Ultra-luxury cruises with private butler service.

South America

Ushuaia to Valparaiso - Voyage Number : 6547
DEPARTURE
Mar 04 2020
DURATION
14 DAYS
SHIP
Silver Explorer

Itinerary & Excursions

Go beyond your boundaries and explore the world as never before.

At 55 degrees latitude south, Ushuaia (pronounced oo-swy-ah) is closer to the South Pole than to Argentina's northern border with Bolivia. It is the capital and tourism base for Tierra del Fuego, the island at the southernmost tip of Argentina.

Although its stark physical beauty is striking, Tierra del Fuego's historical allure is based more on its mythical past than on rugged reality. The island was inhabited for 6,000 years by Yámana, Haush, Selk'nam, and Alakaluf Indians. But in 1902 Argentina, eager to populate Patagonia to bolster its territorial claims, moved to initiate an Ushuaian penal colony, establishing the permanent settlement of its most southern territories and, by implication, everything in between.

When the prison closed in 1947, Ushuaia had a population of about 3,000, made up mainly of former inmates and prison staff. Today the Indians of Darwin's "missing link" theory are long gone—wiped out by diseases brought by settlers and by indifference to their plight—and the 60,000 residents of Ushuaia are hitching their star to tourism.

The city rightly (if perhaps too loudly) promotes itself as the southernmost city in the world (Puerto Williams, a few miles south on the Chilean side of the Beagle Channel, is a small town). You can make your way to the tourism office to get your clichéd, but oh-so-necessary, "Southernmost City in the World" passport stamp. Ushuaia feels like a frontier boomtown, at heart still a rugged, weather-beaten fishing village, but exhibiting the frayed edges of a city that quadrupled in size in the '70s and '80s and just keeps growing. Unpaved portions of Ruta 3, the last stretch of the Pan-American Highway, which connects Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, are finally being paved. The summer months (December through March) draw more than 120,000 visitors, and dozens of cruise ships. The city is trying to extend those visits with events like March's Marathon at the End of the World and by increasing the gamut of winter activities buoyed by the excellent snow conditions.

A terrific trail winds through the town up to the Martial Glacier, where a ski lift can help cut down a steep kilometer of your journey. The chaotic and contradictory urban landscape includes a handful of luxury hotels amid the concrete of public housing projects. Scores of "sled houses" (wooden shacks) sit precariously on upright piers, ready for speedy displacement to a different site. But there are also many small, picturesque homes with tiny, carefully tended gardens. Many of the newer homes are built in a Swiss-chalet style, reinforcing the idea that this is a town into which tourism has breathed new life. At the same time, the weather-worn pastel colors that dominate the town's landscape remind you that Ushuaia was once just a tiny fishing village, snuggled at the end of the Earth.

As you stand on the banks of the Canal Beagle (Beagle Channel) near Ushuaia, the spirit of the farthest corner of the world takes hold. What stands out is the light: at sundown the landscape is cast in a subdued, sensual tone; everything feels closer, softer, and more human in dimension despite the vastness of the setting. The snowcapped mountains reflect the setting sun back onto a stream rolling into the channel, as nearby peaks echo their image—on a windless day—in the still waters.

Above the city rise the last mountains of the Andean Cordillera, and just south and west of Ushuaia they finally vanish into the often-stormy sea. Snow whitens the peaks well into summer. Nature is the principal attraction here, with trekking, fishing, horseback riding, wildlife spotting, and sailing among the most rewarding activities, especially in the Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego (Tierra del Fuego National Park).

The approach to the Garibaldi Glacier is through one of Chile’s newest and largest national parks: Parque Nacional Alberto de Agostini (more than 9,000 square kilometers or 5,600 square miles). It is not only a national park, but has been declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve because of its swaths of distinct ecosystems and its special landscapes. The Garibaldi Fjord itself is a narrow passage strewn with floating ice in shades of sapphire blue and teal green. Ribbons of waterfalls snake down the steep mountainsides. At the head of this picturesque fjord is the splendor of the retreating Garibaldi Glacier.

