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South America

The tropical coasts of South America are full of discoveries. Join us to explore natural and cultural treasures along the South American coast.

See all expedition cruises

South America

The tropical coasts of South America are full of discoveries. Join us to explore natural and cultural treasures along the South American coast.

See all expedition cruises

Cruising South America with Hurtigruten

South America is rich in archeological treasures from great civilizations, colonial influences, the majestic Andean mountains, and the fjords and glaciers of Patagonia. 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 every area we visit. Each expedition cruise mixes nature and culture. We learn through active exploration by offering hikes and other activities so you can fully immerse yourself in South America’s Pacific coastline.

We offer a range of itineraries, so you can choose between different iconic highlights. Consider the ‘Lost City’ of Machu Picchu, the unique wildlife of the Galápagos Islands, the cultures of Lake Titicaca, or the 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 South America

Few places on Earth are as richly diverse as South America. Visit the archeological treasures of great ancient civilizations, particularly the Inca. Discover incredible biodiversity in 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 allow you to choose between these iconic highlights. Consider the ‘Lost City’ of Machu Picchu, the unique wildlife of the Galápagos Islands, the cultures of Lake Titicaca, or the marvel of modern engineering, the Panama Canal.

Reasons to Cruise South America

Few places on Earth are as richly diverse as South America. Visit the archeological treasures of great ancient civilizations, particularly the Inca. Discover incredible biodiversity in 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 allow you to choose between these iconic highlights. Consider the ‘Lost City’ of Machu Picchu, the unique wildlife of the Galápagos Islands, the cultures of Lake Titicaca, or the 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 such as Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica, or rich archipelagos such as 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. Many of its countless plant and animal species are 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 much more.

A cultural kaleidoscope

South America is a fascinating cultural melting pot. See authentic Panama hats still being handwoven in Ecuador. Visit the Afro-Colombian community at Bahía Solano, meet the indigenous Emberá people in the jungle of Darién National Park, or step aboard the floating reed islands of the Uru people in Lake Titicaca.

Lost Empires

Long before colonial powers arrived, great Pre-Columbian indigenous civilizations ruled the region, including the Moche, Chimú, Quechua, and the most famous of all: the Inca. Discover the ancient ruins of city complexes, imposing fortresses, and pyramid temples used to worship the sun. The area around Pisco, near Nazca, is known for its mysterious geoglyphs. Meanwhile, few sites are as iconic or as impressive as Machu Picchu, found high above the Sacred Valley.

Age of Discovery

Spanish conquistadors arrived to the continent in the late 1400s and 1500s, bringing colonial influences that inspired the architecture that continues to charm visitors. See the best examples of the Neo-Colonial style in UNESCO-listed Valparaíso, in La Serena (Chile’s ‘City of Churches’), and the World Heritage historic center of Lima.

Culinary Delights

Lima is front and center in South America’s culinary renaissance, serving up a feast of street food and fine dining. For fresh fish lovers, 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 local brandy.

Cruises

Exceptional Wildlife

Between Costa Rica and Chile, you’ll encounter desert and coastal plains, mangroves, and rainforests. These are home to monkeys, guanacos, sloths, armadillos, coatis, and iguanas.

Birdlife is also in abundance, especially on the remote islands, which become 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 bird species.

Exceptional Wildlife

Between Costa Rica and Chile, you’ll encounter desert and coastal plains, mangroves, and rainforests. These are home to monkeys, guanacos, sloths, armadillos, coatis, and iguanas.

Birdlife is also in abundance, especially on the remote islands, which become 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 bird species.

Llamas

South America’s iconic llamas, alpacas, vicuñas, and guanacos are all part of the camel family (and classified as variants of a llama). Vicuñas and guanacos are generally wild, while llamas and alpacas are bred in herds. Alpacas have fine, shaggy hair, which makes for superior-quality wool, while the llama’s large and sturdy frames are perfect for hauling 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 weigh up to 485 pounds, 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 up to 6.5 feet in length. Two species are endemic to the Galápagos Islands: the marine iguana and the endangered pink land iguana, of which fewer than 200 remain.

Birds

With over 3,000 bird species, South America is one of the world’s best destinations for avid birdwatchers. With its oversized yellow bill, the Toco is the largest of all toucans and one of the most recognizable tropical birds of South America. Their colorful beaks, measuring nearly half their length, play a vital role in eating fruit, courtship rituals, self-defense, 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 a fish. You can tell how healthy they are by their webbed feet, which range from pale turquoise to dark blue. During courtship, bright-footed male boobies parade in a high-stepping strut to woo the females. 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 10 feet, 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 up to 125 miles in search of food. Black with bald heads, Andean condors have a distinctive collar of white neck feathers. Their head and neck feathers change color, depending on their mood.

Sloths

While hiking through the tropical rainforests in Costa Rica, keep your eyes on the trees to see sloths loafing overhead. They’re not hard to keep track of once you spot them, as sloths only move at a rate of about 120 feet 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 more than three miles away. These large monkeys can live up to 15–20 years.

Humpback Whales

Humpback whales are one of the most easily recognized large whales, and flock to the warm waters off the coast of South America. With their round heads covered in bumps (tubercles), they can reach up to 46 feet long and live up to 50 years.

Penguins

Patagonia is home to five species of penguin: Magellanic, Humboldt, Gentoo, Southern Rockhopper, and King. Spot these inquisitive little creatures on rocky hillside nests or in giant colonies during small boat (RIB) landings, depending on the season.

Activities in South America

Explore South America’s Pacific coast with us and experience natural and man-made wonders, from lush rainforest to the relics of great civilizations. 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 Kawésqar villagers in Chile.

Activities in South America

Explore South America’s Pacific coast with us and experience natural and man-made wonders, from lush rainforest to the relics of great civilizations. 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 Kawésqar villagers in Chile.

Kayaking*

Admire aquatic scenery at the Costa Rican mangroves of Golfito Bay, or on a guided tour of Lake Titicaca, where you can watch for its 14 native fish species and 18 types of amphibians.

* Please note that these are optional activities subject to additional cost.

Hiking*

Hiking* 

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

* Please note that these are optional activities subject to additional cost.

Landings

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

Small-boat (RIB) cruising

We use our small boats (RIBs) for landings when the ship is unable to dock, and also for taking scenic tours. These small boats (RIBs) are crucial for landing on the legendary Cape Horn or for more closely exploring Chilean fjords and glaciers.

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 Bolívar.

* Please note that these are optional activities subject to additional cost.

Birdwatching

The region is home to over 2,500 native bird species, including brightly colored 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 in Peru.

Meet the Locals

Visit Afro-Colombians in Bahía Solano, ride the teleférico (cable car) up the mountain in the bustling Ecuadorian city of Quito, or see original Panama hats handwoven in the handicraft town of Montecristi. Head to the jungle in Darién National Park to visit an indigenous Emberá settlement, or meet the Uru people on Lake Titicaca, atop their floating islands made from reeds.

Lectures

The Expedition Team conducts daily lectures and workshops on a number of relevant topics. Learn about indigenous Pre-Columbian civilizations, the history of the conquistadors, and South America’s diverse ecosystems and wildlife.

Science Center

During your expedition, enjoy access to the extensive library and scientific equipment in the ship’s Science Center.  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, connect with nature and get your energy flowing with our onboard yoga and meditation classes, run by a professional yoga instructor. Weather permitting, these sessions will take place on deck.