Antarctic cruise and hiking in Chile

“This month-long expedition visits some of the Earth's most extreme frontiers: the barren Atacama Desert, the wilderness of Patagonia and the vast continent of Antarctica.”


Atacama Desert | San Pedro de Atacama | El Tatio Geysers | Bike ride across salt flats | Hot springs | Trekking along Inca Paths | Torres del Paine "W" hike | Patagonia | Tierra del Fuego | Ushuaia | Beagle Channel | Drake Passage | Wiencke Island | Antarctic photography class | Lemaire Channel | Penguin and whale sightings | Research station visit | Zodiac trips | Buenos Aires | Optional: kayaking, mountaineering in Antarctic mountains

Description of Antarctic cruise and hiking in Chile

This month long odyssey combines hiking the stunning highlights of contrasting Chilean landscapes with a small ship active expedition cruise to the remote Antarctic Peninsula.

Torres del Paine National Park - Atacama Desert – Antarctic Peninsula – comfortable accommodation - hike in breathtaking scenery - soak in hot springs - expert guides – exclusive itinerary - responsibly operated - small ship - activity-based Antarctic cruise

Traverse three contrasting environments, each offering unique highlights and staggering scenery.

Discover the surprisingly beautiful diversity of the Atacama, from sand dunes to hot springs.

Hike in the world-renowned Torres del Paine National Park, past mountain peaks and creaking glaciers.

Cruise to Antarctica on board the Plancius, a first class expedition ship that's relatively small yet spacious enough to accommodate 116 passengers within 53 cabins.

End in the attractive and cultural city of Buenos Aires.

