3 New Ways to Explore South America by Water

From the Caribbean coast to the peaks of Patagonia.

View from a walkway on the Aqua Expeditions Aqua Mare cruise ship
A view from the Aqua Mare, a new Gálapagos superyacht from Aqua Expeditions. . Photo: Courtesy of Aqua Expeditions

In this burgeoning cruise destination, travelers can see the continent's most special landscapes by sea, river, and even fjord. Read on for three new ships to plan a trip around.

Ecuador

A newcomer to the Galápagos: Aqua Expeditions, known for luxury river trips in Southeast Asia and the Amazon. In May the company debuted its new oceangoing vessel, the Italian-designed Aqua Mare — a 150-foot, four-deck superyacht that offers an intimate experience with just seven suites. You'll also find a movie room, an outdoor workout area, satellite internet, and regional cuisine from Peruvian chef Pedro Miguel Schiaffino. All-inclusive itineraries feature kayaking, paddle-boarding, snorkeling, and hiking through wildlife-filled landscapes. Ready to splurge? The Owner's Suite offers 860 square feet of space.

Aerial view of the Magdalena River
The Río Magdalena is sometimes called "the Mississippi of Colombia.". Courtesy of AmaWaterways and Metropolitan Touring

Colombia

The languid Río Magdalena, a once-vital transport route, gets its first multiday cruise next year with an all-suite boat from AmaWaterways, with excursions and experiences curated by South American operator Metropolitan Touring. Start in Barranquilla and end in the town of Mompox, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its historic architecture and its role in Simón Bolívar's Latin American liberation movement. The seven-night itineraries will also include kayaking, hiking, and bird-watching.

The Navimag boat in port
The Chilean ferry operator Navimag recently added a new 244-passenger ship to its fleet. Courtesy of Navimag

Chile

The region of Patagonia is usually explored overland — but passengers aboard Esperanza, the new custom-built ferry from Navimag, will see a slow moving backdrop of spouting whales, sparkling glaciers, and snowy peaks as they sail along the coast of southern Chile between Puerto Montt and Puerto Natales. The four-day, thousand-mile voyage navigates past Chiloé Island and some of the country's most popular national parks. Expect simple but comfortable cabins with private bathrooms, hearty food, onboard yoga and tai chi, and an all-English-speaking crew during high season.

A version of this story first appeared in the August 2022 issue of Travel + Leisure under the headline "More South America Sailings."

Was this page helpful?