The vast Patagonian ice-sheet that straddles the Andes mountains in South America is the third largest ice-mass on the planet, after Antarctica and the Greenland icecap. It is a remnant of the earth’s most recent ice age and dominates the landscape, ecology and geology of Patagonia. Immense glacial systems cut through towering mountains as they move inexorably towards the sea. Take a look at any map of the region and this action becomes immediately apparent, in the maze of fjords and islands that make up one of the earth’s last great remaining wilderness regions. Ancient boreal forests also tell a story of an evolving planet and the supercontinent of Gondwanaland. They are home to several species of flora only found in South America, New Zealand, and Australia’s most southerly state, Tasmania.
Commencing in Ushuaia, the ship makes its way north through a vast network of deep fjords and channels, occasionally venturing out to the Pacific Ocean, navigating towards Valparaiso – Chile’s historic deep-sea port. Explore the surroundings by Zodiac boat, approaching huge glaciers and observing resident and migratory wildlife and birdlife. On shore, enjoy hikes of varying duration to outstanding viewpoints, in the company of expert guides. In addition, visits to small coastal communities showcase the unique way of life of the hardy local inhabitants – telling a story of both indigenous and European settlement. It is hard to think of a more remote, pristine location and you’ll discover it all in the comfort of one of the world’s most capable expedition ships, RCGS Resolute.
|Day 1||Ushuaia, Argentina||Commence Chilean Fjord Expedition Cruise|
|Day 2-3||Alberto de Agostino National Park||Garibaldi Fjord, Marinelli Glacier, Glacier Alley|
|Day 4||Punta Santa||Fort Bulnes|
|Day 5||Southern Patagonia Fjord Exploration||
Forested mountains, snow capped peaks, waterfalls and glaciers
|Day 6||Torres del Paine National Park||Torres del Paine (Three Towers), hiking|
|Day 7||White Narrows||Bernal Glacier, Fjord Cruising|
|Day 8||Eyre Fjord||Bruggen Glacier adn Messier Channel|
|Day 9||Caleta Tortel||Explore the small outpost of Caleta Tortel|
|Day 10||At Sea||Keep you eyes out for migrating whales and birdlife|
|Day 11||Castro and Chiloe Island||Visit Castro the third oldest city in Chile, colourful houses on Chiloe|
|Day 12||Mocha Island||Hiking on Mocha Island|
|Day 13||Cruising towards Valparaiso||Educational presentations, enjoy the ships facilities|
|Day 14||Valparaiso||Disembark at Valparaiso and join transfer to Santiago Airport or downtown Santiago.|
Your journey through Chile’s spectacular fjord region commences this afternoon in Ushuaia (Argentina). Gather at the central meeting point then transfer to the pier for embarkation. Excitement is in the air as you enjoy a welcome cocktail and dinner before casting off, bound for the stunning landscapes of Patagonia, rugged coastal Chile and historic city of Valparaiso.
During the night the ship will have sailed in a westerly direction along the Beagle Channel, which separates Argentina from neighbouring Chile. This morning enter Garibaldi Fjord, where two glaciers rise up towards a stunning mountain backdrop. Take to the Zodiacs for the first time and explore the glaciers from a safe distance. Resident wildlife in the fjord include South American sea lion and several species of birds including the Andean condor. In the afternoon, arrive at Alberto de Agostino National Park. The park has been designated as a UNESCO biosphere reserve due to large tracts of ancient sub-Antarctic forest systems that cover much of the reserve. Naturalists believe these forests started growing around 10,000 years ago. There are some excellent hiking trails on shore or alternatively enjoy a Zodiac cruise along the shoreline.
Your exploration of the national park continues this morning and the plan is to explore both by Zodiac and on foot. The most famous of the park’s glaciers is the impressive tidewater Marinelli Glacier. This huge, crevasse-covered ice field spills from the Darwin Mountain range into Ainsworth Bay. From a distance, the glaciers can be heard creaking and groaning. Easy hikes in the lush Magellanic forests provide opportunities to spot birdlife and to immerse yourself in some of the purest wilderness on the planet. There is often sightings of seals and possibly Magellanic penguins, which are known to inhabit this area. Continue your voyage, passing through the famous ‘Glacier Alley’ and into the Magellan Strait.
This morning head ashore by Zodiac boat to explore the promontory of Punta Santa Ana, where the historic ‘Fuerte Bulnes’ (Fort Bulnes) is located. Founded in 1843, the settlement was established both as a territorial claim and to protect the strategic Magellan Strait. Although none of the original structures remain, the fort has been faithfully reconstructed, offering outstanding views over the strait. Explore the grounds and visit the small church, barracks, powder magazine and log cabins. The fort was abandoned after a more permanent settlement was established further north, in present day Punta Arenas.
