Summary : This expedition takes you to the most intriguing spots along the South American coast to Antarctica. Starting in the colorful city of Valparaiso, sail along the Chilean coastline filled with snow-tipped volcanoes – the vastness and untouched beauty of the rugged and mountainous landscape will make a lasting impression. Continuing onward, discover one of the most scenic national parks in the world, Torres del Paine, and the wild fjords of Chile. Then witness Cape Horn, a mystical place where the Atlantic Ocean and Pacific Ocean meet. In Antarctica, penguins, seals, whales, and large flocks of sea birds give life to a surrealistic and beautiful landscape. You might opt to kayak in icy waters or camp ashore. Onboard your comfortable ship, attend presentations on Antarctica's rich history and wildlife or spend time in the glass-enclosed observation lounge.
Activities : Birding, Camping, Child-Friendly, Culture, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography
$11,200 to $18,109
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 city's multi-hued houses. 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 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. Go ashore and enjoy the local 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 illuminated by rows of stained-glass windows.
Other sights include Plazuela del Tren, a small plaza by the waterfront with an odd collection of old trains. A stroll in the Cementerio Parroquial is fascinating; some of the tombs are quite grand and ornately decorated. Feria Campesina Yumbel is a bustling fruits and vegetables market. There are also household goods and fish stalls there. At the Feria Artesanal Lillo, an open-air market 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 locally renowned meat, potato, and seafood stew known as curanto.
Close to town is Chiloé National Park, a largely unexplored wilderness hosting rare flora and fauna. The park features wide deserted beaches and long stretches of rugged coastline, and is 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'll 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 Patagonian waters, the unique village of Puerto Edén will enchant you. A tiny settlement 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.
There are no roads, only wooden walkways, and electricity is only available for a few hours each day. Puerto Edén is a great place to experience the traditional indigenous culture of the Patagonian tribes. The villagers sell fish, mussels, and shellfish, which are taken weekly to markets by boat.
Enjoy a stroll among the pathways, and maybe you will spot one of the many Magellan hummingbirds found here when you opt to hike or kayak.
Puerto Natales is the gateway to the world-renowned Torres del Paine National Park, one of the most attractive nature sanctuaries in the world. Its main feature is the 'towers' themselves, impressive rock formations called 'Torres del Paine' (Towers of Paine). The formations are made up of the Torre Central (at 9,186 feet high), Torre Sur (at 9,350 feet high), and Torre Norte (at 7,375 feet high).
The park features azure lakes, trails that meander through emerald forests, roaring rivers, and one big, radiant blue glacier. Torres del Paine hosts stunning variety, from the vast open steppe to rugged mountain terrain topped by looming peaks. The diversity of environments here has led a wide variety of a fauna and flora to flourish. While here, you might see llamas, pumas, chilla foxes, and skunks, in addition to more than 100 species of birds such as the Andean condor and black-chested buzzard eagle.
The Chilean fjords will excite nature enthusiasts with 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. Snow-capped mountains and steep valleys make a striking contrast to an otherwise green area that is rich in wildlife.
In the morning you will sail 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 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. Experience optional 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 your unforgettable days in Antarctica, the ship will take you safely back across the famous Drake Passage. During the voyage north, continue the lecture series and recap your 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 and enjoy optional post-cruise extension programs.
Read this itinerary as a guide only; the exact route and program varies according to ice and weather 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.
Medical Declaration Form:
All travelers must complete a confidential medical declaration form, signed by a doctor, stating that they are fit to travel. This form will be available in advance of travel, and must be filled out, brought on board, and personally delivered to the doctor upon embarkation. Boarding may be denied if this form is not presented at the time of embarkation.
Multilingual Departures: English/German (All Departures)
Photography Program: Included
Join onboard lectures about still photography, video photography, and wildlife photography. Those interested in a more in-depth photography expedition are encouraged to consider the optional, pre-bookable Explorer Photography School program. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
Explorer Science Program: Included
Participate in lectures and activities to cultivate greater knowledge about the regions explored; conduct experiments or examine specimens in the Science Center with the assistance of professional biologists and geologists; or choose to assist with current research.
From Explorer Photography School to Basic Kayaking Certification, there are several supplemented activities to choose from. Some are pre-bookable. Most are booked once on board. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details and rates.
Economy flight from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires; transfer from the ship to the airport in Ushuaia; shipboard accommodations; 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 wind- and water-resistant jacket; gear on loan (waterproof rubber boots); all meals aboard the ship; complimentary tea, coffee, and water. Inclusions subject to change without notice.
Expedition Suites include a separate check-in; welcome package on embarkation day; suite breakfast; soft drink and wine packages; fleece blanket/throw; cabin kit with a bathrobe, slippers, and other beauty articles; espresso maker; Wi-Fi; turn-down service; and laundry service. 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 except where mentioned; fuel surcharge may apply.
PHOTOS: © Andrea Kalvig Anderson, © Dominic Barrington, © Stefan Dall, © Karsten Bidstrup, © Hurtigruten