Set in the Pacific Ocean, some 600 miles west of Ecuador, the Galapagos consist of 13 major islands, five of which are inhabited. Part of Ecuador and strictly protected national park, tourism to the Galapagos Islands is rigorously controlled and not very budget friendly. The volcanic islands sit near the equator and off the coast of Ecuador.
The islands are of volcanic origin and their incredibly diverse flora and fauna attract many travelers, scientists and nature-lovers. Plenty of animals such as giant tortoises and balloon-necked frigate birds, which most people only know from Discovery Channel, freely romp about with no apparent fear of human intruders.
About 17,000 people live on four of the islands; San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, Isabela and Floreana. Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island is the commercial hub of the Galapagos. Here you can snorkel with sea lions over coral reefs and in underwater craters swarming with marine life. Inland lagoons and highlands boast an amazing range of rare bird life. See impressive rock towers with diving boobies and athletic frigates and sea birds sweeping overhead. In the evenings, there are a handful of bars where you can quaff a couple of cold ones.
Scuba diving: trips to some of the most astonishing dive sites in the world can easily be arranged in Puerto Ayora.
Charles Darwin Research Station: is home to a team of over 200 scientists, educators, research volunteers and support staff committed to preserving the Galapagos ecosystems.
Darwin Trail: starts at Darwin Bay Beach and leads to many seabird colonies, including the red-footed and masked boobies, taking in numerous sea cliffs and tidal pools on the way.
Dragon Hill: in Santa Cruz is inhabited by large numbers of colorful iguanas.
Isabela: is the largest island of the Galapagos and features non-flying cormorants, flamingos, giant turtles, penguins and iguanas.
San Cristobal: is the second most populated of the islands and houses the Museum of the Franciscans and the rock Leon Dormido, a popular climb.
Plaza Sur Island: is home to hundreds of sea lions, nesting birds, terrestrial iguanas and a cactus forest, making this little island a prime destination.