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Antarctic Peninsula: Fly and cruise

14 days from £12250pp

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Antarctic Peninsula: Fly and cruise:
Trip Dossier

You don’t have to venture deep into this huge continent – larger than Europe – to have a rewarding experience of what Antarctica has to offer. And you don’t have to spend several days sailing over choppy seas to get there and back – skip the stomach-lurching waves by flying from southern Patagonia to join a cruise ship in the most accessible region of the continent around the Antarctic Peninsula, a slim finger of land and offshore islands reaching out from the main continental mass towards southern Argentina.

In addition to prolific wildlife and extraordinary ice-carved landscapes of the Antarctic Peninsula you will see evidence of the human impact – derelict whaling stations, and research outposts. This expedition provides an in-depth experience of the snow-drenched mountains and icebergs of these more accessible fringes of the White Continent. The cliffs and bays are brought to life by the chattering and wheeling of birdlife, sea-lions and penguins. 

Before your Antarctica adventure begins, take advantage of your positioning in Chile’s far south before you fly to spend a few days in Torres del Paine National Park, replete with icy spires, aquamarine lakes and wilderness wildlife. And round everything off with a couple of days at a sunny vineyard outside Santiago.

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Santiago. Transfer to your hotel in the smart residential district Providencia.

Day 2

Fly south to Punta Arenas in Chilean Patagonia; by road to Torres del Paine.

Days 3-4

Expeditions in Torres del Paine National Park.

Day 5

By road to Punta Arenas, overnight.

Day 6

Fly to King George Island, board MV Ocean Nova.

Days 7-10

Cruising the shores of the Antarctic Peninsula; land and sea excursions.

Day 11

Fly back to Punta Arenas, overnight.

Days 12-13

Fly to Santiago; by road to Casablanca, 2 nights at a winery. At leisure among the vineyards.

Day 14

Return to Santiago airport.

Detailed itinerary

Day 1

Arrive in Santiago. Transfer to your hotel in the smart residential district Providencia.
 

You will be met at the airport and escorted by one of our local representatives to your hotel in a modern district with shops, bars and restaurants nearby.

Santiago

Day 2

Fly south to Punta Arenas in Chilean Patagonia; by road to Torres del Paine.
 
Fly to Punta Arenas in Chilean Patagonia. Continue by road across the vast expanse of Patagonian grasslands, remote and sparsely populated. Wildlife to look out for includes guanaco and the ostrich-like rhea (ñandu).  After about 5hrs on the road, arrive at your accommodation, a first class lodge on the edge of magnificent Torres del Paine National Park.

The park is dominated by a granite massif of smooth rock towers and icy pinnacles. Milky blue and gem-sharp emerald lakes, sinuous rivers, glaciers and wind-scoured steppes have created a remarkable and unique environment. Declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO, the area is a natural habitat of over 150 species of birds (flamingos, condors, eagles and ostriches) and 25 species of mammal (including guanacos, armadillos, silver foxes and pumas).

Torres del Paine

Days 3-4

Expeditions in Torres del Paine National Park.
 

Your designer hotel sits on a bluff overlooking Lake Sarmiento, with staggering views towards the Torres del Paine massif. A comprehensive programme offers you various options each day, on foot, by van, horseback and launch. Excursions vary in duration (full day or half day) and fitness requirements (from easy to difficult).

Torres del Paine Chile

Day 5

By road to Punta Arenas, overnight.
 
Travel by road back to Punta Arenas, an atmospheric and often blustery Patagonian city, once an important commercial outpost. Its centre is lined with elegant mansions (built on the wealth of sheep farming and mining during the late 19th century) and colourful buildings with corrugated iron roofs. Overnight at a hotel not far from the centre.

In the afternoon, you attend a briefing that provides important information about your voyage and reviews the essential guidelines for Antarctic visitors.  Later there is a welcome dinner organised by the cruise operator at the Hotel José Nogueira which overlooks the main square, and is one of the oldest buildings in Patagonia.

Punta Arenas

Day 6

Fly to King George Island, board MV Ocean Nova.
 
Transfer to the airport for your 2 hr(ish) flight from Punta Arenas to King George Island on the South Shetland Islands, just north of the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Explore the area surrounding Chile’s Frei Station and Russia’s Bellingshausen station, before boarding a zodiac to embark your expedition vessel Ocean Nova for your cruise around the peninsula.

