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Which are the best islands to visit in Galapagos?

When choosing the best islands to visit in Galapagos, the decision depends on the wildlife encounters adventurers wish to have. As travel agents, your expertise in curating memorable trips is crucial in helping your clients make the most of their Galapagos adventure.

If your client wants to see penguins waddle along rocky shores, majestic giant tortoises grazing amid lush greenery, playful sea lions swimming in crystal-clear waters, and land iguanas basking in the sun, Metropolitan Touring is your ally! Our itineraries are based on the Big 15, a list of the most iconic species of the Galapagos Islands. Guests can spot unique wildlife on our three expedition vessels: Yacht La Pinta, Yacht Isabela II, and Santa Cruz II Galapagos Cruise.

With its unique wildlife and breathtaking landscapes, the archipelago offers an unparalleled experience for couples, friends, families, and solo travelers. If you’re wondering which islands to include in your itinerary, in this blog, we’ll highlight five of the best islands to visit in Galapagos: North Seymour, Española, Fernandina, Genovesa, and Santa Fe.

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Galapagos Santa Fe Iguana
Galapagos Santa Fe Iguana

Top 5 Best Islands to Visit in Galapagos

The Galapagos Islands are an extensive archipelago that stretches over 17,000 square miles (45,000 square kilometers) in the Pacific Ocean and has a land mass of 3,093 square miles (7,880 square kilometers).

Even though the archipelago is comprised of 19 islands (and many islets), travelers can visit only 14. Metropolitan Touring’s expedition itineraries are divided into regions: Northern, Southern, Western, Eastern, and Southeastern.

Big 15

When thinking about the best islands to visit in the Galapagos for your client’s trip, choose the itinerary and expedition vessel according to their specific interests and needs. Ask your clients what they want to see. Then, have a Metropolitan Touring Destination Expert help you find the perfect itinerary of the best places to visit in the Galapagos Islands.

The Big 15 list is a consensus of scholars, naturalist guides, and island experts who chose the archipelago’s most unique and fascinating wildlife to highlight. The more Big 15 species your clients encounter in the Galapagos, the more rewarding and memorable their experience will be.

1. North Seymour Island

On North Seymour Island, wildlife abounds year-round. It’s home to one of the largest populations of frigatebirds (magnificent and great) and blue-footed boobies. The island’s arid landscape is perfect for birds to build their nests, that’s why visitors can glimpse frigatebird nesting areas throughout all the trail.

On North Seymour, your clients can see 7 of the Big 15 species:

    1. Land iguanas
    2. Marine iguanas
    3. Frigatebirds (great and magnificent)
    4. Galapagos sea lions
    5. Galapagos fur seals
    6. Blue-footed boobies
    7. Nazca boobies

Travelers can visit North Seymour Island as part of:

  • Santa Cruz II’s Eastern Itinerary
  • Yacht La Pinta’s Western Itinerary
  • Yacht Isabela II’s Southeastern Itinerary
  • Yacht Sea Lion (day tour departing from Santa Cruz Island on certain days of the week)

2. Española Island

Situated at the extreme southeast of the archipelago, Española Island is considered one of the oldest islands. Its isolation led to the development of endemic species found nowhere else. It has incredible coastlines with dramatic cliffs and is the only place guests can see the spectacular Galapagos albatross, mockingbird, and lava lizard.

Española was the first island that Charles Darwin observed (though he never made landfall) during his epic voyage aboard the HMS Beagle in 1835. Nowadays, on Española, your clients can see 7 of the Big 15 species:

  1. Galapagos albatross
  2. Galapagos sea lions
  3. Blue-footed boobies
  4. Nazca boobies
  5. Frigatebirds (great and magnificent)
  6. Galapagos hawks
  7. Marine iguanas

Travelers can visit North Seymour Island as part of:

  • Santa Cruz II’s Eastern Itinerary
  • Yacht La Pinta’s Eastern Itinerary
  • Yacht Isabela II’s Southeastern Itinerary

 

Española Island is one of the best islands to visit in Galapagos
Española Island is one of the best islands to visit in Galapagos

3. Fernandina Island

Fernandina is the youngest and most pristine island in the Galapagos. It is a surreal and volcanic landscape dominated by La Cumbre volcano. Located in the westernmost part of the Galapagos Islands, Fernandina is still being formed. Even so, there have been 24 eruptions on Fernandina since 1813.

