Let's talk now about ship connections in Punta Arenas, Chile, and in Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost cities in the world and the gateways to the Antarctic.
The southern tip of Chile, from Puerto Natales southward, can be reached by way of the four-day ferry cruise which I described in Part 1 of "Cruise Patagonian Fjords and Glaciers." As I explained there, Puerto Natales can also be accessed by air or by road over Argentinean territory.
Embarking on an expedition to Antarctica, you'll be traveling to some of the world's most isolated and untouched areas. During the cruise, you’ll discover fantastic wildlife such as polar bears, penguins, elks, eagles, walruses, and whales, among others.
Keep in mind that cruise itineraries to Antarctica are never entirely set in stone, and a cruise to the Antarctic is a relatively expensive endeavor. Some older ships do offer small ship cabins where up to four people can sleep in bunk beds. Modern small expedition cruise ships have two-bed cabins with private toilets and showers en suite, with all the amenities of a modern cruise.
There are no ports of call on an expedition ship in Antarctica. Instead, Zodiacs carry you from the expedition ship to the landing places. The specially trained Zodiac drivers are familiar with the changing ice conditions and are able to provide extensive exploration of the many secrets of Antarctica’s remote natural paradises.
The most renowned companies for cruises to Antarctica are the following:
The crossing from Chile to Argentina in southern Patagonia is not well developed. Strangely enough, there are no direct flights between the two cities, and a direct ferry does not exist. I will offer you here some of my own ideas for traveling overland between Punta Arenas and Ushuaia that I feel are preferable to traveling on the public bus for 11 hours. If you are in a hurry or on a tight budget, however, you can certainly take the daily-running public bus between the two cities. If, on the other hand, you would like a memorable experience traveling on remote roads and cruising isolated fjords, consider one of the following routes.
A cruise onboard an Australis cruise ship is the most comfortable way to travel from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia or vice versa.
The Australis cruise ship takes five days and four nights to journey between Punta Arenas and Ushuaia. The cruise passes through the spectacular Ainsworth Bay and past Tuckers Islands. Then the ship proceeds to the Pía Glacier and Glacier Avenue before reaching Cape Horn and Wulaia Bay, eventually arriving at Ushuaia. Along the way, the ship makes one to two daily stops in breathtaking surroundings for land excursions. (Note that whether the ship stops at Cape Horn depends on the weather.)
The journey is breathtaking but not cheap. If you have a budget of USD $1600-3500, the five days spent on the ship are well worth the price.
One adventurous way to travel between Punta Arenas and Ushuaia is via the southernmost city in Chile, Puerto Williams.
The journey starts at Punta Arenas onboard the Yanghan Ferry. On this 30-hour ferry rid you’ll see spectacular glaciers, especially during the summer months from November to mid-March when there are more daylight hours. Details of the ferry trip are available at www.tabsa.cl.
Please note that there are no cabins available on the Yanghan Ferry, although there are various types of comfortable seating. I recommend staying a night in Puerto Williams.
If the ferry journey is too long for you, consider flying. DAP Airlines offers flights between Punta Arenas and Puerto Williams from Monday to Saturday, if weather permits. Flight details are available at https://dapairline.com/en/flights-punta-arenas-puerto-williams/#.
Although the distance between Puerto Williams and Ushuaia is short, this international crossing takes approximately three hours. The journey from Puerto Williams starts with a bus journey along the scenic coastal route to Puerto Navarino, which is 55 kilometers from Puerto Williams. In Puerto Navarino, you’ll board the speedboat to cross the Beagle Channel for a 30-minute ride to Ushuaia, Argentina.
The shortest way to travel from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia passes through the small village of Porvenir, across the Magellan Strait from Punta Arenas. The crossing on the ferry takes about two hours and is carried out by TABSA twice daily (www.tabsa.cl). I recommend staying a night in Porvenir and continuing the journey to Ushuaia the following day.
From Porvenir, it is best to arrange for a private car to take you to Ushuaia. The car journey takes about 10 hours. There is also a bus once per week from Porvenir to Pampa Guanaco, where you then have to change to a private taxi for the remaining stretch to Ushuaia.