Galapagos Islands

The Galápagos Islands are an archipelago of volcanic islands distributed around the equator in the Pacific Ocean, 973 km (605 mi) west of continental Ecuador (the country to which they belong). On September 8, 1978, UNESCO declared the Galapagos a Natural Heritage Site and in 1985 the Galapagos National Park was declared a Biosphere Reserve which was later extended in December 2001 to include the marine reserve.

The Galapagos Islands are geologically young and famed for their vast number of endemic species. The archipelago is found at the coordinates 1°40'N–1°36'S, 89°16'–92°01'W. Straddling the equator, islands in the chain are located in both the northern and southern hemisphere. Española the southernmost island and Darwin the northernmost island are spread out over a distance of 220 km (137 mi). The Galápagos Archipelago consists of 7,880 km2 (3,040 sq mi) of land spread over 45,000 km2 (17,000 sq mi) of ocean.

The Galapagos Archipelago consists of 15 main islands, 3 smaller islands, and 107 rocks and islets and is located atop the Galapagos hotspot, a place where the Earth's crust is being melted from below by a mantle plume, creating volcanoes and fascinating lava landscapes.

Baltra

Baltra Island (Isla Baltra) is a small island of the Galápagos Islands, it has an area of 27 sq. km. Visitors to the Galapagos Archipelago often put their foot here first, as it is home to the main airport, Seymour Airport. The airport was built by the Americans during World War II. This island sits just 1 km off the northern coast of Isla Santa Cruz and has no real tourist attractions besides some shops for last minute gifts. Nevertheless if you have a little bit of time you might want to leave the airport and explore its surroundings and look out for the local Land Iguanas.

Access to Santa Cruz Island is across the Itabaca Channel. The island serves as a small navy base for Ecuador. There are no visitor sites or accommodations, but both public and private transportation from the airport to Puerto Ayora is available.

Read more >>>
Bartolome

Bartolome Island (Spanish: Isla Bartolomé) is a volcanic islet just off the east coast of Santiago Island. It is one of the "younger" islands in the Galápagos archipelago. It is named after Lieutenant David Bartholomew of the British Navy. With a total land area of just 1.2 km², this island offers some of the most beautiful landscapes in the archipelago. The island consists of an extinct volcano and a variety of red, orange, green, and glistening black volcanic formations. A volcano that is more than a 100 m high marks the island. It is not so famous for its wildlife but for its lava landscape that seems almost unreal and which makes it possible to retrace the evolution of the islands.

Read more >>>
Chinese Hat
Chinese Hat

Chinese Hat is a tiny Island just off the southeastern tip of Santiago Island and is less than a quarter of 1 sq km in size. It is a fairly recent volcanic cone, which accounts for its descriptive name; it has the shape of a down-facing Chinese Hat. The hat shape is best appreciated from the north side. Opposite Chinese Hat, on the rocky shoreline of nearby Santiago, Galapagos penguins are often seen. A short 400 meters long trail goes around the cove and through a sea lion colony - marine iguanas cover the landscape. The volcanic scenery is attractive, and there are good views of the cone. There are snorkeling and swimming opportunities in the cove.

Daphne Mayor
Daphne Mayor

Daphne Mayor is with a size of 0.32 sq km the bigger of the two Daphne islands (Daphne Minor – 0.07 sq km) lying some 10 km in the west of Seymour. While the smaller one is not open to visitors, you can explore the bigger hiking up a quite steep trail to its 120m high summit. At the top of the cone two small craters form the nesting place for hundreds of blue footed boobies. Nazca boobies nest on the crater rims and with a bit of luck you can also observe red billed tropic birds nesting in the crevices of the steep rocky cliffs of the islands.

Landing on the islands rocky cliffs is quite difficult and due to the fragile and eroded slopes the national park authorities have limited the visits to this island.

Espanola

Española Island is also named Hood Island. It is located in the extreme southeast of the archipelago and is considered, along with Santa Fe, one of the oldest, at approximately four million years. It is about a 10- to 12-hour trip by boat from Isla Santa Cruz. Visitors come to see the albatrosses and the mating dances of blue-footed boobies on Española Island. Because of its great variety of sea birds it is very popular with birdwatchers. You can encounter masked and blue-footed boobies, Galápagos doves, red-billed tropicbird, mocking birds, swallowed-tailed gulls and, most important, the waved albatross. There are two visitor sites: Gardner Bay and Punta Suarez.

Read more >>>
Floreana

Floreana Island was named after Juan José Flores, the first president of Ecuador, during whose administration the government of Ecuador took possession of the archipelago. It is also called Santa Maria after one of the caravels of Columbus. It has an area of 173 km² and a maximum altitude of 640 metres. It is one of the islands with the most interesting human history and one of the earliest to be inhabited. Pink flamingos and green sea turtles nest (December to May) in this island. The "joint footed" petrel is found here, a nocturnal sea bird which spends most of its life away from land.

Read more >>>
Fernandina

Fernandina Island is the third largest, and youngest, island of the Galápagos Islands. The island is an active shield volcano that last erupted on August 2007. The island was formed by the Galapagos hotspot. The southern flank of the volcano had a fissure eruption that generated flows, which subsided within hours.

This is the youngest and westernmost island of the archipelago. It was named in honor of King Fernando of Spain, who sponsored the voyage of Christopher Columbus. On the 14th of February 1825, while anchored in Banks Bay, Captain Benjamin Morrell recorded one of the largest eruptions in Galapagos history at Fernandina Volcano. His ship escaped to safety and his account of the event was preserved.

