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Chile and Antarctica: The Perfect Combination

10/06/2017

If you go to the Antarctic, of course you are going to be chilly! What did you expect from visiting the South Pole? But word play aside, South America is the gateway for Antarctic cruises and expeditions, and the combination of Chile and Antarctica is an unexpected yet fascinating pairing.

Santiago, Chile

In 2017, British Airways is launching direct flights from London to Santiago, Chile, so it is the obvious point to begin your epic journey. Founded by Spanish conquistadors in the mid 16th century, the city’s impressive historic architecture is juxtaposed with the natural environment: standalone hills, the Mapocho River, and the verdant greenery of the Parque Forestal. The Andes Mountains are a permanent feature of the skyline, even as an increasing number of skyscrapers bid to touch the clouds.
Santiago is not just a political and financial centre for the region, but a hub of culture, too. The San Francisco Church (built in 1622) and its adjacent convent are the oldest surviving colonial-era buildings in Chile, but other architectural and historical highlights include the impressive Plaza de Armas, the Municipal Theatre of Santiago, and the Palacio de la Real Audencia de Santiago, which houses the Chilean National Museum. Santiago boasts a total of 174 heritage sites, not to mention numerous cultural venues, shopping districts, and street side cafes and bars where you can soak up the ambience of Santiago. The impressive Ritz Carlton hotel is in a superb location for exploring, and even lying back in your room you’ll have views from the windows of the city and the Andes Mountains beyond.

Patagonia, Chile

From Santiago you can head straight to your departure point for Antarctica, or stop off for an altogether different outdoor experience in Patagonia, one of the last true wildernesses in the Americas. The landscapes initially resemble to Norwegian fjords, but on a far more dramatic scale, and they can be explored by boat, on horseback, on foot, or by 4×4. The glacial Lake Pehoe is truly majestic, and Patagonia Hotel Salto Chico is the perfect base from which to explore the towering peaks, grasslands, and lakes of the Torres del Paine National Park.
But all this time Antarctica will be calling you, and you’ll be understandably impatient to heed that call. You are headed to a place quite unlike anywhere else on earth. Completely uninhabited by man (bar a few, lonely scientists), starkly beautiful, this unforgiving landscape is an absolute must-see. You can come for the ice bergs, the penguins, and the empty seas, but it is the excitement, the sense of adventure, and the sense of splendid isolation which will take your breath away.

Antarctica shore landing

The reality is that you do not merely cruise to the Antarctic, for that has connotations of leisure. Travel by boat in these seas is a bonafide expedition, the definition of adventure. Many of the polar vessels were built as scientific research ships or ice breakers, and their crews and expert guides have exceptional levels of specialist knowledge about the geography, wildlife, scientific studies, climate change, and more. Visitor numbers are limited, and you’ll leave the ship by inflatable zodiac or kayak to reach the Antarctic shores.
That is not to say, however, that you will not be travelling in comfort. The boats are equipped with comfortable, well-appointed berths with en suite facilities, bars and restaurants, viewing decks, and frequently a lounge, library, and lecture room. There are ample opportunities for star gazing and wildlife spotting, and also for more energetic pursuits such as snow shoeing, skiing, hiking, and camping ashore. There are larger boats such as the Silver Explorer that can hold 132 passengers with a theatre, spa and Wi-fi for your use. Alternatively there are small sail ships with as the SV Australis which can hold a maximum of 7 guests and will give you a very different experience in Antarctica.
It is the contrast of geography, of culture, and of experience which makes Chile and Antarctica such an intriguing pairing of destinations. Our destination specialists are uniquely well placed to inspire you with their passion for each place, drawing upon their own knowledge from the field to create for you an unforgettable experience.

Article written by:
Shari Burton
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