The Galápagos Archipelago, part of Ecuador, is truly like no other place on Earth. These islands still have nearly all the species Darwin noted in the 1830s, in stark contrast to other isolated places where humans have settled (like Hawaii, Tahiti, and Australia) and decimated the fauna. You might spot Galápagos giant tortoises, terrestrial and water iguanas, sharks, rays, and any of 26 species of native birds—14 of which make up the group known as Darwin’s finches.
You’ll visit the town of Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island, which has a population of about 20,000 people and draws many visitors with its guided tours of active volcanic areas, forests, wildlife hotspots, and snorkeling and diving reefs. Other attractions include the tortoise program at the research station, where eggs, babies, and adults are reared and monitored, and trips to nearby islands where sea lion, frigate, and booby colonies thrive.