Ushuaia – Punta Arenas: Patagonian Explorer (4 nights)
Travel aboard the Stella Australis or the Ventus Australis on a 4 night cruise that offers an expedition into parts of Tierra del Fuego that can only be explored by water. Join an amazing journey to the “uttermost end of the earth”. On the Ushuaia – Punta Arenas route, you will enjoy the splendor and beauty of unique natural scenery and wildlife. You will travel on one of the industry’s most comfortable ships designed to make your trip as pleasant and remarkable as possible through the Strait of Magellan and Beagle Channel.
Itinerary in Brief:
Day 1: Ushuaia
Day 2: Cape Horn & Wulaia Bay
Day 3: Pia Glacier & Garibaldi Glacier
Day 4: Cóndor Glacier & Águila Glacier
Day 5: Magdalena Island* & Punta Arenas
*In April, this excursion is replaced with Marta Island
Day 1: Ushuaia, Argentina
Check in at 409 San Martín Ave. in downtown Ushuaia between 10:00 and 17:00 (10 AM-5 PM) on the day of your cruise departure. Board the cruise at 18:00 (6 PM). 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 we traverse the Beagle Channel and cross from Argentina into Chilean territorial waters. The lights of Ushuaia disappear as we turn into the narrow Murray Channel between Navarino and Hoste islands.
Day 2, Cape Horn & Wulaia Bay
We sail through Murray Channel and Nassau Bay to reach Cape Horn National Park, where we disembark (weather permitting). The mythical Cape Horn was discovered in 1616 and it is a sheer 425-meter (1,394-foot) high rocky promontory. For many years it was an important navigation route for sailboats between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, and it is known as the “End of the Earth”. The park was declared a World Biosphere Reserve in 2005.
In the afternoon, we go ashore at historical Wulaia Bay, originally the site of one of the region’s largest Yamana aboriginal settlements. Charles Darwin landed here in 1833, during his voyage on the HMS Beagle. This area is also renowned for the mesmerizing beauty of its vegetation and geography. We will walk through a Magellan forest of lengas, coigües, canelos, ferns, and other endemic vegetation to reach a panoramic viewpoint.
Day 3: Pia Glacier & Garibaldi Glacier
Overnight we continue our Patagonia glacier tour 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, the Australis cruise tacks eastward and enters the Beagle Channel again. By morning we are entering Pia Fjord and boarding the Zodiacs for a shore excursion to Pia Glacier.After disembarking we 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 feminine moniker, but one theory says it was named for Princess Maria Pia of Savoy (1847-1911), daughter of the Italian king.
Making our way further west along the Beagle Channel, we 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 we hike through virgin 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, our 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 – Cóndor Glacier & Águila Glacier
Early in the morning, we will sail through the Cockburn Channel and enter Agostini Sound. From there it is possible to see the glaciers that descend from the middle of the Darwin Mountain Range — some of them reaching the water. This morning, we will disembark and go for an easy walk around a lagoon, which was formed by the melting of the Águila Glacier. We will reach a spot right in front of that glacier with stunning views. In the afternoon, we will approach the Condor Glacier via Zodiac — and hopefully see some of the abundant Andean Condors in the area.
Day 5 – Magdalena Island & Punta Arenas
After an overnight cruise through Magdalena Channel and back into the Strait of Magellan, we 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, we 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. In September and April — when the penguins dwell elsewhere — this excursion is replaced by a ride aboard Zodiacs to Marta Island to observe South American sea lions. After a short cruise south along the strait, disembarkation at Punta Arenas is scheduled for around 11:30 AM.