Isabela Island, Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Archipelago Islands

Discover the major islands and the hidden gems with the local expertise of our handpicked specialists to guide you.

The Galapagos archipelago is made up of 18 main islands, which includes the largest Isabela and most populated Santa Cruz, three small islands and 107 rocks/islets. More information about the various islands can be found below. 

Isabela Island, Galapagos Islands
Isabela Island, Galapagos Islands

Isabela Island

The largest island in the Galapagos, Isabela is four times the size of Santa Cruz and formed by the merging of six volcanoes. As far as islands go, Isabela is a young island at around a million years old and has several active volcanoes. This is due to its close proximity to the hot spot which created this archipelago, the highest being Wolf Volcano reaching 1,707 metres.

Isabela, shaped like a seahorse (if you’re lucky you may also spot one here), lies near the Cromwell Current which is rich with food and nutrients and helps attract the likes of dolphins, whales, blue-footed boobies and the Galapagos penguin.

Galapagos marine iguanas on a beach, Tortuga Bay, on Santa Cruz Island.
Marine Iguanas, Galapagos Islands

Santa Cruz Island

Santa Cruz is the second-largest island in the Galapagos and has the largest human population, living mainly in the town of Puerto Ayora. The island is thought to have been formed in two parts, north and south. The northern section is the older part, created due to an uplift of land — you can see the layers of marine sediment and limestone as evidence of this process. The southern younger part of the island was formed through volcanic cones and lava, the landscape of which is often likened to that of the moon with craters, cones and tuffs. The island is also home to the giant tortoise, sea lions, flamingos, marine and land iguana, lava heron and boobies. By heading up to the highlands surrounded by scalesia trees, cacti and ferns, you will have the opportunity to see the giant tortoise thriving in this lush green scenery. Some can reach the grand old age of 200 years and weigh up to 250kg.

Land Iguana, Endemic Cactus, Plaza Sur, Galapagos Islands
Plaza Sur, Galapagos Islands

Plaza Sur

Two small crescent-shaped islands (north and south) located off the coast of Santa Cruz and separated by a channel less than 1km wide. These were formed by uplifted slabs of the sea bed rather than volcanic islands. The North Plaza is reserved for scientific research and closed to the public. South Plaza is open to visitors and here you can view marine iguanas, swallow-tailed gulls, common noddies, red-billed tropicbirds, blue-footed and Nazca boobies.

Swimming and Snorkelling, Crystal Blue Water, Sante Fe, Galapagos Islands
Sante Fe, Galapagos Islands

Santa Fe

An arid vegetation zone with opuntia cacti forest which are among the tallest in the archipelago. With only one visitor site, Bahia Barrington and a 1.5km trail, you can identify a variety of species such as green sea turtles, spotted eagle rays, brown pelicans, boobies (both blue-footed and Nazca), Galapagos sea lions and the endemic Santa Fe rice rat which is nocturnal.

Galapagos Sea Lion, Rocks, North Seymour, Galapagos National Park
North Seymour, Galapagos Islands

North Seymour

A fairly small, uplifted lava flow island, 1.9km2 in area and located just 40km from Puerto Ayora. Here you will see the magnificent frigate bird, land iguanas, lava lizard and of course, sea lions.

Pinnacle Rock, Bartolome Island, Galapagos Islands
Pinnacle Rock, Bartolome Island, Galapagos Islands


The island has two barren volcanic cinder cones, connected by green lush vegetation and golden sand beaches. A landing on Bartolome could be mistaken for that of Mars with its many red craters. Pinnacle rock sits in Bartolome’s northern bay and here you can find Galapagos penguins living at the foot of the rock. Quite a steep climb takes you up to a spectacular viewpoint at the summit of a splatter cone. Snorkelling around the island you can swim with penguins.

