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.


Community Reviews

Laura Barber - November 2011

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 etc...it is nature at its' best!


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

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

    Reasons for inscription


The site has 1 locations.

  • Galapagos Islands


The site has 49 connections.


  • Lighthouses At least 4
  • Prison Galapagos Floreana and Isabela have been used as Prison colonies


  • Affected by El Niño Crit ix: "the Marine Reserve, situated at the confluence of 3 major eastern Pacific currents and influenced by climatic phenomena such as El Niño, has had major evolutionary consequences and provides important clues about species evolution under changing conditions"



  • Archipelagos (Volcanic) Official name: Archipi?lago de Col?n. The group consists of 15 main islands, 3 smaller islands, and 107 rocks and islets. All are inscribed - with only a few built up areas excluded from the NP
  • Caldera Fernandina Island
  • Deepest "The islands have been formed by volcanoes rising out of a submarine platform at a depth of 1,300m. In outer waters, ocean depths fall to 4,000m except for the existence of several seamounts which rise to less than 100m below sea level." AB (Exact location of site boundary not clear! The park includes "all waters within 15 nautical miles of a baseline joining the outermost points of the Galapagos Islands").
  • Equator 
  • Largest area 133,000 sq kms
  • Marine sites 133000 sq kms M (after extension in 2001), 76651 sq kms T
  • Pacific Ocean 
  • Recently Active Volcanoes One of the world?s most active volcanic areas, with more than 50 eruptions in the past 200 years. Six of the volcanoes are still active (1 on Fernandina and 5 on Isabela). The most recent explosion was Cerro Azul on Isabela in September of 1998.

Human Activity

Individual People

  • Charles Darwin Research for his evolutionary theory
  • Christopher Columbus Their official Ecuadorian name is "Archipiélago de Colón" or "Islas de Colón". However, Columbus never went there.
  • Jacques-Yves Cousteau 1971
  • Thor Heyerdahl Following the success of the Kon-Tiki Expedition, Heyerdahl organized and led the Norwegian Archaeological Expedition to the Galapagos Islands. The group investigated the pre-Columbian habitation sites, locating an Inca flute and shards from more than 130 pieces of ceramics which were later identified as pre-Incan. (1952)
  • Tupac Inca Yupanqui may have visited them
  • Visited by Nicolas Hulot Émission 25 : La vie pas à pas (Équateur, Iles Galápagos, 2004)


  • Miocene In comparison with most oceanic archipelagos, the Galapagos are very young with the largest and youngest islands, Isabela and Fernandina, with less than one million years of existence, and the oldest islands, Espanola and San Cristobal, somewhere between three to five million years. (Wiki)


WHS on Other Lists

World Heritage Process