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Tierra del fuego, Land of Fire in English. The southernmost tip of the Latin American continent has been inhabited since 8000 BCE; however, it wasn’t until 1520 that Europeans first explored it. It was Fernando de Magellan who, sailing for the Spanish Crown, arrived in this remote land. When approaching it, he sought some lights shining in the distance: they were the bonfires of the natives.
This archipelago consists of the main island and a group of smaller ones. It is across the Straits of Magellan, named – of course – after the Portuguese explorer, and is divided between Chile and Argentina. This region is not just rich in history but also in landscapes and wildlife. You will love discovering it on our four-day Cruise from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia. From Ainsworth Bay to Pia Glacier and Glacier Alley, as well as mystical Wulaia Bay and the legendary Cape Horn.
If you’d like to combine this tour with experiences in Ushuaia, we invite you to check our Ushuaia to Cape Horn and the End of the World section.
Check in at 1398 Costanera del Estrecho Ave. (Arturo Prat Port) in Punta Arenas between 13:00 and 17:00 (1-5 PM) on the day of your cruise departure.
After boarding the cruise, the captain of the vessel and its crew will give you a detailed briefing and invite you to join them on a welcome toast. During the first night, the vessel will cross the Strait of Magellan and this will mark the beginning of a mystical adventure along the south Patagonian fjords.
We will leave the flashing lights of Punta Arenas behind, while going deep into the Whiteside Channel between Darwin Island and Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego.
With the crack of dawn, we will be sailing into the spectacular Almirantazgo Sound, at the western coast of Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego. The snowcapped peaks of Karukinka Natural Park cover the north side of the sound, while on the south shore we can find the deep fjords and broad bays of Alberto de Agostini National Park.
We will enter Ainsworth Bay and get off the vessel to enjoy the abundant birdlife of the area as well as a colony of southern elephant seals. At this bay, we will go on two different guided excursions, from which we will get wonderful views of Marinelli Glacier and the Darwin Mountains.
The first excursion takes us deep inside a pristine sub-polar forest. To get there, we will penetrate into a peat bog until we get to a beaver habitat. The other one is a bit more challenging yet very enjoyable trek along the crest of a glacial moraine.
After Ainsworth Bay, we will head to the sound of the Tucker Islets, where we will feast our eyes upon the Magellan penguins (from OCTOBER till MARCH) that inhabit these tiny islands. Tucker is home to more than 4000 of these funny penguins, which arrive to the region to nest, give birth and nurture their chicks. Birdlife is plentiful in the islands: from king cormorants to oystercatchers, kelp geese, eagles and Chilean skuas. If we are lucky, we will even get to spot some Andean condors. 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, 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, the cruise tacks eastward and enters the Beagle Channel again. By morning we are entering Pia Fjord and board the Zodiacs for a Pia Glacier tour. Once we disembark, we go on a short hike in the search of a panoramic view of the stunning glacier, which stretches from the mountain down to the sea.
Back onboard the ship, 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 glaciers flowing down from the Darwin Mountains and Darwin Ice Sheet on the north shore.
During the morning we cruise across Nassau Bay into the remote archipelago where Cape Horn National Park is located. Should weather and sea conditions permit it, we will go ashore on the windswept island that harbors legendary Cape Horn, a sheer 425-meter high rocky promontory overlooking the waters of Drake Passage discovered in 1616 by a Dutch maritime expedition.
In the afternoon, we navigate the narrow Murray Channel between Navarino and Hoste islands and drop anchor at historic Wulaia Bay, 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 Fitz Roy in the 1830s during their voyages on the HMS Beagle. This area is also renowned for its mesmerizing beauty and dramatic geography.
After a visit to the Australis-sponsored museum in the old radio station, which is especially strong on the Yámana people and European missionaries in the area, 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, 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.
The following morning, we set out our journey to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. By 8:30am, we will reach the port of this magical Argentinian land.
* Camera extension poles are prohibited on Magdalena Island.
The excursions described in the itineraries can normally be carried out. Notwithstanding the above, the cruise ship company reserve the right to reschedule, shorten, or alter all or part of the itineraries and/or excursions without prior notice, in order to safeguard the wellbeing and safety of passengers, preserve the environment, or due to any extraordinary circumstances, acts of God or force majeure. For the same reasons, the hours of departure or arrival of the vessels may be subject to change.There is no guarantee of wildlife sighting because the precise location of these animals cannot be confirmed.
If you are interested in Patagonia, we invite you to check out our other Patagonia Tours.
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