Population of the Galapagos Islands: How Many People Live on the Islands?

Floreana Island Galapagos panoramic view

The Galapagos Islands have around 30,000 human inhabitants. The archipelago is famed for its diverse wildlife, which had existed on the islands for thousands of years before humans arrived. 

As the Galapagos’ population grows, it is critical to monitor the impact of the human population on the environment.

Knowing the islands’ inhabitants will help you understand the archipelago and appreciate the government’s measures to protect the islands. 

In this post, we will share some of the facts we have gathered about the population of the Galapagos Islands.

The Galapagos Islands’ Population Size

I am standing 2 meters away of sealion at Galapagos

The Galapagos Islands are unique in demography since they are one of the few places in the world that do not have an indigenous population.

The inhabitants of the Galapagos are primarily made up of Ecuadorian Mestizos, who are blended descendants of Spanish colonists and indigenous Native Americans. 

They are known as Galapagueños, and most are from the Ecuadorian mainland. They are simple, kind, and joyous people.

The Galapagos archipelago is located around 1,000 kilometers from mainland Ecuador and comprises 127 islands, islets, and rocks. Humans live on only four of the archipelago’s thirteen largest islands: Santa Cruz, San Cristobal, Isabela, and Floreana. Human settlements cover only 3% (about 300km2) of the overall area of the Islands.

In 1959, 97% of the total emergent surface (7,665,100 acres) was designated a National Park. One of the main islands (Baltra Island) only includes an airport, tourism dock, fuel storage, and military facilities. Human settlements are restricted to the remaining 3% of the islands in carefully zoned rural and urban districts.

Wildlife in Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island

The other uninhabited islands are highly managed, with visitor routes carefully devised to limit visiting. The islands are home to around 30,000 residents; each year, about 170,000 tourists visit the islands.

Santa Cruz Island is the most populated island, with 12,000 inhabitants in Puerto Ayora and Santa Rosa towns.

The second largest population is on San Cristobal Island, with 7,000 inhabitants in the towns of Puerto Baquerizo and El Progreso. Isabela island has the third largest population, with around 2,000 people, particularly in Puerto Villamil

The tiny town of Puerto Velasco Ibarra on Floreana Island has 200 inhabitants, the smallest population in the archipelago. 

The Ecuadorian Settlers

Ecuador began establishing several small colonies throughout the Galapagos at the beginning of the nineteenth century to claim them as their own territory. The islands were utilized as penal colonies once they were properly recognized as part of Ecuador.

El Progreso on San Cristobal Island and the Wall of Tears on Isabela Island are examples of dismal institutions established on the islands.

No more penal camps were on the islands by the 1950s, yet many native islanders can trace their ancestors back to the convicts.

General Jose de Villamil, the head of Ecuador’s independence movement, established his own colony at Floreana. They were primarily made up of deserters from the Ecuadorian army and convicts.

They subsisted primarily on what farming they could manage on the arid soils of the Galapagos, selling or bartering any excess food they had to ships passing by the islands.

The Salasacas in the Galapagos Islands

The Salacas are an ethnic minority from Ecuador’s Andean area that live nearly entirely within their closed settlements on the islands, speaking only Kichwa and attending their own restricted schools.

This indigenous community started to live in Galapagos from Ecuador’s mainland around the end of the century. They settled on the archipelago’s most inhabited islands and built their own small settlements.

Europeans in the Galapagos Islands

Beginning in the late 1920s, the Galapagos Islands became a popular destination for Norwegians.

After a disastrous occurrence, Norwegian sailors carrying coal from Australia to Panama were forced to abandon their ship in 1907. They arrived on Floreana Island first, then San Cristobal, and eventually Guayaquil, from where their idealized accounts of the Galapagos “tropics” spread worldwide, particularly in Norway.

A few Germans arrived at the same time as the inflow of Norwegians, the most well-known of whom were the Angermeyers and the Wittmers.

Coexistence of Humans and Wildlife in the Galapagos Islands

Sealions are chilling on the beach at Galapagos Islands

Galapagueños are now accustomed to coexisting with the original Galapagos inhabitants – the distinctive, endemic, and natural species and vegetation.

They strictly adhere to the Galapagos National Park’s strict rules, frequently serving as unofficial park rangers when they notice people straying from the routes or daring to touch animals. 

Remember to respect the park’s rules and regulations and local culture. As a responsible tourist, it is essential to help the locals preserve their environment for the future generation. 

Meeting the locals is one of the exciting parts of traveling. During your Galapagos journey, you will have the opportunity to exchange experiences with locals.

Don’t pass up the opportunity to meet and learn from the Galapagos Islands’ friendly and generous people!

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.

Leave a Comment