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Top 7 Must-See Places in Ecuador and The Galapagos Islands

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Kicker rock seen from San from San Cristobal Island, Galapagos

Kicker rock seen from San from San Cristobal Island, Galapagos

The Galapagos Islands capture your imagination and inspire you to see the world differently, and these seven must-see places across the archipelago and Ecuador are a true treat for travelers. 

Wildlife is unique at this corner of the globe and feels separate from anything you know as they ignore your presence altogether. Instead of the idyllic tropics, you find moonscapes thriving with fragile ecosystems and near-mythological biodiversity welcoming you to the national park. 

Consider these must-see destinations as you consider your plans, with insight into which highlights to visit and how long to stay in each destination.

1. Quito

Monastery of San Francisco in Quito,  Ecuador

Monastery of San Francisco in Quito, Ecuador

Quito is a remarkable city set high in the Andes with a combination of high peaks, greenery, modernity, and classic historical architecture. Ecuadorian culture shines with marketplaces and hints of shamanic healers, traditional hatmakers, and cobbled lanes. Quito is a fantastic destination with charm, beauty, and the cultural heritage of Ecuador while giving you excellent access to the Galapagos for a blend of the splendor of inspiring nature and contemporary life.

Highlights: Ciudad Mitad del Mundo | Old Town | El Panecillo | Teleferico | Plaza Grande

Recommended Length of Stay: 1-2 days

2. Santa Cruz

Giant tortoise in Rancho Primicias Wildlife Reserve

Giant tortoise in Rancho Primicias Wildlife Reserve

Santa Cruz Island is a different environment than the surrounding archipelago. Hosting the largest town and the most diverse vegetation, it is also the gateway to the island group. The immense amount of wildlife will plunge you into the surroundings with giant tortoises and impressive highlands, iguanas, and Sally Lightfoot crabs. With massive lava carters, scenic white sands, and crystal-clear waters, you will find the island's active life and immersive beauty as a warm welcome.

Highlights: Lava Tunnels |  Rancho Primicias Wildlife Reserve | Tortuga Bay | Cerro Croker | Puerto Ayora Fish Market

Recommended Length of Stay: 2-3 days

3. San Cristobal

Fu seals at Punta Carola beach on San Cristobal Island, Galapagos

Fu seals at Punta Carola beach on San Cristobal Island, Galapagos

The most easterly of the Galapagos Islands, San Cristobal is a fresh indoctrination to the island life with views to jutting rocks towering above the sea and islands covered with lazing sea lions, as well as the world’s only home to the Chatham mockingbird. Marine life from sharks to reef fish brings fantastic scuba diving or opt for an adventure along the shores in search of Nazca and Blue-footed boobies. While more developed than other islands, San Cristobal feels separate from the world as you plunge deeper into the delicate ecosystem.

Highlights: Cerro Tijeretas | Charles Darwin Cove | Playa Carola | Galapaguera de Cerro Colorado | Laguna el Junco

Recommended Length of Stay: 1-2 days

4. Floreana

Floreana Island, Galapagos

Floreana Island, Galapagos

The cultural history of Floreana is as fascinating as the natural history. Floreana is a love letter to beauty and charm that traces how others have interacted with the island in the past while giving way to the bright pink feathers of flamingos reflected in the lagoon set against a backdrop of greenery. With penguins, Blue-footed boobies, and green sea turtles, life on the island feels graceful on land and sea.

Highlights: Post Office Bay | Cormorant Point | Baroness Viewpoint | Champion Islet | Asilo de la Paz

Recommended Length of Stay: 1-2 days

5. Isabela Island

Marine iguana with blue-footed boobies on Isabela Island, Galapagos

Marine iguana with blue-footed boobies on Isabela Island, Galapagos

Natural wildlife dominates the scenery on Isabela Island as nature takes center stage. Isabela is the largest island of the archipelago and was shaped by five volcanoes that brought much diversity. From immense lava fields to little vegetation, red mangroves to dense foliage, there is beauty all around. Tortoises, iguanas, penguins, and white-tipped reef sharks enhance the brilliance of the crystal-clear waters and arches of the lava tunnels smoothed by the water and time known for hiding seahorses.

Highlights: Las Tintoreras Islet | Concha de Perla | Muro de las Lágrimasf | Elizabeth Bay | Flamingo Lake | Wall of Tears

Recommended Length of Stay: 2-3 days

6. Santiago

Snorkeling at Santiago Island, Galapagos

Snorkeling at Santiago Island, Galapagos

With a history of pirates and tortoises, Santiago Island is one of the best experiences you can have in the Galapagos. A long shoreline decorated with lava rocks hosts excitable birds as rock pools give way to an array of exciting wildlife. Dolphins, sharks, flamingos, and fur seals only scratch the surface of the island experience with so many captivating activities to give you the essence of the pristine wilderness, including sea turtle nesting grounds and Galapagos hawk sightings.

Highlights: Espumilla Beach | Puerto Egas | Sullivan Bay | Buccaneer Cove | James Bay | Albany Islet

Recommended Length of Stay: 1-2 days

7. The Amazon

Amazon rainforest in Ecuador

Amazon rainforest in Ecuador

Unparalleled is one of the only ways to describe the biodiversity of Ecuador’s Amazon for an authentic experience into untouched corners of the rainforest. Remarkable biodiversity, incredible birdwatching, uncontacted tribes, and thousands of plant species offer an unforgettable perspective of the natural world that contrasts and complements the Galapagos Islands' ecosystems.  A paradise for adventurers, this immersive place invites you to sit back and experience the beauty of the natural world.

Highlights: Coca | Yasuni National Park and Biosphere Reserve | Napo Wildlife Center | Cuyabeno National Park | Sani Community

Recommended Length of Stay: 3-4 days

How many days is enough to see Galapagos?

Sierra Negra volcano on Isabela Island, Galapagos

Sierra Negra volcano on Isabela Island, Galapagos

One week is the best amount of time for a highlights experience of the Galapagos. You can explore the islands, enjoy the diverse experiences, and discover what the region offers. But beyond the initial six to seven days of the Galapagos, 10 to 12 days will give you time to go beyond the Galapagos to visit the incredible ecosystem of the Amazon Rainforest.

More Travel Information & Tips

Scuba diver with whale shark in the Galapagos Islands

Scuba diver with whale shark in the Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos provides endless things to do with different perspectives of the islands, nature, and greater Ecuador. From birdwatching to viewing nesting turtles, snorkeling to visiting the Amazon, our Galapagos Travel Guide has more tips and helpful hints on how you can create your perfect trip. Thinking of planning your next vacation? You can speak with a Galapagos travel specialist by filling out a Trip Request or by calling our team at 1-888-265-9707.

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