Summary : Venture into pristine fjords, past vast glaciers, granite sires, and waterfalls. Explore Patagonia's crown jewel: Torres Del Paine National Park. Encounter unique wildlife: guanacos, rheas, condors & magellanic penguins. Carved by fjords and capped by glistening glaciers, Patagonia is a natural wonderland. Explore the must-see places, like Terra del Fuego, Torres del Paine National Park and the marine-rich Valdes Peninsula, along with some of the region's newest parks and reserves. Begin your journey in the legendary South American city of Buenos Aires.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography
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$999,999,999 to $0
Fly Overnight to Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The sweep and elegance of a Parisian cityscape—with a tango soundtrack. That’s Buenos Aires. Visit the city’s Beaux Arts palaces and the bohemian quarters of La Boca and San Telmo. Overnight at the Caesar Park Hotel, and on day 3, embark National Geographic Explorer.
The ship navigates southward along the Argentine coastline. Head to the Bridge to watch for marine life, and gather in the lounge for presentations from the staff.
Cruise up the expansive estuary, a maze of channels and islands, hoping to view the rarely observed Franciscana, or La Plata dolphin, as well as the local and rare Olrog’s gull. From this port city, set on the edge of vast grasslands called the pampas, you venture into the countryside flanked by the mountain range of Sierra de la Ventana. Visit the Parque Provincial Ernesto Tornquist, which preserves a wide range of species native to the pampas.
Enjoy the ship’s amenities: have a massage, work out in the gym, savor time in the library, and listen to talks by the staff on photography and the marine environment of the Patagonia Shelf.
A UNESCO Site, Peninsula Valdes is a wildlife haven where endangered southern right whales come to mate and calve their young. October is the peak of the migration season, and at this time of year the cows and newborn calves can be seen, often in water as shallow as 15 feet. When you come to Peninsula Valdés you must have a keen eye and an open mind, as things aren’t always as you imagine they should be. Unlike most whales species, which lift their tail flukes temporarily out of the water to make a dive, these right whales choose instead to hover vertically with their heads and bodies underwater, lifting their massive flukes high above the sea to catch the wind. Imagine it if you can: a whale tail sail!
Leaving the whales behind, journey further into the peninsula, stopping to look at guanacos (a wild relative of the llama), maras, armadillos, and a Magellanic penguin colony. Even the familiar form of penguins seems so out of place here in this strange and exotic peninsula.
One quickly understands the term “vast” while traveling in Patagonia. Today, visit a private estancia (ranch), which has been in the hands of the Soriano family for 50 years. With 210,000 acres, the estancia still operates as a sheep ranch and also as a nature reserve. Fifty miles of its coastline is included in Argentina’s Marine National Park Austral Patagonia, and most of the vegetation and wildlife of the Patagonia steppe lives on the property. Over 100 species of birds are found in the area, officially declared an Area of Importance for the Conservation of Birds. You can see colonies of Magellanic penguins, and rock and royal cormorants. Southern sea lions and elephant seals breed here and be sure to look for whales offshore. Inland, keep an eye out for the guanacos, rheas and other steppe wildlife.
For a small port village isolated along a rugged coast, Puerto Deseado has a distinctive maritime history. First discovered by Magellan in 1520, other explorers followed including Sir Frances Drake, Thomas Cavendish and Charles Darwin. You can see a remnant of the port’s past at the local museum, where remains of the Swift, a British war ship sunk in 1770, is displayed. Deseado is actually a submerged estuary designated Reserva Natural Ria Deseado by the Argentine government. Board small boats to view the steep cliffs and visit colonies of four species of breeding shags and other seabirds, including the only rockhopper penguin colony in Patagonia. Dolphins often escort the boats and hope to spot the distinctive black and white Commerson’s dolphin.
The remote Argentine coast has been visited by countless expeditions through history, including Charles Darwin aboard HMS Beagle. The southern coast has sandy beaches and impressive geological formations with dramatic arches and caves, perfect for exploring. Weather permitting, you may cruise along one of Argentina’s newest national parks, Monte Leon, which protects the coast, marine waters and inland. It’s a natural habitat for guanacos, choiques, foxes and cougars.
Discover the special charm of the extreme southern city of Punta Arenas. Begin at Cerro de la Cruz for panoramic views of the Strait of Magellan then travel the main plazas, stopping at two unique museums: the Maggiorino Borgatello Museum, with its natural history exhibits, and the Braun Menendez Museum, an opulent mansion testifying to the wealth and power of sheep farmers in the 1800s. There will also be an opportunity for a nature hike. This afternoon, continue through the Strait of Magellan, looking for marine wildlife and seeing the scenery of Tierra del Fuego.
One of Patagonia’s crowned jewels, Tierra del Fuego is a beautiful island known as the ‘Land of Fire’ at its most southern tip — home to remarkable wildlife. Your destination is the newest and largest protected area on Tierra del Fuego: Karukinka Natural Park. Since 2004, it has been owned and managed by the Wildlife Conservation Society, who has granted permission to explore their park. Spanning 1,160 square miles, this protected area is a bountiful reserve of sub-Antarctic woodlands, peat bogs, windswept steppes and snow-covered mountain ranges. Karukinka is a showcase for the unique wildlife of Patagonia, sheltering guanaco, the endangered culpeo fox, the Andean condor and more.
