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Cruises

Stella Australis: Darwin’s Route (Ushuaia to Ushuaia)

Argentina, Chile, Patagonia

8 days

Summary

Departing from Ushuaia (Argentina), retrace the route of Charles Darwin aboard HMS Beagle on this expedition cruise through the Fuegian Archipelago. Our adventurous eight-day (seven-night) itinerary includes legendary Cape Horn and historic Wulaia Bay, as well as Glacier Alley, the penguins of Tuckers and Magdalena islands, and the spectacular fjords that harbor Pía and Águila glaciers. Along the way you’ll also encounter Patagonia’s massive ice fields, lush sub-polar forests and secluded beaches.

About the vessel:
The Stella Australis is an awe-inspiring adventure cruise ship. The ship, which was constructed in 2010, consists of 100 total cabins and can hold up to 210 passengers. Enjoy the comfort of cabins that provide you with incredible ocean views and lavish decor. Stella Australis offers a relaxed stay, while providing breathtaking sights from the decks. Indulge in first class Chile travel onboard the Stella Australis. Wine and dine, mix and mingle, and enjoy our fabulous entertainment on your Patagonia vacation.
Australis Patagonia itineraries offer a number of adventurous and informative shore excursions to discover Patagonia’s incredible flora, fauna and geology. All are undertaken in trusty Zodiacs, inflatable boats that allow exploration of narrow fjords and shallow bays where larger vessels cannot venture. Zodiacs are also perfect for landing on secluded islands, rocky beaches and small piers. In addition to learning about the history and nature of the Fuegian Archipelago, shore excursions afford an opportunity to stretch your legs on guided hikes to secluded waterfalls and the bottom of tidewater glaciers, along pristine beaches and rocky shores, and through primeval sub-polar forest. Whether from the Zodiac boats or on foot, excursions are also an excellent way to observe and photographic the marvellous array of animals that live along the waterways of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego – elephant and leopard seals, Andean condors and Caracara falcons, thousands of penguins and scores of other bird species.

Highlights

  • Feel the mystical aura in Cape Horne, the southernmost cape of the Archipielago of Tierra del Fuego
  • Walk on Wulaia Bay, the site of the Yaghan people
  • Travel through the most important natural passage between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans
  • Visit Isla Magdalena where you will see the Magellanic Penguin, a unique species in the world
  • Sightseeing of Glaciers and learn more about these huge ice fields that play a very important role in the climate of our planet

Inclusions

  • Accommodation on board of the M/V Stella Australis
  • Daily excursions & activities with bilingual guides
  • All meals as per itinerary
  • On board entertainment

ITINERARY

Day 1 Ushuaia/Cruise

Check in at 409 San Martín Ave. in downtown Ushuaia between 10AM and 5 PM. Board the cruise at 5.30pm.

Included in your cruise package:
· Breakfast, lunch and dinner
· Open Bar (while staff are on duty)
· Daily land excursions as scheduled by the ships
· Whisky and hot chocolate during the excursions
· All on board activities

After a welcoming toast and introduction of captain and crew, the ship departs for one of the most remote corners of planet Earth. During the night we traverse the Beagle Channel and cross from Argentina into Chilean territorial waters. The lights of Ushuaia disappear as we turn into the narrow Murray Channel between Navarino and Hoste islands.

Day 2 Cape Horn – Wulaia Bay/Cruise

By early morning, Stella Australis is cruising across Nassau Bay into the remote archipelago that includes Cape Horn National Park. Weather and sea conditions permitting, we shall go 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 425-meter (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 lightkeeper and his family, as well as the tiny Stella Maris Chapel and modern Cape Horn Monument.

Wulaia Bay is 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 the HMS Beagle. This area is also renowned for the mesmerizing beauty and dramatic geography.

After a visit to the small Australis-sponsored museum in the old radio station — which is especially strong on the Yámana people and European missionaries in the area — passengers have a choice of three hikes (of increasing degrees of difficulty) that ascend the heavily wooden mountain behind the bay. On all of these you will be strolling through an enchanted Magellan forest of lengas, coigües, canelos, Ñirres ferns, and other endemic fauna to reach a panoramic viewpoint overlooking the bay. Before leaving Wulaia Bay, drop something into the wooden mail barrel inside the museum – letters or postcards meant to be hand delivered by future travelers – an ancient mariner tradition revived by Australis.

