Day 1 Arrive Ushuaia
Arrive in Ushuaia at any time, transfer on your own, check into the hotel and enjoy the southernmost city in the world.
Sitting on the shores of the Beagle Channel, Ushuaia actually means 'the bay facing westward' in the language of the original Yamna inhabitants. Once a penal colony (the presidio was disbanded in the 1940s) for political prisoners as well as hardened criminals, Ushuaia is now a major tourist attraction, particularly for people such as ourselves cruising to Antarctica. The town of 40,000 is also a major ski resort area for both alpine and cross-country skiers and offers magnificent hiking in Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego, the only coastal national park in Argentina.
Argentina is the second giant of South America, with a landscape nearly as varied as its people. Modern and sophisticated, cosmopolitan Argentina has much more in common with Europe than with the rest of its neighbours. If Buenos Aires is the heart of the country, Patagonia and the southern Pampas in Santa Cruz Province are its soul. This is the very region we explore, trekking within Glacier National Park for the grand rewards of the trail.
We start our land exploration in the province of Tierra del Fuego and the southern most city in the world, Ushuaia, with a flight tomorrow to El Calafate, on the shores of Lago Argentino. The southern continental ice field, the second largest on the planet after that of Greenland, is the source of all the area's glaciers, including Moreno, Onelli, Viedma and Upsala. Moreno Glacier moves down from this massive river of frozen water, huge chunks of ice constantly crashing into the lake waters below. It is one of the most dynamic and only one of a few advancing glaciers left in the world. It is simply enormous: 1 km (half a mile) wide and 60 m (196 ft) high, it occasionally chokes off the narrow Canal de los Tempanos (Channel of Ice Bergs), creating a dam of ice, through which the lake water eventually bursts in a spectacular display.
Day 2-3 El Chaltén (2B)
A short flight takes us over the lofty peaks to El Calafate, home of the dynamic Moreno Glacier, within Glacier National Park. (Flight is included with this package). Then transfer to El Chaltén. El Chaltén, is located at the northern end of Los Glaciares National Park, where granite pinnacles spiral upward into the sky from the third largest ice field on earth. There is an included hike to Laguna de Los Tres where we hope to appreciate views of majestic Mount Fitzroy/Chaltén (3,441 m / 11,286 ft) on day 3. The weather in El Chalten is very changeable and therfore views of this spectacular granite mountain are not guaranteed! This is a full day's hiking of roughly 7-9 hours and approximately 25 Km (15 miles) round trip.
Parque Nacional Los Glaciares has some of the most spectacular natural sights you will see in your lifetime. Hikers and climbers from around the globe congregate here, waiting for good weather, to undertake the challenges presented by nature. The atmosphere is laid back and the mountains and Beech forests here are very similar to Paine. The hike to Laguna de Los Tres and other hikes in the area traverse spectacular glacial valleys to obtain awe-inspiring views of these peaks of ice and granite.
Included Activity: Guided Hike to Laguna de Los Tres
Approximate distance hiked: 25 km
Estimate hike time: 7-9 hours
Ushuaia to El Chalten
Approximate Distance: 220 km
Flight: Ushuaia to El Calafate (1 Hr)
Public Bus: El Calafate to El Chalten (3 Hrs)
Estimated Total Travel Time: 5-6 Hrs
Day 4-5 El Calafate (2B)
We spend day 4 in El Chalten and there is an optional hike to Laguna Torre for awe-inspiring views of the magical peaks and glaciers. Alternatively, there is the opportunity of the optional activity of ice trekking/climbing on Viedma Glacier. A late afternoon transfer (3 hrs) returns us to El Calafate.
We set off early in the morning to try and avoid the crowds at Perito Moreno Glacier. We transfer to the glacier in a private van, which takes roughly 2 hrs. We spend approximately 4 hrs making our way along the walkways in front of the glacier.
We may spot condors, eagles, flamingos and rheas in this beautiful landscape. Moreno Glacier is the only glacier in the world that can be reached by road, and if you are lucky enough, you will long remember the sound of ice crashing into the lake waters below.
