Backpack and Snorkel Travel Guide for Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands - Ecuador and Galapagos Islands Purple Guide

This Backpack and Snorkel Travel Guide for Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands (Ecuador and Galapagos Islands Purple Guide) provides information about the best things to do in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands and ensures that you will be Making Memorable Moments on a relaxing vacation in Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands.


Ecuador has long been a favorite for expats especially from the USA, as the country uses the US dollar as currency, has excellent health care, natural beauty and a comparably low cost of living.
Some tourists explore the rich history and natural beauty of the mainland, many come, however, only to visit the Galapagos Islands.

Otavalo Market in Ecuador
Golden interior of the Compania de Jesus church in quito in Ecuador

The Galapagos Islands are an archipelago of volcanic islands about 600 miles (1000 km) west of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean.
Renowned for Charles Darwin discovering the concept of Evolution after his 1835 visit, the islands have a sprawling ecosystem of plant and animal species. Many of them are endemic, meaning that they are not found anywhere else on the planet. Among those species are the giant Galápagos tortoise, the marine iguana, the flightless cormorant, and the Galápagos penguin, which is the only penguin species that lives in the Northern Hemisphere.
The Galapagos Islands belong to Ecuador and many people flock to the islands without spending any significant time in Ecuador.

Frigatebird in the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador
Blue Footet Boobie in the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador

In this Ecuador & Galapagos Purple Guide, we provide a detailed 12-day itinerary that will allow you to experience the Galapagos Islands on a cruise and some of the major highlights of Ecuador.
We tell you why we chose these spots and will help you plan for the best things to see and do in Ecuador and Galapagos. To help you find out what best fits you, we have added lots of photos and links to additional reviews.
Due to its compactness, it can be combined with other South American countries or act as a starting point to a more in-depth 3 or 4 week Ecuador experience.

Table of contents

General Information about Ecuador

Ecuador is one of 17 megadiverse countries in the world and it harbors almost 1,700 bird species (17% of the world’s total bird species) and 16,000 species of plants (25% are endemic).

The Galapagos Islands are home to:

  • 22 reptile species (20 are endemic)

  • 6 land mammal species (83% are endemic)

  • 48 bird species (58% are endemic)

  • estimated 2300 terrestrial invertebrate species (52% are endemic)

  • 600 species of vascular plants (42% are endemic)

  • estimated 2,900 marine life species (~20% are endemic) of which approx. 500 are fish species

The first Paleo-Indians settled in what is now Ecuador 16,500–13,000 years ago. In the late 1400s, the Incas started conquering the area and it took them until the early 1500s to complete the conquest. Less than 30 years later, the Inca Empire experienced a civil war which helped the Spaniards conquer the area.
Quito, which is the oldest capital in South America, was founded in 1534.

In 1820, the Department of Guayaquil became the first territory in Ecuador to gain its independence from Spain. Most Ecuadorian coastal provinces declared independence on 24 May 1822, which is now Ecuador's official Independence Day. The rest of the country gained its independence after Spanish Royalist forces were defeated at the Battle of Pichincha, near Quito.
Ecuador then joined Simón Bolívar's Republic of Gran Colombia and separated from it in 1830 to become an independent republic.
In 1832, Ecuador annexed the Galapagos Islands.

In 1978, the city of Quito and the Galápagos Islands became UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Ecuador has the first constitution that recognizes the rights of nature and that makes the protection of the nation's biodiversity an explicit national priority.

Specific information about Ecuador:

  • Language: Spanish

  • Currency: US dollar

  • Time: the local time in Ecuador do not use daylight savings time; the local time can be found here

  • Time: the local time in the Galapagos Islands is 1 hour earlier than on the mainland; it can be found here

  • Driving side: right

  • Speed limit: Generally 50 km/h (31 mph) in the cities and 90 km/h (56 mph) or 100 km/h (62 mph) outside the cities

  • Electricity: 110V, 60Hz

  • Power outlets: the same “Type B” three-pronged outlets as in the US

  • Internet code: .ec

  • Calling code: +1-593

  • Population: 17.7 million people

  • Ecuador offers 90 day tourist Visas at arrival to citizens of many countries, e.g. the USA and Canada. Check your entry requirements here

