Traveling to Patagonia is well worth the southerly descent as this incredible region’s 260,000 square miles are filled with wonders. Most Patagonia travelers have heard of and aim to reach the classic Torres del Paine National Park, and for good reason. The jagged peaks, turquoise lakes and incredible hiking options are amazing, but there is also a lot more to this region: most notably, the coast.

Patagonia’s 260,000 square miles is filled with more coastal wonders and variation than the average traveler may realize.

The Patagonia region also includes a wide expanse of coastal inlets and islands filled with wildlife, glaciers and breathtaking scenery that can only be accessed by ship. 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 travels:

A woman in Patagonia looking out at a turquoise lake with floating ice.

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.

While on a Patagonia cruise 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.

Chunks of glistening ice on a beach in Patagonia.

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.

A group of people standing below a large glacier in Patagonia.

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

Some cruise itineraries offer the option to travel to Chile from Argentina or vice versa. These cruises pass around the famous Cape Horn creating a true braggable experience while allowing for smooth, simple and easy travel between the countries.

Sail between Argentina and Chile with all the details handled.

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.

A trail going through a turquoise lake in Patagonia.

You’ll See Unique Coastal Patagonia Wildlife

While on an adventure far off-the-beaten path, opportunities for wildlife sightings are around every corner. 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.

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.

Three penguins hanging out on grassland in Patagonia.
A large bird getting ready to take flight in Patagonia.

You Can Do It All: Patagonia Cruise & National Park

Some cruise itineraries include the option for time off the boat to spend time 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–combine 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 eco-lodges can be the ideal add-on to a cruise. There is also the possibility to add on a Patagonia cruise or land adventure with an Antarctica cruise or Antarctic air cruise, as points of embarkation include Ushuaia and Punta Arenas.

A group of people looking out at floating ice in Patagonia.
A couple on a trail along a turquoise lake in Patagonia.

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, and how fast lodging options fill up. 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. 

Floating ice below snow covered mountains in Patagonia.

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.