Journey to Deep Patagonia
FROM BALMACEDA (COYHAIQUE) TO VILLA O'HIGGINS AND THE GREAT GLACIER TRAVELING THROUGH CARRETERA AUSTRAL
* Self guided program.
Season: From October to April.
Requirements: At least one person with license to drive.
Car rental: You must book in advance. There are several companies that deliver the vehicle at Coyhaique or at the airport. 4x4 recommended.
- Hertz Coyhaique Phone. 56-67- 224 57 80
Nº of participants: Usually 4 to 5 passegers per car or groups from 7 to 10 passengers on a transfer with driver.
Duration: 6 days and 5 night or 7 days and 6 night. We suggest an extensión to Coyhaique and surroundings areas.
Recomendaciones: Carry juices and snacks for the road (you can usually get water from streams). This allows more flexible time. If possible, always consider an extra day for any incident. Take reservations in advance. Take a road map with you as Copec guide sold in service stations. Overall the route is a slow speed way so we suggest drive with caution. In many places the average speed not exceeding 50 km / Hr. Keep in mind the ferry schedules at Mitchell Fjord. (www.barcazafiordomitchell.cl). In Villa O'Higgins the recommendation is to be there two days, the first one is intended to navigation to Icefield and the second for activities like trekking. This is very important issue because due to the prevailing winds in the area some times the day of navigation should be postponed. Please wear appropriate clothing (see “Recommended Clothing at FAQ”). Take a travel blog could be useful.
Suggested start od the program: Balmaceda airport, Chile, at 1 PM. (ollowing the arrival on one of the early regular direct flights from Santiago). Alternatively, depart from hotels in Coyhaique at 09.30 AM (for those arriving earlier to the area), giving you more time to enjoy the journey and its attractions.
Suggested end of the program: at Balmaceda airport at 4:30 PM. (in time for the return flight to Santiago) or at Coyhaique hotels .
Departures: 2 days before the navigation schedule to the Great Glacier O'Higgins. (See “Frequencies”)
Descripción: This exciting journey takes you along the Austral Way (the southernmost stretch of the Pan-American Highway), amidst impressive landmarks such as Cerro Castillo (Castle Peak), the dead forest devastated by the lava from Hudson Volcano, the Marble Cathedrals (Catedrales de Mármol) on Lake General Carrera, Baker River (Río Baker) with its fascinating colour, beautiful waterfalls, rapids and forests. You will arrive at Cochrane and continue the journey into Deep Patagonia, crossing Mitchell Fjord in the Father Antonio Ronchi ferry, to arrive at Villa O´Higgins with its pristine local attractions, a paradise for trekkers and other activities. Further on we travel by ship to the base of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field plateau (Campo de Hielo Patagónico Sur), to visit The Great Glacier (Glaciar O´Higgins) – one of the largest and most dynamic glacier formations in the southern hemisphere, and the iconic visit of this tour –a totally unforgettable experience! Other visits include the small settlers’ harbor Candelario Mancilla, and trips to lakes and vantage points for spectacular views. During the return from Villa O’Higgins we suggest you visit the Wooden Village of Tortel Bay (Caleta Tortel), one of the picture postcard sights of Patagonia, and then continue to Port Tranquil River (Puerto Río Tranquilo) and finally arrive back to Balmaceda, the starting point. There are countless spots to pause and capture scenery with photos, watch condors and other birdlife, and on occasions in certain places, encounter the timid huemul, a local type of deer found in the area.
See: Times and Distances
See: Driving Tips
We suggest taking a flight from Santiago to Balmaceda to arrive between 11 and 12 am, or travel the day before and stay in Coyhaique. Then take a rental car and departing from Balmaceda airport (or from Coyhaique) you will ride towards Villa Cerro Castillo, on a paved road with several vantage points to gaze at magnificent rock formations and landscapes, deep valleys and rivers; further on the road turns into a gravel road. Continuing along the Austral Way, you will arrive at Puerto Rio Tranquilo on the shores of Lago General Carrera – the largest lake in Patagonia – where we recommend visiting the Marble Cathedrals. These are extraordinary young marble stone formations with unique ogival-shaped cavernous chambers at the water level of the lake located just 5 km south of this town (Puerto Mármol www.marmolguias.com ). You will make the trip in small motor boats, enabling you to enter the cave spaces inside the marble cathedrals, whose forms are reflected on the turquoise coloured water. In the evening we reccomend continuing the trip to Port Bertrand (Puerto Bertrand) at the source of Baker River, and finally we reach to any comfortable lodge in the surrounding area in time for dinner. Recommendations: Green Baker Lodge, where www.greenlodgebaker.com cabins and apartments. It is 3 km. South of Puerto Bertrand. www.bordebaker.cl Borde Baker is 8 Km. South of Puerto Bertrand.