When to visit Ecuador & Galapagos

The best time to visit Quito, Ecuador

Due to its location on the equator and its elevation of 9,350 ft (2850m), Quito has a cool climate with basically the same daily high and low temperatures throughout the year.
During its dry season June-August, there are only 5-7 days per month with measurable precipitation while during the rest of the year, there are on average 10-15 per month.
The UV index is almost always 11 and higher and that means 'extreme risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure'.
There are 12 daily daylight hours throughout the year in Quito.
July and August have the most sunshine hours (approx. 250h), while February through April have the lowest (approx. 120-140).

Average Weather by Month in Quito, Ecuador

Average monthly temperatures in Quito, Ecuador
Average monthly precipitation in Quito, Ecuador

The best time to visit the Galapagos Islands

In our opinion, April and May are the best months to visit the Galapagos Islands.

Swimming and snorkeling are good, no wetsuits are needed and animal life is abundant. Blue-footed boobies show their famous courtship dances and frigate birds display their bright red gular pouches.
But, to be honest, the whole year is a good time to visit the Galapagos Islands. It purely depends on your preference of what you want to see and do.

Please be advised that the naturally occurring climatic phenomenon El Niño has an impact on the climate and animal life of the Galapagos Islands. El Niño occurs on average every 5 years, but happens irregularly and can occur anywhere between every 2 to 7 years.
During an El Niño event, the nutrient-rich Humboldt Current does not reach the Galapagos waters, strong winds, heavy rains, and warmer ocean currents damage the fragile ecosystem of the Galapagos Islands.
Due to the lack of food, sea lions, sharks, fish, and birds search for food in places they typically avoid. Animals depending on fish and algae (Galapagos marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies, red-footed boobies, Galapagos penguins, flightless cormorants, etc.) tend to starve during that time.<
Due to the increased rainfall, plants on the islands thrive, and thus land iguanas, giant Galapagos tortoises and many land birds thrive.

If you are worried about visiting the Galapagos Islands during the rainy season, don’t worry. It typically rains at night and the sun burns off the clouds by 10am or 11am.

Here is an overview of the highlights of the Galapagos Islands by month:

January Galapagos Highlights

  • rainy season begins

  • water temperature: 76°F (25°C)

  • Darwin finches, yellow warblers begin their mating rituals and nest

  • Green sea turtles start laying eggs at the beaches

  • Española Island: adult male marine iguanas acquire bright green, red, and black colors for the mating season

  • Isabela Island: land iguanas begin breeding season

February Galapagos Highlights

  • rainy season

  • water temperature: 80°F (27°C)

  • Cormorant Point (Floreana): flamingos begin to nest and lay eggs

  • Isabela and Fernandina Islands: Galapagos penguins return

  • Santa Cruz Island: marine iguanas begin nesting

March Galapagos Highlights

  • rainy season

  • water temperature: 81°F (27°C)

  • Española Island: Waved albatrosses arrive and begin their courtship ritual

  • Isabela and Fernandina Islands: good places to see Galapagos penguins

April Galapagos Highlights

  • rainy season

  • water temperature: 80°F (26°C)

  • blue-footed boobies courtship dances

  • frigate bird mating season

  • Giant tortoise hatching season ends

  • Española: Galapagos albatrosses perform courtship dances

  • Santa Cruz and Floreana: Green sea turtle eggs begin to hatch

May Galapagos Highlights

  • rainy season

  • transition to dry season

  • foliage transitions to more brown colors

  • water temperature: 77°F (25°C)

  • booby mating season continues

  • frigate birds begin laying eggs

  • Española Island: Galapagos albatrosses begin to lay eggs

  • Española, Floreana and Santiago Islands: Green sea turtles hatch

  • Santa Cruz Island: Marine Iguanas hatch

June Galapagos Highlights

  • dry season

  • water temperature: 75°F (24°C)