Day-by-day experiences

Day 1:Fly to Chile overnight. NB international flights are not included.
Day 2:Arrive in Chile. On arrival you will be transferred to your comfortable hotel. Explore some of Santiago later with our local advice and tips.
Day 3:To the Atacama Desert. Fly north to San Pedro de Atacama and settle into your boutique hotel on the edge of this tranquil oasis town. San Pedro is around 2,400m above sea level, so the early afternoon is yours to relax and acclimatise. Late afternoon drive to a sandy ridge, then walk down a sand dune into a gorge in the salt mountains to enjoy the sunset. Walk 7km, 2 hours, down 100m. (B)
Day 4:Geysers and lagoons in the desert. A very early start as we visit the world's highest geothermal field, the Tatio Geysers, at sunrise. Stop off at hot springs for a dip on the way back to San Pedro. This afternoon take a gently-paced bike ride across the salt flats to a series of lagoons, filled with buoyant waters and flamingos. Ride up to 20km, 3 hours, virtually flat. (B)
Day 5:Walk on Inca paths. Start today's walk at high altitude, around 4,000m, but quickly descend from the high Andes down into the pre-Andes desert. Cross through salt mountains to reach a desert oasis where you are collected by vehicle for the return to San Pedro. Walk 18km, 5 hours, down 1,000m. (B,L)
Day 6:Walk to a high summit. Drive an hour's climb out of town to the trailhead of this high altitude walk to the summit of a volcano. From the top you can see for miles, into the neighboring countries of Bolivia and Argentina. Back in town for a late lunch and the afternoon to relax. Walk 6km, 3 hours, up 420m, down 420m. (B)
Day 7:Fly south. You have plenty of time for another hike or bike ride before you are driven to Calama for the journey south. Later you fly back down to Santiago and stay overnight. (B)
Day 8:South to Patagonia. Fly south along the spectacular spine of the Andes to Punta Arenas, where your lodge guide meets you. You are driven north around 5 hours to your beautiful ecolodge, set just to the south of the Torres del Paine Park on a private reserve. (B,D)
Day 9:Torres del Paine. Choose your excursion from a daily menu of varied options, from gentle walks to full day hikes, bike rides to kayaking. The following is a suggestion of how you might spend your days, but you're free to structure this as you please. Head into the Torres del Paine National Park today to hike up to Mirador Ferrier and then down to Glacier Grey. On a clear day, there is no more spectacular introduction to this most emblematic and beautiful mountain range. (B,L,D)
Day 10:Torres del Paine. Walk across the Lago Toro peninsula through the beautiful old-growth forests of the lodge’s private reserve and back on foot to the camp. One of the striking features of Torres del Paine is how few trees there are. Your ecolodge is privileged to be set inside its own beautiful forest. (B,L,D)
Day 11:Torres del Paine. Hike to the base of the famous Torres ('towers') , the most iconic hike in the entire national park. If you have the energy and the weather is set fine, the hike to the base of the towers is the most emblematic in the park, in Chile for that matter. Set off early to hike up to the distinctive mile- high granite towers. (B,L,D)
Day 12:Torres del Paine. Walk from the Camp through young forest to a lovely waterfall which cascades down across the rocks and into the lake. Once back at the camp, you might like to take to the waters of Laguna Bonita or Lago Toro for a paddle. If the winds are low and the weather is right, there are few places in the world you would rather be in a kayak. (B,L,D)
Day 13:El Calafate. Head across the border into Argentina today, travelling over the Patagonian steppe to the quaint little town of El Calafate. (B)
Day 14:Travel to Tierra del Fuego. Relax this morning before flying down to Argentina's southernmost city, Ushuaia. In Ushuaia you transfer to your hotel on the shores of the Beagle Channel, a mile or so out of town. (B)
Day 15:Explore Ushuaia. Your hosts will help you make the most of your day here. You may fancy a walk, or perhaps a visit to the interesting museum located in a former prison. (B)
Day 16:Board your cruise ship. The morning is yours to relax. In the afternoon, you head to the dock to board the Plancius, where the expedition staff will help you settle into your comfortable cabin. This evening you set sail into the Beagle Channel, bound for Antarctica. (B,D)
Day 17-18:Sail the Drake Passage. Find your sea legs as the boat crosses the notoriously choppy Drake Passage. Get to know your fellow passengers and brush up on your history of the continent, its weather and wildlife at the expert talks given by the staff. You can often view whales, dolphins and penguins from the boat, which offers an Open Bridge policy. Stand alongside the captain as he navigates the ship - still plotted on charts and maps, as GPS is fallible in these remote waters. (B,L,D)
Day 19:Arrive in Wiencke Island, west of the peninsula, the base camp for the next couple of days. The idea of this cruise is to use fewer spots as a base to explore, rather than move on each day. Today you might like to get into kayaks for some water level exploration. (B,L,D)
Day 20:Photography Class. The boat has its own professional photographer to help you get the most out of your images of the glacial landscapes, remote scenery and lively and curious wildlife. Learn as you explore on the shore. (B,L,D)
Day 21:Arrive on the mainland. Cruise the stunning Lemaire Channel, also known as Kodak Gap, as most people can't put down their cameras. Sheer cliffs plunge into waters teeming with icebergs, said to be the most beautiful in the world. If conditions are right, land on Petermann Island, the most southerly point of your voyage, to spot Adelie penguins and blue-eyed shags. Afterwards, turn north and sail to Paradise Bay, spotting whales en route. (B,L,D)
Day 22:Zodiac through icebergs or go mountaineering. Conditions permitting, this morning you might spend around an hour in the zodiacs, navigating through fields of icebergs to get as close as possible to the glacier faces. For a (much) more active option, small groups of no more than six can choose to get right up into the high Antarctic mountains. Tonight camping out may be possible if conditions are right. (B,L,D)
Day 23:Research Station. The morning will be spent at one of the science stations studying the glaciology and meteorology of the White Continent. In the afternoon, zig zag through icebergs in Neko Harbour. (B,L,D)
Day 24:Return across the Drake Passage. Now is the time to sit back, relax, talk over your experiences with your fellow passengers and admire your photos. (B,L,D)
Day 25-26:Leave Antarctica. Head back north to South America across the Drake Passage. Sift through your photos, chat to your fellow travellers, and reflect on your experiences during the expedition. With a good crossing, you can dock at Ushuaia on the evening of Day 28. (B,L,D)
Day 27:Disembarkation. After breakfast, bid the expedition staff, crew and ship farewell as you disembark. Transfer to the airport for your flight north to Buenos Aires, where you settle into your charming hotel in Palermo. (B)
Day 28:Explore Buenos Aires. Spend the morning in the company of your private guide, who will take you to the areas of most interest to you. This afternoon you may like to wander amongst the vast and attractive Recoleta Cemetery. (B)
Day 29:Departure. Transfer to the airport for your flight home. (B)

Travel Team

If you'd like to chat about this holiday or need help finding one we're very happy to help. The Travel Team.

