When you arrive in the Galapagos Islands, you might notice the white sands of the beaches, or the crystal blue waters of the oceans, or maybe even the lush greens of the vegetation or the colors of the wildlife. And, while these are all things worth noting, try to look beyond them: Not at the sands, but at the eruptions and erosions that created them. Not at the waters, but at the submerged lava cones beneath the surface. Not at the vegetation or the creatures themselves, but at the volcanic soil that gives them a home.
Yes, you can enjoy what’s on the surface of the islands, but be sure to appreciate what makes the entire Galapagos experience possible: Volcanoes!
The Galapagos Islands were born of undersea volcanic activity millions of years ago. Similarly to Hawaii, a hotspot on the ocean floor–where material from the earth’s interior seeps out through cracks in the crust–formed a series of volcanoes that would eventually form the Galapagos. In fact, the oldest island in the Galapagos archipelago that is still above the surface, South Plaza Island, dates back to about 3.5 million years ago.
Volcanic activity didn’t end millions of years ago, however, and several volcanoes remain active in the Galapagos Islands today. For those adventurers who are interested in seeing the awesome power of nature on their next vacation, we’ll give you the details on some of the best places to witness the Galapagos’ volcanic past and present.
On a visit to Santa Cruz Island–or, more appropriately, on a visit under Santa Cruz Island–take time to explore the Bella Vista Lava Tunnels. This network of lava tubes, some of which stretch for more than a mile, are the remnants of magma chambers that once held the fiery insides of a now-dormant volcano. Take an afternoon to wander through the veins of a volcano and get a fascinating look at what it’s like inside one of nature’s wonders. You can also stop at the nearby Los Gemelos visitor site, where you can see two impressive craters formed when old magma chambers collapsed.
Or, if you’d rather spend time above ground, Sullivan Bay is a perfect destination. As opposed to the white sand beaches characteristic of the Galapagos, the shoreline here is covered in wavy lava flows, black and hardened after the eruption that created them in the 19th century. Walk along this unique coastline and witness for yourself what happens when two of nature’s mightiest forces–volcanoes and oceans–intersect.
The ultimate volcano experience is on the southern end of Isabela Island, near Puerto Villamil, where you can visit the most active volcano in the entire Galapagos: Volcan Sierra Negra! Stretching over 3,600 feet above the sea, Sierra Negra erupted most recently in October 2005 for over a week, depositing a fresh coat of lava along her slopes. During visits, guests can see some of the flora that grows in the rich volcanic soil and meet the giant tortoises that make their habitat in the volcano’s ecosystem, aside from enjoying the experience of touring an active volcano! And, if you’re lucky, you might get to see an eruption for yourself–from a safe distance, of course!
There are countless more volcanoes and volcanic sites to visit on your next trip to the Galapagos Islands. For more information or to book your own volcanic adventure, visit our website and Facebook page!