The stretch of land at the far south of Argentina and Chile has always inspired adventure. Home to some of the most pristine and undisturbed environments on earth, vast segments are practically impossible to visit by land and so expedition cruise ships have grown in popularity as a way of navigating this awe-inspiring and secretive region.
Although the Strait of Magellan, the Beagle Channel and the waters around Cape Horn once played an important role in international shipping, nowadays they are mainly plied by cruise ships. As a result, some of the stop-offs on your tour receive fewer than 1,000 visitors per year and cruise ships rarely contain more than a couple of hundred passengers.
As a result, you get incredible access to a part of the world that has barely been touched by civilization. From the decks of your ship, watch as the landscape transitions from evergreen forests of sub-Antarctic lenga, coihue and ñirre to millennia-old glaciers pouring into a complex network of fjords and channels. You’ll likely spy a range of endemic wildlife,
including the wild camelid, the guanaco and South American grey foxes along the shores, as well as humpback whales, dolphins and huge colonies of Magellanic penguins. Birdlife is also impressive; everything from Andean condors to kelp geese, torrent ducks and black-browed albatross are known to inhabit this area.
Expedition cruise ship itineraries into the southern Patagonian waters focus on a number of key sights and the length of your trip will be the main deciding factor for how many destinations you get to see.
- Sail to the largest colony of Magellanic penguins in Chile to wander between their burrows and observe other wild fauna, including sea lions and whales as you cruise through the Strait of Magellan.
- Learn about the history of the indigenous people, the Yaghán, who once inhabited the area south of the Beagle Channel by visiting Wulaia Bay, an abandoned settlement and now the location of a small museum.
- Land on Cape Horn, a remote headland surrounded by the swarming currents of the Atlantic, Pacific and Southern Oceans and only inhabited by one member of the Chilean navy and his family.
- Cruise through Glacier Alley along the Beagle Channel, a string of tidewater glaciers named after European countries that are fed by the Darwin Mountains.
- Shorter tours are one-way, while longer itineraries can allow you to return to your point of departure.
- Discuss with your tour operator the types of lectures and additional information you’ll be give onboard. This region is rich in unique flora, fauna and history and tour agencies vary in the expertise and local knowledge of their staff.
- The type of cabin and cruise length can significantly alter the price of your trip, so consider changing these variables to find an adventure to suit your budget.