REGION: Southern Patagonia
ACTIVITY LEVEL: 1-2 (Easy +)
SUMMARY: Transfer from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales; tour Torres del Paine and Bernardo O’Higgins National Parks; visit Grey Glacier area; Serrano & Balmaceda Glaciers; Penguin Colony Magdalena Natural Reserve and transfer to Punta Arenas.
DURATION: 5 days.
MIN. / MAX. PEOPLE: 2-12; more by arrangement.
SEASON: Seasonal, October through April.
Day 1: Flight to Punta Arenas & Transfer to Hotel in Puerto Natales
Flight to Punta Arenas. Arrive at Presidente Carlos Ibañez del Campo Airport at Punta Arenas. Meet your local tour guide. Drive for 242 km (151 miles) from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales and your hotel. End of our services for the day. Dinner and accomodation in Puerto Natales.
Day 2: Tour Torres del Paine National Park & Navigation Grey Glacier
After breakfast we’ll depart from your hotel in Puerto Natales to enjoy this photographic journey into the Torres del Paine National Park, and allow you to marvel at the beauty of its topography and its abundant flora and fauna. This National park is also part of the Route of Parks of Patagonia. Some of the attractions that you will visit will be Laguna Amarga area where you can see the peaks of the Torres del Paine, and also you will visit Cuernos del Paine lookout, Salto Grande, Pehoe lake, Nordenskjöld lake, Mirador Cerro Condor, The Administration office of Conaf, where there is a magnificent model of this World Biosphere Reserve and Grey lake with its wonderful floating icebergs in the lake.
Time for lunch(optional) or keep taking photos of this great National Park. At 3.00 p.m. we will start our navigation to the Gray Glacier through of the lake with the same name, among many floating icebergs of different shapes and shades. On board the L/M Gray II, passengers arrive at the front wall of the grey glacier, an impressive natural wonder within the Great Southern Ice Field. This is one of the largest reservoirs of water on the planet. Here you can enjoy a delicious Pisco Sour with 12,000 year old ice!
Then back to Puerto Natales and your hotel. End of our services for the day.
Note: Glacier Gray navigation requires a minimum of passengers and can be canceled if minimum is not met or for safety, depending on weather conditions. Dinner and accomodation in Puerto Natales.
Day 3: Tour Bernardo O’Higgins National Park & Navigation Serrano & Balmaceda Glaciers
Once on board of our catamaran, we will start our trip by navigating along the Señoret Canal towards Mount Balmaceda on a northwest bearing while you enjoy an on-board breakfast service. Bernardo O’Higgins is Chile’s largest park––and one of the largest in the world. Around a quarter of the park lies in the Aysén region, with the rest in Magallanes. This National park is also part of the Route of Parks of Patagonia.
Our first point of interest will be the Heritage Building (usually referred to in Spanish as Monumento Histórico Nacional), and also known as Frigorífico Bories, a slaughterhouse and reefer store set up in 1913 by the Sociedad Explotadora Tierra del Fuego farming company. It was in operation for over 60 years and became the main cattle and sheep slaughterhouse / meat processing center of its kind in the area. Its noteworthy aspects are its brick-and-mortar industrial buildings whose architectural features are rated as post English Victorian style.
While heading further into the Señoret canal we will come up to the Guanaco Island where frequent sightings of the small and wonderful Magellan Dolphins (better known as Toninas) can be expected. Thereafter we will come next to the farm known as Estancia Margot to watch the Cormorant Cliff where a large number of birds will be stretching their wings and exposing them to the wind. Then we will move onto the Sea Lion Point (Punta de Lobos) where we should be able to see some of sea lions. Our wildlife observation will culminate when we get to the waterfall and nearby cliffs to watch the flight of Condors. At each of these points of interest our two vessels Orca and Tonina will stop to allow you the opportunity to enjoy watching the landscape and all its attractions. While here, we will enjoy on board an aperitif and snacks.
Our trip will continue toward Mount Balmaceda (2,035 metres high) where we will first come across the glacier of the same name and then we will land at Puerto Toro and stroll toward the Serrano glacier. It should take us about an hour to complete the round trip. We will walk along the shores of a lake known as Laguna Témpanos (Iceberg Pond), accompanied by our bilingual tourist guide. We will walk through a native forest whose predominant tree species are the Southern Beech (Spanish name: Coigüe), Antarctic Beech (Spanish name: Ñirre) and Wild Plum (Spanish name: Ciruelillo). You will have the opportunity to enjoy the impressive vegetation and notice its stark contrast with the clean sky and the nearby ice packs; all this placed against the impressive background of the Serrano glacier.
We will enjoy a traditional lunch at Estancia Gaucha, whose noteworthy ingredients are: Patagonian lamb barbeque (vegetarian option must be ordered upon reservation); Potatoes; Salad; Bread; 1 glass of white or red wine or juice and Dessert.
Once we have thoroughly enjoyed the sight of a unique landscape, as well as appreciating its unique beauty, wildlife and virtually unspoiled state, we will complete the navigation by returning to our berthing site at Puerto Natales. Return to your hotel. End of our services for the day. Dinner and accomodation in Puerto Natales.
