Cape Horn is located on Hornos Island in the Tierra del Fuego, where the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans meet. In the nineteenth century, clipper ships sailed around Cape Horn on their voyages between Europe and Asia. Frequent storms in the region caused many ships to crash, leaving thousands to perish. Today, while most cargo and cruise ships use the Panama Canal to cross between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, expedition cruise lines, like Hurtigruten, sail by this outcrop on route to or from Antarctica. If you're lucky enough to be on board, a short layover at the Chilean naval station (wind and weather permitting) can offer a glimpse of the region's maritime past. Go ashore to see the lighthouse, the chapel, and the Cape Horn Memorial. You can also sign a guest book and get your passport stamped, making a great souvenir of your visit.
When visiting Cape Horn by boat, you access the island by your cruise ship's rigid inflatable boats (RIBs). Once there, climb across a rocky beach and up several flights of slippery steps to reach the top of the cliff. The scramble across the beach and the hike up the stairs isn't easy and is not recommended for older people or those with disabilities. Still—the view of the sea and surrounding island makes the trek worth the effort. Let your ship's tour guide direct you and keep small children in check.
Explore Hornos Island
Visitors are asked to stay on the wooden walkways that crisscross Hornos Island and lead to all the sites on the treeless headland. These walkways protect the fragile peat-bog ecosystem and keep visitors from tracking mud into the sites and then back to their cruise ships. Since the region gets a lot of rain, the walkways can be slippery, so it's best to wear sturdy, waterproof boots or shoes with rubber tread. Allow about two or three hours to walk around Hornos Island on the walkways and get your passport stamped.
Cape Horn has two lighthouses: one at the Chilean Naval Station, which is the largest and most accessible to visitors. And the second, smaller one—coming in at 13-feet-high—is located about a mile away from the naval lighthouse on the actual "horn." The smaller of the two lighthouses is not readily accessible, but cruise ships (or their RIBs) can pass by so that guests can get a peak.
The tiny Chapel of Stella-Maris is situated next to the main lighthouse at the Chilean Naval Station. The one-room chapel is only about a dozen feet long, but its doors are often open, welcoming visitors. Step inside to pay respects to the sailors who lost their way or imagine the scene of past mariners who stopped in for a moment of prayer, thankfulness, or silence.
Take the Walkway to the Cape Horn Memorial
A 1,000-foot wooden walkway leads straight to the Cape Horn Memorial, which was added to Hornos Island in 1992. The Chilean section of the Cape Horn Captains Brotherhood sponsored the erection of this memorial that honors thousands of mariners who lost their lives in the waters around the Cape. Take a jaunt to the marble plaque to read its blessing. On a particularly mild day, go slowly, as the scenery is definitely worth taking in.
The Cape Horn Monument features an albatross in flight. Albatross are commonly seen in the southern ocean and are a symbol of the Cape Horn Captains Brotherhood. The memorial, designed by a Chilean artist, is constructed of 22-feet-high steel plates and made to withstand winds of 200 miles per hour. To build it, members of the Chilean Marine Corps used an amphibious exercise to transport over 120 tons of materials from two barges to shore.
See the "Actual" Cape Horn
A visit to Hornos Island wouldn't be complete without seeing the "actual" horn, the point where the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans meet. This narrow spit of land is surrounded by shallow and rocky waters and is not readily accessible by foot or boat. Still, your captain may point it out as you round the bend or, if you're lucky and the weather is nice, the conductor of your RIB can try to get close.
If your cruise ship visits Cape Horn, take your passport ashore and get it stamped. The family that operates the Chilean lighthouse will be happy to perform this service for you (just make sure to be respectful during your visit). The passport stamp makes a great souvenir and one that baffles immigration officials around the world, as it is an unusual sight.