The Sierra Negra volcano is an active volcano that is found on Isabela Island in the Galapagos archipelago. Its name translates to “Black Mountain” in English. It is categorized as a shield volcano. The volcano has seen activity fairly recently as its last eruption was in the summer of 2018. The opportunity to visit an active volcano is one that we often get asked about, and here we explain what you need to know about visiting the Sierra Negra volcano. We will consider the location, how and when to visit, what the highlights are of a visit here, the wildlife that you might get to see, and we will also give you our insider tips for taking a visit to this area, so you can make the most of your trip.
The Sierra Negra volcano is located approximately 13 miles (21 kilometers) from Puerto Villamil, which is the primary settlement found on Isabela Island. Puerto Villamil is found on the coast, on the southern shore of the volcano, and the land is used for farming. The mountain is one of six volcanoes which comprise the Island. Isabela Island can
Some Galapagos cruises or Galapagos land-based options include a visit to the Sierra Negra volcano as part of their itineraries – though check carefully because even if a tour is visiting Isabela Island it does not necessarily mean that there will be a stop at Sierra Negra.
Other visitors will need to take a day trip to the volcano. Tours usually start from Puerto Villamil and involve hiking. The hike is nine miles (15 kilometers) long, though the trip is considered to be relatively easy. There is not too much ascent and the journey is not particularly steep at any point either. Be mindful that you will be hiking for a few hours, however.
Trips to the Sierra Negra volcano, and particularly day trips from Puerto Villamil typically start early in the morning, around 7am. This allows plenty of time for your visit and also gives you a free afternoon to do other activities around Puerto Villamil or beyond when you are done.
One of the highlights of a visit to the Sierra Negra volcano is its landscapes, which are described as “other worldly”. The terrain is very unusual to observe, and it is surprisingly rather colorful. Recent visitors have commented that walking on Sierra Negra is like walking on the moon! A visit also provides the chance for a unique experience and some excellent photography opportunities too. Visitors usually agree that the views from the volcano are simply spectacular, making this a trip well worth taking. The caldera itself is one of the largest in the world and it is worth seeing for this alone. For obvious reasons a visit here also provides the chance to see and feel some of the volcanic activity that is ongoing. You may get to view lava tubes or to feel hot air coming out from natural vents along the route. Given that Sierra Negra is a highly active volcano, beware that your plans to visit may change at very short notice due to safety.
The wildlife that you are likely to see on a visit to the Sierra Negra volcano is birdlife of different varieties. You may get to spot some of Darwin’s finches – the famous creatures on the basis of which Darwin developed his theory of the Origin of the Species. There are also flycatchers and mockingbirds in the area to look out for. Some lucky visitors might get to spot a Galapagos hawk. Bring some binoculars to get the best chance of seeing these different kinds of birds and having the opportunity to distinguish between different finches.
The giant tortoise also inhabits the southern and south eastern slopes of the volcano, though it is less usual that you will get to see this majestic creature during your visit.
Any time of year is good to visit the Sierra Negra volcano. If you prefer to walk in lower temperatures, you might prefer to visit in the cooler, drier months between June and November. If you are not bothered about hiking in slightly warmer weather, and perhaps a bit of rain, you could visit between December and May. The fact that it is wetter may make the trail a little muddier, but with decent hiking boots you should be fine. The wildlife that you will see along the way does not really vary much throughout the year, so you will not be missing out if you go one month rather than another. The most important thing is that you are appropriately equipped for the season of your visit to the Sierra Negra volcano.
In terms of getting to see the birdlife a bit closer up, Ecuador and Galapagos Insiders recommends that you bring binoculars. If you have a camera with a really good lens that may work just as well, rather than carrying both. It is also strongly recommended to wear hiking boots, or other sturdy shoes with a good grip on them for any hiking that you may do on this tour. While the trail is relatively easy it does have parts along the way that are rocky and muddy. Also, do not forget to bring water, as there is nowhere to get any along the way.
At Ecuador and Galapagos Insiders we have expertise in booking trips to the Galapagos Islands. Whether it is a land-based trip you seek, or a Galapagos Islands cruise, we can help. We have information on the different tours offered at our fingertips and are able to quickly advise you if your chosen trip will include the chance for a visit to the Sierra Negra volcano or not. Why not get in contact to find out how we can help you plan your Galapagos Islands trip today.