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 on Baltra Island
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 Galapagos 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.
Read more about this island at Galapagos Conservancy.
Other Main Galapagos Islands and Visitor Sites
Bartolomé Island / Chinese Hat Islet / Eden Islet / Española Island / Fernandina Island / Floreana Island / Genovesa Island / Isabela Island Mosquera Islet / North Seymour Island / Rábida Island / San Cristóbal Island / Santa Cruz Island / Santa Fe Island / Santiago Island / South Plaza Island
Galapagos Wildlife: 15 Iconic Species
American Flamingo / Blue-Footed Booby / Flightless Cormorant / Frigatebirds: Great and Magnificent / Galapagos Fur Seal / Galapagos Giant Tortoise / Galapagos Hawk / Galapagos Penguin / Galapagos Sea Lion / Land Iguana / Marine Iguana / Nazca Booby / Red-Footed Booby / Santa Fe Land Iguana / Waved Albatross
Galapagos Travel Guide
Galapagos Tours & Cruises / Galapagos & Machu Picchu Tours / Galapagos & Amazon Tours / Galapagos FAQ / Galapagos Weather / Galapagos Accommodations / Top Galapagos Activities by Land or by Sea / Galapagos Wildlife Calendar / Galapagos Packing List / Galapagos Blog Posts / Galapagos Islands Map