Ushuaia to Cape Town (22 Day)
22 days with Silversea Rating:
Day 1 Ushuaia
At 55 degrees latitude south, Ushuaia (pronounced oo-swy-ah) is closer to the South Pole than to Argentina's northern border with Bolivia. It is the capital and tourism base for Tierra del Fuego, the island at the southernmost tip of Argentina. Although its stark physical beauty is striking, Tierra del Fuego's historical allure is based more on its mythical past than on rugged reality. The island was inhabited for 6,000 years by Yámana, Haush, Selk'nam, and Alakaluf Indians. But in 1902 Argentina, eager to populate Patagonia to bolster its territorial claims, moved to initiate an Ushuaian penal colony, establishing the permanent settlement of its most southern territories and, by implication, everything in between.When the prison closed in 1947, Ushuaia had a population of about 3,000, made up mainly of former inmates and prison staff.
Today the Indians of Darwin's "missing link" theory are long gone—wiped out by diseases brought by settlers and by indifference to their plight—and the 60,000 residents of Ushuaia are hitching their star to tourism.The city rightly (if perhaps too loudly) promotes itself as the southernmost city in the world (Puerto Williams, a few miles south on the Chilean side of the Beagle Channel, is a small town). You can make your way to the tourism office to get your clichéd, but oh-so-necessary, "Southernmost City in the World" passport stamp. Ushuaia feels like a frontier boomtown, at heart still a rugged, weather-beaten fishing village, but exhibiting the frayed edges of a city that quadrupled in size in the '70s and '80s and just keeps growing. Unpaved portions of Ruta 3, the last stretch of the Pan-American Highway, which connects Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, are finally being paved. The summer months (December through March) draw more than 120,000 visitors, and dozens of cruise ships. The city is trying to extend those visits with events like March's Marathon at the End of the World and by increasing the gamut of winter activities buoyed by the excellent snow conditions.A terrific trail winds through the town up to the Martial Glacier, where a ski lift can help cut down a steep kilometer of your journey. The chaotic and contradictory urban landscape includes a handful of luxury hotels amid the concrete of public housing projects. Scores of "sled houses" (wooden shacks) sit precariously on upright piers, ready for speedy displacement to a different site. But there are also many small, picturesque homes with tiny, carefully tended gardens. Many of the newer homes are built in a Swiss-chalet style, reinforcing the idea that this is a town into which tourism has breathed new life. At the same time, the weather-worn pastel colors that dominate the town's landscape remind you that Ushuaia was once just a tiny fishing village, snuggled at the end of the Earth.As you stand on the banks of the Canal Beagle (Beagle Channel) near Ushuaia, the spirit of the farthest corner of the world takes hold. What stands out is the light: at sundown the landscape is cast in a subdued, sensual tone; everything feels closer, softer, and more human in dimension despite the vastness of the setting. The snowcapped mountains reflect the setting sun back onto a stream rolling into the channel, as nearby peaks echo their image—on a windless day—in the still waters.Above the city rise the last mountains of the Andean Cordillera, and just south and west of Ushuaia they finally vanish into the often-stormy sea. Snow whitens the peaks well into summer. Nature is the principal attraction here, with trekking, fishing, horseback riding, wildlife spotting, and sailing among the most rewarding activities, especially in the Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego (Tierra del Fuego National Park).
Day 2 Day At Sea
Days at sea are the perfect opportunity to relax, unwind and catch up with what you’ve been meaning to do. So whether that is going to the gym, visiting the spa, whale watching, catching up on your reading or simply topping up your tan, these blue sea days are the perfect balance to busy days spent exploring shore side.
Day 3 New Island, West Point Island
The remarkable beauty of the remote Falkland Islands can best be seen on New Island. The westernmost of the inhabited islands of the archipelago, it is a wildlife and nature reserve, and an environmental conservation group protects its many birds and animals. There are rookeries where Rockhopper Penguins and Blue-eyed Shags share the same nesting area. Black-browed Albatrosses can be seen going about their daily routines and it is easy to spot Upland Geese. More than 40 species of birds breed on the island. Near the landing site is ‘Barnard’s barn’ — a restored stone structure going back to the early 19th century. Lying in the sandy shallows in front of the barn is the wreck of Protector III, an old minesweeper used for seal hunting.
Located slightly northwest of West Falkland, West Point Island is used for sheep farming and nature observations. Peale’s dolphins and the distinctive black and white markings of the Commerson’s dolphin can usually be seen in the waters around West Point Island. Rolling moorland and steep cliffs make for great photographic opportunities, but the main attraction is the Devil’s Nose, a cliffside colony of Black-browed Albatrosses nesting side-by-side with feisty Rockhopper Penguins. Magellanic Penguins and Magellanic Cormorants can also be found on the island.
Day 4 Port Stanley
Tiny Stanley, capital of the Falklands, seems in many ways like a British village fallen out of the sky. Many homes are painted in bright colours, adding visual appeal to this distant outpost. Not far offshore, the wreck of the Lady Elizabeth, is one of the many vessels remaining as a silent testimonial to the region's frequent harsh weather conditions. The islands, also known by their Spanish name of Islas Malvinas, are home to arguably more tuxedo-clad inhabitants of the penguin variety than human residents. Various species, such as Gentoo, Magellanic and the more elusive King penguins, either live here permanently or use the Falklands as a stopover on their migration route. Darwin found the islands' flora and fauna fascinating - no doubt you will, too.
