A brief history of the Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Archipelago was discovered by accident in 1535, when Tomas de Berlanga, the Bishop of Panama, drifted off course while sailing from Panama to Peru. The Bishop reported his discovery to King Charles V of Spain and included in his report a description of the giant galapago (tortoise) from which the islands received their name.

It is possible that the Indian inhabitants of South America were aware of the islands' existence before 1535 but there is no record of this. In 1953, Norwegian explorer Thor Heyedahl discovered what he thought to be pre-Colombian pottery shards on the islands, but the evidence seems inconclusive.

For more than three centuries after their discovery, the Galapagos were used as a base by a succession of buccaneers, sealers and whalers. The islands provided sheltered anchorage, firewood, water and an abundance of food in the form of giant Galapagos tortoises which were caught by the thousands and stacked, alive, in ships holds. The tortoises could survive for a year or more and thus provided fresh meat for the sailors long after they had left the islands.

The first rough charts of the Galapagos Islands were made by buccaneers in the late 17th century, and scientific exploration began the late 18th century. The Galapagos' most famous visitor was Charles Darwin, who arrived in 1835, exactly 300 years after the Bishop of Panama. Darwin stayed for five weeks, making notes and wildlife collections that provided important evidence for his theory of evolution, which he was just then beginning to develop.

Ecuador officially claimed the Galapagos Archipelago in 1832. For roughly one century thereafter, the islands were inhabited by a few settlers and were used as penal colonies, the last of which was closed in 1959.

Some islands were declared wildlife sanctuaries in 1934, and the archipelago officially became a national park in 1959. Organised Galapagos tours began in the late 1960's and now an estimated 50,000 to 60,000 people visit the islands each year.

Trip Reviews

  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16233 reviews)

    Awesome, Awesome, Awesome!

    The Condor trip with our tour leader, Zac, was AWESOME! Our W guide, Cem, was also exceptional. The two of them kept us at a great pace and kept us laughing. You're on this trip for the scenery, and it was breath-taking. A great one word description of the landscape is "rugged". This tour provides a nice balance of longer hiking days and shorter hiking days with just truly stunning scenery including Torres del Paine, French Valley, Grey Glacier, Perito Morano glacier, and Fitz Roy. Definitely do the ice hiking!
    Sandy Landsberg Review Image
    – Virginia, United States
    Condor, February 2018
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16233 reviews)

    Patagonia at its Best

    This was a fantastic trip which was well planned with quality places to stay, eat, and view the wonders of Patagonia. The guides were all excellent and knowledgeable making the trip super informative. Other activities such as kayaking, glacier hike, and mountain biking added to the exploration of a very unique and diverse environment. The transportation from locations was very comfortable. The Patagonia of Chile and Argentina was stunning and the organization by Active Adventures created the perfect experience.
    Donna Small Review Image
    – Oregon, United States
    Condor, March 2018
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16233 reviews)

    Whoa! What an incredible trip!

    There aren't any words that could properly prepare you for what is in store. Patagonia was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!

    Cynthia was an amazing guide, she took such good care of us! She routinely went above and beyond to ensure we were safe, happy, healthy and well fed. What a gem she was! And on top of being great at her job, she's just an awesome person, fun, smart, flexible, just the kind of person you want touring you around the edge of the earth for 2 weeks.

    The trip itself was absolutely breathtaking. No photo could do that place justice. The W trail was an amazing hike full of ever changing views (and lots of wind!). Definitely, pay the extra to do the Grey Glacier hike! It was a trip highlight!

    Get ready to take your jacket on and off more in one day than you would over the course of a month back home :) Everything they say about the weather is true. You are at the mercy of the elements, but for the most part, we lucked out with weather (and when we didn't Cynthia always had a plan B).

    I'm so glad we did this! We will definitely be touring with Active again. Those folks do a stellar job of setting you up for an exciting adventure.
    Celeste Olds Review Image
    – Washington, United States
    Condor, December 2016
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16233 reviews)

    7 Day Jaguar Adventure

    I have nothing but positive reviews for this week-long adventure of a lifetime (I would have loved to stay on for the full 14 day experience, but unfortunately work responsibilities limited my time away). As a seasoned solo traveler/hiker, and it being my 30th birthday week, I must rank this trip as my top guided-tour experience. Everything from the Lares Inca Trail experience (with its less crowded characteristics making it a much more attractive alternative to the Classic Inca Trail, at least to me), to the accommodations, the food (which can be catered to most anyone’s dietary needs, at least from what I experienced both first hand and from others in the group...still not sure how the chef/porters can transport all that fresh food and whip up such fantastic meals miles and miles from the nearest town!?), our tour leader Daniel and other affiliated guides and porters...quite honestly above and beyond what my original expectations were for the trip! I met several fellow hikers from around the world with whom I bonded and would now call lifelong friends, and have numerous photos and memories to last a lifetime! I would also like to mention that during our 4 day/3 night hike, we encountered several other hikers along the trail who were with various other tour companies (some of which I had researched prior to booking with Active Adventures), and were told several stories about various mishaps and/or negative experiences they were having with their tour leaders...perhaps we lucked out with our fantastic tour leader, but I definitely do not regret for a second my decision to ring in the third decade of my life with Active Adventures! I can’t thank you guys enough and will definitely keep you in mind for my next hiking adventure, wherever that may be :)
    Kevin Bui Review Image
    – New Hampshire, United States
    Jaguar 2017, October 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16233 reviews)

    Better Than I Imagined!

    Visiting Patagonia was a dream of mine, forever and this amazing trip was better than I could have possibly imagined! Everything was perfect and I can't wait to travel with Active Adventures again!
    Laura Goldner Review Image
    – New Hampshire, United States
    Condor, March 2018

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Why travel with Active Adventures?

Above all, we aim to be amazing hosts. We're proud of our kiwi roots, and our professional, warm and relaxed style of running trips around the world is unforgettable.

We're VERY picky about who we select to work in our team, and we have people from all over the world lining up to guide our trips. So we get to hire the absolute BEST in the business.

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