Visitors to the Galapagos often enjoy the islands’ delights from the deck of a cruise ship, but that’s by no means the only way to make the most of them. In fact, staying on land can often be the best way to get up close and personal with this region’s remarkable abundance of wildlife. So, if you’re travelling with small children, or mobility issues, concerns about seasickness or anything else are making you think twice about a trip to the Galapagos, don’t worry – Exsus offers fantastic land-based itineraries to ensure that you can fully experience this extraordinary and unmissable part of earth.
Our Galapagos & Ecuador land-based adventure holiday allows you to hop between the beautiful islands of Santa Cruz, San Cristobal and Isabela, taking short scenic flights between the islands. The freedom of this land-based itinerary allows you to fully explore the extraordinary landscapes of the Galapagos, with guided wildlife tours through the islands’ rainforests, treks across their volcanic terrain, and exploration of the network of watery caves and coves by kayak.
San Cristobal is the smallest and sleepiest of the Galapagos Islands which most people visit, and also the earliest to be settled by humans. Life here moves slowly, despite the town of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno being the capital of the Galapagos province, and its friendly atmosphere makes it the perfect place to begin your Galapagos adventure. 700m above sea level lies Laguna El Junco, a freshwater lake atop a volcano – make the trip up, or hike if you’re up to it, and watch frigate birds flit about above the eerie mist which hovers on the lagoon’s surface.
Santa Cruz is the most heavily populated of the Galapagos Islands, and their main tourist hub. It’s also one of the most remarkable sites of natural beauty in the region, and is home to the Charles Darwin Research Station. Cactus-strewn deserts fringe the coastline, while forests are encircled by swirling clouds in the highlands. Beneath your feet, extraordinary lava tubes form a subterranean web across the island, sometimes reaching several kilometres in length – a visit to the entrance near the village of Bellavista is well worth it to get a feel for the unique nature of these volcanic islands. Santa Cruz is a great place to see the islands’ most iconic wildlife talisman – the giant tortoise – roam freely in the wild: the highlands town of Santa Rosa is a great starting point for hikes to the tortoise reserve.
The Galapagos Safari Camp, one of our favourite lodges on the islands, is ideally located close to the tortoise reserve and offers a new way of exploring the region. Following in the African camp tradition, you have the choice of staying in luxury tented accommodation, perfectly located for safaris and land-based expeditions, or the main lodge, perched on a hill and with fantastic views of the island. Finch Bay Eco Hotel, meanwhile, is a luxurious beachfront hotel in Santa Cruz’s harbour town of Puerto Ayora, where you can enjoy some of the Galapagos’ best snorkelling and indulge in fresh, delicious seafood.
Isabela is the largest of the Galapagos Islands by far – bigger than all the others put together, in fact – but is very sparsely populated, with less than one sixth the human population of Santa Cruz. Conversely, Isabela is home to more wild tortoises than all the other islands put together, and the west coast’s marine life is some of the most varied and abundant in the region. One of Isabela’s volcanos, Sierra Negra, is the second-largest volcanic crater in the world, and is the place to go for stunning scenery and challenging but rewarding hiking. This island also has its share of wildlife oddities, including Galapagos penguins – the only penguin species to be found in the northern hemisphere. Many of Isabela’s attractions are easy to reach from its main settlement, the town of Puerto Villamil.