Our Ultimate Patagonia to Antarctica Holiday
The open roads and mountain trails of Patagonia; an active 'base camp' cruise to Antarctica. This is our ultimate polar adventure. We'd love to make it yours.
All your questions answered
Helping you find the right holiday for you is important to us, so here's a few common questions about this trip to help. If there's anything you'd like to know that's not covered here, send us over a message or you can also give us a call on +44 1273 676 712 and we'd be only too pleased to help.
When is the best time to go?
Both the Patagonia and Antarctic season runs during the austral summer which is late October to late March.
For Antarctica, each month brings something different in terms of wildlife. If you have any specific interest in certain wildlife let us know and we can advise the best month. Antarctica is a very physical place, from the wild southern ocean crossing to the massive ice flows and high mountains. Nature dominates and as such, weather is always unpredictable but rarely as cold as you may think.
The climate in the Falkland Islands (Malvinas) is cool and usually dry and rarely below freezing.
In October and November Patagonia is in spring time and the Antarctic peninsula will be at its most pristine and dramatic with plenty of fresh snow and huge icebergs. Photographers tend to prefer this time of year as the snow becomes less pristine later on in the season by nests and droppings and the icebergs start to reduce in size. Pack ice will prevent access to some landing sites so some shore landings may need to be cancelled and/or rescheduled.
Penguins, seals and seabirds can be seen courting at this time of year with plenty of rituals on display. The spring flowers are in bloom across South Georgia, and it is the best chance to see emperor penguins in the Weddell sea.
Days are already long as the sun rises around 06:00 and sets about 20:30 extending to around 23:00 by the end of November. Drake Passage crossings tend to be rougher early in the season, though impossible to predict at any time.
In December it's high summer and there is plenty of wildlife activity. Penguin eggs start to hatch, first in the Falklands and South Georgia, and then on the peninsula by the end of the month. Southern elephant seals can be seen guarding their pups. Seabirds are abundant. The average temperature on the peninsula rises so that days are comfortably well above freezing and night-time temperatures are only just below freezing. The sun sets for only three hours a night on the peninsula, reaching almost 24 hour daylight by the solstice.
January through to February is the peak season for both Patagonia and Antarctica. Temperatures are still a few degrees above freezing during the day and darkness still falls for only three-four hours per night. January is often the peak time for penguin lovers, you'll see chicks galore, while seal pups are very active in the water.
By February you have more chance of seeing whales and the penguins start to fledge. Fledgling gentoo penguins are a particular highlight.
In March the average temperature cools a little more, though daytime temperatures tend to still stay above freezing. March is the best month to see whales and orcas as they start to migrate north. If you are very lucky you might see the Aurora Australis. Icebergs are now smaller than at the start of the season, though still very impressive and you can often explore deeper as the pack ice has broken up. In Patagonia, autumnal hues begin to turn the forests red.
How far ahead should I book?
This somewhat depends on when you want to travel. If you have specific dates in peak season, we advise you book at least 12 months ahead to secure your dates. The more flexibility you have, the better.
How much carbon is produced on this trip and how is it mitigated?
Total carbon generated on this trip: 4,376kg per person
Carbon mitigated by us: 7,002kg per person
As Yvon Chouinard, of Patagonia, Inc. rightly declared: “To do good, you actually have to do something.”
Therefore, for every kilometre travelled by road, air and sea on your Pura Aventura holiday, we carbon balance it by a mile - i.e. by 160% of your trip's carbon, from your front door and back again, irrespective of whether we book your international travel or not.
This is one of the travel industry's most ambitious and innovative schemes and has recently been praised by Wanderlust, Condé Nast Traveller and The Independent.
How comfortable will I be?
In Buenos Aires we like to use smaller hotels of a 3/4 star standard in the more residential neighbourhoods such as Palermo. This way you can get into the centre of the city during the daytime by taxi but at night you can simply stroll out to the local bars and restaurants near your hotel.
In Patagonia you can expect 4* type levels of comfort. Down in Ushuaia, you stay in a small, owner run hotel a bit out of town where the views are better and the welcome warmer.
