Summary : This all-encompassing journey is an explorer’s dream. Discover the wild tranquillity of snow-capped mountains and peaceful waters on this journey to the gateway to Patagonia. Spend multiple days in the icy beauty of Puerto Natales and marvel at the astonishing landscape of the emblematic Pio XI glacier.
Activities : Birding, Culture, Hiking, Triple/Quad Cabins
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Embark your vessel and meet some of your fellow explorers. During a special sail away party take in the sights of “The Pearl of the Pacific” as the city is known in Chile’s literature and music. Valparaiso’s historic hillside settlements (including the still used funiculars) have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Later you will be introduced to your Expedition Team and this evening you can enjoy the delights of a specially prepared menu in The Restaurant.
Take the first morning to unwind after your travels to join Silver Explorer in Valparaiso. Your experts will present talks in The Theatre to give you an introduction to Chile and the region’s wildlife and nature. Today your lecturers will introduce you to the natural and historical highlights of Valdivia and Chile’s Lake District.
Due to the presence of the very nutrient-rich Humboldt Current, the waters along the Chilean coast are rich in fish life. Today your chefs might introduce you to the world of “ceviche” in its many forms.
During the early morning Silver Explorer will anchor in the Corral Bay halfway between Corral and Niebla. Niebla is a small village on the banks of the Rio Valdivia where Chile’s Corral Bay meets the Pacific Ocean. Today Niebla is a beach resort, but in 1671 it was a defensive fortress built by Spanish conquerors to prevent attacks from pirates and corsairs.
This morning you can either drive to the charming river port city of Valdivia, where you will find an interesting blend of influences from the native Mapuche, Spanish settlers, and German immigrants, or take a catamaran on the river. In both cases you will have time to see the town of Valdivia. The first German colonists arrived here in 1849 and worked hard to develop Valdivia into one of southern Chile’s most productive areas and their influence can be felt in every corner of this city. The town was affected by the 1960 earthquake, but rebuilt with a strong German imprint. On your way to Valdivia see tracts of land that are still under water as a result of the quake. Visit the river market and have a look at downtown Valdivia with its mix of old and modern buildings. You will have to choose whether you would like to visit the Fort at Niebla or enjoy fresh fish and crabs in Valdivia.
In the afternoon Silver Explorer will head south, giving your lecturers time to expand on the natural history of Chile’s Lake Region.
Puerto Montt is the starting point for your excursions to the Lake District and specifically Lago Llanquihue.
Drive along the southern shore of Chile’s second-largest lake and head for the Petrohué waterfalls. These falls ‘connect’ Lago Esmeralda with Lago Llanquihue and you will walk over to the viewing platforms of Chile’s best-known falls. Here you will have an opportunity to see some of the local plants and endemic trees. Later you will have the choice to either visit a typical Chilean farm to learn about the traditions of southern Chile’s food, music, tools and the national sport of rodeo, which is quite different from the North American version, or to have lunch at a local restaurant and to explore the town of Puerto Varas.
If you choose the Fundo Olguita, you will have lunch including empanadas, a tasty barbeque and traditional German desserts. This area was first colonized by Germans in the mid-19th century. You will also have the chance to learn the Chilean national dance, the Cueca.
If you choose Puerto Varas, you will have time to explore the “City of Roses”, as Puerto Varas is known, and to browse the small handicraft village and see some of the wooden buildings for which the town was declared a “Heritage Zone”.
After these excursions take your time to join the bar team for a Pisco Sour evening. Learn more about this iconic drink and why this is both Peru’s and Chile’s national drink.
Chiloé Island is home to an amazing collection of 150 Jesuit-built wooden churches, houses raised up on poles out of the water, and more than 400 native plant varieties.
From Castro, head north to the picturesque village of Dalcahue and a brief ferry ride to the island of Quinchao, passing through Curaco de Velez. This tiny village of approximately 500 inhabitants had its best times around 1850. Today, beautiful houses remain as a testament to those earlier days. Black-necked Swans can sometimes be seen near here. Then head for Achao, which was founded by the Jesuits in 1743. Achao is a lively town with boats arriving every day from all the surrounding islands.
Visit the Jesuit’s Achao Church, the oldest wooden structure in Chiloé and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Constructed in 1730, it contains beautiful baroque imagery. Afterwards, cross Achao’s main square to enjoy a snack and typical local music before returning to Dalcahue. Visit the well-preserved Dalcahue Church with its galvanized iron roof. The details and precision of the imagery carved by Jesuits from locally grown Patagonian cypress, larch and luma trees, are amazing. It was declared a World Heritage site in 2000.
Alternatively, visit three of the 16 UNESCO World Heritage Site churches on the island of Chiloé in Vilupulli, Chonchi and Castro. Apart from the churches, the Museum of Traditions will be visited in Chonchi. This small museum houses artifacts and photos relating to Chiloe and Chonchi and recreates the feeling of Chonchi in the early 20th century. The excursion ends with a visit to Castro’s handicraft market.
In the afternoon Silver Explorer will sail along the eastern shore of Chiloe towards the Guaitecas Archipelago. Spend time on deck looking for Chilean dolphins and Peale’s dolphins –the Guaitecas are considered a hot spot for them.
Today Silver Explorer will venture again into the Pacific and will round the Taitao and Tres Montes Peninsulas before entering the Golfo de Penas known for its whales and dolphins sightings.
Watch for cetaceans or relax in one of the lounges with that book you’ve been meaning to read and meet up with new friends for cocktails. In the evening, Silver Explorer will enter the Messier Channel and will from then continue on to Chile’s Inside Passage.
Very early this morning before sunrise, head towards the English Narrows. The Captain and the local Chilean Pilots expertly maneuver Silver Explorer through the slalom course of islands and channel markers. At the narrowest part, it permits the passage of only one vessel at a time.
