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Home > Travel Destinations > Chile > Darwin's Route from Punta Arenas

Darwin's Route from Punta Arenas

8 Days / 7 Nights

Package Overview

To Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego... …the southernmost region in the world, where the geography amazes: mountains rise from the ocean; flora and fauna awaken the senses; and the silence is profound.

The end of the world awaits you on the expedition cruise ship MV Stella Australis. Our Punta Arenas and Patagonia excursions retrace much of Darwin’s route through the Fuegian Archipelago aboard HMS Beagle.

This eight-day Punta Arenas excursion features the legendary Cape Horn, historic Wulaia Bay, spectacular Glacier Alley, and the penguins of Magdalena Island and Tuckers islands, as well as ice fields, fjords, sub-polar forests and secluded beaches at the southernmost extreme of South America.

Agent Commission Starting At: $260.50

Package Pricing

Package starting at: $2605.00 PP * Prices based on double occupancy. Prices per person in USD.

Travel Itinerary

Day 1

Punta Arenas

Check in at the Australis pier at 1385 O’Higgins Street (Arturo Prat Port) in Punta Arenas between 1PM & 5PM on the day of your cruise departure. Board the MV Stella Australis at 6 PM. After a toast and introduction of captain and crew, the ship departs for one of the farthest removed corners of planet Earth.

During the night we will cross the Strait of Magellan and enter the channels that make up the southern extreme of Patagonia. The twinkling lights of Punta Arenas gradually fade into the distance as we enter the Whiteside Canal between Darwin Island and Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego and we will be off on our adventure!

Day 2

Ainsworth Bay & Tuckers Islets

At dawn the ship will be sailing up Admiralty Sound, a spectacular offshoot of the Strait of Magellan that stretches nearly halfway across Tierra del Fuego. The snowcapped peaks of Karukinka Natural Park stretch along the north side of the sound, while the south shore is defined by the deep fjords and broad bays of Alberto de Agostini National Park. We go ashore at Ainsworth Bay, which harbors copious bird life and a colony of southern elephant seals which can sometimes be spotted from the Zodiacs. Two guided excursions are available: one is along the edge of a stream, peat bog and beaver habitat to a waterfall-and-moss-covered rock face tucked deep inside a pristine sub-polar forest; the other is a more strenuous hike along the crest of a glacial moraine. Both afford views of Marinelli Glacier and the Darwin Mountains.

As we depart Ainsworth Bay, we will sail west to the Tucker Islets. After lunch, we board the Zodiacs again for a close-up view of the Magellan penguins that inhabit the tiny islands. More than 4,000 penguins use Tucker as a place to nest, give birth and nurture their chicks. Many other bird species also frequent the area including king cormorants, oystercatchers, Chilean skuas, kelp geese, dolphin gulls, eagles and even the occasional Andean condor. In September and April -- when the penguins live elsewhere -- this excursion is replaced by a short walk to a glacier at nearby stunning Brookes Bay.

Day 3

Pia Glacier

Overnight we sail around the western end of Tierra del Fuego via the very narrow Gabrial Channel, Magdalena Channel and Cockburn Channel. After rounding the remote Brecknock Peninsula, Stella Australis tacks eastward and enters the Beagle Channel again. By morning we are entering Pia Fjord and boarding the Zodiacs for a shore excursion to Pia Glacier.After disembarking we take a short hike to gain a panoramic view of the spectacular glacier, which extends from the mountaintops down to the sea or a longer much more difficult walk up a lateral moraine of the old Pia Glacier.

No one knows for certain how the hulking mass of snow and ice got its feminine moniker, but one theory says it was named for Princess Maria Pia of Savoy (1847-1911), daughter of the Italian king.

Back onboard Stella Australis, we continue east along the Beagle Channel through an area called 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. Most of them named after European countries -- Holland, Italy, Germany, Spain and France.

Day 4

Cape Horn & Wulaia Bay

During the early morning we sail down the narrow Murray Channel between Navarino and Hoste islands and drop anchor at historic Wulaia Bay. Australis is the only cruise ship company with permission from Chilean authorities to navigate the Murray Channel to Cape Horn, and because of its exclusive concession the only travel company allowed to land passengers at Wulaia Bay.

Originally the site of one of the region’s largest Yámana aboriginal settlements, the bay was described by Charles Darwin and sketched by Captain FitzRoy in the 1830s during their voyages on the HMS Beagle. This area is also renowned for the mesmerizing beauty and dramatic geography. After a visit to the small Australis, passengers have a choice of three hikes (of increasing degrees of difficulty) that ascend the heavily wooden mountain behind the bay. On all of these you will be strolling through an enchanted Magellan forest of lengas, coigües, canelos, Ñirres ferns, and other endemic fauna to reach a panoramic viewpoint overlooking the bay. Before leaving Wulaia Bay, drop something into the wooden mail barrel inside the museum – letters or postcards meant to be hand delivered by future travelers – an ancient mariner tradition revived by Australis.

In the afternoon we cruise across Nassau Bay into the remote archipelago that includes Cape Horn National Park. Weather and sea conditions permitting, we shall go ashore on the windswept island that harbors legendary Cape Horn. Discovered in 1616 by a Dutch maritime expedition -- and named after the town of Hoorn in West Friesland -- Cape Horn is a sheer 425-meter (1,394-foot) high rocky promontory overlooking the turbulent waters of the Drake Passage. For many years it was often referred to as the "End of the Earth." The Chilean navy maintains a permanent lighthouse on the island, staffed by a lightkeeper and his family, as well as the tiny Stella Maris Chapel and modern Cape Horn Monument.

