Darwin’s Route from Punta Arenas
9 Days/8 Nights
From $3,996 per person
(Dbl. Occupancy, Not Incl. Airfare)
Cruise the waterways of southern Patagonia from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia and back on this nine-day adventure. You will visit penguin colonies on Tuckers Islets and Magdalena Island, observe southern elephant seals and other wildlife in Ainsworth Bay, and view massive glaciers flowing into the sea along Glacier Alley and throughout the journey. The ship stops at historic Wulaia Bay and Cape Horn, the southernmost point of the continent, and you will have a nearly full-day port call in Ushuaia to explore the city.
Lodging and Meals: This tour includes accommodations for 8 nights on the Stella or Ventus Australis, and 22 meals (8 breakfasts, 6 lunches, and 8 dinners).
Best Time to Go: October-March.
Day 1: Punta Arenas-Australis Cruise.
Check in at the Australis pier at 1385 O’Higgins Street (Arturo Prat Port) in Punta Arenas between 13:00 and 17:00 (1-5 PM) on the day of your cruise departure. Board the Australis cruise at 18:00 (6 PM). After a welcoming cocktail with the captain and crew the ship departs for one of the remotest corners of planet Earth. During the night you cross the Strait of Magellan and enter the labyrinth of channels that define the southern extreme of Patagonia. The twinkling lights of Punta Arenas gradually fade into the distance as you enter the Whiteside Canal between Darwin Island and Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego. Overnight aboard the Ship. (D)
Day 2: Australis Cruise-Ainsworth Bay-Tucker Islets.
By dawn the ship is sailing up Admiralty Sound (Seno Almirantazgo), 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. You 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.
Leaving Ainsworth Bay behind, you sail west along the sound to the Tucker Islets. After lunch, you will 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. Overnight aboard the Ship. (B,L,D)
Day 3: Australis Cruise-Pia Glacier-Glacier Alley.
Overnight you sail around the western end of Tierra del Fuego via the very narrow Gabrial, Magdalena and Cockburn channels. After rounding the remote Brecknock Peninsula, the Australis cruise tacks eastward and enters the Beagle Channel again. By morning you are entering Pia Fjord and boarding the Zodiacs for a shore excursion to Pia Glacier. After disembarking you 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 the ship, you 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 are named after European countries — Holland, Italy, Germany, Spain and France. Overnight aboard the Ship. (B,L,D)
Day 4: Australis Cruise-Cape Horn-Wulaia Bay.
Wulaia Bay is one of the few places in the archipelago where the human history is just as compelling as the natural environment. 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-sponsored museum in the old radio station — which is especially strong on the Yámana people and European missionaries in the area – you 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 you cruise across Nassau Bay into the remote archipelago that includes Cape Horn National Park. Weather and sea conditions permitting, you shall go ashore on the windswept island that harbors legendary Cape Horn (Cabo de Hornos). 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 the only navigation route between the Pacific and Atlantic, and was often referred to as the “End of the Earth.” The park was declared a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2005. 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. Overnight aboard the Ship. (B,L,D)
Day 5: Australis Cruise-Ushuaia.
The following morning you 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 which was founded in 1884 and was one of the original points of contact between the indigenous Yámana and European cultures. The city’s name derives from the Yámana word for ‘penetrating bay.’ With around 65,000 inhabitants, Ushuaia is the second largest city in Tierra del Fuego (after Rio Grande) and is surrounded by the Southernmost Andes peaks. Among its highlights is the Prison at the End of the World, a former penitentiary that is now a maritime museum that features an 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 the vessel at 17:30 (5:30 PM). After a welcoming toast and introduction of captain and crew to new passengers joining the cruise, the ship departs for more adventures in Tierra del Fuego. During the night you traverse the Beagle Channel, cross back into Chilean territorial waters, and turn into the narrow Murray Channel between Navarino and Hoste islands. Overnight aboard the ship. (B,D)
Day 6: Australis Cruise-Cape Horn-Wulaia Bay.
By early morning, the Australis cruise is once again cruising across Nassau Bay to Cape Horn. The itinerary 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 n 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 a past visitor lives close to your own home. This second approach also increases your chances of landing on Cape Horn Island. Overnight aboard the ship. (B,L,D)
Day 7: Australis Cruise-Ushuaia.
After nightfall you reenter the Beagle Channel and sail westward along the southern edge of Tierra del Fuego into a watery wonderland protected within the confines of Alberto de Agostini National Park. By morning you are entering Pia Fjord again and another chance to hike beside its famous glacier.
