Prepare to experience a land built upon fire and water as you journey through one of Ecuador’s iconic paradises. Galapagos is an orchestra, a legend. Just like the mythological stories of dragons who spent their lives hiding inside caves up high on the mountains guarding treasure and breathing fire, it is a marvel emerging from the depths of the earth.
Each volcano was carefully conceived and formed gave birth to the homes of wondrous life known to all the world, a treasure of nature we are lucky to behold.
The Enchanted Islands give honor to their name for being, among other things, one of the most volcanically active areas on earth. It holds a total of twenty-one volcanoes, of which thirteen still remain active. Known as a hotspot connected directly to the earth’s core, most of them are submarine mountains that subsequently emerged through time as a chain created by various volcanic eruptions until they reached the surface.
The islands expand throughout the Pacific like chess pieces, each one holding its own uniqueness and essence. Located around six hundred miles away from the mainland of Ecuador, one by one they appeared and welcomed flora and fauna of specific kinds with open arms, remaining a safe haven, the only one for many of them.
Their birth dates expand from four million years to less than a million years. Española and South Plaza hold the firstborn titles, while Fernandina island is the youngest. Some of the most iconic volcanoes include Sierra Negra, Wolf, Fernandina, Cerro Azul, and La Cumbre; which had recently erupted a few days ago (January 2020) in Fernandina Island. and reminded us again that the Galapagos volcanoes are still alive.
Touring through some of Galapagos’ most visited peaks is not an uphill road. You merely need your good pair of hiking boots, water, sunscreen, good physique, and an even better camera. Isabela Island is a good place to start if you plan on visiting it firsthand.
Wolf is the highest point on all the islands, situated at the northeast point with a height of around 1,700 meters above sea level (5,577 ft). It can be best visited by water because of the hard climb it presents due to its cone-shaped slopes. It caused a sensation amongst volcanologists, scientists and geology lovers when it surprisingly erupted in 2015.
Those who were lucky got to witness from the ocean one of nature’s spectacles as it spewed rivers of lava flowing from its slopes and plunged into the sea for a period of two months. This event had previously occurred thirty-three years before.
Sierra Negra is another hiking option Isabela island offers to explore volcanic craters that you don’t want to cross off your checklist. The fifteen-kilometer hike will take you on a historic pace towards the evolution of the islands, now home to species only seen in this part of the world.
Through vegetation extending for miles, arriving at the crater would be similar to arriving at the “X” of the treasure map. From above, it appears like a portal to another dimension, a gateway to secrets held by earth long before our time. It is a fact that Sierra Negra holds the second largest crater in the world, with almost 6 miles in diameter. Its last eruption occurred in 2018.
On the same route, you’ll reach Chico volcano, which is, in fact, a group of small craters and fumaroles that erupted in the 70s. In fact, you’ll be surprised to confirm that some areas are still active simply by putting your hand inside the craters and feeling the heat on the inside.
Bartolome island! Uninhabited by people, it’s a small island located on the east of Santiago island, where a boat ride from Santa Cruz is the best road. There lies the famous Pinnacle Rock that serves as an ideal photography background and the dark-colored beaches from dried up lava and reddish textures of its extinct volcano that open way to hiking roads.
Climbing to the top through a wooden staircase can give you a complete glimpse of all the island. The lack of human settlements gives way to a better appreciation of species such as finches, herons, penguins, sea lions, to name a few.
Santa Cruz offers a spectacle where you can literally walk through passageways dug by lava flows, known as the lava tunnels, which consist of mazes of volcanic routes that formed through time where areas on the surface would cool off and open ways for more flow, turning into underground rivers, creating cavities ideal for a “Lara Croft”, “Indiana Jones” exploring style.
There are many options to choose from: some have longer routes than others and have necessary lighting, railing, and stairways. The inside changes completely from the outside world, turning into a silent whisper and a cool breeze. However, the power of volcanic lava tunnels isn’t merely visible by land, but also by water.
Snorkeling and scuba diving are must-dos at Galapagos. And no best spot for it than at Isabela island, where you may find an assortment of touristic options. Underwater lava tunnels serve as a home to multiple species and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be able to swim up close next to them.
Picture yourself alongside sea turtles as they slowly pace around searching for food. White-tail sharks shyly swimming near the bottom and making their home in the caves, while schools of fish, too many species to count, swirl around, escaping from predators. Sea lions and penguins steer close to land, where they rest under the sun, preparing for another sea fare.
Blue-footed boobies dance on the surface and watch curiously as the boats pass by. Picture yourself surrounded by creatures so diverse and never seen anywhere in the world, and getting to explore their territory, see how they live, eat, rest, getting a chance to fill in their shoes and gain a new respect for earth’s wondrous creation.