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Expeditions

South America

Explore the Pacific coastline of South America, and get up close and personal with exotic wildlife and ancient civilisations

See all expedition cruises

South America

Explore the Pacific coastline of South America, and get up close and personal with exotic wildlife and ancient civilisations

See all expedition cruises

Cruising to South America with Hurtigruten

South America is a realm rich in the archaeological treasures of great civilisations, colonial influences, the majestic Andean mountains, and the fjords and glaciers of Patagonia. You’ll encounter awe-inspiring biodiversity in the region’s many national parks and nature reserves.

Our expedition cruises take you to Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama and Peru. Our knowledgeable Expedition Team will help you discover the history and wildlife of each area. Each expedition cruise mixes nature with culture, learning with active exploration, and offers hikes and other activities to really explore South America’s Pacific coastline.

We’ve also made sure several itineraries allow you to pick from one of these iconic highlights – the ‘Lost City’ of Machu Picchu, the unique wildlife of the Galápagos Islands, the cultures of Lake Titicaca, or that marvel of modern engineering, the Panama Canal.

South America Travel Guide
  • Historic signs in Cape Horn Chile
  • A snow covered mountain
  • An island in the middle of a body of water
  • Tortoise in the Galapagos Islands
  • Colourful beach in Puerto Madryn Argentina

Photo: Andrea Klaussner and Karsten Bidstrup

Reasons to Cruise to South America

Few places on Earth provide the rich diversity of South America. Visit the archaeological treasures of great ancient civilisations — most notably the Inca. Discover incredible biodiversity in the rainforests, mangroves and coastal plains. Relax on idyllic beaches and experience the fascinating melting pot of cultures that influence its vibrant towns and cities.

Choose from a wide range of itineraries that take you to destinations in Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama and Peru. Several expedition cruises also allow you to choose one of these iconic highlights – the ‘Lost City’ of Machu Picchu, the unique wildlife of the Galápagos Islands, the cultures of Lake Titicaca, or that marvel of modern engineering, the Panama Canal.

Reasons to Cruise to South America

Few places on Earth provide the rich diversity of South America. Visit the archaeological treasures of great ancient civilisations — most notably the Inca. Discover incredible biodiversity in the rainforests, mangroves and coastal plains. Relax on idyllic beaches and experience the fascinating melting pot of cultures that influence its vibrant towns and cities.

Choose from a wide range of itineraries that take you to destinations in Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama and Peru. Several expedition cruises also allow you to choose one of these iconic highlights – the ‘Lost City’ of Machu Picchu, the unique wildlife of the Galápagos Islands, the cultures of Lake Titicaca, or that marvel of modern engineering, the Panama Canal.

Stunning Andean Scenery

Depending on your itinerary, you’ll explore the Pacific coastal plains, mangroves and tropical forests of the northern Latin American countries or head down to the glacial landscapes of Torres del Paine National Park and the Chilean fjords of Patagonia. Visit nature reserves like Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica, or rich archipelagos like the Ballestas Islands in Peru, Isla de la Plata in Ecuador, and the famed Galápagos Islands.

Vast Biodiversity

South America is the world’s most biodiverse region with an unparalleled number of plant and animal species, many native to South America. The Galápagos Islands alone are a treasure trove of rare and endemic wildlife. Spot the Andean condor, blue-footed boobies, green turtles, iguanas, giant tortoises, guanacos, squirrel monkeys, sloths, and many more.

A cultural kaleidoscope

South America enjoys a fascinating melting pot of cultures. See authentic Panama hats still being handwoven in Ecuador. Visit the Afro-Colombian community at Bahía Solano, meet indigenous Embera in the jungle of Darien National Park, or go aboard the floating reed islands of the unique Uru people in Lake Titicaca.

Lost Empires

Long before Latin colonial powers, great Pre-Columbian indigenous civilisations — the Moche, Chimu, Quechua, and the most famous of all, the Incas — ruled the region. There are ancient ruins of city complexes, sun-worshipping pyramid temples, and imposing fortresses to discover. The area around Pisco near Nazca is well known for its mysterious geoglyphs while few sites are as iconic or as impressive as Machu Picchu high above the Sacred Valley.

