ALBUMS & STORIES
Cruise the Strait of Magellan
The Strait of Magellan (also called the Straits of Magellan or Estrecho de Magallanes) is an important, natural sea channel linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans between the southern tip of South America and Tierra del Fuego island. This curvy navigable channel is about 350 miles long and 2-20 miles wide at its narrowest and widest points. It lies almost entirely within Chilean territorial waters.
The fjords and channels are celebrated for their natural beauty of glacial and mountainous scenery, with the strait often being compared to Alaska’s Inside Passage. It is also home to several islands.
The Strait is named after Ferdinand Magellan, the first European to navigate the Strait in 1520. Magellan was a Portuguese navigator who was sailing under a Spanish flag in an attempt to find a westerly route to the Spice Islands (the Maluku Islands). The lands north of the Strait were named “Land of the Patagones” (Patagonia) and those to the south were named “Land of Smoke” (Tierra del Fuego).
Despite its tricky passageways and cold climate, the Strait of Magellan was an important route for steam and sailing ships traveling between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, up until the completion of the Panama Canal in 1914, which shortened that passage by thousands of miles. The strait was considered a safer route than the often rough Drake Passage, separating Cape Horn (the southern tip of South America) from Antarctica.
Today, approximately 1,500 ships pass through the strait each year. Ships rounding South America from the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans continue to travel through the strait. It offers an inland passage protected from major ocean storms. However, the strait’s major revival has come through tourism.
The fjords and channels throughout the Strait of Magellan are known for their natural beauty and calm waters. Along the route, high glaciers flow to the sea from steep snow-capped peaks. Protected bays are populated with elephant seals, Humpback whales, and Magellanic penguins.
What to do in The Strait
Three and four-night cruises are available. Australis tours take visitors throughout the regions of Patagonia accompanied by expert guides who educate them on everything from fjords to glaciers to Magellan penguins.
These cruises offer guided excursions to:
- Wildlife Colonies
- Historic Sites
Some points of interest include:
- Ainsworth Bay & Tuckers Islets
- Pía Glacier & Garibaldi Glacier
- Cape Horn & Wulaia Bay
- Agostini Sound
- Águila Glacier & Cóndor Glacier
- Magdalena Island
What is the Weather Like?
Cruises to the Strait of Magellan currently book from September through April. Although these months are the Southern Hemisphere Spring and Summer months, weather conditions in this area are unpredictable and constantly change during the day.Ee recommend dressing in layers. Here are a few musts:
- Waterproof Clothing: Hat, gloves, pants, parka
- Trekking shoes or hiking boots, waterproof
On the Chilean side of the strait, the Strait is most often accessed through Punta Arenas. Punta Arenas received daily flights from Santiago and Puerto Montt, in the Chilean Lakes District. Punta Arenas is also major departure point for visitors headed to Torres Del Paine National Park or to Antarctica by air.
In southern Argentina, the major port is Ushuaia, which also serves as the embarkation point for cruises to Antarctica. Ushuaia can be reached by air from Buenos Aires, or El Calafate during high season.
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How to combine The Strait of Magellan
Have some extra time? Here are some options for you to combine with
The Lakes District
Chilean Lakes District
Tierra del Fuego
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