The 19 islands and hundreds of islets of the Galapagos straddle the equator, almost 600 miles off the Pacific coast of Ecuador at their nearest point. The total landmass of the islands is almost 5,000 square miles, though much of it extremely isolated and uninhabitable (the total population is a mere 30,000, with a fluctuating number of tourists). Spread out over 28,000 square miles, each of the small spits of land holds creatures found only in the chain and sometimes endemic to just a single island. The isolation of the islands has allowed the animals here to develop in ways unlike anywhere else in the world, which inspired a young Charles Darwin, who visited in 1835, to write his Theory of Evolution.
Galapagos Islands Cities and Regions
San CristóbalSea Lion colonies and hordes of blue-footed boobies are among the distractions on the second most developed island in the archipelago (215 square miles). Don’t forget to bring your board – you’ll also find the best surfing in the Galapagos.
IsabelaShare the beach with giant tortoises, penguins, and marine iguanas at the largest island in the chain (1,771 square miles) thanks to the extra square footage provided by lava flows from the island’s six volcanoes.
Santa CruzThe largest city in the Galapagos (Puerto Ayora), the best beach (Tortuga Bay), and the biggest attraction (the Charles Darwin Research Station) can all be found on Santa Cruz, an island of 381 square miles.
FloreanaPirates once came for the supposedly endless supply of turtle meat until Floreana became the first settlement in the islands. The small island (just 67 square miles) is famous for its unique post office.
SantiagoSea lions and fur seals fill the rocky coastlines, while bizarre lava formations make up the interior of this 226 square mile island.
BaltraOnly eight square miles, this former U.S. Air Force Base was home to the only airport in the Galapagos until the one in San Cristobal was built in 1986. It’s still the main airport in the islands, though it doesn’t offer much else.
EspañolaColor-changing iguanas, blue-footed boobies, nazca boobies, Galápagos hawks, and a great beach make the archipelago’s oldest, most isolated island (23 square miles) worth a stop.
FernandinaAn active volcano, which last erupted in 2005, shares space with the flightless cormorant, marine iguanas, and sea lions on the westernmost and youngest isle (248 square miles).
GenovesaThe tiny island, just 5 square miles, in the far northeastern corner of the Galapagos is home to Red-Footed Boobies, Great Frigate birds, and fur seals, but don’t miss one of the best hiking trails in the South Pacific.
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