of Machu Picchu. Sudden, heavy showers occur from November through March so raincoats are a must.
Humidity is high throughout the year and rainfall should be expected from November through March. Warm days and cool nights demand layers for travelers who expect to be outside for long periods of time.
Ecuador’s written history as we know it today begins with the concentration of early cultures of indigenous peoples throughout coastal areas that supported the majority of inhabitants from as far back as the year 9000 B.C. These early pioneers lived relatively peaceful lives in small clans and large tribes who survived by fishing, hunting, and eventually farming on the region’s fertile land. These wandering tribes eventually settled down into permanent societies including the Valdivia peoples who created intricate ceramic pottery creations, the Quitus peoples (after whom Quito is named) and the Caras who enjoyed considerable power and prestige in the region until the mid 1400’s when the small country was invaded by the Incas of Peru.
The Incas were ruthless in their pursuit of power over Ecuadorian land and many lives were lost defending the area – to no avail. Quechua, an Inca language still widely spoken in Ecuador was introduced to natives at this time and many great buildings and cities were built throughout the region. The Inca empire enjoyed its rule over Ecuador until the mid 1500’s when Spanish forces took the land in yet another series of bloody battles that ultimately led to the total conquering of Ecuadorian peoples. A period of enslavement ensued, and Spanish rulers continued to profit from the work of Ecuadorian citizens until major worldwide financial depressions caused economic downfall in the period between 1700 and 1800.
This collapse allowed for the possibility of native revolt and Ecuadorians from all walks of life banded together to retake the cities once ruled by their ancestors. Ecuador became fully independent in 1830 – but internal power struggles created a period of instability and fear. Democratic leadership and free elections in the 20th century helped to create a more peaceful society that has prospered over time – and tourism quickly became one of the fastest growing industries in this small South American hotspot.
Ecuador is truly a place of beauty and of diverse landscapes – offering a wide selection of travel options that include epic volcano treks, wildlife-rich island hopping tours and mysterious jungle adventures. From the Andean Highlands to the Galapagos Islands, this small country is packed full of experiences that are hard to pass up. Learn more about the top five things to do in Ecuador below!
View the flora, fauna and wildlife of this unique and historical site on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Galapagos Islands!
Travel throughout the colorful and welcoming indigenous villages that house generations of native Ecuadorian people. Visit authentic markets, view active volcanic peaks and discover the natural beauty of the land on a custom tour throughout the Highlands!
Venture deep into the heart of the largest existing rainforest on this planet to view native flora, fauna and wildlife on a customized tour in the Ecuadorian Amazon!
Be one with nature while visiting one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems in the Northern Hemisphere – the Mashpi Reserve! Located on the western slopes of the Andes, this three-thousand acre reserve is home to a comfortable lodge that acts as the perfect homebase for nature lovers!
Truly experience nature in all of its spectacular glory on this five-day hiking trek through one of South America’s most scenic routes: The Quilotoa Loop.
Ecuador is a small country with a big tourism industry and travelers generally have no problems finding accommodations that suit their specific travel style. Our customized Ecuador tours allow for a wide variety of choices in lodging that include everything from high-quality hotels to inexpensive hostels to luxury Galapagos cabin rooms! We work hard to ensure that each and every guest is given a safe and comfortable room that acts as a home-away-from-home throughout your stay. Read on to learn more about the lodging options we offer in Ecuador!
Ecuador’s unique landscape includes four diverse subregions that all have individual weather patterns and climates – so travelers should consult with their individual itineraries to pinpoint which areas they will visit during their stay. Although some areas (like Guayaquil and the Ecuadorian Amazon region) experience extremely high, humid temperatures at times during the year, other locations (like the country’s’ capital city, Quito) have consistently mild temperatures that hover below seventy degrees (fahrenheit) throughout the year.
If you are travelling to several regions during your stay, packing a suitcase full of light layers can help to accommodate temperature changes and keep you comfortable during your stay. Some areas at high-elevations experience light snowfall during the winter months, so a fleece jacket is recommended for travel during that time. All fabrics should be quick-drying as short rainshowers are common in many areas around the country.
