Depart to Santiago via overnight flight.
Santiago, Atacama, and Patagonia Cruise
Atacama is the driest desert in the world. It offers an excellent base to discover Chile’s archaeological sites and explore the natural wonders of the region, including desolate landscapes, salt lake lagoons, and geysers. The Australis cruise takes you from Punta Arenas, Chile through the Strait of Magellan and the Beagle Channel, to Ushuaia, Argentina. You will see impressive glaciers, and stop at Elephant Seal and Magellanic Penguin colonies, Cape Horn, and Wulaia Bay along the way.
Lodging and Meals: This tour includes accommodations for 10 nights (3 nights in Santiago, 3 nights in Atacama, and 4 nights aboard the ship), and 18 meals (10 breakfasts, 4 lunches, and 4 dinners). 4 Star, 5 Star and Deluxe accommodations include 23 meals.
Best Time to Go: September-April.
Note: The itinerary below reflects our suggested excursions for the Atacama portion of the tour. The exact order of the tours may vary, depending upon your arrival date. Excursions in Atacama for 4 Star, 5 Star, and Deluxe accommodations are offered on an a la carte basis, meaning you can choose from a number of different alternatives.
After passing through immigration and customs, proceed to the reception area, where our inbound services representative will be holding a sign with your name on it. You will be greeted and then transferred to your hotel. Overnight in Santiago. Note: Check-in time is 2:00 PM. We can request early check-in but cannot guarantee it.
In the morning, you will have a panoramic city tour of Santiago, which will include Parque O’Higgins, Plaza de Armas (the city’s historic center), Palacio de la Moneda, ex-National Congress, Mapocho Station Cultural Center, Santa Lucia Hill, the place of Santiago’s founding in 1541,and the Bohemian district of Bellavista. In the afternoon, you will visit your choice of one of the following vineyards around Santiago (included in price): Concha y Torro, Cousino Macul, and Undurraga. Overnight in Santiago. (B)
Morning transfer to the airport for your flight to Calama. Upon arrival, you will be transferred to your hotel in San Pedro de Atacama. In the afternoon, you will have a half-day excursion to the Cordillera de la Sal (Salt Mountains) which features magnificent geological formations and sediments of various colors. You will visit the Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley) and Valle de Marte (Mars Valley), and enjoy an amazing sunset. Overnight in San Pedro de Atacama. (B)
Today you will have a full day excursion to the Altiplanic Lagoons. One the way, you can see the impressive Licancabur Volcano, and will stop at the oasis town of Toconao, known for its Liparita (volcanic) stone houses, which are quarried nearby. The town also features the Church and bell tower of San Lucas, which dates to the mid-18th century. You will also visit the Atacama Salt Lake and Chaxa Lagoon. The Lake is an important nesting site for three species of flamingos, and contains 40% of the world’s lithium reserves. Box lunch. After lunch, you will visit the small village of Socaire, and then continue on to Minique and Miscanti Lagoons, where you will have time to walk around and enjoy the surroundings. Overnight in San Pedro de Atacama. (B,L)
Early morning (4:00 AM) you will depart for an excursion to the Tatio Geysers, the world’s highest geyser field at 14,107 ft. above sea level. The steaming fumaroles, which reach a height of 160 ft., are a sight to behold, especially at sunrise, against the backdrop of the altiplano. On the way back, you will visit the Puritama Hot Springs, which will be much appreciated after an early rise and day of exploration. The mineral rich waters are 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Overnight in San Pedro de Atacama. (B)
Transfer to Calama for the flight to Santiago. Upon arrival, you will be transferred to your hotel. Overnight in Santiago. (B)
Check in at the Cruceros Australis office in Punta Arenas from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Cruise-ship boarding at 6:00 p.m. The Captain and crew give a welcome cocktail reception on board. Immediately afterward, the ship departs for “the uttermost part of the earth”. Our excursion will take us through the Strait of Magellan and Beagle Channel to explore one of the most breathtaking wilderness regions in the world: Southern Patagonia, and Tierra del Fuego. We have just embarked on a Great Adventure! Overnight aboard the Ship. (D)
At dawn, we continue navigating through Almirantazgo Sound until finally arriving near Marinelli Glacier in Ainsworth Bay, where we enjoy a walk to discover a beaver dam in the midst of a marvelous Magellanic forest. On the beach we observe a colony of Elephant Seals. Later we visit Tucker Islet, where we view colonies of Magellanic Penguins and Cormorants from the Zodiac boats. The islet’s penguins migrate in April; as a replacement we visit Brookes Bay, for a short walk to see a glacier. Overnight aboard the Ship. (B,L,D)
We navigate through the main part of Beagle Channel to reach Pia Bay, where we disembark near Pia Glacier. We take a short hike to a lookout point with a spectacular view of the entire glacier tongue, stretching from high in the mountains all the way to the sea. After this unforgettable experience, we sail again along the northwest arm of Beagle Channel through majestic “Glacier Alley”: Spain, Romanche, Germany, Italy, France and Holland glaciers. Overnight aboard the Ship. (B,L,D)
We sail through Beagle and Murray channels to reach and disembark in Cape Horn National Park (weather permitting). Cape Horn, on Hornos Island, is a sheer, 425-meter (1,394-foot) high rocky promontory. This mythical place is known as the “End of the Earth”; a visit is a singular privilege. The park was declared a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in June 2005. In the afternoon, we go ashore in historic Wulaia Bay, once the site of one of the region’s largest aboriginal settlements. This area is also renowned for the mesmerizing beauty of its vegetation and geography. We walk through a Magellanic forest of Lengas, Coigües, Canelos, ferns and other native vegetation to reach a lookout point. Overnight aboard the Ship. (B,L,D)
Arrival at Ushuaia, Argentina’s most important city on Tierra del Fuego, and the southernmost city in the world. (Disembarkation is at 8:00 a.m. or 9:30 a.m., depending upon the departure). (B)
B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner
- South American Vacations’ expert pre-departure planning services and documentation.
- Airport/hotel/pier transfers with baggage handling.
- Hotel accommodations including taxes and service charges.
- Accommodations on board the M/V Stella Australis.
- All meals scheduled on board including alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, and other meals as indicated on the itinerary.
- Port tax in Punta Arenas, Chile ($50).
- Excursions as indicated on the itinerary including all applicable entrance fees.
- Local, English-speaking tour guides.
Price Does Not Include
- International airfare.
- Domestic airfare.
- Meals not indicated on the itinerary.
- Hotel nights after the cruise.
- Gratuities to tour guides, ship crew and guides, drivers, and hotel staff.
- Gifts and personal items.
- Travel insurance.
We will be happy to quote the cost of airfare and travel insurance, and to make these arrangements for you.
Group/Private: All airport transfers in Santiago are private, and the city tour and winery tour in Santiago are group tours for single passengers and 3 Star accommodations, and private for 4 Star, 5 Star, and Deluxe accommodations. All services in Atacama and on the Australis Cruise are operated on a group basis. The transfers in Punta Arenas are private, and the transfers from the pier in Ushuaia, Argentina to the airport in Ushuaia, and from AEP Airport to EZE Airport in Buenos Aires are private.
Elevations: Santiago is 1,700 feet above sea level, Atacama is 8,005 feet, Socaire is 10,498 feet, Minique and Miscanti Lagoons are 13,615 feet, and Tatio Geyser is 14,107 feet.
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 international and domestic airfare (if we arrange it for you). 4 Star, 5 Star, and Deluxe accommodations require a more substantial non-refundable deposit. Ask your travel counselor for the details.