Day 5

Ushuaia

The following morning we sail into Argentine waters and dock in Ushuaia, the world's southernmost city. Disembarkation is scheduled at 8 AM. You have almost a full day to explore Ushuaia, founded in 1884 and one of the original points of contact between the indigenous Yámana and European cultures. Its name derives from the Yámana word for ‘penetrating bay’ and it’s surrounded by the southernmost Andes peaks. With around 65,000 inhabitants, Ushuaia is the second largest city in Tierra del Fuego (after Rio Grande). Among its highlights is the Prison at the End of the World, a former penitentiary that is now a maritime museum, Antarctic collection and memorial to those once incarcerated there. The city is also good for shopping (especially locally made chocolate) or hanging out in its many cafes.

Passengers are required to reboard Stella Australis at 5:30 PM. After a welcoming toast and introduction of captain and crew, the ship departs for more adventures in Tierra del Fuego. During the night we traverse the Beagle Channel, cross back into Chilean territorial waters, and turn into the narrow Murray Channel between Navarino and Hoste islands.

Day 6

Cape Horn - Wulaia Bay

By early morning, Stella Australis is once again cruising across Nassau Bay to Cape Horn. Our itinerary day repeats the shore landings and other activities from Day 4. However, second landings at some of the more iconic spots along the route can sometimes be more rewarding than the first time around and give you more time to explore each place in depth.

At Cape Horn you have a second chance to visit the Stella Maris Chapel, chat with the lighthouse keeper and his family, or photograph the unusual sub-polar flora that covers the heights. At Wulaia Bay, explore the museum in much more depth, strike out on a longer walk than last time, bird watch along the shore, or sort through the mail barrel to see if anyone lives close to your own home. This second approach also increases your chances of landing on Cape Horn Island.

Day 7

De Agostini Sound and Aguila Glacier

After nightfall we reenter the Beagle Channel and sail westward along the southern edge of Tierra del Fuego into the waters of Alberto de Agostini National Park. Rounding the Brecknock Peninsula as the western extreme of Tierra del Fuego, We then navigate a zigzag route through the Cockburn Channel, Magdalena Channel and Keats Fjord to reach scenic De Agostini Sound.

Named after an Italian Salesian priest who worked among the region's indigenous people during the first half of the 20th century, De Agostini Sound is flanked by numerous glaciers and the peaks are reminiscent of Torres del Paine. Our shore excursion this morning is Águila ("Eagle") Glacier, which hovers above a placid glacial lagoon surrounded by forest. After a Zodiac landing on the beach, passengers hike around the edge of the lagoon to a spot near the base of the frozen facade. Condors can sometimes be seen winging high above, but there is always abundant bird life around the lagoon. This landing provides the perfect opportunity to experience the beauty of Patagonia’s sub-Antarctic rainforest and to see how the power of nature has molded the spectacular landscape.

Day 8

Magdalena Island - Punta Arenas

After an overnight cruise back into the Strait of Magellan, we anchor off Magdalena Island, which lies about halfway between Tierra del Fuego and the Chilean mainland. Crowned by a distinctive lighthouse, the island used to be an essential source of supplies for navigators and explorers and is inhabited by an immense colony of Magellanic penguins. At the break of dawn, weather permitting, we go ashore and hike a path that leads through thousands of penguins to a small museum lodged inside the vintage 1902 lighthouse. Many other bird species are also found on the island. In September and April -- when the penguins dwell elsewhere -- this excursion is replaced by a ride aboard Zodiacs to Marta Island to observe South American sea lions.

Package notes

Punta Arenas -Ushuaia-Punta Arenas Stella Australis - Every Saturday departures:

Ushuaia-Punta Arenas- Ushuaia - Stella Australis - Every Wednesday

Season runs September to April

Additional Package Information

 Package Includes

  • All meals
  • Open bar when on duty
  • Shore Excursions

 Package Does Not Include

  • Air
  • National Park Entrance fees
  • International or local phone calls
  • Visas as needed
  • Gratuities and tips
  • Port taxes

 Package Notes

  • Departure dates from September - April only
  • International air available on request. If you elect to purchase your own air, please provide itinerary for arrangement of transfers.
  • Prices are subject to change without previous notice.
  • Scheduled tours may change due to weather conditions or other unforeseen limitations - an alternate comparable tour will be offered
  • To prevent any loss due to cancellation, travel insurance is recommended.
  • Prices quoted for promotional departure dates.
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Chile Package 2 of 10

 
8 Days / 7 Nights Chile Vacation Package

General Information

  • Capital: Santiago
  • Government: Republic
  • Currency: Chilean peso (CLP)
  • Area: total: 756,950 km2, land: 748,800 km2, water: 8,150
  • Population: 17,224,200 (May 2011 est.)
  • Language: Spanish
  • Religion: Roman Catholic 70%, Protestant 15.1%, None 8.3%
  • Electricity: 220V / 50Hz Type C and L plugs
  • Calling Code: +56
  • Time Zone: Continent: UTC-4 (UTC-3 summer) Easter Isl.: UTC-6 (UTC-5 summer)

Points of Interest

  • Punta Arenas
  • Serrano, Agostini, Aguila Glaciers
  • Garibaldi Fjord
  • Pia Glacier - Glacier Alley
  • Ushuaia
  • Cape Horn - Wulaia Bay
  • Chico Fjord
  • Brookes Glacier - Ainsworth Bay
  • Isla Magdalena