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Darwin's Route from Ushuaia – Patagonia & Cape Horn

Patagonia Cruise Information

  • Stella Australis
  • Expedition Ship
  • 210 Capacity
  • 9 Days
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Summary : Retrace the route of Charles Darwin aboard HMS Beagle on this expedition cruise through the Fuegian Archipelago. Your adventurous itinerary includes legendary Cape Horn and historic Wulaia Bay, as well as Glacier Alley, and the spectacular fjords where Pia Glacier and Águila Glaciers await. You may also go see the penguins of Tucker Islets and Magdalena Island, or the glaciers of Brookes Bay and a stunning Zodiac ride to Marta Island depending upon the time of year. Along the way you'll also encounter Patagonia's massive ice fields, lush sub-polar forests and secluded beaches. Midway through the journey, a half-day port call in Punta Arenas leaves plenty of time to explore a city rich in history, architecture and Patagonian culture before resuming the journey back to Ushuaia.

PLEASE NOTE: In April and September when the penguins live elsewhere, other excursions will be substituted in as per the itinerary.

Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Culture, Hiking, Triple/Quad Cabins

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Itinerary
Day 1
Ushuaia, Argentina

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 the ship turns into the narrow Murray Channel between Navarino Island and Hoste Island.

Day 2
Cape Horn / Wulaia Bay

In the early morning, cross Nassau Bay and enter 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 1,394 feet tall with a sheer 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.

Wulaia Bay is 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, which is especially strong on the Yámana people and European missionaries in the area, 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.

Day 3
Pia Glacier / Garibaldi Glacier

Overnight, sail 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, Australis tacks eastward and enters the Beagle Channel again. By morning you are 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.

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. This time hike through pristine 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, the captain will point the bow towards the beautiful sky blue Garibaldi Glacier so everyone can enjoy the panoramic view from the upper decks.

Day 4
Agostini Sound / Águila Glacier / Cóndor Glacier

Early in the morning sail through Cockburn Channel and enter Agostini Sound, where it's possible to see glaciers that descend from the middle of the Darwin Mountain Range with some of them reaching the water. Disembark and go for an easy walk around a lagoon 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.

Day 5
Magdalena Island or Marta Island / Punta Arenas, Chile

After an overnight cruise 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 dwell elsewhere, the Magdalena Island excursion is replaced by a Zodiac ride to Marta Island to observe the South American sea lions.

After a short cruise south along the strait, disembark at Punta Arenas around noon. You are free to explore Punta Arenas, there's plenty to keep you busy in the city.

Board the ship around 6 p.m., and welcome aboard the new passengers with a toast and introduction of captain and crew for the second half of the journey. During the night, the lights of Punta Arenas fade into the distance as you cross the Strait of Magellan and enter the Whiteside Canal between Darwin Island and Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego.

PLEASE NOTE: This is a longer trip composed of two shorter trips so you may have some passengers leaving and new ones boarding on this day.

Day 6
Ainsworth Bay / Tuckers Islets or Brookes Bay

By dawn the ship is sailing up Admiralty Sound (Seno Almirantazgo), a spectacular offshoot of the Strait of Magellan that stretches nearly halfway across Tierra del Fuego. The snow-capped peaks of Karukinka Natural Park stretch along the north side of the sound, while the south shore is defined by the deep fjords and broad bays of Alberto de Agostini National Park. Go ashore at Ainsworth Bay, which harbors copious bird life and a colony of southern elephant seals which can sometimes be spotted from the Zodiacs. Two guided excursions are available: one is along the edge of a stream, peat bog and beaver habitat to a waterfall-and-moss-covered rock face tucked deep inside a pristine sub-polar forest; the other is a more strenuous hike along the crest of a glacial moraine. Both afford views of Marinelli Glacier and the Darwin Mountains.

Leaving Ainsworth Bay, sail west along the sound to the Tucker Islets. After lunch, board the Zodiacs again for a close-up view of the Magellan penguins that inhabit the tiny islands. More than 4,000 penguins use Tucker as a place to nest, give birth and nurture their chicks. Many other bird species also frequent the area including king cormorants, oystercatchers, Chilean skuas, kelp geese, dolphin gulls, eagles and even the occasional Andean condor.

PLEASE NOTE: In September and April when the penguins live elsewhere, the Tucker Islets excursion is replaced by a short walk to the glacier of stunning Brookes Bay.

Day 7
Pia Glacier / Glacier Alley

Overnight sail 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, Australis tacks eastward and enters the Beagle Channel again. By morning you are 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.

Back on board the ship, continue east along the Beagle Channel through an area called Glacier Alley. Living up to its name, the passage features a number of impressive tidewater glaciers flowing down from the Darwin Mountains and Darwin Ice Sheet on the north shore. Most of them named after European countries: Holland, Italy, Germany, Spain, and France.

Day 8
Wulaia Bay / Cape Horn

During the morning sail through Murray Channel, and go ashore at historical Wulaia Bay, originally the site of one of the region’s largest Yamana aboriginal settlements. Charles Darwin landed there in 1833 during his voyage on the HMS Beagle. This area is also renowned for the mesmerizing beauty of its vegetation and geography. Take an enchanted walk through the Magellan Forest of lengas, coigües, canelos, ferns, and other endemic vegetation, to reach a panoramic viewpoint.

In the afternoon go South through Nassau Bay to reach Cape Horn National Park, where, weather permitting, you shall go ashore. The legendary Cape Horn was discovered in 1616 and is a sheer 425-meter (1,394-foot) high rocky promontory. For many years it was an important navigation route between the Pacific and the Atlantic, and is referred to as the "End of the Earth". The park was declared a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2005.

Day 9
Ushuaia, Argentina

Disembark the ship after breakfast.

Notes

This itinerary is subject to change. ExpeditionTrips.com is not responsible for itinerary changes.

This trip is a combination of two shorter trips. Therefore you may have passengers who will embark/disembark part-way through the trip.

In April and September when the penguins live elsewhere, other excursions will be substituted in as per the itinerary.

Included:
Shipboard accommodation; all meals onboard the ship; most wine, beverages, and liquors onboard the ship. Subject to change without notice.

Not Included:
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.

Photos: © Australis

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