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A Voyage Aboard Stella Australis

A group of travelers wearing orange life jackets watching at the camera aboard Stella Australis
August 23, 2023
5 min. read
Punta Arenas · Chile

Numerous adventurers aspire to embark on a journey to Patagonia, and ideally one that encompasses both the Chilean and Argentine sides. I've got to say, a 5-day adventure aboard one of the Australis' exploration cruises is like the missing piece to your Patagonian land exploration puzzle.

I've detailed these reasons in the article below, drawing from my own journey aboard the Stella Australis.

The cruise operator Australis facilitates navigation that links Chilean Patagonia (Punta Arenas) with the Argentine side (Ushuaia) using two vessels: the Stella Australis and the Ventus.

Despite their high comfort level, these ships were purposefully designed as expedition cruises, each featuring just 100 cabins. This intentional design allows them to explore the far-flung corners of the Strait of Magellan, areas that larger vessels are unable to access.

The Routes

Both vessels, the Stella Australis and the Ventus offer 5- or 9-day journeys departing from either Punta Arenas or Ushuaia. The itineraries combine the two sides of Patagonia, allowing guests to explore:

Map depicting Tierra del Fuego as a region part Chilean, part Argentine, with two main embarkation points for Patagonian cruises: Punta Arenas and Cape Horn, the southernmost point of South America

Reaching Cape Horn is the trip's highlight for many, as it marks the southernmost point of South America (see our map above).

Looking back at history and knowing the tough time Magellan had navigating through those tricky fjords in the 16th century, I totally agree! For those interested in history, I recommend watching our video at the end of this article, showcasing Magellan's incredible journey in this region.

Still. the unpredictable weather, particularly in this corner of Patagonia, doesn't always make it possible to reach Cape Horn. What is guaranteed are:

That sets this cruise apart in a league of its own, surpassing any others I've encountered (and I've explored quite a few in South America).

Even though the ship boasts 100 cabins, our guides split us up into smaller groups for each excursion. We had the chance to step away from the never-ending noise and distractions of modern life (I made use of my phone for photography purposes only).

No drones are allowed in the Magallanes region, and there is no internet connection aboard the ship. This is an expedition cruise ideally meant for you to ‘disconnect’ from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

My Highlight

The excursion that impressed me the most was the one to Pia Glacier, an active glacier in the southernmost ice fields of South America. We headed out on zodiac boats to the trailhead. The hike to the viewpoint offered breathtaking views of the glacier embedded in the mountains of the Darwin Range.

We had some time to enjoy the glacier’s majesty and simply unplug. As a Peruvian, I was also eager to see the Magellan penguins (belonging to the same family as our Humboldt penguins). Both species share similarities and are named after two significant explorers in this region: Alexander von Humboldt and Ferdinand Magellan.

The Pia Glacier

Yes, of course, you can see other glaciers in Argentina (like Perito Moreno in El Calafate) and the Grey Glacier in the Torres del Paine National Park in Chile, but, none of them offer such an intimate encounter. These glaciers are so well frequented that you most likely share the moment with many other day visitors. This is what made the journey in the most remote corner of Patagonia aboard the Stella Australis so special.

A Tip for Penguin Lovers

My tip for wildlife lovers: plan your journey on Australis between October and the end of March. That is when the Magellan penguins can be spotted migrating to the north.

Guides who specialize in the natural history of the Magallanes region, paleontology, glaciology, local wildlife, and oceanography held lectures in one of the spacious lounges. So, no need to worry if you didn’t have enough time to read about the region before departure. You will learn plenty on board! A library full of literature about Patagonia is also available for those who want to deepen their knowledge of this magnificent region.

The Cabins

Stella Australis and her sister cruise ship Ventus Australis have various types of cabins. All come with windows and independent heating.

The cabins feature an area of either 16m2 or 20m2. I stayed in cabin B (16m2) on the second deck which was absolutely fine for one guest. In the case of two sharing a cabin, I would suggest taking the 20m2 option. This way you would have more space to open 2 suitcases.

Do the Maths

Presented in the chart are the rates per person in USD for the selected departure date. Those highlighted in yellow denote 'PROMOTIONAL RATE'.

Despite Australis' positioning as a premium product, a comprehensive analysis considering expenses such as accommodations of comparable quality, excursions, and fine dining experiences in the Patagonia region demonstrates a remarkable cost equivalency —particularly when factoring in the promotional rates.

A chart with 4 columns with 4 different colors showing the rates per person of Australis cruises depending on the selecred departure date

Departures 2023-2024

1) VENTUS Australis and 2) STELLA Australis from Punta Arenas (Chile) to Ushuaia (Argentina)

Tow charts showing the 2023-2024 departures of the Australis cruises in Patagonia

1) VENTUS Australis and 2) STELLA Australis from Ushuaia (Argentina) to Punta Arenas (Chile)

Two charts depicting dates and rates per departure on Australis cruises for 2023-2024 (for the route Ushuaia - Punta Arenas)

Magellan’s voyage 1519-1522

Video credit:

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