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Patagonia cruise: Tierra del Fuego and Cape Horn

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Many regions of wilderness Patagonia in the south of Chile and Argentina can be visited by land, although this can involve long road journeys.  However there is an alternative, one which will allow you to visit the most remote, most enticing corners, and that is to travel by ship, on an expeditionary cruise.

This holiday includes a five day voyage of discovery on purpose-built ship Australis (there are two sister ships, Stella and Ventus Australis) which, with just 100 cabins, offers you an intimate and friendly experience alongside like-minded travellers.   Travel along historic waterways the Straits of Magellan and the Beagle Channel, viewing glaciers and marine wildlife from fjords deep cutting into the mountainous coastline, and arrive at tempestuous Cape Horn – all places resonating with the history of navigation and the brave exploration of uncharted waters by naval and scientific officers including Charles Darwin.

Afterwards head to northern Patagonia and spend a few days on arid, treeless plains where, in spite of the inhospitable environment, you’ll be amazed by the abundance of marine wildlife, including whales and penguins, all discoverable from your base at a cosy lodge.

For a complete contrast, the holiday is bookended by days spent in the cosmopolitan capitals of Chile and Argentina, Santiago and Buenos Aires respectively. 

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Santiago; guided city tour.

Day 2

Guided excursion into the Maipo valley with wine-tasting.

Day 3

Fly south to Punta Arenas in Patagonia and board expedition vessel Australis.

Day 4

Set sail through the Straits of Magellan.

Day 5

Sail along the Beagle Channel to Pia Fjord, disembark near Pia Glacier.

Day 6

Visit Wulaia Bay and Cape Horn.

Day 7

Disembark in Ushuaia, Argentina. Fly to Trelew in northern Patagonia.

Days 8,9

At leisure to seek out Patagonian wildlife.

Day 10

Fly to Buenos Aires, transfer to hotel between the historic centre and Recoleta.

Day 11

Guided city tour of Buenos Aires.

Day 12

Day at Leisure in Buenos Aires.

Day 13

Transfer to the airport for your international flight.

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Places visited on this holiday

Patagonia cruise: Tierra del Fuego and Cape Horn

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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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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.

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Santa Cruz Island (Indefatigable)

The most highly populated island now has over 12,000 residents in the cattle farming communities of the forested highlands and the port Puerto Ayora, which is full of shops, bars and restaurants catering for visitors who board cruise vessels or stay in hotels here. The Charles Darwin Research Station and Galapágos National Park Information Centre are here and the main airport just a short boat ride away on Baltra Island. There are lava tunnels to explore and giant tortoises to spot roaming wild in the mountains.

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Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires
Along with Rio, this is a city worth crossing the Atlantic for in its own right. Dynamic, stylish and nostalgic, it’s the continent’s most European city, but does not lack South American verve. Its contrasting neighbourhoods reveal colonial plazas, shady avenues, quirky antique fairs, street art, world famous theatres and football stadiums and spruced-up metropolitan port districts. Studded with extensive parks, cutting-edge boutique hotels, designer boutiques and a myriad of restaurants, bars and nightclubs, it’s a restless place, challenging to find your way around but well worth the effort. It’s the beating heart of Argentina, the hub for visits throughout the country.
When's the best time to visit Buenos Aires?

Buenos Aires is at its hottest Jan-Mar (very humid with tropical showers, occasionally over 40C during the day). It can be cold and cloudy Jul-Aug, so weather conditions are best for a visit in spring and autumn. Dec-Feb and Jul are local holiday times: Porteños head for the beach.

What's the official language in Buenos Aires?

Spanish.

How do I get local currency in Buenos Aires?

Argentine 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. Please note that in 2016 many of the ATMs were not functioning properly; we are recommending that for the moment you take a good supply of US dollars cash. There are many banks and money exchanges (casas de cambio) where you can exchange US dollars cash; rates for euros and sterling frequently poor. 

What's the time difference between Buenos Aires and the UK?

GMT -3 hours. Sometimes daylight saving is observed in the summer, but this is announced ad hoc on a year-on-year basis.

What places combine well with Buenos Aires?

Beach time in Mar del Plata (392 km by road, 5hrs); Colonia or Montevideo in Uruguay across the River Plate: travel by ferry, bus or plane; a stay on a working estancia in the pampa south and west of the city; Iguazú Falls (2hrs approx by air).

How long is the flight to Buenos Aires from the UK?

Average flight time is 14hrs 20mins on a direct flight from London. There are also flights requiring a change of plane in Europe or the USA.

What are the festivals and cultural and sports events in Buenos Aires?

Tango Festival: Aug. The world's – top tango festival, nine days  of concerts, shows, free classes, exhibitions, open-air milongas (Avenida Corrientes is closed for a massive display) and other tango-related festivities.

Opera season: Mar-Dec. Take in a concert or opera at the refurbished Teatro Colón which attracts internationally esteemed artists. 

Argentine Polo Open: Mid Nov-mid Dec. Polo is a passion for many Argentines. This is the year’s main attraction, taking place in Palermo’s 16,000 seater stadium.

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

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