5 reasons to book a Patagonia Cruise

  • Discover the remotest corners of Patagonia, that are only accessible from the comfort of a small purpose-built adventure cruise ship.
  • Witness the awe-inspiring sight of glaciers calving into the sea to create icebergs the size of buildings.
  • Take zodiac and small boat trips up hidden fjords to discover forest hiking trails to icy viewpoints.
  • Follow the path of Charles Darwin and ancient mariners alike through the Beagle Channel to Cape Horn.
  • Watch whales against a backdrop of mountains, or visit rocky beaches that are home to noisy penguin colonies.

What will I do on a Patagonia Adventure Cruise?

Where can I go on a Patagonia adventure cruise?

Cape Horn

Cruise passenger takes photo of a glacier from an Australis ship

Discovering the glaciers of Tierra del Fuego

One of the most popular Patagonia cruises is exploring the island of Tierra del Fuego between Ushuaia (Argentina) and Punta Arenas (Chile). The biggest attraction here is the chance to visit the almost legendary Cape Horn – a place that once struck fear into every sailor's heart.

Cape Horn cruises offer so much more than visiting this isolated speck at the bottom of the world however. Vast glaciers are a major highlight, including the breath-taking Pia Glacier that feeds down from the mountains into an icy lagoon. Here and elsewhere on the cruise there are opportunities for zodiac cruises among bobbing ice, or landings for hiking through forests to dramatic viewpoints.

As well as cruising through Glacier Alley in the Beagle Channel to follow the route of Charles Darwin's famous voyage of discovery, ships visit other historic sites such as Wulaia Bay with its fascinating museum on the region's original Yamana inhabitants.

Tierra del Fuego also offers plenty of opportunities for wildlife watching. Places like the Tucker Islets and Magdalena Island are home to colonies of Magellanic penguins, along with plenty of other birdlife and sightings of dolphins, South American fur seals and Southern elephant seals.

Northern Chilean Fjords

Sea lions at Islote-Barrientos in the Northern Chilean Fjords, with Skorpios II cruise ship in the background

Sea lions in the Northern Chilean Fjords

Chile’s immensely long and mountainous coastline offers two excellent cruising locations: the Northern and Southern Fjords.

Exploring the Northern Fjords gives a brilliant mix of landscapes, culture and wildlife. The ship explores the last outposts of the Northern Patagonian Ice Field as it tumbles down into the sea, with its most spectacular terminus being the mind-bogglingly huge San Rafael Glacier, whose surroundings have been designated a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.

Closer to the cruise’s home port of Puerto Montt, the ship calls in at several points along the island of Chiloé as well as the Llanquihue, Chonos and Aysen archipelagos. In Chiloé there is the opportunity to hike through temperate rainforest, visit traditional fishing villages and historic wooden churches. On the mainland of Chile, remote landings include bathing in the thermal springs at Quitralco.

The birdwatching on this cruise is superb, from seabirds along the coast to hummingbirds in the forests – and not forgetting Magellanic penguins in the Queilen Channel off Chiloé. With luck, there is even the possibility of seeing blue whales in the Corcovado Gulf when they visit between December and April.

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Chloe says

We cruised through the night to arrive at a new glacier each morning. From our boats we fished pieces of thousand-year-old ice from the water that was later served back to us in our evening drinks. Nothing tastes fresher!

Chloe Mazille Patagonia Specialist

Southern Chilean Fjords

Skorpios III ship in the Southern Chilean Fjords, cruising near an glacier

Icy waters in the Southern Chilean Fjords

The Southern Chilean Fjords offer a craggier and even icier contrast to their northern counterparts. This is the cruise to pick if you’re a true glacier aficionado, but even if you’re new to the ice the parade of glaciers on display is never less than jaw-dropping.

The glaciers here are the product of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. This is one of the fastest moving ice fields in the world thanks to the high annual snowfall in the Andes, which means that cruises here experience the amazing sight of glaciers calving into the sea to create immense icebergs.

As as well as viewing this phenomenon from a safe distance either on the ship or in small boats, the cruises here give daily opportunities to make landings at remote spots for nature hikes to touch the very face of the glaciers.

Wildlife to look out for on this cruise includes the chance to elephant seals as well as dolphins and a rich variety of birdlife.

Cruises in the Southern Chilean Fjords start and finish in Puerto Natales.

