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Private Journeys

Patagonia cruise: Tierra del Fuego and Cape Horn

13 days from £5,150pp

(based on two people sharing & excluding flights)

Chile / Argentina


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 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


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 historic Santa Rita winery, in the foothills of the Andes, 40 km from Santiago. Established in 1880, its cellars, long since declared a National Monument, combine traditional French and American oak casks with the most modern systems, a combination that helps give a unique aroma and body to its wines, which you will have the opportunity to sample for yourself. Return to Santiago in the afternoon.

Hotel Owned ©

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


Stay at - Stella Australis & Ventus Australis

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.


Stay at - Stella Australis & Ventus Australis

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.


Stay at - Stella Australis & Ventus Australis

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.


Stay at - Stella Australis & Ventus Australis

Day 7

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

After docking in Ushuaia during the early morning and breakfast on board, your journey continues by air to Trelew in north Patagonia – and gateway to Welsh Patagonia.

From Trelew it’s an hour’s drive to the pleasant city of Puerto Madryn, facing the Golfo Nuevo. From July to mid December southern right whales breed and calve in the calm waters of the gulf sheltered by the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic shore. Early in the season (July-August) they can even be seen from the waterfront in Puerto Madryn, although it’s possible to spot them whale-watching trips through to the early December.


Stay at - Hotel Peninsula Valdes

Day 8

Explore the Valdes Peninsula

A full day excursion to the Valdes Peninsula is included today. Between September and mid-December we can offer an optional add-on to go whale watching by boat from Puerto Piramides, an hour’s drive from Puerto Madryn.

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. Wildlife which may be spotted along the way includes the Patagonian hare, guanaco and the choique, which resembles a miniature ostrich. Arriving at Caleta Valdes, there is a fairly steep walk down to the beach where there are elephant seal and sea lion colonies.


Whale Tail

Day 9

Excursion to the penguin colony at El Pedral

Transfer after breakfast to Estancia El Pedral, at Punta Ninfas on the opposite shore of the bay from the Valdés Peninsula. There’s plenty of scope for wildlife spotting here. A highlight is the magical penguin colony very close by where it is possible to walk among them, keeping a respectful distance. In September, hundreds of pairs of Magellanic penguins arrive here. In 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 such as El Pedral: you can arrange a guided walk among them at the hotel.

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. If you are lucky, you may glimpse southern right whales breaching offshore from the beach at El Pedral. Enjoy a typical asado lunch at the estancia before returning to Puerto Madryn for the night.


Stay at - Hotel Peninsula Valdes

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.

ShutterStock ©

Stay at - Sofitel Buenos Aires Recoleta

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.

iStock ©

Stay at - Sofitel Buenos Aires Recoleta

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.

ARG_BuenosAires_Puerto Madero_Shutterstock_183652595

Stay at - Sofitel Buenos Aires Recoleta

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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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 american experts

  • Juliet
    Juliet Ellwood - Travel Expert

    After graduating with a degree in Anthropology and History and having been fascinated by Latin America since childhood by the book featuring photos of Nazca, Juliet first visited the region in 2003. Since then, Juliet has visited the majority of countries in Latin America but has particularly extensive experience with Peru, a country she loves for many reasons but not least, its incredible archaeological richness and delicious food!

  • Heloise
    Heloise Buxton - Travel Expert

    Heloise started her Latin American journey as an exchange student in Santiago, Chile. With extended summer holidays this was the perfect opportunity to backpack through Bolivia, Peru, Argentina and Brazil.

  • Paul Winrow Giffin
    Paul Winrow-Giffin - Travel Expert

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

  • Ben
    Ben Line - Travel Expert

    Ben fell in love with Latin America on a six month backpacking trip from Colombia to Mexico in 1995. Since then he has explored most of South America, including living in Peru for a year. He is now Head of Sales.

  • Hannah
    Hannah Waterhouse - Travel Expert

    Hannah had an early introduction to Latin America when her family moved to Ecuador and she returned to study in Buenos Aires for a year before backpacking across the continent.

  • Maggie
    Maggie Wilson - Travel Expert

    Maggie visited Latin America on her first backpacking trip when she was 19. Since then, she has taken every opportunity to travel, and has managed to explore a lot of the region in subsequent trips.

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