Included Activity: Guided Tour of Perito Moreno Glacier
El Chalten to El Calafate
Approximate Distance:220 km
Public Bus: El Chalten to El Calafate (3 Hrs)
Estimated Total Travel Time: 3 Hrs
Day 6 - Puerto Natales
Travel by public bus from El Calafate to the small Chilean town of Puerto Natales. Travel time is roughly 5-6 hrs but often depends on time spent crossing the border. Be prepared for your bags to be scanned and searched by the Chilean officials. Make sure that you aren't carrying any fruit or vegetables into Chile as you may be subject to a hefty fine.
On arrival to Puerto Natales, you should have the afternoon to do some last minute shopping before your next 3 days of hiking in Torres del Paine National Park. There will be a briefing in the evening in preparation for Torres del Paine
El Chalten to Puerto Natales
Approximate Distance:547 km
Public Bus: El Calafate to Puerto Natales (4-6 Hrs)
Estimated Total Travel Time: 4-6 Hrs
Day 6-9 Torres del Paine National Park (4B, 2L, 2D)
We head off early in the morning by private transfer (2 hrs) to Torres del Paine National Park.
Hiking and camping in this spectacular park is a real treat. The things that you may have heard about the rough beauty of Patagonia will be affirmed by the breathtaking views of the three pink granite “Towers,” French Valley and its glaciers, as well as the region’s unique wildlife, such as guanacos, rheas and Patagonian hares. Travel by boat on Lake Pehoe amongst the icebergs of Grey Glacier, one of the most beautiful glaciers of the Patagonia ice field.
Encompassing a narrow strip of land between the Pacific Ocean and the high peaks of the Andes, approximately 180 km (112 miles) wide, but with a coastline stretching over 4,300 km (14,104 ft), Chile’s “geografia loca” (as termed by Benjamin Subercasseaux) includes the driest desert, the Atacama in the north, the agriculturally-rich Central Valley, snow-covered volcanoes, forests and tranquil lakes of the near south, and the wild and windswept glaciers and fjords of the far south.
It is within this last region that you’ll discover magnificent trekking country, where guanacos, ñandus (rheas), condors, pink flamingos and magellanic penguins abound. The region also boasts some of the world's finest salmon and trout fishing, and the cuisine at times rivals the natural setting. Hikes are moderate to difficult, along clearly marked trails. Participants should be prepared for hikes ranging in duration from 5-8 hours per day with unpredictable weather. A gold mine of undiscovered destinations and surprises, this country and its friendly and hospitable people will no doubt make a mark on your memories and leave you with a smile.
The granite Towers of Paine National Park make a sudden and dramatic appearance on the horizon in the midst of a flat, dry, wind-swept plain. Despite the almost constant summer winds, this is some of the finest trekking in Patagonia. Endowed with severe mountains, sparkling lakes, waterfalls and glaciers, as well as herds of guanacos, majestic condors, flocks of pink flamingos and large Patagonian hares, the park’s international attraction is immediately evident. Once a large sheep estancía, the park was established in 1959 as the Parque Nacional Lago Grey. Prior to this, baqueanos (cowboys) grazed their flocks here and fires occasionally burnt out of control. The devastation wrought near Lago Grey with large areas of burnt forest and charred logs remains visible to this day. More land was added to the park in 1962 and the name was changed to its present one. It is said that the Towers and Park were named after an early Welsh settler named Payne, although Paine is also the Tehuelche word for blue. The Torre (Tower) Sur rises 2,900 m (9,512 ft) above sea level, the Torre Central is 2,850 m (9,348 ft) high and the Torre Norte measures 2,600 m (8,528 ft). As spectacular as the towers themselves are the Cuernos (Horns) del Paine, massive blocks of various rock layers, visible from great distances.
