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Galapagos Cruise vs. Land-Based

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The Galapagos Islands, archipelago of about 19 islands and smaller islets sprinkled 620 miles off Ecuador’s coast, is a bucket list destination for many. You don’t need to be a zoologist to dream about encountering animals found nowhere else on the planet. You’ll see lava lizards darting between rocks and get close to friendly sea lions and the islands’ famous gigantic land tortoises. The Galapagos also boast some of the world’s best scuba diving. A trip to this wildlife wonderland allows you surprisingly close interactions with unique creatures such as marine iguanas, Galapagos Penguins, the Flightless Cormorant, and Blue-footed Boobies. Adventure travelers can hike on dormant volcanoes, sea kayak, mountain bike and more.

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.

What to Expect on A Galapagos Cruise

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 you 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 on shore, 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.

Advantages of A Cruise:

  • Once you arrive in the archipelago, you can unpack your bags once and for all- you’ll stay in the same room on the vessel for the entirety of your stay
  • Cruises are the most efficient way to visit the archipelago, especially remote islands without any human habitation

What to Expect on A Galapagos Land Based Trip

On land-based trips, you stay in eco-lodges or hotels in the port towns on the islands of Isabela, Santa Cruz and San Cristóbal. 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. Choose from superior accommodations including oceanfront boutique lodges, like Iguana Crossing and Finch Bay Eco Hotel. From your land base, you can get intimately acquainted with the island, independently exploring the wonders of the Galapagos in a small, private group with 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 pristine white sand. During the day, active explorers might opt for sea kayaking, hiking on a dormant volcano or mountain biking among coastal mangroves.

Advantages of a Land-Based Trip:

  • Land-based excursions allow you to spend more time on each island, with opportunities to visit multiple sites and engage in a variety of activities.
  • You will have more flexibility to experience the islands according to your own schedule and interests.

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.

Ecuador Mainland & Galapagos Combined

Andean Discovery's Quito and Galapagos Cruises allow you to explore Quito, a jewel in the Andes and World Heritage site, before boarding one of our favorite vessels for the wildlife experience of
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Galapagos Land Tours

Galapagos Land Tours are a great alternative to cruises, allowing you more flexibility to enjoy a variety of activities, such as ocean kayaking, snorkeling, and relaxing on the beach.
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Galapagos Cruises

Galapagos cruises are an excellent way to experience all the Galapagos have to offer, including brilliant white-sand beaches, snorkeling, hiking trails and wildlife viewing.
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Galapagos Diving Tours

Discover the magnificent world of the Galapagos Marine Reserve. Whether you choose a day trip or a live-a-board diving boat, many of the species you'll see are found nowhere else.
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Tours to Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands

Combine two of South America's most amazing highlights in this trip. Explore the ancient Inca citadel of Machu Picchu hop over to the Galapagos Islands to observe wildlife up close.
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Traveling to the Galapagos Islands and Machu Picchu was a dream vacation for my wife. After much research we booked our trip through Andean Discovery. We are so glad we did. Everything went smoothly and our personal guides in Ecuador and Peru were wonderful. I would highly recommend Andean Discovery to anyone thinking of taking a similar trip.
Arnold Miniman
Arnold Miniman
15:29 14 Dec 18
Thanks to Andean our vacation was a wonderful experience for our entire family of 15 (8 adults and 7 grand kids aged 16 to 9).. The planning for the trip to the Galapagos was well researched; the hotels, guides and itinerary were spot on. They answered our many questions before we departed and there NO disappointments during the vacation. It was the most memorable trip our family has taken.
Mary Ann Fuller
Mary Ann Fuller
18:00 22 Jan 19
Our trip was fantastic and Micaela with Andean Discovery was great! Every detail was taken care of ahead of time. We just showed up and enjoyed the beauty of South America. I would use them again in a heartbeat.
marc abrams
marc abrams
23:33 23 Nov 18
We traveled with our family of 3 people. Andean did a wonderful job helping us select an itinerary that was able to accommodate our various ages. We had no glitches in a fairly complicated itinerary and everything came off as planned. Our local guide in Quito Johanna was terrific. I can't recommend Sacha Lodge more highly. Our experience in Galapagos on the Coral 1 was magical. While the crew of the Coral 1 could have been more charming and smiled on occasion they were helpful, the food was very good and the rooms were kept clean. I have no reservations in recommending Andean Discovery for your South American Holiday
Victor Elinoff
Victor Elinoff
23:26 07 Jan 19
Damon put together the perfect itinerary for our group of 7 - including grandparents. His knowledge of the region is superb, which is why he is able to create the ultimate trip for your family. From whitewater rafting in Peru to zip-lining in Ecuador, we truly had the trip of a lifetime! I wouldn't go with anyone else!
Carolyn Malloy
Carolyn Malloy
12:40 31 Jan 19
My family toured the Galapagos Islands and Machu Picchu in Peru with Andean Discovery guides and reservations. We had a fabulous adventure! I recommend highly that "superior lodging" be chosen as an option for the best possible room accommodations. The marvelous comfort of the fine hotels Andean booked for us made all the difference.
Kathryn Fulhorst
Kathryn Fulhorst
21:36 08 Jan 19