Antarctica iceberg

Days 7-10

Cruising the shores of the Antarctic Peninsula; land and sea excursions.
 
Cruise between the South Shetland Islands and the western coast of the Antarctic Peninsula, sailing along ice-filled fjords and among gigantic icebergs, while enjoying the company of sea birds, penguins, seals and whales. Each day, disembark by Zodiac and explore the landscape together with expert polar guides. On board the ship, you may attend a programme of lectures and presentations, and enjoy superlative vistas from the glass-enclosed lounge while sharing your daily adventures with fellow guests.

Wildlife you may encounter on your 4 full days on the South Shetlands and the Antarctic Peninsula includes: gentoo, chinstrap and Adélie penguins; petrel; shag; elephant, Weddell and fur seal; and perhaps whales. There is a planned visit to Deception Island, the centre of which is a volcanic caldera that last erupted in 1969, as well as other islands and bays. In Antarctica, silence is so complete that interruptions become indelible memories: noisy penguins squabbling over prized pebbles on Cuverville Island, the boom and crack of a calving glacier in Paradise Harbour, for example.

The soaring peaks and stark rocks of Lemaire Channel are just the excuse you need to grab your camera gear for a shooting session from the deck, if the channel is free of ice. Exactly where the ship lands will vary from one expedition to the next and according to the polar conditions as the ship edges its way southwards through the slush and abstract patterns formed by the sea ice.

(Some departures offer optional snow-shoeing and kayaking activities in addition to, or instead of, the traditional landings or zodiac sailings. These activities are subject to additional cost. If you are interested in confirming a place on these activities, it is best to book with us before departing on your holiday as places may be limited).

Gentoo penguin with chick

Day 11

Fly back to Punta Arenas, overnight.
 

Return to King George Island and disembark. Fly back to Punta Arenas for one further night.

Crabeater seal

Days 12-13

Fly to Santiago; by road to Casablanca, 2 nights at a winery. At leisure among the vineyards.
 
Transfer to Punta Arenas airport and fly to Santiago. Continue by road to Casablanca and the Casona de Matetic winery. 

This young vineyard is situated in the Antonio Valley, where a refreshing microclimate supports the cultivation of Pinot Noir and Shiraz grapes. This huge estate has a very peaceful, rural setting amid rolling hills covered in Mediterranean chaparral forest. It's a modern, state-of-the-art design winery with an historic estate house which has been painstakingly restored and is now a beautiful small hotel. It’s a great place to warm up in after your adventure in the icy wilderness of Antarctica.  A tour of the winery and tasting will be offered during your visit. It has already won awards for the quality of its wine.

winery in Chile

Day 14

Return to Santiago airport.
 

Essential information

The nature of Antarctic travel

Once on board ship many factors play a role in shaping the expedition's progress - the prevailing wind, weather and ice conditions, for example. Ideally, depart the ship by zodiac to explore the peninsula with at least 2 excursions daily - on land, by zodiac or a combination of both, lasting anything between 2-4hrs.  There are no man-made jetties in Antarctica so landfalls are 'wet landings' where you scramble ashore from the zodiac in wellingtons and waterproofs. You are then free to explore on your own or in groups, before later being picked up again by zodiac. Evenings may be spent relaxing, reliving the days' events with a briefing or lecture, or out on the deck, keeping an eye on the dramatic, ever-changing scenery. Itineraries will vary from the original plan if conditions demand/permit. 

It’s a long time at sea, but the variety and intrinsic fascination of what can be seen is spell-binding.

What to see and when

The theatre of wildlife in Antarctica as a whole displays an ever changing narrative of birth, struggle, pleasure, fulfilment and death. You may witness the comedy of a waddling penguin building its nest, a mother bird feeding its young or reuniting with a returning mate; a wily seal escaping the clutches of a hunting whale.

A large variety of marine birds (includes 6 species of penguin - Emperor, King, macaroni, chinstrap, gentoo and Adélie) visit the White Continent. Mammals abound here: blue, orca, humpback, minke and southern right whales prowl the chilly ocean, while Weddell, Ross, crab-eater, leopard and elephant seals sprawl on the beaches. 

Plant life in Antarctica proper is restricted to lichen, mosses and algae but there are hundreds of colourful varieties of these. 