Private Transfer: Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine National Park (2 Hrs)
Included Activity: Hike to the Towers
Approximate distance hiked: 16 km
Estimate hike time: 6-8 hours
Overnight in Campsite
Included Activity: Hike up the French Valley
Approximate distance hiked: 24 km
Estimate hike time: 6-8 hours (depending on how far you go into the valley)
Overnight in Campsite
Included Activity: Hike to lookout of Grey's Glacier
Approximate distance hiked: 11 km
Estimate hike time: 4 hours
Private Transfer: Torres del Paine National Park to Puerto Natales (2 Hrs)
Overnight in Hotel in Puerto Natales
Day 10-11 Ushuaia (2B,1D)
Today we have a full day's travel (13-14 Hrs) on a comfortable public bus as we return to our start point, Ushuaia. We cross Magellan Straitby ferry and cross back into Argentina on this long travel day. There will be some stops along the way but it is important to get IPods charged or have a good book on hand. We will arrive into Ushuaia for a late dinner and our last night on dry land until we arrive to Antarctica. On Day 11 embark the M/S Expedition in the afternoon. After we have settled into our cabins, the ship sets sail along the scenic Beagle Channel - heading south towards the Drake Passage and beyond.
Puerto Natales - Ushuaia
Approximate Distance:727 km
Public Bus (& Ferry): Puerto Natales to Ushuaia (13-14 Hrs)
Estimated Total Travel Time: 13-14 Hrs
Day 12-13 The Drake Passage (2B,2L,2D)
Our adventure begins with a 400 mile crossing of the passage that bears the name of the 16th century English explorer Sir Francis Drake. The M/S Expedition is at home in this part of the Southern Ocean, known for the unimpeded fetch of the winds that encircle the Antarctic. At some point on the second day we cross the Antarctic Convergence, a meeting of cold polar water flowing north and warmer equatorial water moving in the opposite direction. This mixing pushes nutrient rich waters to the surface attracting a variety of seabirds, whales and other species.
As we make the passage you have time to become acquainted with the ship and frequent the common areas that include the lounge, dining hall, library and lecture hall where we meet our guides, ship’s crew and expedition staff. We also begin the lecture and information sessions to learn the extraordinary human and natural history of the Antarctic region.
Day 14-17 Antarctic Peninsula & the South Shetland Islands (4B,4L,4D)
This is what we've all been waiting for - a chance to step foot on the Great White Continent! Over the next 4 days we will navigate southwards making stops in the South Shetland Islands then through the Bransfield Strait and to the Antarctic Peninsula. Our goal is to attempt 2 excursions per day while we navigate through the area but our itinerary and daily schedule will be based on the local weather and ice conditions that we encounter.
The Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetland Islands abound with wildlife activity. Penguins gather with their fast-growing chicks, whales are seen in great numbers, seals haul out onto ice floes and beaches, and numerous albatross and other seabirds trail in our wake. There is plenty of time to enjoy the sheer beauty and the breathtaking scenery of ice-choked waterways, blue and white icebergs, impressive glaciers and rugged snow-capped mountains. The Peninsula also has a remarkable history and, during the voyage, we will learn about some of the most important and dramatic expeditions to this remote corner of the world. Keeping a lookout from the Bridge or the deck of the ship, as we thread our way along the continent, you'll feel the same sense of excitement as many of those early explorers.
The continent itself is roughly circular with a spindly arm, called the Antarctic Peninsula, reaching northwards towards Tierra del Fuego. South America is the nearest landmass, some 600 miles away. Considerably larger than either the United States or Europe, and twice the size of Australia, the continent is surrounded by a frozen sea that varies in area from one million square miles in summer to 7.3 million square miles in winter. Ninety-five percent of the continent of Antarctica is ice covered and contains the freshest water on earth - about 70 percent of all fresh water on earth in fact. The highest point in Antarctica is Vinson Massif, with an altitude of 16,864 feet above sea level; the lowest point is the Bentley Subglacial Trench at 8,200 feet below sea level, located in West Antarctica. Antarctica has the highest average elevation of all the continents at about 7,500 feet about sea level.
Antarctica is a continent of superlatives. It is the coldest, windiest, driest, iciest and highest of all the major landmasses in the world. It is the continent with the longest nights and the longest days and it is home to the world’s greatest concentration of wildlife. It is also one of the last true wilderness areas left on earth – largely unchanged since the early explorers and whalers first landed on its inhospitable shores less than two centuries ago. The lowest temperature ever recorded anywhere on earth, -89.2°C, was recorded on July 21, 1983, at Vostok Station. Winds have been recorded at 200 mph in the interior of the continent and the average annual water precipitation in the interior is only about 50 mm.
