Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
For budding botanists, wildlife lovers and geology geeks, this Pacific archipelago is a near utopia, famed for its past as Darwin's study ground. Today, as a national park and marine reserve, it remains brimming with endemic flora and fauna and is relatively untrampled by human footprints. The islands, many uninhabited, are mostly carpeted in rich rainforest, edged by pristine beaches, with a generous helping of volcanic otherworldliness. Their surrounding waters are home to resplendent reefs and an abundance of marine life. To explore it all is a true once-in-a-lifetime experience – and there aren't many places left to say that about.
When to go
Dry season runs from July to November, with temperatures ranging from 20ºC to 26ºC. Things get wetter and more humid between December and June, with temperatures reaching 35ºC.
PlanesTwo airports serve the islands: Isla de San Cristóbal, south of Santa Cruz, and Isla Baltra, just off its northern coast. There are daily flights to both from Quito and Guayaquil on Ecuador's mainland, where flights from the US and Europe will land.
BoatsIf you're heading from Baltra airport, you'll need to take a short boat ride over the Itabaca Channel to get to Santa Cruz.
AutomobilesNo car needed. Hotels and camps on the islands tend to provide airport transfers and organised day-trips are plentiful.