Tierra del Fuego is a maze of islands, sounds, inlets, and narrow waterways rich in biodiversity and breathtaking scenery.
This archipelago at the southernmost tip of South America was given the name Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire) by passing Spanish explorers who observed bonfires lit by the local native inhabitants. In stark contrast to the fire from which it receives its name, the region is home to some of the most spectacular glaciers and icy water fjords found anywhere on earth.
Charles Darwin documented this area during his voyage of discovery aboard the HMS Beagle (1831–1836). Darwin described how the “beryl blue” color of the glaciers here contrasted with the foreboding landscape of rock, mist, and steel grey water.
Situated to the west of the port of Ushuaia along the Beagle Channel (named for the ship of Darwin fame), Glacier Alley lives up to its name as five named glaciers can be seen: Holanda, Italia, Francia, Alemania, and Romanche. Best seen from the deck of a cruising vessel, these majestic monoliths have carved great chasms into the terrain with their tons of slow-moving ice. While passing by, visitors can see small waterfalls trickling from their edge, and the lucky few may experience first-hand one of nature’s most impressive displays of force, glacial calving — the breaking off a giant piece of ice. The Patagonia Ice Cap — an ice field covering over 6,000 square miles stretching through Argentina and Chile — feeds all five of these glaciers. Opportunities abound for viewing unique local wildlife such as penguins, elephant seals, and cormorants.
Further to the north, along the Chilean coast, lies a stretch of wild and untouched territory where the mountains meet the ocean, creating a network of fjords rivaling those seen in Scandinavia. Here sub-Antarctic forestlands and tidewater glaciers hug the deep icy waters, providing sanctuaries for all manner of wildlife, including rare Chilean dolphins, humpback whales, seals, and Andean condors.
The climate here is a bit more temperate compared to the lands and straits to the south, allowing the opportunity for hiking to the peaks and panoramas that abound in this wild land. Tours by small Zodiac watercraft let visitors explore steep fjords, small islands lush with vegetation, and hidden lakes and waterfalls.
Let Holland America Line take you on your own voyage of discovery to experience this majestic, wild region of South America.