“I climbed a path and from the top looked up-stream towards Chile. I could see the river, glinting and sliding through the bone-white cliffs with strips of emerald cultivation either side…There was no sound but the wind.”
The world has changed since Chatwin published his classic travelogue, ‘In Patagonia’ in 1977. But Patagonia itself hasn’t changed much. Amid the hustle and bustle of modern life, Patagonia remains a refuge for all things wild.
It can take some time to adjust to the slow pace of life in this windswept archipelago at the southernmost tip of South America. The din of planes and iPhones fades away, replaced with the sweet sound of the breeze rustling in the beech trees, the sea lapping on rocky shores, the thunderous roar of a glacier calving into gleaming blue waters.
Intrepid travellers have been drawn to Patagonia since the 19th century. Bruce Chatwin experienced it on foot, Charles Darwin by sea, and each of them returned home with rich tales of voyages in an untamed wilderness. So which one is right for you: land or sea?
See where we go on our voyages and treks in the map below.
Map of where we go on our Patagonia voyages and treks.
Soak in the picturesque setting in a Chilean fjord.
4 reasons to explore Patagonia by cruise
Traversing the majority of Chilean Patagonia, expedition cruising offers a broad and holistic experience of this rugged coastal frontier.
1. Awe-inspiring fjords and coastal glaciers
The Beagle Channel is known, quite poetically, as the Avenue of Glaciers. Snow-capped summits tower far above, while ancient rivers of ice carve paths through the valleys, terminating in dramatic ice cliffs, waterfalls and glacial valleys. There is no better way to experience this magnificent landscape than from the water.
2. Dolphins, whales and seabirds
Francisco Coloane Marine Park is Chile’s first marine reserve, which can only be explored by small ship. Humpback, minke, and even sei whales can be spotted feeding in these waters. Also home to an impressive array of seabirds, sea lion colonies and delightful Magellanic penguins, the marine park is a biological hotspot worthy of the protection it has received.
Further north along the Chilean fjords, lively pods of dolphins, including the lovely Peale’s dolphin, and soaring seabirds, can often be spotted following the ship as we carefully navigate a labyrinthine maze of channels and islands.
3. Insights and education
Expedition cruises are about much more than simply spending time in these remote and wonderful wild places. They are about deepening our understanding of the world we live in.
On a cruise with Aurora Expeditions you will be accompanied by our world class team of expedition professionals, including archaeologists, glaciologists and naturalists. In addition to offering structured presentations on their areas of expertise, they are there to enrich your experience with their knowledge and enthusiasm.
4. You appreciate the comfort of a home base, but also crave adventure
Expedition cruises offer a balance of time appreciating the landscape from on board our purpose-built expedition ship, and time spent exploring. Between Zodiac cruises, visits to traditional coastal villages and a range of short day hikes, there is plenty of variety and choice.
At Torres del Paine National Park, you will disembark for two days to immerse yourself in the outstanding mountain scenery, and impressive glaciers that flow from the massive Southern Patagonian Ice Field.
The beautiful Perito Moreno glacier.
4 reasons to travel Patagonia by hiking
Travelling on foot allows you to slow down and connect deeply with the majestic beauty of wild Patagonia.
1. You like to test yourself physically
For the physically adventurous, there are few places on Earth more invigorating and inspiring than the Patagonian Andes. The howling winds, sheltered forests and beautifully savage pinnacles transport you into a world far removed from the daily routine.
Hiking in Patagonia requires a moderate level of fitness, and you can expect to spend 5-8 hours walking, often on consecutive days. In the evening you will return to your cosy, comfortable lodging to replenish and reflect on the sublime landscapes and experiences of the day. If you’ve been looking for a reason to start training, this could be it!
2. You prefer small group travel
While our expedition cruises can accommodate up to 120 people, on Patagonia hiking trips you will travel with a small cadre of like-minded, adventurous travellers*.
Accompanied by our wonderful local expedition leaders and guides, our small groups allow you to enter the Patagonian wilderness and feel delightfully insignificant. As our numbers are small, unexpected and exciting encounters with furry or feathered friends can occur, so keep an eye out – Patagonia is home to Andean condors, charismatic guanacos (native South American mammal similar to a llama), rheas, flamingos and the elusive Patagonian puma!
3. You have your heart set on visiting Los Glaciares National Park
Argentina’s Los Glaciares National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site, is an extraordinarily beautiful region that lends itself perfectly to exploration on foot. It is the home of the Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre peaks and the radiant Perito Moreno glacier. To get a sense of the enormity of Perito Moreno, consider this: this glacier covers 250 square kilometres (155 square miles), and it’s the world’s third largest reserve of fresh water. The only way to truly appreciate its scale is to approach it on foot and stand back in awe as great chunks crash into the water below.
4. You have already booked an Antarctic voyage departing from Ushuaia, and you want to make the most of your time in this remarkable part of the world
Flying to South America is a long journey and, for some, a once-in-a-lifetime trip. Many find the temptation to explore the wild southern reaches of South America on Ushuaia’s doorstep irresistible and extend their trips to enjoy the riches this region has to offer.
Hiking in Patagonia might be the best way to shake off the jet lag and stretch your legs before embarking on the two day crossing of the Drake Passage. Alternatively, a hike in Patagonia at the end of your voyage is a fantastic way to readjust to life on land before flying home or continuing your travels around South America.
Fitz Roy will take your breath away.
To find out more about travelling Patagonia by land or sea, please contact our consultants or your travel agent.
*Maximum group size for hikes is 14