Quick Guide to the Galapagos Islands: The West
Although at first glance it might seem that visiting the Galapagos Islands is a walk in the park (after all, you just hop on any Galapagos cruise and jet around them all, right?), deciding where to go is actually more complicated than you’d expect.
Prior to booking your tour of the islands, it’s essential that you sit down and decide which islands you’d like to visit, and which you’d be OK not going to. The vast majority, if not all Galapagos Cruises visit just a handful of islands in the archipelago – mostly due to the fact that visiting all 21 islands would be logistically impossible.
Evidently, you won’t be able to see everything, as you’ll only be at the Galapagos for a limited time. This is why you should choose the tour that fits your interests best.
At Metropolitan Touring, we want to make sure your experience in the Galapagos Islands is as memorable and enjoyable as possible. For this reason, we’ve created a guide of the most important islands that will walk you through some of the main sights and attractions. In this blog, we’ll cover three of the western islands, while the next blog will cover the east.
We hope this will be a helpful tool when you’re making a decision between several different tours.
Fernandina is the youngest of the Galapagos Islands and also the most volcanically active. Because of its high volcanic activity, tourism is limited to a single site on the island’s coast: Punta Espinosa. Here, you will encounter one of the Galapagos’ largest iguana colonies, see the rare Flightless Cormorant, and be able to explore the island’s vast, rugged landscape. Although Fernandina isn’t as accessible due to its constant volcanism, it is still a worthwhile place to visit – especially if you’re interested in the island’s volcanic past.
Named after Queen Isabella of Spain, Isabela Island is both the largest island in the Galapagos and the only one to straddle the Equator. Due to its large size, Isabela is replete with opportunities for discovery. Some of the most relevant points of interest are:
- Sierra Negra Volcano: This enormous volcano has one of the widest craters in the world. Although exploring the dried lava flows at the center of the caldera isn’t permitted, the view from the outer rim is truly spectacular and allows visitors to witness the power that lies beneath the archipelago.
- Los Túneles: This peculiar archway is an ideal place to snorkel and is conveniently situated close enough to Puerto Villamil, the island’s main settlement. While snorkeling, it’s likely you’ll encounter turtles, sharks, seahorses, sea lions, and iguanas.
- The Wall of Tears: This park is named after a wall of rock built when the island served as a penal colony. The wall received its name due to the number of prisoners that lost their lives during its construction. In spite of the park’s horrific past, it is now an ideal place to go for a walk or bike-ride; you’ll likely encounter blue-footed boobies and gorgeous landscapes throughout your journey.
- Laguna Salinas: If you’d like to witness flamingos in their natural habitat, Laguna Salinas is an ideal location to see them. Located right next to Puerto Villamil, you’ll also be able to see various other birds that inhabit the area.
- Beaches: Isabela is well-known for having some of the Galapagos Islands’ most beautiful beaches. Enjoy the crystalline waters, ideal snorkeling grounds, and rolling, sandy plains in places like Playa del Amor and Puerto Villamil.
Santiago is located close to the island of Santa Cruz, making extremely convenient to visit for all kinds of tourist (both those on cruises and those on land tours). One of the island’s main tourist sites is Buccaneer Cove, an eroded shoreline that served as stopping point for pirates, buccaneers, privateers, and whalers that once transited through the Galapagos Islands in search for food and resources. At the cove, you’ll marvel at the sheer natural diversity: fur seals, sea-lions, and various Galapagos birds are easily visible in the area. There are also several hiking trips at Santiago, including Sullivan Bay and Cousin’s Rock.
Food journalist and serial Galapagos travel