Patagonia is the southernmost region in the American continent and it is geographically divided by the Andes Mountain Range, on the Argentine territory mostly. From a touristic point of view, you visit Patagonia because of its many attractions such as Perito Moreno Glacier, the southern right whale, the Road of the Seven Lakes, the trekking trails at Mount Fitz Roy, its fantastic rivers and lakes for fly fishing, ski destinations such as Mount Chapelco and most of all for the different routes visiting the most beautiful places in Southern Patagonia.
Cruises around Southern Patagonia, sailing fiords, straits and channels...
Patagonian cruises have a variety of sailing routes − cruises to the Patagonian fiords on way to the continental ice fields, cruises to the Patagonian fiords and channels and finally, cruises travelling on the cold waters of the Strait of Magellan and the Beagle Channel passing by Cape Horns. Cruise ships Skorpios, Navimag and Australis perform these routes respectively. Skorpios sails the Southern Patagonia fiords and channels. Their programs last just a few days and they offer 2 different itineraries – the Chonos Route, visiting the north continental ice fields, and the Kaweskar Route, visiting the south continental ice fields. Another option is Navimag's ferries which travel to the Patagonian channels offering 2 different itineraries, the south route and the north route. Navimag also sails to San Rafael Glacier and Lagoon. Other points of attraction are the Gulfs of Ancud and Corcovado. Finally, Australis cruises sail the Strait of Magellan and the Beagle Channel offering two different sailing routes. One travels from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia and the other one travels in the opposite direction.
Expedition Patagonia cruises
Patagonian cruises main destinations are the Beagle Channel, the Strait of Magellan and Cape Horns, the North and South Continental Ice Fields and the Patagonian fiords and glaciers.
- Beagle Channel, Strait of Magellan & Cape Horns
- North Continental Ice Fields (from Puerto Montt to Puerto Montt)
- South Continental Ice Fields (from Puerto Natales to Puerto Natales)
- Chilean Fiords and Glaciers
Beagle Channel, Strait of Magellan & Cape Horns
The Beagle Channel, also known as the Yamanas Indians channel, is a sea passage located in the south coast of Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego along 200 nautical miles, from Cockburn Channel to Cabo San Pío (San Pío Cape.) The cruise sails the northeast branch of the channel at Alberto de Agostini National Park. These coasts were inhabited by the Yamanas and Kaweskar ethnic groups until early in the 20th century.
The Strait of Magellan, like the Beagle Channel, is a sea strait where the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean converge. Its boundaries are Dungeness Point in the north and Cape of the Holy Spirit in the south, located 20 miles away (some 16 nautical miles), though the strait stretches for 300 nautical miles. Cape Horns is considered the southernmost point in the Americas outlining the north limit of the Drake Passage dividing the American and Antarctic continents and merging the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Its name comes from the island where it is located, Horns Island. Despite of the fact that the cape is surrounded by rough waters it was part of the trade routes of sailing ships for a long time. This trade route was closed when the Panama Canal was open. Fierce winds and dangerous waters make of this region one of the greatest sailing challenges in the whole world.
The southernmost itineraries are Australis expedition cruises departing between September and April from Ushuaia's port (Argentina) or Puerto Arenas (Chile) to sail the northwest branch of the Beagle Channel and the Strait of Magellan to arrive to the mythical and dangerous Cape Horns. On the trip to Patagonia many interesting tours are included such as disembarking at Aguila glacier, riding a zodiac on the proximities of glaciers Piloto and Nena and the Glacier Alley, trekking on the rainforest on Garibaldi fiord ascending on a dense coniferous forest as far as the base of a glacier fall. You will also spot Magellan penguins and cormorants at Tuckers Islet or walk to the viewpoint of Wulaia Bay crossing the Magellan forest where lenga beech, coihue and canelo (Winter's bark) trees and ferns abound.
North Continental Ice Fields … towards San Rafael
Another option for cruises to Patagonia is sailing the continental ice fields. If you choose visiting the North Continental Ice Field you need to take the Chonos Route, sailing from Puerto Montt (Chile) towards San Rafael Glacier passing by the Llanquihue, Chiloé and Aysén archipelagos, Quitralcó Springs, fisherman's village Puerto Aguirre and southern towns such as Castro on Chiloé Island. This trip starts at Puerto Montt and travels 800 nautical miles.
North Continental Ice Fields Route: from Puerto Montt.
Departing from Puerto Montt terminal on Saturdays. The first day you will sail through the Llanquihue archipelago, catching sights of Calbuco town, Gulf of Ancud and crossing the Gulf of Corcovado during the night. On Sunday, you will sail Moraleda and Ferronave channels, arriving at fisherman's village Puerto Aguirre. On the same day you will continue on channels Pilcomayo and Costa. After dawn, you will arrive at Punta Leopardos in order to drop anchor near San Rafael Glacier.