  • boobies nest and lay eggs

  • humpback whales migrate through the Galapagos

  • North Seymour Island: Frigate bird mating season

  • Santa Cruz Island: giant tortoises migrate from the highlands to the lowlands and begin mating season

July Galapagos Highlights

  • dry season

  • water temperature: 73°F (23°C)

  • wetsuit needed for swimming and snorkeling

  • booby eggs begin hatching

  • frigate bird eggs begin hatching

  • lava lizards begin mating

  • good time for whale and dolphin watching

  • Española Island: blue-footed boobies begin their courtship ritual

  • Fernandina Island and western coasts of Isabela Island: Flightless cormorants court and nest

August Galapagos Highlights

  • dry season

  • water temperature: 72°F (22°C)

  • wetsuit needed for swimming and snorkeling

  • flamingos begin mating rituals

  • Galapagos penguins start moving to central Islands

  • Galapagos sea lions give birth

  • Genovesa: start of nesting season of red-footed boobies

  • North Seymour Island: Frigate bird and booby eggs continue to hatch

  • Santa Cruz Island: Giant tortoises migrate back to the highlands

September Galapagos Highlights

  • dry season

  • water temperature: 71°F (22°C)

  • wetsuit needed for swimming and snorkeling

  • most seabirds nest

  • sea lion breeding season starts

  • Bartolomé Island: Galapagos penguins begin mating

October Galapagos Highlights

  • dry season

  • water temperature: 72°F (22°C)

  • wetsuit needed for swimming and snorkeling

  • Galapagos fur sea lion mating season begins

  • lava herons start breeding

  • Española and Isabela Islands: Blue-footed boobies raise their chicks

November Galapagos Highlights

  • dry season

  • water temperature: 73°F (23°C)

  • wetsuit needed for swimming and snorkeling

  • green sea turtles start mating

  • sea lion colonies have many pups

December Galapagos Highlights

  • transition to wet season

  • foliage slowly turning greener

  • water temperature: 73°F (23°C)

  • wetsuit needed for swimming and snorkeling

  • giant tortoise eggs begin to hatch

  • storm-petrels nest for the second time

  • Española Island: Galapagos Albatross chicks begin to shed their brown down to show their adult white and gray colors

  • Genovesa Island: male frigate birds show their red bags indicating the new breeding season is about to start

  • Santa Cruz and Floreana Islands: green sea turtles continue mating

Average Weather by Month in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Average monthly temperatures in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Average monthly precipitation in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Wonderful 12-Day Itinerary of Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands

This 12 day itinerary allows enough time to explore the absolute highlights of Ecuador. Due to its compactness, it can be combined with other South American countries or act as a starting point to a more in-depth 3 or 4 week Ecuador experience.

Day

Night

Day 1

Arrive in Quito

Quito Airport Suites Hotel

Day 2

Quitsato Mitad del Mundo; Otavalo Market; Cascadas de Peguche; Laguna de Cuicocha

Quito Airport Suites Hotel

Day 3

Flight to Baltra (Galapagos); Galapagos Cruise: North Seymour

Cruise Ship

Day 4

Galapagos Cruise: San Cristobal; Puerto Baquerizo Moreno

Cruise Ship

Day 5

Galapagos Cruise: Espanola

Cruise Ship

Day 6

Galapagos Cruise: Santa Fe; South Plaza; Puerto Ayora

Cruise Ship

Day 7

Galapagos Cruise: Santa Cruz; transfer to Isabela; Puerto Villamil

Isabela: Sun Island

Day 8

Isabela 'Los Tuneles'; transfer to Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz: Coloma Galapagos Hostal

Day 9

Flight to Quito; Quito (New Town)

Hosteria Airport Garden

Day 10

Quito (Old Town)

Hosteria Airport Garden

Day 11

Cotopaxi

Hosteria Airport Garden

Day 12

TelefériQo; Depart Quito

Backpack and Snorkel Travel Store

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Backpack and Snorkel Ecuador and Galapagos Travel Guide - Ecuador and Galapagos Purple Guide
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Backpack and Snorkel Ecuador and Galapagos Travel Guide - Ecuador and Galapagos Purple Guide