Why these 6 highlights of a Galpagos Islands tour should be on your bucket list
The huge national park in the Galpagos Islands is home to extremely diverse birdlife, as well as plenty of marine life too. Little wonder the father of species classification, Charles Darwin, centred much of his research here. The modern wildlife research station that exists here now still attracts zoological experts and animal enthusiasts from every corner of the globe.
With the best way of getting around the islands being on board a sailing vessel, most of the escorted tours Aspen Travel offers to this unique place will incorporate a cruise of some kind. Youll soak up the sunshine on the deck as you travel between the coral covered coastlines and enjoy energetic hikes through the volcanic terrain, before relaxing on the sandy beaches or taking to the water with playful penguins. There will also be plenty of panga rides to help you land in areas of outstanding natural beauty, that are simply inaccessible on a boat any bigger than the size of these sophisticated dinghies.
When you discover the charms of the Galapagos, its highly likely that youll be laying eyes on sights that few before you have seen. Youll explore a tropical paradise, with all the heady sights, sounds and smells of a natural habitat that has been relatively untarnished by mankind. Essentially, youll be transported back to another time; a golden era in natural history, before overdevelopment began to make its mark on the planet.
There are many highlights of an escorted tour of these islands, provided by an award winning company who employs experienced and very capable tour directors, but weve picked out just 6 must see experiences to give you just a taste of what a Galpagos tour can give you. If youd like to find out more, please get in touch with the Aspen Travel team.
Quito is the capital of Ecuador. It sits at a high altitude in the Andes and is the starting point for most Galapagos based escorted tours. If you want to delve into South Americas colonial history, theres no better place to start than the city of Quito. Youll need to spend plenty of time looking around the architectural delights of Independence Plaza and the Municipal Building, as well as have a tour of the two palaces; The Archbishops and The Presidential.
As beautiful as these sights may be, its the religious buildings with their Moorish influences that are particularly impressive here, which is why youll be shown around the grand Cathedral, the Baroque interior Monastery of San Francisco and the gilded features of the Temple of La Compania de Jesus.
Theres so much to see and do, youll need a least a couple of nights in the city to have the chance to enjoy everything on offer. One of the particular highlights of a stay here is travel just 25km away in order to have the opportunity to place a foot in each hemisphere. This can be done at the Equatorial Monument. Ever wondered how it feels to actually be on the equator? Then this is where you need to be! Nearby you can visit the museums, cafes and souvenir shops.
When you book escorted tours with Aspen Travel, the overnight stays in Quito will be in your choice of El Patio Andaluz Hotel, the Anahi Boutique Hotel, the Hilton Colon, the Casa Gangotena.
Santa Cruz Island
The main attraction of Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos is the Charles Darwin Research Station. Biological research is carried out here by professionals in their field from all over the world and for this reason, they are all set up to study the habits of the most famous inhabitants of the Galpagos Islands; their tortoises. Youll visit the breeding centre and see new hatchlings, as well as enjoy sighting giant adult tortoises in their natural habitat.
If you make it over to the north side of the island, youll be astonished at the size of the land iguanas. Theyre bigger than you expect them to be! Its here that youll look out over Whale Bay, with its sea lion colonies and oystercatchers. Penguins are also in residence here and, as many of our customers have reported, theres nothing quite like snorkelling with penguins, in search of rays and turtles.
Its also the landscape here, shaped by years of volcanic activity, that will leave an impressive memory. No tour of Santa Cruz Island is complete without seeing the large twin pit craters, known as Los Gemelos and experiencing the forests that surround them, with their abundance of prickly pear cactus trees. Youll stay overnight on your cruise boat, which is likely to be The Beluga, Eric, Letty and Flamingo Galpagos boats, Isabela II, the M/V Eclipse or Yacht La Pinta
Youve probably seen it on the wildlife programmes. Its a familiar sight; a sea of pink beaks encircling a lagoon, before thousands of flamingos take to the air. Believe us, to experience that sight in person, is nothing like you imagined it would be. Its far more awe inspiring. For this, youll need to visit the beaches of Floreana.
As well as birdwatching, youll also be able to swim, kayak and snorkel in the water. Also home to sandpipers, stilts and ducks, its the rare Charles Mockingbird that the hardcore twitchers flock here to see, so make sure you keep your binoculars at the ready.
If you stayed overnight at Floreana, who knows what sort of birds might appear on your balcony, looking into your room, when you pull back your curtains in the morning! For this reason, our tours include accommodation on your cruise boat, when you visit islands such as these.
Sierra Negra on Isabela Island
A caldera is an enormous crater created by a large, explosive volcanic eruption and at around 10km across, the Sierra Negra volcano has the second biggest in the world. If you hike up this volcano and peep over the rim, youll be rewarded with a spectacular view of the island below, which boasts a tortoise breeding centre and a lava canal. You might even see white tipped reef sharks in the surrounding waters.
The shoreline at Puerto Egas on Santiago Island
At low tide here you can see all manner of marine life, that would seem quite alien in British waters. Look out for octopus, starfish, marine iguanas, schools of tropical fish and sea turtles. Of course, where theres marine life, theres also a variety of hungry birds, looking to catch themselves a meal. Your tour along the beach will also take you to the deep grottos, where rare fur sea lions swim and play.
As well as having the chance to spot all manner of fauna here, youll also cross the equator to bask in the shadow of the mighty Ecuador Volcano and peer into the saltwater filled hollows of the Darwin Crater.
Are you ready to find out more about the Galapagos Islands, situated just off the coast of Ecuador? Youll find an unrivalled wildlife viewing platform here that will take you up close to rare species of marine life as well as enable you to enjoy watching them thrive in their natural habitats. These sheltered lands provided the inspiration for Darwins theory of evolution and a visit here, even today, will give you an idea why. Its a haven for animals and birds, as well as heaven for enthusiasts of nature and wildlife
To find out more about which islands in the Galpagos you can visit with each tour, in order to decide which one is going to best suit you, please give our knowledgable team here at Aspen Travel a call on 0161 755 3081. Well be able to advise you on the cruise boats that run here, the on board facilities, where youll be staying overnight and what sort of itinerary you can expect.
Well also be able to help you combine this trip with a wider exploration of South America, should you suspect your wanderlust will not be sated by the Galpagos alone. Please get in touch too find out all the answers you need. We can give you travel advice and complete the booking process for you.