For the Antarctic cruise, this itinerary is based on a twin cabin with porthole and private bathroom. Upgraded cabins are available, but as with any expedition boat in these waters, facilities are robust and practical rather than luxurious. These ships were typically previously used for research purposes.
At just under 90m long and 15m wide, your ship accommodates up to 116 passengers in 53 cabins. There is plenty of communal space between the restaurant, bar area and observation deck so you have space to roam. Once in Antarctica, sitting out on deck can be just wonderful.
Will I meet the locals in Patagonia?
The focus of this holiday is undoubtedly the landscapes and exploring on foot.
Patagonia, is one of the most recently populated parts of our planet. The harsh landscapes were tamed by ranchers who cleared the land.
To this day it is a place of gauchos, cowboys, who live solitary lives riding across vast estancias. And yet, hospitality runs deep and sipping mate whilst sitting round an open fire is one of the great memories of Patagonia.
How much driving is there on this trip?
This is not a holiday dedicated to driving, it is about your spending time out and about in the great outdoors. The driving is simply a means to an end.
The total driving distance between the six different overnight stops on the Patagonia section of this trip is 1,200km.
You stay two or three nights in each of your destinations before moving on. Most distances are between 100-250km in any one go, you can expect to be driving for a maximum of four hours every second or third day.
Your crossing from Chile to Argentina will take longer due to border formalities.
What is the driving like?
Generally speaking, very easy and low stress. All of the roads you are likely to encounter are paved, other than those crossing inside Torres del Paine. All are in a reasonable state of repair with little traffic. You should be aware that it can get windy so you can get buffeted a bit as you drive.
Navigation is 'fairly' to 'very' simple, we provide you with the best available road maps as well as our own written instructions. In addition, you will want to also use a navigation app such as Waze. You can pre-load drives onto this with wi-fi, it then switches to using your phone's 'always on' GPS rather than expensive data whilst on the move.
What if something happens?
We ask you to do your driving earlier in the day so you don't have to worry about getting stranded in the dark. There is sufficient traffic around that help would never be far away.
The mobile phone coverage along the entirety of this route is very good so you can call us, or your next hosts, to help come up with a plan. Finally, we only use reputable, well maintained vehicles in order to minimise the chances of any mechanical failures.
What is the rental car like?
We always include a mid-sized vehicle which is comfortable for long distances, usually all-wheel drive. The four wheel drive is rarely necessary but it does make for a more sure-footed driving experience. Engines tend to be of a generous size.
How active is this trip?
This journey is active but is resolutely not about frenetic adrenaline-fuelled adventure. Most of our clients on this trip are in their 50s, 60s and 70s. But for anyone who loves the great, truly great, outdoors and being active, this is undoubtedly one of our finest adventures. The advantage of this particular Antarctica expedition is that all activities are included - most other cruises charge for activities. No previous experience is necessary and all equipment is provided.
The Patagonia section is conceived of as a walking holiday which has you out in the great outdoors, with your boots on, most days. That said, as a tailor made trip, the degree of exertion is completely up to you. We provide walking notes and maps allowing you to pick and choose the routes which most appeal. The Torres hike in Paine is approximately 18km in total, Laguna de los Tres to Fitz Roy is 25km. There are many shorter trails to follow though.
What activities can I do in Antarctica?
Kayaking is in calm waters and is at a level suitable for anyone from beginner up. There is little in this world to beat the quiet splashing sound of the paddles breaking the heavy silence of Antarctic waters.
Snow shoeing is fairly gentle but requires rather more concentration than you might imagine – it’s very easy to tread on your shoes and tip yourself over! Once mastered though, it’s a fantastic sensation to crunch over the top of deep snow.
Photography - there is a professional photographer on board and this is a great opportunity to learn. The landscapes and wildlife are simply amazing and a photographer’s dream – even total beginners find themselves keen to perfect their photos.
