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The Galápagos Islands (official name: Archipiélago de Colón or Islas Galápagos) are an archipelago of volcanic islands on the equator.

The Galapagos Islands form:

  • an Ecuadorian province
  • a national park
  • a biological marine reserve

The Islands are located almost 1000 km off the coast of Ecuador, in the Pacific Ocean.

Almost every one of the Islands has at least two names: Spanish and English. The names are not translations, but totally different names. Because the Islands belong to Ecuador, a Spanish country, we will refer to them by their Spanish names.

The Galapagos are made up of:

  • 18 main islands
  • 107 rocks and islets

The Three Primary Islands in the Galapagos

While traveling with Red Mangrove, you will want to be familiar with 3 main islands: Santa Cruz, Isabela and San Cristóbal Islands. And while you’ll land at Baltra Airport (on Baltra Island) there isn’t much to see there.

Galapagos_Islands_topographic_map-MatthewStevens-900pxMap of Galapagos: Copyright MatthewStevens.

Facts About the 18 Main Islands of the Galapagos

Here are the 18 main islands of the Galapagos (based on size, all are larger than one square kilometer):

1. Baltra Island

English Name: South Seymour
Located north of Santa Cruz Island and was created by geological uplift.
Interesting fact: Home to Baltra Airport, one of the two primary airports in the Galapagos. Baltra Island was home to a US military base until the end of World War 2.

2. Bartolomé Island

English Name: Bartholomew Island
Interesting fact: This Island is named after Sir Bartholomew James Sulivan, who was a Lieutenant on HMS Beagle and a good friend of Charles Darwin.

3. Darwin Island

English Name: Culpepper Island
Size: 1.1 square kilometers (0.4 sq mi) and a maximum altitude of 168 meters (551 ft)
Interesting fact: This island is named after Charles Darwin.

4. Española Island

English Name: Hood Island
Size: 60 square kilometers (23 sq mi) and a maximum altitude of 206 meters (676 ft)

5. Fernandina Island

English Name: Narborough Island
Size: 642 square kilometers (248 sq mi) and a maximum altitude of 1,494 meters (4,902 ft)
Interesting Fact: One of just two islands with volcanic activity, Fernandina last erupted in April 2009.

6. Floreana Island

English Name: Charles Island
Secondary Name: Santa María Island
Size: 173 square kilometers (67 sq mi) and a maximum elevation of 640 meters (2,100 ft)
Interesting Fact: Home to Post Office Bay – where whalers and travelers kept a barrel (aka: Post Office) where mail was dropped off, then picked up by another traveler heading in that direction.

7. Genovesa Island

English Name: Tower Island
Size: 14 square kilometers (5.4 sq mi) and a maximum altitude of 76 meters (249 ft)
Interesting fact: Nicknamed “the bird island”, Genovesa Island is literally filled with birds. Expect to see: frigate birds, red-footed boobies, noddy terns and swallow-tailed gulls, among many others.

8. Isabela Island

English Name: Albemarle Island
Size: 4,640 square kilometers (1,792 sq mi) and a maximum altitude of 1,707 meters (5,600 ft)
Interesting fact: This is the largest of all the islands and was formed when six volcanoes merged into one land mass. The equator runs across the northern section of this island, making it the only place in the world where penguins live naturally in the Northern Hemisphere. The third largest town in the Galapagos, Puerto Villamil, is located on the southern coast.

Learn more about Isabela Island

9. Marchena Island

English Name: Bindloe Island
Size: 130 square kilometers (50 sq mi) and a maximum altitude of 343 meters (1,125 ft)

10. North Seymour Island

English Name: See above
Size: 1.9 square kilometers (0.7 sq mi) and a maximum altitude of 28 meters (92 ft)
Interesting fact: Created by a geological uplift like its sister island of Baltra (South Seymour) and is home to one of the largest populations of frigate birds.

11. Pinzón Island

English Name: Duncan Island
Size: 18 square kilometers (7 sq mi) and a maximum altitude of 458 meters (1,503 ft).

12. Pinta Island

English Name: Abingdon Island
Size: 60 km2 (23 sq mi) and a maximum altitude of 777 meters (2,549 ft)
Interesting fact: Lonesome George, a Pinta tortoise and the last of his species is originally from this island, but is now kept on Santa Cruz Island at the Charles Darwin Research Station. Update: Lonesome George died June 24, 2012.

13. Rábida Island

English Name: Jervis Island
Size: 4.9 square kilometers (1.9 sq mi) and a maximum altitude of 367 meters (1,204 ft)
Interesting fact: Rábida gets its unique redish color from the high levels of iron in the lava.

14. San Cristóbal Island

English Name: Chatham Island
Size: 558 square kilometers (215 sq mi) and its highest point rises to 730 meters (2395 ft)
Interesting fact: Home to the provincial capital: Puerto Baquerizo Moreno and Laguna El Junco, the largest freshwater lake in the Galapagos.

15. Santa Cruz Island

English Name: Indefatigable Island
Size: 986 square kilometers (381 sq mi) and a maximum altitude of 864 meters (2834 ft)
Interesting fact: Home to Puerto Ayora (the largest town in the Islands) and the Charles Darwin Research Station

Learn more about Santa Cruz Island

16. Santa Fé Island

English Name: Barrington Island
Size: 24 square kilometers (9 sq mi) and a maximum altitude of 259 meters (850 ft)
Interesting fact: Swallow-tailed gulls, shear-waters petrels and red-billed tropic birds nest in the coastal cliffs of Santa Fe Island.

17. Santiago Island

English Name: James Island
Secondary Name: San Salvador Island
Size: 585 square kilometers (226 sq mi) and a maximum altitude of 907 meters (2976 ft)
Interesting fact: The human introduced pigs and goats have been completely eradicated (pigs in 2002, goats by 2006).

18. Wolf Island

English Name: Wenman Island
Size: 1.3 square kilometers (0.5 sq mi) and a maximum altitude of 253 meters (830 ft)
Interesting fact: The Vampire Finch, which feeds partly on blood from other birds, is only found on this Island

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