Day 3 De Agostini Sound & Águila Glacier/Cruise

After nightfall we reenter the Beagle Channel and sail westward along the southern edge of Tierra del Fuego into a watery wonderland protected within the confines of Alberto de Agostini National Park. Rounding the Brecknock Peninsula at the western extreme of Tierra del Fuego, Stella Australis is, for a brief time, exposed to the open Pacific. We then navigate a zigzag route through the Cockburn Channel, Magdalena Channel and Keats Fjord to reach scenic 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, De Agostini Sound is flanked by numerous glaciers and sheer saw-toothed peaks reminiscent of Torres del Paine. Our shore excursion this morning is Águila (“Eagle”) Glacier, which hovers above a placid glacial lagoon surrounded by primeval forest. After a Zodiac landing on the beach, passengers hike around the edge of the lagoon to a spot near the base of the frozen facade. Condors can sometimes be seen winging high above, but there is always abundant bird life around the lagoon. This landing provides the perfect opportunity to experience the beauty of Patagonia’s sub-Antarctic rainforest and to see how the power of nature has molded this spectacular landscape.

Day 4 Magdalena Island/Cruise

After an overnight cruise through Magdalena Channel and back into the Strait of Magellan, we 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, we go ashore and hike a path that leads through thousands of penguins to 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 cruise south along the strait, disembarkation at Punta Arenas is scheduled for around 11:30 AM. You are free to explore Punta Arenas, founded in 1848 by Chilean settlers and now the capital of Chile’s Magallanes & Antarctica region.There’s plenty to keep you busy in the city: the Magellan Monument in the Plaza de Armas, the Magallanes Regional Museum (Casa Braun-Menéndez), the Shackleton Bar in the Hotel Jose Nogueira, the excellent Salesian Museum, the flamboyant Municipal Cemetery, and the Nao Victoria maritime museum with its full-sized reproductions of Magellan’s flagship, HMS Beagle, Shackleton’s rescue craft, and the Goleta Ancud pioneer ship.

Reboard Stella Australis at 18:00 (6 PM). After a welcoming toast and introduction of captain and crew, the ship departs on the second half of the journey. During the night, the lights of Punta Arenas fade into the distance as we cross the Strait of Magellan and enter the Whiteside Canal between Darwin Island and Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego.

Day 5 Ainsworth Bay & Tuckers Islets/Cruise

After leaving Punta Arenas and crossing the Strait of Magellan, we sail up Admiralty Sound between the snowcapped peaks of Karukinka and the fjords of Alberto de Agostini National Park. We go ashore at Ainsworth Bay with its copious bird life and elephant seals. Two guided hikes are available, both with excellent views of Marinelli Glacier and the Darwin Mountains.

Leaving Ainsworth Bay, we sail west to the Tucker Islets for a close-up encounter with the 4,000 Magellan penguins who nest there. Many other bird species also frequent the tiny landfalls. In September and April — when the penguins live elsewhere — this excursion is replaced by a beach walk to a glacier at Brookes Bay.

Day 6 Pia Glacier – Glacier Alley/Cruise

Overnight we sail around the western end of Tierra del Fuego via the very narrow Gabrial, Magdalena and Cockburn channels. After rounding the remote Brecknock Peninsula, Stella Australis tacks eastward and enters the Beagle Channel again. By morning we are entering Pia Fjord and boarding the Zodiacs for a shore excursion to Pia Glacier. After disembarking we 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. No one knows for certain how the hulking mass of snow and ice got its feminine moniker, but one theory says it was named for Princess Maria Pia of Savoy (1847-1911), daughter of the Italian king.

Back onboard Stella Australis, we continue east along the Beagle Channel through an area called Glacier Alley. Living up to its name, the passage features a number of impressive tidewater glaciers flowing down from the Darwin Mountains and Darwin Ice Sheet on the north shore. Most of them named after European countries — Holland, Italy, Germany, Spain and France.

Day 7 Wulaia Bay – Cape Horn/Cruise

During the morning we will be sailing through Murray Channel, going ashore at historical Wulaia Bay, originally the site of one of the region’s largest Yamana aboriginal settlements. Charles Darwin landed there in 1833 during his voyage on the HMS Beagle. This area is also renowned for the mesmerizing beauty of its vegetation and geography. We will take an enchanted walk through the Magellan Forest of lengas, coigües, canelos, ferns, and other endemic vegetation, to reach a panoramic viewpoint.In the afternoon we will go South through Nassau Bay to reach Cape Horn National Park, where, weather permitting, we shall go ashore. The legendary Cape Horn was discovered in 1616 and is a sheer 425-meter (1,394-foot) high rocky promontory. For many years it was an important navigation route between the Pacific and the Atlantic, and is referred to as the ‘End of the Earth’. The park was declared a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2005.

Day 8 Cruise/Ushuaia

After a final night aboard Stella Australis, we sail back into Argentine waters and dock in Ushuaia. Acknowledged as the southernmost city in the world, Ushuaia (Argentina) was founded in 1884 and was one of the original points of contact between the indigenous Yámana and European cultures. Its name derives from the Yámana word for ‘penetrating bay’ and it’s surrounded by the southernmost Andes peaks. With around 65,000 inhabitants, Ushuaia is now the second largest city in Tierra del Fuego (after Rio Grande).

Disembarkation is scheduled at 8:30 AM, providing a perfect opportunity to enjoy the city and its spectacular scenery.

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