Galloping to Galapagos

Yes, the alliteration was inevitable, and rather gratuitous at that, because even by air it's more likely to feel like a plodding turtle trot, at least for those of us without access to private intercontinental jets for whom there really is no fast and easy way to get to the Galapagos Islands. "We fly for those who want to go farthest," is the motto of one of the airlines serving the archipelago, and it does seem fitting that one of the most remote, isolated and pristine spots on Earth should not be too easily accessible.

Still, if you're fortunate enough to live in or near a city that has non-stop service to Guayaquil—Miami, Houston or New York—it can actually be a fairly smooth and painless one-stop jaunt to the end of the world, although unless you time your connections wisely you may be in for an overnight layover both coming and going.

If, on the other hand, you're starting out from anywhere else, or merely want to save money by not flying non-stop, the journey can become a long, slow slog down the spine of Central America, with one, two, three or even four pit stops along the way, since the best deals are usually offered by a host of smaller Central American carriers, such as Copa, Lacsa, and Taca Airlines.

Nor is it cheap, although it doesn't have to be nearly as expensive as you might expect, either. To complicate matters a bit, none of the major online travel sites will sell you a ticket for the entire itinerary, but you can easily piece one together yourself if you prefer not to go through a specialized travel agency.

Ecuador is often the cheapest country south of the Equator to get to, so finding a decent fare shouldn't be a problem. Guayaquil, in particular, is one of the most competitive markets in Latin America and we currently list fares from Los Angeles, Miami and New York for under $500, and also had some great bargains to Quito posted earlier in the fall starting at just over $300.

From the mainland, you have a choice of daily flights to Baltra and San Cristóbal on Tame or Aerogal (Aerolineas Galapagos) who both sell their tickets online. Depending on the season, fares range from $300 to $400 round-trip including taxes and are reportedly set by the government, so they shouldn't differ or change much, although you may change travel dates without incurring penalties.

In short, with some propitious planning, fortuitous timing and tortoise patience, you may be able to get to carapace paradise for little more than $600, plus the price of admission, assuming they'll even let you in! Just get back on that horse and keep an eye out for a good fare to Guayaquil or Quito, which we will most likely show on our Houston, Los Angeles, Miami and/or New York pages.