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Puerto Ayora

This town, the largest in terms of population and size in the Galápagos, is a surprise to most visitors, who don’t expect to find anything but plants and animals on the islands. Puerto Ayora looks and feels like a fairly prosperous mainland Ecuadorian coastal town, despite the sea lions and pelicans hanging around the waterfront. Most of the hotels, restaurants and tourist facilities line Avenida Charles Darwin, and the airport is on Isla Baltra, around an hour away to the north. Several blocks inland, travel agencies give way to ordinary, humble dwellings and shops. Some descendants of the handful of Norwegian, Swiss and German families that originally settled here four generations ago maintain a presence in the tourism industry.