Summary : Discover the wild beauty of Patagonia—pristine landscapes, rich wildlife, and fascinating human history—aboard a brand new comfortable expedition ship. Leaving the twinkling lights of Ushuaia behind, the vessel calls on fabled spots like Cape Horn and Wulaia Bay before cruising down the Beagle Channel. Continuing through the maze of islands, visit a number of glaciers—frozen giants that guard the southern flank of the Fuegian Archipelago—before entering the legendary Strait of Magellan. Last stop is the Isla Magdalena and its boisterous Patagonia penguin colony before concluding this trip of a lifetime.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Hiking, Triple/Quad Cabins
$1,800 to $4,054
Board the ship in the evening. After a welcoming toast and introduction of captain and crew, the ship departs for one of the most remote corners of planet Earth. During the night traverse the Beagle Channel and cross from Argentina into Chilean territorial waters. The lights of Ushuaia disappear as you turn into the narrow Murray Channel between Navarino and Hoste islands.
Around the break of dawn, Stella Australis crosses Nassau Bay and enters the remote archipelago that comprises Cape Horn National Park. Weather and sea conditions permitting, go ashore on the windswept island that harbors legendary Cape Horn (Cabo de Hornos). Discovered in 1616 by a Dutch maritime expedition—and named after the town of Hoorn in West Friesland—Cape Horn is a 1,394 fee tall high rocky promontory overlooking the turbulent waters of the Drake Passage. For many years it was the only navigation route between the Pacific and Atlantic, and was often referred to as the "End of the Earth." The park was declared a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2005. The Chilean navy maintains a permanent lighthouse on the island, staffed by a lightkeeper and his family, as well as the tiny Stella Maris Chapel and modern Cape Horn Monument (currently awaiting repair after being damaged by fierce winds).
Sailing back across Nassau Bay, anchor at fabled Wulaia Bay, one of the few places in the archipelago where the human history is just as compelling as the natural environment. Originally the site of one of the region’s largest Yámana aboriginal settlements, the bay was described by Charles Darwin and sketched by Captain FitzRoy in the 1830s during their voyages on HMS Beagle. This area is also renowned for its mesmerizing beauty and dramatic geography. After a visit to the museum in the old radio station passengers have a choice of three hikes (of increasing degrees of difficulty) that ascend the heavily wooded mountain behind the bay. On all of these you stroll through an enchanted Magellanic forest of lengas, coigües, canelos and ferns to reach panoramic viewpoints overlooking the bay.
Overnight the ship will go around the western end of Tierra del Fuego via the very narrow Gabrial Channel, Magdalena Channel and Cockburn Channel. After rounding the remote Brecknock Peninsula, Ventus Australis tacks eastward and enters the Beagle Channel again. By morning you'll be entering Pia Fjord and boarding the Zodiacs for a shore excursion to Pia Glacier. After disembarking take a short hike to gain a panoramic view of the spectacular glacier, which extends from the mountaintops down to the sea or a longer much more difficult walk up a lateral moraine of the old Pia Glacier.
No one knows for certain how the hulking mass of snow and ice got its name, but one theory says it was named for Princess Maria Pia of Savoy (1847-1911), daughter of the Italian king.
Making your way further west along the Beagle Channel, enter another long fjord and drop anchor near Garibaldi Glacier for another shore excursion. Garibaldi is one of only three glaciers in Patagonia gaining mass rather than staying the same or slowly shrinking. Hike through virgin Magellanic forest to a glacial waterfall, a towering wall of ferns and moss, and spectacular viewpoints looking down on the glacier and fjord. The walk is demanding—very steep, negligible trail, rough footing—and not for everyone. For those who choose to stay onboard, your captain will point the bow towards the beautiful sky blue Garibaldi Glacier so everyone can enjoy the panoramic view from the upper decks.
Early in the morning, sail through the Cockburn Channel and enter Agostini Sound. From there it is possible to see the glaciers that descend from the middle of the Darwin Mountain Range, some of them reaching the water. This morning, disembark and go for an easy walk around a lagoon, which was formed by the melting of the Águila Glacier. Reach a spot right in front of that glacier with stunning views. In the afternoon, approach the Condor Glacier via Zodiac and hopefully see some of the abundant Andean Condors in the area.
After an overnight cruise through Magdalena Channel and back into the Strait of Magellan, anchor off Magdalena Island, which lies about halfway between Tierra del Fuego and the Chilean mainland. Crowned by a distinctive lighthouse, the island used to be an essential source of supplies for navigators and explorers and is inhabited by an immense colony of Magellanic penguins. At the break of dawn, weather permitting, go ashore and hike a path that leads through thousands of penguins to a small museum lodged inside the vintage 1902 lighthouse. Many other bird species are also found on the island.
PLEASE NOTE: In September and April -- when the penguins live elsewhere -- this excursion is replaced by a ride aboard Zodiacs to Marta Island to observe South American sea lions.
After a short cruise south along the strait, disembark at Punta Arenas.
This itinerary is subject to change. ExpeditionTrips.com is not responsible for itinerary changes.
Shipboard accommodations; all meals onboard the ship; whiskey and hot cocoa on excursions; most wine, beverages, and liquors onboard the ship. Subject to change without notice.
Airfare; travel insurance; items of a personal nature such as internet; gratuities to ship’s crew; port tax, migration fee, National Park fee; fuel surcharge may apply.
Photo Credit: © Australis