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Bird of passage

Category: South America (Page 2 of 3)

Chilean Patagonia: Torres del Paine and the Southern Andes (part 2)

In my last post, I stopped at the Laguna San Rafael National Park. From this point, we are moving closer to the end of this continent and things are going to be better and better. Let’s us start at the Bernando O’Higgins National Park.

Bernando O’Higgins National Park
  • Lautaro volcano
  • Glacier Pío XI (Brüggen Glacier)
    • Eyre fjord
    • Lake Greve

It’s a place that you can’t miss. Bernando O’Higgins National Park is the largest protected area in Chile, a major sweet water reserve of the world, a part of both Aysén y Magallanes and Antártica Chilena region. It’s also part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. Unlike other places we discussed in the previous post, rivers here are narrow fjords between mountains. The background of these fjords are decorated with high tips like the Lautaro volcano. It’s the highest point in this park, with 3,607 metres above the water.

There are also more blue area of glaciers. In this national park alone, there are more than 10 major glaciers, including glacier Pío XI, which is located at Eyre fjord by lake Greve. It’s the largest glacier in the Southern Hemisphere, outside of the Antarctica, with an area of 1,265 square kilometres. I would recommend a boat trip to see this glacier or if you are navigating with ferry, they will surely take you very close to this huge ice block for loads of pictures. The blue in pictures is going to be intense!

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Torres del Paine National Park
  • Cordillera del Paine
    • Paine Towers
  • Grey Glacier
  • Valleys
    • French Valley (Valle de Francés)
    • Valle Bader
    • Valle Ascencio
    • Silence Valley (Valle de Silencio)
  • Ice fields
    • Dickson
    • The Tyndall
  • Lakes
    • Lake Pehoé
    • Lake Nordenskjöld
    • Lake Sarmiento
    • Lake Del Toro
    • Paine river
  • Viewpoints
    • Mirador Condor
    • Salto Grande
  • Trekking routes
    • W Trek
    • Paine Circuit

Our next stop is Torres del Paine National Park. It’s more known compare to other national parks we’ve mentioned. It’s has been talked about a lot more, but it does make sense because there are so many things to see as you can see from the long list I’ve made above.

Prepare yourself both physically and mentally if you plan to visit this park. It’s cold and windy but you will be mind blown with the beauty. Note down that it shuts in Winter due to the extreme weather. Apart from that, get yourself there and pay about 5,ooo Chilean Pesos if you are Chilean or 18,000 Pesos if you are not, depending on the season.

The park takes up part of Chile’s Southernmost and largest region. It is decorated with mountains like Cordillera del Paine that lies between Magellanic subpolar forest and Patagonian steppes. I should say, it’s really hard to choose the side, Magellanic or the steppes. Along the range, there are Paine Towers, which is the signature of this park. It could possibly be considered as the signature of the Chilean Patagonia.

The other gem of the park is the Grey Glacier. It’s an enormous block of ice. Despite the name, the blue of this glacier is as good as James Dean’s eyes. It’s that sexy!

By foot, you can reach all valleys with breathtaking views. At French Valley, you will be standing in the middle of the wall of magnificent mountains, just like the Paine. At Valle Bader, you will have high mountains in front of you, with blue body of water in between. At Valle Ascencio, you will be walking side by side a small lake that cuts right between two mountains. But if you want to take a look at Paine Towers from opposite angle then you’ll want to visit the Silence Valley. It’s a the rockier part of the park.

One of the reason that makes me wanna go there are them ice fields. I just want to experience them once in my life or more. Hand in hand, you and some mates, it would be a great experience to explore the Dickson. Also, do not miss the Tyndall.

In warmer days, lakes are nice place to see the reflection of the Cordillera. The blue one you see in many postcards is the Pehoé Lake. The other one is the Nordenskjöld lake, which also has a beach with dark, almost black gravels. There are many more, such as lake Sarmiento and lake del Toro. The main one is River Paine, which passes many parts of the park.

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If you want great pictures, you’ll probably wanna go to them viewpoints. Tho best one is the Mirador Condor. It’s simply beautiful, with mountains around the outside, blue water filling in the space in between them and small green land in the middle of them all. It’s the best! The other viewpoint is Salto Grande. It’s a huge waterfall that will blown you whole existent away.

