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Natural Wonders, Hiking, Sightseeing Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend


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  • 4.0Atmosphere

Sierra Negra Volcano stands majestically over Isabela Island, rising nearly 4,500 feet high. Admirers far and wide are drawn to Sierra Negra to peer into its glowing fumaroles and expansive caldera; with a diameter of 6-plus miles, the crater reigns as the second largest on the planet. Though the volcano remains active today, there hasn't been any recorded activity since 2005. Still, seismologists keep a watchful eye on all eruptive zones to ensure safety.

Despite Sierra Negra's seemingly ever-present fog, daredevils still come here to enjoy the sweeping (and if you're lucky, unobstructed) surrounding vistas. Just be sure to pack plenty of water, snacks and sturdy hiking shoes, since travelers say the trek can be challenging at times and facilities are not available along the trail. One reviewer also suggests wearing neutral colors to avoid attracting wasps while hiking around the crater's rim.

The easiest way to reach Sierra Negra Volcano is to take the 5.5-mile trail on foot or horseback from Santo Tomás, a tiny village located southeast of Sierra Negra, or to hail a taxi to the volcano's trail entrance from Puerto Villamil. You cannot visit Sierra Negra without a guide. If you decide to hire a guide on-site, expect to pay about $30 per person. Half- and full-day guided tours to the volcano are also offered by companies like Nature Galapagos & Ecuador and Rosedelco Operadora Turistica for $40 to $92 per person.

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#1 Tortuga Bay (Santa Cruz Island)

Outdoorsy types don't flock to these two white sand beaches simply to bake in the warm equatorial sun. Travelers visit this isolated strip of Santa Cruz Island's southern coastline for some quality face time with the Galápagos' marine turtles. If you visit between January and February, you may even catch sight of the black turtles laying their eggs (hatchlings emerge and make their way to the sea between April and May). Even if you're not a turtle-lover, you can still get up close and personal with the other beach combers like marine iguanas and Sally Lightfoot crabs.

While most recent travelers describe their visits to Tortuga Bay as a highlight of their trips, some do caution that it can feel like quite a trek to get there from Puerto Ayora, especially in the hot sun. Also, remember that the beach closest to the bay's entrance (Playa Brava) has strong currents, so it's not suitable for swimming. If you want to swim, continue walking to the bay's other beach (Playa Mansa).

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