Alberto de Agostini National Park was created in 1965 and takes its name from an Italian explorer, photographer, writer and missionary of the Salesians of Don Bosco order that lived and explored Patagonia as a missionary around 1930. De Agostini was known for his discoveries, photographs and maps of the region. The park is located in the Region of Magallanes and Chilean Antarctica, the southernmost, largest, and second least populated region of Chile. The park covers 5,637 square miles and touches Magallanes, Tierra del Fuego and Antarctica provinces. It is the third largest protected area of the country. The park was declared a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2005 and protects many species of animals and sea birds. Its rich fauna includes species like the Andean fox, the South American grey fox (also known as the Patagonian fox), the southern elephant seal, the leopard seal, the Chilean dolphin (also known as the black dolphin or tonina), and the humpback whale.
Ainsworth Bay is part of the Almirantazgo Sound, in the Tierra del Fuego region of Chile. It is inside the D Agostini National Park, within the Darwin Range and is one of the most pristine and secluded spots to visit in this part of Chilean Patagonia. The retreating Marinelli Glacier, with its 130-foot high ice walls, is nearby, there are often elephant seals hauled out on the beaches, and colonies of Magellanic Penguins nest in burrows amongst the vegetation. Other common birds are cormorants and predatory skuas.

Impenetrable forests, impassable mountains, and endless fields of ice define Chilean Patagonia, and meant that the region went largely unexplored until the beginning of the 20th century. Located in the southernmost part of the country, this area is still sparsely inhabited, though you will find a few populated places—like the colorful provincial city of Punta Arenas, which looks like it's about to be swept into the Strait of Magellan. Some unique wildlife, particularly colonies of elephant seals and penguins, call this breathtaking topography home. To the north is Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, the country's most magnificent natural wonder, and whose snow-covered peaks seem to rise vertically from the plains below. The vistas, such as the fantastic Avenue of the Glaciers, are breathtaking; along this stretch of the Beagle Channel, you can pass six tremendous glaciers all within a stone's throw of each other.

Cruise Sights

Punta Arenas. Founded a little more than 150 years ago, Punta Arenas (Sandy Point) was Chile's first permanent settlement in Patagonia. Plaza Muñoz Gamero, the central square, is surrounded by evidence of that early prosperity: buildings whose then-opulent brick exteriors recall a time when this was one of Chile's wealthiest cities. The newer houses here have colorful tin roofs, best appreciated when seen from a high vantage point such as the Mirador Cerro la Cruz. Although the city as a whole may not be particularly attractive, look for details: the pink-and-white house on a corner, the bay window full of potted plants, parking attendants wearing the regional blue and yellow colors, and schoolchildren in identical naval pea coats that remind you that the city's fate is tied to the sea.

The Museo Naval y Marítimo extols Chile's high-seas prowess, particularly concerning Antarctica. Its exhibits are worth a visit for anyone with an interest in ships and sailing, merchant and military alike. Part of the second floor is designed like the interior of a ship, including a map and radio room. Pedro Montt 989. Admission charged.

Housed in what was once the mansion of the powerful Braun-Menéndez family, the Museo Regional de Magallanes is an intriguing glimpse into the daily life of a wealthy provincial family at the beginning of the 20th century. Lavish Carrara marble hearths, English bath fixtures, and cordovan leather walls are among the original accoutrements. The museum also has an excellent group of displays depicting Punta Arenas's past, from the first European contact to the town's decline after the opening of the Panama Canal. The museum is half a block north of the main square. Magallanes 949. Admission charged.

The resplendent 1895 Palacio Sara Braun is a national landmark and an architectural showpiece of southern Patagonia. Designed by a French architect, the house was built from materials and by craftsmen imported from Europe during the four years of construction. The city's central plaza and surrounding buildings soon followed, ushering in the region's golden era. Noteworthy are the lavish bedrooms, magnificent parquet floors, marble fireplaces, and hand-painted ceilings. Don't miss the portraits of Braun and her husband José Nogueira in the music room. Afterwards, head to the cellar for a drink or snack in the warm public tavern (a good portion of the mansion is leased to a hotel). Plaza Muñoz Gamero 716. Admission charged.

