The 10 Best Things to Do on Cape Horn, Chile

A Visit to the End of the World

Small bay by Cape Horn, Chile

 Danita Delimont / Getty Images

Cape Horn is located on Hornos Island in Chile's Tierra del Fuego region, and is the point where the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans meet. In the 19th century, clipper ships sailed around this part of the world on voyages between Europe and Asia, though frequent storms in the region have left a scattered trail of more than 800 sunken ships and thousands to perish in their wake.

Today, while most cargo and cruise ships use the Panama Canal to cross between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, expedition cruise lines sail by this northern section of the infamous Drake Passage on routes 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, chapel, and the Cape Horn Memorial. You can also sign a guest book and get your passport stamped for a memorable souvenir of your visit.

01 of 10

"Round" Cape Horn on a Cruise Through the Drake Passage

An Antarctica bound Marco Polo cruise ship approaches Cape Hope in South America

Joseph Sohm; Visions of America / Getty Images

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The journey to the end of the earth is no small feat, as the seas surrounding Cape Horn are dangerous and the weather adverse. If you prefer to simply pass by Cape Horn during a larger sailing, several cruise lines like Holland America and Celebrity Cruises, among others, offer the chance to round Cape Horn on the journey from Santiago to Montevideo or Buenos Aires.

For a closer look at Cape Horn, try booking an adventure cruise, which gives you a different experience than that of a traditional cruise by offering themed packages centered around the outdoors and nature. Companies like Swoop Patagonia and Victory Adventure Expeditions offer adventure cruises that sail between Ushuaia and Punta Arenas, with a stop at Cape Horn. Count on wildlife and glacier viewings, as well as plenty of activities that take you off the beaten path.

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Take a Scenic Flight Over Cape Horn

A rainbow over Cape Horn in Chilean Patagonia

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Cape Horn, Chile

If the idea of sailing through part of the dreaded Drake Passage makes you sweat, consider booking a tour from Punta Arenas that includes a scenic flight over Cape Horn through a company like Far South Expeditions. Alternatively, you could charter a flight from Punta Arenas, which might be more affordable if you're traveling with a group or can gather some fellow travelers to help foot the bill.

03 of 10

Climb the Cliff

Stairs a Cape Horn leading up, Cape Horn, Chile

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Cape Horn, Chile

When visiting Cape Horn by boat, you'll 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.

04 of 10

Explore Hornos Island

Walkway on Hornos Island leading to Albatross monument, Cape Horn, Chile

Ruben Earth / Getty Images

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Hornos Island, Cabo de Hornos, Magallanes and Chilean Antarctica, Chile

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.

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05 of 10

Visit the Lighthouse

Cape Horn lighthouse, Chile

Daniela Goulart / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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Cape Horn, Chile

Cape Horn has two lighthouses: One is at the Chilean Naval Station, which is the largest and most accessible to visitors. A Chilean family resides year-round on the island in the buildings nearby. While you can't go inside their abode, just seeing and contemplating the residence itself is quite moving, as it offers a glimpse of what it must be like to be the only human inhabitants of Cape Horn. For most of the year, this family has to endure severe weather and their only supplies come from passing cruise ships, making everyday rations and amenities few and far between.

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 it so guests can get a peek.

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Visit the Stella Maris Chapel

Stella-Maris Chapel on Cape Horn

Steven Kenworthy

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Cape Horn, Chile

Tiny Stella Maris Chapel 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 many sailors who lost their way or imagine the scene of past mariners who stopped in for a moment of prayer, thankfulness, or silence.

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Take the Walkway to the Cape Horn Memorial

Memorial to the mariners who lost their lives in Cape Horn

Ruben Earth / Getty Images 

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Cabo de Hornos, Magallanes y la Antártica Chilena, Chile

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 the 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.

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Pay Your Respects at the Cape Horn Monument

Chile, Woolaston Islands, Cape Horn. Cruise vessel tourists visiting Albatross memorial for lost mariners

Alan White / Getty Images

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Cabo de Hornos, Magallanes y la Antártica Chilena, Chile

The Cape Horn Monument features a flying albatross, which are commonly seen in the southern ocean and are a symbol of the Cape Horn Captains Brotherhood. Designed by a Chilean artist, the monument 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.

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09 of 10

See the "Actual" Cape Horn

Coastal flora in Cape Horn Nature reserve, Chile

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Cape Horn, Chile

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.

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Get Your Passport Stamped

Cape Horn Passport Stamp
Linda Garrison
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Cape Horn, Chile

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 is one that baffles immigration officials around the world, as it is an unusual sight.

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The 10 Best Things to Do on Cape Horn, Chile