Explore dramatic fjords, towering glaciers and fascinating history in comfort and style as you traverse the bottom of the world on Swan Hellenic's 14-day Chilean Fjords cruise. Your journey starts in Ushuaia, said to be the world's most southerly city, before continuing on an intrepid exploration of some of the biggest, best-known and most interesting fjords and glaciers in the southern hemisphere. Your knowledgeable onboard experts will assist you on your search for local wildlife including the famed Andean condor, as well as answer any questions you may have about your out-of-this-world surroundings. From Puerto Natales you will visit the renowned granite pillars of Torres del Paine National Park before continuing north, stopping in at charming coastal settlements along the way. Conclude your Chilean fjord adventure in the vibrant historical city of Valparaíso, enjoying the lively culture and wonderful cuisine as you look back on this incredible experience.
Day 1: Ushuaia
Day 2: Garibaldi Glacier
Day 3: Cruising the Fjords
Days 4 & 5: Puerto Natales
Day 6: Cruising the Fjords
Day 7: Pio XI glacier
Day 8: Tortel
Day 9: At sea
Day 10: Castro
Day 11: Puerto Montt
Day 12: At sea
Day 13: Isla Mocha
Day 14: Valparaiso
Considered one of Chile’s most beautiful glaciers, the towering teal walls of Garibaldi Glacier are quite spectacular. Surrounded by pristine sub-Antarctic forests, the vegetation is just as impressive as the ice. The glacier and surrounding Garibaldi Fjord are part of Alberto de Agostini National Park. The park is also a recognised UNESCO Biosphere Reserve due to its unique terrestrial, marine and coastal ecosystem, and is considered one of the 24 most pristine ecoregions on the planet. Conditions permitting, you'll head out on zodiac boats into the water for further exploration of the fjord and its wildlife. Keep an eye out for the mighty Andean condor, which can often be spotted in the region.
Explore the windswept Tierra del Fuego archipelago as you continue your journey through the fjords. Here you’ll find a dramatic and diverse landscape, from scoured plains and ancient peat bogs to snowy mountain ranges. This desolate archipelago also has an interesting human history. The area was first settled by the Yaghan people in 8,000 BC before it was discovered by Europeans in 1520. Charles Darwin also visited whilst on his famous voyage aboard The Beagle. Continuing north, you’ll navigate through the vast fjords and channels. Take in the natural beauty, wildlife and stillness of the Strait of Magellan and enjoy the wonders of the Estero Las Montãnas fjord. This former glacier valley, now flooded with water, stretches on for as far as the eye can see.
Situated on Last Hope Sound, the pretty port town of Puerto Natales is an ideal base for visiting the famed and feral Torres del Paine National Park. The park’s crown jewel, the imposing trio of granite pillars, dominate the landscape in a manner reminiscent of Tolkien’s Mordor. Explore beyond the star attraction and discover glaciers, vibrant teal lakes, lush forests and thundering rivers. The region is also home to fascinating wildlife including guanaco, Darwin’s rhea, armadillo and the Patagonian fox, and is also one of the top places in the world to see puma. The town itself is very walkable and is home to a number of trendy cafés, restaurants and shops. Take a tour of the Last Hope Distillery for a spot of gin tasting or enjoy a stroll along the waterfront for some photo opportunities. If you’re feeling a little more energetic, hike up the nearby Dorotea Hill for a bird’s eye view of Puerto Natales. If luck is on your side, you may even spot a condor.
Depart Puerto Natales through the White Narrows, a notoriously difficult stretch of water. The narrows can only be passed in daylight and at slack tide. Stay on deck for the opportunity to spot rock wall dwelling wildlife at close range as your crew navigate the narrow, angular passage. Continue your journey northbound as you sail through Eyre Fjord. Here you’ll find an emerald temperate forest that lines the shores, and you may even spot a sea lion or two enjoying a rest on the banks. Dolphins can also be seen in the surrounding waters alongside terns and gulls above. Spend the day on deck with the knowledgeable expedition team for a deeper understanding of the surrounding fjords and their inhabitants. You will also have the opportunity to attend some fascinating talks offered by guest lecturers.