The primary currency used in Ecuador is the US dollar and many personal-hygiene items are available for purchase so don’t bother loading your suitcase full of shampoo, toothpaste or the like. Purchasing clothing and shoes can be difficult, especially large sizes, as the average Ecuadorian is shorter than US travelers. No matter what region you will visit during your stay, make sure to pack a pair of comfortable walking shoes that have been broken in before your trip to ensure comfort throughout your visit.
Ecuador is a small country with a hugely diverse population and a wide variety of biologically unique plants and animals. The peak travel season for tourists runs from June through September and from December through January – although stable weather patterns create a friendly environment for visitors throughout the year. There are four major climate zones in Ecuador, so tourists are able to plan travel around the current climate of each zone.
The Andes Region, including Quito and the Andean Highlands experiences cool and dry temperatures throughout the winter season which lasts roughly from June through September. Warmer temperatures are enjoyed during the summer months (December through March) but this time period is also considered the country’s rainy season so visitors can expect to experience a few showers during their travels.
The Amazon region experiences rainfall year round but temperatures are generally high – reaching 90+ degrees fahrenheit throughout the year. Heading towards the Pacific Coast region, travelers can expect high temperatures and sunny days, mixed in with short rainshowers during the day. Cooler temperatures and cloudy skies from June to September mean it will be too chilly to swim during the dry season in this area.
Finally, the Galapagos Region experiences dry weather and cool temperatures from June to December with rainy conditions and warmer weather starting in late December and lasting until May.
The Galapagos Islands Wildlife & Nature – a Trip Approach: The Galapagos Islands, named after the shells of saddleback Galapagos tortoises, is a mind-blowing experience. The animals have no instinctive fear of humans, allowing you amazingly close encounters with unique species. Nowhere else in the world can you experience such a diverse group of wildlife in such close proximity: swim and snorkel with sea lions, watch a penguin waddle into the water, scuba dive with hammerhead sharks, stand right next to two male iguanas fighting for a mate, view a waved albatross, with its 8-foot wingspan, soar along coastal cliffs, and ponder a 400-pound giant Galapagos Tortoises
Andean Discovery has compiled this handy list of the 15 most iconic Galapagos species. Whether you choose to do a Galapagos land-based tour or a Galapagos cruise, you are sure to have the wildlife experience of a lifetime.
Located 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, the Galápagos Islands are made up of 13 main islands and 48 islets. Scattered over an area of 36,000 square miles around the equator, none of the islands have ever been connected by land to any mainland area. The Islands are entirely volcanic and are considered to be one of the largest and most active sets of oceanic volcanoes in the world. The formation of the Islands began between three and five million years ago, very “young” in geologic terms. Volcanic eruptions broke through the ocean floor and initiated the building of underwater mountains, which continued to grow with successive eruptions and form the Galapagos Islands. The islands are still active today with new eruptions typically occurring in the western part of the archipelago.
Explore the Galapagos Islands visitor sites below and contact us to start planning your adventure!
GALAPAGOS CENTRAL ISLANDS
GALAPAGOS WESTERN ISLANDS
GALAPAGOS NORTHERN ISLANDS
GALAPAGOS SOUTHEASTERN ISLANDS
The first visitors to the Galapagos Islands were Native Americans from mainland South America. The islands bear no archaeological remains of dwellings or other structures, so it is quite unlikely that any native colonies were ever established there. Pirates and renegades first inhabited the islands during the early 1500s. They would hide and camp out on the islands after raiding Spanish colonial ports. Due to their inhospitable nature and lack of water, the Spanish paid the islands little attention, giving them the name “Las Encantadas” or bewitched islands.
A new period began in 1832 when Ecuador proclaimed its sovereignty over the islands. There were only a handful of permanent settlers at that time but their number had increased to around 300 by 1835 when the HMS Beagle arrived with Charles Darwin on board. Darwin spent five weeks in the Galapagos collecting and preserving specimens from four separate islands. His field observations led him finally to conclusions published in On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection in 1859. The first Galapagos colony was established on the island of Floreana. The archipelago experienced many attempted settlements from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century by individuals from Norway, the US, and the UK. During World War II, a United States Army Air Force base was established on Baltra Island. From Baltra, crews patrolled the eastern Pacific for enemy submarines and provided protection for the Panama Canal.
