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Patagonia, the Chilean fjords and Antarctica expedition cruise - 12 Nov 2016

22 days from £14638pp

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Patagonia, the Chilean fjords and Antarctica expedition cruise - 12 Nov 2016:
Trip Dossier

This cruise on Silversea’s luxury expedition ship Silver explorer takes you far south to discover the pristine land- and seascapes of the Antarctic Peninsula. The White Continent, with staggering snow-clad mountains, sculptured icebergs, abundant wildlife and the vestiges of human exploration, is a breathtaking destination and a real privilege to explore.

But unlike many Antarctic cruises which depart from South America’s southernmost port, Ushuaia, this unique voyage offers the opportunity en route to visit southern Chile, a slither of land clinging to the western slopes of the Ands with a long jagged coastline: ideal cruising territory.

Cruise though the dark fjords and steep mountains of sharply glaciated Patagonia; you sail through silvery seas dotted with a multitude of islands inhabited only by birds and sea-lions.  Here, it is so hard to penetrate the fragmented interior that many places can only be reached from the sea.  Discovering this hidden territory is a true adventure.

Continue south to Antarctica and then return to Ushuaia, the Argentina port which sits astride the Beagle Channel in Tierra de Fuego, the island on the tip of the South American continent.

Short itinerary

Holiday itinerary

Day 1

Arrive Santiago, transfer to hotel in Valparaiso.

Day 2

At leisure in Valparaiso.

Day 3

Embark luxury expedition ship Silver Explorer.

Day 4

At sea sailing south.

Day 5

Arrive Valdivia, visit the port at the entrance to the lake district.

Day 6

Castro, Chiloé Island, Chile.

Day 7

Visit Puerto Chacabuco in Chile’s Patagonian XI region.

Day 8

Pass through the English Narrows

Day 9

Visit Pio Xl glacier.

Day 10

At sea cruising the Chilean fjords.

Day 11

Arrive Punta Arenas.

Day 12

Cruise through the Drake Passage.

Day 13

Continue south towards Antarctica.

Day 14

Arrive at the Antarctic Peninsula.

Day 15

Explore the islands and mainland of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Day 16

Explore the islands and mainland of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Day 17

Explore the islands and mainland of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Day 18

Explore the islands and mainland of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Day 19

Travel north to South America through Drake Passage.

Day 20

Continue north towards Tierra del Fuego.

Day 21

Arrive in Ushuaia. Fly to Buenos Aires.

Day 22

Transfer to airport for international flight. UK clients arrive home the following day.

Detailed itinerary

Day 1

Arrive Santiago, transfer to hotel in Valparaiso.
 
On arrival at Santiago airport, transfer to Valparaiso, a couple of hours’ drive away on the Pacific coast. This is a lively, up-and-coming port busy regenerating its jumble of traditional wooden homes covering the steep hillsides framing the port. Your hotel, Palacio Astoreca, is in the old port district.

 

Valparaiso, Chile

Day 2

At leisure in Valparaiso.
 

At leisure in Valparaiso.  You might ride one of the funicular railways up the cliff face to visit smart new restaurants and survey the street art of what is becoming an arty Bohemian district. Or take a train or taxi to nearby Viña del Mar, Chile’s most popular beach resort, with some elegant buildings recalling its fashionable past.  

valparaiso

Day 3

Embark luxury expedition ship Silver Explorer.
 
Transfer to your ship. Once all guests have embarked she weighs anchor. You are introduced to the Expedition Team and other members of the crew. In the evening you can familiarise yourself with the vessel, meet your fellow travellers and enjoy your first meal in the restaurant which serves international cuisine and regional specialties unique to your destination.
Silver Explorer

Day 4

At sea sailing south.
 

Spend a leisurely day at sea. There are presentations about your destinations led by your Expedition Team members to prepare you for the upcoming ports of call. You can stroll around on deck or relax in the comfort of your suite, reading or watching a film on your interactive television.

Silversea Explorer

Day 5

Arrive Valdivia, visit the port at the entrance to the lake district.
 

Drop anchor at Niebla, a small village on the banks of the river Valdivia where it flows the Pacific Ocean. Today Niebla is a beach resort, but in the 17th century it was a defensive fortress built by Spanish conquistadores to repel pirate attacks. The batteries and garrisons here formed the most fortified complex along South America’s west coast.

