The Galápagos Islands are an archipelago of volcanic islands distributed around the equator in the Pacific Ocean, 973 km (605 mi) west of continental Ecuador (the country to which they belong). On September 8, 1978, UNESCO declared the Galapagos a Natural Heritage Site and in 1985 the Galapagos National Park was declared a Biosphere Reserve which was later extended in December 2001 to include the marine reserve.
The Galapagos Islands are geologically young and famed for their vast number of endemic species. The archipelago is 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. Española the southernmost island and Darwin the northernmost island are spread out over a distance of 220 km (137 mi). The Galápagos Archipelago consists of 7,880 km2 (3,040 sq mi) of land spread over 45,000 km2 (17,000 sq mi) of ocean.
The Galapagos Archipelago consists of 15 main islands, 3 smaller islands, and 107 rocks and islets and is located atop the Galapagos hotspot, a place where the Earth's crust is being melted from below by a mantle plume, creating volcanoes and fascinating lava landscapes.
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