Nearly. 97% of the archipelago’s islands is designated a national park. Human settlements are concentrated on the remaining 3%. There are strict rules about visiting the areas on islands that have been designated as visitor sites by the national park authorities. The Galapagos is also part of a huge Marine Reserve, which ranks among the largest in the world.
What can I do there?
Either revel in the spectacular scenery and hangout with the iconic wildlife or check out the local island vibe and experience what it’s like to be a galapagueños – or both! Whatever you choose to do, there’s plenty of relaxation but never a dull moment!
How long should I go for?
We suggest you visit the Galapagos for no less than five days. A well-thought-out itinerary provided by a reputable tourism agency will allow you to see as many endemic species as possible as well as some of the most impressive sites. If you have more time, you can even combine itineraries. Doing so will give you the opportunity to visit more islands and see more animals. Depending on your budget, 5-15 days should be sufficient to make the most out of your visit to the archipelago. Don’t forget that you can always come back! If you do, be sure to pick a different season, a different group of islands and/or a different means of exploration (cruise or land-based).
What kind of activities are available?
The Galapagos Islands offer a varied selection of activities ranging from swimming, snorkelling, diving and cycling to more relaxed activities such as hiking, glass-bottom boats (offered only on a few Galapagos cruises), educational talks and beach strolls. Activities are open to any and all that wish to partake in them and can even be combined with other another (depending on itineraries available). If you opt for a cruise, multi-guided vessels offer the possibility of enjoying various simultaneous activities along with a greater number of islands visited. On inhabited islands, visitors can take leisurely walks around town, try out local restaurants and buy souvenirs.
What are the top destination highlights?
The iconic Galapagos BIG15 wildlife and the numerous islands! Our top 5 islands are: Española, Fernandina, Genovesa, North Seymour, and Santa Fe.
How is the number of visitors to the Galapagos National Park controlled? Is there a limit?
It’s important to know that 97% of Galapagos is designated as a National Park and that guests can only enter this area on 1 of 69 boats and 11-day cruisers that are certified. These numbers have a limit and have not increased in over 2 decades. By law, they must remain stable. Thus, the number of people that comprises full capacity is limited by law, and the actual number of people visiting depends on occupancy. 1,660 people on boats and 180 people on day cruises are what’s allowed, per day in this 8,000 km2 (4,970 mi2) park. For reference, the White House receives approximately 6,000 visitors per day in an area of 16,700 m² (55,000 ft²).
Is my visit going to hurt the Galapagos environment?
The Galapagos National Park is the entity in charge of controlling the number of visitors coming in and out of the islands. Guides are obligatory for all individuals wishing to explore the National Park, as they educate visitors on the rules and conservation guidelines established by the National Park. Even though humans do have a powerful effect on the environment, efforts are made by both the Ecuadorian government and tour operators to leave as small of a footprint as possible. Every ship, every vessel, every hotel, every operation has a seal of approval from the GNP so that, no matter how you choose to visit the park, the National Park authority is always monitoring your tour. When booking your trip, make sure you do so with a sustainable and environmentally friendly tourism agency such as Metropolitan Touring.