• Settings:
Best Galapagos IslandsScroll

Best Galapagos Islands

GAL St Galapagos Bartolome Island Jess Kraft

The Best Islands in the Galapagos

Having never been connected to a continent, the 17 Galapagos Islands, and many other rocky outcrops and islets, were formed over many hundreds of thousands of years between volcanic eruptions and the earth’s movement. The wildlife that is now found on these young islands somehow migrated across the ocean from the Latin American mainland; it is thought this was mainly via floating bits of land, hence only the hardy, such as made it across – and, of course, the birds. The Galapagos archipelago consists of 13 major islands, 6 smaller islands and scores of islets and rocks lying within reach of the equator.

Genovesa Island

Known as Tower Island, the small, outlying and relatively flat island of Genovesa is a haven for birds, earning itself the nickname of ‘Bird Island’. But it is not just the ornithologists who will appreciate this magnificent island. Being the northernmost of the Galapagos Islands, Genovesa is outlying and accessible mainly on longer itineraries, or those that specifically target the north. In our opinion, this is one of the most interesting and exciting islands and is well worth the trip out. Low-lying, Genovesa Island can be tricky to spot and at times the sea mist can completely obscure the island from view, reiterating the reason behind the Galapagos Islands nickname, Las Islas Encantadas (The Enchanted Islands). The lava it is made from originated mainly from a crater that can still be found in the centre of the island, with a depth of 200 feet and a width at the rim of about 2000 feet. A lake at the bottom of the crater is home to sediment that is less than 6,000 years old.

Isabela Island

The sea-horse shaped island of Isabela is the largest of the Galapagos Islands and at only one million years of age, it is also one of the youngest. Thought by many to be the most beautiful, Isabela is home to the typical white-sandy beaches, palm trees, rocky islets and mangroves you would expect from a pacific island. World renowned for its population of tortoises, there are five subspecies found on the island, each living in the calderas of the five remaining active volcanoes. These subspecies are thought to have developed as the slow moving creatures could not cross the topographical barriers that the volcanoes presented. On the west coast there is the Cromwell Current providing a feeding ground for fish, dolphins and whales. Birders will not be disappointed either, with Galapagos penguins and flightless cormorants nesting nearby. Elsewhere on the island you can also spot Galapagos hawks, mangrove finches, brown pelicans, pink flamingos and blue herons.

Santa Cruz Island

Santa Cruz is the second largest of the Galapagos Islands, after Isabela, and the centre for tourism. Here you find the Galapagos Islands National Park Headquarters and the Charles Darwin Research Station, and its close proximity to Baltra means it is easily accessible to anyone visiting the archipelago. The island has a strange geology, comprised of two parts, the older 10 mile strip of land formed of uplifted submarine lava flows and the newer, larger part formed by volcanic cones and basaltic lavas. Then there are the twin craters of Los Gemelos, sinkholes surrounded by Scalesia forest. Each of the Galapagos ‘life zones’ are present on Isla Santa Cruz resulting in some fantastic wildlife, especially birds. Human development began here in the 20th Century, with villages established in the humid zone which were perfect for planting avocados, coffee, lemons, bananas and more.

Santa Fe Island

Santa Fe is a stunning and unique island, being formed by an uplift rather than a volcanic eruption, resulting in a relatively flat landscape instead of the typical conical shape of most other islands of the archipelago. It is also claimed by scientists to be the oldest of the islands.If you follow the loop trail around the island you will venture through vegetation such as salt bush and prickly pear cacti. Amongst the salt bushes you have the chance to approach the magnificent Galapagos hawks, and closer to the cliffs you stand a chance of spotting the Barrington land iguana, an endemic species and the largest Iguana to be found in the Galapagos. Back at the beach, why not take the time to snorkel with the playful sea lion pups. A nearby submerged rock also provides visitors with the chance to spot manta rays and marine turtles.

Santa Cruz and Bartholomew Islands

Visit Bachas Beach which is located on the north shore of Santa Cruz and is great for swimming. One of the few remnants of the U.S. World War II presence in the Galapagos, a floating pier, can also be seen here. You may see flamingos, Sally Lightfoot crabs, hermit crabs, black-necked stilts, and whimbrels. Sea turtles also nest on the beach. Head to Bartholomew Island where the famous Pinnacle Rock is found. Bartholomew consists of an extinct volcano with a variety of red, orange, black and even green volcanic formations. Take a trail of stairs to the summit of the volcano (about 30 or 40 minutes) where you will enjoy one of the best views of the islands. You will also visit a small, beautiful beach surrounded by the only vegetation found on this barren island. The beach is perfect for snorkelling where you may even see and swim with Galapagos penguins.