Following his two week trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos, Latin America specialist James looks back on exploring Isabela Island in the Galapagos and the spectacular hike up to the crater of Sierra Negra volcano...
The sleepy town of Puerto Villamil on Isabela is a two hour speedboat ride away and it is a welcome retreat from the more built-up Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz. Isabela is the main island in the archipelago with active volcanoes, so it is a great destination for geologists, as well as having some fantastic beaches to relax on after excursions.
The hike up to the crater of Sierra Negra volcano provides you with spectacular views inside this smoking giant. It is recommended to continue to Volcan Chico which makes for a six to seven hour round trek, but it is entirely worth it, as you are rewarded with a panorama of Isabela's volcanoes alongside neighbouring Fernandina island in the distance. Your guide will explain how these newest islands came into existence as you step past the piping hot fumaroles.
On my last day I headed to Tintoreras which is a good snorkelling spot and is known for reef sharks navigating the warm canals between the volcanic rocks. In the afternoon I visited the Humedales wetlands where you can see giant tortoises in the wild and at the end of this walk you reach 'The Wall of Tears' constructed by Ecuadorian prisoners following the Second World War.
Given that I ran out of time to visit the lava tunnels which are abundant with wildlife, I would say that at least three full days are justified on the idyllic island of Isabela.