PATAGONIA PURE

16 days / 15 nights

Stunning natural landscapes await you on each of the 16 days of this remarkable guided round trip through Chilean and Argentinean Patagonia. Our itinerary includes several national parks that are part of the “Route of Parks of Patagonia”, considered one of the most scenic travel routes in the world. But it is not only its nature that makes Patagonia unique; there are countless opportunities to meet locals on the way, be it farmers, gauchos, or owners of small family hotels. For us at Andes Nativa, the inclusion of local small businesses is a priority. On this journey, we experience the wonderful vastness of Patagonia in a comfortable vehicle, while simple but cozy accommodations offer relaxation after eventful days.

After pick-up at Santiago Airport, you are taken to your hotel in the center. Here you meet your fellow travelers for the next two weeks and are welcomed with Chile´s national drink, the Pisco Sour. We then set out on a city tour to get a glimpse of this metropolitan city. Among others, we visit the historic city center, the market, the cathedral and the main square (Plaza de Armas). Santa Lucia Hill rewards us with stunning views of the city and the impressive Andes Mountains – a constant companion during our time in Chile.

Overnight in Santiago de Chile.

After breakfast, a transfer takes us back to the airport. Our southbound flight takes us along the Andes Mountains to the capital of the Lake District, Puerto Montt. Here our driver awaits us to take us to the picturesque nearby town of Puerto Varas, often called the city of roses, on the shore of Llanquihue Lake.

Overnight in Puerto Varas.

Today you have the option to choose between different activities: Visit some of the world’s oldest trees in Alerce Andino National Park, get wet during a rafting tour on Petrohué River, engage in a canopy adventure on Philippi Hill, hike at the foot of Osorno Volcano, or enjoy a good piece of cake during a visit of the colonial town of Frutillar (minimum of two participants for each activity).

Overnight in Puerto Varas.

Today we get up early for our journey southwards on the Carretera Austral, the partially unpaved and scenic extension of the Chilean Pan-American Highway. We cross the rugged Patagonian fjords on several ferry trips that take us through untouched landscapes. Lush green vegetation accompanies us on both sides of the road while we cross Pumalin National Park. Eventually we reach Chaitén, a small town under reconstruction after the unexpected eruption of the eponymous volcano in 2008. The locals tell us about the enormous efforts of reconstruction after being able to return to their village. Depending on availability, we spend this night in Chaiten or at nearby Yelcho Lake.

Overnight in Chaiten or at Yelcho Lake

Today we continue our journey on the famed Carretera Austral further south. The rustic gravel road leads us deep into untouched wilderness, along the turquoise Río Frío, glacier-covered mountain massifs, tranquil lakes and picturesque waterfalls.

Overnight in La Junta or Puyuhuapi.

It is only a short ride to Queulat National Park, where you can choose to do a 3-hour hike to the viewpoint of the impressive hanging glacier “Ventisquero Colgante” and its waterfall.

The journey then continues along the lush wild vegetation of the Carretera Austral southward. Huge Nalca plants and gigantic ferns cover the side of the road; dense forests, quiet fjords and snow-capped peaks form a fabulous primal landscape. The road winds in tight serpentines toward one of the highest passes of the Carretera Austral and drops abruptly until reaching the raging Rio Cisnes (the Swan River). Here, the impenetrable, evergreen rain forests clear and make room for the harsh southern Patagonian mountain landscape. Through the wild and romantic valley of the Simpson River, we reach Coyhaique, the capital of the Aysen region.

Overnight in Coyhaique.

After leaving Coyhaique, the road leads through an increasingly barren steppe landscape and crosses a deep valley, whose rock face shimmers in a variety of colors. The “Devil´s Mountain Pass”, offers a stunning panorama of the Cerro Castillo massif and up to the summits and glaciers of the northern ice field. In 1990, the Hudson volcano erupted here, suffocating the vegetation with its ash rain, damaging rivers and leaving a desolate ghost valley full of dead trees and vast marshes. After passing the Rio Murta Valley, endless southern beech forests cover the area. Chile´s largest lake, General Carrera Lake, is already visible at a distance. Its blue-green glacial water surface and often gigantic waves are framed by the bare, reddish-colored Pampa hills, massive ice fields and the radiant sky.