Read more >>>
Genovesa

Genovesa Island occupies about 14 km² and its maximum elevation is 64 m. The horse-shoe shaped island has a volcanic caldera whose wall has collapsed, forming the Great Darwin Bay, surrounded by cliffs. Lake Arcturus, filled with salt water, lies in the centre, and sediment within this crater lake is less than 6,000 years old.

Although no historical eruptions are known from Genovesa, there are relatively young lava flows on the flanks of the volcano. This outlying island is situated at the northeast part of the archipelago. Many cruises may not include it because of the long distance (at least an 8-hour trip each way).

Read more >>>
Isabela

Isabela is the biggest island of the archipelago and occupies about 60% of all the land area of Galápagos. It was formed by the volcanoes Cerro Azul, Sierra Negra (Santa Tomás), Alcedo, Darwin, Wolf and Ecuador that conflated to one island. All except Volcano Ecuador, which is older, are still active today. Even though Isabela has several visiting sites, it is not very frequented by tourists. Most of the landing sites are on the west coast and only faster boats make this long journey. The small port Puerto Villamil (about 3,000 inhabitants) is the main settlement on the island. There is also a small airport. This town is a good base if you plan to stay longer on Isabela.

Read more >>>
Mosquera
Mosquera

Mosquera Island is a tiny sandy island of 0,06 sq km that lies between Baltra Island and Seymour Island. There is no trail but on a small sandy bank visitor have the chance to observe and even swim with the sea lions of a large local colony. Birds like herons, lava gulls, ruddy turnstones and Sanderlings also frequently can be observed here.

North Seymour

North Seymour Island was lifted from the ocean floor by a seismic event, and its origins as a seabed give the island its low, flat profile with he highest point reaching only 30m. The cliffs of the small island (1,9 sq km), only a few meters high, form the shoreline, where swallow-tailed gulls sit perched in ledges. A tiny forest of silver-grey Palo Santo trees stand just above the landing (dry landing on black lava rocks), usually without leaves, waiting for the rain to bring them into bloom.

This island is teaming with life! You might have to give way to a passing sea lion or marine iguana. Blue-footed boobies nest on either side of the trail (ca. 2 km) where mating pairs perform their courtship dance.

Read more >>>
Plazas

Only the southern partner of two small crescent-shaped islands that lie just a few hundred meters off the east coast of Santa Cruz can be visited as the northern island is used for scientific purposes only.

South Plaza is one of the smallest yet richest islands in the archipelago. Only 130 meters wide (426 feet), it was formed from uplifted seabed, giving it a tilted tabletop quality. The unusual vegetation and location of the island create an interesting landscape in which the fauna and flora of Galápagos are enhanced.

Read more >>>
Rabida
Rabida

Rabida Island is situated south of the island Santiago. The landing site of this 5 sq km island is a dark red coral beach which is usually frequented by sea lions. You can swim and snorkel with them and especially the pups are very curious. The saltbushes nearby are used by the brown pelican for nesting during season.
A trail leads to a salt water lagoon where you can occasionally encounter flamingos and white-cheeked pintails. It is also home to a sea lion bachelor colony that is waiting for their turn to take over a colony. Continuing further into the island you come to the arid zone of the island where Palo Santo trees (Galapagos Bursa tree) grow. Rabida offers the most diversified volcanic rocks of the entire archipelago.
It is also a great snorkeling spot where you can encounter a huge variety of bright tropic fish.

San Cristobal

San Cristóbal (Chatham) is the easternmost island in the Galápagos archipelago, and one of the oldest geologically. It’s Spanish (and most commonly used) name San Cristóbal comes from the Patron Saint of seafarers, St. Christopher. Its older English name of Chatham is that of William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham. San Cristóbal has an area of 558 km² and its highest point rises to 730 meters. The capital of the archipelago, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, lies at the south-western tip of the island. Two airlines fly directly to San Cristobal airport from Guayaquil, Ecuador; flights from Quito stop for refueling in Guayaquil.

Read more >>>
Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz Island (Infatigable) is the second biggest island of the archipelago with an area of 986 sq km. The highest point is Cerro Crocker at 864 meters. Santa Cruz has the largest population in Galápagos especially in the town of Puerto Ayora on the south coast. With its about 20,000 inhabitants it is the largest human settlement on the islands and offers some touristic facilities. The town’s harbor is named Academy Bay after the boat Academy, which arrived here in 1905 carrying an expedition sent by the California Academy of Sciences. Today the harbor is quite popular with sailors as well as with sea lions and pelicans!.

Read more >>>
Santa Fe

Santa Fe Island has been formed by lava streams that were extruded beneath the sea and later were uplifted (although recent evidence suggests subsequent sub-aerial activity). The 24 sq km island is crossed by a number of parallel cliffs formed by fault activity. This island has lavas of 3.9 million years of age, making it the oldest island successfully dated in the archipelago. Santa Fe offers one of the most beautiful and sheltered coves in the islands. Its turquoise lagoon is protected by a peninsula of tiny islets forming an ideal anchorage. The island lies southeast of Santa Cruz within sight of Puerto Ayora. Geologically it is one of the oldest islands in the archipelago and for many years was thought to be a product of an uplift event.

Read more >>>
Santiago

Santiago is the fourth largest of the islands and has several excellent visitor sites within its 585 sq km. In a long, flat black lava shoreline eroded shapes form lava pools, caves and inlets that house a great variety of wildlife. The landscape is shaped by numerous scoria and tuff cones and extensive recent lava flows on the east and south of the island. One major volcano dominates the western side, which is thickly vegetated and highly eroded. This island has almost all the vegetation zones, from arid to humid.

Read more >>>