The Galapagos Islands are known for being one of the most expensive destinations in the world.

If you google them, you will find beautiful cruise ships that take you around the archipelago for thousands and thousands of dollars. You will see luxury resorts and tours promising you the best experience – if you pay them enough. The islands have the reputation of being expensive and it is possible to spend a small fortune coming here.

Yet, it is also possible to experience the wonderful nature and wildlife without blowing your budget. While the Galapagos Islands will never be the cheapest destination in the world, I have travelled here for less than 60$ a day. This included a double room with a private bathroom, two excursions and lots of awesome wildlife encounters that I wouldn’t want to miss.

You can do the same. There are just a few things you need to keep in mind.

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Most travellers who visit Galapagos end up on Santa Cruz sooner or later, and I was no exception. In fact, I came here twice. Once voluntarily and once involuntarily.

My first, involuntary stay, unavoidable due to all boat connections from San Cristobal to Isabela going via Santa Cruz, lasted only a couple of hours. I used that time to eat a giant cup of ice cream – a decision which I regretted later that afternoon when I took a boat to Isabela and desperately tried not to empty my stomach into the sea.

My second encounter with Santa Cruz was more fortunate. I stayed for three days so I had a chance to properly get to know the island beyond the ice cream parlour. I saw giant tortoises, sea lions and marine iguanas, swam in crystal clear water and took selfies with pelicans. Santa Cruz has a lot to offer so I highly suggest you plan to spend at least a couple of days here.

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If you asked me to choose a favourite island on Galapagos, I would have a hard time. I went to three of them, San Cristobal, Santa Cruz and Isabela, and loved all of them. Each was special in its own way. But if I absolutely had to decide, I think I would go for Isabela because it was just a bit more special than the others.

Isabela is the island of marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies and pink flamingos. It has endless white beaches and a small town consisting of dirt roads. Upon arriving, we were greeted by sea lions who had taken a rest in between the mangroves.

Isabela is just perfect. And so you know how to spend your time here and make sure you don’t miss any of the highlight, here is what I recommend doing:

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San Cristobal is paradise. White beaches, warm weather and thousands of exotic animals. This island was our first stop in Galapagos and it didn’t disappoint. Within two hours of arriving, I had seen more sea lions than I had expected to see during my whole stay in the archipelago.

My friend and I had two and a half days on San Cristobal and we would see many more sea lions during that time. Big ones, small ones, tiny babies drinking from their mothers, young ones frolicking in the water.

But San Cristobal is not just about sea lions. There is a lot more to discover. Keep reading to find out what to see and do on this island:

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Most travellers to Ecuador pass through Guayaquil. If you want to go to Galapagos, this is where flights come from. If you come from Peru, it is a convenient stop to break up what would otherwise be an endless bus ride.

So if you have to come here anyway, why not turn this into a sightseeing stop?

With its colonial buildings, the Malecon, the hillside neighbourhoods and a mangrove island just off its coast, Guayaquil is a great place for tourists. There are plenty of things to do in Ecuador’s biggest city. If you are wondering what you shouldn’t miss, here are five of Guayaquil’s highlights:

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