Landscape, Santiago Island, Galapagos Island
Santiago Island , Galapagos Islands


The official name is San Salvador and it is large enough to hold the endemic subspecies of the giant tortoise and the nocturnal rice rat. Puerto Egas is the remains of a salt-mining operation and here you will see Galapagos hawks. If you head to the west of the island, the trail leads to a series of collapsed black lava tubes which have collapsed opening out to sea, forming fantastic grottos. Here you can watch sea lions and green sea turtles playing in the beautiful turquoise waters.

Prickly Pair, Rabida Island, Galapagos National Park, Galapagos Islands
Rabida Island , Galapagos Islands


The most striking feature is a high bluff on the north coast, which glows a startling rust-red when the sun is low in the sky. Greater flamingos share a brackish lagoon with sea lions, nesting brown pelicans and herons. Galapagos hawks are also visible on the island.

Marine iguana lying in the sun on rock.
Marine iguana, Galapagos Islands


The youngest and most active volcano in the Galapagos erupts every few years. The flat lava of Punta Espinosa offers a stark and barren landscape, but here flightless cormorants build their nests on the point, sea lions laze on the beach or swim in the tide pools and marine iguanas climb over one another.

Bay, Pacific Ocean, San Cristobal Island, Galapagos Islands
San Cristobal, Galapagos Islands

San Cristobal

Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is the official capital of the archipelago situated to the southeast of San Cristobal. The Visitor Interpretation Centre was opened here by the Galapagos National Park in 1998 and serves as a source of information about the islands communities and natural history. San Cristobal is the only island with a freshwater lake located in the crater of the ‘El Junco’ Volcano. The rain-filled crater, almost 300m across and 6m deep, is a vital source to the Island and majority of tourist ships in the Galapagos.

Galapagos Sea Lions,  Gardner Bay, Espanola, Galapagos Islands
Espanola , Galapagos Islands


This island is thought to be an uplifted lava flow and one of the oldest islands. Punta Suarez is renowned as the only location on earth that is home to the waved albatross which nests here between March and December. Hood mocking birds, red-billed tropicbirds, brightly coloured marine iguanas and lava lizards are found here, as are nesting colonies of Nazca boobies and blue-footed boobies.

Flamingoes, Water, Florena, Galapagos Islands
Floreana, Galapagos Islands


Officially named Santa Maria, Floreana is an island with a most interesting human history, haunt of the erratic baroness and her entourage. It also has a main post box, an old casket that has been on the beach since 1763 for sailors to place their mail in and collect the post on their way home. It still works today! Land on a green beach of olivine sand and see the pink flamingoes in the lagoon. Over the hill is a coral sand beach known as a nesting area for green turtles, which brings in the white-tipped sharks visible from the shore. Snorkel in a volcanic crater, the Devil’s Crown, one of the best snorkelling sites in the Galapagos.

Frigate bird, Galapagos Islands
Frigate bird, Galapagos Islands


Also referred to as ‘Bird Island’ for its profusion of inhabitants, expect to see blue-footed boobies and, more uncommonly the red-footed boobies, some of the great birding characters on these islands. Frigate birds fill the skies and at night the only nocturnal gulls in the world, the swallow-tailed gulls, keep the air alive with sound. The beauty of this island is that it can only be reached on faster vessels and therefore its remoteness adds to its tranquillity and its enjoyment. Snorkelling here is full of surprises with its nutrient-rich waters.

Blue Footed Booby in front of Daphne Major Island, Galapagos Islands
Blue footed Booby, Daphne Major, Galapagos

Daphne Major

A steep eroded tuff cone is surrounded by the Canal San Salvador which is so deep that boats cannot anchor. Daphne Major is located 50 km north of Puerto Ayora. Wildlife to view here includes the red-billed tropicbirds and Darwin’s finches.


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Galapagos marine iguanas on a beach, Tortuga Bay, on Santa Cruz Island.

