Lonely Planet describes this romantic World Heritage city as ‘a wonderful mess’, and they aren’t wrong. Welcome to a maze of barrios and alleyways spread across several hills overlooking the Pacific. As a contrast to what you’ll experience in Antarctica, you’ll find Valparaíso to be warm, bursting with colour, exciting smells, sounds and people. To really breathe in the atmosphere, you can wander the winding streets of colourful houses, visit some of the local produce mercados or take a funicular up to cerros Alegre and Concepción for sweeping views. Plaza Aduana is the city’s historic core while the port district has crumbing colonial buildings and old-fashioned bars.
If you plan ahead and come a few days early, you can also join an exciting optional Pre-Programme adventure to the beautiful Atacama Desert.
Once you’ve embarked MS Fridtjof Nansen, you’ll be able to check-in and relax in your cabin. There’s also an important health and safety briefing where you will also meet the Expedition Team. Afterwards, we hope you’ll be hungry, as it’ll be time for a welcome dinner.
Two days at sea means two days of relaxation and engaging learning. Context is key to your exploration and adventure. The more you understand about what you see and experience along the way, the more you’ll be able to appreciate nuances of culture and intricacies of nature. The Expedition Team are experts in different fields ranging from biology, volcanism, oceanography, geology, ornithology, glaciology, history, photography and many others. You’ll listen with rapt attention as they deliver a series of lectures that might touch on any one or more of those topics. There will also be hands-on presentations in the Science Center involving microscopes, rock samples, anatomical replicas and observations out on deck whenever possible.
While your mind is certain to be well fed, we don’t neglect your body either. The three onboard restaurants serve up sumptuous buffets and international dishes to keep you and your tastebuds delighted. To get your blood pumping, the ship offers indoor training facilities, an infinity pool, outdoor running track and outdoor gym. And then, if all this mental and physical activity has worn you out, recharge with a wellness treatment in the spa, free your pores in the sauna, or soak away in one of the outdoor hot tubs.
Time to stretch those sea legs and go ashore in Chile’s third oldest city. It is the largest on the island of Chiloé, which is thought to have first been settled more than 7,000 years ago. The main attraction of this rustic city are the colourful palafitos, wooden houses mounted on stilts along the water's edge. Aspiring photographers can get good angles of these neighbourhoods from the opposite shore or from atop nearby hills. The two UNESCO World Heritage Sites Iglesia San Francisco and Iglesia de Señora de Gracia de Nercón are also worth seeing. If you are interested in archaeology and ethnography, the regional museum of Castro is a good idea, and the Chiloé Museum of Modern art houses an important collection of contemporary art.
We sail south through the fabled waters of Patagonia and to one of the world’s most remote and beautiful places: the province of Ultima Esperanza, meaning Last Hope.
It was named by the sailor Juan Ladrillero who was seeking the Strait of Magellan in 1557. This was his "last hope" to find the Strait after exploring the maze of channels between the Pacific and the mainland. As we sail through iconic Andean seascapes, we recommend some zen time; find yourself a comfortable chair with a view and let your eyes rest on vast expanses of undisturbed nature. The lectures on board will be brimming with fascinating history and interesting facts about wildlife.
As we head south, the areas we visit will - with a few exceptions - be less and less populated. The village of Puerto Edén is a great example of this. This tiny and charming village is known for its geographical isolation at the end of a deep fjord, surrounded by mountains and only accessible by sea. Once a month, the inhabitants can take a ferry to the nearest coastal city, Tortel, located almost 100 km away. Due to the region’s large tidewater glaciers, it also rains here. A lot. With the secluded nature and wet conditions, there are no roads in the village, only pedestrian boardwalks connecting the houses and shops. The population of 250 includes the 15 remaining members of the indigenous Kawéskar people.
The city was originally founded in 1911 by Scottish and German immigrants who came to export lamb and wool back to Europe. Today, the city has around 20,000 inhabitants and receives a regular influx of adventure travellers from all over the world on their way to the world-renowned Torres del Paine National Park. Sign up to our excursion to the park or spend time hanging out in Puerto Natales itself.
