Chilean Patagonia


Gallery of Glaciers, Chile.
Australis Cruises
Cape Horn & Patagonia - Punta Arenas, Chile                                              
  Patagonia is a remote region shared between the two countries of the South American cone, which, as far as tourism is concerned, for decades it had been associated only to the Republic of Argentina, due to the solid promotion of its natural beauty and the importance given to the region by its authorities. On the other hand, in recent years the Chilean government and private companies have actively promoted the natural attractions of this part of the country, so far away from the rest of the world.

Patagonia Chile is the southernmost region of South America, made up of the southern part of the Region de Los Lagos (Lakes Region), Aysen and Magallanes, excluding the Chilean Antarctic territory. Due to the aggressive geography of this part of the world, land connectivity through these regions is only through Argentine territory, however, regular airline and ferry services are always available. 

The sea voyage between Puerto Montt and Puerto Natales (or vice versa) is a highly recommended option to get to know the impressive natural beauty of Patagonia through its channels and fjords, sailing close to thick forests as well as glaciers and ice fields, still alive protagonists of the last Ice Age. In this regard, it should be noted that Chile has the largest number of glaciers in all of South America, approximately 80%.

 
Another recommendable way to get to know the Aysen Region, part of Patagonia, is through the Carretera Austral, considered one of the most beautiful roads in the world, more than 1,200 km long, mostly gravel, and with beautiful views, from Puerto Montt to the town of Villa O'Higgins, gateway to the Southern Ice Fields. The landscapes are magnificent and in many cases, in places never touched by humans, since the population density is very low (barely 1 inhabitant per square kilometer).


Climate in Chilean Patagonia 

Paine Mountains, Magallanes Region
  It should be noted that Chilean Patagonia is traditionally considered to extend between 41° and 56° South latitude, which is why a temperate to cold climate predominates, with important differences in temperatures, which decrease significantly from North to South. There are also microclimates with higher temperatures during the summer in specific regions, especially in the northern part of Patagonia.

In the northern part of southern Chile rainfall is abundant during most of the year, temperatures in Summer can easily exceed 20°C, while in Winter they often fall below zero.

The extreme South of Chile is drier and colder. Rainfall is much scarcer and maximum temperatures in Summer can reach around 15° and occasionally 20° or a little more. At this time of the year, Torres del Paine National Park has a microclimate with milder temperatures, although the weather is changeable anyway.

In Southern Patagonia, the harshness from one Winter to another can vary quite a bit, but the temperature on a normal day can range from about 0 °C to 5 °C. with lows that can reach -10°C or even a little lower. Because of its geographical location, between December 15 and January 15 in sub-Antarctic Patagonia daylight can last until approximately 23:00 hrs. and a new sunrise begins around 03:00 hrs., looking in the distance to the South, you can see that it never gets completely dark.


Tourist places in Southern Patagonia

The southern part of Chilean Patagonia extends from the Southern Ice Fields to Cape Horn including the entire Magellan Region. It is the most isolated area of the country and has a generally harsh climate, except in summer. In this part of Chile you can visit several of the most iconic tourist places of the national territory.

Pay attention to this fact, which seems obvious but it is worth remembering:  when you go sightseeing in southern and sub-antarctic Patagonia during the Spring-Summer season, there can be big differences in weather conditions from one day to the next. If you are lucky and you have nice days, you will be able to enjoy an unforgettable experience visiting the beautiful natural landscapes, otherwise, the weather could stop being an ally and spoil at least part of your visit.

Punta Arenas, Regional capital

Punta Arenas is the largest city in Chilean Patagonia and in the southern tip of South America. Founded in the mid-nineteenth century, it was built with the efforts of Chileans and pioneers from all over the world.

The city has its own special attractions, as well as being a starting point to explore the many natural wonders of southern Patagonia and the white continent. It is also fair to mention other smaller cities in the vast region such as Puerto Natales, Puerto Williams and Porvenir. Here you can learn more about Punta Arenas...