Day 5 Day At Sea
Days 6-10 South Georgia
South Georgia is a breathtaking destination of towering snow-covered mountains, mighty glaciers, and low-lying grasslands that attract an astounding concentration of wildlife. It is possible to find Southern fur seals, Southern elephant seals and a variety of albatross species including Black-browed, Light-mantled Sooty, Grey-headed and the spectacular Wandering Albatross, plus thousands of King and Macaroni Penguins. South Georgia is also linked to the early Antarctic explorers. Captain James Cook first stepped ashore in 1775, but perhaps more famous is Ernest Shackleton’s arrival in 1916 following the sinking of his ship Endurance. Shackleton’s grave and the whaling museum at Grytviken are highlights, as would be a visit to one of the King Penguin colonies at Salisbury Plain or Gold Harbour.
Days 11-13 Days At Sea
Day 14 Tristan da Cunha
Tristan da Cunha is the main island of an archipelago with the same name. The Tristan da Cunha island group is home to fewer than 300 hardy residents and is recognized as the most remote inhabited archipelago in the world. Its closest neighboring landmass is the island of St. Helena some 2,430 km (over 1500 miles) away. For fortunate visitors who have cooperative weather conditions and land ashore on Tristan da Cunha, local inhabitants of the village might tell the tale of how the islanders were evacuated from their home during a 1961 lava flow, and how it affected their lives. Birds to watch out for around the island include the Atlantic Yellow-nosed Albatross, Sooty Albatross, Tristan Thrush, and Tristan Wandering Albatross – a critically endangered species with fewer than 1,500 breeding pairs left in the world. The archipelago is also where 90% of the world’s Northern Rockhopper Penguins come to breed.
Day 15 Nightingale Island
Nightingale Island is an active volcano and one of three islands in the extremes of the South Atlantic Ocean known as the Nightingale Islands falling within the Tristan da Cunha group. The three islands are administered by the United Kingdom and are visited for scientific research purposes and little else. This means the magnificent wildlife with an estimated one million seabirds, in addition to unusual flora, is all unspoiled by people. Nightingale Island is also a protected wildlife reserve and World Heritage Site. Nightingale has two peaks on its north end and the rest of the island is ringed by cliffs and sea caves, and is fringed with kelp beds. The sea caves have been said to hide pirate treasure with a fortune in Spanish doubloons and pieces-of-eight hidden here for safekeeping. However, no recovery of this booty has ever been documented.
Day 16 Gough Island
Gough Island in the South Atlantic Ocean was originally known as Gonçalo Álvares (named after the captain of Vasco da Gama’s flagship). The volcanic island is uninhabited except for the handful of personnel stationed here to operate a South African weather station, making it one of the most remote places with a constant human presence. Gough Island and Inaccessible Island comprise the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Gough and Inaccessible Islands as they are protected wildlife reserves and an “Important Bird Area”. Gough Island is home to Tristan Albatrosses, Atlantic Petrels, Gough Moorhens, Gough Buntings, and Northern Rockhopper Penguins; just some of the many birds using this mid-Atlantic island as their nesting ground. Gough is a dependency of Tristan da Cunha and part of the British Overseas Territory of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha.
Days 17-20 Days At Sea
Day 21 Cape Town
Sprawling across endless, staggeringly blue coastline, and watched over by the iconic plane of Table Mountain, Cape Town is without doubt one of the world’s most beautiful cities. A blend of spectacular mountain scenery, multiculturalism and relaxed ocean charm awaits in the Mother City, where you can venture out to rolling vineyards, dine in laid back sea suburbs, or spend days exploring cool urban culture. Cape Town’s natural splendour fully reveals itself as the cable car rears sharply to the top of Table Mountain. From the summit, 3,500 feet above sea level, you can let the scale of the panoramic vistas of the city rolling down towards the ocean wash over you. Another heavenly perspective waits at the top of Lion's Head’s tapering peak. A sharp hike and an early start is required, but the views of the morning sun painting Table Mountain honey-gold are some of Cape Town’s finest.
Cape Town’s glorious sunshine and inviting blue rollers can be a little deceiving - these oceans are anything but warm at times, with nothing between the peninsula’s end and Antarctica’s icy chill. This cool water has upsides though, bringing a colony of adorably cute African penguins to Boulders Beach. Boarded walkways offer the perfect vantage point to see the cute creatures dipping into the sea and lounging in the sun. Nearby, journey to the end of Africa at the Cape of Good Hope, where you can stand at the bottom of this mighty continent, watching out over the merging waves of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Cape Town’s beauty is counterpointed by the ominous island form, which sits four miles offshore from the bustling restaurants and lazy seals of the lively V&A Waterfront. A living history lesson, you can sail in the ships that transported prisoners out to Robben Island, before a former prisoner tells of the traumas of life on this offshore prison. Your guide will show you the cramped cells, and render Mandela’s long walk to freedom in heartbreaking, visceral clarity.
Day 22 Cape Town
After breakfast, disembark.
All This Included
From the end of the world to the Cape of Good Hope, traverse the South Atlantic Ocean on the world’s most luxurious expedition ship. From snow-covered mountains and mighty glaciers to enjoying a formal wine tasting, trans-Atlantic travel has never been so good! Five days in South Georgia gives a chance to see an astounding array of endemic wildlife as well as visit the grave of Ernest Shackleton.
Cruising: Cabin onboard Silver Cloud
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