Formed by rare oceanic volcanoes
The Galápagos Islands are located in the eastern Pacific Ocean at 973 km (604 miles) off the west coast of South America. The closest land mass is the mainland of Ecuador to the east (the country to which they belong), to the North is Cocos Island 720 km (447 miles) and to the South is Easter Island and San Felix Island at 3200 km (1,990 miles).
The islands are found at the coordinates 1°40'N-1°36'S, 89°16'-92°01'W. Straddling the equator, islands in the chain are located in both the northern and southern hemisphere with Volcan Wolf and Volcano Ecuador on Island Isabela being directly on the equator line. Española the southernmost island and Darwin the northernmost island are spread out over a distance of 220 km (137 miles).
The Galapagos Archipelago consists of 7,880 square km (3,042 sq. miles) of land spread over 45,000 square km (28,000 miles) of ocean. The largest of the islands, Isabela, measures 4,640 square km and making up half of the total land area of the Galapagos. Volcan Wolf, on Isabela is the highest point with an elevation of 1,707 m (5,600 ft.) above sea level.
The group consists of 13 main islands, 6 smaller islands, and 107 rocks and islets. The islands are located at the Galapagos Triple Junction. It is also atop the Galapagos hotspot, a place where the Earth's crust is being melted from below by a mantle plume, creating volcanoes. The oldest island is thought to have formed between 5 and 10 million years ago. The youngest islands, Isabela and Fernandina, are still being formed, with the most recent volcanic eruption in May 2008 when the 1,690 metre high (5,541 feet) Cerro Azul mountain started spewing lava after 10 years of inactivity on the island of Isabela.