Australis cruise routes all encompass the hidden canals, fjords and environments of this evocative part of Patagonia. We have access to areas that other cruise operators do not, meaning that your on-land and offshore excursions – whether trekking towards giant glaciers, wandering forest trails or exploring the delights of the Penguin colony – will be in complete isolation.

Our itineraries also include a stop at Cape Horn, the southernmost point in the Americas which is often nicknamed the ‘End of the World’. First discovered in 1616 by brave Dutch sailors, this area connectsthe Paci c and Atlantic Oceans, so not only is itgeographically symbolic but also happens to be beautiful to look at, atmospheric and a true once-in-a- lifetime experience to visit.

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Yamana Museum

A singular building isolated in the heart of nature, this former military radio station was until recently the only reinforced concrete building on Navarino Island.
Today converted into a museum in honor of the Yamanas Indians, an indigenous people who made Wulaia their base during the southern winter, Australis is in charge of this museum which traces the history and way of life in extreme climate of this region.

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Magdalena Island

The ancient sailors and explorers had to stop here to get supplies. This island is home to an immense colony of Magellanic penguins, which we can see on our walk to the lighthouse, which currently guides ships on their way through the strait. *The use of poles for cameras is prohibited on Magdalena Island.

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Cap Horn

Cape Horn is a wild landscape, a rock formation located approximately at the point where the Atlantic and Pacific oceans meet. As a result the place is not only remote and uninhabitable, but the seas around here are clearly ruthless, having claimed its share of shipwrecks over the years. When the weather is calm, Australis is the only cruise expedition that lands at Cape Horn to meet its resident wildlife there and enjoy the views. It is, without a doubt, an exciting and once-in-a-lifetime experience!

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Punta Arenas

Located on the shore of the Magellan Strait, Punta Arena is the capital of Region XII of Magallanes and the Chilean Antarctica. The city’s historic background has made it one of the more popular places to visit in Chile. By air, it is a four-hour trip from Santiago de Chile. If you choose to travel by land, you must take Route 5 south to Osorno before crossing the Cardenal Samoré Border pass. Things to do in Punta Arenas include visiting the historic Bulnes Fort and Los Pingüinos Natural Monument, where thousands of penguins are located. Book your Punta Arenas excursions in order to start exploring the wonderful region of Patagonia and take it as the beginning of your Australis expedition cruise.

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Take an adventure cruise and explore the natural beauty of the route between Ushuaia and Punta Arenas. Ushuaia is quickly becoming one of the best places to visit in Argentina. Ushuaia, founded on October 12, 1884, is home to one of the first encounters between the Yamana and Anglican cultures. Its name comes from the Yamana word that means “Penetrating Bay.” Located on the Argentine side of Tierra del Fuego, Ushuaia is on the shore side of the Beagle Channel. 

This city is easy to get to as Aerolíneas Argentinas provides eight daily flights that stop in Calafate. Some things to do in Ushuaia include visiting Museo del Fin del Mundo, Tierra del Fuego National Park and Glaciar Martial. As for shopping attractions when visiting Patagonia, make sure to check out Paseo de Artesanos and La Última Bita Store, just to name a few.

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Puerto Natales

Puerto Natales, the provincial capital of Ultima Esperanza, is located in the Chilean Patagonia at sea level on the shore of the Señoret Channel. Planning on flying into Puerto Natales to begin your Patagonia vacation is fairly easy as there are nearby airports. There are many different things to do in Puerto Natales that will keep you busy. A popular spot to visit is the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, with South America’s largest glacier, the Pio XI or Ana María Glacier.

Magellan Strait

This unmistakable Strait, located in the heart of the Chilean fjords, owes its name to the Portuguese explorer Fernando de Magallanes, the first to discover a natural crossing, of 564 km (350 miles), between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, which separates Earth del Fuego from the extreme south of the American continent. Commissioned by King Charles V of Spain, Magellan set out with a fleet of five ships and the task of navigating a westward route until reaching the Indonesian Spice Islands, which meant passing through Patagonia and ultimately , by the Strait (of Magellan). At that time the existence of this labyrinth of channels, islets and fjords was already known, but it was thought to be impenetrable, until November 1, 1520, when Magellan successfully directed his navigation and found the route to the other side.
This risky and dangerous venture finally connected the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Today, Australis' journeys through the Strait of Magellan are of course much less dangerous than back then, though no less exciting given the area's incredible history, landscapes, and wildlife such as penguins. of Magellan on the Tucker Islands and Magdalena Island, in addition to the existence of the only king penguin colony in America, located in Bahía Inutil, in the aptly named “Parque Pingüino Rey”.