Thanks to the abundance of the small, shrimp like krill as the basis of the food chain, many species of whales make the water south of the Antarctic Convergence their summer home. Some of the species found in the frigid southern waters include: the Humpback Whale who consumes over a ton of krill each day; the Southern Right Whales easily identified by the whitish callosities on the jaws and forehead; the Sperm Whales made famous in Moby Dick; the Killer Whale which is actually not a whale at all but the largest of the dolphin family; the Sei Whale which can achieve speeds up to 55 km/h over short distances; the playful Minke Whales very common in the peninsula area; the Fin Whale who can attain a length of 25 to 27 meters making them the second largest whales; and the Blue Whale which is not only the largest whale in the oceans but also the largest animal that has ever lived.
The common name for all flightless, aquatic birds, penguins are only found south of the equator. Penguins have been grouped into 18 species and 6 genera, with most making their homes in Antarctica and the sub Antarctic islands, though others are native to the coasts of Australia, South Africa, South America, and the Galapagos Islands. Penguins are speedy and agile swimmers, but extremely slow on land. The regions we visit aboard MS Expedition are inhabited by six different species including the giant King Penguin who can grow up to one metre in height (found only on South Georgia Island); the Adelie Penguin named after French explorer Dumont d’Urville’s wife; the Chinstrap Penguin identified by the distinctive black line connecting the black cap to below the chin; the Gentoo Penguin with its orange bill and white flash above and behind its eyes; the Macaroni Penguin (Only on South Georgia Island) who number roughly 12 million and are easily identified by the orange tassels meeting between the eyes; and the Rockhopper Penguin (Only in Falkland Islands) who are similar to the Macaroni in appearance but slightly smaller and have yellow tassels.
Some of the bravest and best known explorers have sailed south in search of adventure and recognition. James Cook, the most travelled explorer of his time, was the first to circumnavigate Antarctica and the first to cross the Antarctic Circle. Roald Amundsen, who led the first expedition to reach the South Pole and reached the pole on December 14, 1911. Captain Robert Scott, famous for being 35 days late, arriving at the South Pole on January 17, 1912 only to find the dark green tent and a note left by Amundsen. All five men in the Scott expedition perished on their way back from the pole. The best-known adventurer would have to be Sir Ernest Shackleton. On his attempt at the South Pole his ship, Endurance, was captured by pack ice in the Weddell Sea on January 19, 1915. The ship was destroyed by heavy ice, forcing he and his men to travel over the ice and sea to Elephant Island. However, because the island was uninhabited, Shackleton and five others made the 1,300 km voyage for help to South Georgia, amazingly arriving at Stromness Harbour whaling station on May 20, 1916.
Day 18-19 The Drake Passage (2B,2L,2D)
Today we leave Antarctica and head north across the Drake Passage. In between bird watching and whale watching and enjoying some final lectures by our expedition staff, this is a chance to relax and review the adventures of the past week before returning to Ushuaia.
Day 20 Depart Ushuaia (B)
Our adventure comes to a close this morning, as we say our goodbyes and disembark in Ushuaia.
All meals included while on board the ship and while camping in Torres del Paine. Breakfast at hotels.
Onboard our expedition ships you’ll find a diversity of gourmet international cuisines prepared and catered by professional chefs; all meals are included in the price of your expedition. Dining is casual, tables are unassigned and the dining room is capable of seating the entire passenger compliment at one time. There is always a selection of different meals available, and vegetarians will find plenty of options. Special dietary requirements can be accommodated with advance notice, please advise us at time of confirmation. Coffee, tea and water are all provided free of charge. All other beverages, alcoholic and non-alcoholic are not included and can be purchased in the dining room, pub, or lounge.
M/S Expedition, Zodiac, Local buses, Private buses, Local flights.
All local flights are included in the cost of your tour unless otherwise noted. It is important that we have your passport information at the time of booking in order to process these tickets. Internal flight tickets are issued locally and will be given to you prior to the flight departure.
8 nights (comfort/superior) hotels, 2 nights camping stay, with facilities nearby (sleeping bag, tent, and sleeping mat provided). On board the M/S Expedition (9 nights) in triple, twin-share cabins, or suites (all with ensuite bathrooms and a porthole/window). Please note that cabins consist of twin sized berths and are outside facing. Suites have one queen bed.
