The Post Office at the End of the World

Floreana Galapagos Islands

There are certain rights of passage in which every visitor to the Galapagos Islands must participate: crossing the equator celebration, playing with giant tortoises and a visit to Post Office Bay.

The Galapagos remains the best preserved natural wonder in the world for two reasons: it’s in the middle of nowhere and there’s not much there. While permanent human habitation in the archipelago is a recent phenomenon, the series of rocky spots of land have long been maritime rest stops for whalers and merchant mariners.

Of all of the Galapagos islands, Floreana has most often been the destination of choice for colonists, whalers and even a buccaneer or two. In the 1790s, whalers visiting the island decided that they needed a way to communicate with loved ones at home while on their multi-year voyages, so they set up the Post Office Barrel on Floreana island.

Post Office Bay Galapagos

Sailors left letters for home in the barrel which were then picked up by others passing through for delivery. This friendly, if not slow, method of postal service has continued on to today, allowing visitors the opportunity to drop off letters or postcards and take others home for personal delivery.

As was the norm on our cruise of the Galapagos, we awoke early in order to participate in the first nature hike of the day, although the trip to Floreana was different from most. Rather than observe unique and exotic wildlife in their native element, we were instead visiting one of the few manmade oddities in the island chain.

It was a wet landing, meaning the Zodiac inflatable boat stopped in the shallows, allowing us to jump out and walk in from the beach, a normal practice on the expedition. We trekked a few meters inland and were met with a truly bizarre sight, an accumulation of junk, placards with names and other graffiti. At the center of the mass of driftwood and notices from visitors long gone was the infamous barrel, replaced many times since the days of the whalers.

Although the barrel wasn’t ancient, the tradition that ensued was one that has been going on for centuries. We looked through the letters and postcards in the barrel and if there was one from our hometown, or reasonably close, we claimed it promising to deliver the note personally. Before leaving, we all added our letters and postcards to the pile in the bucket and returned to the Zodiac boats, wondering if we would ever see those letters delivered.

Post Office Bay Galapagos

A few weeks after returning from the trip, which at the time seemed like a hazy, marvelous dream, I took the short drive to deliver the postcard I had claimed. I knocked on the door, but sadly no one was home. A little disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to see the look of shock and surprise on the face of the recipient, I left the postcard in their mailbox, completing a long observed ritual. Leaving that day I was proud to be the newest employee of the post office at the end of the world.

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By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer. Also follow Matt on Twitter, Facebook and

14 Responses

  1. jill- Jack and Jill Travel The World

    That’s such an interesting tradition. Definitely something we’d like to do if we ever decide to pay the Galapagos islands a visit.

    Reply
  2. Aly

    That’s so cool! I know several sailors who stopped by the islands on their way across the Pacific, I will have to see if they left any mail there as well. Thanks for sharing such a unique find!

    Reply
  3. Stephanie

    I love hearing about interesting, unique traditions like this around the world. Even though you didn’t get to see it for yourself, I’m sure that postcard was the most surprising and exciting mail ever received for the lucky recipient.

    Great story! I hope I can participate in this tradition one day.

    Reply
  4. Elise

    That is so great I hope we get to go there and grab a letter from the barrel!! Also Tawny and Chris from Captain and Clark are about to embark on a similar trip whereby they are going to this same post office and then travelling around the world to hand deliver all the letters! Check them out, these guys are awesome!

    Reply
  5. The GypsyNesters

    You are killing us Matt! Been reading all of your posts about the Galapagos and can’t get there fast enough. Thanks!

    Reply
  6. Aaron @ Aaron's Worldwide Adventures

    You’ll be pleased to hear that the barrel hasn’t changed a bit in the 20 years since I visited the Galapagos! I don’t remember all the excess junk around it though…

    Reply
  7. Jeremy B

    Great story Matt! Puts some perspective on the postal service here in the US1 🙂

    Reply
  8. Norbert

    This is one of the coolest travel traditions I’ve read about. Now I want to participate it it! I want to be a Galapagos post man for a day! 🙂

    Reply
  9. jade

    I always complain about our post offices, but wow! Awesome pictures too!

    Reply
  10. Rachael

    I sent a postcard to my parents there – I was very disappointed that someone had taken it back to the UK and just put a UK stamp on it… quite defeated the object. i still have 2 I picked up from there that I will deliver when I visit those places!

    Reply
  11. Dave

    Lovely story, thank you. Reminds me of throwing a bottle in the ocean with a letter in it (also works).

    Reply
  12. Kerri

    What a really cool tradition and a great post!

    Reply
  13. John

    Back in the early 1960’s I lived in a small town in New Brunswick, Canada. Seasonally it was always busy with tourists, being the eastern-most mainland border point between USA and Can. My hobby was collecting postcards. One day I found 3 on the street, and added them to my collection. Many years later, I was going thru the collection, and discovered that they had been written, stamped, but apparently never mailed. I added a bit more postage and sent them on their way. If they made it to their destination, there were probably a few questions about the 20 year delay.

    Reply
  14. Andre

    This is actually a part is what you can visit in the islands. I had a terrific experience there, but have the opportunity of doing this kind of activities was awesome. I didn’t know anything about the islands, but fortunately the company where I bought my cruise gave me all details, they were really patient with all my questions, if you are going there I would recommend to contact them Galapagos Islands cruises

    Reply

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