Torres del Paine National Park

Photo by Alex Wolowiecki on Unsplash 
  The main protected area and one of the country's major tourist attractions is located 312 km north of Punta Arenas, the regional capital, and 150 km from Puerto Natales. Local tourist agencies offer numerous excursions to visit this beautiful place, which was chosen as 
"The Eighth Wonder of the World" in an online election with more than five million votes worldwide. The National Park, created in 1959 and declared a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1978, currently covers an area of 242,242 Hs.

A chain of granite-walled mountains and snow-capped peaks, lakes of turquoise waters and rivers coming from the neighboring Southern Ice Fields undoubtedly make up one of the most beautiful sights in this part of the world. Its attractions and rugged geography make it one of the most sought after by  ecology and adventure sports lovers.

Other interesting activities in Torres del Paine are to do the trekking circuits known as the "W" and the "O", so called because of the shape of their route. Also very popular are the horseback rides to see memorable landscapes, fly fishing tours and navigation in inflatable boats or kayaks on the Serrano River with wonderful views of the Balmaceda, Serrano and Tyndall glaciers.


Tierra del Fuego Island  (Land of Fire)

  
King Penguin colony
Nuestro Diario de Aventuras
  Tierra del Fuego, Chile's largest island, located at the southernmost tip of South America, is one of the most emerging tourist destinations in the country. Its territory is shared with Argentina, which occupies the eastern part of the island with an area of 18,507 km² whose capital is the tourist city of Ushuaia. Chile occupies the western and southern portions of Tierra del Fuego, covering an area of 29,485 km², its capital is the city of Porvenir.

Tourism in Tierra del Fuego is one of the drivers of its economy, based mainly on its remote, pristine location, sport fishing, navigation through the millenary glaciers, adventure tourism, Winter sports, learning about the past of its native inhabitants and stories of pioneers. Explore one of the most extreme landscapes in Chile, go to Tourism in Tierra del Fuego.  

Whale watching tours around Carlos III Island

Season: December to April. In the Strait of Magellan, 6 hours by boat from Punta Arenas, is the Francisco Coloane Marine Park, a 67,000 Hs. protected area where you can see Humpback whales (Megaptera Novaeangliae), on a smaller scale the Minke whale, dolphins, sea lions, penguins and other birds. 

Francisco Coloane Marine Park was the first area designated as a protected zone and marine park in Chile. The ecosystem is complemented by the proximity of the Santa Ines Glacier (which can also be visited according to the program) and the natural environment with thick forests that reach the coast. Tour availability can be checked with local tourist agencies in Punta Arenas, which is the base port.

Parque del Estrecho and Fuerte Bulnes

62 km south of Punta Arenas. Fuerte Bulnes is the reconstruction of the first Chilean settlement in the Strait of Magellan in 1843, it has a network of trails, viewpoints and picnic areas. The tours include visits to various facilities such as the chapel, the jail, cannon's yard, stables, houses, dining rooms, etc. In 1848, the Fort's population moved from Punta Santa Ana, where it was originally situated to a more favourable site, giving rise to the current city of Punta Arenas.

Near Fuerte Bulnes are the ruins of Puerto del Hambre, a Spanish colony that had a sad end. Puerto del Hambre is so called because of the tragic death of all its inhabitants, who first tried to colonize the Strait of Magellan in 1584, founded the city Rey Don Felipe and then died of starvation in such a remote place.
Since 2008, the 250 hectares of Punta Santa Ana, including Puerto del Hambre and Fort Bulnes, have been under concession and included in the Parque del Estrecho de Magallanes. For detailed information, visiting hours, tickets, go to the Official Site.

La Cruz de los Mares (Cross of the Seas)

On the shores of Cape Froward, Strait of Magellan, 48 nautical miles south of Punta Arenas. The cross rises 340 meters above sea level on a cape that marks the end and southernmost point of continental Chile and South America. The original structure was built in 1913, and then rebuilt several times due to the permanently unfavorable weather conditions of the site. The current cross was erected to commemorate Pope John Paul II's visit to the region in 1987.

 

The English explorer and privateer Thomas Cavendish, in 1587, gave the Cape its first name, due to the extremely hostile climate with fierce winds and torrential rains. Local tourist agencies offer zodiac or kayak excursions to Cape Froward and then hike to the Cruz de Los Mares.

