Expedition Cruise from Chile to Costa Rica
Next DepartureApr. 1, 2023
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, Photography, Trekking, Wildlife observations
This is a unique expedition voyage along the Andean coast from Chile to Costa Rica onboard Albatros Expeditions’ new-built luxury vessel, Ocean Victory.
Visiting coastal towns and nature reserves you will get an impeccable insight into the rich archaeological, modern as well as natural history of Chile, Peru and Ecuador. Added to this is the dense tropical jungle, white sandy beaches and stunning wildlife on the coastal islands of Panama and Costa Rica. An expedition cruise of a lifetime!
Setting out from colorful Valparaíso, we sail north to the lovely towns of Coquimbo, Iquique and Arica in northern Chile. While in Callao, Peru, it is possible to visit its capital, Lima.
We will visit popular Manta while in Ecuador, with options to visit Isla de la Plata, a national park known as a mini-Galapagos. We cross the Gulf of Panama to reach the beach and jungle islands of Granito de Oro & Coiba in Panama as well as Golfito Bay in Costa Rica, where the term Paradise is an understatement.
Disembarking in the Costa Rican port of Puntarenas, we get the last impression of this beautiful country on our way to San José, the airport and homebound flight.
Arrival and embarkation in Valparaíso
Our journey begins in Valparaiso, Chile, where MV Ocean Victory is located by the dock. Boarding is in the afternoon, where the ship is ready to become our home for the next many days. After the mandatory security review and drill, we sail out from the colorful and artistic city known as Valpo, heading north towards Coquimbo.
Cultural city of Coquimbo – with Eiffel’s Church and bustling sea market
Coquimbo is located in a valley, about 10 kilometers south of the town La Serena, and the two cities combine to create the area Grande La Serena with around 400.000 inhabitants. According to legends Sir Francis Drake has hidden a treasure outside Coquimbo (still unfound!. It is also said that the famous architect Gustave Eiffel left a more visible treasure in the local church, the iron and zink based Iglesia Guyacan. The coast is riddled with stories of Drake and Eiffel and we will “meet” them again as we call upon Arica.
Our expedition team leads a short walk around the charming little town of Coquimbo, known for a mix of modern and colonial architecture. The walk normally includes a visit at either Plaza de Armas or Plaza Prat and the promenade at Avenida Costanera.
We also set up a shuttle bus service that runs during our visit. The shuttle goes to the neighbouring town of La Serena where the town centre is worth a visit. It is known as Chile’s second oldest town, founded in 1544. The town has 3 different architectural periods in clear view, with traditional Spanish styles mixing in with the neo-classical era and most clearly the new colonial period. The local market (La Recova) is a good place to find local handicrafts and jewelry with lapis lazuli.
ALONG THE HUMBOLDT CURRENT CRUISING BY THE ISLANDS OF GAVIOTA, CHOROS AND DAMAS
We cruise slowly as we pass the islands known for their penguin nature reserve. If the weather allows it, we will embark our Zodiacs and pass by closer to the islands. We are not allowed to make any landings, but hopefully we can see some of the wildlife that the area is known for. We observe the animals from a safe distance and make sure not to bother them.
After our visit we continue our journey along the Chilean coast.
AT SEA, ENJOYING THE FIVE-STAR COMFORTS OF OCEAN VICTORY
Listen to a lecture from our experienced expedition staff, enjoy a good lunch and go out on deck to catch glimpses of migrating birds and hopefully some whales. Even though the whale season is normally considered to run December-March they are also often seen in April. The whales along the Humboldt Current is mostly blue whales, fin whales and humpbacks, all feeding on the krill-filled waters we are moving through.
IQUIQUE, CHILE. THE ATACAMA DESERT LANDSCAPES AND THE GHOST TOWNS OF SANTA LAURA AND HUMBERSTONE
Iquique, which loosely translates to “quiet place to relax” in the native tongue of Aymará, is a modern city, where travelers in the northern Chile often stop by. Apart from its beautiful location, it is known for wonderful beaches and the old central Plaza Arturo which marks the city centre. At the centre you can find the clocktower Torre de Reloj and the old Teatro Municipal. Iquique also has an important share of Chiles trade, as it has one of South Americas largest duty-free commercial zones (the Zona Franca Iquique also known as Zofri ). The local fishing port also adds to the tally by being the world’s largest export harbor for fishmeal (used mostly for animal feed).
