A cruise from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas is a unique opportunity to explore an incredible network of forest-lined channels, national parks and historic landmarks. As many of these places are only accessible by exploration cruise ship, this really is the only way to travel in the region.
If you’re thinking about your options for cruises between southern Patagonia’s main cities, Ushuaia and Punta Arenas, here are some of the key highlights you can expect on the journey.
Marine wildlife close up
Many take a cruise from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas in the hope of seeing some of the native wildlife for which the region is famed. Some of the species you will likely encounter include:
Between October and March, over 150,000 Magellanic penguins reside on Tucker Islets and Magdalena Island in the Strait of Magellan. The latter island allows small boats to land and you can hike a short path through the nesting colony.
On some cruise ship tours between Ushuaia and Punta Arenas, it’s possible to encounter the only king penguin colony in the Americas at Useless Bay (Bahía Inútil), located across the Strait of Magellan from Punta Arenas.
Here, around 100 king penguins are now resident and their colony is protected by a small private reserve, King Penguin Park. Visitors can take a small path to a viewing spot a few hundred meters from the birds.
Patagonia has always attracted the intrepid and since the discovery of the Strait of Magellan by Portuguese explorer, Ferdinand Magellan on his voyage around the globe in 1520, the secrets of this fabled part of South America have slowly been unearthed.
Depending upon your cruise ship itinerary, you may visit:
Now referred to as the “Ends of the Earth”, Cape Horn was wrongly believed to be the southernmost part of South America for much of history. Although it may be beaten to this accolade by Águila Islet of the Diego Ramirez Islands, this dramatic rocky outcrop overlooking the Drake Passage remains a thrilling feature of a cruise from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas.
Land on Cape Horn to meet the Chilean naval family that constitute the island’s sole residents and stand at the Cape Horn Monument to stare across the foaming seas.
The Beagle Channel
The Beagle Channel, the stretch of water that separates Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego from the southernmost islands of South America, was only sailed in the late 1820s on the first voyage of the HMS Beagle. Since then, it has been famed for its outstanding natural beauty, which has been protected thanks to a low number of annual visitors to the region.
Cruises that glide through its glassy waters encounter the subAntarctic coastal forests that line its edges and the Darwin Mountain Range beyond. Ships also pause to take in the sight of Glacier Alley, a stretch of powder-blue tidewater glaciers that seem to pour down from the mountains and into the channel below.
Fascinating local history
Alongside the explorers to these waters, this part of Patagonia saw its own native inhabitants who left their distinctive mark on the region.
The Yámana people in Wulaia Bay
South of the Beagle Channel on the Murray Channel sits Wulaia Bay. Once the site of the region’s largest Yámana settlements – the native, nomadic people who lived in Tierra del Fuego and moved between the islands in canoes – it remains a place of mesmerizing beauty.
Set in the dramatic landscape of Isla Navarino and some of the least-accessed parts of all of Tierra del Fuego, cruise ship passengers can visit the old radio station that has been converted into a museum about this group of native people who survived despite Patagonia’s extreme climate.
More recently, Patagonia has become known for its estancias, the large sheep ranches that were built upon the windswept plains of Argentine Patagonia in the 19th-century by the European settlers.
Cruises that include a short land tour allow for a visit to one of these traditional ranches where an asado (bbq) of Patagonian lamb is guaranteed to show a whole new side to the region.
How can you organize a cruise from Ushuaia to Punta Arenas?
Cruises between Ushuaia and Punta Arenas can be organized online or via our partner agencies. Routes of different lengths, including one-way or round trips, allow passengers to adapt their cruise ship tours in Patagonia to their vacation itineraries.