Faro San Isidro (San Isidro Lighthouse) 

Inaugurated in 1904, 75 km south of Punta Arenas, at the southernmost tip of the Brunswick Peninsula, Magallanes Region and Chilean Antarctic Territory. San Isidro symbolizes the years of great maritime traffic through the Strait of Magellan, especially before the opening of the Panama Canal. At present, Faro San Isidro has been rebuilt and restored to become a place for lodging and tourism. 

The surrounding landscape comprises thick native forests, the Strait of Magellan and great panoramic views of Tierra del Fuego, including the Darwin Mountain Range. Activities include kayaking, visiting interesting places such as Cape Froward, the southernmost point of continental Chile and South America, hiking to Bahia El Aguila and Monte Tarn (Mount Tarn), once climbed by Charles Darwin.

"Maggiorino Borgatello" Salesian Museum

Located at 336 Bulnes Avenue, next to the María Auxiliadora "Don Bosco" Church, in downtown Punta Arenas. Founded in 1893, today it bears the name of its founder, one of the great missionaries among the natives of Tierra del Fuego Island. "Maggiorino Borgatello" is one of the most important museums in Chile with all the History, Ethnography, Biology, Fauna and Flora of the Patagonian territory.
It has four exhibition levels covering aboriginal life and its evangelization through the Salesian missions, flora and fauna, the beginning of commerce and industry, cattle raising, development of the oil industry, etc. The museum also has a valuable library with more than 4,000 books of the past and audiovisual material on regional history, the ethnic groups that populated Patagonia and the more recent past. This Salesian Museum is one of the most visited places by national and foreign tourists in Punta Arenas.


Punta Arenas Main Square

   Named "Plaza Muñoz Gamero" in honor of a former governor, it is one of the concentration points of the numerous city tours that take place in the Patagonian capital every summer, surrounded by buildings of attractive architecture, reflecting an era of economic splendor based on the livestock industry and oil exploitation.

One of them is the Club de la Union building, next to the Hotel Jose Nogueira. Another of the old, traditional but no less important buildings in the downtown area of Punta Arenas is the headquarters of the Chilean Antarctic Institute (INACH). In neoclassical style, at the beginning of the 20th century it was the residence of Juan Blanchard, consul of France.  

The Catholic Cathedral of Punta Arenas is located on the corner of Fagnano and Plaza streets. Other long-established buildings around the square are the current Banco Estado de Chile, the once Cervantes Cinema, today Banco Falabella, the former Surco building, currently Work Cafe, the ex Palacio Montes, where the City Hall is located, and the Regional Government facilities.

In the center of the square is the monument to Ferdinand Magellan, Portuguese explorer, discoverer of Chile from the South in 1520, inaugurated to commemorate the fourth centenary of the discovery of the strait that bears his name. The tradition says that whoever kisses the big toe of the Patagonian Indian at the bottom of the monument will one day return to the city.

Museo Historico Regional (Regional Museum)

Address: 949 Magallanes St., half a block from the main square. Former mansion of the pioneer Braun-Menéndez family, the residence was declared a National Historic Monument in 1974. The exhibition spans from the first geographical discoveries to the mid-twentieth century, including a complete collection of objects related to the origins of Punta Arenas, furniture collections and elements belonging to the city and region's golden age through permanent exhibitions. Since 2007 there are also temporary displays.


Punta Arenas Municipal Cemetery   

Address: 29 Bulnes Ave., between Angamos and Bilbao streets. Historic cemetery called "Sara Braun", one of the most visited places by tourists in Punta Arenas. Several publications around the world have ranked this necropolis as a major tourist attraction, CNN rated it as one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world.

Through the alleys with finely trimmed trees, its tombs and mausoleums evoke thousands of souls of common people, pioneers, victims of ancient shipwrecks or volunteers who went to give their lives during the world wars from these faraway lands. An obligatory stop is the venerated Estatua al Indio (o Indiecito) Desconocido ("Statue of the Unknown Native Indian"), surrounded by plaques of gratitude for favors received.

