5 Reasons to go on a Cape Horn cruise

  • Visit the wilds of Cape Horn, a place once feared by generations of sailors, in the comfort of a modern expedition cruise ship.
  • Sail through the legendary Beagle Channel waterway, following in the footsteps of the naturalist Charles Darwin.
  • Watch Magellanic penguins in their remotest colonies, accessible only by boat.
  • Feel dwarfed by the icy majesty of Pia glacier and the long human history of Wulaia Bay.
  • Start or finish your voyage in Ushuaia or Punta Arenas to fit your cruise into a wider Patagonia adventure.

Patagonia Cape Horn Cruises

Cape Horn cruise highlights


Wooden walkway leading to the Cape Horn monument in Tierre del Fuego

Walking to the Cape Horn monument

Cape Horn has been leaving sailors awestruck ever since the navigator Willem Schouten first sailed around it in January 1616, naming it for his Dutch hometown of Hoorn. Its fearsome reputation is down to its location in the storm-swept seas off the southernmost tip of South America between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

In 1833, Captain Robert Fitzroy and Charles Darwin discovered the Beagle Channel, an alternative and calmer route past Tierra del Fuego, but the Cape continued to claim ships and men until the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914 rendered the old and dangerous route between the oceans obsolete.

The lives of the seamen from every nation who perished in the battle against the Southern Ocean while crossing the Horn are remembered today at the Cape Horn Monument. Touching the monument automatically makes you an honorary member of the International Association of Cape Horniers.

On landing at Cape Horn visitors may also walk to the tiny Stella Maris Chapel and the world's most southerly lighthouse, maintained by the Chilean navy. Its resident keeper and family often extend invitations to tourists to visit inside.


Tourists walk on the beach opposite Pia Glacier in Tierra del Fuego on an Australis cruise

At the foot of the Pia Glacier

Cruising around Tierra del Fuego to Cape Horn offers the chance to see some incredible landscapes that would be impossible to reach by any other means.

One of the greatest attractions is cruising through the sheltered waters of the Beagle Channel. Its so-called Glacier Alley offers a parade of epic blue-grey glaciers, flowing slowly down from the Darwin Range with their craggy frozen tongues poking into the channel’s many bays. The cruise includes excursions by inflatable zodiac boats to the glaciers, with landings to hike up moraines to viewpoints over the glaciers. Pia Glacier is the most famous and spectacular glacier visited during the cruises.

Other notable sights include Águila Glacier, which offers hiking around its lagoon and Condor Glacier, both in Agostini Sound. Other notable landscapes include beautiful Wulaia Bay, where Darwin once landed. This was the site of an early church mission to Tierra del Fuego and is now home to a fascinating museum housed in an old radio station, focussing on the story of the original Yámana inhabitants of the region. Wulaia Bay also offers a selection of tremendous forest hikes to viewpoints over the crinkled coastline. 

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Iain says

While Cape Horn remains a big focus of these cruises, the real surprise for me was the sheer variety and beauty of the glaciers. It’s quite something to land somewhere so inaccessible and hike through a forest to look down on a great mountain of ice.

Iain Rylance Patagonia Sales Manager


Magellanic penguin and chick on Magdalena Island in Tierra del Fuego, with Australis cruise ship in the distance

Magellanic penguins on Magdalena Island

Penguins are an ever-popular highlight. of cruising in Tierra del Fuego. Large Magellanic penguin colonies can be found on visits to the Tucker Islets and Magdalena Island. Rockhopper penguins also nest near Cape Horn, though you’ll need luck, a calm sea and a keen eye to see them out on the water.

The Beagle Channel is an excellent place for wildlife watching. The birdlife is particularly rich: you can see many species more traditionally associated with Antarctic waters such as black-browed albatrosses, southern giant petrels and imperial cormorants, as well as South American species such as Magellanic oystercatchers, South American terns and striated caracas.

Dolphins, including the pretty black-and-white Commerson’s dolphins, the dusky dolphin and Peale’s dolphin may sometimes be seen. More common sightings are of the South American fur seal, especially in the Beagle Channel where they haul themselves out on rocky islets. Southern elephant seals may also be seen in a colony at Ainsworth Bay if zodiac landings are made there. Day hikes here also offer plenty of evidence of the large beaver population – introduced in the 1940s to encourage a local fur industry.

Beyond Tierra del Fuego

View from a plane window of Ushuaia, the mountains of Tierra del Fuego and the Beagle Channel

Catching an onward connection from Ushuaia

One advantage of small-ship cruising to Cape Horn is that your trip starts and ends in either Punta Arenas in Chile or Ushuaia in Argentina, allowing you to easily extend your Patagonia trip.

