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Escorted Rail Tours to Puerto Ayora

Follow in Darwin’s footsteps in the Galapagos Islands’ largest town

Sitting at the centre of the Galapagos Islands, an archipelago of thirteen volcanic islands surrounded by countless smaller islets situated approximately one thousand kilometres to the west of Ecuador in South America, Santa Cruz is the second largest island.

Whilst, in keeping with the other Galapagos Islands, Santa Cruz has its own fair share of wonderful, unspoilt beaches and spectacular wildlife, it is also the home of the islands' capital and largest town: Puerto Ayora.

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A fine base from which to arrange boat trips to other Galapagos Islands, most of Puerto Ayora's attractions and activities are to be found around its waterfront area and the main street, Avenida Charles Darwin. Puerto Ayora is an enjoyable and rewarding town to explore on foot and offers a wealth of interesting shops, restaurants, open-air bars, diving schools and tour operators. A particular highlight is the town's fish market, at which some of the island's incredibly tame albatrosses and seals can often be seen helping themselves to unwanted fish heads and other leftovers.

Puerto Ayora's chief attraction for visitors, however, is the Charles Darwin Research Station. Established in 1964 and named after the famous British naturalist and evolution theorist who landed in the islands in 1835, the centre is dedicated to the study and preservation of the Galapagos Island's unique wildlife and ecosystems.

Tortuga Bay

Little more than a thirty-minute stroll from town, Tortuga Bay is the epitome of a picture-postcard perfect beach. Uncrowded, talcum-powder sands are lapped by the clearest warm waters, dotted here and there with dozing albatrosses. Splashing in the surf is recommended but swimming requires care; Tortuga Bay's currents can be challenging for the inexperienced and the beach is unmanned by lifeguards.

Centro de Crianza Fausto Llerena

This breeding centre for Giant Tortoises is part of the Galapagos National Park on Santa Cruz and is adjacent to the Charles Darwin Research Station. Here, visitors can see these magnificent creatures which are bred and raised in safety before being released into the wild when they are ready.

El Mirador Lava Tube

Santa Cruz's volcanic heritage can be experienced at El Mirador on the outskirts of Puerto Ayora where it is possible to walk through a tunnel, approximately sixteen-feet high, that has been naturally formed by molten lava.

Las Grietas

A naturally-formed crevasse between two cliffs leads down to a deep pool of cool, clear water that is perfect for swimming and bathing. A hidden gem, Las Grietas is reached by boat from the pier in Puerto Ayora, after which a stony lava field must be crossed before steps descend to this stunning, secluded lagoon.

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