Setting sail from Lima (Callao)
Peru's underrated capital enjoys a fine setting on the Pacific coast, and the handsome colonial-era buildings surrounding the Plaza de Armas give clues to Lima's distinguished history. For three centuries this was the capital of the Spanish Americas, when the city grew rich on the back of plundered Inca gold. Modern Lima can be a little hectic, the roads often clogged with traffic, but the historic centre has an undeniable charm to it, and in recent years a clutch of innovative restaurants have helped to put Peruvian cuisine on the map.
The pre-Columbian citadel of Pachacamac is a must see, just a few miles from the city and a key Inca site.
Peru: Ballestas Islands
The Ballestas Islands are known as ‘Peru’s Galapagos’ thanks to the rich variety of wildlife you will find here, including Peruvian boobies, sea lions, pelicans, cormorants, Humboldt penguins and dolphins. Access is by local boat only, and the crossing from the mainland can be a little bumpy.
Characterful, colourful and a little chaotic, the port city of Valparaíso is scattered across 45 vertiginous hills. Thanks to this difficult topography the city streets are punctuated by steep staircases and funicular elevators, and energetic explorers will be rewarded with wonderful views of the pastel hued buildings that hug the slopes.
Chile: Puerto Montt
Puerto Montt is the capital of the Chilean Lake District, spread out around a wide bay against a backdrop of snow-capped volcanoes. This wild region offers a host of outdoor activities, including mountain hikes, kayaking, white water rafting, fishing, zip lining and cycling.
Chile: Castro (Chiloé Island)
Rugged and unspoilt Chiloé, situated at the southern end of Chile’s Lake District, is a unique and culturally distinct island that stands apart from the rest of the country. The main town, Castro, is notable for its colourful waterfront homes on stilts (known as palafitos), and is the gateway to the dense forests and rolling hills of the island interior.
Chile: Chilean Fjords
Chile: Punta Arenas
The weather-beaten city of Punta Arenas is a laid back and welcoming place, in spite of its inhospitable location on the shores of the Strait of Magellan. Nearby attractions include penguin colonies and the dramatic scenery of Torres del Paine National Park, while beyond the horizon lie the frozen wastes of Antarctica.
Chile: Chilean Fjords
Chile: Cape Horn
Surrounded by notoriously treacherous waters and battered by gale force winds known as the Furious Fifties, Cape Horn is the dramatic southernmost headland of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago. This is the point where the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans meet, watched over by a lonely lighthouse.
Perched on the ragged southern edge of Argentina, where the snow-capped Andes fall away into the churning sea, Ushuaia has a frontier town feel to it, and serves as the base for expeditions into the icy waters of Antarctica.
Antarctica is the world’s last great wilderness, an alien landscape of snow-covered mountains, jagged icebergs and extraordinary wildlife. Visiting at the beginning of the cruise season in October or November means bigger icebergs and pristine snowy landscapes, along with the chance to see breeding elephant seals. There may still be sea ice around the Antarctic Peninsula, and temperatures are cold. Expedition trips will spend time exploring the peninsula, making several landings at various sites and cruising through scenic channels.
Arriving in Ushuaia
Ushuaia is sometimes described as 'the city at the end of the world', though its rugged beauty is far from apocalyptic. Perched on the ragged southern edge of Argentina, where the snow-capped Andes fall away into the churning sea, the city has a frontier town feel to it, and serves as the base for expeditions into the icy waters of Antarctica. There are also plenty of outdoor pursuits on offer here, including hiking, skiing and fishing, and the Tierra del Fuego National Park is home to spectacular scenery and wildlife including penguins, guanacos, sea lions and condors.
You can finish off your cold weather shopping here, they have all the best stuff.
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Tailor-make your trip
Where to stay in Lima
We like the Country Club Lima Hotel for a bit of colonial style.
See more of Peru
Travel south from Lima to Nazca to see the extraordinary Nazca Lines – well worth the journey, and stay on at the beach if you have time to spare.
Where to stay in Ushuaia
Los Cauquenes Resort and Spa is your best option, if you have time to stay.
Tours from Ushuaia
What you choose to do on tour will need to supplement whatever cruise you are taking. So if you are heading to Antarctica, whilst here you will want to go to the Tierra del Fuego National Park.