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View the seal and cormorant colonies as you sail across the Beagle Channel

Rounding the Cape: Chilean Patagonia & Argentina's Staten Island

Example 18 Day Cruise aboard National Geographic Explorer
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Patagonia is an awe-inspiring landscape that stretches across the Andes from the Atlantic to the Pacific and down to Cape Horn. Explore it expedition-style aboard the National Geographic Explorer - an authentic expedition ship. On this 18-day voyage, you are sure to enjoy up-close encounters in wild, virtually inaccessible lands. Venture deep into Chile’s glorious fjords past incandescent icebergs and massive glaciers. From the “land of fire,” Tierra del Fuego, to the jagged spires of Torres del Paine National Park, experience Patagonia at close range. Enjoy the privilege of visiting the far-off, stunningly beautiful natural parklands of Karukinka and Yendegaia. Be one of the only expedition ships ever allowed to visit Argentina’s remote, wild Isla de los Estados.

Day-by-Day Summary

Day 1 : Santiago, Chile
Day 2 : Puerto Montt | Embark
Day 3 : Castro (Chiloé Island)
Day 4 : Pumalín National Park
Days 5-9 : The Inland Passage & The Chilean Fjords
Day 10 : Puerto Natales | Torres del Paine National Park
Days 11-12 : Tierra del Fuego, Chile: Karukinka Natural Park
Day 13 : The Chilean Fjords | Beagle Channel | Yendegaia
Day 14 : Cape Horn
Days 15-17 : Isla de Los Estados (Staten Island), Argentina
Day 18 : Ushuaia | Disembark | Buenos Aires

Highlights

  • See Patagonia’s signature Torres del Paine National Park with naturalists
  • Venture through wildlife reserves not easily accessible to the public
  • Be among the few people ever to explore Isla de los Estados (Staten Island)
  • Transit the legendary Beagle Channel and take in the view of Cape Horn

Ship

National Geographic Explorer

Places Visited

Activities

Trip Type

  • Small Ship

Activity Level

Relaxed

Trip Snapshots

Cahuelmo Fjord, Chile Torres del Paine View the seal and cormorant colonies as you sail across the Beagle Channel Wander the peaceful moors of Patagonia Magellanic penguins scuttle along the beach during a Falkland Islands tour

Day 1 Santiago, Chile

  • 1 Lunch
Check in to the Grand Hyatt Hotel, centrally located in Santiago. 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.

Day 2 Puerto Montt | Embark

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Today fly from Santiago to Puerto Montt, Chile’s northern gateway to Patagonia. Time permitting, explore the city and its environs before embarking your ship National Geographic Explorer.

Day 3 Castro (Chiloé Island)

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Spend the day exploring Chiloé’s culture and natural history and seeing its attractive palafitos - colorful fishermen’s houses precariously built on stilts along the water’s edge. The town is full of little shops and a large open-air market where the Chileans show their indigenous wares, such as alpaca sweaters and lapis jewelry. You may choose to visit Chiloé National Park to see its forests, wetlands, and wildlife, with a selection of longer or shorter walks. Alternatively, visit some of the welcoming small communities that dot the countryside and learn about a unique way of life. One of the unique features of the island's history and culture is its wooden churches, collectively designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. The churches and many of the houses are covered in protective shells of wooden shingles in artistic designs.

Day 4 Pumalín National Park

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Pumalín’s 750,000 acres in Chilean Patagonia are protected as one of the last areas where the unusual alerce forest remains. These huge trees are similar in dimension to California redwoods, with some specimens 2,000 years old. The Pumalín Project was established in 1995 by the late American conservationist Doug Tompkins, who wanted to preserve some of the remaining virgin forest in Chile. Have a choice of walks in the park with naturalists in the forest, visit a hidden waterfall, or, for the energetic, climb along a rushing stream and look for forest birds along the trail. In the afternoon, head for the Golfo de Corcovado in search of marine wildlife, looking for Magellanic penguins, sooty shearwaters, dolphins, and with luck, whales. 

Day 5-9 The Inland Passage & The Chilean Fjords

  • Ship
  • 4 Breakfasts, 4 Lunches, 4 Dinners
This large region of incredible scenery provides days of adventure for you. A vast area of snowcapped mountains, gigantic glaciers, thousands of islands covered with vegetation, lakes, soaring granite walls, and waterfalls, the archipelago is untouched by humans, except for a few fishing villages which perch at “the end of the world.” With a National Geographic photographer and a photo instructor by your side, you have boundless photo options. One day explore the town of Tortel and its fjord. Glacier-fed rivers give the fjord a distinctive color. At Tortel, a system of boardwalks connects the houses and public spaces of this charming town of about 500 inhabitants. Meet members of the community, which is fiercely determined to preserve its unique environment.

