Exploration of Patagonia
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.
We 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 highlights 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 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, our 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.
Day 1 – Arrival and the Marble Cathedrals
Departing from Balmaceda airport (or from Coyhaique) we ride towards Villa Cerro Castillo, on a paved road past magnificent rock formations and landscapes, deep valleys and rivers. Continuing along the Austral Way, we arrive at Port Tranquil River on the shores of Lago General Carrera – the largest lake in Patagonia -, where we visit the Marble Cathedrals. These are extraordinary young marble stone formations with unique ogival-shaped cavernous chambers at the water level of the lake. We make our trip in small motor boats, enabling us to enter the cave spaces inside the marble cathedrals, whose forms are reflected on the turquoise coloured water. In the evening we continue the trip to Port Bertrand (Puerto Bertrand) at the source of Baker River, and finally we reach a comfortable Lodge in the area in time for dinner.
Day 2 – Mitchell Fjord & Hot Tubs
We have an early start today as we are heading to Mitchell Fjord in time to catch the ferry and penetrate further into Deep Patagonia. Before midday on this route we reach Cochrane, the last town where bank ATMs are available on this journey.
The route from Cochrane to Puerto Yungay on the north side of Mitchell Fjord is the entry point to Deep Patagonia. The fjord crossing in the missionary Father Antonio Ronchi ferry takes around 45 minutes and we 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 this route there are numerous viewpoints for photography. Finally we arrive at our comfortable Robinson Crusoe Lodge at Villa O’Higgins where you can rest, take a hot tub and relax.
Days 3-5 – The Great Glacier
On one of the next 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, 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. From that place there is a riding-track towards the extreme north of Desert Lake (Lago del Desierto). On the alternate two days at Villa O’Higgins, we will make half-day excursions, accompanied by Guides. These trips are designed to enable 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. The remaining time during these days can be enjoyed with free-range activity in the vicinity of Villa O’Higgins: a visit to the village, climb up to Valley 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 or kayak outings on the river
Day 6 – Wooden Village
We start our return with an early departure for the Wooden Village on Tortel Bay, a picturesque hamlet built on the side of the hill and facing the bay where ocean cruisers make a brief pause.
There are no streets, and the houses are built on stilts and walkways above the water level. In the afternoon we follow the Austral Way as far as Port Tranquil River, where we have dinner and stay the night in log cabins.
Day 7 – Explorers’ Valley and departure
In the morning, very early risers can visit Explorers’ Valley (Valle Exploradores) and walk up to the Glaciar observation point. At 1 o’clock we journey on to Balmaceda Airport, in time for the afternoon return flight to Santiago. (From there, for other non-returning passengers, we continue to Coyhaique, the ending-point of our services).
The program includes:
Transfers between Coyhaique – Balmaceda – Villa O’Higgins – Balmaceda – Coyhaique.
Accommodation with breakfast.
Dinner (1 glass of wine or soft drink included).
Lunch box or lunch (according to the Program).
Hot-tubs at the Lodge (pre-booking required).
Exploration to Great Glacier at the base of Southern Patagonian Ice Field plateau.
Program of half-day activities with accompanying guides:
Trekking to observation point Cerro Alta Vista, Stag Lake, Mayer River, surrounding valleys and peaks.
Excursion to Christie Lake and Mayer Pass, missionary Father Antonio Ronchi’s church.
Optional additional activities can be selected:
Guided visit to Villa O’Higgins, museum, library, civic centre.
Guided ascent to Valley Viewpoint above the village and Mosco Glacier.
Casual fishing (subject to availability).
Bicycle rides to Cocovi in Argentina or other places.
Patagonian Bar-B-Q (roast lamb on a shaft).
The Program does not include: