Santiago Island: Travel Guide to the Island of Volcanic Formations and Wildlife

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Volcanic Landscape of Santiago Island showing both basalt (orange) and tuff
Volcanic Landscape of Santiago Island showing both basalt (orange) and tuff

Santiago Island is a part of the Galapagos group of Islands in Ecuador. This Island is also popularly known as San Salvador and it was the first Island that Columbus discovered. The Santiago Island is also known by the name of James Island.

Two overlapping volcanoes come together on this Island and create unique structures across a total area of 585 square km (226 square miles) at a maximum altitude of 907 meters (2976 feet) above sea level. The highest point of the island is at Pico da Antonia. The total population of this island is about 272, 312.

Location of Santiago Ireland

Santiago Island is located in the Atlantic Ocean, between the islands of Maio and Fogo. The distance between Santiago Island and Maio is about 40 km (25 miles), to the west, and the distance between Fogo is 50 km (31 miles) to the East.

Lightfoot crabs on volcanic rock on Santiago Island in the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador
Lightfoot crabs on volcanic rock on Santiago Island in the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador
History of Santiago Island

The seamount of Santiago Island was formed during the Prehistoric era which is believed to be about 21 million years ago. At about 3 million years ago the Pico Da Antonia was formed with its crater.

The Serra Da Malagueta has formed about 19 million years ago and it was only about 1 million years ago that these two Islands merged together to form a much larger Island which is the Santiago Island.

Way back in the year 1460, this Island was discovered by Antonio da Noli.

Young Galapagos sea lion lying with mother on Santiago Island in Galapagos National Park, Ecuador
Young Galapagos sea lion lying with its mother on Santiago Island in Galapagos National Park, Ecuador
What is it known for?

The Santiago Island is well known for its two overlapping volcanoes and acts as a home to a wide variety of creatures and animals that ranges from iguanas, sea turtles, sea lions, crabs, sharks, dolphins, flamingos etc. You will also find dogs, sheep and other such animals in abundance here.

They were introduced to Santiago Island by humans and were the main reason behind the harm caused to the endemic species. It is also well known for the Darwin finches and the Galapagos hawks which is a common sight at this island.

The Sullivan Bay also has popular attractions which include the Pahoehoe Lava flow which has been constant since the year 1897. Sullivan Bay is known to feature several fascinating items but acts as a pool for visitors who are inclined towards Volcanology and geology.     

Coastal sandstone cliffs showing geological features, Santiago Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Coastal sandstone cliffs showing geological features, Santiago Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Things to do                                  
  • The main attraction here is the Puerto Egas. There is a black beach which was formed due to volcanic eruptions. During the 50s this part was the centre for mining of salt and today it has become a popular spot for biologists and geologists.
  • Another popular spot is the Espumilla beach which looks magnificent and is located on the North Coast of Santiago Island. Choose this island for snorkelling, swimming, water gliding and other water activities.
  • Another major attraction of Santiago Island is its wildlife which ranges from sharks, ray fishes, sea turtles, tortoises, sea lions, marine iguanas, pelicans, dolphins and lots more.
  • Lava eruption creates various formations of quite an extraordinary level at Santiago Island and visitors come here to admire the environment around and the creations which are created by the eruption.
How to go there

You can easily reach Santiago Island through motorboat ferry rides or cruises arranged by the Ecuador tourism department. One can also contact tour operators and other travel agencies on the island to get you across there as well as to travel in and around the area.

Travel Tips
  • Santiago Island is home to some of the best restaurants that serve a wide range of cuisine. Food is plenty and you can get ingredients to try out in your kitchen at the local markets. There are ready to eat delicacies as well such as popsicles, Basil paletas, sandwiches, pineapples and more.
  • Get some of the Island travel guides from the tourism department to find your way in and around the Island.
  • La Vega Central is popular for the variety of fruits and vegetables that are stacked all over the place. You can also indulge yourself in a unique kitchen experience by cooking for yourself the perfect gourmet Meal and grabbing an espresso while you stroll along.

Read more: Island-hopping, the other islands to visit while in Ecuador.

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