Tourists across the world are reaching an agreement about travel: cruise ship tours are in vogue. With the number of holidaymakers taking cruises having risen to over 20 million annually, would-be passengers are now spoiled for choice when it comes to destinations. For those seeking an active cruise ship holiday with a little less time by the pool and a little more on land excursions, these adventurous Chilean cruises should leave you with plenty of inspiration for your trip in the 2017-2018 cruise season.
Chilean cruises for nature lovers
Luckily for nature lovers, Chilean expedition cruises most often venture through the Strait of Magellan, an expanse of water close to the colorful port city of Punta Arenas in the far south of Chile. Home to a rich variety of marine wildlife, including breeding colonies of thousands of Magellanic penguins, cruises invariably allow for excursions to visit these rookeries.
The colonies at Tuckers Islets and Magdalena Island are two of the most important breeding colonies in Chile. Best visited between November and March when the islands are populated by the birds and their chicks, visits are only possible with a Zodiac boat excursion.
However, depending on which island you travel to will affect whether you can walk amongst them, as boats can only land on Magdalena Island – weather permitting. However, visits to both allow for excellent photography and observation opportunities.
Another key feature of some Chilean cruises is a visit to the king penguin rookery at Bahía Inútil – the only place in all of continental America where you can encounter a 100-strong colony. Watch the birds in their natural habitat and learn about what led to them colonizing this spot less than a decade ago.
Chilean cruises to visit wildlife:
- Gauchos, Glaciers and Penguins (visits the king penguin colony and the Magdalena Island colony)
- Darwin’s Route from Ushuaia (visits both Magellanic penguin colonies)
- Discover Patagonia (visits Magdalena Island penguin colony)
- Fjords of Tierra del Fuego (visits Tuckers Islets)
- Patagonian Explorer Route (will visit Magdalena Island penguin colony)
Chilean cruises for dramatic landscape enthusiasts
For those hoping to be captivated by the majestic and dramatic landscapes of Patagonia, several Chilean cruises stop at the deep fjords and broad bays of Alberto de Agostini National Park. A land excursion at Ainsworth Bay to explore trails around breath-taking Marinelli Glacier or a visit to the Agostini Fjord and Águila (“Eagle”) Glacier are the first introduction to a wilderness so remote and difficult to reach that it receives fewer than 1,000 visitors annually.
Chilean cruises also pass through the fabled Beagle Channel and into Glacier Alley. This narrow channel of water is lined by an impressive number of tidewater glaciers that seem to plunge into the water. Ships can get close to the glaciers to appreciate the deep blue of their compressed ice and to watch enormous bergs breaking off and crashing into the freezing waters of the channel.
From 2018, a new cruise itinerary will also visit Condor Glacier in Agostini Fjord and Garibaldi Glacier in the Beagle Channel.
Chilean cruises to experience dramatic landscapes:
- Gauchos, Glaciers and Penguins (visits Cape Horn and Águila Glacier)
- Darwin’s Route from Ushuaia (visits all of the featured landmarks)
- Discover Patagonia (visits Cape Horn and Águila Glacier)
- Fjords of Tierra del Fuego (visits Pia Glacier, Glacier Alley and Cape Horn)
- Patagonian Explorer Route (will visit Condor and Garibaldi Glaciers)
Chilean cruises for aspiring historians
The highlight for many taking Chilean cruises through Patagonia is landing upon the legendary stretch of rock at the very south of the continent: Cape Horn. The waters around this basalt lump of rock are historic because of the thousands of sailors who lost their lives attempting to navigate these treacherous seas.
Although a chapel and a lighthouse are the only buildings upon the headland, landing here allows passengers to visit the Cape Horn monument. Erected in December 1992, it aims to honor the lives of the sailors who perished.
Chilean cruises also include a day in Punta Arenas. This unassuming capital of the Magallanes Region has a wealth of information about local history and the multitude of famous visitors it has received over the last few centuries.
The Nao Victoria Maritime Museum has a full-sized reproduction of the HMS Beagle – the ship that brought Charles Darwin to South America, while the Shackleton Bar in Hotel Jose Nogueira displays photos of the Antarctic exploration voyage.
Chilean cruises to experience Patagonian history:
- Gauchos, Glaciers and Penguins (embarks and disembarks at Punta Arenas and visits Cape Horn)
- Darwin’s Route from Ushuaia (visits Cape Horn and has a brief stop in Punta Arenas)
- Discover Patagonia (visits Cape Horn and disembarks at Punta Arenas)
- Fjords of Tierra del Fuego (embarks from Punta Arenas and visits Cape Horn)
- Patagonian Explorer Route (will visit Cape Horn and disembark from Punta Arenas)
Australis’ cruises for the 2017-2018 season
In 2018, Australis will be unveiling their new cruise ship, the Ventus Australis and another route through Patagonia and the Chilean fjords. With a capacity of over 210 people, this tailor-made ship has been designed by an acclaimed Chilean shipyard and is able to venture into the narrow channels and isolated fjords of Patagonia where no other cruise ships can go.
For more information about the Ventus Australis and the new itinerary for 2017-2018, visit our website.