Long before humans arrived on the continent, glaciers carved the landscapes of Southern Patagonia and the Chilean fjords. Now it's a place for the grandest nature adventures: marveling at calving glaciers, whale and dolphin watching, hiking through rugged landscapes, Zodiac cruising among icebergs, and observing penguins by the thousands. Explore iconic Torres del Paine, where guanacos roam the vast steppe. Discover private reserves such as Karukinka; visit the newest marine reserve on the Chilean coast; take in the view of Cape Horn, and enjoy special access to Argentina’s extraordinary Isla de Los Estados (Staten Island). On hiking, kayaking, and Zodiac excursions, take in the natural treasures of wilderness at the edge of the world.
Glide into Patagonia’s “Glacier Alley” to explore three stunning glaciers
Explore the iconic Torres del Paine National Park
Look out for humpback whales and dolphins at Francisco Coloane Marine Park
Hike in search of the Andean fox and the Chilean flamingo.
Arrive in cosmopolitan Buenos Aires and check into the Alvear Icon Hotel (or similar). In the afternoon, begin your guided afternoon explorations of this vibrant city, seeing the city’s Beaux-Arts palaces, the brightly painted bohemian community of La Boca, known for its street art and galleries, the Plaza de Mayo, and the famous presidential palace (called the rose palace) with its legendary balcony forever associated with Eva Perón.
Sail into a vast wilderness of snow-capped peaks and mirror-like lakes, thick glaciers and islets blanketed with vegetation. In this pristine landscape, myriad fjords or senos cut between soaring granite walls and waterfalls splash down from high above. The region we explore for the next two days is known as Glacier Alley. This entire region is part of a greater UNESCO Biosphere Reserve focusing on the Magallanes Sub-Antarctic Evergreen Rainforest. This incredibly biodiverse region arose with the retreat of the glaciers which formed these fjords. We begin at Seno Pia, a secluded fjord in the northwestern arm of the Beagle Channel with an impressively large glacier at its terminus. Next is Seno Garibaldi, part of Alberto de Agostini National Park, a dramatic region where the formidable Andes meet the sea. We will visit the Garibaldi Glacier by Zodiac and ship, marveling at this stunning wall of ice. Seno Agostini is the origin of numerous glaciers from the nearby mountains, originating at more than 6,600 feet in elevation. We’ll explore this region from our Zodiacs, getting close to floating brash ice and bergy bits, watching for wildlife, and hoping to witness the thundering process of glacial calving
Located in the Strait of Magellan, Francisco Coloane Marine Park is the largest marine protected area along the Chilean coast, and it was also the first, established in 2003. This productive area supports vast and unique biological diversity, which will be the focus of our visit. A large summer population of humpback whales uses these waters as feeding grounds, as do South American sea lions. Black and white Peale’s dolphins are frequently seen, and we’ll search for the endemic and endangered Chilean dolphin. We’ll explore the marine park by Zodiac, kayak, and on foot. We’ll search for large marine and terrestrial birds including the Andean condor or the giant Antarctic petrel, and on Rupert Islet we’ll visit a large Magellanic penguin colony.
Your next two days will be spent exploring the region around Puerto Natales and Torres del Paine National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. We’ll drive to the park on our first day, and you’ll have the option to trek on foot or explore part of the park by vehicle. The landscape is big, wide, and sprawling, with some of the most dramatic mountain scenery anywhere, and wildlife that includes rheas, foxes, and herds of guanaco. You’ll discover one of the most spectacular and wildlife-rich areas in the Americas, covering 450,000 acres of glaciers, forests and grasslands, rivers and gem-colored lagoons, crowned with the pinnacles of Torres del Paine. Our second day will be spent closer to Puerto Natales itself, to learn more about the burgeoning Chilean gastronomic scene, as well as the culture and history of the indigenous people of the region. Enjoy alternate opportunities for birding for Andean condors or hiking the beautiful terrain of the region.
After the last morning in Torres del Paine, we have two days to continue our exploration of the Chilean fjords. Our Captain and local pilots guide us through Kirke Narrows, accessible only to a small expedition ship such as National Geographic Endurance. While the wildlife of the region will leave you speechless, the combination of unspoiled scenery, national parks and lush Magellanic forests is what makes the fjords of Chile so captivating. We continue to explore the extensive maze of pristine channels and islands, where we may explore by Zodiac and kayak or take a walk in the surrounding forest.
This morning we arrive in Punta Arenas, the largest city in Patagonia. With local guides, we’ll visit the historic center of the city, the Plaza de Armas, and a local handicraft market. Visit the Patagonia Institute and the Salesian Museum, to learn the region’s archaeology and wildlife. Alternatively, go for a hike in the Magallanes National Reserve, which offers outstanding views of the valley below and of Punta Arenas. Later, be on deck as National Geographic Endurance navigates the Strait of Magellan, en route to Isla Magdalena. The island has been designated a national nature reserve because of its importance as a penguin breeding site. Go ashore at the Penguins National Nature Reserve, home to 120,000 nesting Magellanic penguins. Photo opportunities abound here.
Day 11-12: Karukinka Natural Park & Bahia Ainsworth
Continue to the newest and largest protected area on Tierra del Fuego: Karukinka, meaning "our land" in the language of the ancient inhabitants. We have obtained permission to visit this private reserve, which harbors abundant wildlife, including endangered culpeo foxes, guanacos, black-browed albatross, Andean condors, and elephant seals. On our last day in the Chilean fjords we set out to explore in Zodiacs and kayaks and on foot. Visit Bahía Ainsworth, at the base of Marinelli Glacier, to explore the sub-polar Magellan Forest. Keep an eye out for southern elephant seals along the beach.
On the first of these days we visit Cape Horn, the southernmost tip of the South American continent. Conditions permitting, make a landing to look out at the waters of the Drake Passage. We continue to Isla de los Estados, whose wild, untouched landscapes are home to Magellanic penguins, fur seals, otters, sea lions, and countless water birds. We have received special permission to visit here. Our exact schedule will remain flexible to take best advantage of conditions for exploring this natural wonderland. See a reconstruction of the 1884 San Juan de Salvamento “lighthouse at the end of the world,” which inspired Jules Verne’s novel of the same name. The National Geographic Endurance is one of the few expedition ships to be granted access here, and the experience is bound to be unforgettable.
Day 17: Ushuaia | Disembark | Buenos Aires
1 Breakfast, 1 Lunch
Disembark in Ushuaia and take a charter flight to Buenos Aires to connect with your overnight flight home.
This was our first trip to South America and we were a little nervous. But Adventure Life made things so easy! All our questions were answered before we left, and our guide, Vidal, was amazing! He gave us enough space to explore without rushing us along. He also knew where the best picture taking opportunities were, which was great.