Home to one of the most pristine ecosystems in the world, the islands of the Galapagos contain animals, flora and fauna that delight and mystify visitors and locals alike. Visiting the Galapagos Islands is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience for travelers of all ages – but tourists will want to reserve more than just a day trip in their itinerary to ensure they get the most out of this beautiful and historic area!
Explore the islands at your own pace and take advantage of the many family-friendly activities available to travelers with Andean Discovery. Whether you want to head out for a bike ride to gain a scenic view of the coast or zip-line through a cloud forest to get your adrenaline pumping – we offer a wide variety of fun and fabulous things to do on the Galapagos Islands!
Experience the thrill of visiting pristine, white sand islands with all the comforts of home on a Galapagos Cruise! Travel in style on a cruise ship, luxury boat, or first class boat where you’ll have a cabin to yourself, air conditioning, and spectacular views! For travelers looking to add a bit of unconventional excitement to their trips, consider booking a snorkeling or scuba diving tour to view the majestic and stormy Galapagos sea from below!
Visit both of these popular tourist destinations on the same trip with one of our fully customizable Machu Picchu & Galapagos tours! You’ll have the time of your life seeing history in action as you explore the home of the ancient Inca culture in Peru. Then hop on one of our luxury cruise ships to the Galapagos and discover the natural atmosphere that inspired Darwin’s scientific breakthroughs. Our friendly local tour guides accompany you throughout the entire trip so you’re sure to have the time of your life!
While some travelers prefer to sun themselves on the white sand beaches of the Galapagos, others like to get out there and get active! Thankfully, we offer several options for individuals who are hoping to make the most out of their time outdoors – ask about how you can kayak in the ocean along the Galapagos coast, hike through an active volcano or even snorkel with friendly Galapagos sharks when booking your trip with Andean!
Travel back in history as you explore the famed islands once inhabited by Charles Darwin himself. Visit Isabela and Santa Cruz islands and observe the animals that led Darwin to discover the theory of evolution and that forever changed the world of science as we know it!
Whether you’re looking to book passage on a luxury cruise ship, hoping to sign up for an intimate small-yacht tour, or just trying to visit the islands during a day trip – our friendly and knowledgeable tour guides can help you pick out the perfect itinerary to create an island vacation that is sure to please!
Begin your adventure by deciding which method of travel you’d like to utilize to reach the islands – via luxury yacht, cruise ship, first-class boat, or airplane. Read on to learn more about the advantages of each and to find out how you can begin preparing for your travel today!
Luxury Boats boast deluxe sleeping cabins, spacious common areas, delicious international cuisine, and unmatched personal attention. An excursion aboard a Luxury Boat ensures you superior Galapagos Naturalist Guides who are eager to share the islands with you. Luxury Boats range in size from 100-passenger ships to 16-passenger yachts and catamarans. No matter which boat you choose, you will have access to several amenities, such as mini-pools, jacuzzis, glass bottom boats, and libraries.
Galapagos cruise ships are the largest vessels to sail the Islands and tend to be more luxurious and more stable in the water than most smaller yachts in the Galapagos. Cruise ships carry between 40 and 100 passengers, so they are still small compared to cruise ships that sail in other parts of the world, though it enables you to enjoy the Galapagos free of crowds.
Take a cruise through the Galapagos Islands in one of our Galapagos first class boats, yachts, and catamarans such as the Galapagos Archipell I Catamaran, Millennium Catamaran, Eric, Letty and Flamingo, and more. First-class level cruises offer an excellent combination of value for your money and quality. Relax on the sun deck and soak in the beauty of the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean. Enjoy the unique wildlife that the Galapagos has to offer in a more private setting.
Perfecting a packing list for the Galapagos can be difficult – even for the most seasoned traveler. The close proximity of these small islands to their home country of Ecuador means that domestic flights will likely be utilized at some point during the trip – so packing light is a must for individuals who wish to make weight limits for their flights! Individuals who will be flying from Quito should dress appropriately for the cool weather in the Ecuadorian town – a waterproof jacket is ideal and can be used several times throughout your trip.
