Gadabout's Corner

Bird of passage

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

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

1 Comment

  1. Maxkeziio

    👍

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