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Wonders of the Galapagos Islands

Garrapatero beach in Santa Cruz
Garrapatero beach in Santa Cruz. / David Ceballos, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

WorldBlue  Highlights

Galápagos Islands as a whole are a true wonder of the world.

For several million years 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 the 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 and has searched the islands for smaller sites. The most interesting ones are listed here.

Map with the described wonders of the Galapagos Islands

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WorldViolet Top 15 wonders of the Galapagos Islands

Geological wonders

Volcan de Azufre


Fumarolic area in the crater of Sierra Negra volcano where the extremely rare terrestrial sulfuric flows have been identified.

Kicker Rock (LeĂłn Dormido)

San CristĂłbal

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 seawater.

Kicker Rock
Kicker Rock. / David Stanley, Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Volcan Ecuador


A somewhat mysterious volcano that somehow is missing its western half. Maybe this part collapsed in a rather recent past, thus causing a giant tsunami.

The collapsed side of Volcan Ecuador
The collapsed side of Volcan Ecuador. / alh1, Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0
Lava tunnels in Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is especially rich in lava tunnels. Interesting is the “Tunnel of Endless Love” that is heart-shaped in the profile – an 800 m long “heart”. The longest are Cueva del Cascajo (3,010 m) and Cueva de Gallardo (2,250 m).

Lava tunnel in Santa Cruz
Lava tunnel in Santa Cruz. / oliver.dodd, Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Los Gemelos craters

Santa Cruz

Two enormous sinkholes that were created by the collapse of two lava caves. Sinkholes and their surroundings are covered with exotic, endemic Scalesia forests.

Scalesia forest around and in Los Gemelos sinkhole, Galapagos
Scalesia forest around and in Los Gemelos sinkhole / Dallas Krentzel, / CC BY 2.0
El soplador – blowhole in Española


In the volcanic rocks of the Galapagos have formed numerous impressive blowholes but “El soplador” is the best known because it is at the tourist route. At high tide “El soplador” at Punta Suarez spouts the water up to 25 m high.

El soplador in Española
El soplador in Española, Galapagos./ Peter Swaine, Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Abingtonite of 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.

Darwin’s Arch

Other islands (near Darwin Island)

Sea stack – a former natural arch that was approximately 15 m tall. Collapsed on the 17th of May 2021, leaving two rock stacks. A spectacular dive site, extremely rich with sea life.

Darwin's Arch
Darwin’s Arch./ MediaDishNET Greg S, Flickr / public domain

Biological wonders

South Plaza vegetation

Santa Cruz

This 0.13 km² large area is covered with unique vegetation. The ground is lined with succulents – Sesuvium. These plants change the color of the island from intense green to orange and purple in the dry season. From this unusual carpet of plants rise the endemic, tree-like Opuntia cacti. Here lives the unique Hybrid Iguana – a sterile hybrid of the endemic marine iguanas and land iguanas that are able to feed on cacti and hunt in the sea.

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
The ecosystem of Española Island


On the oldest island of the archipelago (some 3.5 million years old) have developed many endemic species – lava lizard, hood mockingbird (Mimus macdonaldi), and tortoise. This is almost the only place where the waved albatross (Phoebastria irrorata) is breeding.

Punta Espinosa


A narrow lava strip that extends into the sea. In this place gather hundreds of unique marine iguanas (Amblyrhynchus cristatus).

Marine iguanas in Punta Espinosa
Marine iguanas in Punta Espinosa. / David Stanley, Flickr / CC BY 2.0
Miconia belt in San Cristobal and Santa Cruz

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.

Miconia forest at Los Gemelos, Santa Cruz in Galapagos
Miconia forest at Los Gemelos, Santa Cruz in Galapagos./ Dan, Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
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.

Unique forest of Scalesia pedunculata, Santa Cruz in Galapagos Islands
Unique forest of Scalesia pedunculata, Santa Cruz / Haplochromis, / CC BY-SA 3.0

Cultural wonders

Stone head of Floreana


A mock-up of the statues in Easter Island, made by a German settler.

Stone head of Floreana, Galapagos
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 artifacts have been left by an ancient South American culture.

WorldYellow Recommended books

Galápagos: The Islands That Changed the World

Rocky, fragile, beautiful, strange―the Galápagos archipelago is unlike any other place on earth. Its geology, its unique flora and fauna, and its striking role in human history intersect in surprising and dynamic ways. This book is the most wide-ranging and beautifully illustrated book available on the famous islands. Not since Darwin’s Naturalist’s Voyage has a book combined so much scientific and historic information with firsthand accounts that bring the Galápagos to life.

Galapagos: A Natural History, Revised and Expanded

Twenty thousand copies of the first edition of Galápagos were sold. An attractive and comprehensive guidebook, this work has been completely revised and updated by the author. The reader will find an easy-to-use text which details the natural history of the plants and animals found in the Galápagos Islands. Management and conservation of the Galápagos National Park are discussed, and visitor information and notes about the various tourist sites are given.

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