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Die Galapagosinseln, Bild: Jess Kraft / shutterstock

The Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands are among the most famous archipelagos in the world. Above all, the extraordinary flora and fauna, which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, contribute to the level of fame.

In particular, the Galapagos giant tortoises, which only occur on these islands, are well-known. This archipelago also owes its name to them. Galapago is Spanish and means “bulging saddle” and refers to the special shape of the shell of this turtle genus. Even though tourism is now the largest source of income on the Galapagos Islands, they can still be described as an insider tip.

General data about the Galapagos Islands

About 130 islands belong to the Galapagos Islands. However, only 13 of these islands have an area of 10km² or more. In total, the islands cover an area of about 80,000 km². Five of the islands are inhabited: Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Isabela, Floreana and Baltra. A total of about 25,000 people live here. Baltra has no real settlement, but only a military base for about 400 soldiers.

History of the Galapagos Islands

Galapagos, Iguanas
Simply fascinating, iguanas on the beach of the Galapagos Islands, Image: Discover Marco / shutterstock

The archipelago was discovered in 1535 by the Spaniard Tomas de Berlanga (then Bishop of Panama). He lost his way on his way to Peru and stranded on one of the volcanic islands. It is said that large parts of the ship’s crew could only survive by eating sea lions and giant tortoises.

In the 17th century, the islands offered excellent hiding places for pirates and buccaneers. 200 years later, the island was taken over for Ecuador and renamed Islas Galapagos. They gained fame above all through the visit of Charles Darwin, who later became famous for his theory of evolution, which was founded on the Galapagos Islands.

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At the beginning of the 20th century. barely more than 400 people lived on the islands. The population has only been rising steadily for a few decades. As early as 1968, most of the area of the islands was under the protection of national parks. Since 1978, the area has also been part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. In recent years, the protection of the areas has been continuously strengthened, so that the natural heritage has now been removed from the UNESCO Red List.


Sights of the Galapagos Islands

A holiday on the Galapagos Islands is only complete when a wide variety of archipelagos, some of them tiny, have been visited and a whole army of different animals has been observed. Pure nature is the motto here – because the Galapagos Islands have plenty of it to offer. Among the most interesting islands are:


Giant Tortoise Galapagos Islands
The giant tortoise on the Galapagos Islands, Image: FOTOGRIN / shutterstock

Isabela is the largest of the islands, home to one of the three airports, making it the center of most vacations in the Galapagos Islands. But that’s not all, Isabela also has a lot of fantastic natural wonders to offer.

Five volcanoes have melted into each other to form this island. The Sierra Negra volcano is one of the most active volcanoes in the entire archipelago. Its crater has a diameter of about ten kilometers. The ascent is long and arduous at just under six hours, but is rewarded with fantastic views. If you want to take it easy, you should definitely take your first boat or snorkel tour through Los Tuneles on Isabela.

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The variety of marine life is gigantic. Sea turtles, seahorses and fish of all sizes, colours and shapes can be observed here. At Las Intoreras there is also the chance of small crabs and Galapagos penguins, at Concha de Perla even sea lions.


This island is known less for its nature than for its history. Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s not beautiful to look at (it’s just that there aren’t unique natural spectacles like on other islands). In the 17th century, Floreana was settled by pirates. There were two main reasons for this choice:

  • The Spanish gold ships had to pass nearby on their way back to Europe and
  • The island offered hiding places and even more important: drinking water!

Darwin & Wolf Islands

Beach Galapagos Islands
Image: Jess Kraft / shutterstock

The highlight for divers on the Galapagos Islands are the two small islands in the northwest of the group: Each of the two islands has an area of only about 1 km². The islands are named after Charles Darwin and Teodore Wolf, two world-famous naturalists.

Very few people live here, but all the more lizards and birds, including the rare vampire finch, which feeds on the blood of other birds. Under water, in addition to sea turtles and manta rays, unusually large schools of hammerhead sharks and whale sharks can be observed. Dolphins, orcas and whales are also frequent visitors.

It is particularly important for these islands that very few tour operators have a license to offer tours to these islands, which are under strict nature conservation.

Plaza Sur

A nice little trip can also be made to the island of Plaza Sur. The crater of a volcano forms a natural harbor basin where the excursion boats can dock. A circular hiking trail across the island offers the opportunity to observe sea lions, lizards, birds but also rare plants such as Sesuvium.