Summary : This expedition takes you to the most intriguing spots along the South American coast to Antarctica. Visit one of the most scenic national parks in the world, see the rich wildlife of Patagonia, the Chilean fjords, Cape Horn and then, Antarctica. Spend time ashore kayaking, hiking, and experiencing up-close encounters with penguins, birds, and seals. Starting in the colorful city of Valparaiso, sail along the Chilean Pacific coastline filled with snow-tipped volcanoes – the vastness and untouched beauty of the rugged and mountainous landscape will surely make a lastly impression. Continuing onward, you will discover of the most scenic national parks in the world and the wild fjords of Chile. Then witness Cape Horn, a mystical place where the oceans meet. In Antarctica penguins, seals, whales, and large flocks of sea birds give life to this surrealistic and beautiful landscape. You might also get a chance to kayak in the icy waters of Antarctica. And while on board your comfortable ship you can hear presentations by experts in Antarctica's rich history, so that you can get even more out of what you will experience along the way. Then you will cross the Drake Passage again, before this expedition ends in Ushuaia.
Activities : Birding, Camping, Child-Friendly, Culture, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography
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This expedition starts in the wonderful, colorful and poetic city of Valparaiso. One of the best ways of seeing this scenic town is through its funiculars. These constructions, which are scattered around the entire natural amphitheater surrounding the city, allow sweeping views of the bay, and highlight the multi-hued houses, creating a rainbow of color and light. Stroll Valparaiso's narrow streets, climb its endless staircases, and discover something new at every turn: a beautiful building, a remarkable art gallery or some little gastronomic ‘find’. Don’t forget to explore the port and fishing piers, where you’ll get a real feel for Chile’s quirky seafaring side. Buy or sample freshly caught seafood at the market and enjoy the fishermen's banter. Visit the UNESCO-listed Historic Quarter before embarking on your ship.
As you make your way along the Pacific coast of Chile the expedition team will start the lecture program to prepare you for the experiences ahead. Enjoy priming your knowledge about the history and wildlife of the area. There will also be various workshops and presentations. Make sure to spend some time on deck to enjoy the fresh sea air and look out for wildlife. Familiarize yourself with your expedition vessel and take advantage of all the facilities on board.
Located on Isla Grande de Chiloé, Castro is set among windswept hills and green vegetation. The city is known for its colorful “palafitos”, wooden houses mounted on stilts along the water's edge. Come ashore and enjoy the local Chilote character and curious energy, mixed with a dash of modern development. The Iglesia San Francisco is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The church is a visual delight: bright yellow and orange with a lavender trim. The varnished-wood interior is stunning. On a sunny day it is illuminated by the rows of stained-glass windows. Other sights include Plazuela del Tren a small plaza right by the waterfront with an odd collection of old trains. A stroll in the Cementerio Parroquial is actually pleasant. Some of the tombs here are quite grand and ornately decorated. Feria Campesina Yumbel is a bustling fruits and vegetables market. There are also household goods and fish stalls here. In the shop Feria Artesanal Lillo, located just south of the port, you can buy excellent hand-knitted woolen goods and handicrafts. Most of the restaurants and cafes in Castro are concentrated along the Calle Blanco, running from the southern end of the plaza down to the waterfront, this is where you can get a taste of the renowned meat, potato and seafood stew. Join the excursion to the Chiloé National Park and go trekking in this evergreen forest. The area is largely unexplored by man and harboring flora and fauna unique to the archipelago, as well as wide deserted beaches and long stretches of rugged coastline, home to dozens of seabird species, penguins and sea lions.
The expedition continues south through the fabled waters of Patagonia and onward to one of the world’s most remote, undisturbed, and beautiful places: the southern province of Ultima Esperanza, meaning Last Hope. You are sailing through iconic Andean seascapes and you have plenty of time to gaze out on the glassy expanse of nature uninterrupted. There might also be trivia contests covering questions about explorer history and Antarctic wildlife.
