Experience the natural splendors of southern Patagonia on this 15-day Chilean Fjords and Torres del Paine expedition aboard Ultramarine. Retrace Charles Darwin’s epic voyage to the ‘edge of the world’ on a comprehensive journey into Chile’s spectacular network of fjords and channels. Helicopter flightseeing and Zodiac cruises along this enchanting stretch of coastline provide awe-inspiring perspectives of some of the most remote and picturesque landscapes on Earth. From Magellanic penguin colonies and other seabirds to South American sea lions and southern elephant seals, the fascinating array of wildlife is as abundant as the majestic blue-toned tidewater glaciers of Pia, Garibaldi and Dainelli. Enjoy a full day of hiking tailored to your preferred activity level and stopping at lookouts in the Torres del Paine National Park.
Cruise to the Diego Ramírez Islands, the southern most point of South America
Watch for Andean condors while you navigate the fjords of Patagonia
See impressive glaciers that tumble from the towering mountains into the icy waters below
Visit a working Patagonian estancia and learn about traditional sheep farming
Explore Torres del Paine National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve
Arrive in Buenos Aires at any time today. Upon arriving in this splendid city, known for its architecture and rich European heritage, transfer independently to your group hotel (pre-expedition hotel night included in mandatory transfer package).
After an early breakfast at the hotel, transfer to the airport and board a private charter flight to Ushuaia, Argentina. Upon arrival, transfer from the airport to a central downtown location to have some time on your own to explore this quaint port town before making your way to the pier. After a late afternoon embarkation, sail along the historic Beagle Channel, which transects the Tierra del Fuego archipelago in the extreme south of South America.
As you begin your exploration of Chile’s southern extent, expect a new adventure every day. Though each expedition is different, depending on the weather, aim to start the journey to the “edge of the earth” with a visit to historic Cape Horn (Cabo de Hornos). At the southernmost point of the Tierra del Fuego (“Land of Fire”) archipelago, the most isolated place in the Americas, this steep, rocky headland on Hornos Island marks the northern boundary of the famous Drake Passage, where the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans meet. From the 1700s to the early 1900s, prior to the opening of the Panama Canal, this cape was part of a major global trade route.
If sea and weather conditions allow, you may go ashore for a hike out to the lighthouse, the tiny Stella Maris (“Star of the Sea”) Chapel, and the albatross-shaped monument honoring the many mariners who lost their lives attempting to “round the Horn.” Atop the windswept promontory, pause for a moment to take in the panoramic view and to enjoy the peaceful solitude that can only be found at one of the most southern stretches of land in the world. You can even have your passport stamped by the family operating the lighthouse!
Your ship then continues cruising farther south, to the Diego Ramírez Islands, the most southern point of South America and one of the least-explored places on the planet. This small archipelago was actually thought to be the southernmost landmass in the world when it was discovered in 1619 by the Spanish Garcia de Nodal expedition. Named after the expedition’s cosmographer, the archipelago held this distinction for 156 years, until Capt. James Cook’s discovery of the South Sandwich Islands in 1775. Weather permitting, Zodiac cruise around these tussock-grass-covered islands to admire the abundant birdlife. A designated Important Bird Area, and part of the recently-designated Diego Ramirez Islands and Drake Passage Marine Park, the archipelago is home to millions of breeding seabirds, and an exceptional place for birdwatching. Binoculars in hand, birders marvel at the sight of multiple species of albatross (these islands are the southernmost albatross breeding ground in the world), including black-browed albatross, shy albatross and grey-headed albatross. Sightings of dolphins, South American fur seals, and rockhopper, macaroni and Magellanic penguins are also possible here.
As the ship sails back north toward the southern edge of Tierra del Fuego, stimulating presentations by your Expedition Team enriches your knowledge of the glacial systems, geology, environment, wildlife and storied history of the region as you retrace Charles Darwin’s historic journey through the Beagle Channel, a 150-mile (240 km) strait separating Tierra del Fuego’s main island from several smaller islands. Named after Captain Robert FitzRoy’s famous ship on which Charles Darwin was a passenger, the channel presents plenty of photo ops to capture seabirds hovering overhead and dramatic vistas of jagged-peaked mountains and massive tidewater glaciers. Rugged and untouched, this magnificent landscape is as starkly beautiful as it was when Darwin first laid eyes on it in 1833.
Glacier Alley (as it’s nicknamed) is one of the most spectacular ship passages in Tierra del Fuego. To honor the European countries that first explored the region, the glaciers have taken their names—España (Oblicuo), Romanche, Alemania (Roncagli), Francia, Italia, and Holland Glaciers. Situated within the protected boundary of Alberto de Agostini National Park, both Pia and Garibaldi Glaciers sit at the head of picturesque ice-choked fjords that offer jaw-dropping views. Located within the Cordillera Darwin (Darwin Mountain Range), the impressive Pia Glacier extends from the soaring mountaintops down into the sea. A short hike to a lookout point provides superb vistas of the glacier and mountains.
