Summary : Remote and largely inaccessible, Patagonia is the essence of wildness—a maze of channels and islands. Venture deep into Chile’s glorious fjords past incandescent icebergs and massive glaciers. Known as the “land of fire,” Tierra del Fuego, to the jagged spires of Torres del Paine National Park, experience Patagonia at close range. And, thanks to special access, you’ll enjoy the privilege of visiting the far-off, stunningly beautiful natural parklands of Karukinka.
Activities : Birding, Child-Friendly, Hiking, Kayaking, Photography, Dedicated Solo Cabins
Bar tab aboard ship and crew tips now included. Subject to change.
Receive a FREE DVD chronicle of your trip, compliments of ExpeditionTrips!
$13,940 to $22,620
Depart on an overnight flight to Santiago, Chile.
Check in your hotel, centrally located in Santiago, and have the morning to relax. Santiago is nearly surrounded by the Andes, which form an inspiring backdrop to your afternoon guided overview of this vibrant city. Explore the Plaza de Armas, the main square, and nearby Presidential Palace, enjoying wonderful views from the many hills that dot the city. In the early evening, gather for an informal reception and a drink at the hotel.
Today fly from Santiago to Punta Arenas, Chile’s southern gateway to Patagonia, drive to the outpost of Puerto Natales and check in to your fine hotel, the Singular located on Última Esperanza (Last Hope) Sound. The sound got its name when 16th-century explorers tried and failed to find a route to the Pacific here. This afternoon, enjoy a short exploration of the town, including a visit to the small and excellent Municipal Historical Museum with exhibits on the region’s Native Americans and early settlers. Have dinner at your hotel.
Drive to Torres del Paine National Park, stopping at Milodón Cave, where the remains of an extinct giant sloth were discovered. Illuminating displays show the history of human habitation and wildlife of the region. Continue to monumental Torres del Paine, a UNESCO Biosphere reserve and a place of superlatives. The landscape is big, wide and sprawling, with razor-backed ridges, Andean condors, guanacos, foxes, and rheas. Regardless of where you are, the Paine massif draws your eye with its jagged peaks, including the famous “Horns” and the three towers for which the park is named. These granite mountains are topped with a thick layer of dark slate. Chileans themselves dream of visiting this magnificent park, and it holds a special place in their hearts as a symbol of wildness.
Spend three nights at the Tierra Patagonia Hotel & Spa, a member of the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World collection. During your days here, discover one of the most spectacular and wildlife-rich areas in the Americas, covering 450,000 acres of glaciers, forests and grasslands, rivers and colorful lakes and lagoons. You’ll be able to choose among a variety of excursions each day, ranging from a challenging hike to the base of the towers, to a shorter walk among guanaco herds to the edge of a lake, to a scenic drive to a waterfall and the “Blue Lagoon”, with views of the towers. Or ride horseback if you wish, in this most inspiring of landscapes. You’ll leave here with the feeling you’ve really experienced an adventure.
Enjoy a final morning to explore Torres del Paine. Then drive to Puerto Natales, to embark the ship.
NOTE: You will be joined by other passengers who are on the voyage-only portion of the trip.
Be on deck to look for condors and other wildlife on your way out of Puerto Natales as the ship transits the narrow sliver of water known as the Kirke Narrows—always a challenge to navigate because of the powerful currents that flow through its pinch point. Today and during the following days you’ll be treated to the spectacular features of an active glaciated landscape with hanging valleys and tributary glaciers. This region was navigated by Ferdinand Magellan’s expedition and it took most of November 1520 for his ships to find a way through the maze of channels that lie between the continental mainland and Tierra del Fuego to the south. After the ship makes its way through Kirke Narrows, make your first stop in the extensive maze of channels and islands of the Chilean fjords where you may get the chance to explore out by Zodiac or kayak.
Tierra del Fuego is one of Patagonia’s crown jewels. Visit its newest and largest protected area—Karukinka Natural Park. Established in 2004 through a gift from Goldman Sachs, Karukinka is one of the largest donations ever made for conservation. Enjoy special permission from the Wildlife Conservation Society to visit this private reserve, which spans 1,160 square miles and harbors endangered culpeo fox, Andean condors, albatross, grebes, petrels, fulmars, shearwaters, and many other kinds of wildlife. Explore Jackson Bay, backed by a skyline of rugged mountains and look for wildlife including black-browed albatross that nest on one of the nearby small islands. Walk a trail to a lovely waterfall and look for elephant seals resting on not only the beach but also high in the grass meadows and even in the small river draining the valley inland.
