Steve Stroud, Los Angeles Times
February 20, 2007
Distance from Baltimore: 3,591miles, about a 16-hour flight
Why its hot: Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt recently visited here with their children. Oh, and it's also one of the most magical places on earth. The Galapagos archipelago consist of 19 islands, directly on the equator. It is some 650 miles off the coast of Ecuador, and covers an area of nearly 20,000 square miles of ocean. Animal lovers will go wild for the many sea lions, penguins, turtles and more. December begins the rainy season, but it's also the warm - and often sunny - season, offering opportunities for swimming and snorkeling.
Dont miss: Isabela, a seahorse-shaped island of lava that is the largest in the Galapagos. The island is dotted with guava trees and a village with sandy streets and more than 2,000 people. Nearby, visitors can snorkel with sharks, sea turtles and even penguins, or journey inland to hike five miles along the steaming rim of Sierra Negra, a 4,888-foot-high volcano.
Information: For more information on creating your South American vacation, visit individual countries websites or http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/continents/south-america/ for an idea of where to start.