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The best way to get around the park is probably by trekking. There are two main routes in which along the path, you’ll be accompanied with other fellow trekkers. The easier one is the W Trek and the more extreme one is the Paine Circuit. Paine Circuit is world’s top trekking route in which it will take around 9 days to complete the circuit and see everything. Please, pack everything you need as light as possible.

Apart from these scenarios, there are also animals that you have to keep an eye on, such as Guanacos or llamas, foxes and pumas. The the park, there are also may places that you can camp and lodge during the night and stay warm.

If you are keen on staying in one of the most extreme hotel in one of the most exotic park, you might want to check out Explora Patagonia. It’s beyond luxury, it’s also peace and majestic. If you are interested, there is also another Explora Hotel in Chile, which is at the Atacama Desert. You can check for more information from my post as well.

Once you are finished with the Torres del Paine, I hope you already taking it all in and are ready to move onto our next stop soon. It’s Puerto Natales. In my next post, we will disembark from our ferry and keep travelling down.

 

 

 

 

 

Chilean Patagonia: Torres del Paine and the Southern Andes (part 1)

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I’m sure Patagonia is on many people’s bucket list, simply because of it’s beauty and how exotic this place is. It’s on the edge of the world. It’s at the tip of a continent. It’s filled with great histories, including the world’s navigation, European exploration, Spanish conquest of South America or the colonization of this specific desert between Chile and Argentina. It’s about tales like giants. It could also be about the neighbor like Antarctica. However, the peak is its nature, the flora and fauna, them ice fields and the desert.

Patagonia is shared between Argentina and Chile, but this time, we’ll focus on the Chilean side and we’ll start at Puerto Montt and marking our way down until we arrive at the Fire Land. This is a long trip so be prepared.

Puerto Montt
  • Ferries’ embarkment
  • Chapo Lake (Lago Chapo)
  • Calbuco volcano
  • Llanquihue National Reserve
  • Reloncaví Estuary and Sound

Puerto Montt is the ending of the pieced Chile and is a door to the Patagonian desert. Travelling to the South from here is possibly best with Ferries, otherwise flight to Punta Arenas would be recommend but that means you’ll have to skip the whole crooked area as it’s not reachable by land. Though, some area is reachable by land if you cross over from Argentina.

If you happen to stop by Puerto Montt, you might as well spend your time at the Chapo Lake. You can spend your time camping, fishing or visiting an active Calbuco volcano in which its peak can be easily spotted from Llanquihue Lake.

Reloncaví Sound is a great place to witness the Reloncaví Estuary which is a fjord that is surrounded by many National Parks, volcanoes, lakes and valleys.

Chiloé Island (Isla Grande de Chiloé)
  • Canal Chacao
  • Castro
  • Chiloé National Park
    • Sea lions
    • Cole Cole beach

A bit below Puerto Montt is the Greater Island of Chiloé, which is reachable by boat from Puerto Montt by crossing Canal Chacao. It’s the second largest island in Chile, only after Tierra del Fuego.

The biggest city on the island is Castro. It’s a nice area to get an accommodation if you want to spend a night on this island as it’s surrounded by a peaceful waterfront, which is decorated with colorful houses. These wooden houses float above the water and leave beautiful reflection on the water. It’s a really cool picture opportunity.

The other option for accommodation is camping or lodging at Chiloé National Park. It’s a good place to see sea lions as well as chilling by the beach. It’s really nice to drive or walk along the coast until you reach the long, calm Cole Cole beach.

Coyhaique
  • Coyhaique National Reserve
  • Simpson River bank
  • Lake Atravesado
  • Puerto Río Tranquilo
    • Only between December to February
    • Marble Caves (Capillas de Mármol)

Coyhaique is just a bit below Chiloé and it’s a nice town surrounded by river and mountains. This town is also known as “the city of eternal snow” because these mountains are always covered with white. It’s especially beautiful in Winter and brightly nice in Spring. It houses a tiny National Reserve of Coyhaique that is packed with deers and other animals. You could also get closer to nature by spending time with horses and ride them around the Simpson River. It can be a bit chilly during Winter so you might have to prepare yourself a bit before hand.

