The Galapagos Islands are famous for their unique wildlife and have become a Mecca for enthusiasts of natural history. There you can swim with sea lions and penguins, and stand next to a blue-footed booby while feeding their young.
The archipelago extends over 7,800 km2 of the Pacific Ocean, about 1,000 km west of Ecuador, and it includes 13 major islands and several islets and reefs. The landscape is arid and volcanic with an exceptional beauty. The highest point is Wolf Volcano (1707 m) on Isabela Island. Among the most characteristic animals of the archipelago we can find albatrosses, penguins, boobies, giant tortoises, iguanas, sea lions, whales and dolphins.
Ecuador asserted its sovereignty over the Galapagos Islands in 1832, three years before the arrival of their most famous visitor, Charles Darwin. In the twentieth century, the islands were inhabited by settlers and were used as penal colonies, the latest of which was closed in 1959. The archipelago was declared a National Park in that year and in 1978 was named World Heritage Site by Unesco.
Nowadays, mass tourism is protected by strict limitations on areas open to outsiders and all the tourist have to be accompanied by a naturalist tour guide. The islands receive an average of 60,000 visitors a year.
Visiting the islands is expensive, a high season flight from Quito or Guayaquil and one week cruise costs $ 1,000 dollars as a minimum. It is possible arrive by boat from Guayaquil, but is complicated and is not more economical than by plane. It is much easier to fly from Baltra Island airport, which lies about two hours by public transport from Puerto Ayora, the archipelago’s main city on the island of Santa Cruz.