Cape Horn Islands, Chile

NOTE: The above photos, including the large one, include images of other places in the southern Patagonia area close to Cape Horn that are seen and visited when participating in the Australis cruise (see further below). However, the image of people walking on a boardwalk to the sailors’ memorial is the actual Horn Island visit.

For centuries, the Cape Horn has been the fabled point on Earth around which many sailors have risen to the, often frightening challenge, of navigating through and over the huge waves that rise between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

On the map it is clearly marked as the southern-most tip of South America – the final land point until reaching the Antarctic.

Here we describe some of the history about Cape Horn as well as, further down, explain how you can actually set foot on this piece of World history.


The famous Cape Horn (“Cabo de Hornos”) is in Chilean territory and named after the city of Hoorn in the Netherlands (actually named “Kaap Hoorn” by the Dutch, then referred to as Cape Horn by the English). It is the southernmost point of the “Tierra del Fuego” archipelago and of South America. It is a small piece of rock, or island, among others that make up the Horn Islands, around which the oceans from the southern Atlantic and Pacific converge.

The sea passage around Cape Horn (the Drake Passage) is notorious for its huge seas, violent winds, strong currents, and general danger. It is the graveyard for many tall ships that took this route when sailing from one side of the Americas to the other until the discovery, in 1520, of the natural sea passage further north (passing by Punta Arenas) connecting the Southern Atlantic and Pacific Oceans by Portuguese sailor Ferdinand Magellan.

Named after Magellan, the Straights of Magellan enabled ships to take the more protected passage and take on supplies at Punta Arenas, cutting out the need to go around Cape Horn, although many Clipper-class ships still rounded the Horn because the narrow Magellan Straight did not offer enough width for necessary navigational maneuvers. In 1914 when the Panama Canal opened, both the passages around Cape Horn and the one through the Magallanes Straight became redundant for most shipping.

For yachtsmen, the challenge of sailing around Cape Horn is often irresistible and many conquer their fear when participating in one of the major yachting races that takes in this passage. Likewise, many people who look at the World Atlas often dream about being able to see Cape Horn and wonder what it must be like to “go around” it.

The Actual Cape Horn Island

The Horn Islands archipelago, as previously mentioned, lies within Chilean territorial waters and the Chilean Navy maintains a station on an island close to the real Cape Horn, but not on the island itself because it is so difficult to access.

On Horn Island (not on Cape Horn Island), there is a residence, utility building, chapel, and lighthouse. A short distance away from the main station is a memorial, including a large sculpture featuring the silhouette of an albatross, in honour of the sailors who died while attempting to "round the Horn".

On the real Cape Horn there is a 4m (13ft) fiberglass light tower with a focal plane of 40m (131ft) and a range of about 21km (13mi). This is the authentic Cape Horn lighthouse. There are no trees on the island.

How to Visit Cape Horn

Unless you have a helicopter the only way to visit Cape Horn is to book, with us, a great Patagonia Cruise on the Australis. The Australis offers navigational trips between Punta Arenas in Chile and Ushuaia in Argentina. Each journey takes in the natural beauty of the archipelagos, channels, and fiords; abundant marine life and sights of millennial glaciers coming down from the mountain tops to sea level.

That experience in itself is exhilarating, however, one of the options is the route that will also take in Cape Horn, with a land stop off, weather permitting. This is how you can visit Cape Horn.

Share this...