Galapagos Islands

Galapagos is one of the four regions in Ecuador, that along with the Coastal Region in the mainland, is home to all the beaches of Ecuador.

To visit them implies travelling through knowledge and enjoying nature in its pristine state, acknowledging its value as one of the world’ s endemic regions par excellence.

The following is a summary of all the important information about the Insular Region of Ecuador so that you can visit it.

Important: Galapagos travel requirements

Tortuga Bay

Where are the galapagos islands located?

The Galapagos Islands are located 973 km (605 miles) west of the continental Ecuador, between coordinates 01°40′ N 01°36′ S; 089°16′ and 092°01′ W, and passing over the equator.

Overall, the Galapagos consist of 7,880 km2 of land over 45,000 km2 of ocean.

map

History and population

The Galapagos Islands were incorporated to Ecuador in 1832, but they were discovered in 1535 by Tomas de Berlanga.

The Galapagos were created as an Ecuadorian province on February 18, 1973.

Its capital is Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, located on San Cristobal Island, while the largest and most populated city is Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island.

The archipelago is one of Ecuador’s 24 provinces and is the least inhabited (approx. 33 thousand people).

Puerto Ayora main street

Time use

The Galapagos are in the GMT-6 time zone.

This is one hour more (+1) than in the Ecuadorian continent.

Galapagos

Other names

The Galapagos Islands are also legally known as the Colon Archipelago or Galapagos Archipelago. Although these islands are also known colloquially as “Enchanted Islands”.

The name of the archipelago comes from the species of giant tortoise that inhabits the islands: the Galapagos.

The term galapago was used to refer to the English saddle used by women, which resembles the shell of these turtles.

The Government Council of the Special Regime of Galapagos is the entity responsible for the administration, organization and management of the islands.

Galapagos Giant Tortoise

Islands of the Galapagos

Galapagos has seven major islands, 14 smaller islands, 12 additional islands, 64 islets and 136 rocks, all of which are volcanic in origin.

See also: How many islands are there in Galapagos?

Armchair Traveling - Dusk on San Cristobal Islands, The Galapagos

Why are the galapagos islands important?

Important facts about the archipelago that you should know:

Protected areas

There are two natural protected areas in Galapagos Islands: one on land and one in the sea.

Ninety-seven percent of the islands’ surface area is National Park, and only 3% is inhabited.

There are also 234 terrestrial units (islands, islets and rocks) and 88 terrestrial visitor sites (sites where there are beaches or trails).

Important: Guidelines for visiting the Galapagos National Park

Galapagos

Recognitions

  • In 1978, UNESCO declared the Galapagos Islands a Natural World Heritage Site.
  • In 1984, UNESCO also declared them a Biosphere Reserve.
  • In 1985, the islands were declared a Galapagos National Park in Ecuador.
  • In 1990, they were declared a Whale Sanctuary by the organization Explorers Oceano, CEDAM International.
  • In 1998, the Galapagos Marine Reserve was created, considered the largest marine reserve in a developing country and the second largest reserve in the world.
  • And in 2001, UNESCO included the Galapagos Marine Reserve as a World Natural Heritage Site.

But not everything is pretty, since in 2007 they were also declared World Heritage Sites at environmental risk.

Flora and fauna

The Galapagos Islands are home to some of the world’s most unique species of animals and plants.

  • 100% of the reptiles are endemic
  • 79% of mammals are endemic
  • 56% of insects are endemic
  • 49% of the birds are endemic
  • 42% of the plants are endemic
Galapagos

Here you will find giant tortoises, sea turtles, land and marine iguanas, frigate birds, sea lions, albatrosses, mockingbirds, finches, petrels, Galapagos hawks, cormorants, penguins, sharks, coral reefs and about 560 species of plants (180 endemic).

Unlike other paradisiacal islands in the world, which have abundant vegetation, the Galapagos are different.

Galapagos

As they are volcanic in origin and relatively young (unlike Hawaii for example), their landscapes are still wild and without much vegetation.

But that does not detract from its natural importance worldwide.

Nature - Galapagos

A natural lab

Formation of the Galapagos Archipelago occurred approximately 4 – 5 million years ago by the eruption of the peak of several volcanoes located in the Nazca tectonic plate on the surface of the Pacific Ocean.

The Chico Volcano at 870 meters (2,854 ft) above sea level, Isla Isabela (Albemarle), the Galápagos Islands, Ecuador.

In fact, unlike other islands in the world, the Galapagos are relatively “young” and that is why many scientists worldwide want to visit them as they can study the earth in its almost pure state and, in great magnitude, the consequences of climate change today.

They are a kind of “real-time laboratory”. For example, the islands of Isabela and Fernandina are still in the process of formation.

Galapagos

The Galapagos are of volcanic origin and there are currently several active volcanoes. For this reason, they are considered the second most volcanically active archipelago on the planet, after Hawaii.

It is also worth mentioning that they were the scenario where the English naturalist Charles Darwin developed his work “The Origin of Species”, with his famous theory of evolution. Here you can see more of its history.

Tortuga Bay, Santa Cruz, Galápagos

Best time to visit Galapagos

Galapagos has two seasons:

  • Rainy season: from January to May. It rains a lot and it’s very humid. In addition, water and air temperatures rise, with temperatures ranging from 26 – 32°C (79 – 90°F).
  • Dry season: from June to December. At this time of the year, there are occasional drizzles and the water and air temperatures drop (the temperature ranges between 18 – 25°C). It is actually a very good time for diving and whale watching.

Any time of the year is a good time to visit the Galapagos, as its climate is generally quite homogeneous and is not affected by the climatic phenomena that occur on the mainland coast.

Galapagos

Tourist attractions in the Galapagos Islands

The Enchanted Islands are full of natural attractions, and if you pay attention to the information offered by the local guides, you will be amazed and in love with them.

San Cristobal, Galápagos Islands

There are many touristic spots in the archipelago, but here I will give you a summary of the best known ones:

  • Charles Darwin Research Station
  • Playa La Estación
  • Tortuga Bay
  • Los Gemelos
  • El Garrapatero
  • Túnel de Bellavista
  • Las Grietas
  • Muro de las Lágrimas
  • Sierra Negra Volcano
  • Tintoreras
  • Santiago Island
  • León Dormido
  • Playa Cerro Brujo
  • La Lobería
  • Galapaguera de Cerro Colorado
  • Puerto Chino
  • Playa Mann
  • Cerro Tijeretas
  • Playa Punta Carola
  • Sendero de Isla Seymour Norte
  • Bahía Gardner
  • Bahía Sullivan
  • Corona del Diablo
Pristine beach (Explored)
Galápagos (Isabela) - 20190719-07