Age of Discovery

Spanish conquistadors arrived on the continent in the late 1400s and 1500s, bringing colonial influences, which inspired the architecture that continues to charm so many today. You’ll see some of the best examples of the neo-colonial style in UNESCO-listed Valparaíso, La Serena, the ‘City of Churches’ in Chile, and the World Heritage historic centre in Lima, Peru.

Culinary Delights

Lima sits at the gastronomic heart of South America’s culinary renaissance, serving up a feast of street food and fine dining. For lovers of fresh fish, ceviche and tiradito are a must. Enjoy Chinese-Peruvian style cooking, Chifa, and try picarones, an African-fusion dessert made from pumpkin dough and sugar cane. Then finish with a Pisco sour, made from the local brandy.

Cruises

Exceptional Wildlife

As you travel between Costa Rica and Chile, you’ll come across desert and coastal plains, mangroves and rainforest. These are often inhabited by monkeys, guanacos, sloths, armadillos, coatis, and iguanas.

Birdlife is also in abundance, especially on the remote islands, which act as teeming nesting sites. From the tiny hummingbird to the mighty Andean Condor, the sea cliffs and rainforest canopies of South America are home to more than 3,000 species of birds.

Exceptional Wildlife

As you travel between Costa Rica and Chile, you’ll come across desert and coastal plains, mangroves and rainforest. These are often inhabited by monkeys, guanacos, sloths, armadillos, coatis, and iguanas.

Birdlife is also in abundance, especially on the remote islands, which act as teeming nesting sites. From the tiny hummingbird to the mighty Andean Condor, the sea cliffs and rainforest canopies of South America are home to more than 3,000 species of birds.

Llamas

South America’s iconic llamas, alpacas, vicuña, and guanacos are all part of the camel family and also classed as variants of a llama. The latter two are generally wild while llamas and alpacas are bred in herds. Alpacas have fine, shaggy hair which transforms into superior quality wool, while the llama's larger size gives it a sturdy frame to carry goods.

Galápagos Tortoise

These iconic tortoises settled on the Galápagos Islands 2-3 million years ago. They have two main shell types: a domed carapace and a saddle-backed carapace. An estimated 20,000-25,000 giant tortoises inhabit the islands today. These herbivorous reptiles can weigh up to 220kg, live for over 150 years and spend an average of 16 hours a day resting.

Iguanas

These calm and docile reptiles are native to South America and are a common sight in the rainforests, desert and along the coast. Green (or tree) iguanas are herbivores and can reach two metres in length. Two species are endemic to the Galápagos Islands; the marine iguana and the endangered pink land iguana, of which fewer than 200 are left.

Birds

With over 3,000 bird species, South America is one of the world’s best destinations for avid bird watchers. With its oversized yellow bill, the Toco, largest of all toucans, is one of the most recognisable tropical birds of South America. Their colourful beaks, measuring nearly half their length, play a vital role in eating fruit, courtship rituals, self-defence, and balance.

Blue-footed Boobie

Half of all breeding pairs of blue-footed boobies live on the Galápagos Islands. These birds are exceptional divers, able to swoop from 80 feet to catch fish. Their webbed feet range from pale turquoise to dark blue and indicate how healthy they are. During courtship, male boobies parade their bright feet to the female in a high-stepping strut. However, their name comes from the Spanish word ‘bobo’ meaning ‘stupid’, due to their clumsy waddle when on land.

The Andean Condor

The Andean condor, with a wingspan reaching up to three metres, is one of the largest birds in the world. These scavengers live in the Andes Mountains and feed on the carrion of deer, cattle and even seals, and can travel 200 km in search of food. Black with bald heads, Andean condors have a distinctive collar of white neck feathers. Their head and neck feathers change colour depending on their mood.

Sloths

While hiking through tropical rainforests in Costa Rica, make sure to look up in the trees to see sloths lolling overhead. Once spotted, they won't be hard to keep track of as sloths move at a rate of about 37 metres per day, munching on leaves, twigs and bugs. With their exceptionally low metabolism, sloths sleep 15-20 hours a day.

