Wonders of the Galapagos Islands

Territory

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 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 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

Isabela

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

Volcan de Azufre, Isabela
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.

Kicker Rock
Darwin’s Arch

Other islands (near Darwin Island)

Spectacular sea stack – approximately 15 m tall natural arch. Spectacular dive site, extremely rich with sea life.

Darwin's Arch
Volcan Ecuador

Isabela

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
Lava tunnels in Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is especially rich with lava tunnels. Interesting is the “Tunnel of Endless Love” that in the 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).

Lava tunnel in Santa Cruz
Los Gemelos craters

Santa Cruz

Two enormous sinkholes, 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
El soplador – blowhole in Española

Española

In the volcanic rocks of 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
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.

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
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 waved albatross (Phoebastria irrorata) is breeding.

Punta Espinosa

Fernandina

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

Marine iguanas in Punta Espinosa
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 in Santa Cruz
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 forest on several islands.

The unique Scalesia forest in Santa Cruz

Cultural wonders

Stone head of Floreana

Floreana

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

Stone head of Floreana, Galapagos
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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