Private Journeys

Patagonia cruise: Tierra del Fuego and Cape Horn

13 days from £3,950pp

Chile / Argentina

Itinerary

map marker Map

Day 1

Arrive in Santiago; guided city tour.

Transfer from the airport to your hotel in Santiago, a contemporary property overlooking leafy Parque Forestal  just 15 minutes’ walk from the central plaza.

Santiago is set in a broad valley between ranges of the Andes, with lofty snow-capped peaks, and a smaller coastal range with a Mediterranean feel. Santiago is a huge metropolis, with neighbourhoods of tree-lined avenues and affluent tranquillity and others full of commercial bustle.

Once you have settled in to your hotel, you will have a guided tour of Santiago's bustling historic centre, which in recent years has taken on a new lease of life. The traditional residential neighbourhood Lastarria is now a trendy district with boutiques, galleries and literary cafés.  Barrio Concha y Toro is a tiny pocket of cobbled streets lined with once-elegant mansions a few blocks from the beating heart of old Santiago, the Plaza de Armas, the capital's main square. Grouped around  this are some stately buildings:  Santiago's Cathedral, the National Historic Museum and the Municipalidad de Santiago (city hall).

A refurbished (2017) cable car then takes you to the top of San Cristóbal hill, from where you have views over this complex city, a mixture of chic, residential areas and smart office towers surrounding the compact colonial centre and beyond which sprawl  districts with a crush of more modest homes

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Day 2

Guided excursion into the Maipo valley with wine-tasting.

Mountain air, haciendas and stately manor houses set the scene for a guided tour which takes you into the heartland of Chile's wine growing area. A short distance from the capital, the vineyards here offer an insight into a region blessed with perfect conditions: climate, soil and vine-stock.

It's about an hour's drive to the Perez Cruz winery, a family-run operation producing Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Petit Verdot, Syrah, and Malbec. You will have a tour around the bodega, the mezzanine floor and cellar followed by a wine tasting. Return to Santiago.

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Day 3

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

As you fly south on a clear day you have other-worldly views from the ‘plane of the swirling meringue of the southern icecap, its fjords, volcanoes and glaciers. Approaching Punta Arenas you see the rust-brown stain of the Patagonian steppes, pitted with small lagoons stretching out towards the Straits of Magellan.  The region’s fortunes were only briefly revived during a short-lived gold rush, and to add to its woes, the sheep-rearing business has never really recovered from the collapse of the price of meat and wool; but now tourism has injected a new dynamism in the region.

Punta Arenas is an atmospheric and often blustery Patagonian outpost. Its centre is lined with elegant mansions (built on the wealth of sheep farming and mining during the late 19th century) and buildings with colourful corrugated iron roofs.  Head straight for the port to board the Australis, your vessel for your five day cruise which will enter the Straits of Magellan and end in Ushuaia, on the Argentine side of Tierra del Fuego island - passing en route dense forest clad hills, snow-mantled mountains, stunning bays and remote glaciers and icebergs

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Day 4

Set sail through the Straits of Magellan.

At dawn, sail to Alberto De Agostini National Park, a biosphere reserve which includes the snow-dusted Cordillera Darwin mountain range, the most southerly land-based stretch of the Andes where rocky slopes plunge steeply into the sea.  Here, the ice-scalloped coastline hosts the snout of the Marinelli glacier, which calves into to bird-filled Ainsworth Bay releasing icebergs to drift offshore.

Disembark here with a couple of hiking options: one is to walk to a beaver dam in the emerald green, sub polar Magellanic beech forest. Beavers were introduced from Canada, and their activities have had a huge impact on the natural environment here.

Alternatively take a more strenuous hike along the crest of a glacial moraine – both offer views over wilderness  mountains and fingers of ice which dwarf the ship lying at anchor. With luck you’ll spot the sprawling bulk of massive elephant seals on the pebbly beach, sometimes yawning to expose their bright pink throats, an extraordinary sight.  