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Tierra del Fuego

The Tierra del Fuego archipelago is truly one of the most extreme landscapes on earth. This beautiful and wild expanse of towering mountains and frozen fjords may seem completely uninhabitable at first glance, but life actually exists here. Both indigenous communities and settlers have made Tierra del Fuego, the Beagle Channel and the surrounding plains their home for many millennia, and some of the earliest inhabitants date back over 6,500 years. Getting to know this exciting story and the legacy left to posterity, on the native tribes, the explorers of the 16th century, the gold rush and the lifestyle of the traditional farmer (a nostalgic figure still active in Patagonia today), make every trip to Tierra del Fuego a memorable experience. And what about the region's incredible sceneries, fragile ecosystems, numerous penguin species and life pulsating on the seabed. Some relevant and precious points of Tierra del Fuego are Ushuaia, the Martial mountains and the homonymous glacier, the Esmeralda Lagoon, the Beagle Channel, Lake Escondido, the Miter peninsula and many more.

Darwin in Patagonia

There is no doubt that chance can sometimes play a central role in the development of defining events in the history of humanity. Such was the case with Charles Darwin’s opportunity to travel on the Beagle; it was without a doubt the most important experience of his life and was a key element in the development of his ideas about evolution and the origin of species. 

Charles Darwin was born on February 12, 1809 in Shrewsbury, England. He was the fifth of six siblings and was practically raised by his sisters after the death of his mother at age six. 

In 1825 he began to study medicine at the University of Edinburgh, but postponed these studies to pursue theology in 1828 at Christ’s College in Cambridge, encouraged by his father, Robert Darwin, a renowned doctor and businessman in England. 

During his time at university, he met the Reverend John Stevens Henslow, a botany professor to whom Charles Darwin owes a great part of his love of natural history as well as his introduction to Captain Fitz Roy. It was J. Henslow who proposed that Darwin take a position as an unpaid naturalist with Captain Fitz Roy, since the latter needed a companion and gentleman of his own social class with whom he could get on reasonably and share the trip, and who was not a formal part of the crew. 

This expedition, entrusted by the British Admiralty, was preparing its second voyage to Finish the cartographic work started during the first voyage between 1826 and 1830 under the command of Robert Fitz Roy. Fitz Roy took on the role of captain during the Beagle’s first voyage after its first captain, Pringle Stokes, committed suicide in Tierra del Fuego. 

The Beagle’s voyage lasted almost five years, sailing from Plymouth Bay, England on December 27, 1831 and arriving in Falmouth on October 2, 1836. 

Its first landfall in South America was in 1832 in Bahia or San Salvador, Brazil, where Charles Darwin spent his time exploring the area, admiring the exuberance of the vegetation and the great number of new species that presented themselves before his eyes. 

Continuing his exploration southward, it is important to mention his stay in Bahia Blanca, more specifically in Punta Alta. Darwin found this to be a place of great geological appeal that lent itself to the field application of the new knowledge acquired through the recent publication of the first volume on geological principles by the geologist Charles Lyell. It was here where he found enormous fossils of immense, extinct quadrupeds, and this discovery sparked his first doubts with respect to his religious beliefs. 

The next destination was Cape Horn. It was on this leg of the voyage that the Beagle found itself in the most serious danger of shipwreck due to the high seas and constant storms, but it came through unscathed thanks to Fitz Roy’s great skill as a pilot. 

The Beagle then sailed to Navarino Island in order to carry out another of the voyage’s main objectives: to return three natives to their homeland after they were taken to England some years before by Fitz Roy, who intended to carry out a very peculiar human experiment. The Anglican Church Mission Society chose the young and inexperienced clergyman Richard Matthews as a missionary to ensure that the seed of civilization and Christianity planted by Fitz Roy in Tierra del Fuego germinated and bore fruit.


Charles Darwin’s encounter with the natives of Tierra del Fuego generated a series of comments and prejudices that negatively affected these ethnicities, especially in their later contact with the white man. They did, however, help Darwin understand the process of education and civilization, which were learned concepts that differentiated these savage men. 

