From the wilds of Tierra del Fuego to the pinnacles of Torres del Paine National Park, experience Patagonia at close range aboard National Geographic Explorer. Trace Chile’s coast south from Puerto Montt, venturing deep into a maze of islands and glorious fjords. Pass incandescent icebergs and massive glaciers, and watch for elephant seals and Andean condors, humpbacks, dolphins, and penguin colonies. Encounter the incomparable landscapes of Torres del Paine National Park, and round Cape Horn in the wake of history’s great explorers. Cap off the adventure on Argentina’s Staten Island, coming face-to-face with nature’s magnificence in one of the most untouched places on Earth.
Be one of the few people to explore Isla de los Estados (Staten Island), located at the extreme end of South America. We have been granted special permission to explore here.
See Patagonia’s signature Torres del Paine National Park with naturalists, and explore the glorious Chilean fjords by Zodiac, kayak, and on foot.
Venture through pristine wildlife reserves not readily accessible to the public, including the privately held Karukinka reserve in Tierra del Fuego.
Transit the legendary Beagle Channel and take in the view of Cape Horn.
Itinerary - 20 Days
Days 1 & 2 — U.S./Santiago, Chile
Arrive in Santiago, Chile after an overnight flight and check into the Grand Hyatt Hotel. Santiago is nearly surrounded by the Andes, which form an inspiring backdrop to our afternoon guided overview of this vibrant city. We explore the Plaza de Armas, the main square, and nearby Presidential Palace, enjoying wonderful views from the many hills that ring the city. (Day 2: D)
Day 3 — Puerto Montt
The next day, fly to Puerto Montt, the northern gateway to Chilean Patagonia. Visit the town of Puerto Varas, beautifully set on the shores of Lake Llanquihue. Weather permitting, take in views of snow-covered Osorno, a volcano that Charles Darwin saw erupt in 1835. After lunch, transfer back to Puerto Montt and embark the National Geographic Explorer. (B,L,D)
Days 4 & 5 — Castro (Chiloé Island)/Pumalín National Park
We spend the day exploring Chiloé’s culture and natural history, including visiting the palafitos, colorful fishermen’s houses precariously built on stilts along the water’s edge. You may also choose to visit Chiloé National Park to see its forests, wetlands and wildlife, with a selection of longer or shorter walks. The next day head into Pumalín National Park, whose 750,00 acres are home to some of the last forests of the huge and ancient alerce tree. Go on a forest walk with naturalists, discover a hidden waterfall, or take an energetic climb along a rushing stream. (B,L,D)
Day 6 — Aysén/Coyhaique/Andes Mountains
Today, choose one of the following excursions:
Spend the morning at the privately owned Parque Aiken del Sur. The park has well-maintained trails that pass through evergreen forests to lovely lakes and waterfalls, including a 75-foot-high cascade. Keep your eye out for a range of bird species, such as ringed kingfishers and woodpecker. At the end of the walk, a Patagonian-style barbecue and entertainment by local musicians awaits.
Alternatively, take a full-day excursion to the Coyhaique National Reserve, driving up into a beautiful valley nestled amid the snow-covered peaks of the Andes. Pass through evergreen woods full of giant rhubarb and ferns into the transition zone of beech forest. The starting point for our hike is Laguna Verde, or Green Lake. Wildlife we may see in the reserve include three Chilean woodpecker species, passerines, predatory birds, and elusive pumas and foxes. In some places, the forest is native and pristine, while in others we have the chance to see how the landscape is being recolonized following fires of recent years. Stop for a picnic lunch at the end of the hike. Continue to the town of Coyhaique, and take a stroll through the central plaza and stalls where artisans sell their handicrafts. Return to Chacabuco and reboard the National Geographic Explorer. (B,L,D)
Days 7 through 10 — The Inland Passage/Chilean Fjords
Venture into a vast wilderness of snow-capped peaks and mirror-like lakes, thick glaciers and islets blanketed with vegetation. In this pristine landscape, fjords cut between soaring granite walls and waterfalls splash down from high above. Set out to explore in Zodiacs and kayaks and on foot, and peer beneath the water using our undersea imaging technology. A highlight today is Pio XI Glacier, the longest glacier in the southern hemisphere outside of Antarctica. Encounter the ice first by Zodiac and then hike atop it. As the ship makes its way through the Kirke Narrows, look for condors and other wildlife. (B,L,D)
Day 11 — Puerto Natales/Torres Del Paine National Park
From Puerto Natales, enjoy a breathtaking drive to Torres del Paine National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere, looking for razor-backed ridges, Andean condors, flamingos, and rheas along the way. This is one of the most spectacular and wildlife-rich areas in the Americas, covering 450,000 acres of glaciers, forests, and grasslands, rivers, and gem-colored lagoons, and crowned with the blackened, twisted pinnacles of the Torres del Paine mountains. Learn about the flora, fauna, and geology of the park with our naturalists. (B,L,D)
Days 12 & 13 — White Narrows/ExploringTierra Del Fuego: Karukinka Natural Park
Continue to the newest and largest protected area on Tierra del Fuego: Karukinka, meaning "our land" in the language of the ancient inhabitants. We have obtained permission to visit the private reserve, which harbors abundant wildlife, including the guanaco, the endangered culpeo fox, and the Andean condor. (B,L,D)
Days 14 & 15 — Chilean Fjords/Beagle Channel/Cape Horn
Continue exploring the Chilean fjords. Board Zodiacs to explore protected waters and rugged shorelines, and look for the Andean condors, albatrosses, petrels, fulmars, and many other birds that inhabit this otherworldly realm. Sail the Beagle Channel, and hike and kayak amid this region of beech forests, mountains, and rushing rivers. The next day, visit the southernmost tip of South America: Cape Horn. Weather permitting, take Zodiacs ashore. (B,L,D)
Days 16, 17, & 18 — Isla de Los Estados (Staten Island), Argentina
We have received special permission to visit Isla de los Estados, whose wild, untouched landscapes are home to southern rockhopper and Magellanic penguins, countless water birds, fur seals, otters, and sea lions. Our exact schedule will remain flexible to take best advantage of conditions for exploring this wonderland of beech forests, mountains, and breathtaking fjords. See the 1884 San Juan de Salvamento “lighthouse at the end of the world,” which inspired Jules Verne’s novel of the same name. The National Geographic Explorer is one of the only expedition ships to be granted access here, and the experience is bound to be unforgettable. (B,L,D)
Days 19 & 20 — Ushuaia/Buenos Aires/U.S.
Disembark in Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. Take a charter flight to Buenos Aires and connect to your overnight flight home. (Day 19: B,L)
Accompanying each expedition is a diverse team of experts — from naturalists to regional specialists — who will share their knowledge and insights on the wildlife, landscapes, and local culture. See one of the members of our extraordinary team below.
As the longtime photo editor for National Geographic Traveler magazine, Dan Westergren was responsible for the magazine’s photographic vision, which has earned the publication numerous awards for photography. Dan enjoys exploring cold, high places, having photographed the Arctic while on expedition with Will Steger and the summits of Mount Kilimanjaro, Mont Blanc, and the Matterhorn for the pages of Traveler. He also enjoys leading photo workshops for the Society, and is a popular photography instructor.
Travelers should be in good health and comfortable walking or standing for extended periods of time. Daily activities may include city walking tours, visits to sites, game drives, or easy hikes, with options for more physical activities such as hiking, kayaking, snorkeling and biking.
Click here for a description of all activity levels.