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The minimum recommend number of days for visiting the Galapagos Islands is 5 days. The primary reason for this has to do with a.) the time and money it takes to get in and out of the Galapagos and b.) the size of the archipelago itself.
Fact: Metrojourneys offers customizable Tour Packages that give you the choice of 5- or 7-day Galapagos Cruise Itineraries or can include destinations in Colombia or Peru. If you’re feeling like spending even more time in the archipelago (which is highly recommended!), you are more than welcome to combine these itineraries back-to-back!
Average flight times to the Galapagos tend to be between 1.5 and 2.5 hours, depending on the mainland city you depart from (Quito or Guayaquil). But more importantly, you need to keep two things in mind when traveling to the Galapagos:
In sum, you virtually lose 1.5 days just traveling into and out of Galapagos! That’s why we always recommend the bare minimum of 5 days to adequately experience the Galapagos and strongly recommend 7 days to get an even greater and more comprehensive sense of the Galapagos’ diversity and otherworldly landscapes. A combination of two or all three of our itineraries for each of our vessels will give you the complete Galapagos experience.
Visitors can expect to pay anywhere between $400 and $500 for their roundtrip flight to the Galapagos from the Ecuadorian mainland (from the cities of either Quito or Guayaquil). Don’t forget: there are no direct international flights to the Galapagos, so all visitors that intend to travel to the Galapagos must depart from either Quito or Guayaquil to get there.
Additionally, visitors will need to factor in the cost of the obligatory a.) entrance fee for the Galapagos National Park ($100 per adult) and b.) price of the Transit Control Card ($20 per person).
The Galapagos Islands are spread out across an area of 45,000 square kilometers (17,000 square miles) of Pacific Ocean. Consequently, getting to know the entire archipelago in a single day is, quite literally, impossible. Many of the more distant and spectacular islands can only be reached aboard an Expedition Vessel, and these requires hours of sailing (which aboard our vessels, are reserved for the evenings so that you can make the most of your day). This is one of the main reasons for why our Galapagos itineraries never fall below the bare minimum of 5 days: such a timeframe allows you to experience the more isolated and beautiful islands of the archipelago, as well as the highly endemic wildlife that live there – some of which can’t be found anywhere else in the world!
If you are keen on seeing as much of the extraordinary landscapes and rare wildlife as possible, an extended (7-day) or combined (10-15 day) itinerary will certainly for a great way to cover more ground, see more, experience plenty, and raise your satisfaction to an even higher level. The longer you spend in the Galapagos, the more you will get to explore, and the more BIG15 wildlife you’ll get to check off of your BIG15 list of iconic species!
In sum and to answer the question at hand: in order to see all the regions of the Galapagos archipelago, your trip would have focus on combining itineraries and would need to last anywhere between 10-15 days.
Sure, you might see that there’s some pretty good deals floating around for 3-4 day packages in the Galapagos (and that travel to the other islands, too!), however…
It’s always important to remember: you lose nearly a day-and-a-half getting to and from the Galapagos. This means that a 3-day tour of Galapagos is, realistically, more like a one-and-a-half day experience of the proclaimed Enchanted Isles. And don’t forget that it’s not just time you’re investing in the Galapagos – you’re also investing a considerable amount of money. Remember that you’ll be having to invest a little over $600 up front just to get there, enter the National Park, and get back.
So a three- or four-day itinerary would, unfortunately, be the equivalent of shortchanging yourself. Worth saying again and again: the Galapagos are incredibly far away and there are very high overhead costs involved in simply getting there. The worst thing to do if you’re short on time is to try and squeeze things into your experience of the Galapagos Islands. The Galapagos Packages that we offer here at Metrojourneys are guaranteed to make the best and most of your time in the Galapagos.
Also keep in mind that these short and “budget-friendly” tours are not as likely to get as far away from the central Galapagos Islands, given their advertised timeframe and price. On these types of cruises, it may very well be the case that you’ll only get to visit the islands of Santa Cruz, Santiago, San Cristobal and/or Bartolome, if you’re lucky.
Longer cruises, such as 5-day cruises, are more likely to have the islands of Floreana, Fernandina or Española included in their itinerary. Keep in mind that there are certain species on Fernandina, Genovesa, and Española that cannot be found anywhere else in the archipelago or the world, for that matter! That’s why all of our vessels and Galapagos Packages make it a point to include these islands in their itineraries!