The Galápagos Islands Feature

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When & How to Visit the Galápagos Islands

The best months to visit the Galápagos are generally May, June, November and December. Among the 13 principal islands, Santa Cruz and San Cristóbal are the most developed, each with a population of roughly 6,000 year-round residents. Of the two, Santa Cruz has more allure for visitors, with its dozen or so hotels, restaurants, and boutiques. The archipelago's four populated islands can be visited on a limited basis without guides, but the uninhabited islands can be seen only with a guide licensed through the Galápagos National Park Service. It's typical to book your own airfare and prearrange a one- to two-week package that includes guided visits to islands like Española and Isabela. A cruise of 10 days or longer is needed to reach the more remote northern islands or to climb either of Isabela's two accessible volcanic craters.

For the landlubbers among you, a one-island visit is entirely doable, but, of course, limits your exposure to the rest of the archipelago. You can negotiate day jaunts with local boat owners to other islands upon arrival, but these tend to be much smaller (read: more wobbly in the open sea) than the bigger vessels used by cruise operators.

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