Land iguana with a white boat in the background, South Plaza Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

The Natural Diversity of Cruising on South America Tours

Experience adventure and explore nature on South America tours with a cruise like no other!

South America is a living gallery of nature’s diversity. From the colours and gorgeous warm beaches of Cartagena, to the windswept landscapes that watch over the Strait of Magellan, there’s barely an environment or climate that isn’t represented somewhere on this vast and complex continent. It’s home to the world’s largest living rainforest, the ruins of what was once the world’s largest empire, a natural archipelago where animals unseen elsewhere have never learned to fear humans, and one of the world’s most awesome mountain ranges, crossed with vast glaciers and fjords.

It’s also an ideal destination to explore on the water. A South America cruise isn’t about predictable tourist ports or relaxing by the pool. Instead, it’s an adventure that can bring you face to face with nature at its wildest and most beautiful.

The Amazon

Covering over 2.1 million square miles, the Amazon rainforest is one of the most biodiverse regions in the world, and offers the ultimate river cruise for anyone who loves nature. The forest itself spans a massive nine countries, though the most popular choice for an Amazon cruise is Brazil. Goway works with a select group of luxurious vessels, ensuring utmost service and comfort while you enjoy nature’s gifts on South America tours.

Amazon Theatre in Manaus, Brazil
Amazon Theatre in Manaus

Most Brazil Amazon cruises depart from Manaus. Here, Globetrotters can catch a glimpse of the striking Meeting of the Waters, where the Amazon meets, yet never mixes with the Rio Negro. The city is also home to one of the world’s most impressive opera houses, when you’re back on land. Peru and Ecuador offer equally exciting and luxurious opportunities to explore, usually departing from Iquitos or Coca, respectively. These options may not be quite so “in the thick of things,” but both offer lighter tourist numbers and easier visa requirements than Brazil.

Regardless of which country you choose, expect more competition, but also better weather in high season, which runs from July to September and through December and January. If spotting non-aquatic wildlife is your priority, you’re better off booking a cruise between March and June. This season also happens to bring many of the Amazon’s most colourful flowers into bloom.

Meeting of the Waters Where the Amazon Begins, Brazil
Meeting of the Waters, where the Amazon begins

The Galapagos Islands

For wildlife lovers on South America tours, there’s no greater pilgrimage. If the Galapagos Islands didn’t exactly inspire Charles Darwin’s theories on evolution, they certainly helped solidify them. A Galapagos cruise will change the way you think about close encounters with nature, as you walk among inquisitive iguanas, sea lions, giant tortoises, and a wide variety of bird life. The volcanic landscape of the islands provides a unique and colourful backdrop to your exploration. It isn’t all about the animals either. Old pirate hideouts and a surprisingly reliable historic mailbox are among the human oddities that dot this wildlife haven.

Blue-footed boobie, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Blue-footed boobie in the Galapagos

The Galapagos Islands are a definitive South America cruise experience. Even with tight regulation, there are plenty of options out there, and cruises are well coordinated so as not to overwhelm or damage this delicate ecosystem. A good Galapagos cruise starts at around four days, and can extend up to a week or more, depending on how much you want to see. Most vessels employ naturalist guides to help put your discoveries into context, but the size of your vessel can make all the difference. The Galapagos is a destination most people will experience only once in their lives, so it’s worth splashing out a little extra for a coveted spot on a small vessel, where a high crew to passenger ratio ensures you get the most out of the experience.

From coming face to beak with a blue-footed boobie, to watching an enormous sunfish fall prey to a hungry killer whale (true story), you never know what you might see in Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands.

Aerial view of MV Legend in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Aerial view of MV Legend in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Patagonia: The wilder side of Chile and Argentina

For what seemed like countless years, the Strait of Magellan presented the ultimate navigational challenge for ships attempting to round the tip of Cape Horn and reach the calmer waters of the Pacific Ocean. Today, it’s a popular cruise route, and modern day “explorers” are more interested in the scenery than trade opportunities or the navigational challenge (sports sailing is another story).

But what scenery it is!

Ushuaia, capital of Tierra del Fuego Province in Argentina
Port of Ushuaia, Argentina

Patagonia is one of the world’s great wilderness regions, and the further south you go, on South America tours, the wilder it gets. Cruises focused on this incredible landscape often depart from Punta Arenas, Chile, or Ushuaia, Argentina, often called (and disputed as) the southernmost city in the world. Cruising here, you’ll most likely visit Cape Horn and sail through Glacier Alley, keeping an eye out for native birds and other creatures that thrive in this harsh but beautiful environment. Zodiac expeditions take you in for a closer look.

A cruise in the region can also be taken as part of a much longer ocean itinerary that connects two of South America’s greatest cities. Buenos Aires is often beloved as the “Paris” of South America, with its appetite for the arts, great food and wine, street-side café culture, and inexhaustible nightlife. But if Buenos Aires is the Paris of the South, Santiago is its Berlin. Vast, complicated, and bearing scars of a sometimes brutal past, Santiago is today one of the most exciting cities in South America, with fierce creative and culinary scenes, nightlife that never stops, and a wealth of cultural attractions, all at the foot of the magnificent Andes.

Cruising in Glacier Alley in Patagonia, Argentina
Cruising in Glacier Alley in Patagonia, Argentina

Related Article:
Make 2019 Your Year for a Goway Cruise Vacation

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Christian Baines
Christian Baines

Globetrotting Contributing Editor -
Christian’s first globetrotting adventure saw him get lost exploring the streets of Saigon. Following his nose to Asia’s best coffee, two lifelong addictions were born. A freelance writer and novelist, Christian’s travels have since taken him around his native Australia, Asia, Europe, and much of North America. His favourite trips have been through Japan, Spain, and Brazil, though with a love of off-beat, artsy cities, he’ll seize any opportunity to return to Paris, New York, or Berlin.

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