The Wall of Tears in Isabela Island, Galapagos

Wall of Tears view from the top, Isabela Island, Galapagos

The Wall of Tears in Isabela Island in a 8m (26 ft) high wall of heaped stones spans over 100m (328 ft) through a mountainous and parched environment on Isla Isabela in the western regions of the volcanic island group.

The wall is the lone relic of the island’s grim history when convicts from mainland Ecuador were sent to this distant outpost and forced to toil under the hot tropical sun. It is the only place where you can spot Galapagos turtles in the wildlife.

Galapagos Turtle on the Wall of Tears trail

The said wall is called the Wall of Tears. It is also known in local language as El Muro de las Lágrimas. This site is considered one of the most significant historical sites in the Galapagos Islands.

Taking the route to the Wall of Tears is like getting to know Isabela Island in the Galapagos. Without a guide, you may experience the fauna and tranquility of this remarkable location on your own. The route is free and begins on the outskirts of town, opposite the docks.

How to Get to The Wall of Tears

Hike along the Wall of Tears, e top, Isabela Island, Galapagos

The Wall of Tears is one of the few Galapagos sights accessible without a tour guide. This makes it ideal for a low-cost, flexible, and easy adventure.

To travel on your own, you can rent a bike from one of the town’s local agencies or hotels. To the west of Puerto Villamil, a rocky sand and gravel walk follows the seashore.

The bike journey takes around one hour each way. It’s also simple to make an entire day of it. There are several wonderful places to stop over along the trail, ranging from seaside lookouts to quiet beaches and mangrove woods. Keep your camera ready in case you come across a wandering giant tortoise or other Galapagos bird species.

Another Galapagos Turtle on the Wall of Tears Route, e top, Isabela Island, Galapagos

The Wall of Tears’ location provides basic tourist information, however, individuals interested in learning more can also visit with a tour guide.

A trip to the Wall of Tears is readily incorporated into a Galapagos land tour schedule. Some Galapagos cruise itineraries include a group excursion to this historical landmark.

Reaching The Wall of Tears

Approaching wall of Tears top, Isabela Island, Galapagos

The site is merely a lava rock wall erected in the midst of nowhere. To be honest, this isn’t the most thrilling location on the Galapagos Islands. But we can definitely say that the Wall of Tears is a worthwhile tourist attraction.

It’s an out-and-back that’s around 7 miles long and fairly flat, plus whatever side trails or hills you want to explore. The trail is well-kept, and you may trek it or hire a bike at Puerto Villamil. As you travel further out from town, the path along the beach becomes more desolate.

We passed through little vistas filled with waterfowl, white-cheeked pintails, and black-necked stilt.  Some of the sightings we passed by include:

  • A colorful cemetery off the side of the road.
  • A guard station where you can check in and use the restroom.
  • Lava tubes where you can walk in and over.
  • The mangrove zone, which has all four species, including the largest, the spectacular black mangrove.
  • An estuary with endlessly intriguing tidepools.
  • Cerro Orchilla is an excellent climb to a spectacular vista.

If you’re feeling exhausted, you might want to reserve your energy for the final climb. Finally, we arrived at the namesake wall which was erected between 1945 and 1959. It’s ugly and towering — about 65 feet tall. A dramatic contrast to the peaceful natural landscape and a reminder of the suffering inmates underwent while constructing it.

Beyond the wall is another slope that winds up to the highest point on the path, with views that spread for kilometers. A pensive seat and a million-dollar vista await past the old WWII radar installation which is the end of the line. 

Wildlife in Wall of Tears

Galapagos Turtle on Wall of Tears route, e top, Isabela Island, Galapagos

The journey was jam-packed with animal experiences, the most interesting of all was viewing Galapagos tortoises in their native environment. We came across a lot of them on the route. 

There were also several marine iguanas sunbathing while exploring the beach enclaves. We also spotted many birds, including the smooth-billed ani, which collected bees, and well-known finches. Keep an eye out for the many lizards that scurry in and out of the walkway, frequently hidden as they camouflage.

Travel Tips When Visiting The Wall of Tears

Beach at the end of Wall of tears, Isabela Island, Galapagos

  • Although 5km may not appear to be a long bike ride, it does take a respectable degree of fitness to reach the Wall of Tears. Don’t underestimate this excursion because the terrain is rough and the heat can be exhausting.
  • Once the sun comes up, temperatures along the shore quickly turn hot and humid, especially during the warm and rainy Galapagos weather season, which lasts from December to May. There is very little shade along the trip or at the venue. It makes sense to avoid going out during the noon heat.
  • Strong sun protection is necessary, so bring sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen. Even on hazy days, skin burns easily in the Galapagos.
  • Once you leave town, there are no potable water sources, stores, or cafés. So bring lots of water with you – at least 1-2 liters or more if you want to cycle all day.
  • Wear clothing that is light and comfortable.
  • Pack energy foods, and don’t forget to bring your camera or cellphone.
  • Watch out for potholes and soft sandy parts along the trail, which can make biking difficult at times.
  • You’ll also want to stay on the trails since there are lots of thorny cactus and spiky lava rocks that you should avoid.

Bottom Line

Chilling at the beach after hiking at Wall of Tears, Isabela Island, Galapagos

The Wall of Tears is not your average Galapagos visitor attraction. Sure, it’s simply a lava rock wall that was never finished. However, it does have an essential narrative to convey.

The islands are not just about birds and wildlife, but also about the history of early people who arrived long before visitors. The destitute convicts of Isabela Island had a difficult life. The Wall of Tears depicts their suffering and misery. 

A quick stay here may not be your favorite part of your vacation, but it will provide you with a new viewpoint and additional learnings about the Galapagos Islands.

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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