Survival of the fittest

Where to stay in Galapagos?


Visitors to the Galápagos Islands numbered 90, 000 last year and they all come with high expectations. The islands (all of which were declared a national park in 1959) are about 960 km off the coast of Ecuador and are oddly untropical, their flattish landscapes covered in green furze with volcanic lumps bursting out here and there. Darwin wrote, 'the country was comparable to what one might imagine the cultivated parts of the infernal regions to be'. Nowadays their appeal lies in that there is something unearthly and unknowable about these lone outcrops set in a vast ocean.
Today, only four of the 15 main islands are inhabited, with a total population of 20, 000. Thirty years ago it was only 2, 000 but tourism has changed all that. Now every visitor to the Galápagos has to pay an entrance fee of $100, some of which goes to pay for the upkeep of the islands and some towards facilities for the islanders. All this means that the islands are about five times are prosperous as mainland Ecuador. Only about three percent of property can be sold to foreigners and prices are correspondingly high. One of the pleasures of being in the Galápagos is that each of the 15 islands offers something completely different, which is how Darwin came to produce his theory of evolution. The Galápagos wildlife is utterly different from anything that you will ever see on a television screen - giant tortoises the size of Fiat Unos, tangled heaps of iguanas, water teeming with sea lions. This is a last frontier that has the reassuring appearance of the Hebrides and a similar lack of red tape.

  • Pikaia Lodge

    Between the cloud forest and the sea, swirled in mist or resplendent in bright Pacific light, the hotel world's latest evolution on the Galápagos is this astonishingly smart spot balanced on the rim of an extinct volcano. The design is startling: wood, glass and steel beams make the structure resemble a coastguard look-out. The views of the shore and the sea are peerless. Featured in the .

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