Pinguineras Isla Magdalena  (Magdalena Island Penguin Colony)

Nature Sanctuary, "Los Pinguinos Natural Monument" is made up of Marta and Magdalena Islands. Located 25 nautical miles from Punta Arenas, it is also a natural refuge for other species such as sea lions, cormorants, Antarctic gulls and other mammals and aquatic birds. Throughout the season (from October 15 to April 15) there are permanent boat excursions departing from Punta Arenas to admire the population of more than 120,000 specimens.

More places of interest in Southern Patagonia, Chile 

Monumento al Ovejero (Monument to the Shepherd) in Punta Arenas.
*
Monumento al Ovejero,
emblematic representation
located on Bulnes Avenue in Punta Arenas, right in front of the Hospital de las Fuerzas Armadas. The "Monument to the Shepherd", whose original granite version was inaugurated in 1944 is based on a real herdsman of the early twentieth century, the current monument built in bronze, dates from 1962.

* Museo del Recuerdo, this open-air old times museum displays a series of machinery, carriages, tools, typical houses of the pioneer era, a maritime section, a replica of an oil rig of the beginnings of the last century, the first to operate in the region. The Museum is part of many of the tours around the city of Punta Arenas. Location: Km. 3.5 of Bulnes Ave., in front of the Zona Franca (Duty Free Zone).

* Mercado Municipal and Centro Artesanal of Punta Arenas, municipal market and handicraft center located in front of the esplanade of the Arturo Prat pier. Entrance by Avenida Costanera or 21 de Mayo. On the first floor there are stalls selling seafood and handicrafts. On the second floor there are several "cocinerías" (kitchens with small restaurants), all very clean and tidy, where you can taste many delicacies such as the exquisite "centolla" (king crab), different types of fish and seafood. There are also souvenir stores. There is a larger restaurant on the third floor.

* Nao Victoria Museum, 7.5 km north of Punta Arenas. It is an interactive museum with replicas of ships, weapons and objects of ancient times that had historical importance for the regional life. There is a full-scale reproduction of the "Nao Victoria", ship with which the Portuguese navigator Fernando de Magalhaes (Ferdinand Magellan), discovered these lands and circumnavigated the globe for the first time between 1519 and 1522.

There is also the reproduction of the "James Caird", an adapted lifeboat that had an outstanding participation in the rescue of the British Antarctic Expedition of Sir Ernest Shackleton, whose ship "Endurance" sank in the Antarctic Ocean in 1916. Another replica is the "Schooner Ancud", the first warship built in Chile, which sailed from Chiloe Island and took possession of the Strait of Magellan on behalf of the Chilean Government in 1843. You can also see the replica of the "HMS Beagle" belonging to the British Royal Navy, in whose second expedition (1831-1836) participated the renowned English naturalist Charles Darwin carrying out his famous studies and theories.

* Pali Aike National Park, also known as "El Escorial del Diablo". Located 200 km NE of Punta Arenas, near Punta Dungenes, the easternmost point of Chile. Its main attraction is the "Cueva de Pali Aike", declared a National Historic Monument, where evidence of human life from 11,000 years ago has been found. Here more information about Pali Aike...
  

Alberto De Agostini National Park

Named in commemoration of the Salesian priest, ethnographer, explorer and photographer of the early 20th century. With an area of 1,460,000 Hs. Alberto de Agostini is the third largest National Park in Chile. An almost uninhabited area, in Tierra del Fuego Island, 80 nautical miles south of Punta Arenas reaching the Beagle Channel, where thick forests grow at the foot of snow-capped mountains and glaciers fall into remote inlets. With this scenery as a backdrop, Darwin's mountain range stands out, studied in depth by Charles Darwin in the 19th century, very little explored until then.

Currently, there is a road infrastructure that is being built by the "Cuerpo Militar del Trabajo" of the Chilean Army, but you can make excursions in 4 X 4, horseback riding, kayaking or a spectacular sea crossing departing from the port of Punta Arenas. Among the countless sights are the imposing Marinelli Glacier, the largest within the Alberto de Agostini National Park, De Agostini and Pia glaciers, Garibaldi, Gunter Plushow, Romanche, Brookes and others. Wildlife includes condors, otters, coypus, albatrosses, cormorants, sea lions, dolphins, the guanaco, a typical animal of this part of the world. 

