REGION: Southern Patagonia
ACTIVITY LEVEL: 1-2 (Easy +)
SUMMARY: Transfer from Pt. Arenas to Puerto Natales; tour Torres del Paine and Bernardo O’Higgins National Parks; and Grey, Serrano & Balmaceda Glaciers; Ottway Penguin Colony; and transfer to Pt. Arenas. (If time permits, can add Pt. Arenas City Tour.)
DURATION: 5 days
MIN. / MAX. PEOPLE: 2-8; more by arrangement.
SEASON: Daily, October through March.
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.
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. 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 if you want (optional, at your expense) 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 8 passengers in total and can be canceled if minimum is not met or for safety, depending on weather conditions.
Day 3: Tour Bernardo O’Higgins National Park & Navigation Serrano & Balmaceda Glaciers
Once on board one of our two ships, the Orca catamaran or the Tonina long boat, 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.
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.
Day 4: Check Out of Puerto Natales Hotel; Visit Ottway Penguins; Transfer to Punta Arenas Hotel
Check out of your Puerto Natales hotel. Transfer will drive toward Punta Arenas. On the way, we will visit to Otway Penguin Sound Colony, located approximately 60 kilometers to the northwest of Punta Arenas. On the journey to the colony (which is on a mostly unpaved road), you may encounter a variety of birds such as caiquenes (upland geese), skuas, terns, oystercatchers and Chilean flamingos, as well as ñandúes (lesser rheas) and foxes. We pass Cabo Negro (Cape Black), Kon Aiken (one of the biggest coal mines in Chile), and vast sheep estancias.
To reach the actual nests and beaches, where the penguins live, requires a walk approximately three quarters of a mile, each way, on unpaved trails. At the beach observation platform, you can watch the penguins as they waddle to and from the ocean. From the trails and observation towers, you can also observe them scurrying into their nests in the windswept grasslands.
The best time to watch hundreds of Magellanic penguins is late afternoon as they are returning from the day’s fishing at sea, from October to March when the penguins come together to nest and raise their young in Otway Sound.
Penguins normally live 25-30 years and always come back to the place where they were born for the mating season. They usually have 1 or 2 offspring in which both the male and female penguins take turns to sit on the eggs and to feed the little ones.
Arrive in Punta Arenas and your hotel. End of our services for the day.
Day 5: Transfer to Punta Arenas Airport (if flight time allows, add Pt. Arenas City Tour)
Breakfast at hotel and check out. Pick up from your hotel and drive to Punta Arenas Airport. (If flight time allows, Pt. Arenas City Tour can be added.) Private transfer with your English tour guide. Flight to Santiago or elsewhere. End of our services for this program.
INCLUDED: Professional local tour guide (with First Aid Accreditation and mobile phone), 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.