The Galapagos Islands are known as a destination where nature is still in a pure and unexplored state. The famous islands, which the English scientist Charles Darwin visited to develop his theory on the evolution of species, were chosen as the best place to explore, by the readers of Travel + Leisure, in the World Best Awards contest.
This is a significant prize because the destination is chosen by the public. 2016 was the sixth consecutive year in which the Galapagos archipelago obtained that recognition, ranking seven among the best islands in the world. In addition, in 2015 they were officially declared the “Best Place for Wildlife,” in a survey conducted by the USA Today newspaper.
Here we present a list of the best reasons to fall in love with the "Enchanted Islands" and choose them as a destination to explore on your next vacation.
The Galapagos Islands constitute one of the most valued and important National Parks in the world. Not everyone knows it, but the archipelago is part of the territory of Ecuador, a country located in South America, on the equator. Located 1000 kilometers from the Ecuadorian continental territory, the Galapagos is composed of 13 smaller islands and volcanic islets. The archipelago, formed by ancient volcanic eruption processes, is known to be a unique living museum and one of the laboratories of evolution.
Despite being a world-class tourist destination, being in a remote place, it has remained pristine. As you walk along the paths and beaches, you will feel that you are exploring a different world from the one we know, in which the power and generosity of nature are manifested at every moment. Only 3% of the archipelago is inhabited by Ecuadorians who colonized these islands about 150 years ago, while 97% belong to the National Park. There are areas for tourism development and others for the protection of life in its natural state.
Visiting the Galapagos is like exploring an immense natural zoo, where you can observe animal life in its purest state, unique landscapes, active volcanoes, endemic species; All this surrounded by a marine reserve with the same characteristics. The richness in flora and fauna of the archipelago is very diverse, capable of impressing even the most experienced traveler.
A natural laboratory
The Galapagos Islands are considered a true natural laboratory, for several reasons. One of them is that being volcanic islands of different ages, they clearly show the examples of the different stages of land formation. There live endemic flora species, including pioneer plants that grow on the younger lava fields
The marine and terrestrial fauna is also very diverse and with high endemism. The animals have adapted to the various climatic floors, and in the islands, you can find species of desert climates, iguanas, sea lions playing on the beach, tropical fish, sea and land birds, giant turtles ... One of the most representative species is that of the finches, birds that served Darwin to observe the adaptation strategies of the species and develop their theory of evolution.
The Galapagos Islands offer visitors the opportunity to observe closely the ways in which life on the planet has evolved.
There are species of each island, and the Galapagos are the best place for scientists who want to know the evolution of life on earth. The Charles Darwin Foundation, and the Galapagos National Park, with other foundations, carry out scientific research on the islands, always in order to understand and preserve nature.
Bird watching Ecuador occupies only 1.5% of the territory of South America (270 670 km) but is home to around 1750 bird species. The country inhabits 18% of the almost 9 species of birds recognized in the world and more than half of the total of the species that inhabit the South American continent.
The Galapagos Islands are a paradise for bird lovers. In the archipelago, there are 24 endemic species, which can be observed very closely.
Armed with a pair of binoculars, visitors can observe beautiful birds that they will not see anywhere else in the world. Frigates, blue-footed boobies, pelicans and even penguins can be seen on the islands. There inhabit more than 10 species of Galapagos finches, the non-flying cormorant, penguins, albatrosses, herons, three species of boobies, swallows and more. When touring the Galapagos, the traveler must be very attentive and also look at the trees or cacti, and to the sky, because he will surely find some bird that he had never seen before. The best islands for bird watching are Española, North Seymour and Genovesa, which is even known as 'the island of birds'.
It is the second-largest in the world and the first in a developing country. The Galapagos Marine Reserve was created in 1988 and constitutes a protected area located 1 000 kilometers from the continental territory of Ecuador, and 40 nautical miles from the baseline of the most peripheral islands. Its extension is 133,000 square kilometers, of which around 70,000 correspond to inland waters of the archipelago. Declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, it represents one of the richest and most biodiverse ecosystems in the world.
About one million seabirds of 19 species; Thousands of shorebirds, 30 species of migratory birds, 20,000 sea lions of two species, and endemic species such as the marine iguana, the penguin, the Galapagos albatross, the flightless cormorant inhabit this reserve. The islands have also served as a refuge for endangered marine species in other parts of the world such as sharks. the Pacific green turtle and the whales. When you dive into the Galapagos Marine Reserve, you will feel that it is part of an immense aquarium, where life takes place at a special and colorful rhythm. Diving with sharks, whales, manta rays, turtles, sea lions, sea iguanas and thousands of fish of different sizes and colors is certainly a memorable experience.
In the thirteen islands of the Ecuadorian archipelago, declared by UNESCO a World Heritage Site in 1978, all kinds of species coexist, within the framework of impressive natural landscapes, crowned by erupting volcanoes.
Imagine touring lava tunnels, formed at the top of the islands or under the sea; swim in turquoise water caves where the sun casts strange colored figures underwater; stand on the shore of one of the largest craters in the world; distinguish an island in the distance while sailing aboard a cruise ship; marvel at the contrasts that form a beach of red or black sand, a green landscape and brown cliffs; look at young craters that formed the islands, lava fields of various ages, rock formations in the middle of the sea; enjoy stunning sunsets on white-sand beaches; witness the coexistence of diverse species in an environment like no other. These are just some of the scenarios that will surprise you when visiting the Galapagos Islands.
Each Galapagos beach is beautiful. There are white sand beaches, where adorable sea lions walk with gratitude or resting iguanas with the appearance of small dinosaurs. Many beaches are authentic oases, in whose waters you will dive as if you were in a giant outdoor pool. In addition, the weather is very pleasant you can always enjoy the sun, accompanied by a cool breeze that will allow you to enjoy the sea without suffocating from the heat.
Some of the beaches we recommend visiting are:
Tortuga Bay is a beach located west of the city of Puerto Ayora, on Santa Cruz Island. Covered with beautiful white sand, it is the habitat of sea turtles, iguanas, pelicans, seagulls and flamingos. Getting there takes an hour's walk from Puerto Ayora, along a signposted and easy-to-travel route. It is the most visited beach in Galapagos and a perfect place to swim, surf and watch the sunsets
The highlands of the Galapagos Islands have their own magic. There you can find the craters of the islands, many located in volcanic depressions. On Isabela Island, for example, it is possible to visit the crater of the Sierra Negra volcano, the second largest shield-shaped crater in the world. You will also see lagoons such as El Junco, in San Cristóbal, or solidified lava tunnels in Santa Cruz. From the highlands, you can see the nearby islands.
With so much natural beauty to see, the Galapagos Islands should be on everyone's bucket list.