Our coaches are waiting for us at the pier, driving us through the indescribable beauty of the Atacama desert. Initially we enjoy the panoramic view of Iquique, its beaches and the ridged Cerro Dragon (dragon hill). Our destination is the nitrate ghost town of Santa Laura, that operated from 1872 to 1960. The processing plant and smokestacks are still visible along with the administration building and the warehouse. Along with the town we are visiting next, Humberstone, these two form a National monument that also since 2005 is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Only a short drive away we find Humberstone that was founded in 1862. The town is well worth a visit, if nothing else for its theater built of Oregon pine.
ARICA CITY TOUR WITH EIFFELS CATHEDRAL AND THE WORLDS OLDEST MUMMIES IN SAN MIGUEL DE AZAPA
Chiles most northern city, is only 12 kilometers from Peru’s border in the area Norte Grande. The milder climate and easier access to water has always made Arica into an important area, witnessed by the first settlements that are as old as 6.000 bc.. The local tribes grew corn (maize), zucchini and cotton, made ceramic pottery and was later a part of the Tihuanaco culture in Bolivia and subsequently the Inca empire. The Arica of today is a lively place, with golden sandy beaches, duty-free shopping and a vibrant nightlife. Culturally many use Arica as a base to explore the ruins found inland.
Within the town you can find Sir Francis Drakes grave and the cathedral de San Marcos, that was designed and constructed in steel and zink by Gustav Eiffel.
As we climb aboard the awaiting busses, we drive towards the Azapa valley. On our way, we can hopefully catch a glimpse of several of the geoglyphs that adorn the sides of the hills. The geoglyphs were created centuries ago. We stop at the San Miguel de Azapa Archaeological Museum, where are to see one the most amazing things on this planet, the Chinchorro mummies. They are the oldest on earth, dating 6.000-8.000 BC. They are classified as the oldest examples of artificial mummified human remains, considerably older than their eqyptian counterparts.
After our visit we return to Arica where we take a city tour, visiting some of the highlights.
AT SEA, CROSSING FROM CHILEAN WATERS TO PERUVIAN WATERS
Another day to enjoy some of the services onboard as we cruise along the last part of the journey following the cold Humboldt Current, soon we will break free of it as our course takes us even more north along the coast of Peru towards the Equatorial counter.
Our expedition staff onboard schedule lectures and activities.
OUR FIRST PERUVIAN CALL IN PARACAS, SANDY BEACHES AND OPTIONAL EXCURSIONS TO THE FAMOUS BALLESTAS ISLANDS OR BY FLIGHT TO THE NAZCA LINES
Our first port of call in Peru is Paracas, known as the entrance to Pisco. The small village has ample beaches, hotels and shorefront restaurants. Apart from the lovely sandy beaches, the area is famous for the islands of Ballestas located not far from the coast. The islands are jokingly known as “the poor mans Galapagos islands” for their likeness in both geology and wildlife. The Nazca lines made famous from countless magazine covers is also very close by, giving us an opportunity to offer flight excursions.
Optional excursion: Ballestas Islands
Morning tour visiting Ballestas Islands. The excursion offers excellent chances of seeing wildlife such as: sea lions, cormorants, boobies, pelicans, penguins and more than 200 species of birds (both migratory and native species). The area also has dolphins which will show up if we are in luck. The islands are very important breeding grounds for hundreds of thousands of birds, that are all feeding off the huge quantities of anchovies that live along the Peruvian coast.
The trip takes around 2 hours
Duration total approx.: 3 hours
Optional excursion: Nazca Lines
Transfer (30 minutes) to the airport of Pisco for the famous Nasca Lines flight.
The Nazca lines are a group of very large figures formed by depressions or shallow incisions made in the soil of the Nazca desert in southern Peru. They were created between 500 BC and 500 AD. They cary in size up to 1 km and are thus best appreciated from the air.
The significance of the figures is still not completely understood, but most theories point towards them being of religious content.
The trip takes around 1½-2 hours in small Cessna-planes, from which you can observe the most famous figures (The Astronaut, the Monkey, The Condor, The Hummingbird etc.)