The fewer things you actually bring on your trip to the Galapagos, the better – but tours often begin or end in other destinations that might require more substantial luggage arrangements. Packing a small, lightweight backpack that can act as a weekend bag is a great way to make sure you aren’t stuck with a ton of luggage on your trip. The Island’s proximity to the equator makes them a prime target for harsh sun rays, so a high UV blocking sunscreen is absolutely essential for any traveler who visits during the day.
Water shoes can be useful in protecting feet from coral and plant life so plan on packing an already-broken-in pair of comfortable sandals. If you’re heading out on a Galapagos cruise or chartered boat, make sure to speak with the captain to learn more about the luggage storage options available during your trip!
When making this once-in-a-lifetime trip, travelers have two main options to explore the islands: either through a land-based trip or a boat-based cruise through the islands. Find out what to expect and the relative advantages of each so you can choose the best option for making your Galapagos dreams come true.
Your home for the duration of your Galapagos visit will be a live-a-board boat of your choice, ranging in size from 16-100 passengers. You will eat, sleep and relax on this vessel, which will be your base for the duration of your 4, 5, or 8-day expedition. Each morning, after a hearty breakfast, you will disembark into a 16-passenger dinghy, known locally as a “Panga” The Panga will take you for wildlife excursions, either onshore, or at snorkel sites. Your Galapagos naturalist guide will deepen your understanding and appreciation of the local wildlife, either on land or in the Galapagos Marine Reserve. After a morning of close encounters with some of the famous species of the area, you return to the boat for lunch and to prepare for the next excursion as the vessel navigates to another visitor site. Usually, your afternoon excursion will take you to a completely different island to add a whole new perspective to your Galapagos experience.
On land-based trips, you stay in eco-lodges or hotels in the port towns on the islands of Isabela, Santa Cruz, and San Cristobal. While you don’t visit as many islands as a cruise-based trip, land-based trips allow you to explore fewer islands in greater depth. From your land-based, you can get intimately acquainted with the island, independently exploring the wonders of the Galapagos in a small, private group with a Galapagos naturalist guide. Although it is impossible to visit as many islands as you would by sea, land-based trips will allow you to enjoy a variety of activities. For example, in the evenings relish fresh seafood at a family-run eatery then go for a sunset walk on Isabela’s beach and observe marine iguanas crawling out of the ocean onto the pristine white sand. During the day, active explorers might opt for sea kayaking, hiking on a dormant volcano, or mountain biking among coastal mangroves.
Both of these modes of exploration will allow you to meet most, if not all, of the iconic Galapagos species and expose you to many of the island’s distinct treasures. While your preference may depend on whether you prioritize flexibility or efficiency in visiting multiple islands, you cannot go wrong with either way of experiencing this extraordinary place.
Because most of the wildlife remains on the islands year round, there’s always a lot to see. No matter when you visit, you’re guaranteed to encounter one of the highest concentrations of wildlife on the planet!
The Galapagos Islands have a sub-tropical climate with two seasons, the Hot Season and the Dry Season. The seasons on the islands are set and defined entirely by the ocean currents that surround them. The Hot Season starts in December and gradually works its way until May. During this season, warm waters from the Panama Current move south and bath the islands creating tropical conditions. Seas are generally calm, and the warmer temperatures and evaporation cause occasional tropical showers, which turn the islands green and lush. Air temperatures are hot and humid and range from 79 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. The water temperature averages 77 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a great time to enjoy the warmer waters for snorkeling and to view green sea turtles that come into the islands to breed.
From June to November, the cooler Humboldt Current runs up the west coast of South America carrying rich oceanic upwellings from Antarctica that stimulate the breeding season for sea lions and sea birds. A desert spreads gradually in this tropical paradise. Evaporation decreases and this forms a thin layer of clouds over the islands that opens and closes throughout the day. This is known as the Dry Season with air temperatures ranging from 72 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit and sea temperatures averaging 67 degrees Fahrenheit (a wetsuit is recommended for snorkeling). This is the best time of year for observing dancing boobies, courting albatrosses, baby sea lions, whales, dolphins, and whale sharks.