The Galápagos Islands (officially, in Spanish, the Archipiélago de Colón) are an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean, a little more than 550 miles west of Ecuador, which they became a part of in 1832. They consist of 13 major islands, six smaller islands, and dozens of islets and rocks scattered across about 23,000 square miles on both sides of the equator. 

The region's claim to fame is its unusually large number and variety of endemic wildlife species—species that exist in one particular geographic location and nowhere else. During the 1830s, Charles Darwin's studies of the islands' unique wildlife played a significant role in his development of the theory of evolution. Wildlife tourism remains the main attraction of the Galápagos Islands to this day.

If you're planning a vacation to the area, make sure to purchase Galápagos Islands travel medical insurance or travel insurance to protect yourself against any unexpected events that might occur on your trip.

Travel Medical Insurance for Travelers in the Galápagos Islands – FAQs

Travel medical insurance is essential protection for anyone taking a trip outside their home country. It allows you to access necessary medical care for new illnesses and injuries that occur after the effective date of the policy for a predictable price.

Do I need travel medical insurance the Galápagos Islands?

Yes, you do. It is a legal requirement. Although Ecuador has discontinued its travel medical insurance requirement if you visit the mainland, the Ecuadorian government still requires all visitors to the Galápagos Islands to have compliant travel medical insurance.

Why buy travel medical insurance before traveling to the Galápagos Islands?

With so many incredible sights and sounds all around grabbing your attention, it’s easy to accidentally injure yourself while exploring the Galápagos Islands. And if you get seriously hurt or sick, there aren’t a massive amount of healthcare resources close at hand. Especially dire situations may require emergency medical evacuation, which can cost in excess of $100,000. To avoid paying for this out of your own pocket, make sure you have mandatory Galápagos Islands travel medical insurance with medical evacuation coverage.

Trip Cancellation Insurance for Travelers in the Galápagos Islands – FAQs

The Galápagos Islands are a distant archipelago that often take several flights or a cruise to reach. In order to go there, you will need to book your travel and tours in advance. As many of these prepaid charges are nonrefundable, it is advisable to have the protection offered by trip cancellation insurance.

Why should I get trip cancellation insurance for my Galápagos Islands travel?

If you find yourself unable to go on your trip to the Galápagos Islands, you may not be able to get refunded for the money you’ve already spent on the trip. Even if a refund is offered, it is often depleted by large cancellation fees.

With trip cancellation insurance, you can get that refund. It can allow you to be reimbursed for the nonrefundable portion of your prepaid trip expenses, so long as the reason why you cancelled the trip is covered by the travel insurance policy you have purchased.

What can be covered by trip cancellation insurance for the Galápagos Islands?

Travel insurance for the Galápagos Islands can cover trip cancellation, as we’ve mentioned, but it can offer more coverage than that. Depending upon the plan you have chosen, you may be able to get coverage for:

Since travel mishaps can’t always be avoided, get insurance that can cover them with travel insurance for the Galápagos Islands. 

The Galápagos Islands’ Most Popular Activities and Attractions

Thanks to the islands' isolated ecosystem, the Galápagos are home to a number of unique animal species like the Galápagos tortoise (the area's namesake), the Galápagos penguin, the only species of penguin found north of the Equator, the waved albatross, and 13 species of finches, which Darwin used as a model for his theory of natural selection. The ecosystem is fragile enough that visitors are permitted only as part of guided tours to designated visitor sites. Of these sites, 54 are on land, and visitation to many of them is limited to small groups visiting in 2-4-hour increments. Cruise tours have become a popular way to sightsee without impacting the environment.

Charles Darwin Research Station

The Charles Darwin Research Station, located in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island, is a biological research station that opened in 1959. Its goal is to conduct scientific research and encourage environmental education. The station features an active breeding center and a natural history interpretation center with exhibits and displays about the area's history and ecology. Travelers insist that the research station is a must-see for any first-time visitor to the islands. It's also a good spot to catch a glimpse of one of the famed Galápagos giant tortoises, although they don't roam as freely as they do within other sites.

Tortoise Reserves

For prime glimpses of these majestic specimens, which can weigh more than 900 pounds and live for up to 150 years, two recommended spots are El Chato Tortoise Reserve and the Rancho Primicias. Both are also located on Santa Cruz Island. El Chato Tortoise Reserve is the more popular of the two, a wildlife sanctuary staffed with rangers actively hunting predators and building fortified walls to protect the dwindling tortoise population. 

The Rancho Primicias, a similar giant tortoise sanctuary, boasts smaller crowds and better photo opportunities—as well as empty tortoise shells that visitors can climb into. Both sites are among the few in the world where visitors can observe the tortoises in their natural habitat. Both reserves also boast tunnels made of cooled, hardened lava for exploration, as well as an on-site restaurant. 

Tortuga Bay

Tortuga Bay, also on Santa Cruz Island, is home to white-sand beaches and scenic ocean views, but it's better known for the small black turtles that lay their eggs there. Hatchlings emerge each April and May to fight their way to the sea. Even if you visit in the offseason, you'll still find plenty of indigenous wildlife like marine iguanas and Sally Lightfoot crabs. The bay has two beaches; the beach closer to the entrance (Playa Brava) is known for its strong currents, so most beachgoers and swimmers prefer the further beach (Playa Mansa). Playa Mansa also offers kayak rentals.

La Lobería

La Lobería, a beach near Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristóbal Island, offers a wider variety of wildlife as well as surfing, swimming, and snorkeling opportunities. The stretch is best known for its population of lively sea lions, although they're best enjoyed from a distance—male sea lions can be territorial and aggressive toward humans if they feel threatened. You're also likely to encounter wild iguanas, lava lizards, yellow warblers, and frigates.

Volcano Tourism

The Galápagos Islands have seen nearly continuous volcanic activity for about 20 million years. Sierra Negra's most recent eruption was in 2005, while Fernandina on Fernandina Island most recently erupted in 2009. Isabela island contains six major volcanoes, and the area's nine active volcanoes have erupted a total of 24 times between 1961 and 2011. The Sierra Negra Volcano on Isabela Island is a popular spot for tourists. The crater measures in at more than six miles, the second-largest on the planet, and many travelers say it's worth the trek to stare down into its glowing fumaroles and caldera.

Key Guidelines for Travelers in the Galápagos Islands

The unique ecosystem of the Galápagos Islands is stanchly protected, and thus there are several guidelines that you should remember to follow while you are visiting.

Stick With the Tour

You are not allowed to wander around aimlessly in most parts of the Galápagos Islands. The habitat is fragile, and it is important not to disturb native wildlife. You must book and follow a tour if you want to see most of the major attractions.

Do Not Disturb

A word of caution: In line with the protective atmosphere of the islands, please be careful not to touch or feed the tortoises, or any other wildlife you come across. Many of these animals are endangered or threatened, and human interaction can be dangerous for both parties, especially in the case of sea lions.

Bring Your Own Equipment

In areas like La Lobería, you are free to snorkel on your own. But it is worth noting that even though the beach is open 24 hours a day, no permanent facilities are available, so you'll have to bring your own snorkeling equipment if that's your cup of tea.

Before You Travel to the Galápagos Islands – Do This

  • Be careful not to pack any agricultural or plant materials, or any unprocessed food. Only bring pre-wrapped snacks. Anything else will be confiscated at customs.
  • Dress for the experience – Most experts recommend shorts and a light, sweat-wicking shirt, along with sunglasses, a hat, and plenty of sunscreen.
  • Remember that insurance is required, so you will need to purchase compliant travel medical insurance or travel insurance before you go.

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