Mountaineering is probably best thought of as high level roped walking – crampons are worn but this is not Chris Bonnington stuff, more of a human mule train along the ridges of Antarctica. That’s not to make it sound like a trudge, you are walking in the most extraordinary pristine and remote place on earth so the views are beyond most people’s imagination.
Sleep out under the stars - often referred to as "camping", but there is no tent! This is a unique opportunity to sleep out on the peninsula. After dinner your guides will take you to shore where you dig your snow-bed. There is not much more to it really but it is a one-off experience to spend the night out here and is fun. The night skies, dusk and dawn are incredible. All equipment including four season sleeping bags is included. You return to the ship for breakfast.
Advanced mountaineering is limited to a small group of six people and is offered only once per trip and only for people with previous experience bringing their own mountaineering boots. Crampons are provided.
Will I get seasick?
The Southern Ocean is notorious for its wild seas and Drake Passage is a rough stretch of sea. Even on a calm crossing you are likely to feel nauseous at first. The vast majority of people adapt within half a day and then feel fine for the rest of the trip.
It is not an issue for the vast majority. Speak to us if you are worried and we can advise further and tell you about our own personal experiences.
And a extra note on the Drake Passage. It’s a wild stretch of sea, however, it is part of the journey, and part of the experience. It is our strong opinion that Antarctica is a place to be preserved, fiercely protected, and part of that is to make it difficult to get to. To visit Antarctica, you have to ‘earn your stripes’ and that’s the Drake Passage – or it can be when the seas are rough. The crossing is a great experience, with your guides giving talks and lectures as well as enjoying time with your fellow passengers, guides and crew.
What meals are included on board?
Once you are on board all meals are included. There is a buffet breakfast with lots of variety including freshly baked bread and fresh fruit throughout the journey. Lunch and dinner are normally buffet-style except when the sea conditions make it more comfortable to be served at the table. The ship can cater for most food preferences and health requirements if informed in advance.
Water, tea and coffee are included. Other drinks are extra. You can order drinks with your meals and put them on a tab that will be settled on the last day on board. There is also a bar at the main observation lounge where your drinks will be added to the same personal tab. No food should be taken off the ship on any of the landings. The ship follows the strict Antarctica conservation regulations.
What does a day on board look like?
07:30: Wake up call
09:00-12:30: Morning activities
15:00 -18:00 Afternoon activities
18:45: Guide briefing for the next day
What might I not have thought of?
This part of the world has the power to change the way we look at the world and our place in it. People who visit often find it hard to explain but nature dominates to such an extent that as humans we feel totally humbled by it and very small. It is an extraordinary place. It will stay with you.
Can I tailor this trip to me?
The cruise section of the trip is a fixed itinerary that will run as per program with the flexibility to adjust to any given conditions of weather, sea or ice. The Captain is in charge of the itinerary and the Expedition Leader will adapt the captains' decisions in the best interest of the passengers, but you have to expect changes in a place like Antarctica.
The land section of this trip is completely flexible and can be tailored to in a number of ways. It's best to give us a call to chat through your ideas and options.
What is the payment process and is my money completely safe?
We take a 15% deposit to secure your holiday, with the remainder due eight weeks before your departure.
Your money is 100% protected through our ATOL licence if your trip includes a flight booked through us, or through our ABTOT bond if it does not. Either way, this protection provides a cast-iron financial guarantee and helps you book with complete peace of mind. Because the contract between us exists here in the UK, you get this protection regardless of where you live.
As always, our covid-19 policies ensure you have complete flexibility, just in case. Throughout the pandemic we have frequently been praised by Which? as a tour operator to trust, so you're in good hands. Your safety is always our top priority and we want you to be able to fully look forward to and enjoy your holiday with peace of mind.
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Travel with Pura Aventura
Best in class holidays, service, characterful hotels, lovely locals, food and beautiful walks - that's what our clients tell us they love about our holidays, as noted in the highest possible 5* Feefo Platinum Award.
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We are proud to have been recipients of awards from both Wanderlust and LUXLife for our sustainable Travel Positive initiative, that includes balancing carbon by 160%, and providing 1% of our revenue to the planet.