Sierra Negra Volcano on Isabela, Galapagos Islands

The Sierra Negra volcano is the only volcano on the Galapagos island of Isabela that can be climbed. The strenuous 6-hour hike is rewarded with a spectacular view into the second largest volcanic crater in the world.

The Sierra Negra volcano is located in the Sierra Negra ("Black Mountain Range") in the southeast of the Galapagos island of Isabela and reaches a height of over 1,100 metres with its shape of an inverted soup bowl. With a diameter of a gigantic 10 kilometres, the volcanic crater of Sierra Negra is the second largest crater in the world.


Sierra Negra is the oldest of the six volcanoes on Isabela Island and also the most active. Between 1911 and 2005, 8 eruptions occurred. The hotspot under the volcano is also connected to other volcanoes on Isabela, which makes the interior of the mighty mountains bubble again and again. The constantly added young lava makes it difficult to determine the age of the mountain range, but experts estimate that Sierra Negra was formed about 535,000 years ago.

Sierra Negra volcano is the only volcano on Isabela Island that can be climbed without extra permission, Galapagos Islands - © Dmitry Saparov / Shutterstock
© Dmitry Saparov / Shutterstock

Ascent of the Sierra Negra Volcano

The Sierra Negra volcano is the only volcano on Isabela Island that can be climbed without extra permission. Tours to the imposing volcano start from Puerto Villamil, located at the southern foot of the volcano. Those who want to conquer the Sierra Negra volcano must be in excellent physical condition. The path to the crater stretches over 16 kilometres of stony lava and takes about 6 hours. Although part of the route can be covered on horseback, no one can avoid a strenuous walk. To avoid the heat of the day and the frequent rain showers in the afternoon, it is advisable to start the hike as early as possible.

Tip: Even if it's still damp and foggy in the morning: Don't forget sunscreen!

Once you have reached the summit and are standing at the edge of the Sierra Negra volcanic crater, you look down in awe about 100 metres - from green hills to an inhospitable plain of black rock from which volcanic gases keep rising. The strenuous route is also rewarded with an excellent panoramic view over the north of Isabela Island. The way back is via the rugged crater landscape of Chico volcano, which would rival the surface of the moon. Volcanic formations such as lava tunnels, bizarrely grown boulders and small craters that have only recently been active punctuate this extraordinary walk.

Tip: The hike up the volcanic crater is recommended with a guide. You can find your way to the top on your own, but with an expert by your side you will not only learn a lot about volcanism, but also discover a lot of outstanding flora and fauna that you would otherwise overlook on the strenuous way up.