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Getting the flavor of ... faraway islands

The real Galápagos; Playgrounds of the French elite

The real GalápagosThe “thousands of visitors” who descend upon the Galápagos’ Santa Cruz Island each year might want to reconsider their itinerary, said Travel + Leisure. While Santa Cruz hosts the largest human population in the archipelago, Isabela Island is less populated and much larger—1,792 square miles, or almost the size of Delaware. Because the rocky, “hard-to-traverse” terrain of the seahorse-shaped mass discourages many travelers, animal life remains just as abundant as when Charles Darwin landed there in 1831. More than 2,546 species, from the flightless cormorant to the Sally Lightfoot crab, make their homes in the ecosystems surrounding the calderas of ancient volcanoes. Amateur naturalists can find Galápagos tortoises chomping on fresh grass, Galápagos penguins frolicking in the waves, and colonies of marine iguanas—the world’s only seafaring lizards—sunbathing on the rocks before diving into the Pacific Ocean. Contact: Discovergalapagos.com

Playgrounds of the French eliteÎle de Ré is France’s Martha’s Vineyard, and Belle-Île its Nantucket, said Lee Aitken in Condé Nast Traveler. Just as America’s wealthy flock to those coveted East Coast destinations, French elites spend their summers on these islands. Île de Ré, the “chicest and best known” of an island chain that runs along France’s southwest coast, is a “vest-pocket paradise” for the well-off. Designed for biking, the island is “crisscrossed” with well-marked paths, each leading to villages like Les Portes, a town of “walled, whitewashed cottages garnished by hardy hollyhocks.” Belle-Île, by contrast, has a “dash of urban liveliness”: The densely populated town of Le Palais attracts artists and intellectuals, while Belle-Île’s rural coast is home to the “most dramatic beach I’ve seen in Europe.” Plage de Donnant, on the island’s western edge, is a “deep horseshoe of perfect sand, bracketed by towering rock formations and pummeled by a powerful surf.” Contact: Iledere.com

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