Sierra Negra is one of the six shield volcanoes that make up the island of Isabela. What makes this volcano particularly cool, however, is that you can hike to the rim of its caldera – in spite of the fact that it is one of the most active volcanoes in the Galapagos!
The only hitch is that you aren’t allowed to hike to the rim of the Sierra Negra Volcano on your own – you have to go with a guide, which inevitably means going on an organised tour… So not wanting to miss out, that’s what we did!!!
On the morning of the hike we were picked up at our accommodation at 7:30am… It wasn’t what I would call a smooth pick up – I’d even go as far as to say that confusion reigned at pick-up time!!! The problem being that there was a hostal opposite our ‘delightful’ alternative accommodation option disguised as a hairdressers… and as no-one could possibly be staying in a hairdressers – the guide went looking for us in the hostal!
After a bit of a delay – and the confusion resolved – we were in the minivan, and on our way out of town and heading towards the base of Sierra NegraVolcano. Usually it’s a straightforward minivan ride to the start of the hike… but no not for us! Roadworks on the way to the volcano meant that we had to get out of the minivan early and wait on the side of the road for a ute (pick-up truck) to take us the rest of the way…
Although it felt a bit like an epic journey to the trialhead – it wasn’t really – we were there in just over an hour… not a lot longer than the usual travel time! The travel time passed pretty quickly as well – as our guide – Simon (yep, not a very Spanish sounding name because he was English!) – was chatting to us!
On arrival we trundled out of the ute and hit the trail. The first part of the trail was quite flat, and road-like… but it led to the rim of the caldera, so I guess it wasn’t 100% flat!
The caldera was REALLY cool – it was oval and really HUGE – I kid you not, it measures 9km from east to west and 7km from north to south…Also, as Sierra Negra last erupted in June 2018… yep, less than 6 months before our hike to the top!… you could also see the new slightly darker coloured lava trails across the bottom of the caldera.
After a nice stroll along the rim of the caldera, it was time to head downwards on one of the slopes on the northern side of the caldera to an area known as Volcan Chico… This area has had recent eruptions as well – but these eruptions were due to fissures (volcanic vents which allow magma to pass through on to the surface), rather than a huge volcanic eruption – the last eruption here was in 1979.
The Volcan Chico area was an impressive sight…there was no vast expanse of black lava fields, but instead a beautiful burst of colour as you clambered over the rocky terrain. At the end of the trail you found yourself on a ‘ledge’ with views out towards the north of Isabela Island – a part of the island that is only accessible to cruise ships…
We retraced our steps, stopping en route to take in the views… before a slightly longer stop where we ate our picnic lunches.
To return to Puerto Villamil we took the ute – minivan transport combo…
We don’t usually like guided hikes – our preference is to hike on our own, and stay as far away from groups as possible – however, we definitely enjoyed the hike to Sierra Negra Volcano 🙂