Day 1: Ushuaia


Arrive in Ushuaia and check in at the Australis travel center. Explore the town a bit before boarding the M/V Via Australis in the early evening. After a welcoming cocktail reception hosted by the captain and his crew, the ship sets sail for one of the most remote corners of planet Earth. During the night, traverse the Beagle Channel and cross from Argentina into Chilean territorial waters. The lights of Ushuaia disappear as you turn into the narrow Murray Channel between Navarino and Hoste islands.


Day 2: Cape Horn - Wulaia Bay


By early morning, Stella Australis is cruising across Nassau Bay into the remote archipelago that includes Cape Horn National Park. Australis is the only expedition cruise ship with permission from Chilean authorities to navigate the Murray Channel to Cape Horn, and because of its concession, also the only ship allowed to land passengers at Wulaia Bay.


Weather and sea conditions permitting, you will head ashore on the windswept island that harbors legendary Cape Horn (Cabo de Hornos). Discovered in 1616 by a Dutch maritime expedition -- and named after the town of Hoorn in West Friesland -- Cape Horn is a sheer 1,394-foot high rocky promontory overlooking the turbulent waters of the Drake Passage. For many years it was the only navigation route between the Pacific and Atlantic, and was often referred to as the "End of the Earth." The park was declared a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2005. The Chilean navy maintains a permanent lighthouse on the island, staffed by a light keeper and his family, as well as the tiny Stella Maris Chapel and modern Cape Horn Monument.


Sailing back across Nassau Bay, the ship will anchor at fabled Wulaia Bay, one of the few places in the archipelago where the human history is just as compelling as the natural environment. Originally the site of one of the region’s largest Yámana aboriginal settlements, the bay was described by Charles Darwin and sketched by Captain FitzRoy in the 1830s during their voyages on HMS Beagle. This area is also renowned for the mesmerizing beauty and dramatic geography. After a visit to the Australis-sponsored small museum in the old radio station, passengers have a choice of three hikes (of increasing degrees of difficulty) that ascend the heavily wooden mountain behind the bay. Each hike ventires through an enchanted Magellan forest of lengas, coigües, canelos, ferns, and other endemic fauna to reach a panoramic viewpoint overlooking the bay.


Day 3: Pia Glacier - Garibaldi Glacier


Casting off from Wulaia Bay, retrace your route to the Beagle Channel and sail westward along the southern edge of Tierra del Fuego into a section of Alberto de Agostini National Park called Glacier Alley or Avenue of the Glaciers. Flowing down from the Darwin Mountains and Darwin Ice Sheet are a number of impressive tidewater glaciers, most of them named after European countries -- Holland, Italy, Germany, Spain and France. In amongst this frozen league of nations enter the narrow Pia Fjord and board the Zodiacs for a shore excursion to Pia Glacier. No one knows for certain how the hulking glacier got its feminine moniker, but one theory says it was named for princess Maria Pia of Savoy (1847-1911), daughter of the Italian king.


After disembarking you'll take a short hike to gain a panoramic view of the spectacular glacier, which extends from the mountaintops down to the sea or a longer much more difficult walk up a lateral moraine of the old Pia Glacier. Back aboard, you'll make your way further west along the Beagle Channel and enter another long fjord and drop anchor near Garibaldi Glacier for another shore excursion. Garibaldi is one of only three glaciers in Patagonia gaining mass rather than staying the same or slowly shrinking. This time hike through virgin Magellanic forest to a glacial waterfall, a towering wall of ferns and moss, and spectacular viewpoints looking down on the glacier and fjord. The walk is demanding -- very steep, negligible trail, rough footing -- and not for everyone. For those who choose to stay on board, the captain will point the bow towards the beautiful sky blue Garibaldi Glacier so everyone can enjoy the panoramic view from the upper decks.


Day 4: Piloto and Nena Glaciers – De Agostini Sound and Águila Glacier


Rounding the Brecknock Peninsula as the western extreme of Tierra del Fuego, the ship sails in the open waters of the Pacific briefly before heading inland again to enter the Cockburn Channel. Dead ahead is Chico Sound and your next Zodiac excursion. Traveling in the swift little boats, explore Alakaluf Fjord and enjoy incredible views of Piloto and Nena glaciers from the sea. It's nearly impossible not to be drawn to the intense blue color of Piloto Glacier, caused by its compression and age. During the excursion learn about the formation of glaciers and their influence on the extravagant topography of the Fuegian-Patagonian channels. It's often possible to spot rare rock and king cormorants nesting on the stones facing the glaciers, so keep on the look out.


In the afternoon Via Australis navigates Magdalena Channel and Keats Fjord to reach De Agostini Sound. Named after an Italian Salesian priest who worked among the region's indigenous people during the first half of the 20th century, the sound is flanked by numerous glaciers and saw-toothed peaks. After landing on the beach, head out on a hike around the edge of a lagoon to the base of towering Águila ("Eagle") Glacier. Condors can sometimes be seen winging high above, and there is always abundant bird life around the lagoon.


Day 5: Magdalena Island - Punta Arenas


After an overnight cruise back into the Strait of Magellan, the ship will anchor off Magdalena Island, which lies about halfway between Tierra del Fuego and the Chilean mainland. Crowned by a distinctive lighthouse, the island used to be an essential source of supplies for navigators and explorers and is inhabited by an immense colony of Magellanic penguins. At the break of dawn, weather permitting, your excursion will take you ashore for a hike along a path that leads through thousands of penguins and then a small museum lodged inside the vintage 1902 lighthouse. Many other bird species are also found on the island. In September and April -- when the penguins dwell elsewhere -- this excursion is replaced by a ride aboard Zodiacs to Marta Island to observe South American sea lions.


After a short sail south along the strait, its time to bid your ship goodbye and disembark at Punta Arenas to continue your Argentina adventure or head home.


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