Snorkelling with sea lions and marine iguanas in the Galapagos

Blowing bubbles back and forth with Sea Lions whilst they gracefully showed me their underwater acrobatics, whilst Penguins darted past me with great speed. I swam a little further out to sea and came across the unusual sight of a Marine Iguana swimming with a unique upright technique, and a green turtle gracefully gliding past me.  Incredible – such unusual and amazing marine life encounters in just one snorkelling adventure

Charles Darwin Research Centre, Santa Cruz, GPS

Charles Darwin Research Centre

Visit the Charles Darwin Research Centre to learn about the biology, ecology and conservation of the archipelago.

Suggested Holiday Idea

Land Iguana, Galapagos, Ecuador

Wildlife Spotting

Travel around the islands, totting up the impressive list of species spotted during a single day, from land iguanas and sea lions to blue footed boobies and sunfish.

Suggested Holiday Idea

Galapagos Habitat, Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos Islands

Live the Island Life

Instead of (or in addition to) cruising, stay on one of the archipelago’s four inhabited islands for a slower paced experience and more interaction with the locals.

Suggested Holiday Idea

Origin exterior, Galapagos

Charter a Boat

In the company of an expert naturalist guide and a professional crew, privately charter a vessel to explore the islands with family or friends for a feeling of complete exclusivity.

Suggested Holiday Idea

Beach, Scalesia Lodge, Isabela Island, Galapagos Islands

Walk Barefoot on Sandy Beaches

Stroll down red or white sand beaches, stopping to sit next to slumbering sea lions and watch penguins frolic in the turquoise surf.

Galapagos Brown Pelican Eating, Galapagos Islands

Puerto Fish Market

Visit Puerto Ayora’s little fish market to watch as cheeky pelicans and sea lions wait for scraps.

Pinnacle Rock, Bartolome Island, Galapagos Islands

Kayak in the Ocean

Move around the bays, stopping to watch sea lions and turtles, while kayaking over the tranquil water.

Suggested Holiday Idea

Rays, Genovesa Island, Galapagos Islands

Snorkel with Marine Life

Don flippers and jump in the water to swim with playful sea lions, curious penguins and resting whitetip reef shark.

Suggested Holiday Idea

Volcan Chico, Isabela Island, Galapagos Islands

Volcanic Tunnel Adventure

Walk (and crawl) through giant hollow lava tunnels, long tubes left behind by the liquid magma that formed these islands.

Suggested Holiday Idea

Explore Explore the Galapagos Islands

  • Isabela Island - Marine Life
  • Santa Cruz - Giant Tortoises
  • South Plaza
  • Santa Fe
  • Bartolome - Galapagos penguins
  • San Salvador
  • Fernandina - Marine Iguanas
  • San Cristobal - Sea lions
  • Espanola - Boobies
  • Floreana Island

Where to Stay

Below are some of the wonderful properties to include on your journey.

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Our Galapagos experts have created and curated these holiday ideas to get you started. Take the time to search through them and find something to spark ideas for a unique adventure.

Meet our experts

A passion for travel runs right through every one of our experts - meaning they're always ready with first-hand insight about their specialist countries.

Rachael Tallents

Adventure, discovery and my curiosity for people and the natural world is what drives my love of travelling.  I am grateful for my parents’ desire to explore, and from an early age my eyes were open to diverse landscapes, cultures, and underwater worlds.

For the last 16 years, I have worked for a leading luxury tour operator designing incredible journeys for discerning clients and travelled to some magical places. I am excited to have joined Steppes Travel, and to be working for a company with such strong ethical and sustainable values.

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Paul Bird

The moment a blue footed booby makes its dive and plunges like a dart into the water is special, but to see hundreds do this at once was a breath-taking experience that Paul was not prepared for.

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John Faithfull

Half of the appeal of the Galapagos Islands is underwater, and a few minutes in the company of a five-metre manta ray off the coast of Isabela Island remains one of John’s most vivid memories of this incredible archipelago.

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Roxy Dukes

Wildlife is Roxy’s passion, so where better to immerse than in Darwin’s land? Having stepped on all but one of the islands in the archipelago and having personally visited our hand-picked selection of hotels and boats, there is little she does not know about the Galapagos Islands.

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