Geography - Galapagos Travel Guide - Visit Galapagos Islands





The Galápagos archipelago sits over 1000km from the South American continent—about 600 miles away from Ecuador’s mainland coastline. The archipelago consists of 13 large islands, 6 smaller islands, and a number of islets. The Galápagos Islands archipelago has a total land area of 7882 square kilometers.  

The Galápagos Marine Reserve incorporates around 53,282 square miles of the Pacific Ocean and 1,036 miles of coastline. In comparison, the islands’ overall landmass covers around 3,000 square miles and over one half of this aggregate is taken up by Isla Isabela. Not only is Isabela the largest of the Galápagos Islands, it’s the 12th largest in the southern Pacific. Isabela also houses Wolf Volcano, which remains the highest point in the archipelago with an elevation of 5,600 ft. Wolf Volcano also finds itself bisected by the equator.


The Galápagos has a population of about 30,000. Where do the people live in the world of wilderness? Galápagos residents inhabit four of the Galápagos Islands, with the capital in Puerto Bquerizo Moreno on San Cristóbal Island. However, Santa Cruz’s Puerto Ayora remains the largest town in the Galápagos. Both San Cristóbal and Santa Cruz house the majority of the Galápagos Islands’ residents.

As a province of Ecuador, Spanish is the official language, though many speak English as well. The resident population is a mix of Ecuadorian Mestizos, Spanish descendants, American descendants, and more.


We owe much of the biodiversity of the Galápagos the 3 ocean currents that converge here: The South-Equatorial surface water current, the Peruvian/Humboldt current, and the Cromwell Equatorial Sub current:

  • The South Equatorial surface water current flows east-west.
  • The Humboldt/Peruvian current brings in cold waters from the south as well as the tropical waters of the Panama current from the north.
  • The Cromwell current flows from the west, along the ocean bottom until it rises to the surface in the Galápagos. The Cromwell current brings in cold, nutrient-rich waters vital to many of the Galápagos Islands resident marine and terrestrial fauna.

Fun Fact:

The Galápagos islands is one few locations in the world without claim to a native population. 


The Galápagos Marine Reserve (GMR) remains Ecuador’s most ecologically significant marine reserve and the second largest in the world at 133,000 square kilometers.

The concept for the Galápagos Marine Reserve was first put forth in 1974 by the Terrestrial Management Plan of the National Park when increased human activity around the Galápagos Islands showed signs of stress on marine environments. At that point, the organization recommended that each island be protected by an encompassing 2-nautical-mile stretch of sea.

1998’s Organic Law of Special Regime for the Conservation of Sustainable Development of the Galápagos (LOREG) extended the protected area and formally named it the Galápagos Marine Reserve. Before that, in 1990, a Whale Sanctuary was also designated to protect the 24 species of whales that inhabit Galápagos waters.

The Galápagos Marine Reserve incorporates 133,000 square kilometers of sea surface between the islands—including inland waters as well as the area within 40 nautical miles stretching out from the outer islands’ coasts.

The GMR was included as a World Heritage Site in 2001—a designation that recognizes the GMR’s vital role in preserving Galápagos Ecosystems.