Howler Monkey

Native to South and Central America's rainforests, the howler monkey is renowned for its cry, which can be heard from up to five kilometres away. These large monkeys can live up to 15-20 years.

Humpback Whales

Attracted to the warm waters off the coast of South America, Humpback whales are one of the most easily recognised of the large whales. With their round heads covered in bumps (tubercles), they can reach up to 14 metres long and live up to 50 years.

Penguins

Five species of penguins call Patagonia home - Magellanic, Humboldt, Gentoo, Southern Rockhopper and King. These inquisitive little creatures can be spotted on rocky hillside nests or boat landings at giant colonies, depending on the season.

South America Activities

While exploring South America’s Pacific coast with us, you’ll experience natural and man-made wonders, from lush rainforest to the relics of great civilisations. Choose from an extensive list of included activities and optional excursions designed for all interests and activity levels, whether that’s hiking through rainforests, kayaking on Lake Titicaca, or meeting Kawéskar villagers in Chile.

South America Activities

While exploring South America’s Pacific coast with us, you’ll experience natural and man-made wonders, from lush rainforest to the relics of great civilisations. Choose from an extensive list of included activities and optional excursions designed for all interests and activity levels, whether that’s hiking through rainforests, kayaking on Lake Titicaca, or meeting Kawéskar villagers in Chile.

Kayaking

Admire the scenery from the water among the mangroves of Golfito Bay in Costa Rica, or on a guided tour of Lake Titicaca, where you may spot some of the 14 native fish species and 18 types of amphibian that live there.

* Please note that these are optional activities, an additional cost applies.

Hiking

Hiking* 

Escorted by experienced local guides or Expedition Team members, you can get close to nature on scenic hiking trails through Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica or among spectacular fjords in Puerto Williams.

* Please note that these are optional activities, an additional cost applies.

Landings

Go ashore to discover charming cities like Lima, Peru, resort towns like Iquique, and remote villages like Puerto Edén. Landings bring you to look for wildlife, such as on Isla de la Plata, or the days spent in the Galápagos archipelago where you’ll land on several different islands.

Small-Boat Cruising

Our expedition boats are used for landings where the ship is unable to dock, and also for taking a scenic tour of the area. These small tender boats are crucial in attempting a landing on the legendary Cape Horn or for exploring the Chilean fjords and glaciers more closely.

Shore Excursions

Among the many optional excursions on offer, you can tour the ancient temples of Chan Chan, admire Mochican ceremonial pyramids, explore Torres del Paine National Park from Puerto Natales, or visit a banana plantation or petrified forest in Puerto Bolivar.

* Please note that these are optional activities, an additional cost applies.

Birdwatching

The region is home to over 2,500 native bird species that include brightly coloured tropical birds, birds of prey, and seabirds. Look for Darwin’s finches on Santa Cruz Island in the Galápagos, the El Oro parakeet in Buenaventura nature reserve in Ecuador, or Humboldt penguins on Ballestas Island, Peru.

Meet the Locals

Visit Afro Colombians in Bahía Solano, ascend the Teleférico in the bustling Ecuadorian city of Quito, or see original Panama hats handwoven in the handicraft town of Montecristi. Head into Darien National Park to an indigenous Embera settlement in the jungle or meet the Uru people atop their floating islands made from reeds on Lake Titicaca.

Lectures

The Expedition Teams conduct daily lectures and workshops on many relevant topics. Learn about indigenous Pre-Columbian civilisations, the history of the conquistadors and South America’s diverse ecosystems and wildlife.

Science Center

During your expedition, you’ll have access to the ship’s Science Center, with its extensive library and scientific equipment.  Our Citizen Science projects let you explore the natural world  while also contributing data to international research studies.

Yoga and Meditation

On selected expedition cruises in South America, you’ll be able to connect with nature and get your energy flowing with our onboard yoga and meditation classes, run by a professional instructor. When the weather allows, this will take place out on deck.

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