The Galapagos archipelago is made up of many beautiful islands and islets. To the east are the oldest islands, while to the west, the newest island reside. For this reason, vegetation and species are different depending on the location of each island. However, both the eastern and western islands have certain elements in common, such as the great diversity of fascinating wildlife. In addition there are islands that you’ll visit for sure, such as the island of Baltra and San Cristóbal Island, since there are the international airports.
If you travel for a few days and don’t get the chance to know all the islands, it is important for you to know how the islands are in order to choose and visit the ones that most attract your attention. Read on to find out some of the main differences between the Eastern and Western Galapagos, and what you can expect from some of the main island destinations.
The Eastern Islands
The oldest islands have more vegetation, so they are much greener than those in the west. The flora and fauna endemic to the eastern islands that you are unlikely to see on the western islands include wave albatrosses, red-footed boobies, land iguanas and the impressive giant opuntia cacti. There are also more opportunities to swim with penguins and see sharks while snorkeling, as well as to observe a greater variety of birds such as swallow-tailed gulls, red-billed tropical birds and petrels. In addition, the East is generally more accessible to independent travelers.
Some of the most relevant Eastern Islands are:
- Genovesa: A breathtaking rocky volcanic caldera, home to many endemic birds. Learn more about Genovesa here.
- Floreana: Has an amazing flamingo lagoon. It also has a perfect snorkeling spot with beautiful corals. Click here to see the reasons why you have to visit Floreana.
- Española: The southernmost island of the Galapagos, and a famous breeding site of waved albatrosses, along with marine iguanas and the friendly sea lions.
- San Cristobal: The oldest island, has the best spot to see red-footed boobies and the famous Leon Dormido or Ricker rock.
- Santa Cruz: The second largest island of the archipelago, is home to black-lava shores, beautiful cliffs, the stunning lava tunnels, and one of the most beautiful beaches around the world, Tortuga Bay.
The Western Islands
The western islands are famous for their lava landscapes, along with their fantastic beaches and gigantic coral beds. The wildlife you’re most likely to see in the Western includes non flying medium tree finches, whales, dolphins, and giant moonfish. These younger islands are rockier and much more arid by comparison.
Some of the most relevant Western Islands are:
- Isabela: This is the largest and most volcanically active island in the Galapagos. On this island you can spot at least five species of giant tortoises, humpback whales and more marine creatures around the mangrove lagoons.
- Fernandina: The youngest island, is still being formed by the island’s own active volcano, and is home to penguins, sally lightfoot crabs, Galapagos hawks and flightless cormorants. Meet Fernandina Island here.
- Bartolome: A memorable part of the archipelago is the view from the top of Bartolome Island, known as Pinnacle Rock. The coralline beach next to Pinnacle Rock is a great spot to snorkel.
Santa Cruz’s capital, Puerto Ayora, is the most populated town in Galapagos. Also, it host many restaurants, cafes, bars and more, including the brand new Ikala Hotel. It’s luxury suites, amenities, and assistance with excursions makes it a perfect choice to enjoy the best of these enchanted islands. Book a suite here.