The Galápagos Islands: What’s the right way for you to travel?

Photograph of a family of seals taken on Isabela Island
Arriving early is essential to get a good seat.

The Galápagos Islands are a magical place to visit, full of adventure and unique wildlife for you to immerse yourself in. Once you’ve decided to go, the first decision to make is whether to take a cruise or travel independently, and the right answer for you depends on your budget and how much you like boats! Both will give you the potential to have your dream experience, but think seriously about the practicalities of both options before making your decision.

Cruising the Galápagos

The majority of people who visit the Galápagos Islands opt for a cruise as it’s a much easier way to organise your trip so you see and do a variety of things in a place you’re not familiar with on a small time scale. Cruises come in all shapes and sizes so there’s something for everyone on offer, though it’s still not everyone’s cup of tea. Take note of the pros and cons to see if it’s for you.

The Pros

  • Your trip is all inclusive so there’s no extra costs once you’ve paid
  • You can reach smaller uninhabited islands rich with different sorts of marine life (namely Floreana and Española)
  • Some of the best parts of islands are reserved for cruise ships and therefore a cruise is the only way to visit them

The Cons

  • It’s more expensive
  • You have to keep to a strict schedule
  • The boat drives at night which can make it difficult to sleep
  • If you’re prone to sea sickness choppy seas can ruin your trip
  • If you’re tall the berths can be the uncomfortable or economical cruises
  • Wherever you go your accompanied by a large group of people so moments can be less personal

Land based tours of the Galápagos

Choosing to explore the islands by land is a great alternative to taking a cruise, especially if you prefer doing things independently and going off the beaten track. However it’s not the easiest way to travel so be aware of the pros and cons to make the right decision for you.

The pros

  • It’s cheaper than taking a cruise
  • You can create your own schedule
  • You have many different snorkelling and diving trips to choose from
  • You can do more land based activities
  • You have freedom to decide when you eat, sleep, do a tour, everything is your decision!
  • You have the opportunity to experience special moments without hoards of tourists around you taking photos

The Cons

  • You can only visit 3 of the islands in the archipelago that are inhabited
  • You have to create your own schedule (yes it’s in the pro and con list- it depends if you enjoy trip planning or not! If you don’t, luckily I can help with that)
  • you need to do your own research before the trip and when you arrive so you know what islands you want to visit, how to organise your time in an effective way and how to get the best deal on trips and tours.

That’s my personal low down, and it’s personal because, as with the last point, it really depends on you and what you prefer. This list gets you thinking about the issues at hand, you can then decide whether they’re pros or cons for you.

Personally, my partner and I went for independent travel because we visited the Galápagos as part of our round the world trip, so budget was a big consideration. We spent around £800 less than our friend who took the cruise so it was a great saving for us. Another consideration for us was space, my partner is pretty tall so sleeping on a boat wasn’t so appealing to him! We also like to explore by ourselves and stick to our own schedule and this just isn’t possible with a cruise.

Whatever you decide you’re sure to enjoy your time on these magnificent islands, and I’m on hand to help you design the perfect trip for you.

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