Once you are back on board the ship sails to Tuckers Islets, where once again you’ll and embark Zodiac boats to view Magellanic penguins, more than 4,000 of which breed here.  Other birds you may spot include king cormorants, oyster catchers, Chilean skuas, kelp geese, dolphin gulls, eagles and even the Andean condor

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Day 5

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

Overnight the ship sails around the western end of the island Tierra del Fuego off the southernmost tip of South America and divided between Chile and Argentina. The Argentine side of this wild island hosts jagged peaks in its little-visited interior which have not even yet been named.  Its rugged beauty, incorporating hidden lagoons, dark forests rendered impenetrable by mossy, fallen trunks, clattering streams and swollen peat bogs reached only by guanaco trails, is undeniable.

By morning the ship enters Pia Fjord and you’ll board the Zodiacs to discover the Pia Glacier. It’s just a short hike to a spot offering a sweeping view of the vast, craggy blue surface and towering walls of the ice, which carves its path between the mountain peaks down to the sea. A longer, more technical guided walk up a lateral moraine is also an option. 

Back on board the ship, you navigate east along the Beagle Channel through Glacier Alley. Living up to its name, the passage features a number of impressive tidewater glaciers flowing down from the Darwin mountains and Darwin ice sheet on the north shore.

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Day 6

Visit Wulaia Bay and Cape Horn.

Head south through narrow Murray Channel on the western shore of Chilean Navarino Island. The ship drops anchor at Wulaia Bay, only accrssible by water and one of the few places in the archipelago where the human history is as compelling as the natural environment. Originally it was the site of one of the region’s largest Yámana aboriginal settlements, and its mesmeric beauty caught the eye of Charles Darwin.

After a visit to the museum in the old radio station you have a choice of three hikes which ascend the heavily wooded mountain behind the bay to reach a panoramic viewpoint.  Before leaving Wulaia Bay, drop something into the wooden mail barrel inside the museum – letters or postcards destined to be hand delivered by future travellers.

Later, continue sailing to Cape Horn National Park, and disembark (weather permitting) – surely one of the cruise highlights.

UNESCO listed, gale-battered Cape Horn, a sheer, 425m-high rocky promontory was discovered in 1616. Hostile to navigation, it is almost constantly attacked by storm-tossed waves, although for many years it offered the only route for ships travelling between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The Chilean navy maintains a permanent lighthouse on the island, staffed by a lighthouse-keeper and his family, as well as the tiny Stella Maris Chapel and Cape Horn Monument. 

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Day 7

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

Bleak, barren, and cruelly strafed by bitter winds, the terrain of northern Patagonia is lapped by the blue-green rollers of the Atlantic Ocean. It's an inhospitable place, remote and infertile:  just a few lonely sheep farms stud the landscape and there are few other human settlements. But that's by no means all the life supported here. The cliffs, bays, lagoons, salt lakes and plains are crammed with an astonishing array of vociferous wildlife - birds and mammals, both marine and terrestrial, mate, breed and thrive here.

 

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Days 8,9

At leisure to seek out Patagonian wildlife.

Your lodge offers a menu of included guided excursions and activities which you can sign up for locally, along with self-guided trails. There is plenty of opportunity for wildlife spotting: the property's location at Punta Ninfa on the opposite shore of the bay from the Valdés Peninsula is ideal - there is evn a penguin colony very close by. From July to November southern right whales breed and calve in the calm waters of gulfs sheltered by the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic shore – if you take this holiday early in the season you should be able to spot some on a whale-watching expedition. The rocky crags beaches and bays are also home to sea lions and elephant seals (from September to April) whose mournful  cries punctuate the silence of the wilderness. You may even be lucky to spot killer whales offshore. 

In September, hundreds of thousands of Magallanic penguins arrive in the region to breed. They build their nests on arrival, the chicks hatch from November and the youngsters plunge into the waves for the first time in January and February.  Many of them enjoy the protection of private reserves:  you can arrange a guided walk among them at the hotel. 