The information in this trip details document has been compiled with care and is provided in good faith. However it is subject to change, and does not form part of the contract between the client and the operator. The itinerary featured is correct at time of printing. It may differ slightly to the one in the brochure. Occasionally our itineraries change as we make improvements that stem from past travellers, comments and our own research. Sometimes it can be a small change like adding an extra meal along the itinerary. Sometimes the change may result in us altering the tour for the coming year. Ultimately, our goal is to provide you with the most rewarding experience. Please note that our brochure is usually released in November each year. If you have booked from the previous brochure you may find there have been some changes to the itinerary.
VERY IMPORTANT: Please ensure that you print a final copy of your Trip Details to review a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans.
1. Please note that your trip is split into two sections with a different tour leader and accommodation style between the two trips. If you are traveling solo both sections will be in twin share accommodation.
2. When packing your luggage please note that the weight restriction on the domestic flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia is only 15 to 23 kg (33 to 50 lbs) per person, depending on the airline. Please note that the airlines will generally charge for excess baggage. You are able to leave luggage that you do not need at the hotel in Buenos Aires.
3. Medical questionnaires are required for all passengers traveling to Antarctica.
4. Passengers booked in a Category 5 suite will receive a free Canada Goose jacket.
We believe single travellers should not have to pay more to travel so our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and do not involve a single supplement. Single travellers joining group trips are paired in twin or multi-share accommodation with someone of the same sex for the duration of the trip. Some of our Independent trips are designed differently and single travellers on these itineraries must pay the single trip price.
What to Take
Regarding the camping portion of your tour, we will provide a tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping mat. There is no need to bring your own.
Most airlines allow one checked bag and two carry-on per person. To avoid any problems at check-in and with possible excess baggage charges, please consult the airline for specific restrictions. For storage on board the expedition ship soft compactible luggage makes storage much easier.
Dress on board is informal. Plan to bring comfortable, casual clothing for all activities. Bring wind and waterproof outer layers. Beware of tight clothing that leaves no room for trapped air, which is an excellent insulator. Wool, silk and some of the new synthetic fibers, like polar fleece, retain heat better than cotton. When packing, we suggest that you do not weigh yourself down with too many clothes or too much gear. Select informal, practical attire that can be worn in layers.
The most important item that you will need to bring on your voyage is a parka. It is possible to rent gear in Ushuaia for the expedition, but the quantity and quality of gear varies greatly depending on the demand. For the location of a rental shop consult with the front desk of the hotel where you are staying. You will not have time to return the rental gear if you have a morning flight departing Ushuaia.
When packing your luggage please note that the weight restriction on the domestic flight from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia is 15-23 kg (33 to 50 lbs) per person. Passengers with their international ticket with Aerolinas are allowed the higher international luggage allowance. Please note that the airline will generally charge for excess baggage.
Complimentary used waterproof boots will be supplied for the following sizes:
- men's USA size 8-14
- women's USA size 3-9
Guests must bring their own if they are:
- men's USA size 7 or smaller
- men's USA size 15 or larger
- women's USA size 2 or smaller
- women's USA size 10 or larger
Rubber, waterproof boots that are just below your knee's (12-16" high or 30-41cm.) with a strong, ridged non-skid sole are essential for wet landings via Zodiac. You usually have to step from the Zodiac into icy water up to 1 ft. or 30 cm high on most landings. Do not bring heavy, cumbersome boots that make it difficult to walk. Do not bring boots with metal cleats as they cannot be used for the landings. For maximum warmth, wear loose-fitting boots and two pairs of socks. Try out your boots before the voyage.
You should look for a lightweight, roomy, wind and water-resistant parka with some insulation. Bright colors are more visible - and thus - safer in polar environments.
Keeping your hands warm and dry can be a challenge. Thin polypropylene gloves can be worn underneath warm outer gloves. Thus, allowing you some protection from the cold when removing your gloves to operate your camera, etc. We strongly recommend that you bring more than one pair of gloves, in case one gets wet (or lost).
Warm, woolen hat/cap to protect your ears, as well as a scarf, neck gaiter or other face protection.