01273 823 700 Calling from outside the UK?

Departure information

This trip can be tailor made throughout the year to suit your requirements
Our top tip:
Camera batteries have a shorter lifespan in cold climates - be sure to carry spares.
Trip type:
Small group tour and expedition cruise.
Activity level:
Moderate-active. Trekking up to 5hrs, cycle up to 3hrs (flat).
13 nights in hotels, 4 in refugios, 11 on board the ship.
Solo travellers welcome. Single rooms available with surcharge.
Accommodation., some meals, tour leader, listed activities.
All breakfasts, 16 lunches, 16 dinners.

Responsible tourism

As the pioneers of responsible tourism, we screen every trip so you can travel knowing your holiday will help support conservation and local people.

We are passionate about the places we visit. To help preserve the integrity of these destinations we:
• Keep groups small to minimise environmental impact.
• Are rigorous in following 'take it in, take it out' guidelines when visiting the national parks.

We promote only responsible travel to Antarctica. In our opinion, well-regulated small ship travel is the only sustainable means of tourism. We are strongly of the opinion that flying to Antarctica is not acceptable as it will quickly lead to unsustainable increases in visitor numbers. Nor do large ships not belong in such a sensitive environment. The small ship crossing of the Drake Passage maintains the White Continent for those dedicated enough to make the crossing.

We are a member of IAATO (the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators). As members of IAATO we are committed to procedures and guidelines that ensure appropriate, safe and environmentally sound travel to the Antarctic. Antarctic Dream is also a full member of IAATO, and like us are totally committed to promoting only responsible small group travel to the Antarctic.

Small groups in Antarctica minimise impact on wildlife. Travelling on a ship of less than 100 passengers is the ideal way to visit the continent, not least because international regulations do not permit more than 100 people ashore at any one time. You must wear boots that we provide on shore at all times. These are cleaned and disinfected by staff before and after all shore visits to ensure that no ‘alien matter’ is transferred onto the shore.

Taking or harmful interference with Antarctic wildlife is prohibited except in accordance with a permit issued by a national authority.
• Do not use aircraft, vessels, small boats, or other means of transport in ways that disturb wildlife, either at sea or on land.
• Do not feed, touch, or handle birds or seals, or approach or photograph them in ways that cause them to alter their behavior. Special care is needed when animals are breeding or molting.
• Do not damage plants, for example by walking, driving, or landing on extensive moss beds or lichen-covered scree slopes.
• Keep noise to the minimum to avoid frightening wildlife.
• Do not bring non-native plants or animals into the Antarctic such as live poultry, pet dogs and cats or house plants.

The Impacts of this Trip

Our passion for the places we visit extends to the people who live there. To help support them, we:
• Work directly with local businesses and organisations to directly benefit local economies. We use small, locally owned hotels and restaurants. We know the owners except in the large cities.
• Work with local guides so that our holidays are more interesting for clients and more beneficial locally.

Plancius is also a member of IAATO. Expert guides and leaders know how best to minimise the impact of any landings and have the most experience of locally working in these extreme and remote conditions.


3 Reviews of Antarctic cruise and hiking in Chile

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed on 03 Apr 2019 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

It is impossilbe to pick only one memorable part of a holiday that had many highlights and such a variety of scenery and activities. It was very well organised
all guides were knowledgable, friendly and encouraging, The geology in Torres del Paine was fascinating and beautiful, The lagoons and mountains the Atacama area were magnificent. Antartica was different again, awe inspiring to look at and a privilege to have seen animals and birds in their natural environment.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

You need to stay 5 nights in San Pedro to do the higher altitude outing so allow for that though there is plenty to do that is less active. Don't forget your
swimming gear. Expect to get sea sick! Don't delay - go while you are still able to be active and enjoy it all.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Tourism is important to the local economies. There will be environmental impacts but there seemed to be effort and thought put in to reducing that impact.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

One of the best holidays I've had. Well organised, variety of scenery and activities, lots of local information provided, opportunity for peace and reflection as well.

