In March I was very fortunate to return to Argentina. Having previously been no further south than Calafate, I was excited at the prospect of going to the world’s most southern city - Ushuaia.
My trip started with a three night stay in Buenos Aires, at the lovely Park Hyatt Palacio Duhau. I have been to the city a few times now but on this trip had the opportunity to do some new things including a boat ride around the Tigre Delta which I would highly recommend for those wanting something a bit different and an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. You can take a train and then hop on a boat for a shorter tour, or alternatively take a boat all the way from Puerto Madero, taking in the wide open river with views to the city skyline before entering the delta itself.
I then flew south to Ushuaia where I spent a night at the Arakur Hotel, a Bond-like lair on a hilltop outside the city. The views of the Beagle Channel from there are impressive, especially from the indoor-outdoor pool and hot tubs (there is even music played underwater in the pool - how Bond is that!). I visited Lapataia National Park, only 11km from Ushuaia with some beautiful bays and scenery - definitely worth at least a half day visit for a short hike.
Now for the highlight - a trip on board the Via Australis to the southern fjords and Cape Horn. This was a new route for the cruise company (Cruceros Autralis), which usually operates 3 or 4 night cruises between Ushuaia and Punta Arenas (Chile) and vice versa. This trip was 3 nights both starting and finishing in Ushuaia, a good option for those wanting to stick to Argentina whilst still having the opportunity to visit Cape Horn. Arguably the best route, for those with the time and the inclination, remains the 4 night cruise between Ushuaia and Punta Arenas or vice versa.
Day 1 - Check-in in town starts at 1000 so passengers can do this and drop off their luggage before spending the rest of the day on an excursion. Boarding then begins at 1730 and we set sail at dusk. There was a welcome drink and introduction to the captain and crew, followed by a safety talk and briefing on the route and options for the following morning. Each briefing and excursion is offered in Spanish and English and so you are grouped accordingly.
Day 2 - This morning there were two excursion options - either a hike through the forest up to a waterfall, or to remain on the boat and sail up closer to Garibaldi glacier. I opted for the waterfall hike - it was around 1 hour up and 30 minutes down, through the trees, clambering over and under branches and through little streams. Back on deck we had a briefing about the afternoon excursion before lunch. Lunches (and breakfast) were buffet, and supper we had to choose at lunch time. After lunch there was some down time before the afternoon excursion to Pia glacier where there was a short walk to a low viewpoint where we had a briefing on the creation of the glacier and fjords. We could then continue up to a higher viewpoint. When all back on board we sailed through ‘Glacier Alley’ before a briefing about disembarkation at Cape Horn which was scheduled for early the next morning.
Day 3 - Cape Horn disembarkation is early, before breakfast and everyone has to keep their lifejacket on in case there is a call to return to the boat if the weather changes. It was very windy but we got to spend quite a while on the island and visited the high point as well as the lighthouse and little chapel. The lighthouse keeper was very friendly and welcomed the opportunity to talk to visitors as he is currently 4 months in to his 12 month posting there (along with his family). Disembarkation at Cape Horn can never be guaranteed but the majority of departures do make it. After breakfast we had a briefing about the afternoon visit and about the different indigenous people who once occupied Tierra del Fuego. There was then the opportunity to visit the bridge and meet the captain.
In the afternoon was the excursion to Wulaia bay. There was an option of a walk up to a viewpoint or a short walk just in the bay, but with the focus being on the history of the people of the area. I did the short walk as I was interested in learning more about the indigenous people.
Day 4 - Back in Ushuaia, disembark the boat and return to the airport.
We finished the trip as we had started, in Buenos Aires, with a scrumptious finale of a tasting menu at the Alvear Palace’s famous restaurant, La Bourgogne. Highly recommended!
All in all it was a wonderful trip, great to return to Argentina and to see some different things and experience the sights of the far south. Now where to next?!