Baltra could have been a forgotten island in the Galapagos archipelago were it not for some unique characteristics. Firstly, it sits near the center of the Galapagos. Secondly, it is unusually flat thanks to its original formation by a series of geological uplifts.
Being flat and centrally located, the U.S. government chose Baltra as the site for a new strategic air base in the Pacific during World War II. Construction began in 1942 and the mile-long airstrip was completed just two months later. After that, some 200 buildings, including enough barrack space for 1,000 U.S. soldiers, were built in the following years.
After the war the airbase and facilities were handed over to Ecuador, who continued to use the island and Seymour Airport, as it’s called, in a military capacity. The airport on Baltra is one of two in the Galapagos, and most tourists arrive here from Quito or Guayaquil.
The island itself is small (just five miles from north to south), dry, and relatively featureless apart from salt bushes, prickly pear cactus and palo santo trees. Most new arrivals quickly board a cruise from Baltra, or take a bus to the dock at the Itabaca Canal and cross over to the nearby Santa Cruz Island by ferry.
Main Visitor Sites
There’s really not a lot to do on Baltra and not many people spend time on the island. But if you are there for a day or two, you can certainly keep yourself busy.
Beaches — A handful of Baltra’s beaches are worth visiting, and you might see boobies, frigatebirds, ground finches and sea lions. Also keep an eye out for the island’s 500 or so land iguanas who were reintroduced in 1991 and are now thriving. You’ll often seem them scurrying across Baltra’s main road and across the airport runway.
Military base — If you’re interested in military history, go explore the island’s abandoned World War II U.S. military base.
Other Places to Visit in Galapagos
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