It’s off the ship now for a drive to the river-port Valdivia at the northern end of Chile’s green and watery lake district. The chunky coastline here is wrinkled with inlets and silvery streams. Valdivia is a pleasant low rise city sitting where three rivers meet.

The city shows off aspects of the cultures of all the immigrant groups who made it the laid back city that it is today: native Mapuche indians, Spanish settlers, and German immigrants. Visit the Historical and Anthropological Museum to get an idea of how human history transformed the place, as did the 1960 earthquake. Reconstruction has led to a medley of the old and the new, and nowadays the life and soul of the place is on the quays and in the markets.

During the afternoon Silver Explorer heads further south.

Valdivia, Chile

Day 6

Castro, Chiloé Island, Chile.
 

Undulating Chiloé, with its fractured coastline, is a secretive island famed for the myths and legends of the original native population. As it is isolated from mainland Chile, farming and fishing techniques haven’t changed much over the centuries. The rustic villages clinging to the estuaries and creeks are dotted with unique Jesuit-carved, wooden churches and brightly painted houses on stilts (palafitos). Go ashore by Zodiac at the capital, Castro, to see its distinctive yellow church.

Continue by road and ferry to the picturesque village of Dalcahue, famous for its woollens and artisan crafts. Visit a couple of other distinctive villages, once affluent places with graceful houses and boats arriving every day from nearby islands. Dalcahue’s church is a UNESCO-listed site with exquisite wooden features carved by Jesuits

 Alternatively, visit Chiloé National Park on the west coast with sand dunes, ancient evergreen rainforest, swamps and peat bogs. It’s an attractive home for foxes, sea-lions, sea otters, opossums and many woodland birds. You can walk one of the trails on the lookout for them. 

Chiloe

Day 7

Visit Puerto Chacabuco in Chile’s Patagonian XI region.
 

Puerto Chacabuco is the gateway to Chile’s most isolated and least-inhabited region, only relatively recently colonised. Sweeping areas of originally densely forested, rugged hills were granted to sheep and cattle-raising companies, while coastal settlements profited from a timber industry as the woodland was cleared for pasture.

 Tiny Puerto Chacabuco (pop. 1,600) is the only commercial port in the region and the suspension bridge spanning the river is a National Monument. The town now survives from fishing, fish-farming, and a little eco-tourism.

This remote, savagely glaciated region of forest-fringed fjords is one of the wettest places in the world. As such it supports rich evergreen Magellanic vegetation and you will visit an ecological park for a walk to have a closer look at the larches, cypresses and fuchsia. Pumas and huemuls (the world’s southernmost deer and one of Chile’s heraldic animals roam here but are very difficult to find.

Chilean fjords

Day 8

Pass through the English Narrows
 

Early in the morning go out on deck to watch as the ship passes through the English Narrows which means cruising through a maze of islands. At the narrowest part it has a width of only 80m. You may spot Magellanic diving petrels, steamer ducks, and maybe a Chilean dolphin.

Birdwatching enthusiasts can discover which species inhabit this area. The further south the ship sails, the better is the chance of spotting Andean condors soaring above the cliffs.

The on-board historian entertains you with tales of early Spanish exploration, and there may be a talk about the region’s geology. As you head south, the land fractures into a jigsaw of drowned glaciated valleys, rugged mountains tumbling into the sea and forested islands.

condor

Day 9

Visit Pio Xl glacier.
 

In the morning visit the vast Pio XI Glacier, a vast sheet of craggy, turquoise blue ice spitting icebergs into the chilly waters below its towering wall.  If the weather is OK you can take to the Zodiacs to approach the glacier and view it up close. 

Pio XI Glacier, Chile

Day 10

At sea cruising the Chilean fjords.
 

This heavily glaciated and forest-stifled area of fiords framed by near vertical hillsides is so inaccessible that only one settlement exists south of the English Narrows – Puerto Eden.

You will become aware of a true wilderness untamed on all sides as the ship follows her course among the islands. Seals and dolphins may pop up here.

 The on-board historian will entertain you with tales of early Spanish exploration, and perhaps you may attend a talk about the region’s geology or bird-life.