The renowned fjords of southern Chile rival those of southeast Alaska in their raw beauty. The protected fjords and inlets of the honeycombed Chilean coastline are home to dolphins, whales, seals, and Magellanic penguins, with awesome views of the Cordillera Darwin as a bonus. You’ll see gigantic glaciers and snowcapped peaks, thousands of islands covered with vegetation, lakes and waterfalls and come to appreciate (in the words of Herman Melville) “all the attending marvels of a thousand Patagonia sights and sounds.” Your Captain and Expedition Leader will constantly be on the lookout for memorable places to explore by ship, Zodiac and kayak.
After sailing through the famous White Narrows yesterday, you arrive at Puerto Natales to begin a three-hour drive through Chilean Patagonia to the monumental Torres del Paine National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere World Reserve. The landscape is big, wide and sprawling, with miles of grazing land, snow-capped mountains and razor-backed ridges. Look for Andean condors, flamingos and rheas, the flightless birds that are cousins of the emu and the ostrich. It is hard to imagine that the park could top the drive, but the Torres del Paine are an amazing sight, a cluster of jagged granite mountains topped with a thick layer of dark slate. The park is one of the most spectacular and wildlife-rich areas in the Americas, covering about 450,000 acres of glaciers, mountains, forests, rolling hills and grasslands, colorful lakes, rivers and lagoons, and explore and hike in the company of our Naturalists and local guides.
Today provides another opportunity to explore the Chilean Fjords’ myriad islands and maze of channels. Andean condors soar overhead, while humpback whales, Peale’s and the rare Chilean dolphins utilize the productive marine waters. The Andes mountain range will be an ever-present and inspiring backdrop. Myriad fjords or senos indent the coast of Tierra del Fuego along the western Strait of Magellan: Seno Angostini, Seno Martinez, Seno Chico to name a few. Many are punctuated with tidewater glaciers at the end and you will cruise deep into one of the senos to explore by Zodiac and kayak.
Transit of the scenic Beagle Channel takes you through protected waters in view of the snow-covered peaks of the Cordillera Darwin, which makes up the Western Peninsula of Tierra del Fuego. Huge condors may be seen against a background of enormous glaciers. It was here in the 1830s that naturalist Charles Darwin explored aboard HMS Beagle.
Your focus today is on Yendegaia, a stunning piece of wild nature that stretches more than 95,000 acres. Special permission has been given to explore here from friends and wilderness advocates Kris and Doug Tompkins, who first saw its outstanding conservation potential in 1998 and worked to preserve it. A former cattle ranch on Tierra del Fuego, it boasts southern beech forests, expansive grasslands, mountains and wild rivers.
Today you round the southernmost tip of the continent, named in 1616 by Dutch navigator Willem Schouten. He called the cape “Hoorn” after his birthplace while he was searching for a trade route to the Orient. Weather permitting, take Zodiacs ashore for a panoramic view from the southernmost tip of South America, and visit the family manning the weather station on top of the island.
Disembark in Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, with time to explore before our private LAN charter flight to Buenos Aires. Fly on an overnight flight to the U.S.
This itinerary is subject to change. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.
Optional Post-Trip Extensions:
Iguazu Falls: Taller than Niagara, Iguazu Falls is also twice as wide with 275 cascades spread in a horseshoe shape over nearly two miles of the Iguazu River. Situated in Iguazu National Park in northeastern Argentina, this natural sanctuary is a UNESCO World Heritage site, owing to its beautiful landscapes and subtropical forest, with 450 species of birds, including toucans and parrots, and buterflies, orchids and endangered jaguars. From $2,590 per person. (3 Days) Available after select departures.
Easter Island: Follow your Antarctica expedition with a visit to one of the most mysterious places on earth—Easter Island. Home to the silent sentinels of a long lost culture, this tiny island is located 2,300 miles west of Chiles in the Pacific Ocean and almost 1,200 miles ffrom its nearest island neighbor. Learn about the ancient Rapa Nui culture that grew up in isolation. Where did these people come from and why did they carve more than 500 giant moai (stone statues)? Learn from key archaeologists. From $3,350 per person. (4 Days)
Optional Pre-Trip Extension:
Buenos Aires: Before embarking on your expedition, take time to explore one of the world's most intriguing cities. See its famous architecture, explore the most interesting neighborhoods, visit top museums, and take in a tango performance. From $1,560 per person. (2 Days)
All accommodations aboard ships or in hotels per itinerary or similar, all meals and nonalcoholic beverages aboard ship, meals on land as indicated, air transportation where indicated as included, shore excursions, sightseeing and entrance fees, special access permits, transfers to and from group flights, use of snorkeling equipment and wet suits, use of kayaks (where available), tips (except to ship’s crew), taxes and service charges, services of a ship physician on most voyages, and services of expedition staff.
Air transportation (except where shown as included), extensions, passport, visa, immigration fees, scuba diving (where available), meals not indicated, baggage/accident/travel protection plan, items of a personal nature, such as alcoholic beverages, e-mail, laundry. Gratuities to ship's crew are at your discretion.
© Ralph Lee Hopkins - Fjords; Guanacos; Flowers; Torre Del Paine
© Michael S Nolan - Red Fox