Why should I go on a glacier cruise?
The Northern and Southern Patagonian Ice Caps, along with the Cordillera Darwin feed hundreds of glaciers that pour out into the Chilean fjords. Cruises and boat trips are ideal for escaping the crowds, and getting up close to these incredible bodies of ice of all shapes and sizes.
- Access: many of Patagonia's glaciers are simply inaccessible from the land, so taking a boat trip or cruise allows you to access glaciers that few people get to see.
- Remoteness: these glaciers are more difficult to access, and located within narrow channels of the fjords where you'll feel immersed in nature and worlds away from civilisation.
- Up close: in most cases you will either sail very close to glaciers, take a zodiac or land excursion right up to the face of them, and hike along the edge to fantastic viewpoints.
- Multiple: most cruises take you to see more than one glacier, in some cases you'll see dozens, and often you can see more than one at any given time.
Where to see glaciers by boat
Northern Ice Cap
The Northern Patagonian Ice Field is the smaller part of what used to be the Patagonian Ice Sheet. This ice sheet used to cover the entirety of Chilean Patagonia as well as the west of Argentinian Patagonia. It is located entirely within San Rafael National Park, and sadly the majority of its glaciers are now in retreat. Nonetheless, it is still the second largest mass of ice outside of the polar regions. It has a total of 28 exit glaciers, the largest and most impressive of which is San Rafael.
Southern Ice Cap
The Southern Patagonian Ice Field is the larger of the two remaining segments of the Patagonian Ice Sheet and feeds dozens of glaciers including Upsala, Viedma, and Perito Moreno in Argentina, as well as the Pio XI glacier which is the largest and longest in the Southern Hemisphere (outside of Antarctica). This ice field also feeds the O'Higgins, Grey and Tyndall glaciers of Chile.
The Darwin Range (named after Charles Darwin) is the highest mountain range in Tierra del Fuego, and its ice field covers 2,300 square kilometres. It is located in southwestern Tierra del Fuego and is an important feature of Alberto D'Agostini National Park. A number of well-known glaciers stem from the Darwin Range including the Marinelli Glacier, which has been in retreat since 2008.
For the ultimate glacier experience, why not combine cruises that visit different regions so you can have a taste of each of the ice fields and the different scenery that each provides: the lush green backdrop up in the north is a wonderful contrast to the snow capped peaks of the Darwin Range in the south.
Northern Ice Cap cruises
Southern Ice Cap cruises
Darwin Range cruises
What our customers think
The landscapes were awe inspiring with temperature rainforest abutting glaciers and mountains rising straight from the sea. Wildlife was varied and differed greatly from the northern hemisphere.
Colin UK February 2017
The highlight was seeing first hand the awesomeness and magnitude of a glacier up close. The landscapes were ruggedly beautiful and the wildlife was diverse and plentiful.
Christine December 2016
Patagonia Cruises: FAQs
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
One of the most incredible memories I have of my recent Patagonia trip is cruising through 'Glacier Alley' aboard the Stella Australis, surrounded by glaciers of all shapes, sizes and colours, all named after the explorers who discovered them.
Chloe O'Keeffe Patagonia Specialist
Other Ways To Explore Patagonia
Adventure Cruises in Patagonia
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