Also, maybe because these mountains are surrounded by rivers, the land is very green and fertile. Along the green scenery, there is Lake Atravesado. On the way there from town centre, the road is always accompanied by the water, which makes the trip a lot shorter. Apart from the body of water, Lake Atravesado also has a small waterfall that decorates the whole mountain.

One of the place you should never ever miss if you’re already in Southern Chile is Puerto Río Tranquilo. It’s so special that it’s only available between December to February, otherwise this place is too cold to visit. It shuts during Winter.

Getting there from Coyhaique is possible by bus. The bus should take about 5 hours to get to the port and it costs about 10,000 Chilean Pesos. The star of this place is the Marble Caves. They are islets, popping a bit above the sky blue water, with marble walls, columns or rooms. To get there, you can hire a boat or rent a kayak from the lakeside and for about half an hour you will arrive at the cluster of beauties. I would recommend taking waterproof bag with you as sometimes, the tide can be a bit high and you might get wet. Also, you might wanna get out of the boat and explore the interior of the caves in which you might have to go through some water. It’s impossible not to take too many pictures here.

Laguna San Rafael National Park
  • San Rafael glacier
  • San Rafael Lagoon
  • Moraleda Channel
  • San Valentín glacier
  • Mount San Valentín
  • Park’s facilities
    • Punta del Cisne
    • Caiquenes Lagoon

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From Río Tranquilo, you can go to Laguna San Rafael National Park by sea. Depending on the services you choose, it can take a day or a week to get here. You could also get here from Puerto Montt as I mentioned earlier.

This park is very special for many reasons. First of all, it’s very remote and not easily accessed by land. It’s also a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve for the beautiful environment and nature. It holds the entire Northern Patagonian Ice Fields (Campos de Heilo Norte), with about 19 glaciers. One of the most impressive of all is the obvious San Rafael glacier at the San Rafael lagoon that is right by the Moraleda Channel. The other one that should be seen is San Valentín glacier. It’s close to the highest peak of the Southern Andes, which is Mount San Valentín. Its height is 4,058 metres above sea level, which is impressive as the background for many points of interest. In an addition to that, the fjords here are massive. The biggest one is more than 16 kilometres long. It’s even better if you see it in person and up close. Also, the service and facilities of this park are really good despite being so far away from the main land. However, there are only two places where you can access these facilities: Punta del Cisne and Caiquenes Lagoon. My final reason recommending this place is because there are so many things to do, such as trekking, sailing, fishing, camping and animal watching. There are high chances to see Black-necked swans, sea otters and Andean foxes. This place is goals!

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At San Rafael, we are only half way through our trip and there are already so many to see. The final half of the trip will be available very soon in my next posts. It won’t be too long, please wait for the rest.

 

 

 

 

 

San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

atacama 1

Chile is definitely one of my favorite countries as it’s very unique and its length carries a great range of differences: desert in the north, icebergs in the south and islands on the side. Because it’s so far away, there were many firsts for me to experience and I enjoyed it a lot. All of my trips to Chile together summed out a total of 14 months in the country and hopefully more to come. Also, Chileans are lovely and they have amazing food.

Throughout the length of the country, one of the most impressive place is San Pedro de Atacama. This desert is out of the world and it even has the moon-like surface. There are too many things to see despite being a desert.

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Atacama Desert is located in Antofagasta region of Chile. As if being a general desert is not cool enough, it’s also the driest non-polar desert on Earth. However, with these characters, there are 2 important things to keep in mind before planning your excursions.

  • Altitude sickness
  • Extreme temperature

Firstly, altiplano is translated as “high plateau” and the average height of this place is about 2,400 metres above sea level. This number is enough to cause altitude sickness to some people. Unfortunately, I’m one of those people. I still remember the awful illness and my trip to a small isolated clinic in the middle of the desert, in the middle of a breezy night. Altitude sickness can be prevented and one tip given to me by local people was to drink Mate de Coca. It’s basically coca tea. It’s legal and you can get it from local street vendors around the area, but be careful not to bring any home as it contain illegal contents for many nations’ law.

