Punta Espinoza in the Galapagos Islands
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Galapagos Myths: Top 8 false impressions you shouldn’t believe about the Galapagos Islands

User Avatar Author: Isabel Espinoza
4 years ago - February 13, 2020

Reading time: 9 mins

There are plenty of misconceptions surrounding the Galapagos Islands regarding different topics that range from travel details to wildlife. Here, we are going to debunk the biggest myths about the Enchanted Isles through official Galapagos National Park information! After reading this, you’ll know the truth about:

  • The scale of tourism in Galapagos
  • The difference between accessing the Galapagos National Park and just traveling to the Galapagos Islands
  • The right amount of time required for an optimal experience
  • The ideal-sized vessel for exploring the archipelago

1. Is there mass tourism in the Galapagos Islands?



According to Ecuador’s Ministry of Tourism, during 2019, the Galapagos Islands received 271,238 visitors. This is barely 15% of the whopping 1,702,887 tourists that visited the Maldives throughout that same year! As to how many people board Expedition Vessels in Galapagos, the annual number is around 75,000. The Islands are a very well-regulated destination. Aside from monitoring site visits, the Galapagos National Park Authority determines the total number of visitors and expedition vessels allowed within the Park. Thanks to these and other measures, there is no mass tourism destroying the Galapagos Islands.

Explorers trekking in Bartolome Island, Galapagos

Did you know that Galapagos has limited the number of visitors to the National Park since it opened up to the world? We can proudly say sustainable tourism was invented in the Galapagos Islands!


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If you choose the right-sized expedition vessel, you won’t have to share experiences within the islands with several different boats! Your expedition vessel will have exclusivity at each visitor site. Also, there will be no crowds blocking your view or impacting your enjoyment, only lots of wildlife to observe!

2. Is visiting the Galapagos Islands the same as visiting the Galapagos National Park?



When you get to the Galapagos Islands, you arrive in one of the islands that are partially inhabited by humans. These areas are not part of the Galapagos National Park, and they only represent 3% of the entire archipelago! Ultimately, you can’t say you’ve visited the Galapagos Islands if you only stay within these inhabited areas. Yes, you’ll see some animal species interacting with the locals; however, seeing them in their natural habitat is a wholly different and more rewarding experience. Furthermore, there are some unique landscapes you’ll only get access to when you set sail aboard an expedition vessel with Park-certified naturalist guides -an essential requirement for exploring any part of the Galapagos National Park!

Sea lion pup lounges next to mother

Can you see Sea Lions outside the National Park? Yes! Can you see Sea Lion pups cuddling with their mothers like this? Nope.


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The most wonderful things happen in the Galapagos National Park! From courtship dances to mothers taking care of their pups, there is always plenty to see and enjoy! Select an Expedition Vessel or an Expedition Hotel to explore the National Park thoroughly.

3. Can I explore the Galapagos Islands in just one day?



Did you know that, in terms of size, the Galapagos Islands are comparable to the State of Mississippi? Try covering all that in just one day! The Galapagos Islands, and its impressive Marine Reserve, are spread out over a total area of around 51,000 mi² (133,000 km²). Of this total area, only 3,100 mi² (8,010 km²) comprise land. The islands themselves may not be very big, but the space between them sure is. In some cases, navigation times can take up to 12 hours! To properly experience the Galapagos Islands, you need at least five days considering that just getting there and back will take approximately one-and-a-half days.

Western Galapagos Islands aboard the Santa Cruz II Galapagos Cruise

This is the Western Islands Itinerary aboard the Santa Cruz II Galapagos Cruise, and it takes five days to complete! As you circle Isabela, the biggest island on the archipelago, you’ll get to marvel at fascinating landscapes and wildlife!


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First things first, choose an Expedition Vessel to optimize your time to the fullest. If you go for this option, you’ll get to enjoy the best of every island you visit and sail at night while you sleep!

4. Is a 3-night itinerary in the Galapagos Islands enough?



Because of the size of the archipelago, it is important to create itineraries that cover different regions, for example, Eastern, Central, Southern, Northern, and Western. Each section of the Galapagos offers a unique set of things to see and experience! Nevertheless, when you visit those islands that are a little further removed from the rest, you stand the chance of enhancing your experience. Islands like Genovesa, Fernandina, and Española take longer to reach but offer visitors a more exclusive experience of the Galapagos’ pristine ecosystems.

Is the trip worth it? Yes! Will you be able to reach these with a 3-night itinerary? Nope. Usually, routes that last less than five days offer you a basic program on the islands closest to the inhabited areas. These types of itineraries often feel rushed because of the number of activities that the tour operator tries to fit in within a limited timeframe.

Male Frigatebird at Genovesa Island in the Galapagos Island

Genovesa Island, also known as bird island, offers a truly unique experience to observe wildlife at its finest! It’s a bit removed from the rest of the archipelago, but the trip is definitely worth it.


