Summary : The vast Patagonian ice sheet that straddles the Andes mountains in South America is the third largest ice mass on the planet after Antarctica and the Greenland icecap. It is a remnant of the earth’s most recent ice age and dominates the landscape, ecology, and geology of Patagonia. Immense glacial systems cut through towering mountains as they move inexorably towards the sea. Take a look at any map of the region and this action becomes immediately apparent in the maze of fjords and islands that make up one of the earth’s last great remaining wilderness regions. Ancient boreal forests also tell a story of an evolving planet and the supercontinent of Gondwanaland. They are home to several species of flora only found in South America, New Zealand, and Australia’s most southerly state of Tasmania. Commencing in Ushuaia, make your way north through a vast network of deep fjords and channels, occasionally venturing out to the Pacific Ocean as the ship navigates toward Valparaiso, Chile’s historic deep-sea port. Explore your surroundings by Zodiac boat, approaching huge glaciers and observing resident and migratory wildlife and birdlife. On shore, enjoy hikes of varying durations to outstanding viewpoints in the company of knowledgeable guides. In addition, visits to small coastal communities showcase the unique way of life of local inhabitants, telling a story of both indigenous and European settlement.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Culture, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Triple/Quad Cabins
$6,495 to $11,195
Gather at a central meeting point then transfer to the pier for embarkation. Excitement is in the air as you enjoy a welcome cocktail and dinner before casting off, bound for the stunning landscapes of Patagonia, the rugged Chilean coast, and the historic city of Valparaiso.
Your journey is now well under way. Through the night, the ship sailed south through the Wollaston Islands and down to the notorious Cape Horn headland on Hornos Island, one of the southernmost points of Chile and the northern boundary of the Drake Passage. Prior to the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914, Cape Horn was part of a key world trade route (the Clipper route). Today, rounding Cape Horn is a bucket list item for many recreational sailors. Weather and sea permitting, you’ll go ashore to explore the rugged landscape, lighthouse, and chapel found on Hornos Island.
The ship rounded Cape Horn overnight and sailed in a northwesterly direction back into the Beagle Channel and into Alberto de Agostini National Park, designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve due to its large tracts of ancient sub-Antarctic forest systems. Naturalists believe these forests started growing around 10,000 years ago. At the break of dawn, you'll find yourself at the opening of the Pia and Garabaldi fjords. Plan to head to shore for the first time, with the option of taking a short but steep hike to panoramic views of the glaciers. You may also choose to take a Zodiac ride to see the massive glaciers and nearby waterfalls. Resident wildlife in the Beagle Channel includes the South American sea lion and several species of birds, including Magellanic penguins and albatross.
Sailing through the night, by morning the ship has rounded the western tip of the great isle of Tierra del Fuego. Take in views of the Darwin Range's ice-capped peaks as you enter remote D’Agostini Sound. Here, the Dainelli and Serrano Glaciers, along with several others, cascade into the sea. The captain will assess current ice and weather conditions to determine where to land for shore explorations.
Arrive at Cabo San Isidro, on the north shore of the Magellan Strait, and site of the southernmost lighthouse on the continent. This is your opportunity to enter the normally impenetrable Magellanic southern beech forests. A hiking trail follows the shoreline, passing shell middens left by the indigenous Kawéskar people, leading from Aguila Bay, a site of an important whaling station over a century ago. Wildlife watchers will appreciate the variety of forest birds. From a viewpoint above the bay, dolphins are often observed swimming in the kelp beds below.
Cruise through the maze of channels that form Chile’s Inside Passage, gradually heading north. The ship exits the Strait of Magellan and you soon find yourself in the Smyth Canal along the east coast of Manuel Rodrigues Island. Named after a guerilla leader who is arguably one of the founders of independent Chile, it is home to a large section of the Alacalufes National Reserve. As you explore this rugged area, scout for Chilean dolphins, whales, and sea lions, as well as white-crested elaenias, southern churríns, southern crested caracara, and the Magellanic woodpecker. Conditions permitting, you will land for a shore excursion before returning to the ship for dinner. Over dinner and through the night, the ship will continue to sail through the Smyth Channel towards Peel Fjord.
In a trip full of superlatives and highlights, today might be a highlight. Navigating into Peel Fjord, the ship makes its way towards the impressive glaciers of this region. If you’re on the outer decks for a morning coffee or photography session you may hear what sounds like thunder—a noise stemming from glacier movement and breakage known as calving. After breakfast, make your way onto the water where, from the low vantage point of a Zodiac or kayak, the sheer scale of each glacier face is an experience you won’t forget. Be on the lookout for wildlife such as South American sea lions, rock cormorants, and Andean condors.
Navigating into Eyre fjord, the vast sweep of the Brüggen Glacier comes into view. Often called ‘Pio XI,’ at almost 37 miles in length it is the largest glacier in the southern hemisphere outside of Antarctica. It rises almost 230 feet above the surface of the water and is a staggering 2.4-miles wide. In the afternoon, put on your expedition gear to explore the seldom visited Falcon Fjord.
Awaken off the shores of Wellington Island, outside one of the most remote inhabited places in the world. The tiny indigenous village of Puerto Edén is home to the last remaining Kawéskar people. A visit to shore allows an exploration of the village and potential purchases of local handicrafts, including baskets and models of bark canoes reflecting the Kawéskar’s paddling heritage. In the afternoon, sail north along Messier Channel, leaving the Patagonian fjords to voyage over the open sea, and rounding the Taitao Peninsula by night.