After an unforgettable cruise through the Patagonian waters, the unique village of Puerto Edén will enchant you. It is a tiny village in Bernardo O’Higgins National Park. Puerto Edén is known for its geographical isolation, situated at the end of a deep fjord and surrounded by mountains. Its population of 250 people includes the 15 remaining members of the Kawéskar people. Puerto Edén is a great place to experience the traditional indigenous culture of Patagonian tribes. The villagers sell fish, mussels and shellfish products, which are taken to markets by a weekly transport boat. For souvenirs, buy traditional Kawéskar crafts such as wicker baskets and boats made from sea lion skins and tree bark. Enjoy a stroll among the laneways, and maybe you will spot one of the many Magellan hummingbirds that you find here when you join the expedition team for hiking or kayaking.
Puerto Natales is the gateway to the world-renowned Torres del Paine National Park, one of the most attractive national parks in the world. Its main attraction, the “towers” themselves, is the impressive rock formation, both colossal and unique, called “Torres del Paine” (Towers of Paine). The towers are made up of the Torre Central (9,186 feet high), Torre Sur (9,350 feet) and Torre Norte (7,375 feet). The park encompasses azure lakes, trails that meander through emerald forests, roaring rivers you'll cross on rickety bridges and one big, radiant blue glacier. Variety spans from the vast openness of the steppe to rugged mountain terrain topped by looming peaks. This diversity of environments here has led to a very rich fauna and flora. While you are here you might see llamas, pumas, chilla foxes, and skunks in addition to more than 100 species of birds like the Andean condor and black-chested buzzard eagle. Enjoy hiking in these amazing surroundings.
The Chilean fjords will excite nature enthusiasts with its channels, fjords and mountains plunging into the icy water. This wild and remote area seems almost untouched by humans. The ice has scoured its way between the mountains, creating the isolated islands and hidden bays that form the unique fjord landscape of Chile. The snow-capped mountains and steep valleys make a striking contrast to an otherwise very green area that is rich in wildlife.
In the morning you will be sailing through the Beagle Channel, named after the ship that carried Charles Darwin on his voyage of discovery – HMS Beagle. You will continue onward into open waters, and if conditions allow you will make an attempt to land on Cape Horn – the southernmost tip of South America. Going ashore can be very difficult because of the sometimes-extreme weather in this area. This is the southernmost point of Chile and South America and lies almost 56 degrees south, marking the boundary between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and the northern end of the Drake Passage. The region is of great significance on account of its location, history, discoveries and trade routes. If you anchor off Cape Horn, you will be able to go ashore to explore this deserted and yet romantic piece of land at the end of the world. Then you will continue over the Drake Passage, where two oceans meet, on your way to Antarctica. On the way through the straits you can learn a great deal about Antarctica’s fantastic animals and history. This sea passage was notorious among the early polar explorers and is a unique voyage which only a few have the chance to experience. The Drake Passage connects the southern Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Here the warm water from the north meets the cold, less salty water from the south. This makes the ocean particularly rich in nutrients and is the basis of the unique marine life here.
This unending, white wilderness of a continent is full of overwhelming impressions on an impressive scale. Weather, wind, and ice conditions will of course have a great influence on your program and schedule and your experienced expedition team will select possible landing sites that will provide you with the best experiences available. With long hours of daylight that you have in Antarctica this time of the year it is easy to make the most of your days. While in Antarctica, you will attempt to land on sites both on the South Shetland Islands and on the Antarctic Peninsula. Flexibility allows you to take advantage of the unexpected and wildlife will be at the forefront of your mind. You will have the opportunity to go ashore for close-up wildlife observation. You might call at the Gentoo penguin rookeries on Cuverville Island and Neko Harbor. You will hopefully get to sail through the incomparable Lemaire Channel and take on the challenging hike on Petermann Island to get rewarded with panoramic views. Another fun destination if weather permits is Port Lockroy, an old British base with a museum. Sailing through the Antarctic Sound offers spectacular views of tabular icebergs and glacial landscapes, and Brown Bluff has a distinct rock formation. Your sturdy PolarCirkel boats will enable you to go ashore almost anywhere and explore bays and channels. The expedition team will explain what you see and ensure you do as little as possible to disturb the local wildlife. Enjoy experiencing Antarctica with all your senses. Kayaking in untouched waters with icebergs floating by, guided hikes up snowy pathways to spectacular viewing points, listening to the sounds of glaciers calving or penguins squabbling, spending the night on deck or in a tent on this remote and untouched continent, or perhaps for the most daring, taking the polar plunge swim. Every day will be different, carefully crafted by your expedition team to educate you and create lasting memories.