What to see as the season unfolds:
December – January:
  • Long days of summer light, milder temperatures.
  • Penguin chicks hatch in the Antarctic Peninsula.
  • Whale sightings increase.
February :
  • Excellent whale-watching opportunities.
  • Penguin chicks begin to fledge.
  • Fur seals increasingly numerous on the Antarctic Peninsula.
  • Colourful snow algae break the snow white domination of the landscape.
  • Spectacular sunrises and sunsets add a rosy glow to the ice.
Specific to your cruise:

South Shetland Islands and Antarctic Peninsula:

Visitors include chinstrap, gentoo, macaroni and Adélie penguins; giant petrels, Wilson’s and black-bellied storm petrels, brown and south polar skuas, Cape pigeons, Antarctic terns, blue-eyed shags, Dominican gulls, elephant, fur, 
leopard and crab-eater seals; humpback, minke and orca (killer) whales offshore. 

Antarctic Peninsula:
Chinstrap, gentoo and Adélie penguins abound. Breeding birds include skuas, Antarctic terns, giant petrels, snowy sheathbills, Antarctic shags, kelp gulls, Wilson’s storm, and Antarctic and snow petrels.

Transport

4 flights (longest 4hrs); 6 day cruise.

Accommodation

The hotels in Santiago and Punta Arenas are good, practical mid-range options. The imaginative contemporary property in Torres del Paine is first class. MV Ocean Nova is a purpose-built expeditionary cruise vessel with a Scandinavian feel and outside cabins with windows. A highlight of the ship is its panoramic observation lounge.

Meals

Breakfast daily; dinner days 2, 5, 12, 13; full board days 3, 4, 6-10.

Guides

We carefully select our local partners, some of whom we have worked with for over 25 years. Their English-speaking guides understand the expectations of our clients very well, and are consistently singled out for praise by the latter on their return.

Included excursions

  • A full programme of excursions to Torres del Paine National Park
  • Shore excursions on the Antarctic cruise.
  • Activities at the vineyard near Santiago.

Summary of nights

14 days, 13 nights: Santiago 1; Torres del Paine 3; Punta Arenas 1; Antarctic cruise 5; Punta Arenas 1; winery near Santiago 2.

Included in the journey price

  • Services of our team of experts in our London office.
  • Services of Journey Latin America local representatives, local and cruise guides.
  • All land and domestic air transport; ocean cruise.
  • Accommodation as specified.
  • Meals as specified.
  • Excursions as specified, including entrance fees.

Not included in the journey price

• Tips and gratuities
• Meals other than specified.
• International flights to Latin America.
• Airport taxes, when not included in the ticket
• Optional excursions.

Optional excursions

These adventure activities are offered on selected departures:
  • Kayaking (previous experience required).
  • Snow-shoeing (no prior experience needed).
It is advisable to pre-book (and pre-pay) any optional activities, as many of these have limited numbers and can fill up before the cruise commences.

Travelling alone

Cruise ships will accept individuals travelling alone who are willing to share a cabin with a person of the same sex, they will be charged the per person price based on two travelling together. If you prefer not to share a cabin you can opt to pay a single cabin supplement.

Currency

The unit of currency in Argentina is the Argentine peso. The ship works with US dollars and accepts credit cards.

Daily spend

Meals and drinks are included on board the Ocean Nova. You pay for your extras (in US dollars or by credit card) at the end of the cruise. There isn’t much else to pay for on board. All meals and drinks are included at your lodge in Torres del Paine.

How to take it

Cash machines are available in all major Chilean cities and towns, and so taking a debit or credit card with a PIN number is the most convenient way of withdrawing money while on your trip, and in most shops and restaurants you can also pay by card. However, since cards can get lost, damaged, withheld or blocked, you should not rely exclusively on a card to access funds. 

We recommend that additionally you take a reasonable quantity of US dollars cash (no more than is covered by your insurance), which you can exchange into local currency. Dollar bills should be in good condition, soiled or torn bills may be refused. You can take sterling, but the exchange rate is not always competitive or even available, restricting the number of places where you can change money.

On the cruise ship you can pay your bill for extras with a credit card (Most accepted excluding Diner’s Card), or in US dollars cash.

Tipping

Tips are expected and local guides often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income. 