Water-resistant pants/trousers of coated nylon or, even better, Gore-Tex® are essential for your comfort. They can be worn over your regular clothes to keep you warm and dry. We suggest that you purchase pants a few sizes larger than you normally wear as you will be wearing them over other clothing. Gore-Tex® or similar fabrics are excellent for keeping out wind and water without trapping excess heat. Rain gear and Gore-Tex® products can be found in any outdoor sport clothing store. In addition to your waterproof pants/trousers, warm ski pants are suggested if you have them, otherwise, bring any sturdy, warm pants/trousers that can be layered between your long underwear, such as jeans, sweatpants, corduroys, etc.
Warm, high wool or cotton socks worn over a thin pair of silk, polypropylene socks should provide enough warmth and insulation for your feet. Bring several pairs of socks, since you will inevitably get your feet wet.
Woolen, knit or cotton sweaters/tops, polar fleece tops (medium weight), several cotton turtlenecks and T-shirts for layering on and off the ship.
Silk or polypropylene underwear is highly recommended since it will keep you warm without adding bulk. Most polar travellers prefer a lightweight version - but this depends on your own personal thermostat.
The electricity onboard is 220AC electrical outlets, with European 2 pin round holes, as well as 110-volt shaving sockets in the bathroom for electric razors only. You may wish to bring an international adapter.
- Hat & sunglasses (Polarized highly recommended)
- Sun block (PABA-free)
- Money belt
- Basic first aid kit
- Alarm clock
- Women’s sanitary products
- Toiletries (biodegradable)
- Water bottle, books
- Flashlight with spare batteries and bulbs
- A seasickness remedy
- Passport (and photocopies)
- Travel Insurance documents
- Airline tickets
- USD cash and travelers checks
- Credit card (see personal spending money)
- G Adventures vouchers, pre-departure information
- Any entry visas, or required vaccination certificates
- To enter Argentina you will require a passport (with 6 months validity). - Please check all visa requirements at least one month in advance of travel.
Camera and film, binoculars, reading/writing material, cover or plastic bags for backpacks
All countries require a valid passport (with a minimum 6 months validity). Contact your local embassy, or consulate for the most up-to-date visa requirements, or see your travel agent. IT'S YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO HAVE THE CORRECT TRAVEL DOCUMENTATION.
USD $5.00 - Ushuaia
USD $18.00 - Buenos Aires
Although it may not be customary to you, it is of considerable significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels. It is an expression of satisfaction with the persons who have assisted you on your expedition. The industry standard and suggested amount is USD $10 - 15 per person per day spent on board. Of course, tipping is a personal choice and the suggested amount is set only as a guideline. The money is collected by the Hotel Manager at the end of the voyage and distributed amongst the crew and Expedition Staff. The Officers choose not to participate in the tipping pool.
Please consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information well before departure. We require all passengers traveling to Antarctica to complete and submit our medical questionnaire. The questionnaire can be found online at:
Passengers with preexisting medical conditions are required to submit a medical form signed by a physician to their booking agent. It is very important that we are advised of any special meal requirements, food allergies, or prescribed medication when you confirm your tour. The ship is equipped with a small infirmary with typically required medications and limited equipment. The ship's doctor is available for visits during the day and is available 24 hours per day for emergencies.
In case of an emergency, please also bring with you a signed and dated letter from your physician (to be given to our doctor on board, as well as for any medical authorities) stating any health problems and dosage requirements. International health regulations do not currently require any inoculations for the countries that you will visit on our voyage. We suggest that you confer with your own physician to be sure your routine immunizations, such as tetanus, diphtheria and hepatitis A, are up-to-date before traveling. Older travelers, in particular, may wish to consider preventive measures against influenza and pneumonia.
Travel Insurance: Travel insurance is compulsory in order to participate on any of our trips. When travelling on a group trip, you will not be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance has been sighted by your CEO, who will take note of your insurance details. When selecting a travel insurance policy please bear in mind that all clients must have medical coverage and that we require a minimum coverage of USD 200,000 for repatriation and emergency rescue. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects. If you have credit card insurance we require proof of purchase of the trip (a receipt of credit card statement) with a credit card in your name. Contact your bank for details of their participating insurer, the level of coverage and emergency contact telephone number.
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