Chilean Fjords Expedition
Discover the dramatic fjords, glaciers and peaks of southern Chile
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Vacation Style Holiday Type
Activity Level Leisurely
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 planet’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, we make our way north through a vast network of deep fjords and channels, occasionally venturing out to the Pacific Ocean as we navigate towards Valparaiso – Chile’s historic deep-sea port. We explore our surroundings by Zodiac boat, approaching huge glaciers and observing resident and migratory wildlife and birdlife. On shore, we enjoy hikes of varying durations 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!
* All meals while on the ship
* All accommodation
* All transport and listed activities
* Full complement of qualified Expedition Staff
* Flights from London (if booking incl. flights)
Start Ushuaia and embark
Our journey through Chile’s spectacular fjord region commences this afternoon in Ushuaia (Argentina). We gather at our central meeting point then transfer to the pier for embarkation. Excitement is in the air as we enjoy a welcome cocktail and dinner before casting off, bound for the stunning landscapes of Patagonia, rugged coastal Chile and historic city of Valparaiso.
Garibaldi Fjord & Alberto de Agostini National Park
During the night we have sailed in a westerly direction along the Beagle Channel, which separates Argentina from neighbouring Chile, and into Alberto de Agostini National Park, designated as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve due to its large tracts of ancient sub-Antarctic forest systems. Naturalists believe these forests started growing around 10,000 years ago. We awaken to the stunning view of the Pia Glacier. After breakfast, we head to shore for the first time, with the option of taking a short but steep hike up to a panoramic view of the glacier. In the afternoon we sail up the Garibaldi Fjord to explore its massive glacier here by Zodiac. Resident wildlife in the Beagle Channel includes the South American Sea lion and several species of birds, including Magellanic penguins and albatross.
Alberto de Agostini National Park, Dainelli & Serano Glaciers
Sailing through the night, by morning we have rounded the western tip of the great isle of Tierra del Fuego. We take in views of the ice-capped peaks of the Darwin Range as we enter remote D’Agostini Sound. Here, the Dainelli and Serrano Glaciers, along with several others, cascade into the sea. Our captain will assess current ice and weather conditions to determine where we can land to explore from shore.
Magellan Strait & Cabo San Isidro
We arrive at Cabo San Isidro, on the north shore of Magellan Strait, and site of the southernmost lighthouse on the continent. This is our opportunity to enter the normally impenetrable Magellanic southern beech forests. A hiking trail follows the shoreline, passing shell middens left by the indigenous Kawéskar people, leading to Aguila Bay, site of an important whaling station over a century ago. Wildlife watchers will appreciate the variety of forest birds, and the viewpoint above the bay where dolphins are often observed swimming in the kelp beds below.
Inside Passage & Bernal Glacier
We cruise through the maze of channels that form Chile’s Inside Passage, gradually making our way northward. We find ourselves in the steep-sided Montañas Fjord, where we stop at the Bernal Glacier, one of the few locations where – conditions permitting – we may be able to walk up to actually touch the ice. We return to the ship for dinner and an overnight cruise to the coastal town of Puerto Natales.
Torres del Paine National Park
For many, today will be one of the highlights of the trip as we head ashore for a full-day excursion to Torres del Paine 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, providing jaw-dropping views of the immense massif. The guanaco (a wild ancestor of the llama) is resident in the park and can be found in sizeable numbers grazing on the native grasses.
Peel Fjord & Southern Ice Field
Departing Puerto Natales by night, we awaken far to the north, travelling through the narrow channels that separate the many forested on our way to Peel Fjord. This is one of the most remote locations of our journey. The many glaciers spilling seaward from Chile’s great Southern Ice Field here create abundant sea ice – a spectacular location which can only be accessed by an icestrengthened vessel such as RCGS Resolute.
Bruggen Glacier & Falcon Fjord
In a trip full of superlatives and 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 of Antarctica. From the low vantage point of our 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, we put on our expedition hats to explore the seldom visited Falcon Fjord.
Wellington Island & Puerto Eden
We awaken off the shores of Wellington Island, alongside one of the most isolated inhabited places in the world. The tiny indigenous village of Puerto Edén is home to the last remaining Kawéskar people. A visit to shore allows us to explore the village and to purchase local handicrafts, including models of bark canoes reflecting the Kawéskar’s paddling heritage. In the afternoon, we sail north along Messier Channel, now leaving the Patagonian fjords to voyage over the open sea, rounding the Taitao Peninsula by night.
Chonos Arcipelago & Guamblin Island
Sailing through the Chonos Archipelago, a patchwork of windswept islands named for the canoeing people who once made their home here, we stop at Guamblin Island. This forested and hilly island, once inhabited by the Chono people, is now a remote and infrequently visited National Park, hosting breeding colonies of several species of sea birds as well as Sea lions. These waters are also home to a recently discovered population of Blue whales – the largest species ever to have existed on our planet – which are often spotted within 100 metres of the shores at this time of the year.
Castro & Chloe Island
We have moved to milder climes and are now in position close to the town of Castro – the provincial capital of the island of Chiloé. The town was founded in 1567 and is the third oldest city in Chile. Today it is known for its elaborate churches, made entirely of wood, which have earned it designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.We make our way ashore and are immediately struck by the colourful houses built on stilts around the harbour. Known as ‘palafitos’, they are simple homes built by local fisherman. The local markets are a highlight and showcase some of the most impressive crafts and textiles in the country. Reboarding the ship in the afternoon, we hug the coastline, hoping to see the snow-capped summits of the many active volcanoes that characterize this region.
Coastal Cruising & Mocha Island
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, we head ashore where there are several hiking options. We hope to spot the resident Sea lions and may be lucky enough to encounter whales. The rare Pink-footed shearwater can be also found on the island, nesting in burrows on the forested slopes.
Coastal Cruising towards Valparaiso
As we make our way towards the historic port of Valparaiso, the educational presentations continue and we enjoy an entertaining voyage recap by our Expedition Leader. Join our 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 our spacious lounges or on the bridge. It’s a fitting time to reflect on a wonderful expedition. This evening we enjoy a special dinner attended by the Captain of the ship.
Disembark Valparaiso & transfer to Santiago
This morning we arrive at Valparaiso, the principal deep water port for Santiago, around 100 kilometres inland from the coast. After breakfast it is time to say farewell to your crew and fellow travellers as we 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.