Duration approx.: 4 hours
THE PORT TOWN OF CALLAO AND THE CAPITAL CITY OF LIMA
We arrive today to the seaside city of Callao, with its historic port. Not only was it the historical main port for all trade coming in from Peru, Bolivia and Argentina, before being shipped to Panama and then Spain, it is also the famed starting point for the Kon-tiki expedition. The city is only 15 kilometers from Peru’s capital Lima, to which an optional excursion can take you.
Callao is still Peru’s greatest and most important port (and also home to a naval base). The city also boasts of the fort Real Felipe, the Callao cathedral and some wonderful plaza’s, so it’s worth taking an afternoon stroll through the city before we set sail north.
Optional excursion: Lima city tour
We have around 1 hour bus drive to the city centre and on the way, we will get an idea of this enormous city with more than 10 million inhabitants. Lima is also the second largest desert city in the world, only surpassed by Cairo. As we arrive the Colonial center, we leave the bus and continue by foot and visit the Main Square (Plaza de Armas), where Lima was founded by Conquistador Francisco Pizarro. We also have a chance to enjoy the colonial architecture. Some of the older buildings have disappeared, but fortunately, in recent years, there is a renewed focus on the colonial centre where many buildings have been renovated.
We then walk the short distance to the San Francisco church and monastery, where we will visit the bizarre catacombs where Catholics were buried until the end of the Spanish era.
We return to the ship for lunch.
Duration approx.: 4-5 hours
TRUJILLO AND THE LARGEST PRE-COLOMBIAN CITY IN THE AMERICAS: CHAN CHAN.
We are set to arrive in the port city of Salaverry after lunch and from here we will embark on an adventure in both the past and the present.
We begin with the past, as we visit the Chimu cultures old capital Chan Chan, renowned for being the largest city in both North- and South America in the pre-colombian era. It is still the largest city built with clay (using the mudbricks or Adobe). The city covers 28 square kilometers and was built around 1300 AD. It is believed that around 60.000 people inhabited the area. The people had amassed great reserves of gold, silver and other valuables, which the Inca’s had never been interested in. Once the Spaniards came along, they plundered the treasures of Chan Chan.
The city consists of nine different parts, each built by a ruler and we will visit a few of these “king cities”. We will enjoy the ceremonial yards, wall decorations and the cistern that provided water to the inner city.
Our next visit will be in the more modern Trujillo, who albeit being founded all the way back in 1535 by the infamous conquistador Pizzaro. The colonial heart of the city is well preserved with lively colours and wrought iron balconies. Tourism has yet to make a big impact on this part of Peru, allowing us to get a more genuine sense of life. There is a buzz in the city that gives us a good impression of modern Peru. Trujillo is the third largest city in the country, with around 925.000 inhabitants.
AT SEA, ALONG THE COAST OF ECUADOR
During the night we have made our way north and will enter the Ecuadorian waters during the day and continue along the coast towards our next destination.
Today there is time to relax, read a book, listen to some of the scheduled lectures and enjoy the company of our co-passengers. As always the ship’s chefs will conjure great meals for us and do their utmost to spoil our taste buds.
The temperature gets hotter as we encroach on the tropical climates of Ecuador, Panama and Costa Rica.
THE LOVELY COASTAL CITY OF MANTA, ECUADOR – OPTIONAL EXCURSION TO ISLA DE LA PLATA
Although Manta, Ecuador is not a typical tourist destination, this city has a lot to offer when it comes to seascapes, history, and culture. Manta is the second largest port city in Ecuador and its economy largely relies on the fishing and tourism industry.
Today we offer an exciting excursion by boat to the nearby island Isla de la Plata. We will transfer by coach to the small port town of Puerto Lopez where we board a smaller boat that can land at the islands.
Optional excursion: Isla de la Plata
Tour visiting Isla de la Plata. The excursion offers excellent chances of seeing the teeming wildlife which is reminiscent of Galapagos such as: frigate birds, albatrosses, boobies, pelicans, manta rays, sea lions, dolphins, green turtles and more than 30 species of birds (both migratory and native species). Including box lunch.
The trip takes around 1,5 hours each way
Duration total approx.: 8 hours
EXTRA TIME IN MANTA WITH PANAMA HATS AND JUNGLE WILDLIFE
Today we have more time in lovely Manta, but also more time to get to know the area and crafts.
