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With its iconic giant tortoises, crested black iguanas, huge ocean manta rays and a veritable menagerie of other cool creatures, the Galapagos Islands are one of the most beautiful places you will probably never visit.Keeping a tight lid on tourism is the way the South American country has preserved this volcanic string of 19 large islands, dozens of islets and rocky outcroppings.With a network of small hotels and ferries running between the islands, the Galapagos – about 1,000 kilometers off the coast – is an ecotourism destination that is among the most select spots in all of the Pacific.The national park was created in 1959 to protect 97 percent of the islands' land surface, and in 1978 UNESCO classified the archipelago as a World Heritage Site.These days, only 26,000 people live on the four islands that are in fact inhabited.By law, Ecuadorans from the mainland are treated as foreigners on the Galapagos. Many of these travelers will want to go to the Galapagos.
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