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World Heritage Site

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Galapagos Islands

Galapagos Islands
Galápagos Tortoise

The Galápagos Islands are famed for their vast number of endemic species and the studies by Charles Darwin that led to his theory of evolution by natural selection.

It is an archipelago made up of 13 main volcanic islands, 6 smaller islands, and 107 rocks and islets. The oldest island is thought to have formed between 5 and 10 million years ago, a result of tectonic activity. The youngest islands, Isabela and Fernandina, are still being formed, with the most recent volcanic eruption in 2005.

The islands are distributed around the equator, 965 kilometres (about 600 miles) west of Ecuador.

Map of Galapagos Islands


  • Natural

Community Reviews

Jay T USA 13.08.17

Galapagos Islands by Jay T

The Galápagos Islands are a nature-lovers dream, home to giant tortoises, iguanas, sea lions, penguins, flamingos, pelicans, Darwin's famed finches, frigates, and, my favorite, the blue-footed booby. And that's just on land. Rest assured, if you are hoping to see wildlife, you will not be disappointed with the species endemic to these volcanic isles on the Equator. When planning a trip to the Galápagos, you have the choice of joining a multi-day boat tour of the islands or creating your own tour by flying or taking ferries between islands. I chose the latter when I visited the Galápagos in June. If creating your own tour, you also have to decide which islands you'll visit. I chose Santa Cruz Island, in the center of the archipelago, and Isabela Island, the largest of the islands. Santa Cruz Island is home to the Charles Darwin Research Station, on the east side of the main town of Puerto Ayora. The station is worth a leisurely visit (bring water), and also holds the UNESCO plaque for the Galápagos, the first World Heritage Site. Puerto Ayora is a great place to schedule day trips, with many options to visit other islands. Since the islands are a national park, you will always have a trained guide with you on any tour. Puerto Ayora has ferries to other islands, which is how I traveled to Isabela Island (be prepared for occasional rough seas). Both Santa Cruz and Isabela Islands have giant tortoise research stations, which are worth visiting if for no other reason than to see incredibly cute baby tortoises. Isabela Island offers a snorkeling tour to Los Túneles, which I highly recommend for the opportunity to see reef sharks, sea turtles, manta rays, penguins, and unique lava rock formations. I would advise using a wetsuit (offered by tour companies), since the waters are chilly. I'd also advise not forgetting to bring contact lenses if you need them -- I have full confidence I was shown a sea horse, though it looked like a stick to me! The Galápagos Islands are an incredible site to visit, and not to be missed if traveling to Ecuador.

Logistics: There are two airports serving the mainland in the Galápagos: one on Baltra Island, which requires a very short ferry to Santa Cruz Island, and one on San Cristóbal Island. Be prepared to pay the national park fee upon arrival to the Galápagos. There are inter-island flights between Baltra, San Cristóbal, and Isabela Islands, but they have baggage weight restrictions. There are also ferries connecting Santa Cruz, San Cristóbal, and Isabela Islands.

Laura Barber, USA 28.11.11

We traveled to the Galapagos Islands in early September. We spent time in Quito,Ecuador on both ends of the trip. We spent 8 days in the Galapagos on a 16 passenger cozy boat. the crew were great and they only roughness we experienced was during the night travel when the boat rocked and rolled due to the Humboldt current and our speed. When you visit the islands your itinerary isn't set definitely until you sail. The govt monitors the numbers on the islands by day. We left from San Cristobal and traveled to several different islands. I was initially worried that we would not find any animals but I was amazed at their numbers and that they didn't scatter when we arrived! The birds, sea lions, penguins etc were all amazing. We had a naturalist with us and he had tons of info to share. The trip was well managed and we spent a morning in one location, had lunch and a rest period and then went out again until dinner time. The climate was warm and sunny each day but the water was extremely cold due to the current. When we went, many of the birds had their babies and that was pretty amazing. No matter when you go to the Galapagos, you are guaranteed to see a lot of birds, iguanas, sea lions, tortoises,lizards, albatross, frigates, blue footed boobies, herons, warblers, finches is nature at its' best!

Solivagant UK

Galapagos Islands by Solivagant

The usual problem with taking “wild life” holidays is the uncertainty as to whether one will actually see the creatures one is traveling so far (and often paying so much!) to see. Over the years we have seen most of the animals we have gone to see – but it has sometimes taken several visits to do so – thus we have failed to see Gorillas in Gabon, Wolves in Alaska and Jaguars in Guyana.

A great thing about the Galapagos is that the animals WILL turn up on cue. There may not be a vast variety of species but, if an island is supposed to have a species, you will have to be very unlucky not to see it!!

And on top of that of course they are incredibly tame.

Darwin wrote at one point in his diary - 'I pushed off a branch with the end of my gun, a large hawk'.

It was wonderful to have this episode confirmed as we landed on an island and there in front of us was a Galapagos Hawk. As we approached closer and closer it did not attempt to move. We did not of course push it off its perch with a gun or anything else but there was no doubt that we could have if we had been so minded!

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Site Info

Full name: Galapagos Islands

Unesco ID: 1

Inscribed: 1978

Type: Natural

Criteria: 7   8   9   10  

Link: By Name By ID

Site History

  • 2009 - Removed from Danger list 
  • 2007 - In Danger Serious conservation threats have intensified
  • 2001 - Extended To include the Galapagos Marine Reserve
  • 1995 - Extension deferred Marine extension deferred again - this time at request of Ecuador
  • 1994 - Extension deferred Marine Reserve: deferred until mitigative action taken regarding threats
  • 1978 - Inscribed 


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