For our last day on Isla Isabela, we decided to break away from our otherwise wildlife-focused trip for a day-hike up one of the Island’s most active volcanoes, Sierra Negra, and neighboring fissure volcano Chico. From atop the crater rim and surrounding lava fields we enjoyed unreal other-worldly views.
The day started early when we were picked up from our hostal at 7:30am by a private driver who took us and another couple to the entrance of the national park. Here we met up with our designated naturalist guide, a Galapagos park ranger who made it very clear this was his least favorite of day trips on the islands. We were glad to disagree with him by the end of our tour.
With snacks, a light lunch and water in hand, we set off on a well paved lava rock path. After only 3 or 4 kilometers of moderate uphill walking, we made it to the rim of the Sierra Negra volcano.
VOLCANO SIERRA NEGRA
We lucked out that the weather was hot and muggy rather than rainy. From our lookout point it was clear enough to see across nearly the entire 6 mile diameter of the volcano and the barren expanse of lava field below. It was quite a site to behold. Sierra Negra is one of Isabela’s most active volcanoes which erupted last in 2005. Looking down into the crater, you could make out the areas of most recent lava flows.
After spending a few minutes enjoying the view, we continued on a handful more kilometers to an entirely new biozone. Here most plant life disappeared and the lava fields turned from black to colorful hues of gold, copper and rust. We passed by numerous thermal vents and fumarals until we reached Volcan Chico. Perching ourselves at a nearby vista, we enjoyed breathtaking views of Isabela’s Mars like volcano landscapes before setting off again on the same 8km path towards Volcan Sierra Negra and the park entrance.
DAY TRIP LOGISTICS
Departure point: Puerto Villamil, Isla Isabela / Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Departure time: 7:30am
Duration: 7 hours total (5-6 of which are hiking)
Method of Transport: Speed boat, snorkeling, light trekking
Included: Private car or bus transport to the base of Sierra Negra, naturalist guide, (very) light lunch
Cost: $40USD per person (depending on the tour operator)
TIPS & TRICKS
- Use the free restroom at the start of the trailhead prior setting off. There are no amenities available until you return which makes for a long (or short if you are desperate) walk back.
- Bring plenty of food and water with you for the day. No water is provided and the meal included by the tour operator (a cheese sandwich, piece of fruit and a juice) does not suffice for the time you are walking and amount of energy you are expending.
- If you are traveling in a group, consider navigating this trail on your own rather than going through an agency. You can hire taxis from town to drive you to the site and pick you up. We opted for the guided tour only because we needed to time our trip perfectly to make the afternoon ferry back to Isla Santa Cruz. Our guide didn’t off much in the way of interest or guidance during our trek and the trail was well enough marked and worn that we could have walked it on our own.