Best time to visit the Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Islands are home to giant sea turtles. (Photo: galapagos tortoise image by Diane Stamatelatos from Fotolia.com )
The Galapagos Islands consist of 13 main islets, though only four are populated. Situated more than 500 miles off shore from mainland Ecuador, this volcanic archipelago houses a rare assortment of exotic animals, including giant sea tortoises and lava lizards. Charles Darwin, the famed biologist, conducted some of his most renowned studies here, and ecotourists have been coming to the region ever since to catch a glimpse of the Galapagos Islands' unspoiled natural habitats. There's no right or wrong time to travel to the Galapagos: Two distinct seasons exist, each with its set of benefits.
The rainy season in Galapagos lasts from December to May. The water and air temperatures are warmer, but daily drizzle also blankets the islands during intermittent spells. Strangely, the rainy season also features the sunniest skies and calmest seas of the year.
The dry season runs from June through November. The Pacific Ocean's Humboldt Current passes up along the coast of South America during this period, bringing colder waters and cooler temperatures to the Galapagos Islands. The current also brings nutrients such as plankton, which attract more birds and fish to the region. Overcast conditions prevail on most days, but rainfall is scarce. Winds pick up and the seas get choppier as the dry season progresses.
Rainy Season Advantages
The warmer weather and calmer waters of the rainy season make this the ideal time to travel to the Galapagos if swimming and snorkeling are on the agenda. The smooth ocean waters also reduce the chance of getting seasick on a cruise. Additionally, the rainy season coincides with the breeding seasons for the islands' sea turtles and sea lions. March and April feature the appearance of newborn wildlife all over the islands, along with the blossoming of flowers, giving the entire region an atmosphere full of life and color.
Dry Season Advantages
The dry season ranks as the best time for underwater diving and seabird observation, according to Frommer's Travel Guide. Penguins and albatrosses arrive on the islands thanks to the colder waters and abundant fish. Floods of marine life migrate to the region following the Humboldt Current. Blue-footed boobies and Genovesa owls perform mating rituals, and the island brims with winged creatures. While overcast, this season provides the driest conditions for travelers.
Peak Tourist Seasons
The Galapagos Islands have two peak tourist seasons: the period from June to September and from December to January. Frommer's suggests booking trips well in advance when planning travel for these periods. The Galapagos National Park limits the number of tourists that can visit the islands at a given time, but even so, the influx of travelers during peak season can make things quite cramped at hotels and cruise docks.