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Antarctica: Journey to the Antarctic Circle

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By flying from Chile to the Falkland Islands and returning to Chile by air from Antarctica, this efficiently-planned expedition aims to give you eight days of off-ship exploration on MV Vavilov along the Antarctic Peninsula, visiting a large number of landing sites and cruising among the ice floes in Zodiac boats. The holiday begins with a visit to Patagonia's finest National Park, Torres del Paine. Stay at a lodge within easy reach of the park's walking trails and lakes.

The ship travels south from Port Stanley in her attempt ultimately to arrive at the Antarctic Circle. Returning north, visit several classic locations with staggering ice formations; some with hiking opportunities. Each day when a landing is possible you explore on shore by foot, observing wildlife colonies, visiting historically significant buildings and science bases. Complete the voyage at the South Shetland Islands, including Deception Island. Disembark at King George Island and fly back to South America in just two hours – avoiding sailing the frequently stormy waters of the Drake Passage.

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Santiago. Transfer to your hotel close to the centre of the capital.

Day 2

Fly to Punta Arenas in Patagonia; continue by road to Torres del Paine National Park.

Days 3-4

Expeditions in Torres del Paine National Park.

Day 5

By road to Punta Arenas, overnight.

Day 6

Transfer to airport to fly to Stanley, capital of the Falkland Islands, 2hrs.

Days 7-8

At sea sailing towards Antarctica

Days 9-10

King George Island and Antarctic Peninsula

Days 11-13

Towards the Antarctic Circle and Gerlache coastline.

Days 14-15

Antarctic Peninsula and South Shetland Islands.

Day 16

King George Island – return to Punta Arenas, Chile.

Day 17

Transfer to airport and fly to Santiago, overnight.

Day 18

Transfer to airport for international flight.

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Places visited on this holiday

Antarctica: Journey to the Antarctic Circle

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Santiago and the vineyards
Santiago and the vineyards
With a backdrop of snow-draped Andean peaks in a sunny fertile valley, Chile’s huge capital lies at the heart of the country. A multi-layered place of contrasting neighbourhoods it is worth getting to know.

There’s a tiny colonial heart which displays an often poignant history, offset by the glittering malls, skyscrapers and shady boulevards of a modern economy. Interspersed are European-style centres for shopping and eating out such as Italianate Bellavista and newly vibrant, villagey localities among which is trendy Lastarría. The surrounding Mediterranean landscape is the perfect setting for vineyards and wineries producing Chile’s well respected wines.
When's the best time to visit Santiago and the vineyards?
Santiago has a hot dry summer and cool winters with some rain and even snow. Spring and autumn (Sep-Oct and Apr-May) are pleasant times for a city visit. The vineyards are at their prettiest in spring (Sep-Oct) but a visit may be most interesting at harvest time (Mar-Apr).
What is the official language in Santiago and the vineyards?

Spanish.

How can I get local currency in Santiago and the vineyards?
Chilean Peso. Notes can be withdrawn from the many ATMs using a UK credit or debit card. Limits may be lower than your UK bank allows. There are also many banks and money exchanges (casas de cambio) where you can exchange US dollars cash; rates for euros and sterling are harder to find and frequently poor.
What's the time difference between Santiago and the vineyards and UK?

GMT -4 hours. Sometimes daylight saving is observed in the summer, from Sep/Oct to early Mar. 

What places combine with Santiago and the vineyards?

Valparaiso, colourful Pacific port growing in popularity among visitors, 106km (2hours by road); a beach wind-down in Chile’s principal resort, Viña del Mar (100km, 2 hours); a few days on Polynesian Easter island (5 hours direct by air); winter skiing in the family resort of Valle Nevado (65km, 1 hour 40mins by road).

How do I get to Santiago and the vineyards?

There are no direct flights from the UK, average flight time is 16 hours; a change of plane is required in Europe, Brazil or the USA.

What are the festivals and cultural events in Santiago and the vineyards?

Feria Internacional de Artesania: Nov; Parque General Bustamente, Centro, Santiago, the city’s best craft festival.

Feria Internacional del Libro: Nov, Machopo station, Santiago. A Hay Festival is imminent for Santiago – watch this space!

Fiesta de la Vendimia: Santa Cruz, Colchagua Valley, An annual grape harvest festival in early Mar. 

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Torres del Paine National Park
Torres del Paine

 

Torres del Paine National Park in southern Patagonia is the pinnacle of Chile’s natural landscapes, fast becoming one of the world’s most popular places for walking holidays. Cuernos del Paine is a granite massif which has been sliced apart into needle-sharp spires by glaciers. Beyond are the vertical triple towers of the Torres del Paine. Wind-battered grasslands lead up to sheltered glacial valleys with flowery meadows; torrential rivers surging with ice are interlaced with glassy lagoons. Wildlife abounds everywhere, from geese to guanaco; condors and puma may be spotted, especially in the low winter season from April to October.