Cruise north along the rugged Chilean coastline admiring the breathtaking views from the observation lounge and outer decks. Forested mountains, snow-capped peaks, waterfalls and glaciers continue for mile after mile. Enjoy the onboard talks and discussions hosted by your expert guides, covering a wide variety of subjects including history, wildlife, geology and glaciology as well as photography. The ‘open bridge’ policy means you can also watch the Captain and officers steer the ship, learning something about navigation as well as having a look at the charts. For a bit of relaxation, why not soak in the hot tub or indulge in a massage at the day spa?
For many, today’s excursion is one of the highlights of the trip. After breakfast head ashore and enter the national park. This iconic location boasts some of the most stunning mountain scenery in the world, with the celebrated ‘towers’ from which the park gets its name, looming above the surrounding plateau and glacier-fed lake systems. Powerful waterfalls surge through narrow channels between the lakes, and there are some excellent short hikes to lookouts and viewpoints, which all provide jaw-dropping views of the immense massif. The Guanaco (similar to a llama) is resident in the park and can be found in sizable numbers grazing on the native grasses. Spend a full day here, soaking up the views from all directions.
Enjoy an exciting day of navigation. A highlight will be the transit of the White Narrows – a channel of water just 80 meters wide. No doubt everyone will be on the outer decks watching as the Captain skillfully takes the ship through this challenging passage. More spectacular scenery is on offer today. The Bernal Glacier is a particular highlight and provides a textbook lesson in glaciology, featuring a large moraine, pushed forward by actions of the moving ice.
In a trip full of highlights, today may well be near the top. Navigating into Eyre fjord, the vast sweep of the Brüggen Glacier comes into view. Often called the ‘Pio XI’, at almost 60 kilometres in length it is the largest glacier in the southern hemisphere outside Antarctica. From the low vantage point of the Zodiacs the sheer scale of the glacier face is overwhelming. It rises almost 70 metres above the surface of the water and is a staggering 4 kilometres wide. In the afternoon sail into the Messier channel that separates continental South America from Wellington Island. Join the wildlife expert out on deck as we look for marine and bird life.
After several days immersed in the glacial systems, fjords and forests, today you will experience a visit to the small outpost of Caleta Tortel. Situated on a steep escarpment, the village has no roads but is instead connected via series of wooden walkways that connect houses and town services. Most residences have jetties as boats are virtually the only mode of transport – even the local fire engine is a boat! The area was first visited by Europeans in the 1950’s, while the indigenous people of the regions have lived in the area for much longer. Today the town is dedicated as a national monument. You will have time to explore at your leisure, treading the boardwalks, observing local life and perhaps stopping for a chat with the locals.
Continue your journey north today, leaving the fjords and entering the Pacific Ocean. You may encounter migrating whales that use the Humboldt current as an oceanic conveyor belt. The programme of presentations and discussions continues today, or you may choose to take a break, perhaps writing up your trip journal, or enjoying a good book in one of the comfortable lounges or on the sun deck.
This morning the ship will be close to the town of Castro – the provincial capital of the island of Chiloe. The town was founded in 1567 and is the third oldest city in Chile. It flourished when the early Jesuits chose to base their mission here. Make your way ashore where you will immediately be struck by the colourful houses built on stilts around the harbour. Known as ‘palafitos’, they are simple homes built by the local fisherman. The local markets are a highlight and showcase some of the most impressive crafts and textiles in all of Chile. After re-boarding the ship in the afternoon you will sail up the coastline and hopefully see the snow-capped summits of numerous volcanoes that characterise this region.
Located 35 kilometres off the coast of mainland Chile, the remote outcrop of Mocha Island is an important historic site. Inhabited for centuries by the indigenous Mapuche tribe, Europeans first discovered it in the mid-15th century. The island was frequented by pirates, as well as Sir Francis Drake, and legend has it that more than 100 shipwrecks lie in the surrounding waters. Weather conditions permitting, make a shore landing where there are several hiking options. Here you may spot the resident sea lions and perhaps be lucky to encounter whales. The rare Pink-footed shearwater can be also found on the island, nesting in burrows on the forested slopes.
As the ship makes its way towards the historic port of Valparaiso, the educational presentations continue and you can enjoy an entertaining voyage recap by your Expedition Leader. Join the photography expert in the multimedia room, where you can download and/or back up your precious images. Or spend time outside on the observation decks, in the spacious lounges or on the bridge. It’s a fitting time to reflect on a wonderful expedition. This evening enjoy a special dinner attended by the Captain of the ship.
This morning arrive at Valparaiso – the principal deep water port for Santiago, which is around 100 kilometres inland from the coast. After breakfast it is time to say farewell to your crew and fellow travellers and disembark RCGS Resolute. A transfer to downtown Santiago, via Santiago Airport, is provided for all guests, however Valparaiso is well worth a day or two of exploration if your schedule allows. Ride the historic funicular railways that still operate around the city and enjoy the bohemian atmosphere. Or spend some time exploring the celebrated Casablanca wine region located nearby. Contact us if you would like to add on any arrangements.