On this sample itinerary, we fly from Punta Arenas, Chile, to the Antarctic Peninsula and sail back from Antarctica to Ushuaia, Argentina.
Day 1: Punta Arenas, Chile
Arrive in Punta Arenas, the southernmost city in continental South America, located at the bottom of Tierra del Fuego overlooking the Strait of Magellan. 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 there are any delays with arriving flights. There's plenty to see around this scenic region, which we take advantage of with an 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 southern 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: sheep dogs skillfully herding the flocks, shearing and bathing the sheep, and washing the wool to prepare it for spinning. We’ll visit a church built of native wood and old wagon wheels, and 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. After an authentic Patagonian lamb barbecue lunch (vegetarian option available with advance notice) we return to Punta Arenas, with free time in town before dinner. Walk through the main square, Plaza de Armas, with its prominent monument to Ferdinand Magellan, or, if time permits, visit the Maggiorino Borgatello Museum founded in 1893, which showcases a large collection of artifacts representing the region's indigenous cultural heritage and ecological history.
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 exploring Punta Arenas.]
Days 4–12: 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 up to three nights, weather 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.
Days 13–15: Crossing the Drake Passage
As the Australis
continues northward, the most adventurous portion of our journey commences: navigating the fabled Drake Passage. Named for renowned explorer Sir Francis Drake who sailed these waters in 1578, the Drake Passage is notorious for its often-fierce gales, creating large, wind-whipped swells – we're likely to have some raucous sailing! All guests are invited to help sail the vessel if they wish, and we'll set up a round-the-clock watch schedule so that those who want to may participate. Leaving the icebergs and snow-clad mountains of the Antarctic Peninsula behind, we sail into the Antarctic Convergence. This southern portion of the Drake constitutes a rich biological zone where a great upwelling of nutrients draws an amazing variety of seabirds. Keep an eye out for the many big albatrosses that often follow in our wake. The exact timing of our Drake crossing depends on weather and sea conditions, but we generally expect it to take approximately three days.
Day 16: Ushuaia, Argentina
we may be able to discern Cape Horn in the distance, and the mass of Tierra del Fuego rising ahead. Land ho! As the peaks of Patagonia come into view, the Australis
enters the sheltered waters of the Beagle Channel, our scenic marine route in to
Ushuaia. Once safely docked in Ushuaia harbor, we disembark, saying a poignant farewell to our skipper and crew. An overnight at a comfortable local hotel is included here in the southernmost city in the world. This evening we enjoy a farewell dinner with our Expedition Leader.
Day 17: Ushuaia / Depart
Fly homeward today from Ushuaia, with a cache of memories to last a lifetime and then some!
Important Note: When flying or sailing 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 so that we can depart. While we have "padded" our itinerary a bit as a precaution against such circumstances, we ask that all guests purchase trip cancelation and interruption insurance to cover tour costs, should your adventure be canceled because of the weather.