Out on the eastern side of the archipelago, with a shape resembling a “shrivelled appendix” according to 1940s travel writer Victor von Hagen, SAN CRISTÓBAL is the administrative seat of the Galápagos and at 558 square kilometres is its fifth largest island. Wreck Bay, at its western tip, is the site of the provincial capital, Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, a peaceful town slowly awakening to the rustle of tourist dollars since the island’s airport opened in 1986. In its favour is the excellent Centro de Interpretación, which concentrates on the human and natural history of the islands, plus the nearby islets León Dormido (Kicker Rock) and Isla Lobos, which often feature in local excursions. On the rest of the island, points of interest include the highland town of El Progreso, site of Manuel Cobos’s tyrannical colony, Laguna El Junco, the largest freshwater lake in the Galápagos, and Punta Pitt, the archipelago’s easternmost point.
Cerro San Joaquín (summit measurements range from 730m to 896m), whose windward slopes are fertile enough to be farmed, dominates the southwestern half of the island. The northeastern area has the characteristic volcanic landscape of the archipelago, a collection of lava flows, spatter cones and other volcanic features.