One of the many highlights is the Pio XI Glacier, the longest glacier in the southern hemisphere outside of Antarctica, running some 60 miles from the Patagonia icefield to the fjord where it noisily calves off gigantic ice masses, at a rate of one every several minutes. It is 2 miles wide and rises nearly 200 feet above sea level. Explore by Zodiac, and perhaps hike on land exposed by the receding glacier. These days offer you multiple opportunities to hike and to use Zodiacs, kayaks, and undersea technology to explore the beautiful protected waters. En route to Puerto Natales, transit the breathtaking 200-foot-wide White Narrows, a dogleg between unforgiving rock bluffs. 

Day 10 Puerto Natales | Torres del Paine National Park

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
From Puerto Natales, drive to monumental Torres del Paine National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere. The landscape is big, wide and sprawling, with razor-backed ridges, Andean condors, flamingos, and rheas. It’s hard to imagine that the park could top the drive, but the Torres del Paine are an amazing sight, jagged granite mountains topped with a thick layer of dark slate. 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 lagoons. Chileans themselves dream of visiting this magnificent park. Choose whether to hike or else to drive to some of the most scenic places in this great setting.

Day 11-12 Tierra del Fuego, Chile: Karukinka Natural Park

  • Ship
  • 2 Breakfasts, 2 Lunches, 2 Dinners
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. Your ship has 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, and many other kinds of wildlife. Perhaps 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. You may 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. Look for the Andean condors, albatrosses, grebes, petrels, fulmars, shearwaters, and many other birds that inhabit this otherworldly realm.

Day 13 The Chilean Fjords | Beagle Channel | Yendegaia

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Sail the Beagle Channel, named after HMS Beagle. The ship, commanded by Captain FitzRoy, surveyed the region between 1826 and 1830 and returned in 1833 with Charles Darwin on board. On seeing the area, Darwin wrote: “It is scarcely possible to imagine anything more beautiful than the beryl-like blue of these glaciers, and especially as contrasted with the dead white of the upper expanse of snow.” Continue to Yendegaia, a stunning wilderness that covers 95,000 acres on Tierra del Fuego. This newly established national park was formerly a private reserve. It has some of the last remaining subantarctic beech forests, along with stunning mountains and wild rivers. There are walking trails for you to explore, amid some of the most sublime landscapes to be found anywhere.

Day 14 Cape Horn

  • Ship
  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch, 1 Dinner
Today visit Cape Horn, the southernmost tip of the continent, named in 1616 for the Dutch town of Hoorn. These waters are famously difficult to navigate, and over the centuries have been the graveyard of many ships, which before the opening of the Panama Canal had to round the cape to sail between the Pacific and Atlantic. Of course, the ship uses its modern equipment and decades of experience 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.

Day 15-17 Isla de Los Estados (Staten Island), Argentina

  • Ship
  • 3 Breakfasts, 3 Lunches, 3 Dinners
With special permission, visit extraordinary Staten Island - National Geographic Explorer is one of the only expedition ships ever allowed 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 can find a great deal of interest here. Your exact schedule remains flexible to take best advantage of conditions. See colonies of southern rockhopper and Magellanic penguins, many other water birds, and large assemblages of fur seals and sea lions. Aso look for otters on landings ashore, and see the 1884 San Juan de Salvamento “lighthouse at the end of the world,” which inspired Jules Verne’s novel by the same name, along with the ruins of a penal colony, and perhaps an archaeological site occupied 1,500 years ago by Native Americans. There are opportunities to walk in the southern beech forests. These days are bound to stand out as a unique chance to explore a very remote place.

Day 18 Ushuaia | Disembark | Buenos Aires

  • 1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch
Disembark in Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. Take a charter flight to Buenos Aires and connect to your flight home.

National Geographic Explorer

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Notes

Travelers under the age of 18 save $500 per person.

Please note: Cabin fare does not include charter flights from Santiago to Puerto Montt or Ushuaia to Buenos Aires. Please contact us for charter flight rates.

Costs Include:
  • Shipboard accommodations
  • Meals indicated
  • Services of Expeditions’ Leader, expedition staff and expert guides 
  • Entrance fees 
  • All port charges and service

Not Included:
  • Air transportation
  • Personal items such as alcoholic beverages, emails, laundry, voyage DVD etc. 
  • Gratuities to ship’s crew at your discretion. 

Included

  • 16 Breakfasts, 17 Lunches, 15 Dinners
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The trip might have been the absolute best of our lifetime (thus far). We particularly want to commend our guide Peter in the Guilin area-he was so incredibly attentive, energetic, enthusiastic-and absolutely dedicated to ensuring that our meals were 100% vegetarian.
Jack Charney

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