Destination Guide

The Travel Well Guide

Cape Horn

City: Puerto Williams       State: Antartica Chilena       Country: Chile
Cape Horn island (named after the city of Hoorn in the Netherlands) is the southernmost headland of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago of southern Chile. Cape Horn is widely considered to be the most southerly point of South America, and marks the northern boundary of the Drake Passage; for many years it was a major milestone on the clipper route, by which sailing ships carried trade around the world. However, the waters around the cape are particularly hazardous, owing to strong winds, large waves, strong currents and icebergs; these dangers have made it notorious as a sailors' graveyard. Tin: perilous seas of Cape Horn are a sailing legend. Gale-force winds and fearsome currents combine to stir up lashing great waves more than 20 m (65 ft) high, which, together with the threat of icebergs, make it one of the most hazardous sea routes in the world. Despite the danger, the route was in frequent use until the Panama Canal was built in 1914, particularly in the years of the California Gold Rush when adventurers considered it marginally less risky than attempting to cross the great North American prairies by land. Hundreds of ships have been wrecked here, and sailors who successfully rounded the Horn westwards were treated as a special breed - they were entitled to wear a gold ring in their left ear or nipple as a mark of their authority. The Cape Horn archipelago is one of the most pristine island ecosystems in the world and has been designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. It covers a remote area inhabited by indigenous Yagan Chileans, a nomadic fishing culture that is threatened by economic development and tourism.There is an extensive area of untouched temperate forest, sub­polar forests and tundra all linked by an intricate system of channels, estuaries and bays. The sea is a hotspot for dolphins and whales, while the shores, with masses of rare flora, are important nesting sites for Magellan and rock hopper penguins and havens for albatrosses, condors, coscoroba swans and cormorants.

Climate | When to Visit

Visit during: October to March

Directions | How to Reach

Fly to Ushuaia (or from Santiago to Punta Arenas). Take boat or plane to Puerto Williams then boat to Cabo de Hornos (Cape Horn) through the Beagle Channel.

miscellaneous | Important Information

The need for ships to round the Cape Horn was greatly reduced by the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914. However, sailing around the Horn is widely regarded as one of the major challenges in yachting.

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