Once past the English Narrows, you will have time for a leisurely breakfast and to attend lectures about the Fjords’ natural history or perhaps a seminar. The whole region of the fjords is so inhospitable that only one single settlement exists south of the English Narrows called Puerto Eden.
Birders will want to see what species live in this area. The further south you head the better the chance to see Andean Condors majestically soaring above the hills and mountains.
In the afternoon, visit the Pio XI Glacier. This tidewater glacier is a remarkable shade of brilliant blue. An outlet glacier of the South Patagonian Ice Field, the Pio XI had once extended out into the fjords whose waters you ply today. Conditions permitting, board Zodiacs and dodge brash ice and bergy bits as you approach the glacier. Keep on the lookout for signs of calving, you may see chunks of ice falling from the glacier front.
Today Silver Explorer will reach the White Narrows and another spectacular facet of the vast expenses of the Chilean Fjords. On approach through Chile’s largest national park, Bernardo O’Higgins, the famous White Narrows become evident as mountains loom in on both sides of the fjord with hardy native plants clinging to barren rock. With only approximately 80 meters (260 feet) of clearance from either side of the passage, the sharp turns of the ship, skillfully executed between rocky outcrops, are fascinating to watch from the outer decks. On the transit through the breathtaking White Narrows, it is also possible to see seals and dolphins plying the waters alongside the ship.
Silver Explorer will be in front of Puerto Natales at about dinner time.
From Puerto Natales head out to Torres del Paine National Park by bus. This is considered by many to be the most spectacular worldwide Reserve at the end of the world. Covering an area of 242,000 hectares, the park is a fertile combination of lakes, lagoons, waterfalls, glaciers, hills and spectacular peaks and is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. On the way to Laguna Sarmiento, the entrance to the park, stop for photos of the free roaming guanacos, Andean Condors and other wildlife. There will be opportunities to see the Salto Grande waterfall, the famous Torres del Paine peaks (weather permitting) and Nordenskjold Lake. Lunch will be had at the Serrano River area. Within the park, there will be three different options of walks and hikes.
Leaving Puerto Natales in the morning, Silver Explorer will once again have to pass White Narrows. This will give another chance to spot wildlife and marvel at the amount of work and time that went into charting these waters.
In the afternoon, Silver Explorer will enter the narrow Canal de las Montañas and will sail parallel to the Cordillera de Sarmiento. Several cascades and seven glaciers come down the steep sides of the mountains and conditions permitting you might do a Zodiac cruise or even land for a short hike.
The ship's course will take you through the vast expanse of the Chilean Fjords. Sail through Chile’s largest national park, Bernardo O’Higgins, before heading for another famous narrow channel, the western portion of the Strait of Magellan. Mountains loom on both sides of the ship and Silver Explorer will sail through the Francisco Coloane Marine Park, an area humpback whales are known to frequent.
Today Silver Explorer will navigate past Dawson Island into Almirantazgo Sound to arrive at Ainsworth Bay. The bay is within Alberto De Agostini National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Depending on conditions, you may take a Zodiac cruise to see the Marinelli Glacier descending from Darwin Mountain Range. This area will give a good appreciation of how the land returns to life after glacial retreat. Take a walk in the stunning sub-polar Magellanic forest teeming with evergreens and deciduous trees. The bay promises a good chance of sighting Southern elephant seals, while nearby Tucker Island is known to have Magellanic Penguins.
From the capital of the region, drive to an estancia that was founded by French-Irish immigrants in the early 20th century. Through presentations of sheep herding, sheep shearing and a special demonstration of rodeo techniques (Chilean-style) you will get a glimpse of what life on a Patagonian estancia is like. A Pisco Sour, an empanada and a typical Patagonian BBQ lunch will emphasize and highlight this country life.
On the drive to and from the estancia, many photo opportunities will be had to see guanacos, Andean Condors and other wildlife.
Silver Explorer will again sail out into the Pacific Ocean to reach the Beagle Channel, heading for Garibaldi Fjord. This beautiful corner of the Chilean fjords still lies within the Alberto de Agostini National Park, Chile’s third largest national park. This park includes all Chilean islands south of the Magellan Strait, including a portion of Tierra del Fuego.
The Garibaldi is an impressive glacier on the south face of the Cordillera Darwin. During a Zodiac cruise see the different shades of blue of the ice. Calving events can make for a very impressive sight. Dozens of waterfalls dot the cliffs and in some cases the wind gusts can be so strong that the water gets blown upwards!
In terms of wildlife, expect the majestic Andean Condor, a South American sea lion colony, skuas, kingfishers, Flightless Steamer Ducks, Crested Ducks, Kelp Geese, Ashy-headed Geese, caracaras, vultures, and nesting Imperial Shags among others.
After breakfast disembark Silver Explorer.
This itinerary is subject to change. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.
Onboard accommodation; onboard meals; butler service; complimentary beverages served throughout the ship (an assortment of complimentary wines, champagne and spirits); onboard gratuities (except spa); port charges and handling fees; Silver, Medallion, Grand and Owner's Suite guests receive laundry service and dinner at Officer's table; 1 hour of internet access per guest/per day for passengers booked in Adventurer, Explorer, View, Vista, and Veranda Suites; unlimited internet access for passengers booked in Medallion, Silver, Grand, and Owner’s Suites. Subject to change without notice.
Airfare; transfers and luggage handling; travel insurance; government fees and taxes; visa and passport expenses; gifts and items of a personal nature such as laundry and spa options, fuel surcharge may apply.
Photo Credit: © Creative Services at Silversea Cruises, © Daniela Plaza (glacier), © Michel Verdure (sea lions), © Richard Sidey (bird)