Making our way further west along the Beagle Channel, you enter another long fjord and drop anchor near Garibaldi Glacier for another shore excursion. Garibaldi is one of only three glaciers in Patagonia gaining mass rather than staying the same or slowly shrinking. This time you hike through virgin Magellanic forest to a glacial waterfall, a towering wall of ferns and moss, and spectacular viewpoints looking down on the glacier and fjord. The walk is demanding — very steep, negligible trail, rough footing — and not for everyone. For those who choose to stay on-board, the captain will point the bow towards the beautiful sky blue Garibaldi Glacier so everyone can enjoy the panoramic view from the upper decks. Overnight aboard the ship. (B,L,D)
Day 8: Australis Cruise-Agostini Sound-Aguila Glacier-Condor Glacier.
Early in the morning you will sail through Cockburn Channel and enter Agostini Sound, where it’s possible to see glaciers that descend from the middle of the Darwin Mountain Range — some of them reaching the water. You will disembark and go for an easy walk around a lagoon formed by the melting of the Águila Glacier, eventually reaching a spot right in front of that glacier with stunning views. In the afternoon, you will approach the Condor Glacier via Zodiac — and hopefully see some of the abundant Andean Condors in the area. Overnight aboard the ship. (B,L,D)
Day 9: Australis Cruise-Magdalena Island-Punta Arenas.
After an overnight cruise through Magdalena Channel and back into the Strait of Magellan, you 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, you 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. After a short cruise south along the strait, disembarkation at Punta Arenas is scheduled for around 11:30 AM.
Note: Camera extension poles (tripods) are prohibited on Magdalena Island.
B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner
Prices & Dates
Price per Person
|AA Superior Cabins||$10,314||$6,876||n/a|
|AAA Superior Cabins||$10,854||$7,236||n/a|
- The above prices are based on Low Season departures. Call for the prices of High Season departures.
- A limited amount of triples can be accommodated.
Promotional Departures: Sep 25, 2022; April 5, 2023.
Cruise Low Season: Oct 3, 11, 19, 23, 27, and 31, 2022; Mar 20, 24, and 28, 2023.
Cruise High Season: Nov 4, 8, 12, 16, 20, 24, and 28; Dec 2, 6, 10, 14, 18, 22, 26, and 30, 2022; Jan 3, 7, 11, 15, 19, 23, 27, and 31; Feb 4, 8, 12, 16, 20, 24, and 28; Mar 4, 8, 12, and 16, 2023.
- South American Vacations’ expert pre-departure planning services and documentation.
- Accommodations on board the M/V Stella Australis or M/V Ventus Australis.
- All meals scheduled on board including alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
- Shore excursions.
- On-board entertainment.
- Local, English-speaking tour guides.
Price Does Not Include
- International airfare.
- Domestic airfare.
- Transfer from the airport to the Cruceros Australis office in Punta Arenas, Chile, and then to the pier at the beginning of the cruise, and from the pier in Ushuaia, Argentina to the airport at the end of the cruise.
- Hotel nights before/after the cruise.
- Port tax in Punta Arenas, Chile ($110).
- Gratuities to ship crew and guides (suggested $15/passenger/day).
- Gifts and personal items.
- Travel insurance.
We will be happy to quote the cost of airfare, hotels, land services, and travel insurance, and to make these arrangements for you.
Group/Private: All services included in this tour are operated on a group basis.
Passport/Visa: For Chile, U.S., Australian, Canadian, and EU citizens (except Greece) require a valid passport (for the duration of your visit) and return ticket for stays of up to 90 days. Greek citizens can stay for up to 60 days. Australian, and Canadian citizens are required to pay a reciprocity fee (considered a multiple entry visa) of $95 and $132 respectively upon arrival (subject to change without notice due to currency fluctuations or other reasons). Citizens of other countries are advised to contact the Chilean embassy in their country before traveling. For Argentina, U.S., Australian, Canadian, and EU citizens require a valid passport (for the duration of your visit) and return ticket for stays of up to 90 days. Australian and Canadian citizens are required to pay a reciprocity fee of $100 and $75 respectively (subject to change without notice due to currency fluctuations or other reasons) online, and must show proof of payment prior to arrival. The reciprocity fee for U.S. citizens has been suspended until further notice. For citizens of Australia, this fee covers unlimited entries to Argentina for 10 years, while citizens of Canada are charged the fee every time they enter the country (or $150 for multiple visits within five years). The fee can be paid online at ProvinciaNet.com.ar. You will need to register in order to make the payment. Citizens of other countries are advised to contact the embassy of Argentina in their country before traveling.
Travel Insurance: In order to protect your travel investment from unforeseen circumstances that may arise before or during your trip, we strongly recommend that you purchase travel insurance. We offer Allianz Global Assistance’s Classic Comprehensive and other plans. The Benefits and Coverage Limits are summarized on our Travel Insurance page. Call your travel counselor if you have any questions or to purchase a plan.
To Book This Trip: We require a non-refundable deposit of $800 per person plus the cost of the airfare (if we make the arrangements for you).
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