South America expedition cruise review on Silver Explorer

Join our consultant Emma Sanger as she sails on Silversea Expedition Cruises

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South America expedition cruise review on Silver Explorer

Join our consultant Emma Sanger as she sails on Silversea Expedition Cruises ship Silver Explorer on this voyage from Valparaiso to Cusco including an land trip to Machu Picchu.

View a gallery of her photographs above (click or tap to enlarge) then read her report below.

Valparaiso, Chile

I embarked  Silver Explorer and departed on my exciting Silversea Expedition Cruise called “Lands of the Humboldt Current", sailing from Valparaiso to Cusco, and visitng Coquimbo, Isla Pan de Azucar, Antofagasta, and Arica in Chile, and on to Paracas, Callao, and Cusco in Peru, ending with an amazing land trip to the famed Machu Picchu.

My Explorer Suite on Silver Explorer

My Explorer Suite on Silver Explorer

Silversea Expeditions purpose-built luxury Silver Explorer expedition cruise ship has been designed specifically for navigating waters in some of the world’s most remote destinations, including both of earth’s polar regions. A fleet of 12 Zodiac boats allows Silversea Expedition guests to visit even the most off-the-beaten path locations.

Onboard Silver Explorer there were all the special amenities usually found only on larger ships, including:

  • All spacious ocean-view accommodations
  • A library with an Internet café
  • Boutique shop
  • Full-service spa, beauty salon, and fitness centre
  • Live evening entertainment
  • Two top-deck whirlpools.
  • The Humidor, where connoisseurs can enjoy the finest cigars and cognacs

After unpacking and the lifeboat drill, we were introduced to the Silver Explorer expedition team, made up of marine biologists, naturists and general boffins! We then had the evening free to meet fellow guests and enjoy the delights of a specially prepared menu in the Main Restaurant... not to mention a birthday surprise for me followed by yet another birthday surprise in my suite!

A panoramic view of Coquimbo, Chile

A panoramic view of Coquimbo, Chile

Coquimbo, Chile

The name Coquimbo is taken from a native Diaguita word meaning ' a place of calm water'. Charles Darwin had noted that the town was 'remarkable for nothing but its extreme quietness'. I spent the morning taking in that quietness relaxing in the hot tub, followed by an afternoon visit to the colonial-style city of La Serena.

We headed south to La Herradura Bay and its 1.2 mile long beach before heading north to the beach resort of La Serena, Chile’s second-oldest city. The coastal avenue leads to a famous landmark of the region, a lighthouse built in the mid-20th century. Driving along the Francisco de Aguirre Boulevard –named after the second founder of the city- and its many reproductions of ancient statues. The Main Plaza and the Recova Market is set in a picturesque patio, and this market has the famous blue semi-precious Lapis Lazuli gemstone,  pottery and ceramics as well as alpaca wool articles on offer. Then it was back to the pier to join Silver Explorer again and the captains cocktail party followed by a delicious dinner in the main dining room.

View of Isla Pan de Azucar in Chile

View of Isla Pan de Azucar in Chile

Isla Pan de Azucar, Chile

This morning I managed to spot some fin whales swimming of the port side of Silver Explorer! In the afternoon we explored the rugged shores of Isla Pan de Azucar (or Sugarloaf Island) by Zodiac. The island is home to Humboldt Penguins. During our Zodiac cruise along the perimeter of Isla Pan de Azucar, we also saw Kelp Gulls, Turkey Vultures, Blackish Oystercatchers, and Peruvian Boobies, pelicans, sea lions and the reclusive South American marine otter.

As the ship sailed away we came across a super pod of over 200 dolphins! What a great day!  The dinner tonight was great in the main dining room, with the food and service being top notch and nothing was too much trouble.

Emma at the Atacama Desert

Emma at the Atacama Desert

Antofagasta, Chile

This was our first day in Antofagasta, and this morning we explored the city. Antofagasta is a refined blend of traditional Chilean town and British colonial city. We saw the Huanchaca Ruins and during a walking tour we visited the Plaza Colón and the Regional Museum with its overview of the saltpetre industry and how it affected the region. The final destination was La Portada, an enormous rock caressed by the sea and sand until a giant arch formed. Then we headed back to Silver Explorer for a buffet lunch followed by an afternoon in the hot tub. I got out just in time for afternoon tea served with champagne.

