At the southernmost tip of South America, with Chile along the Pacific seaboard and Argentina on the Atlantic shore, the sparsely populated region of Patagonia is renowned as the adventurer’s yacht charter of choice. The Andes Mountains create a dramatic backdrop for the coastal destinations and the vast landscapes are peppered with fjords, glaciers, forests, lakes and hot springs. With a range of activities from fishing, kayaking and surfing to mountain hiking and wildlife tourism, this intrepid frontier region is a yacht charter with a difference.
Argentina’s Atlantic coast has plenty of appeal. Puerto Madryn gives easy access to the whale and penguin-watching Mecca of the Valdes Peninsula – and it’s almost four degrees warmer than the west coast too. But from the vigorous port city of Valparaíso with its vineyards and beaches to the tough Patagonian town of Punta Arenas at the midway point of the historical Magellan Passage, the Chilean coastline is a truly special charter yacht experience. The Parque Nacional Torres del Paine is the region’s star attraction and the town of Puerto Montt makes a very capable (and usefully sheltered) point from which to explore. The weather can be fiercely unpredictable even in season, but with the right charter yacht, it’s the most versatile destination in the whole of South America.
Antarctica is the world’s most inhospitable continent – and with largely unobstructed low-pressure systems, its seas are some of the wildest on earth. For some, that puts it off limits as a charter destination but for others, it makes the Antarctic a yachting venue without parallel. The season is short, the cruising regions are remote and it’s by no means a place for the family. But with blue whales, armies of penguins, spawning leopard seals, drifting icebergs and impenetrable glacier fields, it’s a richly rewarding charter destination.
Such is the majestic brutality of this region that the only realistic yacht charter base on the entire continent is the Antarctic Peninsula. Perched out in the far north, its splintered landmasses offer good shelter and a much greater variety of destinations than the long, exposed coasts; and its position, 500 nautical miles south of Cape Horn, makes it relatively accessible from the Argentinian outpost of Ushuaia. The Peninsula is at its tourist peak between December and January, when the receding ice expands the cruising grounds. However, must-see stopovers on any charter trip should include the remarkable horseshoe-shaped Deception Island, with its unique volcanic harbour; Half Moon Island a little further northwest; Paradise Harbour, an old whaling region with magnificent icebergs; and Lemaire Channel, a narrow passage between precipitous Antarctic cliffs.