The island’s wildlife is its most notable attraction. Due to its distant location from the central islands, Fernandina has not been affected by human activity. There is only one visitor site, making it an exclusive place to spot 7 of the Big15 endemic species:

  1. Flightless cormorants
  2. Marine iguanas
  3. Galapagos penguins
  4. Galapagos sea lions
  5. Blue-footed boobies
  6. Galapagos fur seals
  7. Galapagos land iguanas

Explorers can visit Fernandina aboard the following Metropolitan Touring expedition vessels’ itineraries:

  • Santa Cruz II’s Western Itinerary
  • Yacht La Pinta’s Western Itinerary
  • Yacht Isabela II’s Western and Southeastern Itineraries

 

Fernandina Island, Galapagos
Fernandina Island, Galapagos

4. Genovesa Island

Genovesa is known as “Bird Island” thanks to its incredible birdlife, making it one of the best places to visit in the Galapagos Islands for birdwatching. Travelers can enjoy the vast colonies of red-footed and Nazca boobies, as well as frigatebirds and swallow-tailed gulls.

Because it is in the northern region of the archipelago, not all boats can venture to Genovesa. That’s why the boats that can, like Metropolitan Touring’s expedition vessels, offer an unparalleled experience.

On Genovesa, it is possible to see different kinds of birds flying in circles while frigatebirds endlessly chase them, trying to steal what they have in their beaks. Also, travelers can spot Nazca and red-footed boobies flying along the cliffs. This island is home to 6 of the Big 15 species:

  1. Galapagos sea lions
  2. Galapagos fur seals
  3. Nazca boobies
  4. Frigatebirds (great)
  5. Red-footed boobies
  6. Marine iguanas

Along the expedition’s guided hike, your clients can witness some rather busy life on “bird island”: Nazca boobies, with their masked faces and black and white feathers, hanging on palo santo trees branches; during the breeding season, red-footed boobies engage in elaborate courtship, that includes sky-pointing and calling; and is the perfect place to see the beautiful red pouches of the frigatebirds, fully inflated to attract their mates.

Visitors can enjoy the birdlife of Genovesa as part of these itineraries:

  • Santa Cruz II’s Northern Itinerary
  • Yacht La Pinta’s Northern Itinerary
  • Yacht Isabela II’s Northern Itinerary

5. Santa Fe Island

Santa Fe Island is the perfect place to see the mustard-colored Santa Fe iguanas, an endemic species that can only be found in the wild on this island. Their smaller dorsal spines distinguish the species from other land iguanas.

It is a relatively small island with rocky terrain, sandy shores, and an incredible Opuntia cacti forest. Also, the island is home to a colony of sea lions, who can be seen swimming in the clear blue waters that wash along Santa Fe’s shores. On the island, travelers can see 7 of the Big 15 species:

  1. Santa Fe iguanas
  2. Galapagos hawks
  3. Blue-footed boobies
  4. Galapagos sea lions
  5. Frigatebirds (great and magnificent)
  6. Marine iguanas
  7. Nazca boobies

Your clients can spot the plentiful Santa Fe iguanas on these itineraries:

  • Santa Cruz II’s Eastern Itinerary
  • Yacht La Pinta’s Eastern Itinerary
  • Yacht Isabela II’s Northern Itinerary
Genovesa Island, Galapagos
Genovesa Island, Galapagos

There are no better islands to visit in the Galapagos Islands because they are all magnificent. However, as a travel agent, you can personalize your clients’ experiences based on their needs and preferences.

Do your clients want to see the unique Santa Fe iguana? It would help if they chose an eastern itinerary. Do they wish to encounter penguins? Fernandina is a must-see destination, so they should check Metropolitan Touring’s western itineraries. If your clients seek an extraordinary nature experience, include North Seymour, Española, Fernandina, Genovesa, and Santa Fe on their Galapagos itinerary.

Just remember that the availability of visitor sites and activities may vary depending on the time of year. Our destination experts are always willing to help you with the most up-to-date information before planning a trip!

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