Days 1 & 2: Buenos Aires, Argentina or Santiago, Chile
The ship you select for your Antarctica, Falklands & South Georgia expedition cruise determines the starting and ending location for your journey. Guests traveling aboard National Geographic Explorer
arrive and depart via Buenos Aires, Argentina. Guests traveling aboard National Geographic Orion
arrive and depart via Santiago, Chile.
With an early morning arrival in Buenos Aires, Explorer
guests check in at the Sofitel Buenos Aires. Buenos Aires is Argentina’s capital, set on the Rio de la Plata. This is one of Latin America’s largest metropolitan areas, and a top tourist destination known for its cosmopolitan lifestyle, vibrant cultural mélange and a European-style architecture that reflects its colonial heritage and the influence of many 19th-and early-20th-century immigrants. After a morning to catch our breath, enjoy a guided afternoon tour of city, including Beaux Arts palaces, grand boulevards and Eva Peron’s famous balcony.
After an early morning arrival in sophisticated Santiago, Orion
guests check in at the centrally located Ritz Carlton Hotel. Santiago is nearly surrounded by the Andes, which form an inspiring backdrop for an afternoon tour of this vibrant city. After a relaxing morning, we explore the Plaza de Armas, the main square and nearby Presidential Palace, taking in expansive views from hills and parks that dominate this leafy city.
Day 3: Buenos Aires, Argentina or Santiago, Chile /Ushuaia, Argentina
Today we travel by private charter flight to Ushuaia. The flight soars over Patagonia before landing at the bottom of Tierra del Fuego, the foot of the southern Andes. There’s no mistaking the "end of the world" feeling about the world’s most southerly city, which is the point of embarkation for expeditions to the Antarctic Peninsula. If weather permits, we will enjoy lunch on a catamaran cruise in the Beagle Channel, where spectacular mountains rise out of the sea, before embarking our expedition ship and setting sail.
Day 4: At Sea
Days at sea are an opportunity to learn and relax. Our expedition ship has a full staff of naturalists, scientists and historians on-board who are eager to share information about geology, climate, wildlife and human presence in Antarctica and the southern polar region. Lectures and slideshows add to our appreciation of all that we see and experience during the voyage. This morning, we awaken in the Furious Fifties, an iconic part of the Southern Ocean marked by a roiling Circumpolar Current. The experience can be misty and gray or calm and clear, but our escorts while crossing this legendary portion of the sea will surely include a host of seabirds, including the black-browed albatross.
Days 5 & 6: Falkland Islands
Also called the Islas Malvinas, this windswept archipelago is a study in stone, sand and peat, with rugged cliffs battered by the ocean. Its isolated shores are home to marine mammals and prodigious birdlife—including the world’s largest albatross colony. Flightless steamer ducks, blue-eyed shags and several penguin species, including Magellanic, gentoo and rockhopper, are abundant, and Peale's dolphins often ride our bow waves near the islands. Though the Falklands, a British colony off the coast of Argentina, are still disputed territory, culturally they are British through and through. English and Scottish immigrants arrived with sheep in the 19th century, and wool is produced to this day. The photogenic capital of Stanley offers a quaint exploration with its tin-roofed houses, rose gardens, pubs and other emblems of Falkland colonial heritage—including an Anglican cathedral with an organic whalebone archway.
Days 7 & 8: At Sea
We continue traveling south with whales beneath the waters and sea birds circling above. Our naturalists prepare us for the exciting days ahead with presentations about South Georgia’s wildlife and the inspiring story of Sir Ernest Shackleton and the Endurance
. Take advantage of the ship’s leisure and recreation opportunities, including a fitness center, massage therapy at the spa, sauna and a library filled with books about Antarctic natural history and polar exploration.
