Galapagos Islands Isabela – The largest wildlife paradise
The garden of Eden on earth
Galapagos Islands Isabela is the largest Galapagos Island formed by six volcanoes. This gave Isabela Island extraordinary landscapes with rich, unique and diverse flora and fauna.
There are two locations for arrival on Isabela Island. The northwestern section down at Tagus Cove can only be reached by cruise. In this region, you would discover and experience the calming solitude of the island with breathtaking water landscapes.
In the southern part of Isabela Island is the small town of Puerto Villamil, which is accessible by speedboat from Island Santa Cruz or with inter-island flights. With its crystal clear waters and white sandy beaches, it feels as if you are at the end of the world. There are many local restaurants around the square for you to satisfy your appetite and savour the taste of local cuisines. A range of small charming hostels and hotels are located in town and by the beachside. You should spend a few days here to enjoy the seclusion, tranquillity and the rare opportunity of having such proximity to the animals there. Most cruises do not stop in the south near Puerto Villamil. Please also note that the northern part of the island is not reachable from Puerto Villamil.
Attractions on the Galapagos Island Isabela
Within walking distance from Puerto Villamil is the Arnaldo Tupiza Breeding Center for the giant Galapagos tortoises (supported by the Swiss Association of Friends of the Galapagos Islands). Over the last decade, the center has done remarkably to increase and repopulate these creatures on the Galapagos Islands. You can visit a magnificent flamingo lagoon nearby as well.
The Sierra Negra volcano is indeed worth a day trip. At 1,500 meters high with a crater measuring 11 kilometers in diameter, it is one of the world’s largest craters. There are many hiking options, including the small and extinct Mt. Chico volcano.
The Tintoreras is an islet situated extremely close to Puerto Villamil with extremely high biodiversity. Visitors can go on a three-hour small boat excursion to see marine iguanas, Galapagos penguins, blue-footed boobies, sharks and many other animals. An hour of snorkeling with sea turtles, rays, sea lions, colorful schools of fishes as well as friendly sharks is also included.
Los Tuneles is considered to be the most beautiful place for snorkeling on Isabela Island as the water is turquoise and crystal clear. The unique geological formation of this area is a result of the lava which flowed across it, forming a tunnel and cave-like structures. The mineral-rich waters and land allow marine wildlife and beautiful floral to thrive abundantly. Los Tuneles is home to a large number of seabirds such as the flamingos, blue-footed boobies and the magnificent frigatebirds. You can also swim among the Galapagos tortoises, marine iguanas, sea lions, manta rays, Galapagos penguins, and white-tipped sharks.
If you have time, you should visit the Wall of Tears which is located in the western bay of Puerto Villamil. For 20 years, Island Isabela was an island for prisoners. The wall was built by prisoners under harsh weather conditions to make them suffer, and it is still believed to be haunted by the locals. You can rent a bike to get there, and due to rougher landscapes in the area, you will get to meet the Galapagos tortoises and other wildlife on your way.
Scalesia*, Galapagos Guava, Galapagos tree ferns*, various moss, grass, Myroxylon trees, Opuntia (Cactus)*, Mangroves, Galapagos Cotton tree, lava cactus* and orchids.
Three volcanic subspecies of the Galapagos giant tortoise, 10 species of Darwin’s Galapagos finches, green turtles, marine iguanas*, Galapagos penguins, the great flightless cormorant*, flamingos, Galapagos mockingbird*, Galapagos tyrant flycatcher*, blue footed boobies, brown pelican, noddy, the great Galapagos Iguana*, wild donkey, Galapagos sea lions*, lava heron, white-cheeked pintail, common moorhen, various species of herons, odonate (dragon flies), black-winged stilt, whimbrel, sanderling, American common ringed plover, Galapagos buteo.
*endemic – specific to this area
Isabela Island at a glance
Land Area: 4,588 km² – the largest island in the Galapagos
Highest elevation: 1,707 m
Population: 2,800 inhabitants
Settlements: only in Puerto Villamil in South Eastern Isabela
Volcanoes: 6 volcanoes (latest activity: Wolf Volcano in 2015)
Ways to get there: speedboat, cruise stop and propeller aircraft
Transport: E-cars, taxis, speedboats, cars and bicycle