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.
This trip is offered in partnership with Lindblad Expeditions.
Arrive in Santiago, Chile after an overnight flight and check into the Mandarin Oriental. Santiago is nearly surrounded by the Andes, which form an inspiring backdrop to our guided afternoon tour 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.
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.
Spend the day exploring Chiloé’s culture and natural history, and visit the palafitos, colorful fishermen’s houses precariously built on stilts along the water’s edge. Alternatively, head to Puñihuil Natural Monument and take a local boat ride to see wildlife, including the mixed colonies of Magellanic and Humboldt penguins that inhabit the islets just off shore. 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.
Today, choose from two available excursions. Spend the morning at the privately owned Parque Aiken del Sur, home to well-maintained trails that pass through evergreen forests en route 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.
Sail 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.
From Puerto Natales, enjoy a breathtaking drive to Torres del Paine National Park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, looking for razor-backed ridges, Andean condors, flamingos, and rheas along the way. This is one of the most scenic and wildlife-rich areas in the Americas, covering 450,000 acres of glaciers, forests, 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.
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 this private reserve, which harbors abundant wildlife, including the guanaco, the endangered culpeo fox, and the Andean condor.
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, round the southernmost tip of South America: Cape Horn. Weather permitting, take Zodiacs ashore.
We have received special permission to visit Isla de los Estados, whose wild, untouched landscapes are home to southern rockhopper and Magellanic penguins, fur seals, otters, sea lions, and countless water birds. Our exact schedule will remain flexible to take best advantage of conditions for exploring this natural wonderland. 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 few expedition ships to be granted access here, and the experience is bound to be unforgettable.
Disembark in Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. Take a charter flight to Buenos Aires and connect to your overnight flight home.
- Iguazú Falls Extension3 days from $2,870
- Easter Island Extension4 days from $4,520
- Chilean Wine Country Extension2 days from $2,490
Spend several days exploring the largest waterfall system in the world on this post-trip extension to Iguaçu Falls. Get up close to roaring cascades on a boat ride to the base of the falls, and photograph a panoramic view of rainbow-tinted spray from the river’s edge. Delve into the lush jungles of Iguazú National Park on naturalist-led walks, and enjoy Argentine culture and cuisine in Buenos Aires.
Disembark the National Geographic Explorer in Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, then transfer to the airport for our flight to Buenos Aires. Check in to our hotel, situated among the fashionable boutiques and galleries of the Recoleta district.
Fly to Iguaçu and check in to our hotel, the only hotel within the borders of Iguazú National Park. Enjoy stunning views of Iguaçu Falls, the largest waterfall system in the world. Water crashes over a nearly two-mile span of cliffs, formed by a basaltic rift on the border between Argentina and Brazil. Clouds of mist from the falls soak the surrounding landscape, creating a lush tropical environment harboring several rare species, such as tapirs and jaguars. After lunch, head out on a naturalist-led walk for our first close-up view of the falls. Weather permitting, stroll down the catwalk at river level and board a boat for a ride over the rapids. Forge through the spray as you approach the base of the falls for spectacular views.
This morning, explore the rich ecosystem of the national park with our local guides, who will give us access to certain areas before they are open to the public. Look out for curious coatis and listen for the distinctive calls of howler monkeys. Keep your camera at the ready to capture brightly colored bird life, including toucans and parrots. Return to the falls this afternoon to explore this natural wonder at your leisure. Savor local cuisine during a dinner in Puerto Iguazú.
Fly back to Buenos Aires and gather over a traditional lunch in Recoleta, sampling chorizo or empanadas and a cup of yerba maté. Transfer to the airport to connect with your overnight flight home.