We set off directly from the dock in Manta and go to Montecristi, a place known for the quality of handicrafts made with wicker, wood, and ancestral fibers like piquigua and toquilla palm. It is with the latter that the famous Panama Hats are made, and Montecristi is recognized worldwide for its very high quality. These hats are hand-woven by following a process that can take from 4 to 6 months, depending on the fineness and complexity of the materials and weave. A visit that will change our views of the famous hat for sure!
Following our visit in Montecristi, we will head to Pacoche, a private reserve of 10 hectares that is part of the Pacoche Wildlife Refuge, just 20 minutes away from the city of Manta. It is a unique and special place surrounded by the jungle, home to many endemic bird species and mammals such as the howler monkeys.
The reserve has two trails that will allow you to get into the jungle and feel part of the nature of the place. Pacoche is famous for the presence of families of howler monkeys that wander freely through the forest. Additionally, there are capuchin monkeys and over 250 species of birds, of which 50 are endemic to the place.
AT SEA, CROSSING GULF OF PANAMA
This day allows us to relax and let some of our recent explorations sink in. Our onboard team will offer lectures and activities. The route takes us over the Gulf of Panama during the end of the dry season that runs from January to April. From May the area experiences downfall and undergoes its wet season until December. We continue towards Coiba Island off the Pacific coast of Panama.
THE NATURAL WONDER OF COIBA NATIONAL PARK AND GRANITO DE ORO – ZODIAC LANDING AT WHITE BEACHES AND DENSE JUNGLE
It’s time for a tropical visit in Panama, as we lay anchor near Coiba island. We sail to land by Zodiacs and visit the Coiba National Park. The Park was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2005, because of the multitude of endemic mammals, plants and birds found here. The Park area encompasses 38 islands of the coast of Panama.
We go for a walk along the beach and enjoy the natural beauty of the area.
GOLFITO BAY AND VISIT OF RESEARCH STATION AND RAINFOREST
Golfito of today is a sleepy fishing village, whereas in the 1960’s a booming banana export told a very different story. In 1985 the banana adventure on the west coast grinded to a halt, as declining foreign markets, rising export taxes and banana disease forced the closing of the local United Fruit Company. Costa Rica still exports a lot of the yellow skinned fruits, but now mostly from the east coast.
Now Golfito Bay is known for its beaches and sport fishing, giving the village some tourism income. The opening of a duty-free shopping center has also generated some domestic visitors.
Morning tour visiting Tropenstation La Gamba before going on a tour of the Piedras Blancas National Park.
As we arrive in Golfito, we are picked up and go directly towards the La Gamba research and teaching field station. The field station plays a significant role in research into tropical rainforests and rainforest conservation awareness. Many students from all over the world come to spend some time here to do field research. We have the chance to hear about the research stations work as well as having a short tour of the premises. After the visit we are ready for our own stint into the local nature.
The National park has a great diversity of plants, animals and species of insects. It is considered one of the best places in Costa Rica for bird watching, since it is one of the main meeting point for birds from North and South America. The National park is also home to some endemic species of both flora and fauna.
Duration total approx.: 5 hours
ARRIVAL IN PUNTARENAS, COSTA RICA - DISEMBARKATION
The captain has led the ship northwards along the Humboldt Current and the Latin American coasts of Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Panama and Costa Rica. Today we’ll arrive in Puntarenas, one of the larger cruise ports on Costa Rica’s western coast. Today we’ll say farewell to the ship and its crew before most depart for the airport in the nearby capital San Jose and begin their return journey (transfer not incl.).
17-days´ cruise with accommodation in a shared outside double stateroom with private facilities – 90% with balcony
All Zodiac landings and excursions as per itinerary
Guiding and lectures by our expedition leader and team
Near-shore guided walks in towns and settlements
English-speaking expedition team
Full board on the ship - breakfast, lunch, dinner and afternoon tea
Free tea and coffee 24 hours’ daily
Taxes and portfees
Guiding and lectures by our experienced expedition leader and team
Special photo workshop
Welcome and farewell cocktails
Digital visual journal link after voyage, including voyage log, gallery, species list and more!