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Travel bucket list idea:

Cruise Patagonia & the Chilean Fjords

  • Patagonia, Chile

  • Bucket List Experience

Last updated: 19 March, 2024

Most travellers headed for the tip of South America are bound for Antarctica, but there’s a world of creaking glaciers, forests, snowy mountains and windswept towns to explore in Patagonia itself.

Short cruises between Ushuaia in Argentina and Punta Arenas in Chile pack in challenging hikes, waterfalls, glacier viewing, beachcombing and if wind conditions permit, a visit to Cape Horn, the southernmost tip of continental South America, blasted by winds and guarded by a solitary lighthouse. You’ll see thousands of Magellanic penguins, too, on Magdalena Island, near Punta Arenas.

Alternatively, expedition ships positioning to Antarctica for the austral summer often weave their way south via the Chilean fjords, a landscape of glittering blue lakes, narrow sea channels and towering, snow-capped volcanoes. Pick a longer voyage, say, from Valpariaiso, and you can take in the fjords, some of Patagonia and Antarctica in one bucket list trip.


Price from: £Varies
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 18+
When: All year around
Duration: 4+ days

Getting there & doing it

You could backpack around Patagonia, and plenty do, but a sea voyage gives a completely different perspective of this wild place, getting up close to glaciers, hiking trails where there’s not another human in sight and conditions permitting, landing you on Cape Horn.

Whether you opt for Patagonia or the Chilean fjords further north, an add-on to the magnificent Torres del Paine National Park will most likely be offered. Chilean fjords cruises calling at Puerto Natales will do the park as a day trip but, if time permits, make your own arrangements before or after the cruise and do the incredible landscapes and hiking trails justice by spending a few days in one of the lodges there.

Allow four days for Australis’ Patagonia cruises, usually taken as part of longer itineraries. Valparaiso to Punta Arenas via the fjords will usually take a week.

When to do it

Patagonia’s short summer falls between October and March. December and January bring the longest days, although there’s no guarantee of sunshine. On any one day you could encounter sun, snow, hail and sideways rain.

Who to go with: tour operators


Our writer’s recommended tour operators to book with


  • Argentina


Highly-regarded, award-winning specialist for cruising the fjords and channels of Chilean-Argentinean Patagonia. Chilean-owned, they operate two light-filled, contemporary ships specially built to sail the narrow waterways.



Round-ups that include this experience