Commonly referred to simply as "El Salesiano," the Museo Salesiano de Maggiorino Borgatello is operated by Italian missionaries whose order arrived in Punta Arenas in the 19th century. The Salesians, most of whom spoke no Spanish, proved to be daring explorers. Traveling throughout the region, they collected the artifacts made by indigenous tribes that are currently on display. Av. Bulnes 398. Admission charged.

Isla Magdalena. Punta Arenas is the launching point for a boat trip to the Isla Magdalena to see the more than 100,000 Magellanic penguins at the Monumento Natural Los Pingúinos. A single trail, marked off by rope, is accessible to humans. The boat trip to the island, in the middle of the Estrecho de Magallanes, takes about two hours. Make sure to bring along warm clothing, even in summer; the island can be chilly, particularly if a breeze is blowing across the water.

Parque Nacional Torres del Paine. Some 12 million years ago, lava flows pushed up through the thick sedimentary crust that covered the southwestern coast of South America, cooling to form a granite mass. Glaciers then swept through the region, grinding away all but the ash-gray spires that rise over the landscape of one of the world's most beautiful natural phenomena, now the Parque Nacional Torres del Paine (established in 1959). Snow formations dazzle along every turn of road, and the sunset views are spectacular.

Among the 2,420-square-km (934-square-mi) park's most beautiful attractions are its lakes of turquoise, aquamarine, and emerald green waters. Another draw is its unusual wildlife. Creatures like the guanaco (a woollier version of the llama) and the ñandú (resembling a small ostrich) abound. They are used to visitors and don't seem to be bothered by the proximity of automobile traffic and the snapping of cameras. Predators, like the gray fox, make less frequent appearances. You may also spot the dramatic aerobatics of a falcon and the graceful soaring of the endangered condor. The beautiful puma is especially elusive, but sightings have become more common. Admission charged.

Pingúinera de Seno Otway. The road to this penguin sanctuary begins 30 km (18 mi) north of Punta Arenas. Magellanic penguins, which live up to 20 years in the wild, return to their birthplace here every year to mate with the same partner. For about 2,000 penguin couples—no single penguins make the trip—home is this desolate and windswept land off the Otway Sound. In late September, the penguins begin to arrive from the southern coast of Brazil and the Falkland Islands. They mate and lay their eggs in early October, and brood their eggs in November. Offspring hatch between mid-November and early December. If you're lucky, you may catch sight of one of the downy gray chicks that stick their heads out of the burrows when their parents return to feed them. Otherwise you might see scores of the ungainly adult penguins waddling to the ocean from their nesting burrows. They swim for food every eight hours and dive up to 100 feet deep. The penguins depart from the sound in late March. Note that the sanctuary is a 1-km (1/2-mi) walk from the parking lot. It gets chilly, so bring a windbreaker. Admission charged.

Reserva Nacional Laguna Parillar. This 47,000-acre reserve lies west of Puerto Hambre, a tranquil fishing village, and is centered around a shimmering lake in a valley flanked by hills. It's a great place for a picnic, and there are a number of well-marked paths that offer sweeping vistas over the Estrecho de Magallanes. About 2 km (1 mi) west of Puerto Hambre is a small white monolith that marks the geographical center of Chile, the midway point between Chile's northern port Arica and the South Pole.

Cruise Shopping

Wool may no longer be king of the economy, but vast flocks of sheep still yield a high-quality product that is woven into the clothing here. Leather products are also common, but the prices are not necessarily low. About 3 km (2 mi) north of Punta Arenas is the Zona Franca (Av. Bulnes). This duty-free zone is where people from all around the region come for low-priced electronics and other consumer items.