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What Our Customers Think of Patagonia Cruises

Patagonia Cruises trips scored 4.5/5 from 241 reviews

It was an excellent cruise and programming in every respect really. Read the full review

Travelled: January 2023

Kathy Hudson - USA

I have a far greater respect and appreciation for those who came to Patagonia before us, from the resourceful indigenous tribes to daring European explorers. I also better appreciate the engineering that made such a luxurious trip to unforgiving terrain possible. Read the full review

Travelled: December 2021

Beverly Reyes Picache - USA

The highlight was the glacier hikes from the zodiac boats. Four days of sailing, daily zodiac excursions, exploring without seeing any other groups of people or ships gave a real sense of the vastness of this region. We felt honored to be able to have this experience! Read the full review

Travelled: January 2020

Lars Houmann - United States Of America

The cruise was fantastic. Every minute was an highlight! We saw tons of wildlife, dolphins, whales, seals, pinguins, and many birds. The guides were super, very interesting information, multi languages, and very friendly. Read the full review

Travelled: February 2019

Anne Marie Mot - United States Of America

Our cruise was really lovely. We learned a lot from the onboard lectures- about glaciology and also the history of the Yamana people. We enjoyed the zodiac excursions, we usually took the “easy” option because it came with more educational time. Read the full review

Travelled: December 2018

Mindy De Hooge - United States Of America

The daily Zodiac excursions were the highlight of the cruise. The staff was always very knowledgeable and helpful. They were fun to be around, but clearly kept everyone's safety in mind. Read the full review

Travelled: March 2018

Shawn Underwood - United States Of America

I'll tell my grandchildren that I've been to one of the few remaining wildernesses and that interesting life is not dependant on cities... utterly amazing, unspoilt, wonderful scenery and wildlife, more than lived up to expectations.

Travelled: February 2017

Colin - UK

The Stella Australis cruise was brilliant and very luxurious with plenty of time ashore.

Travelled: December 2016

Brian -

The Chilean fjords had just about everything: humpbacks, penguins, sealions; remote location; great scenery; glaciers; boat trip; small group, no crowds.

Travelled: December 2016

Stephen - UK

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We particularly appreciated Chloe's suggestion to add the Australis cruise - brilliant choice.

Travelled: March 2016

Heinrich -

The cruise went well beyond our expectations. The excursions were supported by knowledgeable guides who were passionate about their country.

Travelled: March 2016

Mary -

Review:

Planning your Patagonia cruise

How to choose your cruise

A tourist sits on a rock facing the sea and distant mountains of Tierra del Fuego

Beautiful Patagonia coastlines accessible only by ship

Patagona’s cruising season runs from the start of October through to the end of March. Departures are sometimes available at the end of September or beginning of March, but the weather tends to be sharper with some attractions not on offer (for example, Magellanic penguins will be at sea during these dates instead of in their colonies).

If seeing wildlife is a particular focus for you, see our Wildlife Cruises page for a more detailed breakdown of some of the species you can see while on the different itineraries, as well as shorter whale-watching trips.

All the cruise itineraries are five days/four nights, with the exception of the Northern Chilean Fjords route, which is six days/five nights on board. All meals, drinks and excursions are included in the price of the cruises.

The majority of guests on Cape Horn cruises tend to be international travellers, and guides speak English as well as Spanish. Guests on the Fjords cruises are more of a mix of domestic and international tourists, giving passengers a fantastic slice of Chilean culture along with the scenery. Guides may speak English as well as Spanish, but English audio translations during activities means you’ll never miss out.

Patagonia cruises

We arrange cruises for people who don't normally do cruises: the focus is always the adventure. You’ll explore deep into mountain-lined fjords on foot and by zodiac boat, witnessing crashing glaciers, curious wildlife and remote islands with no one else around. Let us help find the best cruise for you.

Talk to a Swoop cruise specialist

Cruise ships

Zodiacs loading from the Ventus Australis cruise ship in Tierra del Fuego

All ships offer zodiac or small boat excursions

Four purpose-built cruise ships operate in Patagonia: two each on the Cape Horn route, and two in the Chilean Fjords. All are small enough to penetrate deep into fjords but with high quality service and plenty of space to offer a fine home for several nights at sea.

Sister ships Ventus Australis and Stella Australis sail in either direction between Ushuaia and Punta Arenas to Cape Horn and the Beagle Channel. Both carry a maximum of 210 passengers in five classes of cabin. 

Skorpios II and Skorpios III operate the routes through the Northern and Southern Chilean Fjords from Puerto Montt and Puerto Natales respectively. Skorpios II carries 106 passengers, while Skorpios III carries just 90. 