Serrano and Balmaceda Glaciers

3 hour sea voyage departing from Puerto Natales. Beautiful seascapes, marine fauna and birds during the trip until reaching the northern end of the Ultima Esperanza fjord. From the east side of Mount Balmaceda of 2,035 meters, hangs the Balmaceda Glacier and to the north, the Serrano Glacier.

From the nearby inns you can start excursions on foot, horseback, kayak or inflatable boats to different places such as the Felicia, Tyndall, Geyke, Chacabuco, Lago Azul glaciers and the wonderful navigation on the Serrano River.

Cruises and flights to Antarctica

Magellan Explorer
Antarctica XXI - Flight & Cruise Expeditions                                                
Punta Arenas-based companies offer trips scheduled well in advance for an unforgettable journey to the Continent of the Future:

* Antarctica XXI (Antarctica Cruise & Tourism)


* DAP Antarctic Airways (Flights to Antarctica since 1989).


* Antarctic Logistics & Expeditions (Antarctica Flights & Expeditions) 


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What to see in Northern Patagonia

Northern Patagonia extends from the Gulf of Reloncaví to the South, including the provinces of Chiloe and Palena and the entire Aysen Region, with the Southern Ice Fields as its limit. There is no land connection to the south. Only by ferry or plane.
 

Termas de Puyuhuapi

Puyuhuapi Thermal Baths and Ecolodge

  Puyuhuapi Thermal Baths, access by sea, surrounded by lush vegetation, on the shores of Bahia Dorita, about 30 minutes by boat from the town of Puyuhuapi, commune of Cisnes, Aysen Region. Both in winter and summer a spectacular environment, nature at its best.

The cozy hotel has pools with thermal waters at different temperatures, there is also a wide variety of activities that can be carried out with specialized guides: excursions to explore this part of Patagonia, such as the charming Parque Nacional Queulat, crossing the fjord by boat to the pier of the Carretera Austral, then make a 15-minute trip to the hanging glacier area; you can also navigate by kayak or motorboat through the tranquil channels and islands and observe the rich marine and bird life. 

Of course, you can also enjoy recreational fishing in the bountiful rivers  and lakes of the South, or take one of the many excursions offered by agencies operating in the region. Given the number of natural attractions throughout the area, the remote town of Puyuhuapi and its surroundings also have several other hotels, campsites and lodging facilities, some of them run by their own owners in private homes.


Commune of Futaleufu  

Rafting in Futaleufu - southernexplorations.com
 Commune and town of Futaleufu, bordering Argentina. Located 1,300 km. South of Santiago, it is a charming tourist destination, with fertile lands and snowy peaks belonging to the Southern Andes. 

All of southern Chile has something special, but this commune has attractions that captivate tourists. It is crossed by the wonderful Futaleufu River, which rises in Los Alerces National Park, Argentina, until its turbulent waters flow into Lake Yelcho, Chile.

Futaleufu is one of the most important rivers in the world for the practice of rafting and kayaking. In addition, the entire area is highly recommended for recreational fishing, we could say that it is like a "fly fishing paradise", there are several programs organized in the Futaleufu River, Espolon River (one of its tributaries), Lonconao Lake, Espolon Lake and others. This is just an introduction to this rural commune, with incredible natural landscapes, where you can also enjoy tasty cuisine and where visitors are welcomed with open arms. Read more about Furaleufu... 

Laguna San Rafael National Park

With an area of 1,742,000 hectares, San Rafael National Park was declared a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1978. There are sea excursions to the San Rafael Glacier, a wonderful place of more than 15 km. long, 2 km. in front and ice walls of more than 70 meters high, located 82 km. S. of Puerto Chacabuco, Aysen Region.

The navigation route to San Rafael runs parallel to the Northern Ice Fields. Something that always impresses visitors are the sudden roars produced by the constant avalanches of large masses of ice into the sea, this ice dates back more than 300,000 years. Something that always impresses visitors are the sudden rumbles produced by the constant avalanches of large masses of ice falling into the sea, this ice dates back more than 300,000 years.

