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A Guide to Visiting Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands

  • Looking for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure? Keep reading to learn more about holidays to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands
  • Discover why Galapagos Islands holidays are a must for wildlife enthusiasts, and find out the best time to visit
  • Explore must-see destinations including Quito, Cuenca, San Cristobal, and Santa Cruz with our travel guide

If you’re a nature lover looking for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, look no further. Our 16-day Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands tour takes you on an extraordinary journey to a unique and captivating country. With an expert tour manager and local guides on hand, and no need for a visa, so much awaits.

Experience a once-in-a-lifetime adventure with our incredible Ecuador & the Galapagos 16-day tour – new for 2020 – including Inca ruins, giant tortoise watching, and swim or snorkel with the amazing marine life of the islands.

A guide to Ecuador and Galapagos islands holidays

Ecuador lies on the equator on South America’s western coast and is a 15 hour and 45-minute flight from the UK via Bogota. Many travellers arrive at the country’s Quito international airport then transfer straight onto flights for the Galapagos. The Galapagos Islands are a definite highlight of a visit to the country, but mainland Ecuador – just slightly smaller than Italy – is a fascinating place to explore in its own right.

galapagos island holidays cotopaxi

Cotopaxi volcano

Worldwide escorted tours are an excellent, safe, and hassle-free way to discover the best a country has to offer, and our Ecuador and Galapagos Islands tour is no exception. The tour starts in Ecuador’s capital Quito – a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the highest cities in the world at 2,850 metres above sea level. Cuenca is another UNESCO-listed site on the tour, with a treasure-trove of charming colonial mansions and churches, as well as a cathedral that is remarkably similar to St Peter’s in Rome. Cuenca is also known for its Panama hats, hand-made in Ecuador rather than where the name suggests.

Ecuador takes its name from the equator, the imaginary line around the Earth. One of the top attractions of any tour is to pose for a photo while standing across the equator – one foot in the northern hemisphere and one foot in the south. There are several spots you can accomplish this feat, but the most popular is at the Mitad del Mundo monument, just north of Quito, however, Ecuador’s pristine cloud forests are also unforgettable. The Mindo Cloud Forest, which has a mild year-round climate of 19°C (as does Quito), has an incredible 140 species of hummingbirds.

galapagos island holidays equator line monument

The Equator Line Monument

As with all holidays to the Americas, the glorious sights keep on coming. Treats in store on our Ecuador tour include a drive along the Avenue of the Volcanoes, where you’ll see Cotopaxi, the highest active volcano in the world. Always snow-capped, it has a perfectly symmetrical volcanic cone. Equally exhilarating is a journey aboard the Devil’s Nose Train, which zigzags down a mountain with almost perpendicular walls.

Travellers also visit Ingapirca, the country’s largest site of Inca ruins, and our escorted tour ensures there’s time for souvenir shopping. Pick up traditional arts and crafts of the Andes or delicious chocolate at local markets. Did you know Ecuador is the world’s largest exporter of roses?

galapagos island holidays inca ruins

Inca ruins

When is the best time to visit Ecuador?

June, July, August, and September are the driest months on the mainland, however, you’ll still need to be prepared for some rain – that’s why the country is so lush. The wettest period is between January and May, but temperatures are still around 21°C in Cuenca and showers tend to be short-lived.

A guide to visiting the Galapagos Islands

Look at any bucket list and chances are you’ll see ‘Galapagos Islands holiday’ as an item. Rightly so, as no other place in the world has such exceptional natural beauty and exotic wildlife. The blue-footed booby, the Galapagos giant tortoise, and the Sally Lightfoot crab show that natural selection is more evident here than anywhere else across the globe. No wonder naturalist Charles Darwin was captivated after his epic 1835 expedition. Trying to organise a holiday in the Galapagos Islands independently, however, can be complicated. Only licensed Galapagos cruise vessels are allowed to operate in the archipelago, and a licensed naturalist guide must accompany all visitors. Our escorted Ecuador and Galapagos Islands tour is, therefore, an easy and convenient solution.

galapagos island holidays blue footed booby

The blue-footed booby

Where to stay on a Galapagos Islands holidays

The Galapagos archipelago lies around 620 miles from the mainland – less than two hours by plane – and consists of 13 major islands, as well as six smaller ones and over 100 islets and rocks. All the islands form part of the Galapagos National Park, which has an entrance fee of US$100 per person. A popular first port of call is the island of San Cristobal – one of only four inhabited islands that offer accommodation options.

Having a comfortable base on San Cristobal and afterwards Santa Cruz – where you’ll find the Charles Darwin Research Centre – allows you to explore both these stunning islands in a more leisurely fashion. You can also island-hop to nearby Isla Lobos, home to families of frigate birds and blue-footed boobies. When the surrounding waters are calm (usually during the rainy season from January to May), the island’s lagoon is an excellent spot for swimming or snorkelling – the sea is teeming with marine life, and inquisitive sea lions may come and say hello.

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Sea lions enjoying the beach

Wildlife encounters on the Galapagos Islands

Incredible wildlife encounters are commonplace on Galapagos Islands holidays. The endemic animals have no predators to be scared of, so they’re naturally fearless and appear to take little notice of tourists – but be careful where you tread. Marine iguanas, the only seafaring lizards in the world, can be spotted lounging on sunny rocks, Darwin’s finches flutter above, and of course, there’s the Galapagos giant tortoise. One of the best places to see these creatures up close is the beautiful El Chato highland reserve on Santa Cruz. Varying in size and shape, Galapagos giant tortoises can grow up to 1.5 metres in length, weigh up to 250kg and live for over 100 years in the wild – it’s thought they arrived on the Galapagos Islands three million years ago.

galapagos island holidays giant tortoise

A Galapagos giant tortoise

When to travel to the Galapagos Islands

As for what time of year is best to visit the Galapagos Islands, the good news is that nature never stops, making it a year-round destination. The blue-footed booby starts its quirky courtship ritual from May, female tortoises begin to nest in June, and playful sea lion pups, born in August, splash in the sea from around November. The popular dry season, from June to November, sees temperature highs of around 25°C – during the rainy season, the mercury can reach 32°C. The water is also a few degrees warmer at this time, but perhaps more importantly for swimmers, the sea is less choppy.

If you’ve yearned to visit Ecuador and wistfully longed for a Galapagos Islands holiday, why not turn a dream into a reality in 2020? You’re guaranteed a trip like no other, you’ll make memories to last a lifetime, and with our Ecuador and Galapagos Islands tour, we’ve already planned the perfect itinerary. What are you waiting for?

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.