Punta Arenas is just three hours by road to Puerto Natales, where most travellers arrive to explore the marvels of Torres del Paine National Park. Punta Arenas is also connected by air to the capital Santiago, as well as Puerto Montt for exploring the Chilean Lake District, and Coyhaique (Balmaceda) for hiking in Aysen

Ushuaia offers plenty of options for exploring Tierra del Fuego National Park. As well as flights to the capital Buenos Aires, you can also fly direct to El Calafate, allowing you to connect quickly through to the many hiking attractions of Los Glaciares National Park.

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What our customers think of Cape Horn Cruises

Cape Horn Cruises trips scored 4.5/5 from 228 reviews

Cape Horn was the most anticipated and most memorable experience but the other zodiak trips were truly exciting as well. Read the full review

Travelled: April 2018

Angie Littlefield - Canada

Customer Image

The highlight of the trip had to be a perfect day at Cape Horn in weather to die for. Surprises were everywhere while travelling down to the Cape, glaciers that eclipsed those in Alaska, wildlife to be seen on all our excursions.

Travelled: October 2017

Peter - Australia

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.

Travelled: February 2017

Colin - UK

The trips were really interesting and especially landing on Cape Horn! Plenty of Dolphins, Cormorants and Penguins.

Travelled: December 2016

Brian -

Sailing to Cape Horn was excellent, with great landscapes, wildlife, and charming and highly experienced skipper.

Travelled: December 2016

Stephen - UK

Crossing the Beagle Channel by Rib to Puerto Williams felt like reaching the end of the Earth - and it is. Especially with the view towards Cape Horn.

Travelled: January 2016

Alison -

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A wonderful trip; perfect in every way with no snags. Thank you for all of your coordination. We were able to land on Cape Horn (the main reason I chose the cruise) which was great!

Travelled: December 2015

Bill -

The cruise was excellent, and we disembarked at Cape Horn which was one of the highlights of the trip for me. The crew members were very helpful and enthusiastic.

Travelled: March 2015

John -


Planning your Cape Horn cruise

What to expect

A tourist holds up a Cape Horn flag on an Australis cruise ship in Tierra del Fuego

Celebrating reaching Cape Horn

Small ship cruises to Cape Horn and around Tierra del Fuego operate between Punta Arenas and Ushuaia, sailing from the end of September to the very beginning of April. Two ships cover this route, the Ventus and the Stella Australis. Both carry a maximum of 210 guests, with 100 comfortable cabins in a variety of classes. The cruises are all-inclusive (including alcohol).

The experience on board is more akin to an Antarctic expedition cruise than a ‘traditional’ cruise, with daily excursions by inflatable zodiac boat and onboard educational presentations about Tierra del Fuego’s wildlife, landscapes and history given in English by an expert guiding team.

Cruises last four nights/five days in both directions. The itineraries in each direction do differ slightly in where they visit but Cape Horn, the Beagle Channel, Glacier Alley, Pia Glacier and Wulaia Bay are always included whether you choose to sail from Punta Arenas or Ushuaia

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At the present day the horrors of the Cape have somewhat abated. This is owing to a growing familiarity with it; but, more than all, to the improved condition of ships in all respects.

Herman Melville novelist

Cape Horn Cruises FAQs

  • When do the Cape Horn cruises operate?

    Ships sail from the very start of October to the end of March.

  • What will the weather be like?

    Patagonia’s weather can famously encompass four seasons in a single day. Throughout the cruising season, temperatures average somewhere between 5–15C (41-49F). Strong winds are always a possibility, along with rain and even the occasional snow flurry. Zodiac landings require water-proof gear as you’ll be exposed to the elements, so it's wise to pack accordingly.

  • Will I definitely land at Cape Horn?

    The changeable weather at Cape Horn has been famous for centuries, so there is always a small chance that conditions may prevent a landing. In recent seasons, over 80% of visits to the Horn had successful landings there.

  • Will I see penguins?

    Wildlife sightings can never be guaranteed but the cruise ships call at either the Tucker Islets or Magdalena Island, which are both home to large Magellanic penguin colonies. The penguins come ashore between early October and late March, coinciding with the operating season for the ships.

  • How active are the cruises?

    Many landings include the option to do a short hike to a viewpoint over a glacier or similar. The hikes usually include routes rated from easy to moderate, though even those rated for the most active guests can typically be done by anyone with a reasonable level of fitness.

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Ready to plan your Patagonia adventure?



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