On this sample itinerary, we fly from Punta Arenas, Chile to the Antarctic Peninsula and fly back from Antarctica to Punta Arenas. The length of this trip varies from 12-14 days, depending on the departure date selected.
Day 1: Punta Arenas, Chile
Arrive in Punta Arenas, the southernmost city in continental South America, located at the bottom of Tierra del Fuego. Meet your fellow travelers at a welcome dinner on this first evening of your Antarctic adventure.
Day 2: Punta Arenas—Estancia Fitz Roy
This extra day is included as a "reserve day" if flights are delayed. But there's plenty to see in the Tierra del Fuego region, too, and we’ve crafted an interesting all-day excursion to a traditional Patagonian sheep farm, or estancia.
Estancia Fitz Roy is located 60 miles northwest of Punta Arenas on the shores of Isla Riesco, the third biggest island in Chile. After an hour’s drive, we reach the island via a short ferry crossing, surrounded by a spectacular landscape of glittering fjords and the very end of the Andes mountain range.
On the farm, which encompasses native beech forest and Patagonian steppe, we’ll witness the activities that comprise a typical day’s work: watching the sheep dogs skillfully herding the flocks, shearing
and bathing the sheep, and washing the wool so it’s ready for spinning. We’ll visit a church built of native wood and old wagon wheels and explore a shearing shed that’s been turned into a small museum with more than 3,000 items used in daily life on a Patagonian farm. An authentic Patagonian lamb barbecue lunch is included (vegetarian option available with advance notice). After lunch
we return to Punta Arenas and later gather in town for dinner.
Day 3: Fly to King George Island—Board S/V Australis
The only airstrip on the Antarctic Peninsula archipelago that can reliably be served by the South American continent on a regular basis is located on King George Island in the South Shetland group. We plan to fly here today to meet our intrepid polar sailing vessel, the S/V Australis
. Ashore, we have our first encounter with penguins and other wildlife of this southern polar wonderland.
After introductions and a safety orientation, the Australis
sets sail into the Antarctic waters surrounding the South Shetland Islands, headed south to the Antarctic Peninsula. We're excited to be sailing with one of the world's preeminent mariners in polar waters and his seasoned crew. [Note: It is our intention to fly to King George Island today, but occasionally weather conditions may delay us. If that is the case, we will spend today in Punta Arenas.]
Days 4–11: Sailing and Camping on the Antarctic Peninsula
For the next 8–9 days
we follow the best weather and safest water, sailing along the bays and fjords of the Antarctic Peninsula. These waters are a haven for a remarkable collection of wildlife, including vast penguin rookeries and beaches ruled by Antarctic fur seals and Southern elephant seals. Taking advantage of the perpetual light, we spend long days sailing among the icebergs, watching for whales and seals bobbing by. Birdlife is extraordinary, with huge populations of albatrosses, petrels, skuas, gulls, terns and cormorants. Where landings permit, we step ashore to hike.
Every day holds something different. While at times we are struck by the depth of the silence, other times we're amidst a cacophony of squawking penguins, honking seals and crackling ice. With our special permit from the National Science Foundation, we have the option to camp for a maximum of four nights, weather and local conditions permitting, on deserted beaches, sharing the solitude only with the legions of wildlife. There are few places on the planet where the natural world feels more intact, while we have never felt smaller.
Day 12: King George Island
We return to King George Island today, one day prior to meeting up with our return flight home, as a hedge against any weather problems. Tomorrow morning, it will be time to say a reluctant goodbye to the Australis
and her outstanding crew after a fortnight of extraordinary adventure.
Day 13: Fly to Punta Arenas
Weather permitting, we board our airplane for the 3-hour flight back to Punta Arenas on the southern tip of Chilean Patagonia and enjoy an evening on the town, including a farewell dinner.
Day 14: Punta Arenas / Depart
Fly homeward today from Punta Arenas, with a cache of memories to last a lifetime and then some!
Important Note Regarding Flights: When flying to or from King George Island on the Antarctic Peninsula, weather determines all schedules. If weather does not allow us to travel as scheduled, we must wait, either in Chile or on King George Island, depending on the direction of our journey, for the weather to clear. Though historic weather patterns dictate that we should not be delayed for more than a few days, we can never predict when, or even if, inclement weather will clear to allow our departure. While we have "padded" our itinerary a bit as a precaution against such circumstances, we ask that all guests purchase trip cancellation and interruption insurance to cover tour costs should your adventure be delayed or canceled because of the weather.