Explore Patagonia cruise ships

Ventus Australis Patagonian cruise ship, Patagonia

Ventus Australis

With a capacity of just 100 cabins, the modern Ventus Australis offers a comfortable and elegant way to experience the best in expedition cruising. Relax in her spacious lounges, …

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Stella Australis

Stella Australis

With a capacity of just 100 cabins, the modern Stella Australis offers a comfortable and elegant way to experience the best in expedition cruising. Relax in her spacious lounges, …

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Skorpios II cruise ship in the northern Chilean Fjords, in front of San Rafael glacier

Skorpios II

Sail through Patagonia’s northern icy fjords and explore quaint local villages aboard the Skorpios II, an Ice-category small expedition ship. With a capacity of just over 100 …

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Skorpios III

Skorpios III

Sail through the world’s southernmost fjords, gaze at immense glaciers and take in the breathtaking landscape of Chilean Patagonia aboard the Skorpios III. With a capacity of …

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Why Swoop

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Beyond adventure cruising

Two hikers walk towards FitzRoy in Los Glaciares National Park

Hiking in Los Glaciares National Park

With cruise itineraries coming in at just four or five nights, there are plenty of opportunities to build out your voyage as part of a larger Patagonia voyage.

For those sailing to Cape Horn, there are plenty of remote treks to do in Tierra del Fuego, but the cruise termini of Ushuaia and Punta Arenas also connect well to the wider region. From Ushuaia there are direct flights to El Calafate, the gateway to Los Glaciares National Park, as well as to Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires.

Punta Arenas can also be reached easily overland from Puerto Natales, the port for cruises in the Southern Chilean Fjords. For those wanting to explore Torres del Paine National Park, Puerto Natales is a major entry point. As well as flights to the Chilean capital Santiago, Punta Arenas is also connected by air to Puerto Montt, the port for Northern Chilean Fjords cruises as well as the main airport to reach the Chilean Lake District. Coyhaique (Balmaceda) in Aysen also has flights to and from Punta Arenas. 

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The scenery becomes very grand, the mountains on the right are very lofty & covered with a white mantle of perpetual snow: from the melting of this numbers of cascades poured their waters through the woods into the channel—In many places magnificent glaciers extended from the mountains to the waters edge.

Charles Darwin sailing in the Beagle Channel

Patagonia Cruises: FAQs

  • Will it be expensive?

    Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t have to be. If you plan in advance and book early, you can snap up a cabin in the cheapest category before anyone else. We work very closely with a range of cruise and operators in Patagonia and know the best early booking discounts. There are some excellent low season rates too, if you’re willing to travel at the start/end of the season.

    We offer cruises and boat trips to suit a wide spectrum of budgets, from around $600 USD for a 1 day whale watching trip to $4,000 for the best cabin in high season on a luxury adventure cruise vessel.

  • I’m not normally a cruise person. Is an adventure cruise really for me?

    Our Adventure Cruises have been described as ‘cruises for people who don’t do cruises’. Basing yourself from a boat is a great way to explore deep into the sparkling, mountain-lined fjords, both on and off the vessel, to watch crashing glaciers calve before you and wildlife going about their business, and experience the peaceful channels as the pioneers once did - with barely anyone else around.

  • How big are the ships? I don’t want to be on a big boat...

    We work with 15 different ships, small boats and sailboats, with capacity of between 10 to 210 passengers. Each ship has a different style and focus and we can talk you through the pros and cons of each, to help you to choose the best cruise for you.

  • How active will it be?

    We can help you choose the right cruise to suit you, depending on how active you want to be. All of our cruises and boat trips offer the opportunity to be active, but it’s not compulsory; excursions are optional and there are different effort levels available on some cruises, so that you can mix challenging hikes with more relaxed excursions - the choice is yours.

  • What routes do Patagonia cruises take?

    The most popular Patagonia cruise routes run between Ushuaia (Argentina) and Punta Arenas (Chile), and are a great alternative to flights or bus journeys as they combine border crossings with sightseeing along the way. There are also a number of ‘there and back’ trips, for example from/to Punta Arenas, Puerto Natales, Ushuaia, Puerto Montt and Puerto Aysen - great if you want to start and end in the same place.

Ready to plan your Patagonia adventure?

1
Listen

Listen

We'll spend some time listening to your aspirations, then discuss the kind of experience that might suit you.

2
Match

Match

Next we'll discuss the options, shortlist the best trips for you and present you our impartial recommendations.

3
Reserve

Reserve

We'll place a 24 hour hold on your preferred option - without obligation - whilst we talk through the details.

Whatever your budget, group size, length of stay, preferred activity or appetite for adventure, we can help.

1-855-369-7866