Day 4: Check Out of Puerto Natales Hotel – Punta Arenas City Tour – Hotel
Check out of your Puerto Natales hotel. Transfer will drive toward Punta Arenas. Time for lunch at yourown. Afternoon city walk tour around Punta Arenas.
To gain an understanding of Punta Arenas, Chile’s southernmost city, we begin our tour at the Maggiorino Borgatello Museum* This is a Salesian Society museum of natural history and pre-Hispanic ethnic groups. Its collections include ethnic Patagonian artifacts, examples of the region’s flora and fauna, as well as displays on the social and economic history of the area.
The tour continues with a visit to the impressive above ground cemetery, with its elaborate tombs, (where we learn more about Patagón culture), and then to the monuments to The Ovejero (The Sheep Herder), Ferdinand Magellan, and Croatian Colonists, among others. Most of this area’s inhabitants descend from immigrants from Croatia, Spain, Italy, Germany, England and Chile’s Island of Chiloé. Time for lunch at your own.
We then visit Mirador Cerro La Cruz (the Overlook from the Hill of the Cross), where you enjoy the panoramic views of the city and the Strait of Magellan and Tierra del Fuego. For our last stop, we visit Plaza Muñoz Gamero, the main square. Time for lunch at your own. Then back to the pier. End our Services.
*If the Salesian museum is closed, another museum will be included. All the Museum in Chile are closed Monday.
Day 5: Penguins Colony Navigation – Transfer to Punta Arenas Airport – Santiago.
Early breakfast at hotel. 6.30 am We will depart from our operation base in downtown of Punta Arenas and travel through to the pier to begin our Navigation to the Magellan Straits. Both islands form an interesting ecosystem, making an obligatory visit for any visitor, whereas Marta Island lodges more than 1000 Sea lions, Cormorants, Skuas, Austral seagull, Antarctic pigeon and Sea elephants. The Magdalena Island allows us to interact with one of the majors colonies of Magellan Penguins, going beyond the 150,000 birds. During the navigation, it is possible to sight Austral Dolphins and Overas Toninas (kind of dolphins). To protect wild life, Marta Island is only circumnavigated (not disembark) to admire and photograph the Colony and the diversity of marine birds that live there. However, in Magdalena Island it is possible to disembark for about one hour, to walk and to interact with the colony. This excursion departure depending on weather conditions. 12.00 pm Transfer to your hotel in Punta Arenas.
At afternoon, pick up from your hotel and drive to Punta Arenas airport. Flight to Santiago airport. End of our services for this program.
INCLUDED: Professional local tour guide (with First Aid Accreditation), Excursions mentioned in the travel program, entrance fee at National Parks and private transportation with seat insurance.
NOT INCLUDED: Travel insurance, personal equipment, lunch, tips or anything not listed in the program.
GUEST PROVIDES: Comfortable clothes appropriate to the activity.
TOUR OPERATED BY: Patagonia SouthernLand Expeditions staff and third party vendor (on waterways).
TOUR COST: Request a quote!
BACKGROUND INFORMATION: Magellan District, Southern Patagonia, Chile
Patagonia lies tucked away right at the southernmost tip of the Americas – indeed of the world’s landmass, not counting Antarctica. While the very name holds a fascination for many travelers, the reality can be harsh: the place is cursed by a persistent wind, the Escoba de Dios (God’s Broom); trees grow horizontally here, sculpted by the gales; winters are long and summers short.
Geographically ill-defined, Patagonia usually refers to the narrow triangle of land south of a line between Puerto Montt, in Chile, and Argentina’s Peninsula Valdés. Southern Patagonia is where the Andes take a last, dramatic breath before plunging into the ocean.
These days, large numbers of Chileans and non-Chilean visitors alike come to Patagonia not to farm but to hike – in the country’s most famous and stunning national park, Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, a massif crowned with otherworldly granite towers, and accessed from the superbly located gateway town of Puerto Natales. Others come to follow in the footsteps of the region’s famous travelers: navigator Ferdinand Magellan, naturalist Charles Darwin and author Bruce Chatwin; to gaze at the region’s many spectacular glaciers; or to visit the penguin colonies from the lively provincial capital of Punta Arenas – a port city sitting on the shore of the stormy Magellan Strait.
Chilean Patagonia, the site of the some of the continent’s oldest human habitation, was originally populated by Tehuelche hunter-gatherers, who stalked roaming guanacos in the interior, and the sea-faring Kawéscar who dove naked for shellfish in the frigid waters around the southern fjords. The first European to discover the area was Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese navigator who sailed through the strait now bearing his name. Spanish colonization attempts failed catastrophically and no European tried to settle the place again for another two hundred and fifty years.
The voyages of the Beagle, from 1826 to 1834, the second one bearing young Charles Darwin, renewed interest in the area, prompting continued Chilean and Argentine attempts to colonize the area. In the 1870s the two narrowly avoided war over the territory, not for the last time. From 1849, Punta Arenas was boosted by sea traffic en-route to the California Gold Rush; while it didn’t last long, the introduction of sheep farming created sprawling estancias (ranches) and brought great wealth to their owners in the late nineteenth century. Wool has now been replaced by oil, commercial salmon farming and tourism as the region’s main resources. The Chileans call the area the province of Magallanes, in the explorer’s honors; it has its own flag and is one of the least inhabited areas in Chile.