Overnight in Puerto Río Tranquilo.

Today we visit the Exploradores Glacier. The access road offers impressive views on different glaciers, descending from the huge ice field San Valentin.

Overnight in Puerto Río Tranquilo.

Along Lake General Carrera we approach the border with Argentina. The climate changes slowly, and transforms our surroundings into a drier steppe landscape. We pass the town of Chile Chico, which is also called the Chilean “Sun City” because of its surprisingly mild climate that allows the cultivation of cherries and other fruits. Shortly after crossing the border with Argentina, we reach the village of Perito Moreno.

Overnight in Perito Moreno.

Today we travel on the legendary Ruta 40, which leads south through the seemingly endless steppe landscape of Argentine Patagonia. The milky-turquoise, glacier-melt water of Cardiel Lake adds color to the arid and monotone, yet for the same reason impressive landscape. Eventually we leave Ruta 40 and drive westwards towards the Andes Mountain Range. On clear days, you will soon be able to see the fantastic rock formations of the Fitz Roy massif, before reaching the town of El Chaltén.

Overnight in El Chaltén.

The Fitz Roy Massif is world-known among extreme mountaineers for its treacherous ice walls, unpredictable winds and ever-changing weather. Trekking enthusiasts from all over the world hike its many trails in the Los Glaciares National Park. We are no exception; today you have the possibility to embark on an exploration of the spectacular mountain scenery during an easy hike of several hours.

Overnight in El Chaltén.

Today we drive past the emerald-green Viedma Lake through the vast expanses of the Argentine pampa to El Calafate on Argentino Lake. Immediately after arrival, we continue on to Perito Moreno Glacier. At the entrance to Los Glaciares National Park, the treeless pampa transforms almost seamlessly into dense southern forests. The southern arm of Argentino Lake appears turquoise compared to the milky gray walls of the southern ice fields. Floating icebergs testify the proximity of one of the most powerful natural events in the world; with unimaginable force, the Perito Moreno Glacier moves enormous masses of ice from the continental ice field down into the valley, which then crash thunderously from its white-blue walls into the lake. The icy river moves up to 2 meters (6.5 ft) a day, making it one of the few growing glaciers in the world. You can watch this magnificent spectacle up close from on a viewing platform.

Overnight in El Calafate.

On Ruta 40, we cross the Argentine pampas one last time on our way to the Chilean border. Back in Chile, we head to Torres del Paine National Park, another highlight of our trip. Herds of guanacos on a gently undulating steppe landscape, rugged red-gray rock massifs, granite towers, milky-green shining lakes and gleaming white ice fields combine to form a magnificent panorama.

Overnight in Torres del Paine.

A demanding full day hike takes us all the way to the foot of the Paine Towers (the Torres) today. We walk up in serpentines to Refugio El Chileno mountain hut for about an hour; it is set on the banks of Ascencio River, in the shade of a Lenga forest. After another hour and a half uphill, the trail becomes steeper, and finally disappears between the stones of a moraine. The last meters involve some scrambling, until we reach the easternmost point of the lagoon. From here we enjoy a wonderful view of the three towers, as well as the mountains of Peineta and Condor´s Nest in the background. After a well-deserved break in unforgettable nature, we return on the same way to the starting point.

As a less demanding alternative, it is also possible to hike in a Lenga forest in the northern part of the park (minimum 2 participants).

Overnight in Torres del Paine.

Today´s destination is Punta Arenas, Chile’s southernmost city. On the way, we visit the nearby cave of Milodon, where the remains of the primitive “Milodon” animal were found and a life-sized statue can be visited.
Once we reach the Punta Arenas, watch out for the historic Strait of Magellan that separates the mainland from Tierra del Fuego. If weather permits, it is even possible to make out this famed island on the horizon.

Overnight in Punta Arenas.

It is time to say goodbye to your fellow travelers and tour guide at the airport of Punta Arenas. You can choose to continue your journey from Punta Arenas or take a flight back home via Santiago.