About 906km west of Ecuador, in the Pacific Ocean, you’ll find a breath-taking archipelago of volcanic islands bursting with exotic creatures, idyllic beaches and untouched wildlife reserves. Of course, we’re talking about the magnificent Galápagos Islands. There are 18 main islands, of which only four are inhabited, namely: Santa Cruz, Floreana, Isabela and San Cristóbel. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1978, the islands offer a mix of experiences for travellers of every kind, from nature-enthusiasts, to avid hikers and inquisitive explorers, not to mention some of the most unforgettable sunset moments in the world. We take a look at a few of the must-sees on each of the four main islands.
With its bustling urban centre and capital Puerto Ayora paired with the fact that it’s the second largest of the islands after Isabela, Santa Cruz is a melting pot of history, beauty and delight. It’s home to the El Chato Tortoise Reserve, the perfect place to get up close and personal with the famous Galápagos giant tortoises in their natural habitat. Then there’s the Las Grietas (The Grottos): here you’ll get to swim in turquoise waters between two tall cliffs. There may not be much to see underwater, but the experience of swimming in this sort of secret cove is one that will not soon be forgotten. Get a taste of history when you explore the Charles Darwin Research Station in Puerto Ayora and take in the lively sights and the sounds of Charles Darwin Avenue. Lastly, visit Tortuga Bay (Turtle Bay), with its pearly-white beaches and calm waters – ideal for sun-bathing and swimming. You may even be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of black turtles laying their eggs (November to February) or better yet, the eggs hatching between June and July. Prepare yourself for some of the greatest sunsets here as well.
The largest island of the Galápagos, Isabela is named after Queen Isabella of Spain. It boasts huge varieties of animal, marine and bird life, with it being home to more wild tortoises than any of the other islands. Flamingo Lagoon is where you’ll be able to spot a pink feathered visitor or two, with marine iguanas, pelicans, boobies and penguins (to name but a few) also calling this island home. Perhaps Isabela is most well-known for the volcanoes, namely Sierra Negra. This volcano is in fact active and it has the second largest crater in the world, measuring 4500ft wide. It’s possible to take a guided tour of the volcano that begins in Puerto Villami, allowing visitors the chance to take in the incredible vistas during the traverse. The hike is by no means easy but the rewards make it so worth it.
Formed through volcanic eruption, Floreana Island was named after the first president of Ecuador, Juan José Flores. If you’re one for snorkelling and diving, be sure to visit the northeast point of the island where you’ll find an underwater volcanic cone called the “Devil’s Crown”. Here you’ll witness some of the most spectacular marine life, including turtles, fish and vibrant corals. Post Office Bay gives travellers the opportunity to send post cards home without the need for stamps via the post barrel that is over 200 years old. Not many people can say they’ve been able to do that.
One of the oldest and the easternmost island in the archipelago, San Cristóbel is the most fertile of all the islands and is the second most populated after Santa Cruz. It’s home to a range of different birds, making it a must for avid bird-watchers. In fact, a large population of birdlife is found at Laguna El Junco, the largest freshwater lake in the archipelago. La Loberias is a 40-minute walk from the capital, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, as is ideal for sea lion spotting. The beaches here are filled with these creatures and their pups, as well as iguanas and lava lizards. It’s great for sun-bathing, surfing and swimming too, just be sure to keep your distance from the male sea lions, as they are known to get quite territorial and aggressive. Isla Lobos is a small island near San Cristóbel, known for its amazing diving and snorkelling opportunities. You’ll dive with sea horses, penguins and colourful fish as you explore the blue depths, before experiencing one of the greatest sunsets you’ll ever encounter.
After reading about the Galápagos Islands, all we can say is that we know for sure where we’re heading to on our next adventure. Happy travelling and sunset-chasing!
Featured image: https://holeinthedonut.smugmug.com