Further south Andean condors soar above the craggy hills and mountains. As the ship approaches Punta Arenas one of the city’s tiny fishing-boats may come out to sell their locally caught fish or king crab, which the chef will use to prepare some local dishes for you to sample. 

Chilean Fjords

Day 11

Arrive Punta Arenas.
 

Arrive in Punta Arenas, founded as a penal colony in 1848, but now the busy capital of Chile’s southernmost region. The city prospered in the 19th century owing to a gold rush and extensive sheep-farming. Before the building of the Panama Canal the Strait of Magellan was on an important trading route. Punta Arenas still is an entry point to Antarctica.

 Depart from the pier to explore the city, stopping at viewpoints. Continue on to a museum with exhibits illustrating the habitat and history of Patagonia’s indigenous people and the region’s natural history.

During the evening the ship heads back on the Strait of Magellan, aiming for the Drake Passage.

Punta Arenas, Chile

Day 12

Cruise through the Drake Passage.
 

The Drake Passage has a notorious reputation for its turbulent seas due to the Antarctic Convergence, a natural boundary where cold polar water flowing northward meets warmer equatorial water moving southward. When they converge nutrients are propelled to the surface, attracting a multitude of seabirds and whales.

Spend some time on deck watching the seabirds that glide in the air currents above the ship’s wake including black-browed albatrosses, sooty shearwaters and white-chinned petrels. Have your camera ready to capture the magical colours of a midnight sunset. 

Cape Petrel

Day 13

Continue south towards Antarctica.
 

As you continue bound for Antarctica, you can attend wildlife, geography and history discussions hosted by the ship’s expert naturalists and guest lecturers who will prepare you for the adventures which lie ahead.

Visit the Bridge and meet our Captain and officers; information on their availability will be posted in the ‘Chronicle’, the daily on-board newsletter.

Iceberg from above

Day 14

Arrive at the Antarctic Peninsula.
 

While sailing towards Antarctica, every turn reveals a new and breath-taking experience. As the pack ice becomes thicker, it becomes apparent that the ship is moving closer to Antarctica. Remote and otherworldly, the White Continent is mesmerising with its ethereal iceberg sculptures and calving glaciers, and the possibility of up-close encounters with marine mammals.

Watch for seals sunbathing on slow-moving ice floes and for humpback, Minke, and orca whales surfacing from the frigid waters.

Each day Zodiac departures will be attempted, and, if conditions permit, you’ll cruise among the icebergs or step ashore to visit penguin rookeries and maybe scientific research stations on excursions led by the team of natural history experts. 

Ice Floe

Day 15

Explore the islands and mainland of the Antarctic Peninsula.
 

Paulet Island is home to 80-90,000 Adelies which breed here. From the vantage point of a  hill, view a massive colony of blue-eyed shags. kelp gulls and snowy sheathbills, and Wilson’s storm-petrels are regularly seen. Your Expedition Team guide will explain how Otto Nordenskjold and his expedition party over-wintered on the island in 1912. Remnants of their hut still remain. If time permits, hike to Crater Lake or take a Zodiac cruise to view cool blue icebergs and Adelie penguins making themselves at home on the ice floes.  

On Petermann Island the on-board geologist will point out various geological features such as the basaltic dikes along the shoreline and the granite composition of the small summit, where rock surfaces show glacial polish and some glacial grooving. During your landing, you will be able to observe rookeries of Adelie penguins, gentoo penguins and blue-eyed shags.

Pleneau Island lies at the end of the Lemaire Channel. Amongst the common breeding birds are gentoo penguins, kelp gulls and south Polar skuas. Spot gentoo penguins during a landing and southern elephant seals which are often hauled-out in wallows. 

Lemaire Channel

Day 16

Explore the islands and mainland of the Antarctic Peninsula.
 

Cuverville Island consists of large, bare rock providing nesting sites for gentoo penguins. Snow petrels and pintado petrels also may be seen whilst Wilson’s storm-petrels nest in the higher scree of the island. During the Zodiac tours, Weddell and Antarctic fur seals may be observed.