Surrounded by pristine sub-Antarctic forests, Garibaldi Glacier flows from a separate mountain, providing equally exceptional views, with the Darwin Mountains rising dramatically out of the fjord. Explore this area by Zodiac, including a beautiful glacial waterfall nearby. As the ship navigates the fjords, your Expedition Team keeps watch for Andean condors, massive birds rivaled in wingspan by only the wandering albatross.
Located at the end of a tranquil lagoon surrounded by lush sub-Antarctic forests in Agostini Sound, Dainelli Glacier (sometimes called Aguila—Spanish for “Eagle” Glacier) is a unique sight, as it appears to flow over rolling hills rather than mountains. Cruising aboard a Zodiac toward the blue-tinged wall of ice, conditions permitting, be humbled by the wonder of nature’s power. You can hope to venture ashore for an easy hike along the beach to get a more intensive look at the glacier and surrounding mountains.
Continuing north, navigate through a remote network of coastal fjords and channels, including time spent venturing out into the Pacific Ocean. Your Expedition Team prepares for the adventures that await, helping you further understand the glacial systems, as well as the flora and fauna that can be found in this part of Chile. Take a moment, as you glide past soaring snow-capped peaks, to contemplate the mariners of long ago who traveled these same sheltered passageways, and were rewarded with the same wondrous sights.
Day 8-9: Puerto Natales & Torres Del Paine National Park
Sailing the turquoise waters of the extraordinary stretch of coastline leading to the small port of Puerto Natales, meander through a mesmerizing maze of deep, windswept fjords, narrow channels and isolated bays, with an eye toward the rugged landscape, unique wildlife and impressive glaciers that tumble from the towering mountains into the icy waters below, along with the imperial and king cormorants, South American terns, black-necked swans and southern wigeons (Chiloé wigeons) that frequent the fjord.
Torres del Paine National Park is one of the most stunning wilderness areas in South America, and Puerto Natales is the gateway. This enormous park is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, so designated for both its natural wonders and ancient human history, and named for the three granite peaks that tower above the glacier-fed lakes. Enjoy a full day of hiking tailored to your preferred activity level and stopping at lookouts in the park, followed by a traditional Patagonian barbecue in the afternoon.
Taking the expedition onto dry land for another full day, visit a working Patagonian estancia (“ranch”), founded in 1891 by Scottish immigrants. Learn about Patagonian sheep farming in a historic pastoral setting. Inhabiting the surrounding grasslands are the ostrich-like rhea, and guanacos, a wild relative of the domestic llama. Complete your cultural experience with a lunch of barbecued lamb al palo (“on a stick”), and return to the ship in the early evening.
Cruising the calm, crystal-clear waters of the Canal de las Montañas (“Channel” or “Fjord of the Mountains”) will leave you breathless. Be awed by the amazing series of waterfalls cascading down between the jagged peaks that rise up sharply on either side of the narrow, 41-mile (66 km) long channel dotted with glaciers, five of which spill dramatically into the water. Here, impressive ice fields glisten, and steeply sloped glaciers exceed elevations over 8,235 feet (2,510 meters). The channel also provides an ideal place to put our Zodiacs in the water for more detailed exploring or going ashore for a hike to scenic viewpoints. If you’re feeling more adventurous, perhaps treat yourself to an optional kayaking excursion (extra cost), an exceptional opportunity to experience the channel from a special perspective.
A series of small islands and rocky outcrops in Almirantazgo Sound (“Admiralty Sound”), a small fjord off the Strait of Magellan, Tuckers Islets is a superb location for viewing penguins. Though landing here is prohibited, a Zodiac excursion will take you very near a pebble beach to view a colony of 4,000-plus breeding Magellanic penguins, conditions permitting. Named for Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, whose crew sighted the charming creatures in 1520 during the first circumnavigation of the globe, the species is native to the region, and the sight of them in their burrows, lounging on the beach or waddling in and out of the water, is one you won’t forget. If you’re fortunate, you may also see Chilean skuas, Magellanic cormorants (rock shags), imperial cormorants (king shags), oystercatchers, kelp geese, or even dolphins.
Continuing your exploration of Almirantazgo Sound, plan to explore ashore at Ainsworth Bay, one of the most picturesque and pristine places in Patagonia. Surrounded by untouched sub-Antarctic forest, this isolated bay is a protected area within the border of Alberto de Agostini National Park. It hosts abundant birdlife, so keep your eyes peeled as you cruise in the Zodiacs. Hiking options will be available for all fitness levels, affording panoramic views of Marinelli Glacier, Marinelli Fjord and the surrounding Darwin mountain range.
In 2003, a small breeding colony of black-browed albatross was documented on Islote Albatros (“Albatross Islet”), located in Admiralty Sound. Normally albatross are seabirds, nesting and feeding in coastal waters and open ocean; this the first record of a colony of this species in inland waters, feeding mainly in fjords and channels.
