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Galápagos Islands

Main attractions

Bloom of microorganisms in Galapagos Islands
The nature of Galápagos Islands is full with unexpected surprises. Bloom of microorganisms / Bill Bouton, / CC BY-SA 2.0

Galápagos Islands themselves are a true wonder of the world.

Marine Iguana, Galapagos Islands
Marine iguana at Punta Espinoza / Harvey Barrison, / CC BY-SA 2.0

For several million years the life on these remote islands developed independently and many unique species of plants and animals evolved here. Here walk giant tortoises, large lizards dive in the sea looking for food, small passerine birds drink blood of other birds and high up in the mountains daisies have evolved into large trees.

Wondermondo does not see this large and diverse archipelago as a single wonder / landmark and has searched the islands for smaller sites. Most interesting ones are listed below.

Natural landmarks

Volcanoes

  • Volcan de Azufre - Isabela. Fumarolic area in the crater of Sierra Negra volcano, where the extremely rare terrestrial sulphuric flows have been identified.
  • Volcan Ecuador - north-west of Isabela. Somewhat mysterious volcano, which somehow is missing its western half. May be this part collapsed in rather recent past, thus causing a giant tsunami.

Rock formations

  • Darwin's Arch - near Darwin Island. Spectacular sea stack - approximately 15 m tall natural arch. Spectacular dive site, extremely rich with sea life.
  • Kicker Rock (León Dormido) - San Cristóbal. A group of two impressive, up to 150 m tall sea stacks formed from palagonite - a rock formed by the contact of hot volcanic glass with sea water.

Caves, sinkholes

Los Gemelos sinkhole, Galapagos Islands
Los Gemelos sinkhole / Dallas Krentzel, / CC BY 2.0

These volcanic islands are rich with lava caves. Most are short, but some caves are truly impressive.

  • Lava tunnels in Santa Cruz - Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz is especially rich with lava tunnels. Interesting is the "Tunnel of Endless Love" which in profile is heart shaped - an 800 m long "heart". The longest are Cueva del Cascajo (3,010 m) and Cueva de Gallardo (2,250 m).
  • Los Gemelos craters - Santa Cruz. Two enormous sinkholes, created by the collapse of two lava caves. Sinkholes and their surroundings are covered with the exotic, endemic Scalesia forests.

Ecosystems

The whole ecosystem of the islands is unique. Though there could be subdivided smaller unique ecosystems which are visually stunning and / or have rich representation of endemic species of plants and animals.

Opuntia trees and Sesuvium cover in South Plaza, Galapagos Islands
Opuntia trees and Sesuvium cover in South Plaza, Galapagos Islands / Don Heffernan, / CC BY 2.0
  • Ecosystem of Española Island - Española. On the oldest island of the archipelago (some 3.5 million years old) have developed many endemic species - lava lizard, hood mockingbird (Mimus macdonaldi), tortoise. This is almost the only place where the wawed albatross (Phoebastria irrorata) is breeding.
  • Miconia belt in San Cristobal and Santa Cruz - southern slopes of the highlands of San Cristobal and Santa Cruz. A zone at 600 - 700 m height, where the endemic Miconia robinsoniana forms dense, 3 - 4 m tall stands. This zone is rich also with ferns and liverworts.
  • Punta Espinosa - Fernandina. A narrow lava strip extending into the sea. In this place gather hundreds of the unique marine iguanas (Amblyrhynchus cristatus).
  • Forest of daisy trees in Santa Cruz - Santa Cruz. Spectacular cloud forest dominated by Scalesia pedunculata trees. This is the largest tree in the Asteraceae family and grows up to 15 m tall. These unusual tree-like daisies are endemic to Galápagos and form smaller forests on several islands.
  • South Plaza vegetation - small island near Santa Cruz. This 0.13 km² is covered with unique vegetation. Ground is lined with succulents - Sesuvium, which changes the color of the island from intense green to orange and purple in the dry season. From this unusual plant carpet rise the endemic, tree-like Opuntia cacti. Here lives the unique Hybrid Iguana - a sterile hybrid of the endemic Marine Iguanas and Land Iguanas, able to feed on cacti and hunt in the sea.

Other natural landmarks

  • Abingtonite of Pinta - Pinta. Unique basaltic lavas with enormous crystals of plagioclase. This rock is named abingtonite and is found only on Pinta as well as in smaller quantities in the northern Galápagos islands.
  • Blowhole in the north-east of Española - Española. In the volcanic rocks of Galapagos have formed numerous impressive blowholes ("geysers" formed by the projected energy of sea waves), but the one in the north-east of Española is one of the most impressive ones.

Man made landmarks

Stone head of Floreana, Galapagos Islands
Stone head of Floreana / Dallas Krentzel, / CC BY 2.0
  • James Bay archaeological finds - San Salvador. A find of broken pottery and flints on the cliffs and plateau above the beach. These artefacts have been left by an ancient South American culture.
  • Stone head of Floreana - Floreana. A mockup of the statues in Easter Island, made by a German settler.

List of described attractions by islands

Galápagos Islands are a province of Ecuador. This province consists of more than 100 islands. The largest are:

Baltra
Española
Fernandina
Floreana (Santa María)
Isabela
Marchena
Pinta
San Cristóbal
San Salvador (Santiago)
Santa Cruz
ArrowForest of daisy trees in Santa CruzEcosystems
Santa Fé
Other islands

Map of Galápagos Islands

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