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Choose an itinerary that brings you face to face with Galapagos’ most iconic species!

5. Do massive cruise ships sail in the Galapagos Islands?



Calling a vessel that sails in this archipelago a cruise is merely a formality. Given the Galapagos National Park’s strict regulations to safeguard its Marine Reserve, ships may only carry a maximum of 100 passengers. Massive cruise ships (like those that sail through the Caribbean) are not allowed anywhere near the Galapagos Islands! Expedition vessels are the number one option if you’re looking for a well-rounded program. These options usually include multiple guides aboard, which means you don’t have to stick to what the entire group wants to do, and you can choose the park-certified activity you want to enjoy based on your interests!

Making new friends in the Galapagos

Multi-guided expedition vessels offer you the freedom to choose an activity that fits your interests rather than just sticking to what everyone else wants to do!

Did you know?

Even though we often use the word cruise when we talk about our expedition vessels, according to definitions provided by CLIA, Cruise Critic, and the CDC based on gross tonnage and number of passengers aboard, these are the boats that actually sail in the Galapagos Islands:

Type of vessel (According to definitions used by the CDC and CLIA)

Gross registered tonnage (GRT)

Number of passengers

Super Mega Cruise Ships

(Can’t sail in the Galapagos Islands)

More than 140,000 Approximately 5,000
Large Ships

(Can’t sail in the Galapagos Islands)

More than 60,000 Approximately 3,000
Medium Ships

(Can’t sail in the Galapagos Islands)

Less than 30,000  Approximately 500
Extra Small Ships

(Sail in the Galapagos Islands!)

Less than 3,000  Approximately 100
Intimate Ships

(Sail in the Galapagos Islands!)

Less than 1,000  Approximately 40


6. Do catamarans and single-hull vessels offer more intimacy?



Yes, smaller vessels have fewer guests on board, but that doesn’t mean it won’t get cramped! To get more privacy on your selected ship, you need to look for the ideal guest-space ratio, not vessel size! This number will provide you with the insight you need to choose the right ship. Think about where you’ll want to enjoy those glorious moments following each excursion to one of the visitor sites! Do you want to relax with an excellent book? Choose whether you want to do that in a proper lounge with the right ambiance or in a crowded common area.

Also, you want to keep in mind that small vessels have very limited storage space. This means they may not be able to accommodate as much equipment as bigger Expedition Vessels! Don’t sacrifice the quality of your experience; once you’re in the Galapagos Islands, you have to properly connect with the archipelago via activities that will enhance your adventure, like snorkeling, kayaking, paddleboarding, glass-bottom boat rides, and so much more!

Glass-bottom boat ride sailing in Bartolome Island, Galapagos

Not many ships in the archipelago can carry a Glass-bottom boat for its guests to enjoy a relaxing activity!


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Choosing the right vessel is very important if you’re prone to seasickness! The bigger the vessel, the more stability it will have!

7. Are there better places for wildlife observation?




Sure, you can observe animals almost everywhere around the world, but not the Galapagos way! When you visit the Galapagos National Park, you can enjoy an up-close and personal experience with its most famous residents. There are no safari-like tours in the archipelago: you don’t have to stay inside your transport to observe the wildlife around you. You don’t even have to observe them from a distance! Inside the Park, so long as you’re calm and respectful, you may stand as close as six-and-a-half feet from any animals you encounter during your activities. From snorkeling with adorable penguins to walking by a laidback land iguana, you’ll get to enjoy the real deal, whether you’re on land or underwater!

Nazca booby caring for its offspring

Visitors enjoy an up-close and personal experience observing wildlife in the Galapagos while keeping a respectful distance of at least 6.5 ft (2 m).


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Choose your travel dates and itinerary based on the species you want to see! If you need more information about this, be sure to check out our blog on when is the best time to travel to the Galapagos Islands!

8.  Is traveling to the Galapagos Islands too expensive?




Traveling to the Galapagos archipelago is not particularly cheap. However, it is very much worth the investment! The Galapagos Islands are one of the last remaining places with pristine flora and fauna, which means you can get a closer look at some of the most unique species in the entire world!

When you travel, the length of your stay and the amenities afforded to you as part of your experience will determine the cost of your trip. How much you pay will reflect the quality of your experience. For many, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and it is really hard to put a price on it.

American Flamingos in the Galapagos Islands posing in front of Yacht Isabela II

Watching a glitch in nature with your own eyes is a priceless experience!

Choosing to travel with Metrojourneys allows you to connect with the Galapagos Islands in a setting with a lower-than-average guest-to-guide ratio, the highest quality accommodations and food, and unparalleled service!

Are you interested in knowing more? Ask our Destination Experts to help you clarify any doubts you may have! Start chatting with us now!

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