Days 9-13: South Georgia Island
Remote South Georgia is best known for the riveting saga of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated 1914 expedition aboard the sailing ship Endurance
. The magnitude of Shackleton’s heroic trek across South Georgia to secure the rescue of his crew can only be fully grasped on a visit to the island, with its spine of glaciated peaks rising precipitously from the sea. J. Gunnar Anderson, who encountered the island in 1902, described it as “mighty fells with snowy crowns and sharp, uncovered teeth, around the valleys through which enormous, broad rivers of ice came flowing to the sea.” Yet the land, for all its ruggedness, is rich in animal life. Zodiac trips permit visits to desolate beaches and glacier-carved fjords, and curious fur seals often approach the boats. Millions of king penguins live here, in colonies stretching to the horizon. South Georgia’s waters are home to blue, sperm, fin, sei and southern right whales, though they were nearly wiped out in the 20th century when whaling was still a commercial industry. At the former whaling outpost of Grytviken, abandoned processing factories lie derelict, and elephant seals have taken over the grounds. Those who wish to pay respects to the legendary explorer can visit the grave of Shackleton, who died here in 1922.
Days 14 & 15: At Sea
As we voyage toward Antarctica, head up to the bridge to watch for icebergs and observe expert navigation at work as our skilled captain and officers sail these historic waters. Each day, our naturalists offer talks that add depth to our polar experience. Take advantage of community spaces including the lounge, the observation room with its games and binoculars, and a chance to delve into the intrigues of the library’s naturalist collection.
Days 16-20: Antarctica
A grand and otherworldly kingdom of ice, rock, sea and sky, the Antarctic Peninsula is the northernmost part of the continent. The first explorers laid eyes on it in the early 19th century, and it has held since then a storied place in the annals of global adventurers. Covered beneath a nearly perpetual ice sheet, the peninsula rises in a line of serrated peaks. Glaciers pour into their valleys, flowing into the massive ice shelves that hug the sea. Though this frigid land hosts no permanent population, it is the site of a vital international scientific research community. The peninsula’s relatively mild climate in comparison to the rest of the icebound continent explains its status as the preferred location for most research stations, as well as a destination for tourist vessels.
En route, we will sail through the incomparable Lemaire Channel, where steep cliffs hem in a narrow passage filled with a magnificent parade of bobbing icebergs. Almost constant summer daylight provides ample opportunity for flexible exploration of this frozen white frontier via Zodiac, kayak and foot, with the guidance of the ship’s seasoned expedition experts. Millions of animals thrive here, and visitors find a rich assortment of marine life including Weddell, Southern elephant, crabeater and leopard seals, and minke, humpback, sei and fin whales, as well as orcas. Zodiacs allow us to get close to wildlife and make landings on shore, where we walk among noisy colonies of four resident penguin species—chinstrap, emperor, gentoo and adelie. A proliferation of seabirds includes kelp gulls, various petrels, snowy sheathbills, skuas, shags and Antarctic terns.
Days 21 & 22: Drake Passage
The Drake Passage is legendary among mariners, and a milestone in any adventurer's personal travel history. Named for the 16th-century English privateer Sir Francis Drake, whose ship was blown far off course in these waters, this 600-mile-wide channel that separates Cape Horn from the Antarctic Peninsula is notorious for its frequent high winds and rough seas. Without a significant land mass, the Antarctic Circumpolar Current flows unimpeded, carrying a tremendous volume of water through the passage. Midway across, the Antarctic Convergence mixes cold, northward-flowing waters with the relatively warmer south-flowing waters, creating a highly productive marine zone for Antarctic krill, the favored food source for whales, seals, penguins, squid, albatrosses and other sea birds. Our ship is likely to be escorted through the passage by whales, dolphins, Cape petrels and wandering albatrosses.
Days 23 & 24: Ushuaia/Buenos Aires, Argentina or Santiago, Chile/Depart
After breakfast, we disembark in Ushuaia with time to explore the rugged southern town before our private charter flight returns us to a cosmopolitan night in Buenos Aires or Santiago, the same destination that started your expedition, for a flight home the next day.