Ecudaor & Galápagos Islands River Cruises
Basking west of South America in the eastern Pacific Ocean, the Galápagos Islands are famed for their spectacular beauty and unique array of wildlife and fauna – the product of long centuries of relative inaccessibility from the outside world. Today, Galápagos Islands cruises provide a rare and mesmerising insight into the untouched landscapes and creatures of this volcanic archipelago, from turquoise ocean views, lava formations and white beaches to giant tortoises, sea lions, penguins and incredible birdlife.
Lying on the Equator, the Galápagos consists of 13 main islands and several small islets 600 miles off Ecuador, the country to which they belong. It was here, in 1835, that the naturalist Charles Darwin, sailing on the Beagle, spent 19 days observing their ecology, flora and fauna and noting the adaptation of species like finches and tortoises to each, unique island. His findings informed his theory of natural selection and evolution presented in his radical ‘The Origin of the Species’ in 1859.
The known history of the Galápagos Islands’ predates Darwin’s visit by centuries. Discovered by Spanish sailors in the 16th century, the islands were used as pirate hideouts before attracting whalers, fur traders and tortoise hunters in the 18th and 19th centuries – sadly, it’s estimated that the latter severely reduced and even eliminated some species. In 1832, Ecuador annexed the islands and in World War II, authorised the United States to establish military bases on one island, Baltra. In 1959, the archipelago became a national park, opening the way for the Galápagos Island cruises that visit today.
Why Galápagos Islands cruises?
Avalon Galápagos Islands cruises offer a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness these enchanting islands and the extraordinary flora and wildlife that are their signatures. Somewhere between open-air museums and living laboratories, these lava-sculpted gems are alive with some of the world’s rarest animals and plants, making them a utopia for travellers all, from wildlife and nature lovers to adventurers and history buffs.
Galápagos cruises with Avalon encompass the main islands and main species of the archipelago, starting with Santa Cruz. The base of the Charles Darwin Research Centre, this stunning island consists of lush hills, volcanic craters, coralline beaches and amazing flora, together with mossy highlands roamed by the Galápagos’ giant tortoises. Other must-dos here include snorkelling and exploring Las Bachas beach, which is frequented by rare sea turtles, flamingos and other wading birds. Nearby is Santiago, whose coves draw colonies of sea lions, marine iguanas, colourful Sally Lightfoot crabs and innumerable sea birds. Also on the agenda are tiny Rábida and Bartolomé islands. Rábida is a haven for boobies, pelicans, sea lions, flamingos and finches and is washed by dolphin-dotted waters ideal for snorkelling. Bartolomé, meanwhile, combines bizarre rock formations with the chance to spot Galápagos penguins during snorkelling trips. There’s also the island of Genovesa, whose cliffs shelter thousands of nesting boobies and whose beaches welcome cacophonous colonies of frigatebirds, red-footed and masked boobies, finches and mockingbirds. Our Galápagos cruises also take in San Cristobal, the island where Darwin first landed and famed for having its own, endemic species of mockingbird and lava lizard.
Galápagos Islands cruises, Ecuador and Peru
Avalon Galápagos Islands cruises reach beyond the archipelago into mainland Ecuador and Peru. Before your cruise, there’s time in the Ecuadorian capital of Quito. Backed by the Andes Mountains, this absorbing capital offers elegant colonial plazas, ornate churches and the nearby Equatorial Monument. Other Avalon Galápagos cruises tick through the wonders of Peru by land. Explore the fascinating capital, Lima, and ancient Inca capital of Cuzco before witnessing the jaw-dropping Lost City of the Incas at Machu Picchu: all fabulous curtain-raisers to your Galápagos cruise.