Paul Schicke
Written by Paul Schicke Senior Expedition Designer

Published: June 10, 2024

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Embarking on a journey to the Galapagos Islands begins with a strategic entry through Ecuador's mainland. There are no direct international flights to the Galapagos. The adventure to this unique archipelago involves careful planning regarding flights, airports, and entry protocols to ensure a smooth travel experience. Where you fly into will depend largely on whether you have booked a cruise or a hotel stay. Here's a detailed guide on flying into the Galapagos Islands, featuring essential travel tips and airport information.

Entry Points in Ecuador

Travelers heading to the Galapagos generally start their journey by taking an international flight into Ecuador, with the two main international airports being Quito and Guayaquil. Choosing between these airports depends on your travel preferences and itinerary specifics.

Quito: Gateway to the Galapagos

Mariscal Sucre International Airport in Quito is a major launching point for flights to the Galapagos. This airport handles numerous international flights, making it a convenient option for travelers coming from afar. However, flights from Quito to the Galapagos typically make a brief stopover in Guayaquil, adding extra travel time and costing a little extra than direct flights from Guayaquil. The total flight duration from Quito to the Galapagos is about two and a half hours, excluding the layover.

Quito itself is nestled high in the Andes and offers travelers a blend of colonial charm and modern amenities, making it worth a visit before continuing to the islands. If you plan on exploring mainland Ecuador either before or after your Galapagos cruise, we definitely recommend you stay for a Quito tour, over Guayaquil. There is simply a lot more to do in and around Quito, like visiting the Andes highlands, going to the Cloud forest or even venturing into the mighty Amazon basin. If you are pressed with time and cannot explore the mainland, it is very advisable to arrive in Quito at least a day before your flight to the Galapagos to mitigate any risks of travel delays, lost luggage or cancellations.

Guayaquil: A Direct Route

Alternatively, José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport in Guayaquil provides a more direct route to the Galapagos. This airport offers the shortest flight path to the islands, approximately 1.5 hours, and all flights are direct. This makes Guayaquil an optimal choice for those not really looking to explore mainland Ecuador and for those seeking efficiency in their travel plans.

Guayaquil is vibrant and closer to sea level compared to Quito, offering a different cultural experience. Its proximity to the coast and lower altitude might also appeal to travelers seeking a milder starting point before the island adventure.

Choosing Your Galapagos Airport

The Galapagos Islands are served by two primary airports: Seymour Airport on Baltra Island and San Cristobal Airport on San Cristobal Island. Your choice of airport should align with your planned activities and the location of your accommodation in the islands.

Seymour Airport (GPS)

Located on Baltra Island, Seymour Airport is a small but well-equipped facility that acts as a major entry point to the Galapagos. Most travel itineraries suggest flying into Baltra if your initial destination is Santa Cruz Island, as it is just a short ferry ride away. If planning an adventure on Isabela Island, you also want to fly to Baltra Island airport over San Cristobal.

San Cristobal Airport (SCY)

For those whose itineraries start on San Cristobal Island, the San Cristobal Airport is the perfect landing spot. This airport puts visitors directly in Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, the administrative capital of the islands and a hub for local tourism​​.

Conservation Efforts and Entry Protocols

Traveling to the Galapagos is regulated to protect its unique ecosystem. Upon arrival in either Quito or Guayaquil, travelers must obtain a Transit Control Card (TCT) for $20. This card is crucial for managing tourism sustainably and is checked again when departing the islands. Moreover, all luggage is screened to prevent the introduction of invasive species, underscoring the islands' stringent conservation policies.

Practical Travel Tips

  • Booking Flights and Accommodations: It is recommended to book your flights and accommodations well in advance, especially during peak travel seasons.
  • Travel Insurance: Given the remote nature of the Galapagos and the adventurous activities on offer, securing comprehensive travel insurance is advisable.
  • Cash Essentials: Ensure you carry enough cash, as ATMs are scarce, and many places do not accept credit cards, especially for payment of the park entry fee and TCT. Local currency in Ecuador and Galapagos is the US dollar.

By understanding these logistics and differences between airports, and by preparing accordingly, travelers can ensure a memorable and responsible visit to the Galapagos Islands, a place where the marvels of nature await at every turn. To learn more, continue on here - How to get to the Galapagos Islands

Paul Schicke
By Paul Schicke
Senior Expedition Designer

Hello! My name is Paul. I am a photographer, traveler, teacher and writer. I have extensive experience in travel to Galapagos, Peru, Patagonia and the western seaboard of South America specializing in ways travelers can experience these once-in-a-life destinations like locals on the road. Lover of wine, chocolate, travel, coffee, and helping others plan vacations of a lifetime!

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