Throughout the day your onboard experts give a series of educational presentations about the environment, wildlife, and history of this stunning region. Take some time to relax in the wellness center, swim in the pool, or stroll around the decks. An open bridge policy means that you can join the ship’s captain and learn about the operations of a modern expedition vessel.
You have sailed to milder climates and are now close to the town of Castro, the provincial capital of the island of Chiloé. The town was founded in 1567 and is the third oldest city in Chile. Today it is known for its elaborate churches, made entirely of wood, which have earned it a designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Make your way ashore to see colorful houses built on stilts around the harbor. Known as ‘palafitos’, they are simple homes built by local fisherman. The local markets are a highlight and showcase some of the most impressive crafts and textiles in the country. Reboard in the afternoon and cruise along the coastline, where you may see the snow-capped summits of the many active volcanoes that characterize this region.
Located at the mouth of the Valdivia River, Niebla is an intriguing coastal town with a rich history, inhabited for centuries by the indigenous Mapuche tribe. Europeans first discovered it in the mid-15th century. Take in the historical remains of Fuerte de Niebla, part of an important fort system established by the conquering Spanish army to protect the estuary of the Valdivia River, and immerse yourself in the exhibitions at the Casa del Castellano Museum. Unwind before the day is done by strolling along one of the outstanding nearby beaches and enjoy the sand, cliffs, and rock formations that scatter the coastline.
As the ship makes its way towards the historic port of Valparaiso, the educational presentations continue, and you can enjoy an entertaining voyage recap by your expedition leader. Join the photography expert in the multimedia room, where you can download and back-up your precious images. Or spend time outside on the observation decks, in the spacious lounges or on the bridge. It’s a fitting time to reflect on a wonderful expedition. This evening, enjoy a special dinner attended by the captain of the ship.
In the morning, arrive at Valparaiso, the principal deep-water port for Santiago, around 62 miles inland from the coast. After breakfast it is time to say farewell to your crew and fellow travelers as you disembark. A transfer to downtown Santiago, via Santiago Airport, is provided for all guests; however, Valparaiso is well worth a day or two of exploration if your schedule allows. Ride the historic funicular railways that still operate around the city and enjoy the bohemian atmosphere. Or spend some time exploring the celebrated Casablanca wine region located nearby.
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.
All guests are required to have comprehensive travel insurance. The travel insurance must cover accidents, injury, illness and death, medical expenses, including any related to pre-existing medical conditions, emergency repatriation (including helicopter), luggage and personal effects, and personal liability. It is strongly recommended that you purchase cancellation and curtailment insurance. You must carry proof of insurance with you and produce it if requested by expedition staff. The expedition team reserves the right to cancel or suspend your participation on a trip or in certain activities that comprise part of a trip, at any time, including after the commencement of your tour, with no right of refund, if you are unable to provide proof of insurance when requested. Other conditions may apply based on pre-existing conditions. ExpeditionTrips can assist U.S. residents with travel protection options.
Once you have booked your voyage to the Polar Regions, you will be required to complete a Medical Information Form. This form must be completed, signed, and returned no later than 90 days prior to departure.
Limited to 30 guests. Pre-booking required. Must have prior sea kayaking experience. All intending kayakers must complete a questionnaire outlining their paddling experience and also attend several compulsory onboard meetings prior to the first kayak excursion. Provided equipment includes full Gore-Tex drysuits, kayak specific PFDs, neoprene booties, a waterproof deck bag, pogies, and a single or double kayak. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
An onboard photographer is available throughout the voyage to help you improve your photography skills. Attend presentations, receive hands-on tips and advice, and use the onboard multimedia studio to edit your images.
Transfer from central meeting point in Ushuaia on Day 1; transfer from Valparaiso to Santiago airport or a downtown location upon conclusion of voyage on Day 14; shipboard accommodations; experienced expedition leader and professional expedition team of marine biologists, naturalists, historians, and adventure guides; adventure concierge staff; assistance of resident photographer; daily off-ship excursions by Zodiac; guided hikes and walks onshore; visits to wildlife colonies, historic sites, places of outstanding natural beauty, and science stations; educational presentations and talks by polar specialists; access to computers in the multimedia lab for image downloads, file back up, and management; emergency-trained physician on every voyage; use of onboard library, Finnish sauna, plunge pool, Jacuzzi, and fitness center; end of voyage video, photos and take-home USB; gear on loan (waterproof/windproof jacket, bib pants, insulated rubber boots, binoculars, and trekking poles); all meals onboard the ship; daily housekeeping; daily afternoon tea; 24-hour tea, coffee, and hot chocolate in the lounge and in all cabins (replenished daily); port fees and permits to access visited areas. Subject to change without notice.
Additional Inclusions for Suites:
Exclusive check-in service on day of embarkation; deluxe welcome package (wine, fruit basket, natural snacks); single brew coffee machine; mini-stereo; private in-room One Ocean Adventure Concierge service; in-room dining menu; early morning in-room café service; evening après dinner drink service; premium in-room mini bar replenished daily (including spirits); complimentary 1-hour massage/spa experience. Inclusions subject to change without notice.
Any international or local airfare, pre- or post-hotel accommodation, or pre- or post-cruise transfers unless otherwise specified in the voyage itinerary (or pre-arranged); visa and passport expenses; personal expenses onboard such as alcoholic beverages, bar charges, laundry expenses or spa services such as massage; telecommunication charges (i.e. email, satellite phone); baggage, cancellation, or medical travel insurance-related expenses (travel insurance is mandatory on all voyages); a voluntary gratuity at the end of the voyage for expedition staff and ship crew. Subject to change without notice.
© Daisy Gilardini, © Jeff Topham, © One Ocean Expeditions