Once the natives Jemmy Button, Jork Minster and Fuegia Basket were left in Wulaia Bay together with Reverend Matthews, the Beagle continued its cartographic work, exploring a portion of the Beagle Channel now known as Avenue of the Glaciers. This is where Darwin came to be considered Patagonia’s first glaciologist, since he managed to quite accurately describe the geological formations based on the preexisting glaciers. A few days later, they returned to Wulaia Bay to rescue Reverend Matthews, demonstrating the failure of this attempt at evangelization. 

In accordance with its cartographic objectives, the Beagle set sail once again for Montevideo, but Darwin stayed to carry out scientific expeditions in the area, and then made a long trip by horseback through Argentine Patagonia. On this trip he made numerous observations, for example, about the gauchos he met and the rhea and its similarities to the African ostrich. 

One year later, the Beagle returned to Tierra del Fuego, where the crew found Jemmy Button in his savage state. Button expressed his intention to continue to live the way he was raised, thus dashing Fitz Roy’s plans for evangelization. 

After a landfall in the Malvinas or Falkland Islands, the Beagle was repaired on the Santa Cruz River in southern Argentina, and then sailed through the Strait of Magellan. Here, Charles Darwin once more displayed his great analytical capacity for describing the geology of the area and the importance of undersea forests, among other things. 

Now began the voyage along the Chilean coast of the Pacific Ocean, and it was there that Darwin lived unthinkable experiences for a scientist in those times; for instance, the eruption of the Osorno volcano, the Concepción earthquake, and the discovery of marine fossils at more than 4000 meters above sea level. These experiences caused Darwin to reflect deeply on the contrast between the precepts learned in the Bible and the physical evidence found in the field. 

This important experience helped Charles Darwin develop his famous theory on the origin of man, which was not published until 23 years after his return to England. This theory sparked an important intellectual revolution among its champions and detractors that continues to this day. The theory states that all living beings have evolved over time from a common ancestor or a small group of common ancestors through the process of natural selection. Charles Darwin died in Dawne on April 19, 1882, and his remains now lie in Westminster Abbey together with the remains of Isaac Newton. Darwin’s great legacy in Patagonia is embodied in the southern mountain chain that bears his name (the Cordillera Darwin) and its highest peak (Mount Darwin, with an altitude of 2,488 meters or 8,162 ft). 

The passage of the Beagle and the young naturalist, Charles Darwin, through Patagonia left an indelible path that we now follow today, visiting the pristine landscapes that he himself explored in the past.



Patagonia Glaciers

During winter, snow piles up and compresses. Its hexagonal crystals start to deform due to compaction, releasing air, giving crystals a more granular shape. This brings us to the second stage of snow: névé. As new layers of snow accumulate, the weight of said layers compresses the snow into glacial ice. Learn more about glaciology on a Patagonia glacier tour with Australis.


Ice is the solid state of water (H20 molecule). In a glacier, ice is mixed with air bubbles, making it 0.9 times denser than water. For that simple reason, ice floats on water. 

During winter, snow piles up and compresses. Its hexagonal crystals start to deform due to compaction, releasing air, giving crystals a more granular shape. This brings us to the second stage of snow: névé. As new layers of snow accumulate, the weight of said layers compresses the snow into glacial ice. 

It varies considerably from one glacier to the next. It can take just a dozen years for temperate glaciers like the Patagonian glaciers, or up to hundreds of years for cold glaciers like the ones in Antarctica. Contrary to popular belief, the warmer the glacier is, the quicker the ice forms, because the snow crystal needs moderate temperatures (above 0ºC, 32ºF) in order to fuse into glacial ice. In Antarctica, temperatures are so low that the snow compaction process takes much longer. 

There are two phenomena that cause movement: sliding and internal deformation. 
- Sliding is produced by friction between the base of the glacier and the rocky substrate, which creates a thin film of water that allows movement. It can also be caused by water leaking from the upper layers down to the base of the glacier. 
- Internal deformation is produced by the pressure (approximately 650 tons per cubic meter) exerted by the weight of the ice. This tension leads to deformation, which causes the glacier to move. 

The accumulation zone is the top of the glacier, where snow accumulates. 
The ablation zone is the bottom of the glacier, where there is a loss in glacial mass. 
The equilibrium line separates the accumulation zone from the ablation zone. 
A moraine is an accumulation of rock, sand or clay that is picked up and transported by glaciers as they advance. 

