Overview

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.

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Where to go when - our guide to Islands and fjords of southern Patagonia

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The weather in Islands and fjords of southern Patagonia is wide and varied

Southernmost Patagonia is a wilderness of jagged fjords and towering glaciers, where the frostbitten Andes finally slope into the sea. Weather conditions here are the most extreme in the region and are prone to rapid fluctuations. Summer runs from December - February, with cool temperatures and strong, persistent winds (December - February). These months offer long days with the clearest skies and good visibility, though rain and snowfall are always a possibility. The shoulder seasons of March - April and October - November are chilly but pleasant, with fewer visitors meaning you’re likely to glimpse more wildlife. From June - September the land is carpeted in glistening snow, which reduces access to hiking trails but opens up the possibility of skiing. The shadowy fjords and turquoise lakes of this impossibly remote land are best explored on an expedition cruise.

View our Islands and fjords of southern Patagonia weather guide

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  • Ben Line
    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.

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    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 Holidays and Group Tour sales team.

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

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    Charlotte Daubeney - Travel Expert

    Charlotte's fascination with Latin America began with a family holiday to Belize. She went on to study Spanish in school and at university before spending a year living in Santiago, Chile.

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    Carrie Gallagher - Travel Expert

    A former JLA tour leader, Carrie brings a wealth of on-the-ground experience to our London-based Tailor-made and Group Tours department.

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    Anglo-Peruvian Chris grew up in Lima and spent much of his adult life in between London and Cusco as a tour leader, before settling permanently in our London-based Tailor-made and Group Tours sales team.

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