What to see in Puerto Ayora (Galapagos Islands)

Sea lions and iguanas around the city

Puerto Ayora is the main inhabited center of the Galapagos islands, with hotels, travel agencies, restaurants, bus, shopping centers, etc. And many wild animals. Indeed, the first thing that amazes the tourist is to see sea lions and iguanas in the city.

Click here for the story of the close encounters with sea lions at the fish market, or on a bench in the port.


Tortuga Bay

Tortuga Bay is the most interesting tourist place in Puerto Ayora. A local boy told me that according to him it is the best beach in the archipelago (and perhaps he was not wrong).

Tortuga Bay is a beautiful white sand beach that can be visited without a tour guide (the other free beach in Puerto Ayora is Las Grietas). When it rains, the sand turns pink.

It can be reached from the center of Puerto Ayora with a 45-minute walk along a stone-paved path that crosses the island’s forest. At the end of the path, when you look up and see the beach, you feel a certain emotion: Tortuga Bay is a pristine white sand beach with no structures and services of any kind; it is 2,400 meters long and in some points perhaps 10 meters wide.


Often on the beach you  cannot swim because of the waves and currents. However, if you walk the entire length of the beach and reach the opposite end you will find a mangrove forest. And as in all fairy tales, after a few steps beyond the mangroves you discover that the forest hides a lagoon with shallow and calm water: a small earthly paradise that is ideal for swimming in safety.

And if you are lucky, on the beach you will also find turtles, and therefore you understand the name of this earthly paradise (I found small turtles, just born, doing their firts trip to sea).


Scientific station Charles Darwin and Lonesome George

From the center of Puerto Ayora the Charles Darwin scientific station can be reached with a 15-minute walk along a street of souvenir shops and travel agencies.

In this research facility, scientists from all over the world work on research and conservation of the marine and terrestrial ecosystems of the Galapagos. The station has as its objectives the conduct of scientific research and environmental education for the protection of the Galapagos islands. It has a team of over a hundred scientists, educators, volunteers, student researchers and support staff from all over the world.

For tourists, the station is an opportunity, first of all, to take a walk along paths in a beautiful natural environment, surrounded by mangroves, cactus, and other endemic plants. Secondly, the excursion to the Darwin science station is important for building a culture on this wonderful archipelago; in fact, the tourist route is full of illustrative panels of the environmental and fauna peculiarities of the Galapagos, of Darwin’s life and evolutionary theory, of the characteristics of giant turtles. There is also a real museum.

It is therefore possible to see hundreds of giant turtles up close in the sun.

Great emphasis is given to the pavilion that houses the Lonesome George (George the Solitary), which now seems to be the main tourist attraction of the station, with staggered access and consequent queue to access it. Precisely, in the pavilion there is an embalmed tortoise (the Lonesome George, in fact) that acquires relevance only where its history is fully known. As Wikipedia reports, George the Solitary “was a male specimen of Chelonoidis abingdonii, a species of tortoise established on the island of Pinta, one of the smallest and most isolated in the Galápagos archipelago. It is known to have been the last living representative of that species, even believed to be extinct before its discovery, consequently becoming a symbol of the struggle for the conservation of the archipelago’s ecosystem. After several unsuccessful attempts to have it mated with females of other neighboring species to generate hybrid specimens that preserved even partially the genes of Chelonoisis abingdonii, he was found dead in 2012 (at an age of about 100 years) thus sanctioning the extinction of the species ”.


Las Grietas

Las Grietas is a canyon hundred meters long, with a swimming channel at the bottom.

Las Grietas can be reached with a walk from Puerto Ayora along a beautiful pink laguna.


Given that Las Grietas is one of the two places in Puerto Ayora that can be visited without a natural guide (the other one is Tortuga Bay), we were told that it is always full of people. We got there around 11.15 and we can confirm that there were enough people swimming in the bottom of the canyon.

There are enough fish in the canal and the water is clear: it is therefore advisable to bring a mask and snorkel.


Book a trip to the other Galapagos Islands

Puerto Ayora is the base of day cruises to the other islands of the Galapagos arcipelago. Therefore, go to a travel agency and book your cruise to your favorite islands.

If you need more information about Galapagos cruises click here.

If you want to see some pictures of the wildlife and environment of northern islands of the arcipelago click here.


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