Los Gemelos, also known as the Galapagos twin craters, is a rewarding visit for nature loving tourists. The lush green scenery of the highlands is in stark contrast to the more arid lowland coasts, providing a very different Galapagos experience. Viewpoints over the crater sink holes showcase the breathtaking landscape, and there is plenty of interesting birdlife to look out for too. Whether Los Gemelos is included in your prebooked tour itinerary, or you head there during your free time, the twin craters are definitely a recommended visit.
Read on for everything you need to know to plan your visit to Los Gemelos Galapagos. How to get there? What wildlife can you see? How did these impressive craters form? Plus lots more information besides about the Galapagos twin craters.
Los Gemelos visitor site is often included in Galapagos cruise itineraries, as the first or last activity on route to Baltra airport. It can also be visited as a 1/2 day tour and included into a Galapagos land tour itinerary. Or tourists can visit Los Gemelos in their own free time from Puerto Ayora.
The Twin Craters are located up on the highlands of Santa Cruz Island. This is an area of farmland and native forest, territory of the iconic Galapagos giant tortoise and Darwin’s finches.
How to get there?
Los Gemelos is a 20 minute drive from Puerto Ayora town. If you are traveling on your own steam without a tour then you have two easy transport options to consider. Bike rentals are available in local agencies, and a special bicycle path leads you all the way to the twin craters. Start early to avoid cycling uphill under a strong sun, and enjoy coasting the downhill ride back home. Your other alternative is to take a local taxi to visit Los Gemelos. Usually drivers are happy to include a brief 1/2 hour wait into the price.
Our recommendation is to try to spend an hour or two at Los Gemelos. Either contract a guide who can introduce you to the birds and plantlife there. Or visit by yourselves but allowing for a relaxed visit without time pressure. There are short paths leading to the lookouts over each crater sinkhole, or a longer 500m trail that can be walked in 1 and 1/2 hours with plenty of stops along the way. Happy hours can easily be wiled away sitting at the crater lip, taking in the views, while bird watching.
Other visitor sites at Santa cruz highlands can also be combined with Los Gemelos. El Chato and Las Primicias private ranches are a top spot to see giant tortoises in their natural habitat. It’s also possible to visit various lava tunnels – take a flashlight with you to enter inside them.
Los Gemelos are easy to visit any time of year. The surrounding forests and vegetation are at their most lush in the warm and wet rainy season, from January to June. During these months take raingear with you just in case.
In truth the twin craters name is rather misleading. Los Gemelos are in fact NOT craters at all, but rather sink holes.
How did Los Gemelos sink holes form? Long ago when Santa Cruz island was an active volcano, lava flowed freely from the highlands summit down to the coast. Lava tunnels (or tubes) and magma chambers form when the top level of lava is slow moving and solidifies, while the lava below continues to flow. The result is a hollow chamber or tube, covered over by a thin layer of solidified lava. In the case of Los Gemelos, they were covered hollow magma chambers, which caved in due to erosion or tectonic shifts. When the chamber roof collapsed it revealed these huge sink holes for visitors to enjoy today.
To better appreciate their scale, consider that in size Los Gemelos measure aprox 1 mile in diameter, with a depth of 280 meters. The dark grey volcanic walls contrast wonderfully with the green vegetation, but you’ll need a wide angle lens to fit it all into one shot.
Santa Cruz highlands and the area around Los Gemelos is dominated by lush green trees and shrubs. Eagle-eyed visitors can also observe plenty of micro-level beauty, from small flowers and orchids, to bromeliads, mosses and lichens. This is a humid climate zone, recieving higher rainfall than the lowlands, and often shrouded in clouds.
Los Gemelos is surrounded by the largest Scalesia tree forest of the Galapagos islands. Believe it or not, the Scalesia tree (Scalesia Pedunculata) is the largest member of the daisy family. Charles Darwin himself collected Scalesia samples here, so visitors are following very famous footsteps indeed. Scalesia is a Galapagos endemic species but is under threat from invasive species and humans. Introduced farm animals such as cattle and goats can devastate scalesia forests in a short space of time. Invasive plants like the blackberry bush also make it tougher for Scalesia trees to survive. The Galapagos National Park Directorate and the Charles Darwin Foundation are focusing Galapagos conservation efforts on repopulating the Scalesia tree population at Los Gemelos. In the joint effort, they raise saplings from seed and clear invasive species from the area to promote new growth.
The Santa Cruz highlands around the twin craters are alive with bird calls, especially early in the morning. This dense forest is home to a good variety of Galapagos bird species.
An impressive eight of the thirteen Darwin Finch species can be spotted here. The differences between finches is quite subtle; look for differences in color, beak size, body size and behavior to correctly identify them. Bird watchers can also spot eye-catching vermillion flycatchers, Short-eared owls, the pretty Galapagos dove and more.
In conclusion, Los Gemelos Galapagos is a lovely site to get to know. Many tourists make but a fleeting visit here, but we recommend to take more time. Not only are the vistas stunning, but the birdlife is abundant too. So take a moment to properly appreciate this area. Stroll the longer trail to escape other tourist groups. Sit down to enjoy the view, and let the birds come to you. This is a very different Galapagos experience compared to the beaches and lowlands, so treat yourself to some downtime surrounded by pristine nature.