Explore more stunning wilderness as you see the fjords and glaciers of the region by Zodiac, kayak and on foot. Take Zodiacs out to explore these protected waters and rugged shores, the blue and white of ice contrasting with greens of the forest highlighted by splashes of late-season flowering plants. Look for the Andean condors, albatrosses, grebes, petrels, fulmars, shearwaters, and many other birds that inhabit this otherworldly realm. Then sail the Beagle Channel where you may hike and kayak one of the wild areas in this region of beech forests, mountains, and rivers.
Visit Cape Horn, near the southernmost tip of the South American continent, named in 1616 for the Dutch town of Hoorn. These waters are famously difficult to navigate—before the opening of the Panama Canal, ships had to round the cape to sail between the Pacific and Atlantic. Of course, now modern equipment and decades of experience help to explore safely. Weather permitting, take Zodiacs ashore and walk to the top of a hill for panoramic views and to see the memorial placed there in 1992, showing an albatross in silhouette. There’s also a lighthouse and small museum, and moving plaques commemorate those who explored Cape Horn and those sailors who lost their lives in these waters.
With special permission to visit extraordinary Staten Island, this is one of the only expedition ships ever allowed here, and you will be among the few people ever to set foot here. It’s a place of superlatives, barely touched in recent decades and visited primarily by a few scientists and those who man the tiny naval observatory. The island was named by Dutch explorers in 1615. Its mountainous, forested landscapes and rugged fjords are beautiful, and you’ll find a great deal of interest here. The exact schedule will remain flexible to take best advantage of conditions. See colonies of southern rockhopper and Magellanic penguins, many other water birds, fur seals and sea lions. Look for otters on landings ashore; and see the replica of the 1884 San Juan de Salvamento “lighthouse at the end of the world,” which inspired Jules Verne’s novel by the same name. There will be chances to walk in the southern beech forests and through tussock grasslands. And weather permitting, take a Zodiac cruise at remarkable Observatory Island, one of the largest and most diverse bird nesting areas in the entire region, with large numbers of southern sea lions and South American fur seals. These days are bound to stand out as a unique chance to explore a very remote place.
Disembark in Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world and take a charter flight to Santiago.
Arrive in the U.S. after an overnight flight from Santiago.
This itinerary is subject to change. ExpeditionTrips is not responsible for itinerary changes.
Lindblad-National Geographic Certified Photo Instructor:
On all departures, a certified photo instructor will be at your side and at your service to inspire and assist you. Take advantage of talks, presentations, slideshows and “laptop gallery” sharing events. All skill and interest levels are welcome; the instructors can meet you wherever you are on your journey. All you need to participate is a camera— point-and-shoot, smartphone, DSLR, whatever—and a sense of adventure. And you’re sure to return home with amazing photos.
Optional Trip Extensions:
Easter Island: Follow your expedition with a visit to one of the most mysterious places on earth—Easter Island. Home to the silent sentinels of a long lost culture, this tiny island is located 2,300 miles west of Chiles in the Pacific Ocean and almost 1,200 miles from its nearest island neighbor. Learn about the ancient Rapa Nui culture that grew up in isolation. Where did these people come from and why did they carve more than 500 giant moai? Learn from key archaeologists. 4-5 Days From $4,390 per person. Please contact ExpeditionTrips for details.
Cabin accommodations aboard ship; one night hotel in Santiago, one night hotel in Puerto Natales, and three nights hotel in Torres del Paine as per the itinerary; meals as per the itinerary; shore excursions per the itinerary; bar tab aboard ship (some premium beverages excluded); crew gratuities; port charges; use of kayaks. Subject to change without notice.
Airfare; extensions; passport and visa expenses; baggage/accident/cancellation insurance; passport and visa fees; items of a personal nature such as premium alcoholic beverages, email and laundry; optional extensions; fuel surcharge may apply.
Photos: © Ralph Lee Hopkins - Fjords, Guanacos, Flowers, Torre Del Paine; © Michael S Nolan - Red Fox