Studded with volcanic cones, Floreana is one of the oldest islands in the Galapagos – its volcano has long been extinct. It has a luxuriant vegetation, with soil rich in nutrients, and a diverse landscape of native and introduced flora. The submerged crater of Devil’s Crown is one of the best snorkelling sites in the Galapagos.
Ideal for viewing: red-tailed tropicbird, South American sealion, Sally Lightfoot crab, green turtle, lava lizard
Española is the southernmost island in the archipelago, and its remote location means that there is a large number of endemic species here – the marine iguanas found on the island are the only ones which change colour during the breeding season. It is also the only breeding site of the magnificent waved albatross.
Fernandina is an active volcano with rugged slopes and unusual lava formations, which create some surreal landscapes. Its constant change of volcanic state and lack of plant life mean it is probably the least visited island.It is home to a huge population of land iguanas, and penguins are commonly spotted.
Ideal for viewing: flightless cormorant, Galapagos penguin, land iguana, marine iguana, Sally Lightfoot crab
At just 14 square kilometres, Isla Genovesa is one of the best places for birdwatching – here you can find the lava gull, the rarest gull in the world. A lava field on the north shore provides the ideal nesting place for storm petrels in its cracks and tunnels. The marine iguana is the only reptile on the island, and are the smallest in the archipelago.
Ideal for viewing: lava gull, red-billed tropicbird, South American fur seal, South American sealion, Galapagos mockingbird
The volcanic slopes of the largest island in the archipelago are home to some 6,000 Galapagos tortoises. There is an interesting uplifted coral reef, and its brackish lagoons are home to a variety of seabirds. On the west coast the upwelling of coldwater currents produces an abundance of marine life.
Ideal for viewing: Galapagos penguin, South American fur seal, white-cheeked pintail, Galapagos hawk, land iguana
Home to frigatebirds, red and blue-footed boobies, Galapagos tortoises and sealions, this was the first island on which Charles Darwin set foot in 1835. A crater in the highlands holds the largest freshwater lake in the Galapagos, which is home to a lot of birdlife. It has one of the two commercial airports in the Galapagos.
Ideal for viewing: blue-footed booby, magnificent frigatebird, South American sealion, great blue heron, swallow-tailed gull
The island’s rocky coastline and mangrove-lined inlets are good for marine life. The lush greenery of the highlands offers a welcome contrast, where you can find huge craters, lava tunnels and giant tortoises roaming freely. The island is home to the Charles Darwin Research Station and Giant Tortoise Breeding Centre.
Ideal for viewing: giant tortoise, green turtle, marine iguana, vermilion flycatcher, Galapagos rail
Santiago Island has a narrow, steep-sided point of land, which provides an extraordinarily beautiful landscape with cliffs and rocky pinnacles that create a nesting site for hundreds of marine birds. In the 17th and 18th centuries, pirates used this place to maintain their vessels and replenish their supplies of fresh water, meat, and firewood.
Ideal for viewing: Galapagos penguin, South American fur seal, Galapagos hawk, lava lizard, American flamingo
Home of the iconic Pinnacle Rock, Bartolomé consists of an extinct volcano (114 metres altitude) with a variety of red, orange, black and even green volcanic formations. The trail that leads to the summit offers one of the finest views in the islands, including the black lava flows on nearby James Island.
Ideal for viewing: Galapagos penguin, lava lizard, brown pelican, blue-footed booby, Galapagos green turtle
This small island with its steep cliffs was formed by rising lava and is now covered with opuntia cactus. Despite its small size, it is home to one of the largest sealion colonies in the archipelago, as well as colourful yellow and red land iguanas. Birds to be found here included the red-billed tropicbird and swallow-tailed gull.
Ideal for viewing: land iguana, Galapagos sealion, swallow-tailed gull, Nazca booby, Audubon’s shearwater
This island – also known as Jervis – is one of the most colourful and varied islands in the archipelago, with several different types of lava. It is famed for its beach of maroon sand and stunning viewpoints over exceptional landscapes. The island is a delight for birdwatchers, with some of the rarest bird species in abundance.
Ideal for viewing: Galapagos hawk, brown pelican, white-cheeked pintail, Galapagos penguin, Galapagos sealion
Galapagos sealions, blue-footed boobies and magnificent frigatebirds are all numerous on North Seymour. The island was formed by a series of submarine lava flows containing layers of sediment that were uplifted by tectonic activity. The island is characterised by its arid vegetation zone, and has a good walking trail crossing the island.
Ideal for viewing: land iguana, marine iguana, blue-footed booby, Galapagos sealion, magnificent frigatebird
Santa Fe (Barrington) is home to a picturesque small bay which provides a sheltered anchorage on the island’s northeast coast. The bay has two visitor trails: one leads to a scenic viewpoint at the top of a cliff, and the other crosses a small beach before leading into a forest of tall prickly pear (opuntia) cactus.
Ideal for viewing: land iguana, Galapagos mockingbird, Galapagos dove, lava lizard, Galapagos sealion
The islands of Daphne Major and Daphne Minor lie between Santa Cruz and Santiago. Although tourist visits are restricted by the Galapagos National Park authorities, these islands are a popular stop for scientists conducting research into Galapagos finches. You can also find Galapagos martins and short-eared owls here.
Ideal for viewing: small ground finch, medium ground finch, large ground finch, cactus finch, swallow-tailed gull
Excellent for: Birdwatching
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This trip visits most of the archipelago’s smaller islands, exploring them by panga (dinghy) and on foot. You’ll discover noisy sealion colonies, Galapagos sharks, and a wealth of the archipelago's colourful birdlife.