There are several kinds of moraines: 
Lateral Moraine: as its name states, it consists of sediment deposited on the sides of a glacier. Medial Moraine: is the junction of two glaciers merging their lateral moraine deposits. 
Terminal Moraine: this moraine marks the furthest advance of a glacier and the point where it starts to recede. 
Internal Moraine: is an accumulation of sediment which falls into crevasses and is trapped in the ice, giving the ice a “dirty” appearance.


Crevasses are mainly formed due to the differences in velocity between the center of a glacier and its lateral affluents. 

-Seracs are blocks of ice normally found at the front of glaciers, and are prone to crumbling apart. 
-Nunataks are exposed rocky elements not covered with ice or snow within an ice field or glacier. They are like islands of rock amidst the ice and sometimes contain plant life. 
-Icebergs are blocks of ice that have broken off from the ablation zone of a glacier towards a lake or ocean. The area of an iceberg underwater is approximately nine times larger than the portion one can see poking above the waterline. 

Glaciers’ peculiar color tone is due to the following optical effect: the white sunlight that strikes the ice is split into three main colors, red, green and blue. Ice tends to absorb red and green waves of color, causing the blue appearance of ice; conversely, it looks whiter when the amount of air bubbles in the ice increases. 

Meltwater from a glacier is commonly known as “glacial milk”. The unusual color of this water is due to the presence of mineral sediments (especially quartz particles) that remain in suspension or cannot be deposited at the bottom of the lake, sea or river. 

Worldwide, most glaciers are in a receding period or are in equilibrium, although there are exceptions of glaciers that are still advancing in Alaska, Greenland, the Himalayas and even here in Chile, represented by the Pío Xi glacier, near Puerto Edén. The most accurate theory on glacier recession believes that there has been a warming effect on Earth and temperatures have risen considerably. In order for a glacier to advance, there has to be a positive mass balance: this means that the amount of snow that falls during the winter must be greater than the amount of the snow that ablates or melts during the summer. 

In conclusion, we can safely say that, currently glaciers are merely relics of the vast glaciers from the past ice ages, yet they still play a key role on planet Earth. They represent 10% of submerged soil and 90% of Earth’s freshwater. In addition, as they create air and water currents, they contribute to balancing Earth’s climate; which would be asphyxiating without them.





Patagonia from ice to flower

The Holocene is the last and current geological period. It corresponds to the end of the last glacial period approximately 12,000 years ago, when the glaciers slowly retreated and caused the sea level to rise. At the same time, the rocky bed was exposed on the surface of Patagonia, which had previously been covered by great ice masses. This began the process of colonization by lichens and mosses, the ancestors of the southern flora, which in turn led to the arrival of animals and later migrations of humans to the southern zone.


The Holocene is the last and current geological period. It corresponds to the end of the last glacial period approximately 12,000 years ago, when the glaciers slowly retreated and caused the sea level to rise. At the same time, the rocky bed was exposed on the surface of Patagonia, which had previously been covered by great ice masses. This began the process of colonization by lichens and mosses, the ancestors of the southern flora, which in turn led to the arrival of animals and later migrations of humans to the southern zone. 

The majority of the flora that can be observed in the Magallanes Region is generally found between the Baker River and Cape Horn; in other words, between the 47th and 56th parallels south. While rainfall over this extensive territory ranges between 350 mm and 8,000 mm per year depending on the zone, the average annual precipitation in the area of the Beagle Channel is 1,000 mm. In this same region, vegetation generally grows up to altitudes of between 400 and 600 meters.

To experience the flora and fauna of Patagonia nature first-hand, book our three-night glacier cruise through the south side of Tierra del Fuego.


Trees in the Nothofagus genus are the most representative and common of the Magellan’s Region, including the Magellan’s beech (Nothofagus betuloides), the Lenga beech (Nothofagus pumilio) and the Antarctic beech (Nothofagus Antarctica). The Magellan’s beech is evergreen. To distinguish these species from each other, the leaves must be observed:

- the Magellan’s beech leaves are hard to the touch, dark green and have irregular, saw-toothed edges;

- the Lenga beech has two “teeth” between each vein;

- the Antarctic beech has several “teeth” between each vein.

The Winter’s bark (Drimys winteri) is a tree with persistent, large, lanceolate leaves. It grows in humid places and its bark contains vitamin C. It has white flowers. Despite its common name in Spanish (canelo, which is similar to the word for cinnamon) this tree is not related to cinnamon.