Paradise Bay displays exquisite landscapes of mountains, glaciers and icebergs. From the ship, you may observe Argentina’s ‘Base Almirante Brown’, one of many Antarctic research stations. Here, you will actually set foot on the continent of Antarctica. View the wildlife from sea level while cruising in your Zodiac with one of the experienced Expedition Team members. There’s a good chance you’ll come across a crabeater seal relaxing on a nearby ice floe, or if you’re very lucky, your Zodiac driver may identify Minke whales.

Crabeater Seal

Day 17

Explore the islands and mainland of the Antarctic Peninsula.
 
Paulet Island is home to 80-90,000 Adelies which breed here. From a hilltop vantage point view a massive colony of blue-eyed shags, with kelp gulls, snowy sheathbills, and Wilson’s storm-petrels regularly seen.

Your Expedition Team guide will explain how Otto Nordenskjold and his expedition party over-wintered on the island in 1912. Remnants of their hut still remain. If time permits, hike to Crater Lake or take a Zodiac cruise to view cool blue icebergs and Adelie penguins on the ice floes.  

On Petermann Island the geologist will point out glacial features. During your landing, you will be able to observe rookeries of Adelie penguins, gentoo penguins and blue-eyed shags.

Pleneau Island lies at the end of the Lemaire Channel. Amongst the common breeding birds are gentoo penguins, kelp gulls and south Polar skuas. Spot gentoo penguins during a landing and southern elephant seals which are often hauled-out in wallows. 

Adelie Penguins

Day 18

Explore the islands and mainland of the Antarctic Peninsula.
 

Deception Island is composed of a caldera where a volcano’s summit collapsed allowing the sea to flood the interior. Sail into this breached wall through a narrow entrance called Neptune’s Bellows.

The geologist will explain the unique volcanic features of the area while the historian will introduce you to the whaling history of Deception Island. Still visible on the island are the boilers used to make whale oil in the early 1900s.

On Wienke Island, crowned with ice-jacketed, spidery peaks, the British built a listening station at Port Lockroy during the Second World War which was used as a research station in the 1950s. Since 1996 it has been a museum and gift shop. Snowy sheathbills and Gentoo penguins roam outside the museum. 

Albatross Nuptials

Day 19

Travel north to South America through Drake Passage.
 

While the ship navigates the return to South America through the Drake Passage watch for seabirds and wildlife you may have missed on the way south. Take this opportunity to attend additional presentations offered by the Expedition Team lecturers and to swap photos with fellow travellers.

Giant Petrel

Day 20

Continue north towards Tierra del Fuego.
 

Continue north through Drake Passage, skirting Cape Horn en route as you travel towards Ushuaia, the world’s most southerly city and port on Tierra del Fuego in Argentina.

 The ship travels along the 130nm Beagle Channel, fringed by ancient evergreen woodland, water-smoothed boulders and rocky islets. This famous waterway on the southern shores of Tierra del Fuego was named after HMS Beagle, the ship on which Charles Darwin sailed. You then head for the final destination: Ushuaia.

Lighthouse in Ushuaia

Day 21

Arrive in Ushuaia. Fly to Buenos Aires.
 
Silver Explorer will arrive at Ushuaia in the morning. Following breakfast, disembark. Transfer to the airport and fly to Buenos Aires, transfer to your hotel, the extravagant and prestigious Alvear Palace.
Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

Day 22

Transfer to airport for international flight. UK clients arrive home the following day.
 
Having arrived in Buenos Aires, consider a wind-down and warm-up on a 

luxury estancia.

Buenos Aires

Essential information

Transport

Transfer from Santiago to Valparaiso (2hrs). 18 day expedition cruise from Valparaiso, Chile to Ushuaia, Argentina. Flight to Buenos Aires from Ushuaia (4-5hrs)

Accommodation

This holiday incorporates a luxurious cruise on board a first class cruise ship, Silver Explorer, accommodating 130 guests and 117 staff and crew.  All guest suites are ocean view and all have verandas, marble bath, flat screen TV, on demand movies, and spa robes. All suites have a designated trained butler. Among his or her many services for you, your butler helps customise your mattress, pillow and bathroom amenities. Wifi internet (when coverage is available) and computers are accessed in the Internet café. The ship also has a medical centre, spa, beauty salon, fitness room and boutique.

Hotels in Valparaiso and Buenos Aires are first class.