When's the best time to visit Torres del Paine NP?
The best months for hiking are Mar-Apr. Many hikers also visit in summer (Dec - Jan) along with non-trekkers so it can be very busy at that time. Days are long and mild then but it can be windy, as in spring (Sep - Oct). For non-hikers, a visit at any time is recommended outside the winter months Jun - Aug when it can be very cold and access routes can be blocked by snow. On the other hand, it is frequently less windy in winter and you have a better chance of spotting wildlife as there are few tourists around. Many facilities are closed then; however, each year, a few more stay open to cater for this off-season traffic.
What's the official language in Torres del Paine NP?

Spanish.

How canI get local currency in Torres del Paine NP?

Chilean Peso. Bring sufficient pesos for your needs from a previous larger destination.

What's the time difference between Torres del Paine NP and UK?

GMT -4 hours. Sometimes daylight saving is observed in the summer.
What other places combine with Torres del Paine NP?

Puerto Natales, picturesquely located town on Last Hope Sound which still has a frontier feel, famous for its black-necked swans, 3 hours by roadEl Calafate in the Parque Nacional de los Glaciares, Argentina (to visit the Perito Moreno glacier), 425km (7 hours scenic drive); the Aisén Region, a wilderness of little-visited forests and rivers north of the park, 4.5 hours drive to Punta Arenas then 1.5 hours by air the Chilean lake district (2 hours away by air from Punta Arenas).

How do I get to Torres del Paine NP?

Daily flights from Santiago take 3 hours 50mins to Punta Arenas, thence it is 3-5 hours by road to Torres del Paine.

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Falkland Islands
Falkland Islands
The Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas) lie 500km east of the coast of Argentina. Many people know a bit about their history, but few are aware of the wilderness beauty of this remote archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean. The islands have an unpolluted hilly environment with sprawling, wind-buffeted, tree-less landscapes and white sand beaches. A huge variety of wildlife inhabits or visits the archipelago and the fauna outnumbers the human population by 10-1. At least five species of penguin crowd the shores of the Falklands - gentoo, macaroni, rockhopper, king and African penguin. Elephant seals, sea-lions and seals, an abundance of birds, minke and killer whales can be spotted here, their mournful cries carried on the incessant winds.

Port Stanley, the capital, resembles a small English town fifty years ago, with squat, white, pitched roofed cottages, an Anglican seafront church and familiar red phone boxes. The hulks of ships abandoned a century ago lie in rocky coves, testament to an era when the islands were a port of call for passing ships before the opening of the Panama Canal. Nowadays, the 3,000 islanders remain British in outlook and descent, adhering to British laws and buying British goods.
When's the best time to visit the Falkland Islands?
The Falkland Islands have a chilly climate characterised by strong winds, particularly in the spring (Sep-Oct). Rain falls on approximately 180 days per year, but totals are small. The islands are at their warmest in Jan, the mid-point of the southern summer, but temperatures (averaging 10°C) don’t vary much throughout the year. A little-known fact is that the islands are bathed in the same number of sunshine hours as southern England. Visitors benefit from long hours of daylight Oct-Mar, when migratory birds and mammals arrive. November is the breeding time for penguins.
What's the official language of the Falkland Islands?

English.

What are the Falkland Islands' official currency?

The Falkland Islands pound. This is equal to one pound sterling, with notes and coins being similar to those in the UK, varying only in their design. There are generally no currency restrictions. British currency is accepted or exchange UK sterling for Falkland Islands currency at the bank in Port Stanley. There is no charge for exchanging sterling for Falkland Islands currency or vice versa. There are no ATMs on the island nor is it possible to exchange South American currencies, but credit cards are widely accepted and you can get a cash advance on cards at the bank. A departure tax of £25 is payable in cash by all passengers on flights departing Port Stanley to South America.

What is the time difference between GMT and the Falkland Islands?

GMT -3 hours; this is actually daylight saving time. The accurate time is GMT -4 hours, observed all year round since 2011.

Which countries combine well with the Falkland Islands?

Chile, accessing the country by air at Punta Arenas, gateway to Patagonia and Torres del Paine National Park; Antarctica - many cruises drop anchor at the Falklands.

What are the festivals, cultural and sporting events in the Falklands?
Bank holidays. UK bank holidays are observed, with the exception of Easter Monday and the bank holidays in May and Aug. 

Liberation Day, 14 Jun. Church services and military parades commemorating the 1982 war.

Falklands Day, 14 Aug. Commemorates the first recorded sighting of the islands by English sea captain John Davis on the ship ‘Desire’.

