Travelling over the winter months is becoming increasingly popular, and there are many destinations all over the world that really come to life at this time of year. Common places to see over the winter include Iceland thanks to the more frequent occurrence of the Northern Lights, and bustling cities like New York due to the holiday shopping opportunities. But there is one exciting destination that can sometimes be overlooked.
The Galapagos Islands can be visited all year round, but winter is a particularly special time to visit this unique National Park and Marine Reserve. Why? Here are 7 top reasons:
If you’re looking for a touch of winter sun, you’ll find it in the Galapagos. While summer brings pleasant temperatures, the heat begins to rise from October, with highs of 28 degrees Celsius in December and rising to the low 30s in March. Of course, water temperatures are also up at this time of year, which makes the winter a great time to travel for anyone hoping to snorkel or dive and see what lies beneath the surface.
The Galapagos Tortoise is the biggest on the planet. These tortoises have an EN conservation status, making them endangered, but the winter months provide hope. In December, visitors can see new hatchlings, who enter the world at a tiny 80g before growing to a whopping 225kg. The Charles Darwin Research Centre (Santa Cruz) and the Cerro Colorado Centre (San Cristobal) are top choices for seeing the babies.
In December, the rise in temperatures sparks the start of the green turtle mating season. These turtles live in the waters surrounding the Islands, so they can sometimes be a bit tricky to spot, especially as they can swim at more than 35 miles per hour, and often sleep underwater. But visitors wanting to catch a glimpse are more likely to do so at this time of year, with pregnant females lying on the shores waiting to lay eggs at night.
January marks the end of the Garua Season; the period between June and December when the cool Humboldt Current meets the warmer Equatorial Current, creating a fine mist. Foggy days are common in the summer months, but from January the skies become much clearer, with improved visibility. For travelers keen to spot the local wildlife and check out what’s underwater, winter is certainly a fantastic time to visit.
For those who have never gone snorkeling or diving before, or for those who aren’t particularly strong swimmers, the gentle waters of the winter months are often preferred. Underwater currents are typically stronger between June and November, with August and September especially bringing rough seas. This is also a good time of year to take a Galapagos cruise, with calm waters making for a smooth and enjoyable sailing.
Although rain falls throughout the year, June to September can be quite dry, with rainfall starting to pick up in October and only really becoming heavier in December. There are not many destinations where the wet season is preferable to the dry season, but in the Galapagos it is. There are around 500 different vascular plants on the islands (around 180 of them are endemic to the Galapagos) which thrive with the winter rains.
Although winter travel is becoming more popular, the summer months are still the busiest in the Galapagos as a result of many families being limited in when they can travel by their local school holidays. Winter can be a much quieter time of year, with fewer queues for some of the region’s biggest attractions, such as the Breeding Center Jacinto Gordillo. The local beaches and bays are also less crowded during the winter.