Most service industry workers will expect a tip of some kind and so it is useful to have an allowance for cruise ship staff, hotel porters, taxi drivers and the like. It is common to leave 10 - 12% in restaurants.

It is common to leave 10 - 12% in restaurants. On the cruise, a tip of $US 8-10 per person per day for the crew and guides is considered appropriate. 

Tipping guidelines can be found in our Briefing Dossier.

Insurance

Travel insurance is essential. Make sure your insurance covers you for the full amount if you have to cancel.

Details of our recommended policy can be found on our Travel Insurance page.

Airport taxes

If you have purchased your flights through Journey Latin America, the international departure tax is usually included in the ticket.

Journey grade

The flight to Antarctica: 
The aircraft BAE-146 was manufactured in the UK by British Aerospace (which later became part of BAE Systems. It is operated by Aerovías DAP, which has more than 20 years of experience of flying in Patagonia and Antarctica.

The cruise:
Antarctica is very remote: once committed to your journey, you are at the mercy of the weather and ocean conditions, the melting and freezing of ice-packs, and the movement of icebergs. This is expeditionary cruising: you will be facing the same environmental challenges as the early explorers, albeit in much greater comfort, and with the assistance of modern technology and communications. 

You must be in good health generally and you should be able to walk over slippery and rocky terrain, although the expedition is ship-based and physically not very demanding. Although you spend as much time as possible ashore, you are welcome to remain aboard the ship if you like. To join most excursions, you must be able to get up and down the steep gangway from the ship to the water level to board the Zodiacs. Staff will assist you in and out of the boats. This will become progressively easier with practice. 

There is a doctor on board but bear in mind that if you have a health issue while on the cruise or an accident it could be a long time and maybe an arduous journey before you return to a destination with good medical facilities, so bear this in mind if you have a pre-existing condition. 

Climate

Santiago is hottest January-March with temperatures of 30°C but it should be dry. 

Patagonia is best to visit in the summer (December-February) when days are long and mild.  March and November can be sunny and clear, but it can be windy. 

Antarctica is visited from late October to March, the southern hemisphere summer. Outside this period days are short and dark. The Peninsula has a typical maritime climate with average temperatures during the cruising season varying between 1°C and -15°C. Antarctica is a desert, so you won’t see much precipitation.

Clothing and special equipment

The southern hemisphere summer is hot in Santiago, so take loose-fitting light clothing for maximum comfort at this time. Spring and autumn are milder and less predictable.

South America is in general a relaxed continent and you won’t need clothes for formal dining but you may wish to take some smart casual wear for dining on the mainland. 

Your requirements for your stay in Torres del Paine will be covered by the recommendations for Santiago and the cruise.

On the cruise: 
Protective clothing is the single most important way of ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable cruise and the key is to dress in layers. For Antarctic landings we recommend a breathable, thermal base layer to wick away perspiration; a warm mid-layer such as a fleece or down sweater and a wind and waterproof (but breathable) outer shell garment. Trousers should have a thermal lining (or wear a base layer of thermal leggings) and you will need waterproof trousers to wear over them. Plus of course warm socks, hat, scarf, gloves and sunglasses. Rubber boots are essential for Antarctic landings; these can be pre-ordered and are loaned on board free of charge.  Dress on board ship is informal and it’s sensible to bring a spare change of warm, dry clothing for wearing out on deck between landings.

Please get in touch with the office before departure if you have any doubts. Good equipment is very important and hard to come by in South America.

Vaccinations

Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following: typhoid; polio; tetanus; hepatitis A. You should consult your GP for specific requirements. 

You can also find helpful information on the Masta Travel Health website.

Visas

Holders of a full British passport do not require a visa, although passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the trip begins. Anyone with a different nationality should enquire with us or check with the relevant consulate.

APIS and ESTA - important flight information:

ESTA - if flying to the US, or via the US you will need to fill in your application to ESTA online.

This costs $14 per person. This must be done by you personally.
Passports must also be machine-readable (MRP). Avoid locking suitcases if transiting the USA, as their customs authorities retain the right to break into them.

APIS - Many countries now oblige airlines to provide additional information about passengers prior to the flight departure. This Advance Passenger Information (APIS) must be supplied to us promptly in order to issue tickets and avoid fare increases. We will provide the airlines with the relevant details if we are booking your international flights. If the information is not provided you may be denied boarding.

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