Our top 5 archipelagos

Destination Reviews

Travelling by sea is of course the perfect way to explore an archipelago, an island group usually created by volcanic activity, or by continental regions flooded following the last ice age. Regular cruisers will know there is nothing quite so magical as sailing through the Stockholm archipelago at dawn, or exploring the fragrant islands of the Aegean at sunset. Some archipelagos are truly unforgettable, so I have picked my top five to whet your appetite.

1. Svalbard
Earlier this year, we visited the glaciated Svalbard archipelago in the High Arctic - ice-bound for much of the year, and even during the summer months just at the edge of the ice cap (next stop North Pole). Nearly 65 per cent of the archipelago consists of protected areas; we saw walrus, numerous birds, seals, whales, reindeer, Arctic fox and - our personal favourite - a grand total of FIVE polar bears. A once in a lifetime experience on board the Silver Explorer.

2. Tahiti
Meanwhile, Becky flew the long, long journey to Papeete to explore the lovely Society Islands. With beautiful views and amazing sunsets, the perfect way to explore these islands is by ship, arriving somewhere new each day to explore ashore or in the water. Becky's highlight was the private beach day, snorkelling in the crystal clear waters and swimming up an appetite for a fantastic beach barbecue. Water sports, cultural tours or exciting off road adventures are all available from the lovely Paul Gauguin which has sailed year round in these waters for over fifteen years.

3. Indonesia
The beautiful islands of Indonesia - over 17,000 of them set between the Pacific and Indian Oceans - are really unmissable for a number of reasons. You might be into exploring temples and monuments - in which case the amazing 8th century Buddhist temple at Borobodur is for you. The unusual architecture and vibrant festivals of Sulawesi introduce you to entirely different cultures, or if your thing is wildlife visit the Komodo dragons or snorkel in the clear waters off Lombok. Holland America has some great value options.

4. Where am I?
I am thinking of a group of about 115 islands and islets, set in a great ocean about 900 miles off the coast of a huge landmass, and close to the equator. The islands are so isolated that they were largely uninhabited until the late 18th century. Much of the area is designated national park, to protect the large variety of species, some endemic and many extremely rare, to be found here. You will find turtles nesting on the beaches, and giant tortoises lumbering on land. Do you think I am in the Galapagos? No, another fascinating island group, the Seychelles, made available on Crystal's lovely new yacht the Crystal Esprit.

5. Galapagos
And finally, yes of course, no list of favourite archipelagos can be complete without mentioning the magical Galapagos, to me the ultimate island destination for wildlife lovers. Every day is packed with new sightings in the ocean, on land and in the air. From playing with sea lions in the water, to watching the amazing albatross gliding in overhead after months or travelling the world, and from lazing on the beach watching marine iguanas soaking up the sun to watching manta rays leap from the waves, every minute is amazing. With Lindblad Expeditions - National Geographic you can learn so much too.

Edwina Lonsdale
Meet the author

Edwina Lonsdale is Managing Director and, together with husband Matthew, owner of Mundy Cruising.

More about Edwina

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