First things first, this article is just a short summary of our Galapagos experience. There is a lot to say about Galapagos, especially on how to backpack these islands on a lower budget, that’s why we are going to release a detailed article about the islands soonish. For now we just want to give you a brief overview of what to do on these marvelous islands and what to expect.
Galapagos is an Archipelago, consisting of several islands, at least 12. We stayed for exactly 10 days and therefore had to choose. Based on the activities we decided to visit 3 islands: Santa Cruz, Isabella and San Cristobal. Santa Cruz is the main island, this is where you will find the Darwin research center. Isabella is the island with the nicest beaches and one of the few islands where you can also do a longer bike ride (mostly very hard as the islands are volcanic, hilly and there are not many roads). San Cristobal is home to countless sea lions and a great spot for some of the nicest diving/snorkling tours.
On land the islands are already unique, you will most probably see iguanas, blue footed boobies, sea lions, giant turtles, flamingos and more simply by walking around the islands. In order to get the full Galapagos experience, you will have to also dive or snorkel. The under water world is insane. No picture, video or article is going to do justice of all the beautiful coral reefs, millions of fishes and sea-turtles you are going to see under water. And don’t worry, even if you don’t have a diving license and stick to snorkelling, you are going to see a lot!
You will often hear that a Galapagos trip needs to be planed and that you will be in need of a cruise or major tourist organisation in order to do all the activities. That isn’t 100% correct. Of course if you have the money and want things to be as easy as possible you can go for a cruise, but we guess that most of you guys reading this are into backpacking and don’t feel like spending thousands of Euros/Dollars in a couple of days. In our experience the only thing that truly needs to be booked in advance is the flight. There are 3 airlines (Tame, Latam and Avianca) offering flights from Quito or Guayaquil to Baltra airport (which is the airport of the Santa Cruz island), we paid 300$ for a roundtrip, buying 3 months in advance. All activities can be booked directly on the island, most probably for less than if you buy them in advance. Especially if you are only in two or a solo traveler you will be able to go for last minute offers, which means you are going to spend even less. Expect a half day snorkelling tour to cost on average 100$, if you buy directly on the islands.
What other expenses do you need to consider? Accommodation & Food. There are no hostels on any of the islands, you will have to go for hotels or guest houses, which means that you will at least pay 20$ per person per night. None of these hotels has a kitchen, therefore you need to eat out, which means you’ll spend on average 15$ a day for food.
As we said above, we are going to release a more detailed article about the Galapagos islands soonish, giving you more information on all the activities we consider must do’s and also some more tips on keeping costs as low as possible.