Strewn through the coast of Chile, these beautiful fjords are world renowned for being one of the most awe-inspiring places on earth. Snow-capped volcanoes nestle majestically alongside rolling valleys of ice and frosty glaciers. Rugged beauty, breathtaking scenery not to mention diverse and profuse wildlife abounds – expect to watch whales from the deck, see playful Magellan Penguins and perhaps even spot the rare Andean Condor. Affectionately named “The End of the World” by the Spaniards who discovered the region in eighteenth century in a quest to Christianise South America, these extraordinary waterways not only encompass a medley of jagged mountains and iceberg strewn bays, but feature a kaleidoscopic spectrum of unexpected colour that offers photographic opportunities like no other destination.
With a population of roughly 18,000, Puerto Natales is the capital of the Ultima Esperanza Province. Founded in 1911, it quickly developed into a major residential center and shipping port for the area’s products. Nestled on a gently-sloping point amid spectacular scenery, the town overlooks the Ultima Esperanza Gulf and has a nice view of the Balmaceda Mountain. It provides services for the region’s intense livestock activity. Many of its inhabitants work at the Argentinian coal mines in Rio Turbio and return home over the weekend. A growing number of tourists are using the town as a jumping-off point for visiting the spectacular Torres del Paine and Balmaceda National Parks, and the nearby fjords. In 1892 and 1897, two geographic surveyors mapped the area and ascertained its potential for livestock farming. The first expedition was led by Capt. Eberhard, while the second, a Swedish one, was led by Otto Nordenskjöld. Eberhard discovered the Milodón Cave and was one of the first settlers in the area. A German-born immigrant in transit along the Strait of Magellan, he disembarked in Punta Arenas and decided to stay in this area. His brother continued to California, their original destination, where he later founded the renowned Eberhard Faber pencil making company. When the area opened to settlement in 1893, the lands lying along the coast were occupied mostly by German and English settlers who had previously come to Punta Arenas. There still remain a few interesting buildings dating from the estancia heydays. Pier Information The ship will remain at anchor. Guests will be brought ashore by ship’s tenders to the jetty located close to the center of town, which can be reached on foot. Shopping The main shopping area is located about 11 blocks from the landing jetty. Cuisine Two of the better restaurants in town are Tranquera and Circulo Español. Other Sites Cerro DoroteaA walk up this hill rewards with superb views of the whole Ultima Esperanza Sound.Milodón Cave National MonumentAbout 15 miles out of Puerto Natales stands this monument near the cave, where in 1895 Capt. Eberhard found the nearly intact remains of a prehistoric animal called milodón, a type of ground sloth. The finding caused such a stir that Wellington Furlog, a scientiest at Cornell University, set out in 1907 to comb Patagonia in search of living specimens of this species.
Strewn through the coast of Chile, these beautiful fjords are world renowned for being one of the most awe-inspiring places on earth. Snow-capped volcanoes nestle majestically alongside rolling valleys of ice and frosty glaciers. Rugged beauty, breathtaking scenery not to mention diverse and profuse wildlife abounds – expect to watch whales from the deck, see playful Magellan Penguins and perhaps even spot the rare Andean Condor. Affectionately named “The End of the World” by the Spaniards who discovered the region in eighteenth century in a quest to Christianise South America, these extraordinary waterways not only encompass a medley of jagged mountains and iceberg strewn bays, but feature a kaleidoscopic spectrum of unexpected colour that offers photographic opportunities like no other destination.
Early this morning, be out on deck to watch as we head towards the English Narrows. Our Captain and the local Chilean Pilots expertly manoeuvre Silver Cloud through the slalom course of islands and channel markers. At the narrowest part it has a width of 80 metres, permitting the passage of only one vessel at a time. During this cruise, we may spot Magellanic Diving Petrels and Steamer Ducks, and if we are very lucky, we may spot the endemic Chilean dolphin. Shy of ships, this small dolphin enjoys spending its time in narrow channels with heavy tidal rips.
Tortel is a commune located in Southern Patagonia, a spectacular wilderness region of rugged mountains, glaciers, rivers and forests of infinite beauty. The uneven geography of Tortel shapes a unique landscape, characterized by an archipelagic area with numerous islands and channels. Tortel is known as the “footbridge city” for the unique beauty of its wooden walkways that connect the piers and houses of this quaint place through bridges and stairs, built from cypress wood, that run for four and a half miles around the cove and that respect the rich vegetation that grows under them. Even though it is the sixth largest commune in Chile, it has the lowest population of all with roughly 531 people. The history of the town dates back to 1520 when it was inhabited by nomadic Kawesqar, now extinct. Its definitive foundation was in 1955, after numerous attempts to populate the area. In 2001, it was declared by the Chilean government as a Picturesque Zone of National Heritage.
Days at sea are the perfect opportunity to relax, unwind and catch up with what you’ve been meaning to do. So whether that is going to the gym, visiting the spa, whale watching, catching up on your reading or simply topping up your tan, these blue sea days are the perfect balance to busy days spent exploring shore side.