Read the operator's response here:

Dear Lorna,

Thank you for taking the time to write your review, it's fantastic to hear you had such a wonderful time.

I'd have to say that yours was certainly a jealousy-inducing trip for us here in Brighton! I've been lucky enough to explore Chile and Antarctica myself, so your comments transported me happily back to what, as you say, are some of the most beautiful places anywhere.

It's great that you felt the trip was well organised and well supported with our detailed local information. We think this is so important, particularly on complex trips such as this which combine multiple countries, and many, many points of contact. The fact we work directly with lodges, guides and all other local partners, and have our own office in Chile, go a long way to making our trips both a success and minimises their impact, so we particularly appreciate the
fact you noticed our efforts to make sure our holidays are as sustainable as possible.

I hope we will be able to have you travel with us again if you have another trip to Latin America on the cards (or indeed Spain or Portugal), and thank you again
for taking the time to write a review.

Best wishes,


Reviewed on 27 Nov 2015 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

The entire trip was magical and I loved almost every moment. The landings were
supplemented with presentations that helped me to put my experiences into the
perspective of wider Antarctica issues.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

I had some kayaking lessons before going to Antarctica because I thought I would get the opportunity to kayak while I was there. I was told on arrival that this was not possible when I had not signed up for the whole kayak programme. This was despite kayakers being able to snow shoe etc. when they decided to have a day off from kayaking. I think the company needs to consider allowing non-kayakers to kayak when space is available.

I had also hoped for some more challenging walking options including a whole day expedition. This was not on offer.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

There are no locals in Antarctica. I think the company worked hard to reduce our
environmental impact and some of the presentations were focused on what individuals on the ship and the company had done to protect the environment.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

I think my holiday was amazing even taking into consideration the issues I mentioned above.

Reviewed on 24 Nov 2014 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Antarctica was magnificent but if I had to choose but one most memorable moment it would be the sunset and scenes on the night we
elected to camp out...

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Being prepared for the rapidly changing conditions and being equipped with the correct clothing.
Respect where you are and its beauty. Sadly too many noisy co travellers missed out on taking in the beauty and reflecting on the moment..

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Tour operators were excellent in maintaining a strict ecological respecting discipline... Great to see so little pollution. Also great to learn more about our changing planet and this wonderland...

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?

Excellent ??

NB Scope for improvement depending what O E broader goals are....

Read the operator's response here:

Dear Edmund,

Thank you for taking the time to review your holiday on the Responsible Travel site. We're absolutely delighted to hear you had such a wonderful time in Antarctica, it sounds like you really appreciated it for the exceptionally unique place it is. Having just returned from the 'White Continent' myself, I wholeheartedly agree with your sentiments - it's a place
which I found to have a profound impact on my view of the world too.

Thanks again for the review, and for choosing to travel with us.

All the best,


Popular similar holidays

Patagonia cruising holiday, Ushuaia to Punta Arenas

Patagonia cruising holiday, Ushuaia to Punta Arenas

Discover majestic mountains & glaciers of Argentina & Chile

From US $2635 - US $2760 4 days excluding flights

Chile highlights tour, 10 days

Chile highlights tour, 10 days

10-days: Santiago, Atacama, Patagonia & Torres del Paine

From £2795 10 days including domestic flights only

Patagonia tailor made holiday, 14 days

Patagonia tailor made holiday, 14 days

Be awed by beautiful Patagonian wilderness on this trip

From £2760 14 days excluding flights

Chile holiday, 21 days south to north

Chile holiday, 21 days south to north

Atacama Desert, Patagonian Rainforest & National Parks

From £3399 21 days including domestic flights only