Programs in South America & French Polynesia

One of the universe’s most beautiful and dramatic events—a total solar eclipse, when the sun, moon and Earth are perfectly aligned and darkness washes over Earth in the middle of the day—will occur on December 14, 2020.

Astronomer David Levy says a total solar eclipse “is a natural event with unnatural consequences. In fact, a total eclipse of the sun has the power to rip through to the core of your being.”

If you’ve ever experienced one, you understand exactly what Levy means. And if you haven’t, 2020 is your best chance to find out.

Wilderness Travel has offered exclusive eclipse experiences for 25 years in some of the world’s most remote locations, from western Mongolia to the Atacama Desert. For the total solar eclipse of 2020, we are delighted to share two exciting programs.

Our land-based program will immerse you in the beautiful lakes and volcanoes region of Chile and Argentina, with an exclusive viewing site on the side of a volcano in Chile, right on the centerline of the eclipse. Our cruise aboard the Paul Gauguin will bring you through some of French Polynesia’s most renowned islands, including the Marquesas, Bora Bora, and Moorea—and for Eclipse Day, we’ll position the ship at an ideal point for promising weather and unusual solar features along the eclipse centerline.

Every total solar eclipse is unique, and each can be a transformative experience. We invite you to join us for one of these extraordinary adventures in 2020.

Two Exceptional Ways to Experience the Eclipse of 2020

Lakes to Volcanoes Eclipse Adventure

Lakes to Volcanoes Eclipse Adventure

Chile & Argentina Hotel-Based Program

7 DAYS, DECEMBER 9-15, 2020
90 Participants

For our hotel-based program, we’ve selected a site in the Andes that optimizes the prospects for good viewing and the length of totality—around two minutes and eight seconds. Our adventure begins in the scenic mountain town of Bariloche, Argentina, and brings us across the Andes to our private viewing site in Chile’s picturesque Lake District.

Our Guest Experts

Astronomer Richard Terrile, PhD, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, will join us for the full program, giving lectures on eclipses and astronomy.  Dr. Terrile is a veteran of seven solar eclipses and an expert on eclipse photography.

Lorenzo Sympson is a noted wildlife researcher specializing in the study of Patagonia’s Andean condor. Sympson participated in the re-introduction of captive-bred condors in Patagonia and coordinates a program for researching their biology and behavior.


  • More than two minutes of totality!
  • Stable, land-based viewing, perfect for serious eclipse photographers.
  • Enjoyable hikes in Argentina and Chile’s spectacular lake districts.
  • Choice of varied activities in Pucón, including additional hikes, visits to hot springs, and cultural excursions.
  • Wide choice of extensions, including Iguazú Falls, Easter Island, and the Atacama Desert, or join one of our signature Patagonia trips.
Tropical Polynesian Eclipse

Tropical Polynesian Eclipse

Cruise Program

15 DAYS, DECEMBER 5-19, 2020
332 Participants

On our ship-based program, we travel aboard the luxurious 332-passenger Paul Gauguin, which provides the flexibility to maneuver to the ideal viewing position on Eclipse Day. We’ll visit some of French Polynesia’s celebrated islands, including the Marquesas, Bora Bora, and enchanting Moorea.

Our Guest Experts

Jean-Michel Cousteau is an explorer, educator, award-winning producer, and an impassioned diplomat for the environment. Alex Filippenko, PhD, is a leading astronomer who was voted “Best Professor” at UC Berkeley an extraordinary nine times. Rick Fienberg, PhD, is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the former editor of Sky & Telescope magazine. Mark Eddowes is an authority on Polynesian anthropology and archaeology.


  • Ship-based program offers flexible maneuvering to the ideal viewing position.
  • Shorter totality allows prolonged and dramatic viewing of the sun’s red chromosphere.
  • Rare opportunity to see the partially eclipsed sun rise above the ocean.
  • The sun’s low position near the horizon should showcase the moon’s cone-shaped shadow racing across the earth’s surface.
  • Special presentations on Polynesian culture and the ocean environment.

What is a Solar Eclipse?

A total solar eclipse occurs when the Earth, moon, and sun are perfectly aligned so that the complete shadow of the moon—the umbra—sweeps across the Earth. A total eclipse can only be seen within the narrow “path of totality,” which covers about 1% of the Earth’s surface.

Only when the moon completely blocks the sun can one experience the awesome drama of darkness during the day—stars and planets become visible, the temperature drops by several degrees, and animals react as if night had fallen. For many viewers, this is a surprisingly emotional experience.

Events You’ll Remember Forever

An eclipse begins as the moon makes “first contact” with the sun and begins to slowly eat into the solar disc. The moon takes about an hour to cover the sun completely, and we check its progression every few minutes.

During this time, daylight begins to dim, and orange-and-red sunset hues tint the horizon in all directions. The sky above turns an eerie steely gray, the air cools, and viewers often get goose-bumps—because of both the drop in temperature and the mounting feeling of excitement.

The drama is increased by the ever-growing specter of the sun-cast shadow of the moon steadily approaching. This effect has been described as “the granddaddy of thunderstorms, but utterly calm,” and as a “tangible darkness advancing almost like a wall, swift as imagination, silent as doom.”

As totality approaches, sunlight is reduced to a thin crescent and the world takes on a pinhole-camera-like quality: Shadows sharpen and so does viewers’ eyesight—leaving them feeling as though they have super-human vision. Wavering shadow bands ripple across the landscape.

Soon the beads of light called “Bailey’s Beads” appear, creating the effect of jewels on a necklace as sunlight filters through the deep valleys on the moon’s surface. Then, as the Bailey’s Beads disappear, one final glow of direct sunlight peeks out from behind the last valley on the moon, creating the Diamond Ring effect—a brilliant white “diamond” blazing for a few stunning seconds.

At last, during totality, the moon’s disc completely covers the body of the sun. At that moment, the sun’s dramatic red chromosphere and pearly-white corona become visible—the wispy coronal discharge streaming millions of miles into the cosmos in silvery undulations.

Finally, as the moon’s disc continues its arc to reveal the sun again, the partial phases recur in reverse order. Slowly, the world returns to normal—but observers are forever changed. They have experienced the immensity of a celestial clock timed to infinity, an elegant astronomical collusion... uncanny darkness followed by the promise of dawn.

We invite you to join us for this awe-inspiring experience in 2020.

Warning: Because there are fewer than 70 eclipses per century, the chance to see one is, for many, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. But be forewarned: For some seemingly normal people, eclipse-chasing becomes a lifelong obsession.

Contact our Eclipse Specialists

Our Eclipse Specialists know every detail about our Eclipse Special Event itineraries, and will be happy to answer any questions about our trips and help you choose the journey that’s right for you!

Download the Brochure

Total Solar Eclipse of 2020

Download a PDF of our Total Solar Eclipse of 2020 brochure to learn more about our day-to-day itineraries, prices and dates, lodging, and guest experts.