At almost 66 kilometres in length, Pio XI Glacier, also known as Brüggen Glacier, is the longest glacier in the southern hemisphere outside of Antarctica. With a surface area exceeding 1265km2, it is one of few glaciers in the world that is not retreating. It is in fact advancing year after year, with an average advance in length, height and density of up to 50 metres per day. Pio XI is an incredible sight to behold. With giant ice cliffs that rise to a height of 75 meters intersected by deep blue crevasses and free-standing ice pillars known as seracs. Exploring the glacier further, you might just witness the startling but thrilling sights and sounds of ice calving into the water from the glacier wall.
Travel through the green hills and snow-capped peaks of the English Passage before arriving in the remote village of Caleta Tortel. Tortel is located at the mouth of the Rio Baker river and only had its first inland road built in 2003. Before the road’s construction, the village was very isolated, with the river and sea its main transport routes. The streets here consist mainly of boardwalks, and the houses are mostly built on stilts. The village evolved as a result of the local timber industry and is a wonderful place to observe traditional wooden architecture. Enjoy a leisurely walk through the boardwalks, keeping an eye out for hummingbirds which are commonly seen enjoying the local flora.
As you continue on your voyage, spend your day at sea exploring your boutique ship and enjoying the many facilities available. Head to the sauna, get in a workout in the state-of-the-art gym or relax in the jacuzzi whilst taking in incredible views along the way. If you prefer to learn a little more about your surroundings, listen to an informative talk or have a chat with one of the knowledgeable on-board experts.
Disembark today in the small, picturesque city of Castro, the capital of Chiloé Island. The city is known for its brightly painted wooden houses built on stilts (palafitos). Beyond the palafitos you may want to visit the UNESCO World Heritage site, Iglesia San Francisco, an old wooden Neo-Gothic church dating back to the founding of the city in 1567. Venture further afield into nearby Chiloé National Park for the chance to see native alerce conifers, the largest tree species in South America.
Puerto Montt marks the southern end of Chile’s Lake District and is well known for its busy port and salmon fishing industry. From here you will visit the vibrant and thundering Petrohué Rapids, located at the foot of the iconic Osorno Volcano. The falls and the volcano are to be found in the Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park, Chile’s oldest national park. The city itself is relatively small and easy to explore on foot. The Museo Histórico displays fossils and items relating to the areas indigenous history and is worth a visit. Travel beyond the city limits to nearby Puerto Varas, a small and quaint city known for its German heritage and its location on the shores of the vast Lake Llanquihue.
Spend your second, and final full day at sea enjoying the ship’s facilities and learning about the human, natural and geological history of the Chilean Fjords from your knowledgeable onboard experts. Listen to a fascinating talk, indulge in a spa treatment or simply enjoy some relaxing time in your cabin.
The small, nature-protected island of Mocha has a fascinating natural and human history. Inhabited by one of the world’s smallest deer species, the pudú, 45% of the surface area of the island is a nature reserve. In the 16th century, the island was regularly visited by English and Dutch pirates including Francis Drake and Oliver van Hoort. It is also said that the waters around the island were once home to a famous 19th-century sperm whale, Mocha Dick, the whale thought to be the inspiration for Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.
One of Chile’s oldest cities, Valparaíso is known for its steep hillsides overlooking the ocean as well as its historical but perfectly functional funicular. The UNESCO-listed city is a maze of monuments, wonderful architecture, churches, cobblestone alleys, colourful houses and bustling plazas. Spend some time following in the footsteps of Chile’s most famous poet, Pablo Neruda, by visiting his former home. Or perhaps enjoy a wine tasting on a trip to the Casablanca Wine Valley. There are also plenty of wonderful cafes, restaurants, art galleries, museums and shopping opportunities. This city is truly unique and fascinating in equal measure, and definitely worth taking some time getting to know a little better.
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