The Galapagos Islands (map) are a small archipelago of islands belonging to Ecuador in the eastern Pacific Ocean. The islands are quite remote and isolated, lying some 1000 km (620 miles) west of the South American continent, and the archipelago is bisected by the Equator.
The Galapagos archipelago consists of 13 main islands and 6 smaller isles, which together embrace some 50,000 km2 (19,500 sq mi) of ocean.
The Galápagos archipelago is world-renowned for its unique and fearless wildlife, much of which was inspiration for Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection. Strict controls on tourist access are maintained in an effort to protect the natural habitats, and all visitors must be accompanied by a national park-certified naturalist tour guide.
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The Galápagos are an expensive and time-consuming destination, due to remoteness and need to use boats for travel within the archipelago. A tour of the main attractions takes over a week of a ship-based cruise, and getting to and from the Galápagos takes two travel days from most of the world (often with one day in mainland Ecuador, especially on the way in).
From Santa Cruz it is possible to book day trips to the uninhabited islands of North Seymour, South Plazas, Santa Fe and Bartolome. Advance reservations are normally required; however, on occasion you can find space due to a last-minute cancellation the night before.
There are two seasons in the islands: the hot/rainy season from December to June, and the cooler season from June to November.
Flights to the Galapagos are relatively easy to arrange and depart from *Quito and *Guayaquil on a daily basis for the *Isla Baltra Airport (Seymour Airport), about an hour by taxi and ferry from Puerto Ayora (the main settlement of the Galapagos) on the central island of *Santa Cruz.