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South Shetland Islands
South Shetlands
The South Shetlands are a rugged, heavily-glaciated chain of four island groups and dozens of islets hugging the Antarctic Peninsula, providing a sheltered sea passage defined by towers of black rock. Names evoke the experiences and imagination of the early explorers – Deception and Desolation Islands, the Watchtower, and Elephant Island, where Shackleton’s expedition was stranded for 135 days.

Visitors include chinstrap, gentoo, macaroni and Adélie penguins; giant petrels, Wilson’s and black-bellied storm petrels, brown and south polar skuas, Cape pigeons, Antarctic terns, blue-eyed shags, Dominican gulls, elephant, fur, leopard and crab-eater seals; humpback, minke and orca (killer) whales offshore.
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Antarctic Peninsula
Antarctica
The Peninsula is the most accessible area of the continent itself, and hosts some of the most interesting scenery and wildlife, as well as many of the continent’s scientific bases. Ships edge southwards through the slush and abstract patterns formed by the fractured sea ice. A few cruises departing mostly in January and February attempt to reach the Antarctic Circle, at 66°33’S.

The Antarctic Circle is the northernmost latitude in the Southern Hemisphere at which the sun can remain continuously above or below the horizon for 24 hours. Every place south of the Antarctic Circle experiences at least one whole day each year during which the sun does not set, and at least one whole day during which the sun does not rise.

Chinstrap, gentoo and Adélie penguins abound. Breeding birds include skuas, Antarctic terns, giant petrels, snowy sheathbills, Antarctic shags, kelp gulls, Wilson’s storm, Antarctic and snow petrels.
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Islands and fjords of southern Patagonia
Chilean Patagoina

The fjords and islands of the far south of Chile are as about as remote as you can get. Punta Arenas, easily the largest and most important town and focal point of the region, where most visitors arrive to explore the Patagonian wilderness, is only accessible from northern Chile by air. Only one, solitary road leads out of it to Puerto Natales, three hours’ drive away and the jumping off point for visits to Torres del Paine National Park and onward into Argentinian Patagonia.    

With its pre-Panama Canal history of affluence based on shipping and sheep production, English-influenced Punta Arenas is interesting enough, but you’ll be keen to heads off into the surrounding wilderness of savagely sculpted fjords and glaciers, at the point where the ice-spiked Andes finally crumble into the sea. There are forest reserves protecting ancient, wind-tortured trees, rivers alive with salmon, and the vestiges of human struggle including forts and churches. Darwin said of Puerto Hambre, (Fort Famine) “looking due southward –-the distant channels between the mountains appeared from their gloominess to lead beyond the confines of this world” .  

The tip of South America is festooned with islands, small and large and many are virtually uninhabited.  The largest, Tierra del Fuego, is divided politically between Chile and Argentina. On the less-populated Chilean side there are huge sheep farms on the plains but also virtually inaccessible ranges of snow-stifled mountains, shadowy fjords,  hidden lakes plugged by glaciers and fringed by dense evergreen forest. Abundant wildlife, including penguin colonies, sea lions, and even condors live alongside shy guanacos.

South of the Beagle Channel the wild beauty of Navarino island  hosts the continent’s most southerly settlement, Puerto Williams, and hundreds of archaeological sites pertaining to the original Yamaná Indians.  Beyond lies Cape Horn, lashed by storms and savage seas, and the most southerly  landmark before Antarctica.   

For the modern day visitor the dangers and challenges lie in the past and you can enjoy these enchanting landscapes on an expedition cruise.

When's the best time to go to South Patagonia?
This far south, you will benefit from long daylight hours and mild temperatures between Dec (when it is light until 1am) and the end of Feb, though you can have snow flurries at any time of the year. In the winter, snowy landscapes are beautiful here but hiking is not practical.
What's the official language in South Patagonia?

Spanish.

How do I get local currency in South Patagonia?

Notes in local currency can be withdrawn from the ATMs in the centre of Punta Arenas.

What's the time difference between South Patagonia and UK?

GMT -3 hours.

What places combine well with South Patagonia?

Antarctic fly-cruises, the Chilean lake district, Torres del Paine National Park, Santiago. You can cross into Argentina on Tierra del Fuego, visit Ushuaia and fly to El Calafate and the Perito Moreno Glacier. Most Antarctic cruises depart from Ushuaia; Buenos Aires (3.5hrs by air from Ushuaia).

How do I get to South Patagonia?

Direct flights from Santiago to Punta Arenas take about 4 hours.

What are the festivals, cultural and sport events in South Patagonia?

The skiing season is Jun-Sep.

Speak to an expert Travel Consultant or send us your enquiry today.

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