After four unforgettable days in Antarctica, your ship will take you safely back across the famous Drake Passage. The voyage from the Antarctic Peninsula to the southern tip of Argentina is roughly 600 miles or 40 hours sailing time in good weather. During the voyage north, you will continue our lecture series and recap our experiences of Antarctica.
When you reach the southernmost town in the world, Ushuaia, it is time to say goodbye. Your journey home continues with your flight to Buenos Aires, where you have a chance to extend your stay in and enjoy optional post extension programs.
The above itinerary is a guide only, as the exact program depends on weather and ice conditions and the wildlife you encounter. Flexibility is the key to the success of this expedition. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.
Although travel insurance is not mandatory to participate in this voyage, ExpeditionTrips strongly recommends at least $200,000 Emergency Medical/Evacuation coverage for Antarctic trips which includes coverage for cancellation, trip disruption, baggage and personal property. Other conditions may apply based on pre-existing conditions. ExpeditionTrips can assist U.S. residents with travel protection options.
Multilingual Departures: English/Norwegian/German (All Departures)
Depending on weather and land conditions, there may be an opportunity to sign up for camping during the voyage. Gear and all cold-weather needs supplied – except pajamas. Due to popular demand, campers are chosen by lottery as there is a set limit as to the number of guests allowed to sleep onshore. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
Depending on weather conditions, there may be an opportunity to sign up for deck camping during the voyage. Spend the night on deck and enjoy a magnificent view of the landscape and sky. Included: Sleeping bags, a welcome drink, and a fresh pastry and coffee in the morning. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
Depending on weather and land conditions, there may be an opportunity to sign up for hiking during the voyage. Included: Water bottle, snack bar, and lunch pack (if hike is during lunch time). Physical fitness is essential. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
Kayaking: Pre-bookable, please inquire
Embark on a 2-4 hour kayaking excursion accompanied by expert guides in a stable double kayak. Included: head-to-toe kayaking gear, including a dry suit; snack and/or lunchbox as needed. Outings are subject to weather and prevailing ice conditions. Please contact ExpeditionTrips to pre-book kayaking.
Taught by two professional photography instructors, this pre-bookable photography school program covers basic image editing, wildlife and landscape photography, and DSLR video instruction. This program is designed for proficient beginners to experienced photographers. Included: photography booklet, designated work station with software provided, priority access to the Photo Optics test center equipment, and a Zeiss Lens cleaning kit. Min. / Max. Capacity: 2-10 passengers. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
Small Boat Cruising:
Depending on the weather conditions, there may be an opportunity to sign up for small boat ‘Polarcirkel’ cruising excursions during the voyage. The duration of each excursion is 1-2 hours. Included: Survival float suit, and a hot drink upon return. Small boat cruising is not pre-bookable or guaranteed. Max. Capacity: 21 passengers. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
Depending on weather and land conditions, there may be an opportunity to sign up for snowshoeing during the voyage. Due to popular demand, snowshoers are chosen by lottery as there is a set limit to the number of guests allowed to go onshore at one time. Snowshoeing is not pre-bookable or guaranteed. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
Economy flight from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires; transfer from the ship to the airport in Ushuaia; cabin accommodations and meals aboard the ship; landings and activities onboard and ashore; professional English-speaking expedition team that gives lectures and accompanies landings and activities; onboard 'hands-on' science center; complimentary tea and coffee; gear on loan (waterproof rubber boots); and a wind- and water-resistant jacket. Expedition Suites (M + MG) include a cabin kit with a bathrobe, slippers, and other beauty articles. Subject to change without notice.
Airfare not detailed in the inclusions; transfers not detailed in inclusions; passport and visa fees; travel insurance; luggage handling; alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks except as mentioned; mini bar replenishment; optional excursions and gratuities; items of a personal nature such as laundry; walking sticks and binoculars can be rented for an additional charge; fuel surcharge may apply.
PHOTOS: © Andrea Kalvig Anderson