Galapagos Islands

The Highlands of Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz is the second largest island of the archipelago, and its capital, Puerto Ayora, is the most populated urban centre in the Galapagos Islands. The island is a large dormant volcano home to black-lava shores, beautiful cliffs, and craters that produce jaw dropping landscapes. Continue reading to learn more about the breathtaking scenes you will find when you visit the highlands of Santa Cruz.

Los Gemelos and the Scalesia Forest

On the road to Puerto Ayora, volcanic formations known as “Los Gemelos” (The Twins) highlight the landscape. They are visible from both sides of the highway and provide a stunning view of the highlands of Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos. They look like two big holes formed by the collapse of a magma chamber (due to erosion). In other words, they are sinking craters formed by a series of eruptions back when the islands were still active. Several trails have been created to reach the craters. In 1989, a circular path was opened around the largest crater, which passed through the interior of the Scalesia Forest. The Scalesia tree (a.k.a “Daisy Tree”) is endemic to the Galapagos Islands, meaning it only grows in that geographical region. There are over 15 types of Scalesia in the Galapagos and they create a rainforest-type atmosphere where they grow. The trail passing through the forest is an excellent place to observe terrestrial birds, finches, carpenters, beautiful witch birds, and many other species of birds.

Bellavista and El Trapiche

In Bellavista town, having a cup of Ecuadorian coffee is a must. From there you can take a ride all the way to El Trapiche, a small family farm where you can learn about the process behind sugar cane liquor. They will also show how coffee is  harvested and processed using their traditional method. Finish off with samples of sugarcane liquor and coffee.

Cerro Mesa

Cerro Mesa is a restoration project spearheaded by a local family that aims to protect the habitat of the Galapagos Tortoise. It is a biological reserve that is also home to the largest crater on Santa Cruz Island. It provides an extraordinary viewpoint from which you can practically see the entire island of Santa Cruz. Many species of birds and endemic plants occupy the space.

Lava tunnels

A lava tunnel is a natural conduit that is formed when liquid lava flows underneath a hardened surface of lava. Tubes can help with drainage during an eruption. An absence of tubes however, is an indicator that lava flow has ceased,the rock has cooled and a cave has formed. Tourists that visit Santa Cruz Island have the opportunity to walk through a huge lava tunnel measuring 2000 meters long. Lava tunnels that are open to the public are well-maintained and illuminated. It is not recommended for those that are claustrophobic, but it’s a great adventure for tourists that would like to explore something new.

Whether it be gazing at the beautiful species of birds and wildlife, walking amongst the highlands of Santa Cruz Island, or exploring the Scalesian forest, one will never get bored at the Galapagos Islands. The irregular geography, variety of life, and history of volcanic activity makes this Ecuadorian destination extremely unique. Don’t leave this bucket list experience unchecked. Make sure to book a stay at a hotel like Ikala Galapagos Hotel. Their luxury suites, amenities, and assistance with excursions makes it a perfect choice for your next trip to the enchanted islands.