Meals

Breakfast daily, full board on the cruise ship. On board ship, all meals and snacks are included, with options to eat al fresco or in your suite. Complimentary beverages incl wine, spirits, coffee, soft drinks; customised minibar items.

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. Guides, lecturers and presenters on the cruise ship are all qualified in a field of expertise relevant to the cruise.

Included excursions

• Land and sea-based excursions and activities on the expedition cruise.

Summary of nights

Valparaiso, Chile, 2 nights; cruise 18 nights, Buenos Aires 1 night.

Included in the journey price

• Services of our team of experts in our London office.
• Services of Journey Latin America local representatives on the mainland..
• All land and air transport within Latin America.
• All inclusive cruise as specified, including land and sea excursions, activities and lectures. 
• Complimentary parka, water bottle and backpack on cruise.
• Accommodation as specified.
• Meals as specified.
• Excursions as specified. 
• Cruise staff tips and gratuities.

Not included in the journey price

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

Currency

The unit of currency in Chile is the Chilean Peso, in Argentina it is the Argentine Peso.

Daily spend

It is very difficult to give a guideline for essential expenses but a budget of around US$50 per day should cover the cost of good quality meals, drinks and the odd souvenir on those days in the holiday itinerary or extension outside the cruise. Eat at the very best restaurants and you will pay considerably more. On the cruise, excursions, drinks, meals and tips are included.

How to take it

Outside the cruise period, cash machines are available in major 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 spend as the dollar is the 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.

You can pay for extras on the cruise (beauty salon and spa treatments, boutique items) with a credit card or US dollars. Optional excursions may be offered which have to be booked and  paid in advance before departure.

Tipping

Tips for the cruise staff are included, but local guides onshore will welcome a gratuity: they often rely on their tip as a significant proportion of their income. Most service industry workers will hope for a tip so it is useful to have spare change for waiters, hotel porters, taxi drivers etc. It is common to leave 10 - 12% in restaurants.

Tipping guidelines can be found in our Briefing Dossier.

Insurance

Travel insurance is essential.  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

This holiday is suitable for all able, reasonably fit visitors. If you have doubts about your fitness for the cruise, we will send you a medical questionnaire. 

Children are accepted, but must be over 6 years old to participate in excursions. There is no special entertainment programme on board for children. Children and and teenagers who are interested in the wildlife and nature should enjoy the cruise and if there is a number of children/teenagers on board, the expedition team might dedicate a team member to lead the group and explain things to them.

Climate

he weather in Patagonia at this time of year will be cool  with some warm days but also chilly days with rain and even snow. Be prepared for zero temperatures and a cold wind, though you may be lucky and have calm, warm, sunny weather: it is completely unpredictable.

November  is Spring in South America: it should be pleasantly warm in Valparaiso and Buenos Aires with temperatures in the low to late twenties Celcius. 

Clothing and special equipment

Pack for both warm and cold weather: layered clothing is best. Include a little summer-weight loose, comfortable clothing including shorts and trousers (bear in mind that you have to get in and out of Zodiac boats but also that you are in cities for a few days). Brings sun-protective headgear, swimwear, smart casual for the evening, light sweater or jacket for cool evenings on and off shore. For southern Patagonia and Antarctica, bring a warm fleece or two, woolly-type  hats and gloves, scarf, and wet weather gear with waterproof jacket and waterproof trousers, rain-cape or coat, comfortable non-slip footwear including stout walking boots or shoes. You may consider bringing collapsible walking poles. There’s no need to over-pack: On board the cruise ship there is a laundry and dry cleaning service. The ship provides you with a complimentary parka. 

Sun block and insect repellant are essential. Don’t forget your sun-glasses, binoculars, camera, charger and memory cards. Some items can be bought in the on board boutique, including branded and unbranded T shirts and sweatshirts, scent, souvenir mugs etc. Remember to pack any personal medication (carry it in cabin luggage on the flights). Consider taking sea-sickness prevention (consult your pharmacist). A small first aid kit with blister pads, aspirin etc may come in handy. The ship has a medical centre.

Vaccinations

Preventative vaccinations are recommended against the following: 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 at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/esta.html

This costs $14 per person, and must be applied for by you personally.

UK Passport holders must present an e-passport with a built in chip. 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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