The city has seen a rise of trendy eateries, Bohemian-type bars and stores selling all sorts of outdoor gear. Gin lovers can take a tour of the Last Hope Distillery, which may be the southernmost distillery in the world, or head to Etherh Aike, an artisan village selling various crafts and gifts. The waterfront in particular has many photogenic sites, such as the old pier with its wooden posts weaving into the fjord and snow-topped mountains in the background. The fingers of the Hand Monument and the dancing figures of the Wind Monument make for worthy holiday snaps too.
We leave civilisation behind now as we explore the deep fjords of Chile. One thing you’ll enjoy is seeing the high mountains plunging into the icy water from deck. Depending on the weather and available time, we might launch our small explorer boats to take you on a scenic cruise around the beautiful fjords. . You might even join the Expedition Team on a hike ashore and see first-hand how the glacial ice has scoured its way between the mountains, creating the lovely isolated islands and hidden bays. We may take samples of the ice found in the region, studying them under the microscopes in the onboard Science Center.
After we have sailed through the scenic Beagle Channel, we will start going fully south towards Antarctica. As we do, we will pass the southernmost tip of South America, Cape Horn. Famous for being a key point on round-the-world sailings, it is equally notorious for the strong winds and wild waves that whip around the cliffs. These conditions make any landings here difficult to say the least and a feat not for the faint-hearted. The Captain and the Expedition Team will carefully consider the conditions on the day and decide whether or not it will be safe enough to make a shore attempt. But should the weather be kind enough, you might just be among an elite few to set foot on this dramatic island.
From Cape Horn, it is down into the legendary Drake Passage which leads right to the Seventh Continent’s doorstep. During the days spent making this crossing, you’ll join lectures with the Expedition Team and learn about exploring Antarctica according to IAATO’s sustainability guidelines. Learn fascinating facts about the different wildlife species, how to observe them without disturbing, what to do if a penguin approaches you, and what not to do. We want to make the landings safe for you, for the wildlife and for this pristine environment – leaving nothing behind, and taking nothing but moments.
Have you ever felt completely stunned by nature? That might exactly be your feeling as we reach Antarctica. So amazed by the immense size and overwhelmed by its stark beauty, some have burst into tears of joy and sheer awe. To make the whole experience even greater, you’ll be here in the late spring period when many sculpted icebergs will be floating in the straits. Wildlife will also be in a romantic mood as gentoo and chinstrap penguins engage in courtship and mating. These clumsy yet charming creatures will melt your heart as they waddle around flirting with their partners and building their nests. Up above, look for a variety of seabirds like gulls, terns, herons which could ranging across as many as 45 different species.
Over the course of the four days you are here, you will join the Expedition Team on a range of landings and ice-cruises that will bring you to scenic locations and penguin colonies on and around the Antarctic Peninsula and surrounding islands. You may also get a chance to go snowshoeing in an optional activity, if the snow conditions allow. Or how about kayaking among the giant icebergs, also an optional activity. You never know what penguin or seal might turn up in the water right next to you.
To engage even more with Antarctica’s unique environment, you can join different Citizen Science projects like photographing whales, seabirds and leopard seals, phytoplankton sampling or cloud and sea ice observation. Participating in these research projects not only helps scientists all over the world, you’ll also get an even better understanding of the fragile ecosystem of Antarctica. The lectures on board will enhance your experience, and analysing samples taken during the day will let you see another kind of ‘wildlife’ at a cellular level.
After spending four days in Antarctica, it’ll be time to head back. Your mind will be full of lasting sights and sounds and your camera’s memory cards loaded with impressive images as well. Recapping the days in Antarctica with the Expedition Team and other guests over at the Science Center might keep the experience going a little longer. You can also unwind from all the excitement with some pampering in the Wellness Centre.
The expedition cruise ends as we reach Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina’s southernmost province. While this is the end of your adventure to Antarctica, it merely marks the beginning of your next one. We transfer you to the airport for your flight to Buenos Aires from where you can spend some extra days or head home. With museums, theatres, and plenty of tango shows, it is well worth taking the opportunity to explore the capital.
If you still hunger for adventure and beautiful scenery, we absolutely recommend joining an optional Post-Programme to the magnificent Iguazu Falls.
We hope that the time you have spent exploring Antarctica will stand out in your memory as special for decades to come. May the experiences on this expedition inspire you to go on many more adventures like this one, where sustainability and nature go hand in hand.