Monday is devoted to San Rafael Glacier and Témpanos Channel. You will leave this area in the afternoon to head to Quitralco Fiord. On Tuesday, you will disembark in Quitralco pier to visit the springs. In the afternoon you head to Chiloe Island. On Wednesday you sail through the Leucayec Channel (Chonos Archipelago) towards the crossing of the Gulf of Corcovado. You are likely to sight blue whales. You arrive at Castro after passing through the Yal Channel and visit the island city of Castro. In the evening, you will set sail back to Puerto Montt through the Lemuy, Dalcahue and Quivaví Channels. On Thursday, you will disembark at the pier on Skorpios terminal finishing the cruise around Patagonia.
South Continental Ice Fields… to the region of glaciers
You can also take the south route, visiting the South Continental Ice Field, departing and returning to Puerto Natales in the Chilean Southern Patagonia. This route is called Kaweskar. You will sail through the Magellan channels and fiords and disembark on glaciers Amalia, El Brujo, Bernal, Herman and Alsina, and you will also hike on Calvo Fiord. This route visits the highest number of glaciers in the whole region − a total of 15 glaciers during the 380 nautical miles covered on this southern itinerary.
South Continental Ice Fields Sailing Route: from Puerto Natales.
Departing on Tuesdays and Fridays from Puerto Natales terminal. On the first day you will start sailing Patagonian channels Angostura Kirke, Morla, Vicuña, Unión, Collingwood and Sarmiento. On the second day you arrive at Amalia Glacier, early in the morning you will disembark on a beach in order to hike up to a panoramic viewpoint with an amazing view of Amalia Glacier. Later in the morning, you will continue sailing towards El Brujo Glacier, where you will arrive after noon. Depending on weather conditions you will be able to disembark to watch this perfect work of nature.
The second day is very intense. In the afternoon you will visit Calvo Fiord, where you will make a stop to get on board of Capitán Constantino ship, which will take you to the ice straits, visiting glaciers Fernando, Capitán Constantino and Alipio. In the evening, you will set sail for your next destination: The Fjord of the Mountains.
In the third day, you will visit the Fjord of the Mountains where you will enjoy the presence of 4 mountain glaciers coming from Sarmiento Mountain Range. You will discover Alsina Glacier, exploring the area in zodiac boats that will take you to the bay. You continue your sailing route on this interesting cruise around Patagonia towards Bernal Glacier, where you will disembark to walk on a dense coniferous forest. This trail will take you to a glacier lagoon, outlining the front and lateral moraines in order to get as close as possible to the glacier. On the third day, you will continue exploring the Fjord of the Mountains, watching glaciers Herman and Zamudio. You will arrive at White Narrow where you will disembark again in order to sail on zodiac boats and sailing among the islands in order to watch the local flora and fauna. In the evening you will have dinner with the Captain while sailing the Almirante Montt Gulf. On the fourth day you will disembark at the terminal in Puerto Natales.
Chilean Patagonian Fiords and Channels...
Last, you can choose sailing on ferries through Chilean Patagonian fiords and glaciers, travelling from north to south, from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales or from south to north, from Puerto Natales to Puerto Montt. In this cruise around Patagonia you will sail through the Reloncaví Sound, the Gulfs of Ancud and Corcovado. You will cross the Messier Channel and the English Narrows in order to arrive at Puerto Edén, where the last Chilean ethnic group, the Alacalufes and Kaweskar, last inhabited; in the Wellington Island precisely. Your sailing route continues through the Patagonian channels of Paso del Indio, Paso del Abismo, Channels Wide, Concepción, Sarmiento and Collingwood Strait among others. On the final stretch you wake up sailing through the Santa María Channel and crossing the narrowest passage of the whole trip, the White Narrow and Union Sound, in order to arrive to the southern city of Puerto Natales.
Patagonia's Fiords and Channels Sailing Route
You will start sailing through the Reloncaví Sound, the Gulf of Ancud and during the night you will enter the Apiaio Channel and the Corcovado Gulf. You will start your first day of adventure on the Patagonian cruise ship. On the second day, once you enter the Gulf of Corcovado you will continue your trip towards the Pacific Ocean. The Captain has a variety of options, entering by Boca del Guafo or by the Ninualac Channel or by the Pulluche Channel.
If the option is Boca del Guafo, you will reach the Chonos Archipelago and Guafo Island. But if the option is the Ninualac Channel, you will sail through the Moraleda Channel as far as Tuap Islands. The third alternative is to travel through Pulluche Channel and Moraleda Channel to continue channels Errázuziz and Chacabuco and then entering Pulluche Channel, well known by its lush vegetation with dense forest of coniferous trees such as lenga beeches and cypresses. Well into the Patagonian night you will sail on the Pacific Ocean in the area of Gulf of Penas. Sailing in the open ocean takes about 12 hours. If you are lucky you will get to see hump whales, minke whales and blue whales.
You will start the early hours of the third day surrounded by fiords and going through the Messier Channel. Then the English Narrow to arrive at the town of Puerto Edén in Wellington Island, where descendants of the ethnic group Alacalufe live nowadays. After a short visit you continue sailing the Patagonian channels Paso del Indio, Paso del Abismo, Channels Wide, Concepción, Inocentes, Sarmiento among others. You will wake up on your fourth day, sailing the Santa María Channel towards White Narrow, a strait only 260 feet wide. You will continue to Unión Sound and the entrance channel to the southern town of Puerto Natales where this cruise around Patagonia ends.