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Galapagos Islands General

 

The Galapagos Islands are without doubt another of those wonderful South America destinations that cannot be missed by the people looking for unique nature experiences on their holiday. Being part of Ecuador and well connected by flights from the Ecuadorian mainland both from Guayaquil as from Quito, this is a ideal destination for people looking for some days to relax and enjoy all the beauty of this part of the world meanwhile enjoying a great cruise. The islands can also be visited by an island hopping program for several days. Following we will give a small overview of some Galapagos Islands facts, making this such a unique destination.

Some Galapagos Islands facts;

  • The Galapagos Islands belong to Ecuador, the closest mainland at about 1000km east.
  • The Galapagos Islands contain 15 larger islands, 3 smaller islands and a large number of rocks and islets.
  • The largest island is Isabela Island.
  • The islands are still being formed by the large volcanic activity of the region.
  • The Galapagos National Park was Ecuador’s first national park established in 1959.
  • Only Five of the islands are inhabited: Baltra, Floreana, Isabela, San Cristobal and Santa Cruz.

Following is a list of the most important islands of this archipelago;

Baltra (South Seymour) Island; Also known as South Seymour, Baltra is a small flat island located near the center of the Galápagos. This is also the island with the largest airport and probable arrival point for most visitors.

Bartolomé (Bartholomew) Island; Bartolomé Island is a volcanic islet just off the east coast of Santiago Island in the Galápagos Islands group. It is one of the "younger" islands in the Galápagos archipelago.

Darwin (Culpepper) Island; This island is named after Charles Darwin. It has an area of 1.1 square kilometers and a maximum altitude of 168 meters.

Española (Hood) Island; Its name was given in honor of Spain. It also is known as Hood, after Viscount Samuel Hood. It has an area of 60 square kilometers and a maximum altitude of 206 meters. Española is the oldest island at around 3.5 million years, and the southernmost in the group. Due to its remote location, Española has a large number of endemic species.

Fernandina (Narborough) Island; The name was given in honor of King Ferdinand II of Aragon, who sponsored the voyage of Columbus. Fernandina has an area of 642 square kilometers and a maximum altitude of 1,494 meters and is the youngest and westernmost island.

Floreana (Charles or Santa María) Island; It 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 square kilometers and a maximum elevation of 640 meters. It is one of the islands with the most interesting human history, and one of the earliest to be inhabited.

Genovesa (Tower) Island; The name is derived from Genoa, Italy where it is said Columbus was born. It has an area of 14 square kilometers and a maximum altitude of 76 meters. This island is formed by the remaining edge of a large crater that is submerged

Isabela (Albemarle) Island; This island was named in honor of Queen Isabela. With an area of 4,640 square kilometers (1,792 sq mi), it is the largest island of the Galápagos. Its highest point is Volcán Wolf, with an altitude of 1,707 meters

Marchena (Bindloe); Island: Named after Fray Antonio Marchena, it has an area of 130 square kilometers (50 sq mi) and a maximum altitude of 343 meters

North Seymour Island; Its name was given after an English nobleman, Lord Hugh Seymour. It has an area of 1.9 square kilometers (0.7 sq mi) and a maximum altitude of 28 meters

Pinzón (Duncan) Island; Named after the Pinzón brothers, captains of the Pinta and Niña caravels, it has an area of 18 square kilometers (7 sq mi) and a maximum altitude of 458 meters

Pinta (Abingdon) Island; Named after the Pinta caravel, it has an area of 60 km2 (23 sq mi) and a maximum altitude of 777 meters

Rábida (Jervis) Island; It bears the name of the convent of Rábida, where Columbus left his son during his voyage to the Americas. It has an area of 4.9 square kilometers (1.9 sq mi) and a maximum altitude of 367 meters (1,204 ft). The high amount of iron contained in the lava at Rábida gives it a distinctive red color.

San Cristóbal (Chatham) Island; It bears the name of the patron saint of seafarers, "St. Christopher". Its English name was given after William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham. It has an area of 558 square kilometers (215 sq mi) and its highest point rises to 730 meters (2395 ft). This is the first island in the Galapagos Archipelago Charles Darwin visited during his voyage on the Beagle.

Santa Cruz (Indefatigable) Island; Given the name of the Holy Cross in Spanish, its English name derives from the British vessel HMS Indefatigable. It has an area of 986 square kilometers (381 sq mi) and a maximum altitude of 864 meters (2834 ft). Santa Cruz hosts the largest human population in the archipelago, the town of Puerto Ayora. The Charles Darwin Research Station and the headquarters of the Galápagos National Park Service are located here.

Santa Fé (Barrington) Island; Named after a city in Spain, it has an area of 24 square kilometers (9 sq mi) and a maximum altitude of 259 meters

Santiago (San Salvador, James) Island; Its name is equivalent to Saint James in English; it is also known as San Salvador, after the first island discovered by Columbus in the Caribbean Sea. This island has an area of 585 square kilometers (226 sq mi) and a maximum altitude of 907 meters

Wolf (Wenman) Island; This island was named after the German geologist Theodor Wolf. It has an area of 1.3 square kilometers (0.5 sq mi) and a maximum altitude of 253 meters

Daphne Major; A small island directly north of Santa Cruz and directly west of Baltra

South Plaza Island (Plaza Sur); It is named in honor of a former president of Ecuador, General Leonidas Plaza. It has an area of 0.13 square kilometers (0.05 sq mi) and a maximum altitude of 23 meters

Another of the interesting Galapagos Island facts is that the islands are located on both the northern and the southern hemisphere with Isla Isabela located directly on the equator. This is one of the reasons for the Galapagos Islands weather and wildlife.

Being home to a large number of animals, the islands are also home to a large number of endemic species. This makes together with the strange geography of the islands up for one of the Galapagos Islands facts that attracts most people visiting the islands.

The climate all year round is very mild with temperatures around 20°C. all year round. The rainy season runs from January to March.

The islands can almost solely be visited as being part of an organized tour. Being protected islands this is to diminish the ecological impact of all the visitors. Most people visit the islands by one of the great cruise ships that offer the Galapagos Cruise. Most of these cruises do more or less the same itinerary and last for 4, 5 or 8 days. Another possibility is to participate in an island hopping program, giving you several overnights on several different islands.

The Galapagos Islands are not a cheap destination due to their location, but a trip here is definitely an unforgettable experience.

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