DAY 2 :
We suggest starting from your lodge (close to Puerto Bertarnd) no later than 09.30 am, having enough time to appreciate the various attractions of the route, and since later on we must reach Mitchell fjord on time to catch the ferry and penetrate further into Deep Patagonia. On the Road, between Puerto Bertrand and the city of Cochrane, we recommend making a detour of 10 km. Visit Estancia Chacabuco, a place for watching guanacos. In Cochrane, we suggest buying things for a picnic lunch, refuel and some snack, (This is the last town where bank ATMs and well supplied supermarket are available on this journey then you will find small stores only). 13 Km. south of Cochrane are 2 bridges called the twins. We suggest stopping at the first, and ask permission in the house beside the road to go to watch a spectacular waterfall nearly 100 Mts. This place is perfect for lunch with the background view of the valley. The road from Cochrane to Puerto Yungay in the Mitchell Fjord takes no less than 2:30 Hrs. for 124 Kms and the recommendation is to consider arrive there 1 hour in advance of ferry departure schedule and have enough time if any unexpected situation occur. The fjord crossing in the missionary Father Antonio Ronchi ferry takes around 45 minutes and then you will continue overland in this virgin Patagonia territory amidst rock formations and vegetation reminiscent of Jurassic Park, with very clear evidence of the vestiges of the glacier period. On the route to Villa O’Higgins there are numerous viewpoints for photography. Arriving to Villa O'Higgins we suggest reach the office of Robinson Crusoe to confirm the navigation to the Great Glacier and obtain information regarding the village.
DAY 3 y 4:
On one of these three days (depending on the schedules of our well-equipped passenger vessel Quetru), we will make the crowning trip of this adventure to the base of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field plateau. We navigate across the Glacier Lake (Lago O’Higgins) to reach the imposing Great Glacier, one of the largest and most dynamic glaciers in southern hemisphere, which features a two-mile long front wall, 260 feet high.
During this crossing we will admire the details of this least-explored, breathtaking landscape in Patagonia, marked by glacial formations and movements over centuries. We will gaze wondrously at the ancient ice-capped mountain ranges circling the lake and feel on our cheeks the wind that blows across this wild landscape. Despite the ice-cold air, passengers venture out onto the upper deck to contemplate the spectacular scenery and take photos. The weather is liable to change dramatically and more than once even during the duration of the trip, from burning sun rays to heavy rains customary in Deep Patagonia. The trip lasts all day. Our visitors are pervaded by a soul-branding ecstasy after experiencing Nature’s magnificence at this place, a true deliverance of freedom in all its dimensions.
During the crossing we visit Candelario Mancilla, a small harbor settlement where the road takes you towards the Argentine border and from that place there is a riding-track towards the extreme north of Desert Lake (Lago del Desierto). From there you can take a boat to the south shore and then a transfer to the town of El Chalten that face the mount Fitz Roy . (If you have time we recommend you spend 3 days to go and return to El Chalten)..
During the other day in Villa O’Higgins, you can make half-day excursions to an encounter with the virgin wilderness of the area, such as trekking to the observation point over Stag Lake (Lago Ciervo), visiting the missionary Father Antonio Ronchi’s church in the forest or exploration of Christie Lake (Lago Christie) near to Mayer Pass (Paso Mayer) on the Argentine border. In addition you can perform various other activities such as a visit to the village, climb up to Valley and Mosco Glacier Viewpoint (Mirador del Valle), take bicycle rides, visit the power generator station and other adventures such as casual fishing in any of the nearby lakes.
DAY 5 :
We suggest an early start in the morning with the idea of crossing the first ferry at 11:00 Hrs. and arriving for lunch to Caleta Tortel, picturesque town where everything runs through gateways. In the afternoon, no later than 4:00 PM we recommend continuing along the Carretera Austral to Puerto Río Tranquilo place where you can stay and dine.. www.elpuesto.cl.
DAY 6 :
PIn the morning there are two alternative activities. The first is to visit the Marble Cathedrals, if it was not possible the first time, or go to Valle Exploradores and make the trek to the glacier of the same name. Lunch in Puerto Río Tranquilo and afternoon continue to the city of Coyhaique and rest there. A second alternative is from type 10: OO am and arrive at the airport to take any of the afternoon flights.
DAY 7 :
In the morning tour the city and in the afternoon take the plane back.
Go to: BOAT FREQUENCIES
Go to: SEASON RATES
SUGGESTION: Rent in advance a suitable vehicle at Balmaceda for the journey overland to Villa O’Higgins with Hertz rent a car (www.hertz.cl, Phone. +56-67-224 5780) to be taken in Balmaceda or Coyhaique (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED). Vehicles rented by Hertz have the option to be dropped (Drop-Off) or required (take-on) in Villa O'Higgins. Special rate applies.
Warning: Schedules and frequencies can be affected by adverse weather conditions or force majeure. Should confirm departure times 12 hours before at the local office of Robinson Crusoe in Villa O'Higgins, telephone 56 - 67-243 18 11 The Service does not consider the reimbursement of any additional expenses due to suspended or delayed departures, which will be assumed by each passenger.