Within the Park limits is also the highest mountain in Chilean Patagonia, Monte San Valentln, with 4058 mts. elevation, at the northern end of the Northern Ice Fields, this mountain is also called in some maps Monte San Clemente. Despite the remote location of Mount San Valentin, there are specialized companies that carry out expeditions, since the area is of exceptional beauty. In general, the climb is not of great technical difficulty but in some stretches it requires a good level of knowledge. In addition, weather conditions can be adverse for several days.

Carretera Austral (Southern Road)

Carretera Austral
Image: tompkinsconservation
 Route 7, better known as Carretera Austral, runs from Puerto Montt in the Los Lagos Region to Villa O'Higgins, Aysen Region. 

Currently, it has a length of a little more than 1,200 km, being a road in constant expansion since in the future it is projected to reach Puerto Williams, capital of the Antarctic Province in the extreme south of the country. 

Due to the rugged geography of the territory, some sections must be done by ferry. The route crosses idyllic landscapes, so the road, (mostly gravel), has become a real attraction for national and international travelers, either by car or bicycle. To tour the Carretera Austral it is necessary to go prepared with rations, adequate clothing and equipment to cope with adverse weather conditions that could arise.

Thanks to this road, one of the most challenging connectivity projects undertaken by the Chilean government (due to the rugged geography of the territory), access to many of the attractions of northern Patagonia has become much easier. Thus, you can reach the beautiful cove of Puyuhuapi and surroundings, including the nearby Queulat National Park, without missing the fascinating Pumalin Douglas Tompkins National Park in the Province of Palena, with its variety of activities offered to tourists and the commune of Futaleufu, highlighting the Futaleufu River, known worldwide for its unique conditions for rafting and kayaking.

Another major attraction in this part of the Chilean Patagonia is Lake General Carrera, shared with Argentina, where it is called Lake Buenos Aires. Here, in the largest lake in Chile and the fourth largest in South America, you can visit the amazing calcium carbonate mineral formations known as Marble Cathedrals. The route also crosses the Cerro Castillo National Reserve, with numerous natural attractions, where Cerro Castillo is located, one of the most beautiful and characteristic mountain ranges in Patagonia. Reaching the south of the Aysen Region is the Baker River, the largest river in Chile in terms of volume of water, a very popular destination for sport fishermen, also famous among those who practice extreme rafting, there is a wide range of tours, fishing lodges and related services.

See location of Chile's Carretera Austral (Route 7) HERE.  

Queulat National Park

Image: Puyuhuapi Lodge & Spa
The scenery is sublime, with waterfalls and a hanging glacier, deep cliffs, thick forests, lakes and rivers.  It is located in the commune of Puerto Cisnes, 165 km N. of Coyhaique, Aysen Region.

Because of its rugged geography, this park is one of the least intervened areas of the country, this fact makes it a region of great tourist potential. The hanging glacier was discovered in 1875 by Captain Enrique Simpson. According to his description, the distance to the sea was 100 meters, today it is 7,800 meters from the coast.

Douglas Tompkins Pumalin National Park

After the donation of Tompkins Conservation to the State of Chile, Pumalín is today a national park managed by CONAF (National Forest Corporation). The protected area is made up of approximately 402,392 hectares, of which 293,338 were donated by Tompkins Conservation to the Chilean State. It is located within the communes of Cochamo, Hualaihue, Chaiten and Palena in the provinces of Llanquihue and Palena, Los Lagos Region.

The place is known worldwide for the incomparable beauty of its landscapes, one of the last places on Earth almost untouched by man's hand, declared a Nature Sanctuary by the Chilean Government in 2005. Open all year round, camping areas with facilities for tourists.

There is a wide range of activities that can be performed especially those related to adventure tourism, a variety of trails for different levels of experience that lead to incredible places such as climbing the active Chaiten volcano, walking on trails in the middle of centuries-old larch tree forests, a large number of granite walls and peaks for climbers, sea kayaking and wildlife watching in their natural habitat such as dolphins, sea lions and whales, mountain bikers are also welcome to tour the Park through bike trails.


(To be continued...)

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