The Chilean fire bush (Embothrium coccineum) stands out for its splendid red flowers in the spring. It also flowers less intensely in the fall.

The fashine (Chiliotrichium diffusum) is a tree that can reach up to 1.5 m in height and is found everywhere. In summer, it is covered with tiny white flowers similar to small daisies, and can be confused with a sheep from afar.

The prickly heath (Gaultheria mucronata) forms low bushes (from 20 to 50 cm in height). Its flowers are the shape of miniscule bells, and its fruits have the appearance of tiny white and pink apples. They are edible and have a peculiar, spongy texture inside, making them resistant to freezing during the winter.

The native wild currant (Ribes magellanicum) produces a cluster of little yellow and red flowers that later turn into exquisite berries. 

The Magellan barberry (Berberis microphylla) is a thorny and very abundant shrub. It has a lovely blooming period, with infinite little orangey-yellow flowers. The best time for this bush, however, is at the end of the summer, when its berries ripen and offer the gourmet their exquisite, sweet flavor. They can be turned into jam, sauces or tarts. A very popular legend has it that “he who eats the Magellan barberry will return to this land”.

The holly-leafed barberry (Berberis illicifolia) is in the same family as the Magellan barberry. Its sharp leaves are wider than those of the latter, but its flowers are relatively similar. Its fruits are bitter.


The waterfall plant (Ourisia ruelloides) is characterized by its small, red, bell-shaped flowers that seek out moisture, especially near waterfalls.

The coiron (Festuca gracillina) is Patagonia’s most common native grass and can grow up to 50 cm in height. It is a delicacy for sheep, even during the winter.

The Magellan orchid (Chloraea magellanica) is probably one of the only four orchids that exist in Tierra del Fuego and is the most difficult to find. Its white flowers set off by green stripes are extremely beautiful.

The cojines are various species of mosses that grow on groups of rocks and whose shape and texture resemble a cushion. They make up the largest component of the peat bogs or peat.

The basket rush (Marsippospermum grandiflorum) grows in saturated soils. For thousands of years, the native peoples of the Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego channels used this plant to weave baskets.

The sundew (Drosera uniflora) is the region’s only carnivorous flower. It measures between 3 mm and 5 mm and lives in moist environments such as peat bogs.

The stick-tight (Acaena magellanica) grows everywhere. The flower of this plant, which grows to some 20 cm in height, sticks to shoes and pants.

The false mistletoe (Misodendrum punctulatum) is a parasite that often grows on Nothofagus species, forming large and highly visible balls.

The woods lady’s slipper (Calceolaria biflora) is a beautiful and tiny flower that is not very easy to find in Tierra del Fuego, but that can be admired in Torres del Paine National Park, for example.

The devil’s strawberry (Gunnera magellanica) grows in moist, shady places. Its small red fruit has a bitter taste.
The Magellan strawberry (Rubus geoides) grows at ground level or else is hidden underneath the plant’s leaves. At the end of the summer it is red, and is a true delicacy when fully ripe.


The fungi are a kingdom of unicellular or pluricellular life forms that do not form tissues and whose cells group together to form a highly branched body of filaments.

The Darwin’s fungus (also known as pan de indio or llao-llao): Three species are given the same common name. They parasitize Nothofagus species, causing tumors known as “knots”. Darwin’s fungus is edible but has no flavor.


The lichens are fungi that live symbiotically with algae.

Lichens as bioindicators: Although lichens are tolerant to a wide range of ecological conditions, they are also very sensitive to air pollution. The delicate nutritional balance that exists between the microalgae and the fungus is easily altered by gaseous airborne contaminants, including SO2 and nitrogen oxides, among others. For this reason, they have been successfully used as environmental bioindicators in urban and suburban areas. Thanks to their slow growth, they have also been used to date the retreat of glaciers (lichenometry) as well as megalithic monuments such as the Moai in Easter Island.

(“It is a marvelous chapter of life, the fight that these little organisms wage against the formidable power of the high mountains, allowing us to find their colorful crusts even on the highest rocks. With bright colors, they paint the dead rock and rise up as the first and last sentries of life, awakening our passionate interest.”)

(C. Schroeter)

  Cruising Cape Horn with Australis gives you the opportunity to view stunning landscapes and wildlife from land and by sea. Contact us to book your Patagonia adventure cruise.




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