El Junco Lagoon, San Cristobal, Galapagos: Our Visiting Experience

El Junco Lagoon Galapagos panoramic view

El Junco Lagoon, located about 700 meters above sea level, is one of the Galapagos’ few permanent freshwater bodies. Frigate birds, white-cheeked pintails, and common gallinules are frequently spotted here cleaning the salt from their feathers. It gets its name from a variety of plants that grow in this area called “junco.”

El Junco Lake is 60,000 square meters in size and has a water capacity of 360,000 cubic meters or 9 million gallons.

It has a 270-meter (885-foot) diameter and a maximum depth of six meters (19 feet). The lake’s only source of water is rainfall. During a drought, the water level dips by up to 1 meter/3 feet, and when heavy rains occur, the water level rises dramatically, forming a torrent across the surrounding vegetative and agricultural areas.

How to Get to El Junco Lagoon

El Junco Lake is 19 kilometers/11 miles from Port Baquerizo Moreno. It is the caldera of a now-extinct volcano, which is difficult to spot unless the spectator is familiar with geology.

To reach this place, you must book guided tours with local tour companies. You can also hire a taxi to take you to the lagoon for a fair price.

Hiking to El Junco Lagoon

Hiking at El Junco Lagoon Galapagos

A journey to El Junco could just need a short stroll from the parking lot to the hilltop, where there is a beautiful view over the island, on a clear day.

However, due to the overcast conditions, it can be difficult to glimpse this highland lake. When the clouds part, the views of the lake and its vicinity are some of the greatest on the island.

Hiking around the lake is the greatest way to experience it. Because it’s little, the trek around isn’t too far. In actuality, the trek from the parking lot around the lake and back is around 2 kilometers long. However, if it has been raining, especially from January to April, be prepared for a muddy trail and sluggish travel. We came after a brief dry spell, and the route still had a few slick sections.

The neighboring hillside is an ideal habitat for birds, and we noticed a huge group of Cattle Egret hunting in the long grass on the day of our visit. Our arrival sparked a frenzy of activity, and we were able to capture a few images as they flew down the slope.

You’ll be able to observe more birds, such as finches and potentially a Galapagos flycatcher near the lake if you arrive early in the morning or late in the day.

Beautiful views of the island may be seen when strolling around the lake. Every direction almost reveals the ocean. From a high perspective, Cerro Brujo may be seen in the distance. On a nearby slope, three windmills were erected as part of a new initiative to help the island generate renewable energy. San Cristobal Island is making an effort to be in front of the power trend.

Best Time to Visit El Junco Lagoon

Frigate Birds at El Junco Lagoon Galapagos

You can go to El Junco Lagoon all year round. We highly recommend visiting in dry months as the trail to the lagoon can get really muddy when it rains.

The majority of people undertake this trip by renting a local cab for the day. Depending on the hour, El Junco is either the first stop on the way out or the last stop on the way back. Inquire with your taxi driver about the weather trends, and he may advise you on the ideal time to see the sights.

Like in most Galapagos highlands, there are lesser clouds in the early morning. But it is still best to check with a native about weather conditions.

Bottom Line

El Junco is a popular stop on a day excursion from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno to the Tortoise Hatchery on the opposite side of the island. However, I can’t say I was impressed and I’d rather spent more time doing these things while visiting Galapagos Islands.

I was awed by the wonderful scenery around the lake. The vibe is serene and calm and it is an ideal spot to just sit or lay around and daydream. Take a chance to visit and enjoy the tranquility at El Junco Lagoon. I can’t say I was really impressed, so add this place to your Galapagos itinerary only if you have extra time. 

About the author

Oleg Galeev

I'm Oleg, and together with my wife, we've explored Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, journeying through more than 20 cities (Quito, Cuenca, Banos, Tena, Puyo, Guayaquil, Riobamba, Otavalo, Mindo and more) and nearly every island in the Galapagos (including iconic ones such as Bartolome Island, San Cristobal Island, Isabela Island, Santa Cruz Island and more). In this blog, I give you my real thoughts about each place we visited. This info can help anyone planning a trip to the Galapagos Islands or mainland Ecuador. I'm just a traveler, not a tour company, so I'm not trying to sell anything. That means I'll tell you the truth—both the good and the bad — about traveling in Ecuador based on what we experienced.

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