Punta Arenas, Patagonia, Chile
At a Glance
Expedition cruise ship that sails through the Strait of Magellan and the Beagle Channel
Itineraries take you through stunning Patagonian scenery
All cabins have large windows for excellent views
Spacious relaxing and dining areas
Explores one of the wildest and most beautiful regions of the world
Best time to Visit
Good time to visit
Average time to visit
The Stella Australis operates on a schedule of set departures throughout the Patagonian summer (October to April), with the best time to travel being November to March. Weather in Patagonia is always unpredictable year-round, so it is best to prepare for all seasons in a day whenever you are travelling.
To start planning your holiday to Stella Australis
Take an unforgettable voyage on the Stella Australis through Tierra del Fuego's spectacular fjords, glaciers and channels separating Chile and Argentina. Enjoy visits to Cape Horn and the Magellan Strait, as well as marine wildlife-spotting opportunities.
The Stella Australis is an elegant ship operating four night expedition cruises through southern Patagonia. The cruises are supported by an expert team of bilingual guides, who lead daily excursions inland and on the sea, ensuring an unforgettable voyage.
Sail through the Straits of Magellan and the Beagle Channel, between Punta Arenas in Chile to Ushuaia in Argentina, round the infamous Cape Horn. The voyage takes you past iridescent blue icebergs, immense glaciers and a breathtaking coastline teeming with wildlife including penguins and sea elephants. For an extra special trip, combine with a visit to the Torres del Paine National Park in Chile and the breathtaking Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina.
The ship itself has an elegant lounge and dining area and offers plenty of space in which to relax when not out enjoying excursions. The food served up is superb. Cabins are all exterior-facing, furnished in a modern style, with picture windows affording superb views of the ever-changing scenery. These large windows are present throughout the ship and ensure that wherever you are, you need not miss a thing.
The Stella Australis sleeps up to 210 passengers, in 100 cabins set over three decks. The cabins are approx 16.5 sq m and have floor to ceiling windows. Cabins are all exterior facing, with en-suite bathrooms and air-conditioning/heating.
Children are welcome on board the Stella Australis although there are no formal facilities or activities available for children.
The Stella Australis has a panoramic open-air roof deck for admiring the stunning views, a dining room, lounges with panoramic windows and a gift shop. There are also zodiac boats for excursions.
All activities are included on board the Stella Australis. There are daily excursions, led by professional bilingual guides, walking trails, zodiac visits to glaciers and to Cape Horn National Park. The are also on-board lectures by the guides about the region's flora and fauna and evening activities.
IT'S THE DAWN of a new decade. And Im at the end of the world. Specifically, its 01/01/10, and Im at Cape Horn, the tip of the habitable world, lands end, tailbone of the Americas, the planets last lick of land beyond which Earths two great oceansthe misnamed Pacific and the mighty Atlanticclash in a not so friendly mashup. Beyond the Cape: the icy, forbidding shores of Antarctica, 600 miles away.
The Chilean expedition cruise ship Via Australis has deposited me and 130 fellow passengers on the Cape in a far more comfortable manner than early travelers to these parts experienced. Among these first explorers: Sir Francis Drake, whose storm-tossed detour led to the accidental discovery of the Drake Passage directly to the south; the Dutch merchant-explorers Le Maire and Schouten, who named the Cape after the latters hometown of Hoorn; and English naturalist Charles Darwin, who rounded the Cape as a passenger on the 90-foot brig-sloop H.M.S. Beagle on his way to the Galpagos Islands and eventual fame.
The carcasses of countless ships and steamers litter the ocean floor in these parts. The furious fifties, as the prevailing winds of the fiftysomething parallels of southern latitude are called (Cape Horn is at 56 S), are feared and storied.
Funneled by the Andes and the Antarctic Peninsula, they give rise to equally ferocious wavesthe occasional iceberg adding yet more excitement. Even now, sailing around the Cape is to yachties what scaling Everest is to mountaineers, and only sailors who have rounded the Horn are by tradition per-mitted to wear a gold loop ear-ring and to dine with one leg on the table.
Landing on the Cape, which is actually a small islet called Hornos Island, remains enough of an iffy proposition today that the cruise ship company makes no guarantees in its promotional materials. According to the captain of the Via Australis, the ship manages to land at the Horn only about 75 percent of the time.
But the first day of 2010 turns out to be lucky: calm seas, the lightest of breezes, a hazy sun. We make landfall on Zodiacs, clamber up a steep flight of stairs, greet the lone (and in all likelihood lonely) Chilean Navy sailor at his guard post, and snap the requisite photos. Eventually my shipmates disperse to explore the lighthouse and visit the tiny chapel, leaving me alone to gaze at the Cape (the actual point itself is protected from the erosive tread of visitors).
Then it hits me. For one brief shining moment, Im the southernmost human in Americas.
Prosaic thoughts give way to the profound during moments and at coordinates such as these. (It helps that I am beyond the tentacled reach of Wi-Fi and thus freed from the neurotic blips that pass for Age of Twitter.)
I whip out my notebook. I jot down deep thoughts, burning questions, fervent wishes, and firm resolves. I visualize them rising to the heavens, carried on the wings of the albatrosseswhich are the souls of perished sailors, if you believe the sea lore.
It doesnt have to be New Years Day on Cape Horn. It can be any combination of place and time that takes you away from the incessant demands of daily living, places you in direct contact with nature in its stark magnificence, and throws wide open the window on your essential self so you can get a good hard look. The auspicious spots and moments can be truly empowering, even course-changing.
I dont know whether Ill adhere to the to-do list scribbled here on this austral shore any better than to previous Years resolutions Ive made, but never have I felt the motivation and the promise more keenly.
At the lighthouse cum souvenir shop, I sign the years new guest book (page one!) and buy an El Fin del Mundo (End of the World) postcard stamped with todays date. Then I rejoin friends old and new back on the boat. The end, come to think of it, makes a fine beginning.
Location & directions
Punta Arenas, Patagonia, Chile
The Stella Australis operates cruises between Punta Arenas in southern Chile and Ushuaia in southern Argentina. The cruises sail through the Straits of Magellan and the Beagle Channel.
How to get there
Cruises depart from Ushuaia or Punta Arenas. To reach Ushuaia or Punta Arenas it is a 14-hour flight to Buenos Aires or Santiago, followed by a 3-4 hour flight to Ushuaia or Punta Arenas.
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