Another excellent spot for glacier exploring in Almirantazgo Sound is Bahia Brookes (Brookes Bay), where, conditions permitting, we’ll go ashore by Zodiac. The bay offers ample chances for closer views of a number of waterfalls and glaciers, including the calving North Brookes Glacier, set against the breathtaking backdrop of the towering Darwin mountain range. Amid the serene silence of this icy wonderland, the only sound you may hear is the powerful roar of ice breaking off and crashing into the frigid waters below. This is also a great location for viewing ice fall deposits, which form reconstituted glaciers, and kame (silt and sediment deposits).
In the middle of the Strait of Magellan, Marta Island (Isla Marta) is home to abundant birdlife and more than one thousand Patagonian (South American) sea lions. To protect the wildlife, shore landings are not possible here but plan to circumnavigate the island, providing numerous opportunities to observe and photograph the colony from a short distance, in the comfort of a Zodiac. Called lobos marinos (“sea wolves”) by local Chileans, these giant pinnipeds—males can weigh over 700 pounds/320 kg—form quite a noisy group as each sea lion vies for a choice spot of coastline. As you cruise by, sightings of imperial cormorants, skuas, southern gulls, Antarctic pigeons—and if we’re lucky, dolphins—are also possible.
Day 15: Disembark in Punta Arenas & Fly to Santiago, Chile
After an adventurous two weeks of exploration, you’ll say goodbye to your Expedition Team and disembark in Punta Arenas, to be transferred to the airport for your charter flight to Santiago, where you can continue on your own travels or connect to your homeward flights.
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Located on Deck 6, approximately 132 sq. ft. Features a single bed, floor-to-ceiling window, desk, refrigerator, TV, a private bathroom with shower and heated floors.
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Located on Deck 3, approximately 285 sq. ft. Features three single beds (two of which can be combined into a double bed), sitting area, picture window, desk, refrigerator, TV, private bathroom with shower and heated floors.
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Located on Deck 3, approximately 285 sq. ft. Features one double or two single beds, sitting area with sofa bed, picture window, desk, refrigerator, TV, private bathroom with shower and heated floors.
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Located on Decks 4 and 6, with approximately 226 sq. ft. Features one double or two single beds, sitting area with sofa bed, private balcony, desk, refrigerator, TV, private bathroom with shower and heated floors.
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Located on Decks 4 and 6, with approximately 299 sq. ft. Features one double or two single beds, sitting area with sofa bed, private balcony, desk, refrigerator, TV, private bathroom with shower, bathtub and heated floors.
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Located on Deck 6, with approximately 350 sq. ft. Features one double or two single beds, sitting area with sofa bed, private extra-wide balcony, desk, refrigerator, TV, private bathroom with shower, bathtub and heated floors.
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Located on Deck 7, with approximately 369 sq. ft. Features one double or two single beds, sitting area with sofa bed, private balcony, desk, refrigerator, TV, private bathroom with shower, bathtub and heated floors.
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Located on Deck 6, with approximately 446 sq. ft. Features one double or two single beds in a private bedroom with walk-in closet, sitting area with sofa bed and additional closet, private balcony, desk, refrigerator, TV, private bathroom with shower, bathtub and heated floors and separate powder room.
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Located on Deck 6, with approximately 563 sq. ft. Features one double or two single beds in a private bedroom with walk-in closet, sitting area with sofa bed and additional walk-in hallway closet, private balcony, refrigerator, TV, private bathroom.
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The trip was terrific with great planning on your part. Most of the adventures were not mainstream and somewhat off the beaten path which made it especially enjoyable!! We felt taken care of and you all were readily available to respond to questions and issues. I would highly recommend your company and friends have already expressed interest based on our pictures and excitement.
TrustScore 4.6 | 105 reviews
TrustScore 4.6 of 5
Based on 105 reviews on
4 hours ago
The ability (of Kassandra) to tailor a guided trip to my exact preferences is very valuable to me, as well as the ability (of Kassandra) to provide expert guidance on destinations and travel dates. I also appreciate the ability of the backup staff (Maria Ignacio, Exito Travel) to coordinate all the details to make the travel logistics easy for the customer.
7 hours ago
Our Costa Rica trip was amazing! Kassandra planned everything and the excursions, hotels, overall organization were outstanding. Everything worked out smoothly, the excursions guides were knowledgeable allowing us to see so much of the fauna and flora of the country. The hotels were great as well, all in fantastic locations and with beautiful views.
22 hours ago
This is our 7th trip Kassandra has planned and she is wonderful to work with. She is responsive, helpful, patient and knowledgeable. We are so grateful to have the opportunity to work together with her. We love Adventure Life!
1 day ago
Love Adventure Life, Mary is very experienced in the cruise department. Their post follow up after booking is great too.
1 day ago
Responsiveness and follow through along with staff being very personable.