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- 17 Sep 2019, 3 nights
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Set just off the coast of Ecuador, in the turquoise Pacific Ocean, the Galápagos comprise 19 main islands and many more islets. They were made famous by the naturalist Charles Darwin, and now over 200,000 people visit the Galápagos Islands each year to see giant tortoises, Sally Lightfoot crabs and blue-footed boobies. There's plenty more to this place than just wildlife, though – think strolling through sleepy tropical villages lined with palm trees, exploring ancient lava tunnels and kayaking across crystal clear waters.
In keeping with the nature theme, you can stay in Galapagos hostels with outdoor common areas filled with flourishing native trees, flowers and plants. Some hostels in Galapagos are run by the local descendants of the first colonists to Santa Cruz (the most developed island in the Galápagos), who are passionate about sharing their culture and history. One Galapagos hostel prides itself on being environmentally responsible by conserving water and electricity, while others have rooms with kitchenettes and en-suite bathrooms for maximum privacy.
Some of the better-known islands in the Galápagos include Santa Cruz, Isabela and San Cristóbal. The town of Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz is a popular spot, thanks to its location moments from the beach and the Charles Darwin Research Station. San Cristóbal's Puerto Baquerizo Moreno is home to its namesake airport, as well as the Mirador Cerro Tijeretas observation deck. In contrast, the island of Isabela is more laid-back – perfect for those seeking some peace and quiet.
Hopping between the Galápagos Islands, visitors will see everything from the idyllic white beaches of San Cristóbal to the lunar landscapes of Bartolomé. You can snorkel with sea turtles and sea lions at Santa Cruz’s La Lobería beach, or watch the comical blue-footed boobies' mating dance on North Seymour Island. The Charles Darwin Research Station in Puerto Ayora protects giant tortoises by raising their young in captivity before releasing them into the wild.
It's best to get around the towns in Galápagos on foot or by bicycle. Public ferries run between Santa Cruz (Puerto Ayora) and Isabela (Puerto Villamil), and between Santa Cruz (Puerto Ayora) and San Cristóbal (Puerto Baquerizo Moreno). There are no direct international flights to the Galápagos, so visitors need to go via Guayaquil’s José Joaquín de Olmedo Airport or Quito’s Mariscal Sucre Airport on mainland Ecuador. Flights from these cities take about 2.5 hours, arriving at the airports on Baltra and San Cristóbal.