Bright, wooden huts teeter on stilts over Castro's estuary waterfront, inviting you into a patchwork of colour that’s sure to brighten any day. These traditional palafitos give the warmest of welcomes, as you prepare to experience Chile at its most vibrant. Castro has faced something of a tumultuous past, having been hit by a by a succession of earthquakes and fires - the most recent a devastating earthquake in 1960. But this city is incredibly resilient, and today the capital of Chiloe Island makes for a fantastic base for exploring the archipelago that surrounds it.  

For most of its history, windy Puerto Montt was the end of the line for just about everyone traveling in the Lake District. Now the Carretera Austral carries on southward, but for all intents and purposes Puerto Montt remains the region's last significant outpost, a provincial city that is the hub of local fishing, textile, and tourist activity.

Today the city center is full of malls, condos, and office towers—it's the fastest-growing city in Chile—but away from downtown, Puerto Montt consists mainly of low clapboard houses perched above its bay, the Seno de Reloncaví. If it's a sunny day, head east to Playa Pelluco or one of the city's other beaches. If you're more interested in exploring the countryside, drive along the shore for a good view of the surrounding hills.

Niebla is a small village on the banks of the Rio Valdivia where Chile’s Corral Bay meets the Pacific Ocean. Today Niebla is a beach resort, but in 1671 it was a defensive fortress built by the order of the Viceroy of Peru to prevent attacks against the town of Valdivia by pirates and corsairs. Niebla is well-known for its lively markets, the remains of the colonial fortress declared a National Monument in 1950 and restored in 1992, and a museum dedicated to its history. Nearby is the charming river port city of Valdivia, where cultural influences from the native Mapuche, Spanish settlers, and German immigrants have blended.

Days at sea are the perfect opportunity to relax, unwind and catch up with what you’ve been meaning to do. So whether that is going to the gym, visiting the spa, whale watching, catching up on your reading or simply topping up your tan, these blue sea days are the perfect balance to busy days spent exploring shore side.

Valparaíso's dramatic topography—45 cerros, or hills, overlooking the ocean—requires the use of winding pathways and wooden ascensores (funiculars) to get up many of the grades. The slopes are covered by candy-color houses—there are almost no apartments in the city—most of which have exteriors of corrugated metal peeled from shipping containers decades ago. Valparaíso has served as Santiago's port for centuries. Before the Panama Canal opened, Valparaíso was the busiest port in South America. Harsh realities—changing trade routes, industrial decline—have diminished its importance, but it remains Chile's principal port. Most shops, banks, restaurants, bars, and other businesses cluster along the handful of streets called El Plan (the flat area) that are closest to the shoreline. Porteños (which means "the residents of the port") live in the surrounding hills in an undulating array of colorful abodes. At the top of any of the dozens of stairways, the paseos (promenades) have spectacular views; many are named after prominent Yugoslavian, Basque, and German immigrants. Neighborhoods are named for the hills they cover. With the jumble of power lines overhead and the hundreds of buses that slow down—but never completely stop—to pick up agile riders, it's hard to forget you're in a city. Still, walking is the best way to experience Valparaíso.

Suites & Fares

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