Why Cruise Patagonia

October 12, 2023 • Andrew Browning

Small ships are the best way to explore the pristine and unreachable corners of Patagonia. Beyond the iconic Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia’s coastal region offers inlets and islands filled with wildlife, glaciers and breathtaking scenery. After traveling both overland to Torres del Paine as well as taking a cruise along the coast, here are the reasons I recommend including a Patagonia cruise in your Patagonia vacation:

You’ll See Remote Patagonia

Chile has around 5,000 islands with only about half of them officially recognized as sovereign islands. This immense number of islands with the majority uninhabited and inaccessible without an expedition ship makes cruising through the Chilean fjords seriously remote. Few people, Chileans included, have seen Patagonia fjordlands and hard-to-reach inlets, but those who have, report back with amazement, intrigue and excitement for the incredible features that lie within.

You will see no other boats, no other people and no other towns for the majority of the itinerary.

Purpose-built small cruise ships made for tight inlets and remote travel offer comfortable access to Patagonia’s farther reaches that cannot be accessed by road or day boat. While out on a Chilean fjords cruise you will see no other boats, no other people and no other towns for the majority of the itinerary, making this region even more remote than Alaska’s rugged coastline. And certainly something you won’t find in the heavily visited Torres del Paine National Park.

Spend More Time Among Glaciers

Cruising through the Chilean fjords not only offers a marine environment rich with birdlife, whale watching and interesting wildlife but also offers more time among glaciers. As your vessel anchors in remote coves so you can explore off ship, you’ll see vast glaciers calve and waterfalls flow. Some itineraries even include a trip to the massive Pio XI Glacier–one that is advancing instead of retreating. Ancient forests, skyscraping granite walls, snow-capped mountains and fjords create scenery that truly take your breath away. It’s a feeling that’s close to Antarctica, without the extreme seas.

It’s a Seamless Trip: Argentina, Chile & Cape Horn

Ships allow you to cover more distance in less time. You can easily connect the Argentinean Patagonia with Chilean Patagonia. These cruises pass around the famous Cape Horn, giving you bragging rights, while allowing for smooth, simple and easy travel between the countries.

Border crossings are not always a fun experience, especially by car, but on a small ship cruise with all the details handled, it is what it should be–exciting.

No Long Overland Transfers

Embarking in Punta Arenas, Chile, or Ushuaia, Argentina, with their easily accessible airports also make Patagonia travel simple with no long overland transfers (for example, the long 4.5-hour drive from Punta Arenas to Torres del Paine). Get aboard. Unpack once. Sail with expert guides. Relax on a comfortable ship. See wildlife. Done.

You’ll See Unique Coastal Patagonia Wildlife

What can you see at the end of the earth? Penguins. Rockhopper, Humboldt and Magellanic penguins are a unique and thrilling sight to see ambling about.

Fur seals, sea lions and elephant seals lounge about for sightings throughout a small ship Chilean fjords cruise. Cruisers can also keep an eye to the sky for austral parakeets, Andean condors, albatross, king cormorants, oystercatchers, Chilean skuas, kelp geese, dolphin gulls and eagles. Foxes may also show themselves to the lucky traveler.

You Can Do It All: Patagonia By Land & Sea

Some cruise itineraries include the option for time off the boat in Torres del Paine, but even if your cruise doesn’t include a visit, it is ideal to spend some time on land pre- or post-cruise. To really get a feel for the diversity of Patagonia we recommend combining a 5-day cruise with a 5-day land trip to make your trip to the tip of the world well worth the effort.

To really get a feel for the diversity of Patagonia–combine a 5-day cruise with a 5-day land trip.

Land-based Patagonia tours include unique eco-lodges with active options like hiking, climbing and trekking in alpine environments with elusive wildlife like guanacos and pumas. These lodges can be the ideal add-on to a cruise. Another popular addition is an Antarctica cruise or Antarctica air cruise, as points of embarkation include Ushuaia and Punta Arenas.

We’ll Handle the Logistics

If you’ve begun to research Patagonia cruises and travel in the national parks, you’ll quickly realize how complex the logistics can be. AdventureSmith’s Adventure Specialists are well versed in the options for Patagonia travel, and our expert experience can help you sort through your choices to find the right ship, itinerary, lodge and activity options that best fit your needs and desires. 

This blog detailing why to cruise Patagonia is among AdventureSmith Explorations’ extensive Small Ship Cruise Guides. For even more resources, visit our informational page on Patagonia cruises.

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