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Day 10

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

Buenos Aires is an elegant, cultured and cosmopolitan city, home of the tango and host to some of the world’s most passionate football. The centre of the city is the colonial heartland, government buildings, theatres  and churches, as well as chic shopping districts, which have a nostalgic Parisian feel.  Slightly further out of the centre is the Recoleta district, even more evocative of the French or Italian influence. Here wealthy residents take afternoon tea in the city’s ornate salons.

La Boca, a port area settled by Italian immigrants is now a centre for the arts, while the abandoned main docks at Puerto Madero have been transformed into attractive leisure facilities with museums, restaurants and promenades.

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Day 11

Guided city tour of Buenos Aires.

Your exploration includes a drive down Avenida 9 de Julio, one of the widest boulevards in the world and studded with the Obelisk - an emblematic symbol of the city.  Nearby is the Plaza de Mayo, with the Metropolitan Cathedral and the Casa Rosada, the presidential palace.

Continue to the colourful Bohemian barrio of La Boca, which was settled and built by Italian immigrants and has streets lined with brightly painted corrugated iron-clad houses. Drive north to Palermo, an elegant neighbourhood of wide avenues lined with colonial mansions. Finally, visit the artistic district of Recoleta, stopping at the cemetery where generations of the Argentinian élite have been interred, including Evita Perón.

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Day 12

Day at Leisure in Buenos Aires.

You have a full free day to explore the many facets of Argentina's capital city. Your city tour will have given you an overview of its distinctly different neighbourhoods but you may welcome the opportunity to retrace your steps or discover new ones. Soak up the atmosphere of Bohemian San Telmo, perhaps have lunch in leafy Palermo or browse the upmarket shops of Recoleta.

If you'd like to explore further afield we can organise a full-day trip across the River Plate to Colonia del Sacramento, in Uruguay. Colonia was founded in 1680 and UNESCO has recently declared its beautifully preserve historic core a World Heritage Site. The modern part of town is lively and neat, its wide avenues lined with trees. The historic centre has narrow, winding cobbled streets with colonial buildings.

Other options include a trip to the River Plate delta. With elegant suburbs such as Tigre and San Isidro and its network of rivers and channels, the delta region is an attractive and popular retreat for residents of Buenos Aires, a world away from the big city. A day trip to an estancia (ranch) on the cattle pasture of the pampas is also possible.

Day 13

Transfer to the airport for your international flight.

You might consider staying on in Argentina for a few days: the wildlife wetlands at Iberá and the Iguazú Falls are both within easy reach of the capital.

Inspired by this trip

Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.

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Real Latin America Experts

  • Paul Winrow Giffen
    Paul Winrow-Giffin - Travel Consultant

    After graduating in Computer Science, Paul spent seven months travelling from Colombia to Argentina and came home hooked on Latin America.

  • Mary Anne Nelson
    Mary Anne Nelson - Travel Consultant

    Born in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, Mary’s insider knowledge and dry sense of humour make her a highly valued member of the Tailor-made team.

  • Kathryn Rhodes
    Kathryn Rhodes - Travel Consultant

    Kathryn backpacked across Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru before joining us. She has a degree in Philosophy and French and is a keen netball player.

  • Carrie Gallagher
    Carrie Gallagher - Travel Consultant

    A former JLA tour leader, Carrie brings a wealth of on-the-ground experience to our London-based Escorted Groups team.

  • Lina Fuller
    Lina Fuller - Travel Consultant

    Lina's passion for the continent where she was born really took off when she moved to Córdoba to study, spending the holidays travelling between Argentina and her native Colombia.

  • Sophie Barber
    Sophie Barber - Travel Consultant

    Sophie lived in Chile before joining us and has travelled extensively across Latin America, from Mexico to the furthest tip of Patagonia.

Meet the team