On our second day here we ventured inland to see the Atacama Desert — one of the driest places on earth. We departed early for the five-hour drive to the charming adobe village of San Pedro de Atacama with its historic small church.   We then set off to visit the “Reserva Nacional Los Flamencos” in the extensive Atacama Salt Flat, and measuring some 3,000 km², the third-largest salt flat in the world. During our drive to Chaxa lagoon we saw Chilean and Andean Flamingos, Avocets and sandpipers. The Andean Flamingos that migrate between Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina use this area as one of their most important breeding grounds. Last but not least.. we headed to Valle de la Luna. In this unique lunar landscape we saw numerous rock formations jutting out of the sand, eroded by wind into incredible shapes. After an amazing long day we headed back to Antofagasta to a warm welcome from the staff of Silver Explorer. Tonight I tried the alfresco Hot Rocks restaurant, the weather was perfect and the fun of cooking my own steak “well done” on a lava rock was a great experience. Afterwards the staff put on a talent show for us which was great fun. Who knew Silversea had such talented crew!

Silver Explorer, Silversea Expeditions

Silver Explorer, Silversea Expeditions

Days At Sea on Silver Explorer

Days at sea on board Silver Explorer are filled with fascinating tales of adventure from the ships on board expedition staff and to learn about the region’s wildlife and remarkable nature. I spent a lot of time on the open decks, and spotted many marine mammals, including seals, whales, humpbacks, sea lions, sea birds, a hammerhead shark and the finale was a small pod of dolphins riding along with the ship.

Chungará Lake, Arica, Chile

Chungará Lake, Arica, Chile

Arica, Chile

An early morning departure from Silver Explorer was necessary today for our visit to the Lauca National Park. This was a challenging excursion, taking us to an altitude of 4,500 metres.  From the pier we drove to the Copaquilla Pukara, a pre-Incan defensive settlement. Continuing on, we drove past Putre to reach Chungará Lake to admire the mountains reflected in the lake, however it was raining so the visibility was not great. During our time at the lake we saw many local bird species, among them the Chilean Flamingo and Andean goose, along with alpacas and Vicuña.

The famous Nazca lines

The famous Nazca lines

Paracas, Peru

Today we had a special Silversea Expedition excursion to see the famous Nazca Lines from the air! The Nazca Desert reveals a series of famous geoglyphs stretching for miles along the Pacific coast, only visible from above. Dating back to an era between 200BC and 700AD, these mysterious figures and geometric patterns are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The lines show an understanding of sophisticated mathematics and surveying techniques. After our fly-tour, I took a stroll around Paracas town, looking at the birds and shops along the promenade. It was our last night on board Silver Explorer tonight and time to say farewell to my fellow passengers and crew.

View of Plaza de Armas, Cusco

View of Plaza de Armas, Cusco

Callao, and Cusco

Following breakfast, I disembarked Silver Explorer for my next part of this amazing trip! Cusco and Machu Picchu! I could have taken a Silversea trip to this wonderful place but due to my time restriction I did this independently. After a short flight from Lima, I arrived in Cusco and transferred to the stunning Belmond Monasterio Hotel. A timeless retreat in the heart of the city and my home for the next two nights. I took it easy upon my arrival as I didn’t want a re-occurrence of my altitude problems, so just had a short stroll to Plaza de Armas before having an early night in my Junior Suite.

Emma at Machu Picchu, Peru

Emma at Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu

After a very early start I was driven from Cusco to the train station at Ollantaytambo. The drive on the way was stunning as we passed the snow capped mountains. Then I boarded the Vistadome train for the 2 hour train ride to Aguas Calientes. Again the scenery was stunning as the train followed the river through the gorges.

The final leg up to Machu Picchu was a 30 min bus ride from Aguas Calientes. Being the rainy season it has rained everyday for the past 3 months. But not today.... I was so lucky. The weather was just perfect.

Machu Picchu is an Incan citadel set high in the Andes Mountains in Peru, above the Urubamba River valley. Built in the 15th century and later abandoned, it’s renowned for its sophisticated dry-stone walls that fuse huge blocks without the use of mortar, intriguing buildings that play on astronomical alignments and panoramic views. Its exact former use remains a mystery.

After a few hours of exploring the ruins I descended and after a great meal, I re-boarded the train and made it back to Cusco well after dark. What an amazing day :)

After my final breakfast in Cusco, I took another short stroll around the wonderful town before my mid afternoon flight home.

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