Head to these volcanic Pacific Ocean islands for close encounters with the awe-inspiring creatures that inspired Darwin’s theory of evolution. The best plan is to book an 8- to 11-day yacht trip that will sweep you through the islands. Since the area is protected (and eventually will disappear), make arrangements with a reputable tour company that can show you around without causing harm to the natural environment. Check out Galapagos.org for a list of Galapagos Conservancy travel partners.
Before You Go: Need-to-know info
Language: Spanish (many guides speak English)
Entry requirements: Passport valid for six months post entry
Flight time (to Guayaquil, Ecuador): 7 hours from New York City; 10 hours from LA; 2 hours from Guayaquil to Galapagos
Getting around: Bicycle, boat, bus and taxi
When To Go: The Galapagos Islands at their best
Best weather: January to May. Temperatures average from 62 to 88 degrees Fahrenheit all year long. It’s hottest in March and April (75 to 88 degrees) and coolest in August and September (79 to 66 degrees).
Best prices: Prices are consistent year-round. If you want to travel during peak season (mid-December to January, June and August) book way in advance; the government limits the number of visitors allowed on the island and spots fill quickly.
What to Do
You can’t see this at home: These magnificent islands are an ecological reserve, scattered across the Equator about 600 miles off of Ecuador. Considered one of the world’s great treasures, many of the species here are endemic (you won’t find them anywhere else in the world). You can scuba, snorkel and kayak with the wildlife, and your $100 park fee will go toward keeping them around.