Second thing to keep in mind is the temperature. The mixture of high altitude, location on  the globe, clear sky and some other too scientific things causes extreme temperature. It’s really cold without the sun and the temperature can drop to below zero. But, it can be quite warm during the day.

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Places to visit
  • Chruch of San Pedro
    • Plaza de Armas
    • Casa Incaica
  • European Southern Observatories
  • Chuquicamata ghost town and copper mine
  • Remains of the Tulor Settlement
  • El Tatio geyser field
  • Altiplanic lagoons
  • Atacama salt flat
    • Chaxas Lagoon
    • Los Flamencos National Reserve
  • Licancabur volcano
    • Crater lake
    • Flora and fauna
  • Cejar lagoon
  • Death valley
  • Moon valley

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At the town centre, near Plaza de Armas, there is the Church of San Pedro. It’s where you can observe Atacameños’ rituals and lifestyle. Not too far from the church, there is the town’s oldest building, which is called “Casa Incaica.”

With such altitude, dryness, cloudless sky and the lack of light pollution, Atacama is the perfect place for stargazing. The sky is so clear that there are two Europeans Southern Observatories in the area. 

Chile is known for its copper and Atacama houses the world’s largest open-pit copper mine. It is located in an abandoned mining town called Chuquicamata.

Out in the desert, there are Remains of the Tulor Settlement. It looks like something that used to be a small village. The circular holes on the ground makes it a fabulous place for pictures. Those holes are circular walls that go deep into the Earth and these holes were the hope for the people with their search for water. Apart from these walls, there are human remains, bones and ceramics waiting to be spotted.

Further into this not-just-a-regular desert, El Tatio is a place that you can’t miss. Up on a 2,300 metres high field, there’s the third largest geyser field in the world. It has more than 80 active geysers.

There are also few lagunas or lagoons in this desert. These lagoons located at 4,200 metres height are called “Altiplanic lagoons.” Laguna Miscanti and Laguna Meñique attract many thirsty animals so there are chances to see some wild pals.

Salar de Atacama or Atacama salt flat is another place you can’t miss. Again, it’s the third largest salt flat in the world and it’s 2,300 metres above sea level. It’s massive, elevated, salty, sandy, dry and it also has white snowed mountains as the background. It houses Laguna Chaxas, which is part of the Los Flamencos National Reserve. There are loads of pink flamingos, drinking water and waiting to be photographed with a beautiful scenery.

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Still within Atacama, between Chile and Bolivia, lies the Licancabur volcano and crater lake. Because of the very low temperature, the surface of the lake is covered with ice most time of the year. It could be the result of the lake being one of the highest lake in the world. Here, different types of flora and fauna can be seen despite the temperature that can be as low as -30 degree celsius.

If you are fine with dipping into chilly water, you might want to be floating at the Cejar salt lagoon, watching clear sky and mountain peaks. It’s worth checking out as it’s a really nice place to relax in the middle of the sun.

If you are up for some Adrenalin rush, you should try sand boarding down a 100-metres-high dunes at the Valle de la Muerte or Death Valley.

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Finally, one of the main attraction, the star, and the reason you go to Atacama, Valle de la Luna is amazing. The Moon Valley is what impressed me the most and I believe it won’t fail anyone. The color of this valley is so vibrant and fresh. The amazing formation of stones and sand created textures that resembled the surface of the moon, given in the name. It surrounded by different colors of peaks, snowed white, grey salty white and bright red. It’s too beautiful. It’s definitely the best valley to watch the sunset.

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Explora Atacama

If you are looking for some luxurious place to stay and relax in the middle of this desert. You should check out Explora Atacama. Staying in a lodge that opens to the space of the desert is just perfect. However, the hotel is under renovation at this moment but will be available again in January 2017.

One of the best part of this hotel at more than 3,400 metres above sea level is the Puritama Hot Spring (Temas de Puritama.) It’s managed by the hotel but anyone can enjoy this oasis. The fee is 15,ooo Chilean pesos and there are clean facilities provided, such as changing room. At Puritama, there are outdoor pools and waterfall for you to wash away any saltiness and cold.

 

 

 

 

 

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