BARTOLOMÉ, positioned a few hundred metres off the east coast of Santiago, holds the best-known landmark of the Galápagos, the teetering dagger of Pinnacle Rock, a jagged remnant of an old tuff cone overshadowing a streak of pale sand at the southwestern end of the island. The many tours that come here usually combine a hike to the island’s summit (114m) and a refreshing swim beneath the Rock, where you’ll get some fine snorkelling and perhaps catch a glimpse of Galápagos penguins zipping by schools of colourful fish. If you don’t see them here, you’ve a better chance of spotting them from a panga on the shaded cliffs each side of the bay.
The trail to the summit begins at the man-made dock on Bartolomé’s northern point, before crossing a parched landscape relieved only by a scant covering of silvery Tiquilia – just about the only plant that can survive such dry, ashy soil – and the infrequent slitherings of a Galápagos snake. The trail loops round to the east and climbs up several hundred wooden steps to reach the top of the hill, from where there’s the famous view of Pinnacle Rock. On the opposite side a stunning moonscape vista unfolds, with large spatter cones and lava tunnels dropping to the southeast to reveal the Daphnes, Baltra, Seymour Norte and Santa Cruz in the distance.
Bartolomé’s second trail begins at the beach and leads through the mangroves and dunes across the island’s isthmus to a second beach, patrolled by sharks and rays and out of bounds for swimmers. Marine turtles nest here at the outset of the warm-wet season.